Apple Updates MobileMe Service, Revises File Sharing and iPhone Services

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Date: Monday, October 12th, 2009, 04:20
Category: Software

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In a behind-the scenes fix, Apple’s MobileMe cloud services package has been updated to improve its public file sharing features and make it easier to locate the Find My iPhone page. The web apps still can’t be accessed from the iPhone however. Per AppleInsider, The company issued the update Friday. Users who login will notice a new “radar sweep” icon in the navigation bar, which serves as a direct link to pull up the Find My iPhone page. This feature was previously hidden in under the Settings page.

The update also addresses Public shared files in the user’s iDisk, which can be made fully available to anyone or restricted to users who know a Public password set by the user. The revamped interface now allows users to password-protect their Public folder and provides the option to enable visitors to upload, move and delete any publicly shared files.

However, the new settings are hidden behind a Preferences item within the drop down menu displayed by the “gear icon” action button.

Apple also gave the public iDisk page MobileMe’s SproutCore treatment, which provides a cohesive look and feel and supports direct drag and drop of files between folders within the web page (but not to or from the desktop). The update also enables users to connect to another user’s Public folder while being currently logged into their own MobileMe account.

As with the previous version, MobileMe makes access personal and public iDisk files available from the desktop as a WebDAV file share on Windows or via the Finder using the Go/iDisk menu, and viewable from the iPhone using the free iDisk app.

Apple still has yet to address the most bizarre problem with MobileMe: the web service is completely and intentionally blocked to iPhone users. Rather than providing web-based access to the site via the iPhone’s browser, users attempting to pull up me.com are sent to a special landing page that tells them to use the phone’s native Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and Photos apps instead.

This prevents iPhone users from accessing their MobileMe account information (such as changing their password), looking up the location of other iPhones attached to their MobileMe account with Find My iPhone, logging into an alternative account (such as offering a guest web access to their own account on the iPhone) or troubleshooting problems with email connectivity (such as local SMTP mail delivery problems in a given location that could be resolved with direct webmail access).

Apple has also added some custom support for accessing MobileMe features from the web, including a mobile-optimized Gallery for viewing shared pictures. Apple’s refusal to support access to more or most of MobileMe from the iPhone or iPod touch is particularly strange given the company’s marketing that referred to the iPhone’s browser as providing access to the “real Internet.”

If you’ve played around with the new version, let us know what you make of it.

Apple Releases iPhone OS 3.1.2 Update

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Date: Friday, October 9th, 2009, 06:49
Category: iPhone, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released version 3.1.2 of its iPhone OS firmware. The update, which weighs in at over 200 megabytes and can be downloaded by attaching your iPhone to your Mac or PC, clicking the device in iTunes, then clicking the “Check for Update” button, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Resolves sporadic issue that may cause iPhone to not wake from sleep.
- Resolves intermittent issue that may interrupt cellular network services until restart.
- Fixes bug that could cause occasional crash during video streaming.

The update also leads to a small carrier update from AT&T for American users.

If you’ve installed 3.1.2 and noticed any changes, for good or ill, please let us know what you think.

Apple Seeds First Mac OS X 10.6.2 Build to Developers

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Date: Tuesday, October 6th, 2009, 05:33
Category: Software

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A recently released build of Apple’s upcoming Mac OS X 10.6.2 operating system reveals a slew of changes, fixes and tweaks according to AppleInsider.

A pre-release build of the next update to Mac OS X 10.6 was seeded to developers Monday, bringing a long list of changes, fixes and tweaks.

People familiar with the latest build, dubbed 10C514, said the latest update has general focus areas that affect just about every facet of the operating system, from the applications like the Address Book and QuickTime, to services like Spotlight and Time Machine, and basic hardware functions like USB and Bluetooth. The disk image has a 445.4MB file size.

The update reportedly features dozens of areas of change, including fixes for AppleScript, graphics drivers, Xtype, OpenCL and more.

The pre-release build also allegedly comes with a handful of known issues, including hang-ups with the DVD player, crashing of the parental controls preference pane, and a glitch where the system does not recognize an optical drive.

Monday’s build is the first that Mac OS X 10.6.2 has been seen by developers.

