Apple begins to disable ports for non-authorized devices accessing Siri servers

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Date: Wednesday, February 15th, 2012, 06:12
Category: Hack, iPhone, News

As much as you may like the idea of running Siri on a non-iPhone-4S device, Apple seems to feel differently.

Per Redmond Pie, Apple has added a new barrier to the software needed to run Siri, a move that shows the Cupertino, Calif., company is actively tracking the growing number of iDevice users who have managed to port the voice-recognizing assistant to non-supported hardware.

In an attempt to halt the unauthorized use of its digital assistant on devices not intended to run the software, Apple covertly instituted a “SetActivationToken” property list file which effectively disables any attempts to communicate with Siri’s servers.

To get the voice-recognition software to work on other iOS devices, the so-called jailbreak community came up with a basic program called Spire which installs the required on-device files to communicate with the Siri servers. Spire’s developers, the prolific hacker “chpwn” and Ryan Petrich, allege that the program is a completely legal port.

The software has caveats, however, as it is only available to jailbroken devices, requires a proxy Siri server and an iPhone 4S certificate.

Despite the troublesome task of installing and troubleshooting the workaround, the demand from users who don’t have an iPhone 4S yet want a taste of Siri has been enough to warrant a response from Apple.

Since Siri was announced in October 2011 as the standout feature of Apple’s iPhone 4S, users of other iOS devices like the iPhone 4 and 3GS have questioned the company’s decision to keep the software locked to the newest generation handset.

Apple has not officially responded outside of saying that the hardware on the 4S makes Siri possible, though previous anecdotal reports have claimed that the exclusivity may stem from a modified proximity sensor or integrated noise reduction tech from EarSmart.

The feature has been seen as a driving force for sales of the newest iPhone, and Apple may be pushing users to upgrade rather than rely on an untested, unauthorized piece of software.

The jailbreak community is already claiming that a simple “solution” to the “SetActivationToken” addition is to simply delete the entirety of a certain .plist information bundle, however the technique hasn’t been fully vetted.

This latest attempt to free an iOS feature from Apple’s “walled garden” is but one of a myriad jailbreak attempts by users who want interface with their devices in ways frowned upon by the company.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to go with NVIDIA’s Kepler hardware for next-gen Mac Pro computers

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Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 12:25
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News

You may love your Apple notebook or iOS device, but at the end of the day, it’s the Mac Pro that gets the most number-crunching done.

Per MIC Gadget, Apple’s long-rumored Mac Pro update could signal a return to NVIDIA for graphics based on claims about production progress on Tuesday. The company had reportedly been soured based on is experience with drivers and hardware failures. Instead, it would use NVIDIA’s Kepler hardware, although which exact parts weren’t mentioned.

Apart from possibly better behavior, the graphics switch might also be to improve overall speed for creative pros. Adobe’s Creative Suite still primarily depends on NVIDIA’s CUDA general-purpose computing rather than OpenCL.

Kepler is expected to be about three times more efficient in performance than NVIDIA’s existing technology and may help it leapfrog AMD’s Radeon HD 7000 series.

The same tip had Apple just getting test samples of Ivy Bridge-based Xeon processors. The 22-nanometer chips have reportedly overcome overheating issues and are in high-enough production volumes. Apple would be using eight-core chips with 20MB cache, according to the tip, supporting its own early, inadvertent slip of 16-core Mac Pros that would use two processors.

The finished hardware, if accurate, might not ship until later into the summer, or about two years after the last update. Apple is known to have skipped a 2011 update after Intel’s Xeon E5 missed the market for all but a handful of specially-picked customers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple cautions against “Beta test iPhone 5” scam, tells users to be wary of unsolicited offer

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Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 07:42
Category: iPhone, News

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Per the Apple discussion boards and iPodNN, a recent scam spam has spread from email and forums to Twitter, Facebook and now text messaging. Users have reported seeing unsolicited texts and social-network posts claiming that “Apple” is seeking 1,000 testers for text messaging on the iPhone 5. The links go to the websites celltestnkeep.com or cellphonetesters.com and ask for email or a text message “code” to sign up.

