Apple opens up video decoding APIs to Adobe, other developers

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Date: Monday, April 26th, 2010, 04:36
Category: News, Software

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Sometimes a well-publicized conflict between two large companies can actually lead to something good. Per Macworld, Apple has released information on how third-party developers can take advantage of hardware acceleration for graphics, a previously unavailable feature that’s been blamed for Flash’s poor performance on the Mac platform.

Traditionally, Flash hasn’t performed nearly as well on Mac OS X as it has on Windows, especially when it comes to video playback despite the fact that these days both platforms run on comparably-powerful hardware. Adobe has been adamant thatany performance issues in Flash are the result of Apple not making the necessary video decoding application programming interfaces (APIs) available to developers, thus preventing them from taking advantage of hardware acceleration on Macs that support it.

However, a recently released Apple Technical Note for Mac OS X 10.6.3 details a new Video Decode Acceleration Framework that may help developers. The framework seems to be a relatively simple and straightforward set of APIs to do precisely what Adobe wants: use hardware acceleration to decode raw H.264 video.

“We will be enabling support for hardware accelerated video decoding for Flash Player on Mac,” said Adobe spokesperson Matt Rozen. “Now that the required APIs are available, we are working on an additional Flash Player release to follow shortly after Flash Player 10.1 to include this functionality for the hardware configurations supported by the new APIs.”

Until now, the only way to take advantage of hardware acceleration when decoding video was to use Apple’s QuickTime APIs, which only work with video that is stored in a “traditional” H.264 container, such as an MP4 file. By letting developers use the raw hardware-decoding capabilities of the graphics processors available in many Macs, Apple allows decoding video that is stored in any format, even if it’s not considered “standard.” By communicating directly with the hardware, an application can now decode video regardless of where or how it’s stored.

Unfortunately, the Video Decode Acceleration Framework has its limitations in that it can only take advantage of hardware video decoding with those GPUs that support that functionality. These GPUs include NVIDIA’s GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M, or GeForce GT 330M graphics chipsets and, because they require Mac OS X 10.6.3, the new APIs are only available on Intel-based Macs.

Even with these limitations, Apple may be lending Adobe and other developers the access they need to help improve Flash on Mac OS X or even bring it to the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad somewhere down the line…

Users report mirrored display bug in Mac OS X 10.6.3

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 23rd, 2010, 03:21
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Mac OS X 10.6.3 has worked out fairly well and my living room carpet has yet to spontaneously catch fire as a result of installing it, but an ongoing issue with the operating system version seems to corrupt graphics on external displays when you present in full screen with “mirrored” displays. In routine situations, the display will work and show the mirrored desktop in the Finder, but when applications take over use the display to show full-screen presentations, media, or other purposes, the graphics will garble and can only be fixed with a restart.

Per CNET, this problem seems to happen on multiple machines, though MacBooks are more prominently affected. This is probably because they are used more for presentations. Users have tried SMC resets, PRAM resets, and numerous approaches to clearing caches, fixing permissions, running other maintenance routines with no luck.

Over on the Apple Discussion Board, chatter between a number of has indicated that the problem could be a bug in the latest OS release, which updated the drivers, OpenGL, and other graphics technologies.

If you are affected by this problem, you can use one of the following work-arounds to keep your display from corrupting:

Try a different video processor:
For MacBook Pro owners who have multiple GPUs in their systems, the problem may be avoidable by switching the graphics processor being used. To do this, go to the “Energy Saver” system preferences and change the option from “Higher Performance” to “Better Battery Life” or vice versa.

Use extended desktop:
Instead of using the mirroring mode in OS X, change the external display to be in extended desktop mode. Do this by going to the “Displays” system preferences and unchecking the box to “mirror displays.” Once this has been done, to use your presentation, just drag the window to the desired display and activate it (should work in PowerPoint and Keynote).