Adobe Working on Tools to Create Flash-Based Apps for iPhone, iPod Touch

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Date: Tuesday, October 6th, 2009, 05:18
Category: News, Software

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Adobe announced on Monday that its developers will be able to use an upcoming version of its Flash Professional software to create apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. The announcement, made at the company’s Max developer conference in Los Angeles, coincides with the unveiling of its Flash Player 10.1.

According to Macworld, Flash Player 10.1 will be operable with a large number of smartphones, though none of them currently include the iPhone. Apple’s smartphone doesn’t run Flash in any form, and Monday’s announcements don’t change that. What has changed is the ability of Adobe developers to use the Flash platform to build standalone apps for Apple’s mobile devices.

New features in the upcoming Flash CS5 Professional will allow developers to write applications and compile the code to run on the iPhone and iPod touch. Applications can target the iPhone OS 3.0 and later.

“We are ecstatic to announce that we’re enabling you to use your Flash development tools to build applications and compile them to run natively on the iPhone,” said John Loiacono, head of Adobe’s Creative Solutions business unit, who made the announcement at Adobe Max.

A public beta of Flash CS5 will be available on Adobe’s Web site later this year and the final shipping version could arrive anywhere between March and September of 2010, according to Adobe’s typical upgrade cycle. The CS5 version will contain a feature that allows developers to export Flash’s native FLA files to IPA, the iPhone app format.

Developers can create brand new content, or repurpose content they’ve already built, for the iPhone. “In some ways it’s more exciting, because they can actually charge for the apps and get revenue coming in,” Voltmer added. “Apple’s going to be excited because they’ll see more revenue from all these new developers; and end-users get more choices.”

Though Adobe is still unable to offer a standard Flash Player for the iPhone or iPod touch because Apple’s license terms prohibit plug-ins for the built-in Safari browser, these new Flash apps are different: iPhone apps built with Adobe Flash Professional CS5 don’t include any runtime interpreted code. The applications would go through the same approval process, and follow the same rules and procedures, as other iPhone apps to be sold in the App Store.

Flash Player 10.1 is due in beta form later this year and final form in the first half of 2010, will be available for many smartphones: Google Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm WebOS, and Nokia Symbian. Adobe holds out hope that eventually, Flash will arrive in its full form on the iPhone, in spite of complaints about the mobile version from the very top of Apple. “We do know that people are looking to have a Flash-enabled experience on their iPhone,” Voltmer said, “But it’s really up to Apple to finalize that and to let us get that working. We’d love to work with Apple, but Apple does control the hardware, and at this point we’re waiting for them.”

Recent NPD Group Report Finds Mac Market Share up to 12% in U.S. Households

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Date: Tuesday, October 6th, 2009, 05:59
Category: News

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If you’ve been having the market share debate with your friends for years (if not decades), this may come as a welcome surprise. Per an article on The Loop, nearly 12% of U.S. computer-owning households now own a Mac according to the NPD Group’s second annual Household Penetration Study. The new report places the market share up three percentage points from the market-research firm’s 2008 findings.

According to the report, 72% of those Mac users have laptops, and are very likely to live in mixed environments, a staggering 85% of those Mac users surveyed also own a Windows-based PC and 66% of those households contain three or more computers, compared with 29% for Windows households.

Those in Mac households are also greater consumers of consumer electronics. The survey found that 63% of Apple households own an iPod, compared to 36% of overall computer owners. 32% own a DSLR camera (versus 12%), while 18% own a 50+” LCD TV (versus 8%).

The report went on to explain that Mac households tended to make more money and thus had additional income for gadgets. In a statement accompanying the report, Stephen Baker, NPD’s vice president of industry analysis, wrote, “36% of Apple computer owners reported household incomes greater than $100,000, compared to 21% of all consumers. With a higher household income, though, it’s not a surprise that those consumers are making more electronics purchases.”

He also said that Apple households own twice as many consumer electronics devices—48—as the average computer household.

The results come from a survey of more than 2300 of NPD’s online panelists.

Dutch Google Ads Hint at Updated iMacs, MacBooks and Mac Minis

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Date: Monday, October 5th, 2009, 03:02
Category: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook, News

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A series of Dutch-based Google AdSense ads appear to have prematurely revealed new Apple iMacs, entry level white MacBooks and Mac minis. According to AppleInsider, the ads, now mostly removed from Google searches, appeared over the weekend, suggested “thinner iMacs, redesigned polycarbonate MacBooks with thinner, sleeker enclosures, and speed-bumped Mac minis,” could be revealed sooner than later, even as early as this month.