The notoriously secretive Apple would not, of course, openly solicit for public testers of a forthcoming product (it rarely even acknowledges a forthcoming product at all), nor use a third-party company to do so. Users who “sign up” will be asked for additional information. The “promotion” is a scam operation that sells the data collected to spammers and other criminal organizations. The text messages have appeared for users of other phone platforms as well as iOS users.

Scams promoting free “iPhone 5” units were popular on social-networking and forum sites up until the announcement of the iPhone 4S. Speculation that Apple may introduce a new model sometime later this year has apparently reached a sufficient level of mainstream consciousness that spammers are seeking to attract gullible consumers who want to get the jump on the next version of Apple’s most popular product.

The call to “test text messaging” is particularly ironic since iOS 5 introduced a new iOS service called iMessage that bypasses normal SMS traffic, circumventing a source of carrier income. Apple mobile devices that register their phone numbers or email addresses in iOS 5 can send and receive SMS-like text, image or video messages to and from other iOS devices or groups at no charge. The system works over Wi-Fi or 3G (and in the latter case does use 3G data).

AT&T is advising users to contact Apple when they receive such a text message. The company cannot block users from receiving the unsolicited text message, though Canada has recently introduced anti-spam laws that require mandatory opt-in before unsolicited electronic messages can be sent.

In other news, if you’ve already fallen for the iPhone 5 tester scam, I’ve got a great bridge to sell you just a few blocks away…

Rumor: Apple purportedly testing upcoming iPad model with 8-inch screen

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Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 06:49
Category: iPad, Rumor

The next iPad could feature a smaller form factor.

And there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple is said to be working with suppliers to test a new iPad model with a smaller form factor, sporting an 8-inch screen rather than the 9.7-inch size found on current models.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the publication reported on Tuesday that Apple officials have shown some suppliers designs for a device with an 8-inch screen size. It was said that Apple is qualifying potential suppliers to manufacture the device.

“One person said the smaller device will have a similar screen resolution as the iPad 2,” authors Lorraine Luk and Jessica E. Vascellaro wrote. “Apple is working with screen makers including Taiwan-based AU Optronics and LG Display Co. of South Korea to supply the test panels, the person said.”

The report also came with a caveat, noting that Apple works with suppliers to test new designs regularly, but that such a device may never see the light of day.

Tuesday’s report comes on the heels of an initial story from the publication, which claims that Apple plans to add 4G long-term evolution high-speed data connectivity to the third-generation iPad. The LTE iPad will reportedly operate on networks from both Verizon and AT&T in the U.S., and it would be the first 4G device from Apple.

Apple is expected to hold a media event on March 7 to announce its third-generation iPad. The new device is expected to sport the same 9.7-inch screen size as the current generation model, but will have a higher-resolution “Retina Display” similar to the pixel density found on the iPhone 4S screen.

Rumors of a so-called “iPad mini” are not new and have persisted for years. But Apple has long downplayed the prospect of such a device, calling the screen size too small to be functional and criticizing competitors who released 7-inch touchscreen tablets.

In October of 2010, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs slammed rivals who were building 7-inch tablets, saying the screen size was too small for users. He said that manufacturers of those devices would need to ship sandpaper with their 7-inch tablets so users could file down their fingers to the point where they could hit smaller targets on the screen.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: iPad 3 to add 4G LTE capabilities

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Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 06:57
Category: iPad, Rumor

There’s usually some truth to a rumor, especially if it’s been circulating for a while.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple will announce a third-generation iPad in early March that is capable of operating on 4G LTE networks from Verizon and AT&T.

Sources close to the story told the publication that Apple is planning on announcing the 4G-capable iPad during the first week of March. The device would reportedly then go on sale with AT&T and Verizon.

That lines up with earlier reports that have suggested the same time frame. One recent rumor claimed the announcement would come on March 7 and was quickly backed up by The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple.

