O'Grady's PowerPage » Apple

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone’s glass could be replaced with Liquidmetal component

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Date: Wednesday, April 18th, 2012, 11:21
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Your next iPhone could be part Robert Patrick from “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”.

Which, to be honest, was sort of the high point of Robert Patrick’s career.

Per Korea IT News, a new, questionable rumor from Korea claims that Apple’s next-generation iPhone will replace its glass back with the super-durable Liquidmetal alloy.

The claim stated that Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone will be made of zirconium, titanium, nickel, copper “and so forth.” It also said it will have a “surface smooth like liquid.”

Though the report includes references to a general “liquid metal,” the proper noun Liquidmetal refers to an amorphous metal that Apple purchased the exclusive rights to use in 2010. The company behind the material, Liquidmetal Technologies, revealed in March that it was paid US$20 million by Apple in that deal.

Casting some doubt on Wednesday’s report out of Korea, it goes on to say that the new iPhone is expected to debut at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco in June. Last year, Apple opted to hold off on unveiling the iPhone 4S until well after WWDC, and launched its fifth-generation handset in October.

This year, most rumors have suggested that Apple plans to hold to a similar timeframe for the launch of a sixth-generation iPhone. It has been rumored that Apple will unveil its next handset in the months of September or October.

While the WWDC launch reported by Korea IT News is questionable, claims of a metal back for the next iPhone are not new. As far back as last year, there were indications that Apple was working on an all-new iPhone design with a metal back akin to the iPad.

As for the potential use of Liquidmetal, the company that owns the material announced in March that it had begun shipping commercial parts to “several” unnamed customers. Apple’s Liquidmetal gives it the right to exclusively use the material in electronic products, though it is free to be used in other industries like defense contractors, sports equipment manufacturers and medical suppliers.

The first product Apple created out of Liquidmetal’s material was an iPhone SIM card ejector tool, but since then there has been no indication that any other products have been crafted from the Liquidmetal alloy.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Symantec: Flashback malware still present on approximately 140,000 Macs

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Date: Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, 19:21
Category: News, security, Software

The good news: The Flashback malware’s infection numbers have gone down dramatically.

The bad news: About 140,000 of you need to look into removing the malware on your Mac.

Per a recent Symantec blog post, the security firm guessed that the number of affected machines would have dropped precipitously by now given that Apple and third-party vendors released their respective Flashback-neutralizing programs last week. The Mac maker even rolled out a removal tool for those Mac users who don’t have Java installed, and thus may be harboring a dormant version of the malware.

Statistics from Symantec’s “sinkhole,” or spoofed command and control server, show that Flashback has been removed from some 460,000 machines since Apr. 9, but the company expected less than 99,000 would be carrying the trojan by Tuesday.

Sinkholes are used by internet security and research entities to monitor and analyze the spread of malicious programs, though the standard practice sometimes brings unwarranted suspicion to smaller, less well-known firms. For example, Apple reportedly attempted to shut down the server hosting a sinkhole belonging to Flashback’s discoverer Dr. Web, mistakenly thinking that it was a legitimate command and control server. Apple’s move, however, can also be considered standard practice when dealing with fast-moving malware.

There has been no speculation as to why the remaining Macs haven’t already disposed of Flashback, as the self-installing program can be easily identified and deleted. It is possible that machine owners remain unaware of the program and haven’t yet performed a software update that would eradicate it.

The trojan itself continues to propagate on upatched systems. Analysis into Flashback’s structure reveals that it is coded to exceed the .com top level domain, and generates domain names from .in, .info, .kz and .net. Flashback creates one new string every day that is paired with a random TLD.

Once a user visits a site carrying Flashback, the program installs itself without the need for permission and proceeds to collect sensitive data like user iDs, passwords and web browsing histories which it then sends to an off-site repository.

Just as Flashback exploited the “Oracle Java SE Remote Java Runtime Environment Denial Of Service Vulnerability” to create its botnet, another threat has surfaced that uses the same hole as a means of distribution.

Called Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a, the newly-discovered malware was created in March and is considered an “active attack” trojan as an operator manually checks and harvests data from an affected machine. SabPub has also been seen being distributed in malicious Word documents, installing itself by exploiting a known record parsing buffer overflow vulnerability.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple job listing points to potentially revised power systems for future Macs

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, 18:40
Category: Hardware, News

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Sometimes it’s the job listings that prove the most telling.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is looking for a new hire to work closely with Apple’s computer system hardware team for DC-DC power designs integration.

The job listing also makes mention of optimizing power use with “white LED backlight drivers,” related to the LCD screens found on Apple’s iMac and MacBook lineups.

