Apple releases OS X 10.8.3 update

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Date: Friday, March 15th, 2013, 07:10
Category: News, Software

I think it’s fair to say that you’ve been hankering for this for a while now.

On Wednesday, Apple released version 10.8.3 of its OS X Mountain Lion operating system. The new version, a 540 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:
– The ability to redeem iTunes gift cards in the Mac App Store using your Mac’s built-in camera.

– Boot Camp support for installing Windows 8.

– Boot Camp support for Macs with a 3TB hard drive.

– A fix for an issue that could cause a file URL to quit apps unexpectedly.

– A fix for an issue that may cause Logic Pro to become unresponsive when using certain plug-ins.

– A fix for an issue that may cause audio to stutter on 2011 iMacs.

– Includes Safari 6.0.3.

OS X 10.8.3 requires an Intel-based Mac running OS X 10.8 to install and run, the update itself being attainable by using OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new operating system and have any feedback whatsoever, please let us know in the comments.

Apple receives patent for Smart Cover wireless charging system

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Date: Thursday, March 14th, 2013, 07:25
Category: Hardware, iPad, News, Patents

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It’s sort of a weird patent application, but apparently it’s been pushed through.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple on Thursday published an Apple patent application that details a system of inductively charging an iPad through the Smart Cover. The idea is that rather than plugging in the iPad, the Smart Cover would include an inductive power transmitter that would allow it to pair with an inductive power transceiver embedded into the iPad. The result is the Smart Cover would become a wireless charging station, connecting to an external power source, and allowing you to power your iPad in various positions. Apple also explained that it could use “ambient power gathering devices, such as solar cells, can be used to gather ambient power (such as sunlight) to be stored internally in the flap for later inductive transfer.”

A method for wireless powering a tablet device, comprising: determining if a protective cover is in a closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; enabling a wireless power receiver circuit in the tablet device when it is determined that the protective cover is in the closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; and wirelessly receiving power from a wireless power transmitter associated with the protective cover.

Apple described the advanced Smart Cover as including multiple power transmitters to allow the iPad to charge even when using the case, for example, as a stand to prop up the device. Alternatively, the cover could continue charging the device when in the closed position or when an iPad is placed on top:

The method as recited in claim 10, the method further comprising: determining that the tablet device is positioned relative to a flat surface at a viewing angle; and enabling a second wireless power receiver circuit only when it is determined that the tablet device is in the portable mode and is positioned relative to the flat surface at the viewing angle and the tablet device is configured to present video by the display. An apparatus for wireless powering a tablet device, comprising: means for determining if a protective cover is in a closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; means for enabling a wireless power receiver circuit in the tablet device when it is determined that the protective cover is in the closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; and means for wirelessly receiving power from a wireless power transmitter associated with the protective cover.

13. The apparatus as recited in claim 12, the tablet device further comprising; a battery; a display; and a sensor arranged to detect an external stimulus only when the protective cover is in the closed configuration with respect to the display.

The system described in the patent would be similar to wireless charging systems already available on the market, something that Apple’s Phil Schiller recently described as “more complicated” than Apple’s current solution:

As for wireless charging, Schiller notes that the wireless charging systems still have to be plugged into the wall, so it’s not clear how much convenience they add. The widely-adopted USB cord, meanwhile, can charge in wall outlets, computers and even on airplanes, he said. “Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated,” Schiller said.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple now offering built-in VESA mounts for iMacs through its online store

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Date: Thursday, March 14th, 2013, 07:58
Category: Hardware, News

This could come in handy.

Per AppleInsider and German web blog iFun, Apple recently updated its online store to reflect availability of a new VESA mount-compatible iMac, with the tweaked version of the thin all-in-one costing in at US$40 more than standard models.


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The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) compatibility is likely to be a welcome addition for users who are already invested in the mounting standard.

When Apple first announced the redesigned iMac in October, it was discovered that, unlike previous models, the new machines could not be used with standard VESA mounts. In response to feedback from users disappointed in the change, Apple said it was taking the idea of adding the capability into consideration, but offered no concrete details as to when a solution would be made available.

From Apple’s description of the new VESA-compatible iMac models:
“The iMac with Built-in VESA Mount Adapter is ready to pair with your favorite VESA-compatible wall mount, desk mount, or articulating arm (sold separately). This iMac doesn’t include a stand, so a mount is required. If you don’t already have a mount, you can purchase one when you configure your iMac.”

The VESA models are not highly advertised on Apple’s Online Store, and are nowhere to be seen on the main product page, though a link at the bottom of the iMac configuration tool will take customers to a webpage dedicated to the new versions.