Make a presentation boot drive:
Make a presentation boot drive if you have an external drive. Install OS X to it and upgrade it to 10.6.2, and install your presentation software to it. Then when you are giving a presentation just copy your presentation to that drive, reboot to it, and run your presentation in mirrored display mode without the display problems.

Move back to 10.6.2:
The last step is to move your system back to OS 10.6.2, which can be done by restoring to a previous Time Machine backup. It can also be done by performing a reinstallation of OS X from the Snow Leopard DVD. The installer will create an “Archive and Install” of the system that should keep as many of your settings and application installations as intact as possible, but do be sure to back up beforehand as an extra precaution.

Rumor has it that Apple has started issuing developer releases of OS 10.6.4 already, so hopefully the update will address these issues.

If you’ve seen this issue from your end, please let us know about it.

Sources cite leaked fourth-gen iPhone prototype as close to final product

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 23rd, 2010, 03:28
Category: iPhone, News

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There could be a reason that Steve Jobs is madder than usual about the leak of the fourth-generation iPhone prototype; it may have been fairly close to the final product.

Citing sources familiar with Apple’s fourth-generation iPhone, Daring Fireball revealed that the barcode affixed to the prototype device obtained by Gizmodo, which read “N90_DVT-GE4X_0493,” gives insight into how far along Apple is in the design of its next-generation phone.

“‘N90′ is Apple’s codename for the fourth-generation GSM iPhone, slated for release this June or July,” Daring Fireball’s John Gruber wrote. “‘DVT’ stands for ‘design verification test,’ an Apple production milestone. The DVT milestone is very late in the game; based on this, I now believe that this unit very closely, if not exactly, resembles what Apple plans to release.”

Gruber went on to say that although Apple is extremely secretive about unreleased products, it simply must let the units be used off of its Cupertino, Calif., campus to be tested. Apple reportedly distributes dozens of near-final units for field testing months in advance. Gruber said this practice is even more widespread with the iPhone than other Apple-developed products, because of the extensive nature of cellular network testing.

“The same was true for the 3GS a year ago, and the 3G the year before that,” he wrote. “The original iPhone was announced six months before it went on sale; in the interim between the January announcement and its debut in stores at the end of June, limited numbers of them were used for field testing.”

Even Apple co-founder Steve Jobs himself was spotted with an iPhone in public before the device was formally released to the masses.

The fact that the next-generation prototype iPhone was smaller and more compact than the current iPhone 3GS handset gave Apple the ability to wrap the prototype with an outer casing that made it appear to look like a current-generation device. The person who allegedly found the handset at a bar didn’t realize it was wrapped in a case until the next day.

The design of the iPhone has been largely unchanged from when it was first introduced in 2007, but the lost prototype and its near-final state would suggest Apple intends to modify the look of its handset. The discovered device abandons the curves of the previous-generation models, instead adopting a flat back made of new material to improve reception. It also sported a more angular look with an aluminum border. The prototype also replaced the volume rocker with two separate buttons.

Even greater changes were found inside the device, where Gizmodo discovered shrunken components to accommodate a battery that was 19% larger than the current-generation model’s power supply. The logic board in particular was drastically reduced in size, just one-third the size of the current model.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Apple releases Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.2

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Date: Friday, April 23rd, 2010, 03:36
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple posted its Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.2, an update designed to extend RAW image compatibility for the Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’09 applications.

The update, a 5.3 megabyte download, includes support for the following cameras:

- Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D / Kiss X4
- Leica S2
- Olympus E-450
- Olympus E-600
- Olympus E-620
- Sony Alpha DSLR-A230
- Sony Alpha DSLR-A330
- Sony Alpha DSLR-A380
- Sony Alpha DSLR-A450

The update also addresses RAW processing issues for the following cameras:
- Canon EOS 30D
- Pentax K-x
- Pentax K-7

The update requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new Digital Camera update and noticed any changes, please let us know how it went.

