Mac OS X 10.6.3 release seems imminent, upgrade tips posted

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Date: Monday, March 22nd, 2010, 04:16
Category: News

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Following a flurry of developer releases for the upcoming Mac OS X 10.6.3 update, a public release seems imminent with sources guessing it could be released today or this week.

With that in mind, the cool cats at CNET have offered the following preparation steps to take prior to the update:

Back up:
Always back up your system before updating it. The best practice is to perform a full and restorable backup by using Time Machine or a cloning system (SuperDuper, Carbon Copy Cloner) and then testing the backup to be sure you can access it in the event of an update failure.

To test your Time Machine backup, boot to the OS X installation DVD, select your language, and choose the option to restore from backup that is in the Utilities menu. In the restorable backup list, you should see the most current backup you made. To test a bootable drive clone, boot to it either by selecting the clone in the Startup Disk system preferences and rebooting, or by holding the Option key at start-up and selecting the drive from the boot menu.
Once you have confirmed the backups are healthy and have booted back to your main hard drive, unplug the drive from your system (if you can–some people use internal drives for Time Machine) or unmount it at the very least (just drag it to the trash) so the system will not interact with it during the update. Then proceed with the update.

Clear up current issues:
If you are having major problems with your current OS installation, try addressing them first. While OS updates can be the solution to many problems, if you are having major stability problems (i.e., random crashes, odd noises, inability to authenticate) then be sure to address them before applying the update.

Run general maintenance:
At the very least, run some general maintenance on the system before updating. For the most part you can do this by booting into Safe Mode (which runs a few maintenance routines at start-up) and then running a permissions fix using Disk Utility. In addition, you can also clear caches and other temporary files using programs like OnyX, Snow Leopard Cache Cleaner, IceClean, Yasu, and Cocktail.

Unplug peripheral devices:
If you have external USB or Firewire devices, unplug them from your system before updating. While it is rare that peripheral devices interfere with installations and updates, it can happen especially upon the first reboot as the system reconfigures drivers and boot caches. Once you have installed the update and have completed the first boot, then plug in your devices again.

Installation options:

Software update:
This is the most common method of updating, and will download the minimum number of files needed for your system and current software setup. It is the fastest and easiest method, but will keep a large number of the unchanged files on your system.

Standalone Delta update:
As with other versions of OS X, Apple will provide the 10.6.3 update as a standalone installer. This may be a larger download than what is available via Software Update because it includes update files for all computer models and software setups. It will be available at Apple’s support downloads page, and we will also provide a link to the delta updater when it is released.

Using this update allows you to take extra recommended precautionary steps during the installation, such as booting into Safe Mode and installing when unplugged from the network to avoid any interruptions.

Standalone Combo Update:
Similar to the Delta updater, you will have the option for the full Combo update. This update will contain the full set of files that have been updated since the OS X 10.6.0 release. Using it to install the update will ensure all updated files are replaced, even if they have not been changed since 10.6.2. Using the combo updater is a fairly standard troubleshooting step that can help fix various OS problems, and is a good way to keep your OS installation as fresh as possible.

As with the delta update, we recommend you install this when booted to Safe Mode and after running standard preparatory maintenance routines such as permissions fixes.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know if you happen across any tips, tricks or fixes during your update.

Rumor: Intel may be short on next-gen MacBook, MacBook Pro processors

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Date: Monday, March 22nd, 2010, 03:05
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, Processors, Rumor

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Intel may be struggling to meet demand for its new family of Core mobile processors that are expected in the next generation of Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks.

Per DigiTimes, sources close to the story have cited that Intel’s latest Core i7/i5/i3 series notebook chips are currently facing tight supply thanks to a hefty order from Acer, which “optimistic about the upcoming demand” for its related portables.

The brief report, which doesn’t specifically name Apple, claims that Intel is giving priority to major clients, which should include the Mac maker, leaving second-tier and smaller notebook makers in the waiting line.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Prepping New Generation of Mac Pros, 27″ LED Cinema Display

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Date: Friday, March 19th, 2010, 04:10
Category: News

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For the professional end, Apple might just have some good stuff in store.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is wrapping up development on both a larger version of its LED Cinema Display as well as a new generation of Mac Pro workstations.