The Journal was unable to learn whether the other major carriers in the U.S., Sprint and T-Mobile, would also sell Apple’s next iPad, though it did point out that AT&T and Verizon are currently the only two operators in the U.S. that run LTE networks. Verizon got an early lead with its 4G network and now reaches 200 million people with the service. AT&T has worked to catch up to its rival, covering 74 million people at the end of 2011.

Sources also said that the next iPad will resort to slower network technology when LTE isn’t available. AT&T sold the original iPad iPad Wi-Fi + 3G in 2010, while Verizon sold the iPad with Wi-Fi and a Mobile Hotspot router. The second-generation iPad, released last year, was capable of running on both Verizon and AT&T from day one.

Though rumors that Apple would transition the iPhone and iPad to LTE in 2012 have persisted for some time, evidence that the company will make the leap next month has mounted in recent months.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV stocks dwindle, fuel speculation as to third-gen device on horizon

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Date: Monday, February 13th, 2012, 08:28
Category: Apple TV, News

This is sort of out of nowhere, but it could lead to something interesting.

Per 9to5Mac, an upgraded Apple TV media hub might come sooner than thought after signs emerged that multiple stores ran low on stock. Amazon, Best Buy, Buy.com, Radio Shack, and Target all show the device either as out of stock or taking weeks to ship. Apple and others do have supply, but it follows a pattern of third-party resellers usually running out first.

While it’s possible that there would be a temporary lull in stock, new tips suggest that the existing version may have been phased out. No more were shipping to Best Buy stores, a person at the retailer claimed.

Code references have been appearing that refer to a new Apple TV for the past few months, but little has emerged as to what it might be. With a full TV set unlikely in the near future, it’s more probable that any device, if it reaches stores, would be an A5- or A6-based update that could support 1080p video.

The timing follows some dwindling iPad 2 stock and raises the possibility that Apple may use an increasingly likely early March event to show both a new Apple TV and a new iPad at the same time.

Stay tuned and we’ll have details as soon as they become available.

Meijer’s $70 iPad 2 price reduction, other discounts hint at upcoming iPad 3 launch

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Date: Monday, February 13th, 2012, 07:58
Category: iPad, News

It’s the discounts that sometimes provide the best hints as to a product released.

Per AppleInsider, U.S. big-box retailer Meijer, has slashed the in-store price of the 16GB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi by US$70, even as Apple’s third-generation tablet is expected to hit the market within weeks.

The chain announced the sale in its weekly ad for the week of February 12 – 18, noting that it runs only while supplies last and does not include rain checks or substitutions. A separate listing on the company’s website lists the US$429 price as lasting until Feb. 25 and notes that the iPad 2 deal is only available in stores.

The Smart Cover iPad 2 accessory is also on sale for US$35, US$5 off Apple’s price. In addition, Meijer is offering a free US$15 iTunes gift card with the purchase of an 8GB iPod touch for US$195 this week.

Meijer is a Michigan-based supermarket chain that has been credited with popularizing the “supercenter” retail concept. The bulk of the company’s stores are in Michigan, though it also has locations in several other surrounding states.

The US$70 off sale is one of the steepest discounts for the iPad 2 since the device was released last March. For instance, Best Buy offered US$45 off all iPad 2 models last year ahead of the Black Friday retail frenzy. Apple itself offered between US$41 and US$61 off during its own Black Friday promotion.

Given that recent reports have pegged the first week in March as the likely time frame for the launch of the third-generation iPad, Meijer’s deal could be viewed as an effort to clear out inventory before the new devices arrive.

Apple’s next tablet is widely expected to have a high-resolution Retina Display with double the pixel density as the current model, as well as a significantly faster A6 processor. Some reports have also suggested that Apple could make the jump to 4G with the release of an LTE-capable iPad next month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple begins offering 13.3-inch MacBook Air notebook to education buyers for $999

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Date: Monday, February 13th, 2012, 07:52
Category: MacBook Air, News

Apple’s tres-nifty white MacBook notebook may have officially gone the way of the dodo last week, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a replacement in the works.