Apple is charging a US$40 premium for the ability to use VESA mounts with the iMac. The special configuration is on sale now with shipping estimates starting at 7 to 10 days.

If you’ve tried the new, thin iMac with a VESA mount and have any feedback to offer about the experience, please let us know in the comments.

Leaked images, training documents show Apple merchandise headed to Staples for late March

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Date: Wednesday, March 13th, 2013, 11:08
Category: News, retail

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The Apple stuff you’ve been hankering for Staples to carry should be there by late March.

Per Mac Rumors, a series of screenshots from training materials for Staples sales associates. The screens describe sales curricula for the iPhone 5, Apple TV, and Mac notebooks.

Those materials showed that the training modules needed be completed by March 26 or 27, likely indicating that the retailer will begin selling Apple products shortly thereafter.

Reports that Staples was preparing to sell Apple products emerged earlier this year, with a Staples executive tweeting the news, though without specifics. Subsequent reports brought word that the retailer would be carrying Apple TV and accessories.

The addition of Apple’s higher-end merchandise to Staples’ offerings will put Apple products in more than 1,500 outlets across the United States, considerably expanding the computer maker’s accessibility. Staples’ reputation in the enterprise sector could also aid Apple in accelerating the growth of its presence in the enterprise segment.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AMD announces upcoming Richland chips, boasts new features, no word as to whether they’ll find their way into Apple products

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Date: Tuesday, March 12th, 2013, 08:50
Category: Hardware, News

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There’s no guarantee that they’ll be in the next MacBook Pro or MacBook Air that you buy, but there’s cool AMD stuff on the horizon.

Per Engadget, AMD has announced that it’s planning to release a fresh batch of low-power APUs just 11 months after Trinity. Known as “Richland”, this generation won’t be vastly different at the silicon level, as it’s built on the same 32nm process as Trinity, has the same number of transistors and offers very similar compute performance in terms of raw GFLOPs. However, there are some noteworthy upgrades in attendance, including a move to Radeon HD 8000M graphic processors, which are claimed to deliver a 20-40 percent increase in “visual performance” in higher-end models, plus power-saving tweaks that should provide over an hour of additional battery life while watching 720p video.

The top-end quad-core A10-5750M is claimed to beat a laptop Core i7 by over 50 percent in terms of 3DMark performance, and even a dual-core A6-5350M is said to have a 20 percent advantage. There’s no sign of any all-round computing benchmarks, however, or even real-world gaming frame rate comparisons, so it’ll be up to later benchmarking efforts somewhere down the line.

Richland should arrive in regular-shaped notebooks (with TDPs between 20 and 35 watts) starting next month, while ultra-thin notebooks (17 watts or less) and desktop parts should get here by the summer. By then, we’ll be a lot closer to the launch of AMD’s Kaveri APUs, which are to due to ship before the end of this year and should represent a more radical leap than Richland. And in the midst of all this, there’s also Intel’s upcoming Haswell architecture, which is set to debut sometime this year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Security firm Skycure illustrates possible hacking attacks through iOS’ use of Provisioning Profiles

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Date: Tuesday, March 12th, 2013, 07:41
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, security, Software

In the words of assorted security analysts, Apple may be setting itself up for a malware fall thanks to its Provisioning Profiles.

Per The Next Web, while iOS users have been relatively safe from malware on their devices, researchers from security company Skycure say they’re concerned about a feature of iOS that could be used by malicious actors to read information, passwords and even encrypted data from devices without customers knowledge. They’ve detailed the new vulnerability in a presentation at the Herzliya Conference and a company blog post.

It’s worth noting at the beginning that Skycure’s product, still in development, is a mobile firewall with a cloud component designed to secure devices against attacks just like these. This isn’t all that unusual, though, as many security firms like Sophos and Intego produce research reports along with consulting and security products.

Provisioning Profiles (mobileconfigs) are small files installed with a single tap on iOS devices. They essentially function as instruction lists which can alter many settings, including network configurations and they’re used by thousands of companies around the world including app developers, corporations with IT departments and more.

Their use is officially approved by Apple and there is nothing innately malicious about any given profile. But, if put to the right uses, they do open up the ability to read usernames and passwords right off of a screen, transmit data that would normally be secure (over HTTPS) to a malicious server where it can be read and a lot more.

In a demonstration, Skycure’s CTO Yair Amit and CEO Adi Sharabani sent the author to a website where a link was offered. A provisioning profile was presented, installed and led to a screen that looked a lot like a phishing attempt, which requires an action on the part of a user in order to infect or grant access to a hacker.