The new display is targeted for a June release date and measures 27″ diagonal which seems to resemble a slightly magnified version of the company’s existing 24″ model which was introduced back in October of 2008.

Two sources familiar with the upcoming display say its been lingering in Apple’s labs for quite sometime, where it’s frequently referenced by the unique identifier/codename “K59.” Apple is believed to have been waiting patiently for the cost of the larger LCD panels, which sport a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, to shed some of their premium before introducing the model to market.

Thanks to the success of its 27-inch iMacs, which sport similar components, Apple is now believed to be in a position to market the display at a more affordable price. The company also recently put behind it problems with the same size panels that slowed the momentum of its larger iMac offerings for several months following their October 2009 introduction.

Meanwhile, Apple is also wrapping up development of its new generation of Mac Pro units, which are also slated to arrive by June, despite external reports that inaccurately pegged its release to show up as early as January or as recently as this week.

While details are scarce, sources familiar with the matter were stern in stating that Mac maker’s plans call for a dodeca-core model, sporting a pair of Intel’s latest Westmere-based hexacore chips for a total of 12 cores.

It’s suggested that Apple will likely stick to its existing Xeon strategy, employing a pair of pricey Xeon 5600 Series “Gulftown” chips into an expensive dodeca-core Mac Pro, while offering a single processor model with 6 cores at prices similar to today’s US$2,500 quad-core model.

The 5600 series will be available within the next 45 days in 2.66, 2.8, 2.93, and 3.33GHz configurations, ranging in price from US$996 to US$1663 in lots of 1000. These new 32 nanometer chips have 12MB of L3 cache, and 6 cores with 12 threads for each CPU. Apple typically bundles the most affordable of these pricey multi-core chips into its standard dual-processor model, offering the higher frequency chips as build-to-order options.

Rumors have remained that Apple would abandon its Xeon strategy and adopt two of Intel’s US$999 3.33GHz Core i7-980X Extreme Edition uniprocessor chips for a 12-core Mac Pro. However, Intel clearly lists this chip as uniprocessor model, meaning the Mac maker would need to adopt a dual motherboard strategy to make that happen.

Recent Apple Patent Filing Discusses Walkie-Talkie Features for iPhone

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Date: Thursday, March 18th, 2010, 04:10
Category: iPhone, Patents

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Apple has been looking into a new feature that could allow iPhone users to transmit data such as simple text messages to each other over voice channels, forgoing a reliance wireless carriers’ backend servers, in a manner similar to Nextel’s classic walkie-talkie feature.

According to AppleInsider, the concept is detailed in a company patent filing made this past November. As Apple explains, conventional text messaging systems require the use of what is referred to as a backend server that may be limited in the amount of information that can be handled at a particular time and is therefore capacity limited.

Furthermore, the company notes that reading of text messages can be troublesome due to in part to the small size of the typical display screen on a handheld device, especially in situations where the recipient is impaired or preoccupied with another task, such as driving.

“With the rapid deployment, proliferation, and technical advancement of mobile personal communication devices, such as cell phones, a user of these devices is presented with any number of ways to communicate with another user,” Apple wrote in the filing.

“For example, a user can send type a text message using, for example, Short Message Service-Point to Point (SMS-PP) protocol as defined in GSM recommendation 03.40 where messages are sent via a store-and forward mechanism to a Short Message Service Center (SMSC), which will attempt to send the message to the recipient and possibly retry if the user is not reachable at a given moment. Therefore, SMS-PP requires the use of a backend server to provide the necessary support for transmission of data between sender and receiver.”

As such, the iPhone maker calls for a new mechanism whereby data is passed between a sender and receiver unit by way of voice channel only, bypassing use of the data channel used in conventional arrangements.

“In this way, a sender can select that data which he/she desires to send to a receiver unit using by first converting the data into an appropriate vocal/voice format which is then forwarded to a receiver unit by way of the voice channel,” Apple said. “Once received at the receiver unit, the vocalized data can be converted to an audio signal, which is then output by way of an audio output device (such as a speaker, earphone, etc.).”

The filing suggests that a sender would be able to vocalize any textual data on their display screen (such as a phone number) in order to pass it by way of a voice channel to another iPhone or any number of other iPhones or compatible personal communication devices. Once received by the recipient, processing of the vocalized data would be performed based upon a prompted user request or based upon a pre-selected protocol.