Apple replies to Adobe’s plans to stop iPhone Flash development

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, April 22nd, 2010, 04:04
Category: News

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Sometimes you just wish that the incredibly successful, multi-billion dollar companies you rely on would just say they’re sorry and make up.

Per Macworld UK, Apple has responded to Adobe’s announcement the company has no plans to continue developing iPhone application building technology after Adobe Creative Suite 5.

The decision is blamed on a change in Apple’s iPhone Developer Program License Agreement wherein section 3.3.1 that bans “applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited,” including those tools offered by Adobe.

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller responded in a statement yesterday: “Someone has it backwards – it is HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, and H.264 (all supported by the iPhone and iPad) that are open and standard, while Adobe’s Flash is closed and proprietary.”

Mike Chambers, Principal Product Manager for developer relations for the Flash Platform at Adobe, earlier said the Apple 3.3.1 clause had: “Has the effect of restricting applications built with a number of technologies, including Unity, Titanium, MonoTouch, and Flash CS5.”

“While it appears that Apple may selectively enforce the terms, it is our belief that Apple will enforce those terms as they apply to content created with Flash CS5. Developers should be prepared for Apple to remove existing content and applications (100+ on the store today) created with Flash CS5 from the iTunes store.”

Chambers added that Google’s Android OS was the platform of choice for future development, having become frustrated with Apple’s iPhone restrictions. “Personally, I am going to shift all of my mobile focus from iPhone to Android based devices (I am particularly interested in the Android based tablets coming out this year) and not focus on the iPhone stuff as much anymore.”

Adobe announced Adobe Creative Suite 5 earlier this month, with major updates for a range of creative tools including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver and Flash.

Gizmodo tears iPhone prototype apart, posts findings

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 21st, 2010, 04:00
Category: iPhone, News

The plus side: Gizmodo tore apart and studied the iPhone prototype, revealing some interesting things and proving you can find some amazing things at a bar.

The down side: Steve Jobs is probably angry about this and several buildings on Apple’s campus have already been destroyed thanks to his eye lasers.

Per Gizmodo, the prototype iPhone was disassembled, revealing a tightly packed interior with much smaller components, allowing the device to be thinner than its predecessor while also making space for a much larger battery.

The teardown found that the main logic board of the prototype iPhone was about one-third the size of the board that controls the current-generation iPhone 3GS. “Basically, the guts have shrunk drastically,” author Jason Chen wrote.

Those smaller components allowed Apple to cram a battery that is 19% larger than the current iPhone’s power supply into the prototype device. And while the discovered hardware was thinner, it also reportedly weighed 3 grams more than the current-generation handset, thanks to the larger battery.

Disassembling the handset proved to be interesting, with between 40 and 50 screws inside the prototype iPhone. Chen also dispelled a rumor that the battery on the handset is user-removable (the tightly packed case must be disassembled to access the battery).

“Everything fits in here like an intricately-designed jigsaw puzzle,” the report said. “This is definitely laid out like a final product. To think that there’s more room left for any components for this case is unreasonable. Unless Apple decides now to go with a larger case so they can fit more things in there, this is the most that we’re going to see this summer.”

As to whether the device sports a custom-built Apple processor, like the iPad’s A4 CPU, that remains a mystery. The main logic board was encased in metal and could not be removed without breaking the device, and did not feature markings to indicate where its components originated.

The new hardware featured a forward-facing camera, high-resolution 960×640 pixel display, camera flash and a secondary mic for noise cancellation.

The prototype’s design also proved different from the iPhone we’ve become familiar with, which has looked largely the same since the device was first unveiled in 2007. Apple changed the back of the device to be completely flat, with a material said to be made either of glass or plastic to improve reception.

The device was allegedly found at a bar in Redwood City, Calif., where an Apple software engineer reportedly left it by mistake. It was wrapped in a casing that disguised it as an iPhone 3GS.

Gawker Media paid US$5,000 to an unknown party to receive the device. After it was disassembled and revealed to millions of Internet readers, Gizmodo reportedly returned the device to Apple.