Apple would prefer to hire an employee with a PhD in power electronics. Candidates must have at least 8 years of experience in the field to be considered for the high-level position.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-generation iPad to arrive in 12 additional countries this Friday

Posted by:
Date: Monday, April 16th, 2012, 10:54
Category: iPad, News

There’s only a few certainties in this world. Death and taxes are the discouraging ones, but the likelihood of the iPad 3 arriving in your country is the third (and more upbeat) one.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will launch its new third-generation iPad in a total of 12 countries this Friday, April 20, while even more countries, including India, will get the new iPad a week later.

The full list of countries where the new iPad will debut this Friday is Brunei, Croatia, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Malaysia, Panama, South Korea, St. Maarten, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

In addition, a week later, on Friday, April 27, the new iPad will also become available in Colombia, Estonia, India, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, South Africa, and Thailand.

The new iPad will be available starting at a suggested retail price of US$499 for the 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi-only model. Apple will also sell the 16-gigabite Wi-Fi iPad 2 for US$399.

The new iPad also comes available in a model with 4G LTE high-speed wireless Internet. However, customers in the latest launch countries will be restricted to slower 3G speeds, as the new iPad is only compatible with 4G LTE networks in the U.S. and Canada.

The third-generation iPad has seen the fastest international roll-out of any Apple product ever. It originally debuted in mid-March in the U.S. and nine other countries, while an additional 25 countries and territories gained the new iPad just a week later.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases third Mac OS X 10.7.4 seed to developer community

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Date: Monday, April 16th, 2012, 09:47
Category: News, Software

It’ll be cool to see what comes next.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Friday seeded the new OS X 10.7.4 build 11E46, asking developers to focus on the App Store, graphics, Mail, QuickTime, Screen Sharing and Time Machine.

The third build has no known issues and Apple is asking devs to continue their focus on the same areas as the second beta, called 11E35. This release comes less than a month after the first beta was released on March 16.

There are presently no known issues and the new developer-only beta is available for download at the Mac Developer Center.

If you’ve tried the new build and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple updates iTunes account security protocols, adds new security prompts for users

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 07:41
Category: News, security, Software

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This could make your iTunes account that much more secure.

Or it could make you want to put an axe through the screen as you just want to buy a cool 99 cent app.

Per Ars Technica, Apple has begun asking users to select and answer a series of questions associated with their Apple IDs to enhance security measures.

The security prompts began popping up on iOS devices on Wednesday, wherein users were met with a prompt that states “Security Info Required.”

After being shown the message, users are asked to select from a number of security questions and provide personal answers. Users are also prompted to provide a backup e-mail address in case the primary address associated with their Apple ID is compromised.

The changes are meant to curb fraud and phishing attempts that have been used for many years to hijack iTunes accounts. Because credit card information is tied to a user’s account, nefarious people will steal and resell accounts, allowing people to buy content like music, movies and applications on someone else’s dime.

This week’s changes are only the latest in a series of measures by Apple over the years to improve security associated with iTunes accounts. Some of the steps taken include requiring users to verify their account information when they log into new devices, and upgrading passwords to make them more complex with varying characters.

Some users have been confused by the new security prompts appearing this week, and have expressed concern on the Apple Support Communities website that the alerts could be bogus phishing attempts. However, the revised measures have been proven to be legitimate, and Apple has admitted they are part of an ongoing effort to bolster security.

If you’ve seen these prompts on your end, please let us know what you make of them in the comments.

Apple patent describes effort to create smoother, “unibody” earbuds through ultrasonic bonding process

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 07:58
Category: Hardware, Patents

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Your Apple earbuds, they could get better through an ultrasonic bonding process.

Per FreePatentsOnline, a new patent application entitled “Ultrasonically Welded Structures and Methods for Making the Same,” describes how different components could be welded together for a seamless look for the Apple earbuds.

Apple describes the new headphones as having an appearance that they were constructed as “a seamless unibody structure,” even though the earbuds may include two different component pieces welded together.

Combining two different elements in this way may form a weld ring that can be cut, sanded, polished and cleaned. This allows the headphone to appear to be one piece, even though it may actually be a number of connected pieces.

Apple’s desire to build a better set of earbuds was also detailed in a separate application published this week, entitled “Curved Plastic Object and Systems and Methods for Deburring the Same.” It describes building curved plastic objects in the shape of a cap or grill of a headphone or earbud.

The filing notes that holes are needed in earbuds to allow sound to travel, but the creation of those holes can result in remnants in or around them that degrade both the appearance of the device and the acoustic properties of the headphones.

