Apple Activates iTunes Genius Recommendation Engine for Movies, TV Shows

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Date: Wednesday, March 25th, 2009, 07:15
Category: Software

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Apple this week activated its iTunes Genius recommendation engine for both movies and television shows, a feature it had originally planned to bring out alongside the iTunes 8.1 release.
According to AppleInsider, the Genius engine, Apple’s proprietary recommendation engine used for collaborative filtering and iTunes’ built-in rating system, allows users to generate recommendations based on their current music catalog.
During the iTunes 8.1 release a few weeks ago, Apple had promised to expand the feature to video files before pulling the plug for undisclosed reasons.
As of Tuesday, users reported Genius iTunes Store recommendations for movies and tv shows appearing alongside their iTunes libraries.
When selecting an TV Show from your iTunes library, for instance, the Genius sidebar now lists additional episodes from that show’s same season, additional shows from other seasons, and then 10 recommendations for similar shows.
If you’ve seen this feature in action, please let us know in the comments or forums.

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TomTom Home Updated to 2.6.1.238

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Date: Wednesday, March 25th, 2009, 07:38
Category: Software

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TomTom Home, the desktop/driver software for the TomTom GPS devices, reached version 2.6.1.238 late Tuesday. The new version, a 42.4 megabyte download (courtesy of VersionTracker), offers the following bug fixes and new features:

  • Link to our new online Route Planner.
  • Fresh new menu icons.
  • HOME now shows in the bottom right corner which TomTom device you have and offers a button to disconnect it.
  • It is now easier to get the latest maps by clicking the new Add Maps button.
  • After buying a new map you can now choose Install later.
  • Greek added as a new language.
  • Deselected update items are moved to the bottom of the list and remain deselected until you select them again.
  • TomTom HOME now stores all username and password combinations (if auto-login is chosen). You can automatically log in with any previously used device.
  • You need to fill in fewer fields when creating an account.
  • Improved device linking to better explain the process.
  • Fewer steps when using your activation or promotion code.
  • Bug fix: TomTom HOME now allows you to log in with e-mail domains of only one character long: e.g. username@c.dk.
  • It is now easier to install TomTom HOME themes and extensions that are already on your computer.
  • The new version requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run and is available as a free update.
    If you’ve tried the new version of TomTom Home or have a GPS program of choice, let us know in the comments or forums.

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    iPhone 3G Details, Specifications Emerge on China Mobile Web Site

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    Date: Tuesday, March 24th, 2009, 12:42
    Category: iPhone

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    iPhone photos and product specifications have now appeared on the web site of wireless carrier China Unicom, a sign that a deal may have been reached between Apple and the Chinese carrier.
    According to AppleInsider, the information provided on the web site does not specifically indicate whether the Apple handset will be available from China Unicom, but joins references to similar handsets like the Android-based G1 that will be supported by the carriers upcoming 3G network.
    The site changes emerged one week after China Unicom representatives met in the United States with Apple executives in what has been described as a “breakthrough” negotiation session aimed at bringing the iPhone 3G to China Unicom’s network.
    A spokesperson at China Unicom headquarters could not explain why the information had been posted on one of the carrier’s regional websites, though it’s reportedly not uncommon for the company’s branches to operate independently.
    A launch was said to hinge largely on China Unicom’s first trial run of its new 3G network this May. In contrast to China Mobile, which is endorsing the government’s TD-SCDMA wireless standard, China Unicom will be running its first trials for an iPhone-compatible WCDMA network. Such a standard would let Apple sell its current handset virtually unchanged with full feature support.
    Although Apple has long pursued a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest cellular provider with over 415 million subscribers, talks reportedly stalled over the government-backed carrier’s insistence on controlling the local version of Apple’s App Store, among other demands.
    Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what’s on your minds in the comments or forums.