Per AppleInsider, the company has begun selling a less powerful version of its 13.3-inch MacBook Air to educational institutions buying in bulk for US$999, filling the void left by the recently discontinued white MacBook.

The new model, only available to education buyers ordering in bulk sizes of five or more, features the same internal components as the 11.6-inch MacBook Air available to general consumers for US$999. But the new, discounted hardware sports a larger 13.3-inch display. They are advertised to ship within three to five days.

The 13.3-inch education model and the entry-level 11.6-inch MacBook Air both feature a 1.6GHz dual-core Core i5 Intel processor, along with two gigabytes of RAM and a 64-gigabyte solid-state drive. They are also powered by the Intel HD Graphics 3000 chipset included on the Core i5 CPU.

The standard 13-inch consumer-level MacBook Air remains priced at US$1,299. The speedier machine has a 1.7GHz dual-core Core i5 Intel CPU, 4 gigabytes of RAM, and a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive.

Last July, Apple discontinued its white MacBook, which previously served as the entry-level notebook in Apple’s lineup. Its price point was filled by the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, which carries the same US$999 cost.

Apple continued offering the white MacBook to education buyers for months, but this week the company finally ceased sales of the legacy notebook. Resellers have since been notified that the white MacBook is now classified as “end of life.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple gearing up “iPad 3-ready” apps for iPad 3 event on-stage demos, ads

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Date: Friday, February 10th, 2012, 06:56
Category: iPad, Rumor

There shall be either an iPad 3 announcement or something geared towards the wider use of a Retina Display.

Per The Next Web, evidence continues to point toward an early March launch for the next-generation iPad, a new report claims that Apple is now in “crunch mode” as it prepares for on-stage demonstrations and television commercials highlighting apps for the device.

Sources have indicated that Apple’s selection process is proceeding at an “increased rate.” Of course, it is to be expected that Apple would be under more pressure as the event approaches, but the report does triangulate other recent reports that have pegged a Retina Display-equipped third-generation iPad for an early March launch.

Apple has traditionally showcased some of its own apps, such as GarageBand and iMovie, as well as exemplary third-party apps at its media events for new iOS devices. According to the report, the company is placing an emphasis on “graphics-oriented applications with high-definition assets” to spotlight the rumored Retina Display on the device.

The iPad maker is also reportedly forwarding some apps to its advertising partner TWBA/Chiat/Day as the agency readies commercials for the third-generation tablet. Author Matthew Panzarino noted that the process is entering its “final phase” and is on a tight deadline for the presentation and subsequent television broadcast.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to hold iPad 3 event in early March

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Date: Thursday, February 9th, 2012, 07:45
Category: iPad, Rumor

If you’re hankering for the next iPad, you might like this.

Per AllThingsD, Apple will reportedly hold a media event the first week in March in San Francisco to unveil its third-generation iPad, which is expected to go on sale soon after it is unveiled.

Citing unnamed sources, the web site reported on Thursday that Apple’s so-called “iPad 3” will debut at a special event to be held the first week in March. That means the next-generation tablet will be shown off in the next three to four weeks.

Author John Paczkowski said the device will be largely the same as rumors have suggested, with a high-resolution Retina Display in the range of 2,048-by-1,536 pixels along with a “much faster” processor and improved graphics processing.

Paczkowski also asked a source whether 2012 will be “the year of the iPad 3,” and they reportedly said, “what do you think?” Last year at the iPad 2 unveiling in March, Apple killed off rumors that a new iPad model would launch later in the year by declaring 2011 the “Year of iPad 2.”

Last year, the iPad 2 was unveiled at a media event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Wednesday, March 2. Thursday’s rumor suggests that the new iPad will debut at a similar point in the year. The month of March kicks off on a Thursday in three weeks.

The rumored date comes as a flurry of pictures claim to show components for Apple’s third-generation iPad, including one that purports to be a high-resolution Retina Display manufactured by Sharp for the anticipated tablet’s 9.7-inch touchscreen. Separately, a pair of reports claim to show both the outside and inside of the device’s back panel, suggesting it will include space internally for a larger battery.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.