Apple releases MacBook Air EFI firmware update 2.0 for 2010 MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Thursday, December 9th, 2010, 05:38
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple issued a MacBook Air EMI firmware resolving an issue where the ultra-thin laptop boots or wakes to a black screen or becomes unresponsive.

Per AppleInsider, the MacBook Air EFI firmware update 2.0 is recommended for all 11″ and 13″ MacBook Air (late 2010) models and requires Mac OS X 10.6.5 to install and run. The update addresses a “rare issue” where the MacBook Air is unresponsive or displays just a black screen after booting or waking.

Apple launched the redesigned MacBook Air in October at its “Back to the Mac event.” As predicted by AppleInsider the Mac maker released an 11.6″ version of the ultra-portable notebook and abandoned mechanical hard disk drives in favor of custom solid state storage.

On the day of the revamped MacBook Air’s unveiling, Apple released a software update for the product, resolving a problem where the MacBook Air became unresponsive after waking from sleep when an external display was connected.

Shortly after the release of the MacBook Air, reports emerged that users were experiencing problems ranging from faulty logic boards to display issues. One issue, detailed on an Apple support thread, involved a flickering or frozen screen. It is not clear whether Apple’s EFI firmware update specifically addresses this issue.

Despite scattered reports of issues with the MacBook Air, the laptop has continued to sell well, especially the 11-inch model. The US$999 11.6″ MacBook Air’s ship times slipped from within 24 hours to 1-3 business days in the first week after its release.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

Apple addresses security concerns with QuickTime 7.6.9 update for Mac OS X 10.5.x operating systems

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Date: Wednesday, December 8th, 2010, 05:14
Category: News, security, Software

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Per the cool cats over at CNET, Apple has updated its Quicktime software, now at version 7.6.9, to fix vulnerabilities where a maliciously designed file could execute arbitrary code or lead to the application terminating.

As Apple describes in its knowledge base article:
“Description: A heap buffer overflow exists in QuickTime’s handling of JP2 images. Viewing a maliciously crafted JP2 image may lead to an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution. This issue is addressed through improved bounds checking. For Mac OS X v10.6 systems, this issue is addressed in Mac OS X v10.6.5. Credit to Nils of MWR InfoSecurity, and Will Dormann of the CERT/CC, for reporting this issue.”

Also included in this security update are fixes to maliciously crafted avi file types, other movie file types, FlashPix image files, GIF image files, or PICT image files, as well as a possibility that local users may have access to sensitive information on certain Windows machines.
The update is for Mac users running Mac OS X 10.5.8 or Server 10.5.8. For more information, visit the entire security update article.

As usual, the update can be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, let us know in the comments.

Analyst: Verizon may accept more of Apple’s terms for access to iPhone

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Date: Tuesday, December 7th, 2010, 08:35
Category: iPhone, News

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Verizon may be willing to accept Apple’s terms regarding the iPhone according to Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu. Per The Mac Observer, a deal between the two companies is “closer to reality,” and Verizon may be more willing to pay what Apple wants under Apple’s terms as Android “starts losing some of its luster (at least at Verizon).”

The change would mark a shift in the rumored negotiations between the two companies, as Verizon previously hadn’t wanted to pay the same high subsidies AT&T pays for each iPhone signed up on its network. The telecom has also been unhappy with the notion of leaving Apple in charge of the customer experience, as it is with almost all of its carrier partners.

“Times have changed,” wrote Mr. Wu in a research note to his firm’s clients clients. “Apple is back in the driver’s seat with a record 14.1 million iPhone shipments in the September quarter helping AT&T gain share against VZ over the last two quarters as Android starts to lose some of its luster (at least at VZ). In addition, our sources indicate that VZ does not believe the pending launch of BlackBerry 6 on its network is likely to have a material impact.”