Amidst harsh words, Adobe cancels Flash port work for iPhone OS

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 21st, 2010, 03:39
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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A lot can change in two week’s time.

Per Mashable, in that span of time, Adobe has gone from touting its technology for building Flash applications that run on the iPhone to canceling future development of that technology.

When Apple altered the terms of its iPhone 4.0 software developer kit license, it effectively blocked Adobe’s move. But in his Tuesday announcement that Adobe will cease future development of the Flash-apps-on-iPhone technology, Mike Chambers, Adobe’s principal product manager for the Flash platform, offered the following quote outlining the conflict between Adobe and Apple:

“As developers for the iPhone have learned, if you want to develop for the iPhone you have to be prepared for Apple to reject or restrict your development at any time, and for seemingly any reason,” Chambers said. “The primary goal of Flash has always been to enable cross browser, platform and device development. The cool web game that you build can easily be targeted and deployed to multiple platforms and devices. However, this is the exact opposite of what Apple wants. They want to tie developers down to their platform, and restrict their options to make it difficult for developers to target other platforms.”

The company also disclosed in a regulatory filing that its business could be harmed if the iPhone and iPad don’t support Adobe technology with one report stating that the company could be considering legal action against Apple, too, according to one report.

Recently, Adobe also gainded an ally in competing against Apple: Google.

“Fortunately, the iPhone isn’t the only game in town. Android based phones have been doing well behind the success of the Motorola Droid and Nexus One, and there are a number of Android based tablets slated to be released this year. We are working closely with Google to bring both Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0 to these devices, and thus far, the results have been very promising,” Chambers said.

The upcoming Flash Player 10.1 and related AIR 2.0 programming foundations are currently in private beta testing stages for Android and the software, which is scheduled to arrive this quarter, will work on a variety of other phone operating systems, including Windows Phone 7, the BlackBerry OS, Symbian OS, and Palm’s WebOS.

“I think that the closed system that Apple is trying to create is bad for the industry, developers, and ultimately consumers, and that is not something that I want to actively promote,” Chambers said. “We are at the beginning of a significant change in the industry, and I believe that ultimately open platforms will win out over the type of closed, locked-down platform that Apple is trying to create.”

The Adobe technology for bringing Flash-derived applications to the iPhone is now effectively irrelevant at the very moment when Adobe is bringing it to market in its CS5 product line.

“There is no technical reason that Flash can’t run on the iPhone,” Chambers said.

Apple posts Q2 revenue of $13.5 billion, profit of $3.07 billion

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 20th, 2010, 15:06
Category: Finance, News

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Delivering its second quarter financial results on Tuesday, Apple announced that the company sold 10.89 million iPods during the quarter (compared to sales of 11.01 million iPods in the year-ago quarter, and down 48% from the previous quarter) and 8.75 million iPhones in the quarter (a 131% increase year-over-year, and up from 8.7 million units in the prior quarter).

Per iLounge, Apple posted revenue of US$13.5 billion and net quarterly profit of US$3.07 billion, or US$3.33 per diluted share, compared with revenue of US$9.08 billion and net quarterly profit of US$1.62 billion, or US$1.79 per diluted share in Q2 2009.

International sales accounted for 58% of the quarter’s revenue and sales of Other Music Related Products + Services were up 27% from the year-ago quarter, and 14% from Q1 2010, to US$1.3 billion total.

Notably, the numbers from Q2 2009 are different from those originally reported due to Apple’s change in accounting rules that sees the company now recognize “substantially all of the revenue and product costs from the sales of iPhone and Apple TV at the time of sale,” instead of accounting for the sales over a 24-month period.

“We’re thrilled to report our best non-holiday quarter ever, with revenues up 49% and profits up 90%,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We’ve launched our revolutionary new iPad and users are loving it, and we have several more extraordinary products in the pipeline for this year.”

