Intego Warns of Unrepaired Security Vulnerability in Mac OS X

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Date: Thursday, May 21st, 2009, 08:48
Category: Software

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Security firm Intego has warned that a critical security vulnerability within the current version of Java has gone unrepaired for months and may place Mac OS X users at risk.
According to the company’s web site, the current version of Java incorporates a serious flaw that could allow local code on a user’s Mac to be executed remotely.
“This can lead to ‘drive-by attacks,’ where users are attacked simply by visiting a malicious web site and loading a web page,” the firm said.
The exploit could allow a third-party to execute code, access or delete files, or run applications on the compromised machine. Combined with other exploits, outside parties could even potentially run system-level processes and gain total access over the affected Mac.
Given that the vulnerability relies solely on Java, no native code is required to execute the flaw, which theoretically exists in all browsers on all platforms that have not been patched. This is the case with Mac OS X 10.5.7 and earlier, meaning the vulnerability affects even the update released just a week ago.
The firm claims that Apple has been aware of the exploit for at least five months, when it was publicly disclosed and fixed by Sun, but has yet to issue a security patch. The exploit was first discovered by Landon Fuller, who has released a proof of concept via his blog that outlines the security hole.
Intego has stated that it has not found any malicious applets in the wild thus far, but the publicity around this vulnerability may entice hackers to target the exploit before Apple issues a security update. The firm’s VirusBarrier X5 already blocks potential malware but unless users are sure they trust the site they’re viewing, simply disabling Java in the browser may provide the best protection while Apple works on a fix.
To disable Java, launch Safari, choose Safari > Preferences, click the Security tab, and uncheck “Enable Java” if it is checked. In Firefox, this setting is found on the Content tab of the program’s preferences. It is safe to leave JavaScript activated, since the vulnerability only affects Java applets.

Wal-Mart Redesigning Electronics Department, May be Looking to Carry Apple Products

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Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, 08:31
Category: retail

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A recent Wal-Mart move to overhaul the chain’s electronics department in many of its retail locations with Apple-designated shopping areas is being seen as a sign that the mega-retailer is making a pitch to eventually carry Apple’s product line.
According to AppleInsider, the chain began revamping the electronics departments in approximately 3,500 of its locations last week, including 2,600 Supercenter locations. The move is being seen as a bid to capture a large portion of big-screen TV market share vacated by the closing of Circuit City, which shut down its operations after filing for bankruptcy back in November.
As part of the renovations, which should provide for a more spacious and interactive shopping experience, Wal-Mart will also be rolling out specialized in-store boutiques for popular brands such and Nintendo and Apple, similar to the Apple store-within-a-store layouts found in Best Buy retail stores.
Ben Reitzes, an analyst with Barclays Capital, offered a view that the move as a precursor to Wal-Mart extending its reach beyond iPods, iPhones, and accessories to Apple’s Mac line of computers.
“We believe Wal-Mart is actively pitching Apple to carry more products,” he said. “With Wal-Mart improving its retail displays, we believe that the mega-retailer could eventually earn the right to sell select Mac products without diluting Apple’s brand.”
Upon last check, Apple had under 10,000 distribution points for the Mac worldwide, so a move into Wal-Mart would increase Mac exposure significantly. Reitzes also noted that many of Wal-Mart’s stores are located in rural areas not near one of Apple’s own company stores.
The analyst also commented that while he doesn’t see the existing Mac line as a particularly good fit for the discount retailer outside of its US$599 Mac mini and US$999 MacBook offerings, but said he believes the company is working on more sub-US$1000 products that may eventually appeal to Wal-Mart’s customer base.
“We have recently stated that Apple could reposition the low-end of it Mac lines to be more affordable as well as eventually introduce an ultraportable touchscreen tablet device as early as this year,” Reitzes said. He’s likely referring to a couple of AppleInsider reports on those respective matters, including plans for more affordable Macs later this year and a Newton-like web tablet sometime thereafter.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen or heard anything on your end, let us know.

Speck Releases SeeThru, SeeThru Satin Cases for 17″ MacBook Pro Notebook

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Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, 08:27
Category: Accessory, MacBook Pro

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Accessory manufacturer Speck has released two fitted cases for Apple’s 17″ MacBook Pro notebook via its SeeThru and SeeThru Satin designs.
According to MacNN, both models feature a fully-vented hard shell for protection against everyday bumps and scratches. Users can still access all ports and controls on the computer without removing the case.
The SeeThru case offers a clear shell that form-fits to the Macbook, while the SeeThru Satin features the protection but includes a soft-touch outer finish, offering more of a grip as well as a semi-translucent frosted appearance. Both cases can fully open or close, while rubberized feet help to prevent sliding on smooth surfaces.
The SeeThru and the SeeThru Satin are available from Apple stores or directly from the company for a retail price of US$50.