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    AT&T Officials Slip Details About Next-Gen iPhone

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    Date: Tuesday, March 24th, 2009, 08:56
    Category: iPhone

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    One of more AT&T senior officials may have reportedly revealed important details about the next-generation iPhone handset, including a June release and boosted speed specs.
    According to Boy Genius Report, an AT&T official was quoted as stating that a formal unveiling for the new handset will occur in mid-June and that the mid-year update is “becoming a tradition” at AT&T.
    While it’s not quite known how familiar the management-level source (or sources) might be with what’s contained in the new iPhone, a distinct pattern in the remarks centers on the speed of the handset. According to the remarks, the next model “will be faster” and may well support AT&T’s planned upgrade to 7.2Mbps 3G scheduled for this year.
    AT&T is reportedly eager to demonstrate the advantages of a new handset and upgraded network. Per the comment, customers should buy a smartphone from AT&T based on their personal tastes and that “the gap in credibility should be filled” with the new release.
    It’s currently unclear as to which specific features will find their way into the next generation and the iPhone OS 3.0 release has left a wide amount of room for speculation. Others have stated that the changes will also apply to older iPhone models.
    The statements also echo AT&T’s vision of integration with TV services and claim an iPhone app is in development that would let users steer the video recorders for AT&T’s U-verse digital TV.
    The mention of a June schedule also isn’t exclusive to AT&T; UAE provider Etisalat matter-of-factly stated that it would get the next iPhone in June.
    Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think in the comments or forums.

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    Apple Drops iPhone Bluetooth Headset from Online Storefront

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    Date: Monday, March 23rd, 2009, 13:30
    Category: Accessory, iPhone

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    Apple apparently stopped selling its official Bluetooth headset for the iPhone, as noted by MacNN today. Although the product’s page still exists over on the Apple Store, the company has marked the device as “discontinued”.
    The headset, which was launched along with the original iPhone in June of 2007, dropped in price from US$129 to US$99 in 2008, while also losing its bundled dual-dock.
    Though exact reasons for the disappearance are unknown, this could be connected to future iPhone hardware changes, especially those tied in with the recently-announced iPhone OS 3.0 firmware — and possibly iPod touches — that are expected to gain full Bluetooth functionality in the summer. Though the current iPhone technically supports Bluetooth 2.0, it does not allow stereo audio, nor does it support many of the advanced data functions possible on other cellphones.
    Apple may intend to introduce a new generation of headset at the same time as a new iPhone, incorporating stereo and more advanced controls.
    If you have any ideas on this, please let us know in the comments or forums.

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    Intel Readying Ultra-Low-Voltage Processors for Ultraportable Notebooks

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    Date: Monday, March 23rd, 2009, 08:33
    Category: Processors

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    Processor giant Intel reaffirmed on Friday that the company is readying a new series of new ultra-low-voltage chips, due in the second quarter, for inexpensive ultraportable notebooks.
    According to Macworld UK, the company will ship the ULV chips as part of its Montevina Plus mobile laptop platform, an updated version of the existing Montevina platform, a fact confirmed by company spokeswoman Connie Brown.
    The processors could be used in small, thin notebooks and provide the same level of functionality as notebooks priced above US$1,500.
    Notebooks currently based on Intel’s ULV chips could be as thin as Apple’s MacBook Air or Dell’s recently launched Adamo, with prices ranging between US$599 and US$1,299.
    Intel’s new series could fit into smaller spaces and use less power than the existing Core 2 Duo ULV line, which uses about 10 watts of power and is generally found in ultraportable notebooks such as Apple’s MacBook Air.
    Intel’s Montevina Plus platform also will offer new chips running as fast as 3.06GHz, for mainstream notebooks priced between $399 and $1,499.
    The company’s Montevina Plus is likely to be Intel’s most important update to its laptop platforms before the company starts shipping its new Arrandale chips for laptops later this year. The Arrandale chips will be manufactured using a 32-nanometer process and integrate a graphics processor and CPU in one chip, which could boost graphics performance while drawing less power than existing Core 2 processors. The Arrandale chips are also expected to be more energy-efficient, which could improve notebook battery life.
    Expected clock speeds on Arrandale processors should be similar to processors used in existing laptops while offering better performance by running applications through more threads while drawing less power.
    Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what’s on your mind in the comments or forums.