Italian, German, Austrian and Belgium Google searches also reportedly produced similar results.

The ads revealed a “faster and more affordable than ever,” Mac mini “from only €499,” a €100 saving on the current cheapest price.

Alongside the Mac mini, the white MacBook notebook was listed as “thinner, lighter and stronger,” according to some translations – “Dunner, lichter en krachtiger! Gratis bezorging. Bestel vandaag” on the Belgium version of Google – while the new iMac was described as “ultra thin,” starting from €1099.

Rumours of a redesigned iMac with a “thinner, organic design, likely with smoothed or rounded edges” have also been doing the rounds for the last few weeks with analysts helping to fuel claims a refresh is imminent. Observers have claimed a new look iMac could be close to the current Apple Cinema Display in design.

The reports of a new Mac mini, with faster NVIDIA graphics processor appear to be new.

Recently Published Apple Patent Reveals Possible Tablet Interface

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Date: Friday, October 2nd, 2009, 03:19
Category: Patents

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Via a recently published patent application, Apple has again disclosed plans for a multi-touch surface that could accommodate two full hands and distinguish between palms and individual fingers for typing, gestures and more. According to AppleInsider, the application, filed by Morrison and Foerster LLP in Los Angeles in June 2009 on behalf of Apple, expands on information made available last year. The massive document details a hand-based system that would allow “unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device.”

The document notes that input with a stylus, mouse, keyboard and voice recognition are all options that work well in specific circumstances, but are not dynamic enough to address the many needs of users. But, it states, many of those needs can be met with touch-sensitive technology that can recognize a number of hand configurations.

“Many attempts have been made to embed pointing devices in a keyboard so the hands do not have to leave typing position to access the pointing device… The limited movement range and resolution of these devices, leads to poorer pointing speed and accuracy than a mouse, and they add mechanical complexity to keyboard construction,” the application reads. “Thus there exists a need in the art for pointing methods with higher resolution, larger movement range, and more degrees of freedom yet which are easily accessible from typing hand positions.”

The described system in the patent application would individually detect all ten fingers and separate palms on a person’s hand, giving the ability to type, write, draw and interact with a device large enough to support multiple hands. Examples of the touchscreen’s capabilities include resting of hands, measuring when a hand or fingers touches and leaves the surface, interpreting taps from one finger as mouse button clicks, but disregarding a tap from two fingers, and more. Activities done with multiple fingers are referred to as “chords.”

Such a system could adapt to individual hand sizes, eliminate the need for a stylus and mouse and would require minimal typing force. The application notes that there are other patents for touchscreen devices that negate the need for a keyboard or mouse, but states that Apple’s method is unique because it addresses both needs.

Typing is a large part of the lengthy application. The document goes into great detail about how a multi-touch interface could distinguish what keys a set of hands intend to type on the surface. It discusses pressure on the sides or center of individual fingers and palms, and how to interpret those various signals.

Key points of the invention, as described in the application, include:

-Integrating and distinguishing different types of input, such as typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation, and handwriting, via different hand configurations that are easy to use and recognize.

-Includes an electronic system which minimizes the number of sensing electrodes to allow easier understanding of a variety of hand configurations.

-Provide a multi-touch surface that is contoured to be comfortable and ergonomic under extended use.

-Provide tactile key or hand position feedback without interfering with a hand resting on the smooth touch-sensitive surface.

-Provide images of “flesh proximity” to a variety of sensors that can distinguish hand configuration.

-Understand when the user wants cursor motion, and ignore commands when deceleration by the user is detected.

-Understand the movement of two or more hands to allow manipulation of two-dimensional electronic documents, like rotation and scaling of photos.

The application is partially credited to Wayne Westerman of Fingerworks, a company absorbed by Apple several years ago as part of its quest to deliver iPhone and a new generation of input devices.

Apple has reportedly been at work on the tablet project for several years, and the hardware has seen numerous internal iterations. The current device is believed to have a 10″ screen, 3G connectivity, and sport a custom-made chip from P.A. Semi.