Another factor playing into the negotiations, according to industry and supply chain checks conducted by Kaufman Bros., is that Verizon may be willing to pay more than (i.e. what AT&T pays) to keep the device exclusive to AT&T and Verizon in the U.S., and off of Sprint and T-Mobile.

The iPhone has been the single biggest drive in customer growth for AT&T, helping Ma Bell to close much of the distance between itself and Big Red. AT&T has enjoyed an exclusive five year deal on the iPhone, but that five year contract will be up as soon sometime-in-2011, according to a variety of reported leaks and informed speculation (the smart money is on the summer of 2011).

While Verizon wants to end AT&T’s exclusivity on the device, the company doesn’t necessarily want every other carrier to get it, too, according to the reasoning laid out by Mr. Wu.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have any thoughts on this, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Foxconn to ship second-gen iPad in 100 days to meet April launch

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Date: Tuesday, December 7th, 2010, 07:41
Category: iPad, Rumor

Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn will begin shipping Apple’s next-generation iPad within the next 100 days according to a story published by DigiTimes.

After checks with Taiwan-based component makers, the publication reported Tuesday that Foxconn is set to ship the iPad 2 by the end of February 2011, with initial shipments of 400,000-600,000 units. Tuesday’s report echoes an earlier report from the publication that claimed suppliers would ramp up shipments of iPad 2 components in the first quarter of 2011.

Apple had reportedly planned to begin mass production of the device in January, but ongoing testing of the new iPad’s firmware has apparently forced Apple to postpone its schedule. The new iPad is still expected to launch in April, a year after the first-generation device debuted.

According to the report, Foxconn’s new production plants in Chengdu are still in “pilot production,” so the iPad 2 will be mainly supplied by the company’s Shenzhen plants.

In preparation for a spring launch of the second generation of Apple’s successful tablet device, production of the original iPad is expected to drop off in early February. According to the article’s sources, Apple will still place orders for an estimated 1.6-1.8 million iPads through the end of January before reducing orders.

Anonymous sources have also indicated that Apple would introduce FaceTime-equipped next-gen iPads by the end of the first quarter of 2011, ahead of the usual 12-month product cycle. In November, rumors emerged that the next iPad will be a “world mode” device with both GSM and CDMA radios, allowing it to work on a variety of networks.

In the U.S., Verizon has already begun selling the iPad, though it currently only offers the Wi-Fi-only model bundled with a MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. The iPad 3G model is not compatible with Verizon’s CDMA network.

Rumor: white iPhone 4 spotted in public, Apple working out tech issues though handset due in spring

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Date: Tuesday, December 7th, 2010, 06:35
Category: iPhone, Rumor

You’ve been hankering for it and it’s almost here.

Though it could need some tweaking.

Per the Seattle Times, a white iPhone 4 was spotted in public, though another handset constructed using leaked alleged official parts demonstrates issues with the camera flash.

Last week, a news producer in Seattle reportedly saw a white iPhone 4 at a Whole Foods store. The owner, an Italian man, reportedly claimed he was testing the device for Apple, and that it would go on sale in Europe in February.

The person claimed that the handset was modified so the iPhone 4 antenna issue which caused headlines earlier this year, no longer exists. According to The Seattle Times, the man also said that Apple was having problems keeping the edges of the device from yellowing.

Apple has repeatedly delayed the white iPhone 4, citing production issues. Rumors have suggested the color of the device has been a problem, though Apple has not clarified.

The news producer also snapped the following photo of the device spotted in the wild:

In other news, German web site MacNotes.de obtained what it says are official parts for Apple’s white iPhone 4. The site took a regular, black iPhone 4 and had the white external glass placed on it.

Though obviously not an official white iPhone 4, the site found that the camera flash had issues with the white glass, causing overexposed photos.

Finally, some Apple retail stores around the country began advertising over the weekend that the white iPhone 4 is set to debut in Spring 2011, according to The Unofficial Apple Weblog. Taking the season literally, that would mean the handset could debut at any point between March 20 and June 21.