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    Rumor: Apple Seems Likely to Add Video Recording Features to Next-Gen iPhone

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    Date: Monday, March 23rd, 2009, 07:40
    Category: iPhone, Rumor

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    Apple seems certain to add video recording capabilities in the next iPhone hardware revision per a source close to AppleInsider.
    Though the details are currently limited, there is no suggestion of current hardware being able to support video recording. Given this fact, only an upgraded iPhone with a new built-in camera should support the feature. The source stated that the new revision is expected between late spring and early fall this year and could add video support and improved gaming hardware via multi-core PowerVR chips as the headlining features.
    Oddly enough, a screen capture from the forthcoming iPhone Software 3.0 on Engadget’s website shows a MobileMe panel for uploading images titled “Upload Video,” thereby adding strength to the rumor.
    An additional rumor has speculated that faster iPhone internet speeds are en route, AT&T confirming that the company currently has HSPA 3G peaking at 7.2 megabits per second, twice the current speed of the network. The extra speed would help to handle video transmissions via iPhone handsets.
    A final rumor has stated that Apple will release a new iPhone App called “Movies” which will offer rudimentary video editing similar to the new “Voice Memos” iPhone app that Apple recently previewed. The software would allow for sharing video via e-mail and MMS messaging.
    Even so, Apple may only offer the video capabilities as a premium feature only on a high-end model when it releases new iPhones this summer. References to four different multi-touch handheld products which were found in the new iPhone 3.0 software beta seem to indicate two distinct model lines, possibly one with video capability and one lacking the feature.
    Stay tuned for details as they emerge and please let us know if you’ve heard anything on your end in the comments or forums

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    AT&T to Begin Selling Contract-Free iPhones in U.S. Next Week

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    Date: Friday, March 20th, 2009, 08:48
    Category: iPhone

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    Recently, wireless carrier AT&T announced that it would begin selling contract-free iPhones in the United States beginning next week.
    According to Boy Genius Report, the price works out to be more expensive than that of buying a subsidized iPhone with a two-year contract, paying the subscription for a month, canceling the plan and paying the early termination fee.
    The phone, including the activation fee, would retail at US$599 for the 8GB model and US$699 for the 16GB model.
    “This is simply another way AT&T customers can experience iPhone 3G on the nation’s fastest 3G network,” AT&T said in a statement.
    Existing AT&T customers – the only people who can buy the contract-less phones – are eligible to purchase an iPhone at a subsidized price based on the amount of time left on their contract and their payment history. In many cases, these users fare better by waiting until they become eligible for a subsidized iPhone with a two-year contract.
    There currently seems to be a “one per customer” limit tied in with the offer.
    AT&T’s current cheapest plan retails for US$70 a month, including voice and data access.
    iPhones without contracts have been available in some European countries. AT&T has long said that it would sell iPhones without contracts but until now had not said when.
    If you’re looking into picking up a contract-free iPhone, let us know what’s on your mind in the comments or forums.

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    Mozilla Releases Thunderbird 2.0.0.21

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    Date: Friday, March 20th, 2009, 08:22
    Category: Software

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    Mozilla.org, creators of the Firefox web browser, has just released version 2.0.0.21 of Thunderbird, its free e-mail client. The new program, an 18.7 megabyte download, sports the following fixes and new features:

  • Upgrade PNG library to fix memory safety hazards
  • XML data theft via RDFXMLDataSource and cross-domain redirect
  • Crashes with evidence of memory corruption (rv:1.9.0.7)
  • Crashes with evidence of memory corruption (rv:1.9.0.6)
  • Thunderbird 2.0.0.21 requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later to run and is programmed as a Universal Binary, allowing for native speeds on both PowerPC and Intel-based hardware.
    As always, if you’ve played with the new version and have any feedback, positive or negative, let us know.

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    Elgato Releases Turbo.264 HD Video Converter

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    Date: Friday, March 20th, 2009, 08:00
    Category: Accessory

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    Accessory provider Elgato announced the release of its new Turbo.264 HD video converter on Thursday. The USB hardware converter can convert HD and AVCHD content into a wide range of standard and HD video formats.
    Users can then edit movies before copying them from a camera, splice movies together, and download movies to your Mac or YouTube account. Turbo.264 HD supports AVCHD Video, QuickTime, AVI, DV, WMV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 Program/Transport Stream, MPEG-4, MP4, M4V, H.263, H.264 AVC, Xvid, VIDEO_TS and more. It also includes a QuickTime component that improves H.264 exporting for other applications including Apple’s iMovie.
    The Turbo.264 HD retails for US$149.99 and requires Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later to run.
    If you have a hardware converter of choice, let us know in the comments or forums.

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