After the profile was installed, Sharabani demonstrated that he could not only read exactly which websites the author had visited, but also scrape keystrokes, searches and login data from apps like Facebook and LinkedIn. To be perfectly clear, this is not a vulnerability within iOS, instead it uses standardized frameworks to deliver a profile that has malicious intent.

iOS has typically been far more secure than other platforms because of its heavy use of curation on the App Store, but also because it has been built from the ground up to use sandboxing. This means that apps are cordoned off, unable to reach outside of their data box or to affect any other apps that have not given them explicit permission to do so.

Provisioning Profiles step outside of that protection and can do things like route all of a victim’s traffic through a third-party server, install root certificates allowing for interception and decryption of secure HTTPS traffic and more.

Sharabani provides a couple of scenarios by which people could be convinced to install what seems like a harmless provisioning profile, only to be a victim of a traffic re-routing attack:

– Victims browse to an attacker-controlled website, which promises them free access to popular movies and TV shows. In order to get the free access, “all they have to do” is to install an iOS profile that will “configure” their devices accordingly.

– Victims receive a mail that promises them a “better battery performance” or just “something cool to watch” upon installation.

The attacks, Sharabani stated, can be configured to use a VPN, APN proxy or a wireless proxy (WiFi), so just because you’re not on a WiFi network doesn’t mean that the profile can’t send your traffic to a third-party. This also means that (unlike a VPN, where there is an indicator in your status bar), you could also be affected by the hack without your knowledge. Of course, you would still have had to install a profile in the first place.

For the third attack scenario, Skycure came up with a list of cellular carriers that ask clients to install a special profile that configures their device to work with that network’s data servers. Of course, those sites could end up being compromised to deliver corrupted profiles, but it’s bound to be harder to do if it’s the carrier’s own servers doing the distribution.

As of now, no evidence has been found of a Provisioning Profile attack in the wild. And, to be extremely blunt once again, you are not at risk at all if you don’t install any profiles to your device, period. And if you have to, make sure that those profiles are from a trusted source and are verified. You should also only download and install profiles from ‘secure’ HTTPS links.

The disclosure of the issue, Sharabani says, is really about raising awareness, rather than starting a panic. While the attacks can be powerful and harmful, the Provisioning Profile attack, much like phishing, relies on user ignorance. Just as you wouldn’t type your password into a page provided as a random link, don’t install profiles from websites that you don’t know and avoid them completely if at all possible.

Because of the deep integration of Provisioning Profiles into the workflows of IT departments and other companies, it’s unlikely that they’ll be going away any time soon. So the best defense for now is knowledge and care.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Early iPhone prototype photo gallery posted

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Date: Monday, March 11th, 2013, 07:27
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Pictures

It may not be an exclusive picture of the next-gen iPhone, but it’s interesting to know where the iOS devices you love come from.

Per Ars Technica, a photo gallery has been released of a prototype of the original 2007 iPhone, complete with a 5″x7″ display and a variety of tacked-on ports that were used in testing.


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It’s sort of a Frankenstein mish mash of ports and parts, but it became the device that’s most likely sitting in your pocket right now.

And honestly pretty cool stuff to boot.

Some 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina users report fan issues, SanDisk SSDs could be part of problem

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Date: Monday, March 11th, 2013, 07:29
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

Well, God invented firmware fixes for situations like these…

Per Geek.com, a number of complaints has emanated from owners of Apple’s 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro regarding overactive fans. The issue has been noted in our forums and is the subject of a lengthy thread in Apple’s discussion forums. From one report:

“My first instance of runaway fans was under the lightest of conditions, having only one browser open only a few tabs and a cool computer. The fact it was cold is what is so alarming. Out of nowhere the fans spun up to a roar, stayed there for a few minutes, then decelerated back down to idle. Every so often this happens, usually daily, and it’s horribly annoying on a high quality well engineered computer.
From the list of reports flowing in, users suspect that Apple’s recent shift to using SanDisk solid-state drives in the Retina MacBook Pro may have something to do with the issue, although it is likely a software issue rather than a hardware one.”

Apple support staff have offered mixed responses to the issue, with some customers receiving replacement machines while others have been assured that the behavior is normal. If the issue is indeed a software one as is suspected, Apple should be able to fix it relatively easily with an update pushed out to owners of the affected machines, but it is unclear whether Apple is working on a fix at this time.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Apple patent explores loan, resale features for DRM-protected content

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Date: Friday, March 8th, 2013, 08:19
Category: News, retail, Software

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This could get fairly interesting, as well as get around some parts of DRM that, well, NOBODY likes.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a recently published patent application details of an exhaustive Apple invention covering the resale and loan of owned digital content like e-books, music and movies, possibly portending an upcoming addition to iTunes.