“For example, once received [by an iPhone], the vocalized phone number can be passed to an audio output device that (in the case of a speaker) generates an audible rendition of the vocalized phone number,” Apple wrote. “In another case, the vocalized phone number is forwarded to a voice mail server where the receiver records the vocalized phone number as a voice mail message for subsequent playback.”

In the latter case, Apple notes that the user can pre-select the option that forces the generated audio message to stored in the receiver’s voice mail server. Alternatively, the company said additional processing can be performed whereby any vocalized multimedia data received is automatically converted back to text and displayed and/or converted to an audible message.

The filing, made November 23, 2009 is credited to iPod grandfather and former Apple vice president Anthony Fadell.

Twitter Leak Shows Apple Adding Scheduling Options for Developers in App Store

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Date: Thursday, March 18th, 2010, 04:39
Category: iPhone, News

You’ve got to admit, Twitter leaks make life interesting.

On Wednesday, developer Amro Mousa from Return7 posted to his Twitter account that Apple has now added the ability for developers to schedule a sale window for their iPhone applications, allowing them to temporarily schedule a different price. According to Macworld UK, this new feature has been independently confirmed.

App Store developers can and already do offer discounts on their apps for specific periods of time, but the process of doing so had been entirely manual to date. With the addition of advance scheduling, it’ll be easier for developers to plan their sale periods and spread the word accordingly. This can also help eliminate the chances of human error resulting in sale windows starting and ending sooner or later than planned.

This isn’t the biggest change in the world for the App Store, but it might make things a little friendlier for the developers who contribute to it.

Apple Releases iPhone OS SDK 3.2 Beta 5 for the iPad

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Date: Thursday, March 18th, 2010, 04:24
Category: iPad, News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released beta 5 of its iPhone OS 3.2 SDK for the iPad via the iPhone Dev Center. According to MacNN, the release comes on the heels just over a week since the launch of beta 4 of the SDK and shows Apple accelerating its efforts prior to the iPad’s April 3rd release.

Specific changes in beta 5 are still unknown, but the company is generally understood to be focusing on bug fixes over new features. Some of the earliest betas made mention of camera-related features, but these have mostly been pruned out from beta 4 onwards, in part because the current iPad lacks any cameras. Despite allusions to multitasking, it isn’t expected until at least iPhone OS 4.0, if not later.

iPhone OS 3.2 primarily enables the UI elements needed for the iPad but also adds features that are likely to spill into the iPhone and iPod touch, such as background images that persist on the home screen and four-way screen rotation that also extends to the home screen’s icons.

If you’ve downloaded the new beta and have any feedback about it, let us know in the comments.

Web Ad Points to Possible Higher Prices for Upcoming Macbook Air, Pro and Mac Pro

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Date: Wednesday, March 17th, 2010, 04:18
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

No one’s quite sure if this was intentional but it is interesting.

Per PC Authority, a set of Apple ads on the PC Authority web site are now listing the most affordable versions of the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac Pro at A$1,599, A$1,999 and A$3,599, respectively. These prices are far higher than the current prices and could hint at an early peek at the pricing of the newly updated models of each of those series.

In the ad, the MacBook Air has jumped by A$400 so that what used to be its costliest base price is now its lowest, while the MBP has suffered a A$300 bump in cost of entry. Then again, the machines are expected to receive updates to the new Intel Core i7 chips, so there may be an added cost to consider.

So, focus on the upgrades, even if you do have to consider smashing your piggy bank to get them…

Apple Releases Updated Samsung, Brother Printer Drivers for Snow Leopard

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Date: Wednesday, March 17th, 2010, 03:29
Category: Software

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Late Tuesday, Apple released its Samsung Printer Drivers 2.1 and Brother Printer Drivers 2.3 package for Mac OS X 10.6.x (Snow Leopard). The Samsung Printer Drivers 2.1 package, a 23.2 megabyte download, offers support for assorted Samsung printers that have shipped since Mac OS X 10.6′s introduction.

The Brother Printer Drivers 2.3 package, a 100 megabyte download, includes the latest printer drivers and scanning software for Brother’s units.

Both packages can also be located and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.6 to install and run.

Apple Consuming Lion’s Share of NAND Memory, Hesitant to Negotiate with Suppliers This Quarter

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Date: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010, 09:53
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

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Even as time goes by, tech parts don’t always get cheaper.