Apple formally announced in October that the white iPhone 4 was delayed until Spring 2011. Apple also stopped advertising the hardware on its site after numerous delays.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, magazine publishers in long-standing stalemate over iPad-based subscriptions

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Date: Monday, December 6th, 2010, 06:06
Category: iPad, News

In as much as the iPad has been seen as the device to help bring magazines back into a better range of profitability, the devil may be in the details. Per MediaMemo, Apple and magazine publishers have still not been able to reach a deal for selling subscriptions on the iPad, as publications reportedly want extensive subscriber data, but Apple is unwilling to give it.

The report stated Friday that Apple and publishers are “still miles apart” on the prospect of subscriptions for iPad content in the App Store. The two sides remain at odds over the same issue they’ve allegedly been debating since early this year: Publishers want personal data about subscribers to provide to advertisers, and Apple doesn’t want to allow it.

Apple is reportedly offering publishers the option of an opt-in form, which would allow subscribers to grant publications the ability to access a “limited amount of information” about them, such as their name, physical mailing address, and e-mail address.

They’ve also proposed the same revenue sharing plans used to great success on the App Store, where Apple keeps a 30% cut of all transactions.

“The offer has been on the table for a ‘couple months,’ I’m told, and so far none of the big publishers have gone for it,” Kafka wrote. “They don’t like the 30% cut Apple wants to take, but their real hang-up is the lack of access to credit card data: It’s valuable to them for marketing, and without it they can’t offer print/digital bundles, either.”

As a result, he said publishers are now looking toward Google and tablets running the Android mobile operating system, in hopes of finding some success on that platform instead.

However, the anticipated tablet-only daily publication from News Corp, called The Daily, doesn’t have many of the same issues, because it’s a new product that’s doesn’t have existing customers on the print side of the business. One rumor has suggested that The Daily will be formally announced, along with Apple’s subscription plans, at an event on Dec. 9 or soon after.

For months, reports have claimed that Apple is unwilling to share consumer data beyond sales volume to publishers who are interested in putting their publications on the App Store. It has been said that Apple has pitched an opt-in function that would allow consumers to willingly share some information, but according to Kafka’s sources, Apple still refuses to give more detailed demographic information.

Print publishers view demographic data from readers as their most valuable asset, as they rely on that information to sell advertisements.

Rumor: Mac App Store may launch on Monday, December 13th

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Date: Monday, December 6th, 2010, 05:02
Category: Rumor, Software

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You’re hankering for the Mac App Store.

And it may be here in exactly a week.

Per a rumor on AppleTell, Apple has apparently told developers to have their applications ready for a launch as soon as today. A source told the site that Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs wanted to launch even sooner than today.

“That obviously didn’t happen, but Apple appears to be way ahead of schedule on the Mac App Store nonetheless, and looks to take advantage of the Christmas rush,” author Kirk Hiner wrote.

Last week, Apple issued its second beta of Mac OS X 10.6.6 with support for the forthcoming Mac App Store. Developers with the early build were reportedly told that the latest update to Snow Leopard “contains developer support for fetching and renewing App Store receipts.”

The Mac App Store was announced in October, and Jobs said it would launch within 90 days. To meet that launch window, Apple has until late January.

Apple is rumored to hold a media event in the coming days to announce the ability to subscribe to publications on the iPad through an iTunes account. It’s possible that Apple could also launch the Mac App Store at the apparent event.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple 27″ Cinema Display units demonstrating audio, slow volume control response problems

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Date: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010, 13:19
Category: Hardware, News

As nifty as Apple’s 27″ Cinema Display, there may be some kinks to work out.

Per MacNN, the device is suffering from serious audio problems, some owners say. Complaints reportedly surfaced back in October on the Apple boards, but have persisted without any solution from Apple. In worst-case scenarios Cinema Displays have been losing built-in audio entirely, although the glitch can be temporarily solved by unplugging and reconnecting the monitor, or in some instances changing audio settings.