The patent is outlined in three divisional applications, each titled “Managing access to digital content items,” with two filed in September of 2011, and one in June of 2012. From the most recent filing, Apple describes a system that manages the authorized transfer of owned digital content between end-users. The invention is basically a system that allows purchasers to sell or loan “used” content to other people.

Interestingly, Amazon was recently granted a patent for a nearly identical system, though the online retailer’s solution calls for a centralized marketplace while Apple’s is largely distributed. Amazon first filed for its property in 2009.

Apple’s filing provides for the authorized access to digital content, otherwise known as digital rights, to be transferred from one user to another. As an example, a first user may purchase an e-book from the iBookstore and later decide to sell that content to a second user. The original owner notifies the store that they want to sell the item, and if certain criteria are met, the user is allowed to transfer rights to the second buyer. Content itself may or may not change hands, but more importantly the rights attached to said content is managed so that the first user can no longer access the content once it is sold.

The invention decentralizes the process by taking the online store out of the equation:

“Alternatively, instead of a third party determining whether one or more criteria are satisfied, the first (or second) user’s device makes the determination and may be responsible for preventing the first user’s device from further consuming the digital content item. In some embodiments, the online store and/or the publisher of the digital content item may receive a portion of the proceeds of the transfer.”

It should be noted that the content need not reside permanently, or at all, on a user’s device, meaning the system can be cloud-based.

Key to the system’s operation is ownership history. As the “used” content is passed from one user to the next, a database is established so that the proper owner is allowed access to the item and can then choose to transfer those rights to yet another party.

Transferral of authorized access can be device-to-device through an intermediary like an online store, device-to-device without an intermediary, meaning verification must be established at a later time. In another embodiment, no device-to-device transfer is necessary.

Restrictions of transfer are a means to manage the flow of content between end users and can be set by the publisher. For example, a certain e-book may not be resold within a six month period and must have a resale price of at least US$5. The restrictions can be set on a timed basis, frequency of transfer, price and to whom the content is sold.

Proceeds are also discussed, with publishers or content makers sometimes granted rights to a portion of the resale value. These percentages are based on time and how many transfers have been completed for a particular item. Gifting is also supported, with proceeds for these transfers split between the end user and publisher.

Other embodiments deal with temporary transfers, partial transfers, delayed transfers and loans.

Eliza C. Block and Marcel Van Os are credited as inventors of all three applications, while E. Caroline F. Cranfill, Alan C. Cannistraro, William M. Bachman and Timothy B. Martin were added to the list for one of the 2011 filings.

Rumor: Intel, Apple in negotiations for Intel to start making processors for iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, March 7th, 2013, 06:26
Category: Hardware, News, Processors, Rumor

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Maybe a really good partnership CAN live forever…

Per the Chicago Tribune, an anonymous source has cited that executives have over the past year discussed a possible partnership in which Intel’s foundries would be used to manufacture Apple-designed chips. A deal has not yet been reached, the source said.

This is not the first time rumors of an Apple-Intel partnership have cropped up. A report from May 2011 suggested that Intel showed interest in building Apple’s A4 and A5 SoCs, though no action was taken and the idea was apparently shelved as the so-called Ultrabook initiative gained momentum.

Intel is supposedly looking to shift its strategy as PC sales continue to slump as mobile devices, led by tablets like Apple’s iPad, continue to gobble up marketshare. The firm has been looking to expand its foundry business, most recently agreeing to fabricate silicon based on technology from chip maker Altera.

While an agreement to start production of ARM SoCs would likely undercut adoption of Intel’s own Atom mobile processor, the move might be necessary to keep pace with a quickly changing market. The report also speculates that Intel’s replacement for CEO Paul Otellini, who plans to retire in May, may further diversify the company’s contract operations in a bid to keep manufacturing facilities working at full capacity.

As for Apple, a move to Intel is easier to imagine, as the Mac lineup already runs on x86 processors. It has also been rumored that the company wants to distance itself from current A-series SoC manufacturer Samsung, with which it is ensnarled in a worldwide patent struggle. The Korean electronics giant is also Apple’s biggest competition in the mobile marketplace, with a variety of Android-based devices going jockeying for position against iOS products like the iPhone and iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.