Per DigiTimes, Apple, which already consumes the lion’s share of the global NAND flash memory supply, is apparently reluctant to negotiate with suppliers in 2010 due to high prices.

Although the demand for NAND memory in devices such as memory cards and flash drives has been soft, this hasn’t significantly pushed down chip prices. Major chip suppliers like Samsung have given priority to profitable partnerships over shipment volume, which doesn’t work to the advantage of major buyers like Apple.

In addition to the lower demand, the situation has become even more volatile given that tight foundry capacity is expected to disrupt shipments and have an effect on NAND flash pricing, industry sources reportedly said.

“Some NAND flash controller suppliers,” the report said, “have indicated that their supply may not be able to satisfy customer demand in the second quarter if their foundry partners continue to see tight capacity, the sources said. This supply disruption is likely to impact NAND flash prices for the quarter.”

Industry sources expect the situation to improve in the second quarter of 2010, when they believe Apple may start negotiating long-term supply contracts for NAND flash. The report noted that Apple’s consumption of flash memory will “continue to play a significant role” in the industry this year.

Earlier this month, a rumor came out that the possible success of Apple’s iPad could increase prices of solid state drives. Apple consumes nearly one-third of total NAND flash memory supplies, and its share is expected to grow even more with the launch of the iPad on April 3.

Apple was noted multiple times in 2009 as causing a flash memory shortage due to its iPod and iPhone products consuming the largest share of NAND flash. Industry sources expect the price of NAND flash to continue to rise in 2010.

In addition to most of the iPod lineup and the iPhone, in early 2008, Apple embraced the solid state drive by offering it as an option in its MacBook Air notebook.

Apple, Google Hiring Each Other’s Employees as Tech Feud Grows

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Date: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010, 04:12
Category: News

Maybe they’ll stop feuding soon, but they’ve got some good Hatfield vs. McCoy traction going here, so why would they stop now?

According to AppleInsider, Apple recently hired a former Google product manager for a secretive “pretty neat role” with the company, while a new Google employee has shared harsh words about Apple’s “Disney-fied” approach to the mobile Internet.

Google recently hired well-known software developer Tim Bray, formerly of Oracle and Sun Microsystems. The developer wrote on his personal blog Monday that he will “enjoy competing with Apple,” and shared some harsh words on what he feels are the iPhone maker’s restrictive policies.

“The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what,” Bray wrote. “It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger. I hate it.”

He continued: “I hate it even though the iPhone hardware and software are great, because freedom’s not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient.”

Bray expressed he views his new job with Google as an opportunity to prove that Apple is wrong in their approach to the mobile Internet. He noted that he’s been a buyer of Apple systems for years, and despite his “current irritation,” he will likely continue to do so. At Google, he will work on the Android mobile platform.

Last year, criticism of Apple’s policies with the App Store came to a head, prompting company executive Phil Schiller to personally fight back. Apple has come under fire again in recent weeks after the company changed its policy on “overtly sexual” content and purged more than 5,000 applications from the App Store.

Per TechCrunch, Apple recently hired R.J. Pittman, a former product manager with Google. Pittman, who the article called a “prominent” employee with the search giant, has moved on to Apple.

Pittman sent a letter to his colleagues at Google in which he said the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 changed his life.

“I’ve owned almost one of every Apple product released since then, and still own my first Mac that started it all some 25 years ago,” he wrote. “In a strange but not so strange way, this is sort of a homecoming for me, despite never having worked for Apple. Life works in curious ways, and I love it when every so often it comes full circle.”

He went on to say that he would have a “pretty neat role” with Apple, but declined to say what it might be. Current rumors have speculated that Pittman could work with the employees Apple took on in its acquisition of streaming music service Lala, given his background with Google’s own music search technology.

“That said, Apple could be after his other talents — Pittman had previously presented at the launches of other search-related products, including a Google Labs event,” the report said. “And before that, he founded Groxis.”

Last August, it was revealed that Apple and Google shared a gentlemen’s agreement to not poach each others’ employees, though these latest moves would suggest that deal is no longer in place.

Me, personally, I think the two companies need to put aside their differences, buy out AOL, put it out of its misery and turn its headquarters into the world’s greatest deli, complete with really good grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.