Rumor: Apple Contacted Media Outfits Regarding Tablet Device

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Date: Wednesday, September 30th, 2009, 04:01
Category: Rumor

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Per Gizmodo, Apple recently approached a number of newspapers, magazines and other print media describing putting their products for sale on iTunes via a new piece of hardware. The report cited people familiar with The New York Times, publishers McGraw Hill and Oberlin Press, and a trip that “several executives from one of the largest magazine groups” took to the company’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

The Apple tablet project has apparently been through a number of different iterations, and the project has been reset numerous times by company co-founder Steve Jobs. The report said that Jobs was presented with a tablet device that ran a modified version of OS X years ago, but the device was shelved because the company could not determine what use people would have for the hardware.

The focus of the hardware now is said to not be the playback of media, which the iPod and iPhone lines already handle well. Instead, Apple is reportedly working to have publishers place their print content on iTunes.

“The eventual goal is to have publishers create hybridized content that draws from audio, video, interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers, where paper layouts would be static,” the report said. “And with release dates for Microsoft’s Courier set to be quite far away and Kindle stuck with relatively static e-ink, it appears that Apple is moving towards a pole position in distribution of this next-generation print content. First, it’ll get its feet wet with more basic repurposing of the stuff found on dead trees today.”

The article has stated that the device will debut in early 2010, which seems consistent with the rest of the rumor mill on this issue.

Two employees from The New York Times were allegedly contacted by Apple in June about putting their product on a “new device.” Publishers McGraw Hilll and Oberlin Press are said to be working to put their textbooks on iTunes, possibly in a DRMed format that would allow use for a period of time. Magazine executives are alleged to have presented their ideas on the future of publishing on Apple’s campus. Given the evidence, the report asserts that Apple is looking to go beyond e-readers, like Amazon’s Kindle, to “redefine print.”

Intel Working on Apple’s “Light Peak” Brainchild to Eventually Replace Multiple Connection Cables

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Date: Wednesday, September 30th, 2009, 04:10
Category: Hardware, News

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Ok, this is interesting. A new interconnect technology called Light Peak is being developed by Apple as a potential replacement for FireWire, USB and traditional monitor cables. Engadget reports that Apple brought the technology to Intel and asked them to create it.

Per Engadget, Apple had reached out to Intel as early as 2007 with plans for an interoperable standard which could handle massive amounts of data and “replace the multitudinous connector types with a single connector (FireWire, USB, Display interface).”

According to documents reviewed by Engadget, Light Peak would enable users to connect a variety of devices into a single Light Peak port. Longer-term, Light Peak has the potential to replace almost all the ports that are on your current computer, including networking, display driving, and general connectivity.

The technology is centered around fiber optics capable of transferring data at 10Gbps . At this speed, you could transfer a full-length Blu-Ray movie in less than 30 seconds. According to Intel, Light Peak can scale to 100Gbps over the next decade and has a number of other benefits.

Optical technology also allows for smaller connectors and longer, thinner, and more flexible cables than currently possible. Light Peak also has the ability to run multiple protocols simultaneously over a single cable, enabling the technology to connect devices such as peripherals, workstations, displays, disk drives, docking stations, and more. The technology is faster than the recently ratified SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0) which can transfer data at 4.8Gbps and could wind up in Apple systems as soon as Fall 2010 in a line of Macs destined for back-to-school shoppers. Following the initial launch, a low-power version of Light Peak is planned for 2011, which could find its way into tablets and mobile phones.

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, take a gander at the video from the lab…



Apple Releases iWork ’09 9.0.3 Update

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Date: Tuesday, September 29th, 2009, 04:58
Category: Software

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Late Monday, Apple released version 9.0.3 of its iWork ’09 productivity suite. The update, a 59.6 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- Addresses general compatibility issues, improves overall stability, updates the help, and fixes a number of other minor issues in Keynote, Pages, and Numbers.
- Reducing file size of images that have Instant Alpha applied.
- Managing file size when inserting some movies.
- Working with dates and durations in the Chart Data Editor in Keynote and Pages.
- Exporting to CSV from Numbers when using table categories.

The update, which can also be located via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature, requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later to install and run.