Another problem involves slow response times for keyboard-based volume controls. Affected displays can potentially take as long as 6 or 7 seconds to respond to keyboard presses, making onboard sound impractical.

The issues are notably affecting both Mac and Windows systems, suggesting that any permanent solution will require a firmware or hardware fix. The root cause may in fact involve USB connections, as Macs using Mini DisplayPort for audio have been going unaffected. Apple support staff are said to be aware of the problem, but unable to tell if or when a fix is coming. Some customers have managed to secure replacement monitors only to encounter the same trouble.

If you’ve seen these issues on your end or discovered your own fix or workaround, please let us know.

Apple patents describe possible convertible tablet, next-gen MagSafe power/optical connector

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Date: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010, 05:46
Category: iPad, MacBook, Patents

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A pair of patents that went public on Tuesday reveal that Apple could be working on a device that converts from standard laptop form to tablet form as well as a magnetic connector that provides both power and an optical data connection.

Per freepatentsonline, a November 30 patent entitled “Application Programming Interfaces for Scrolling Operations” has surfaced, the patent depicting an Apple notebook that slides into tablet form as an example of a device that would take advantage of the patent’s scrolling operations.

The drawings first show a laptop with a traditional keyboard, body, display frame and display. Then, according to the patent, “the laptop device can be converted into a tablet device” by sliding the display across the keyboard.

Since the patent relates to scrolling operations, it would presumably not cover the convertible laptop to tablet form factor. Apple does, however, disclaim in the application that the patent contains “specific exemplary embodiments.”

“It will be evident that various modifications may be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit and scope of the disclosure as set forth in the following claims. The specification and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative sense rather than a restrictive sense,” reads the patent.

In its recent revision. to the MacBook Air line, Apple took features from the iPad, such as “solid state storage, instant-on, amazing battery standby time, miniaturization and lightweight construction.”

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during the ultra-thin laptop’s unveiling that he and his company had asked themselves, “What would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?” With both a touchscreen and a keyboard, laptop and tablet configurations, these figures from the scrolling operations patent reveal the possibility of an even closer integration between the two products.

In another patent awarded Tuesday, Apple seeks to reduce the number of cables connected to a laptop device to a single connector that would provide both a power and data connection.

One drawing of the invention depicts what appears to be a MagSafe-like connector attached to a “power and data adapter” with optical, USB, Ethernet, and DVI ports. The adapter would function as both a power brick and a port hub.

Another drawing features a MagSafe connector that splits off into a fiber optic cable with a data adapter and a DC power cable with a power transformer.

The patent could be a first look at Apple’s planned implementation of Intel’s Light Peak optical cable technology. Intel is reportedly readying Light Peak for an early 2011 release, and Apple is expected to quickly incorporate the technology into its Mac line of computers.

Intel claims Light Peak has a bandwidth of 10Gbps and will scale up to 100Gbps over the next decade. “Optical technology also allows for smaller connectors and longer, thinner, and more flexible cables than currently possible,” states Intel on its website.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have any thoughts on the patents, please let us know.

Apple nixes PhotoFast 256GB MacBook Air upgrade kit

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Date: Tuesday, November 30th, 2010, 12:46
Category: MacBook Air, News

It was good while it lasted.

Per 9to5 Mac, Apple has quietly stopped third-party outfitter PhotoFast from selling the 256GB MacBook Air SSD upgrade kit, the company’s product page returning a 404 error this morning.

The kit included a 256GB upgrade chip as well as a USB 3.0 housing for the 64GB chip currently in the 11.6″ MacBook Air. Plus, it could read and write at 250MB/s while Apple’s SSD clocks in between 150MB/s and 160MB/s.

PhotoFast is currently licensed with Apple to make Apple accessories through the MFi Program, a privilege that could have been lost.