The solution presented in that application is a tool for “deburring” a curved plastic object. The tool could be coated in an abrasive material and would conform to the shape of the curved object, then polish it by vibrating while in contact with the plastic surface.

Both the inner and outer surfaces would be both “deburred” and polished, ensuring that no remnants remain in the holes or on any surface of the headphones.

The ultrasonic welding patent application is credited to Jeff Hayashida, Jonathan Aase, Rico Zorkendorfer, and Evans M. Hankey. Both Hayashida and Aase are also credited with the curved plastic patent application.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 8, Java for Mac OS X Lion 2012-003 updates, looks to remove Flashback malware

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 06:25
Category: News, Software

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Maybe this will settle it once and for all.

Late Thursday, Apple released Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 8, the update removing the most common variants of the Flashback malware. The 80.6 megabyte download requires Mac OS X 10.6.8 to install and run.

The company also released Java for Mac OS X Lion 2012-003, which also looks to remove the most common type of the now-infamous Flashback malware. The 63.8 megabyte download requires OS X 10.7 or later to install and run.

The updates, which can be located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature. If you’ve tried the new versions and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Intel to announce Ivy Bridge architecture on April 23rd

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:18
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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There’s gotta be some truth to this somewhere…

Per DigiTimes, Intel has moved up the announcement of its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors from the original date of April 29 to April 23 as PC makers ready the second generation of ultrabooks, expected to arrive in May.

The publication claimed on Thursday that sources from notebook players had revealed Intel’s change in plans. The launch comes as Asustek, Acer, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard are expected to release Ivy Bridge-powered ultrabooks next month.

Multiple sources have pointed to late April for the Ivy Bridge launch. One report claimed late last month that Intel would announce the new processors between April 22 and April 28 and begin selling them on April 29.

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pros will likely be the first Macs to feature the new Intel chips. Sources out of the Far East said last month that the updated laptops could arrive by the end of April.

Following the release of its new notebooks, the Cupertino, Calif., company is expected to release updated Ivy Bridge iMacs as early as June or July.

Other hints that Intel is nearly ready to release its Ivy Bridge architecture also came on Thursday when reports surfaced that Intel is shipping its second-generation Thunderbolt controllers for use with Ivy Bridge chips.

Thursday’s report also quoted Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen as saying that ultrabook prices will fall from US$999 to US$699 in the new few months as volume shipments drive costs down. PC makers have been hard at work at reducing the average price of ultrabook laptops in order to better compete against Apple’s MacBook Air.

Intel declared earlier this month that ultrabooks trump the MacBook Air in functionality and value.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-generation Apple TV A5 processor studied, second core found

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:50
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, News, Processors

This is sort of interesting.

An investigation into the custom A5 chip used in Apple TV has found that the new Application Processor uses both a smaller, more efficient 32nm die process and actually incorporates two cores, one of which is simply turned off.

Per Chipworks, the custom A5 “APL2498″ used in the third generation, 1080p Apple TV has improved upon the 45nm LP CMOS process of the previous A5 “APL0498,” used in both iPad 2 and iPhone 4S last year.

The smaller die size makes the Apple TV’s A5 almost 41 percent smaller than the original part, allowing more chips to be created from a single silicon wafer. That makes producing the part cheaper, and also helps improve performance and lower power consumption (as its components are shrunken down and therefore closer to each other).

In addition to being smaller, Chipworks found that the new version of the A5 actually incorporates two cores. Apple only advertises Apple TV as having a single core chip, so the investigation notes that “either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts.”

By turning off one core, Apple could reduce the power consumption of a device. However, Apple TV lacks the power constraints of battery-powered mobile devices, making it more likely that the company simply developed a smaller, cheaper version of the A5 and is using the dual core rejects to power Apple TV, where one core is sufficient.

Chipworks explains that such “parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements, in this case they could disable the ‘bad’ core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.”

Chip makers routinely create CPUs and RAM components and test them for the highest speed they can consistently operate at, selling the fastest parts for more and the slower components for less, rated to work at a slower clock speed.

This strategy would allow Apple to use its poorest performing new A5 chips in the US$99 Apple TV, while creating a new supply of fully functional 32nm A5 chips that are faster, smaller and cheaper than last year’s 45nm batch.

Chipworks notes that these chips could either power a new generation of iPhones (or other devices) or help to reduce the cost of existing products such as the iPhone 4S or iPad 2. The latest third generation iPad uses a custom chip Apple calls A5X, which incorporates the same dual ARM cores but delivers quad-core GPUs to drive its Retina Display, with four times the pixels.