“Looking ahead to the third fiscal quarter of 2010, we expect revenue in the range of about US$13.0 billion to $13.4 billion and we expect diluted earnings per share in the range of about US$2.28 to US$2.39,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO.

Princeton University analyzes iPad Wi-Fi bug, offers workaround

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 20th, 2010, 10:13
Category: How-To, iPad

Following up on the notorious wireless glitch in the iPad wherein an Internet Protocol (IP) address of the iPad fails to correctly refresh, or “lease”, its address, the Office of Information Technology at Princeton University looked into the issue.

On Tuesday, Princeton issued a report stating that the iPad will incorrectly continue using an IP address without renewing the lease, usually for hours. The issue is resolved when the iPad asks for a new DHCP lease, or the iPad disconnects from the network.

The information suggests it is a software issue within iPhone OS 3.2, and is likely something that Apple could repair through an update to its mobile operating system.

The problem was found to be common on Princeton’s campus, with 25 out of 41 of all iPads demonstrating the malfunction as of April 18th. If that ratio bears out on a larger scale, there are likely a huge number of iPad owners experiencing similar issues, as Apple sold more than 500,000 devices in its first week.

The report noted that some devices have demonstrated the malfunction several times, and eight devices were outright blocked from the university’s network.

“When a DHCP client malfunctions this way repeatedly, Princeton blocks the device from using those campus network services which rely on the device’s DHCP client respecting lease times,” the IT office said. “These include our wireless services. We do this to protect other customers of those services from the disruptions caused by the malfunctioning devices.”

The university has published a temporary workaround for the issue, but has stated that it is working with Apple and providing them with technical data in hopes of solving the problem. That data was sent to Apple on April 7th.

The Information Technology office also noted that it has been incorrectly attributed with diagnosing the cause of Wi-Fi signal issues or connectivity issues that have been widely reported by iPad users. The university noted that information is inaccurate, as its documentation relates only to a DHCP client issue, not Wi-Fi signal or connectivity issues.

Princeton has been able to replicate the problem regularly by allowing the iPad to lock its screen before the DHCP lease renewal time, and allowing it to remain locked, with the screen off, until the DHCP lease has expired.

The current workaround has users reconfigure the iPad’s settings so that the screen never locks. This can be accomplished by going to Settings, General, Auto-Lock and choosing “Never.” Users must also turn off Wi-Fi before they manually lock the screen, turn the iPad completely off (rather than just locking it), or simply leave the iPad on without locking the screen.

Soon after the iPad was introduced earlier this month, users began to report connectivity issues with the device. One of the most common problems experienced relates to rejoining a Wi-Fi network after the iPad has been restored from sleep. Apple responded by issuing a support document.

iPad 3G to arrive in stores on April 30th

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 20th, 2010, 08:29
Category: News

In the midst of the delays surrounding certain pre-ordered iPad 3G units, Apple announced on Tuesday that the 3G-enabled iPad would arrive for those who have pre-ordered it on Friday April 30th, the same day that it will make its appearance in stores.

According to Macworld, the rush will begin at 5 p.m. at Apple Stores, most Best Buy locations, some Apple Authorized Resellers, and campus bookstores. As with the Wi-Fi models, customers will be able to set up their iPad in the store for free with the help of an Apple employee.

The 3G model comes in at 1.6 pounds to the Wi-Fi iPad’s 1.5. That and a small black plastic antenna window along the top of the unit make up the only real hardware differences between the two. As mentioned before, the 3G model arrives at a US$130 premium and will be available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB capacities retailing for US$629, US$729, and US$829 respectively.

While some have wondered about the impact the 3G capability will have on the iPad’s otherwise stellar battery life, Apple is promising nine hours of battery life while browsing the Web on 3G.

Users will be able to subscribe to and manage 3G service from the device itself, with AT&T offering a US$15 per month plan with a 250MB data cap and a US$30 per month plan offering unlimited usage. Unlike the iPhone, users can subscribe to and cancel 3G service whenever you like.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.