CrossOver Reaches Version 7.1.2

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Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, 08:31
Category: Software

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CrossOver, the popular emulation program from CodeWeavers, has been updated to version 7.1.2. The new version, which is available as a demo, offers the following change:

  • Fixed an incompatibility with the quartz-wm packaged in XQuartz 2.3.3.2.
  • CrossOver retails for US$59.95 and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later and Intel-based hardware to run.

    Apple to Begin Stress-Testing iPhone OS 3.0 Push Notification Functions

    Posted by:
    Date: Tuesday, May 19th, 2009, 09:03
    Category: iPhone, Software

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    This week, Apple joined forces with the Associated Press and called upon some of its iPhone developer community to help stress test a Push Notification service scheduled to arrive with iPhone OS 3.0 later this year.
    According to AppleInsider, the e-mail stated that “We have selected a pre-release version of the Associated Press app for iPhone OS 3.0 to create a high-volume test environment for our servers.”
    The test application, which requires iPhone OS 3.0 beta 5, will activate over the next week and then expire. During this week, “AP will be sending a high-volume of real news alerts” to give Apple an opportunity to monitor how well the system works and what optimizations can be made.
    The Push Notification system, which was originally slated to arrive in the fall, was delayed after Apple had apparently underestimated the demands third parties would make of the system. Given these new conditions, Apple pulled the plug and began designing a system that could simultaneously address an audience of tens of millions of iPhone and iPod touch users.
    The planned iPhone OS 3.0 Push Notification system for sending alerts from third party application developers to mobile users is believed to use the same technology as its push notification system for MobileMe and the push notification system planned for Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server.
    In all cases, the alert being “pushed” is minimal, essentially a tweet that indicates more information is ready. The notification alerts act like an instant message because that’s exactly what they are; an analysis of MobileMe push messages indicates Apple is using the open source XMPP (eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), used in Jabber.
    The XMPP feature can allow a variety of applications to alert the user as to changes and updates and the technology could find its way into e-mail, calendar and contact changes via Apple’s MobileMe cloud services.

    How-To: Get Around MacBook/MacBook Pro Sleep Issues with Mac OS X 10.5.7

    Posted by:
    Date: Tuesday, May 19th, 2009, 08:46
    Category: How-To

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    Mac OS X 10.5.7 has been out less than a week and, according to MacFixIt, a number of users have reported sleep issues with MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks upon installing the updated operating system software.
    Over on the Apple Discussion Board, reader “Roger G” reported the following:

    “The 10.5.7 upgrade (both with Combo and Delta from Safe mode) killed the ability of my white MacBook to sleep via clamshell closing. After a reboot, the system would sleep normally, but awakening the system and then sleeping would result in a system freeze. The monitor light on the case would not wax and wane in brightness but would stay on full. A few minutes later the fans would start spinning at full speed until the battery drained or the machine was rebooted.”

    User “smitty 195″ expressed a similar sentiment with the following:

    “I am having the identical problem as everyone else (freezes on 2nd sleep attempt). I have a MacBook Pro, and upgraded to 10.5.7 yesterday.”

    Per various reports around support forums, the issue appears to be tied into Ethernet settings on the notebooks, as described by “Andreas S.”:

    “It appears that if the Ethernet is not enabled (airport only network settings) that on the MacBook Pro the sleep only works once and crashes the second time.”

    The following steps are currently being offered as a fix for the issue:

    1. Open System Preferences > Network
    2-1. If you see your Ethernet port in your list of network ports (on the left-side of the window) and it says “Inactive,” activate the port by clicking the gear wheel icon and selecting “Make Service Active.” Click “Apply.”
    2-2. If you do not see your Ethernet port in your list of network ports (on the left-side of the window), click the “+” button in the bottom-left corner.
    3. In the “Interface” drop-down menu, select “Ethernet.”
    4. Enter a name and select “Create.” You should see your new Ethernet connection appear.
    5. Click “Apply.”
    Note: If you are having this issue and your Ethernet port is already enabled, try disabling it (using the gear wheel icon menu > “Make Service Inactive”). Log out or restart your Mac, then enable it. Be sure to “Apply” your changes.

    Once complete, the notebook can be testing by closing the screen and seeing if the sleep function succeeds. Be sure to try this twice, as several reports have pointed to the second attempt at sleep to be the one that causes the issue.

    Rumor: AT&T May be Looking into $20/Month Limited Data Plan for iPhone

    Posted by:
    Date: Monday, May 18th, 2009, 12:11
    Category: Rumor

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    With next-generation iPhone and iPhone OS 3.0 around the corner, the rumor mill is jumping. Per BusinessWeek, sources within AT&T have stated that the company “is considering cutting the price of its monthly service package or offering a range of lower-priced plans.”
    Among the new offerings would be a US$20 monthly limited access iPhone data plan that could appear before the end of May. AT&T currently offers a one-size-fits-all US$30 unlimited data plan as a mandatory add-on for iPhone subscribers, which helps push monthly services fees for those customers above US$70 with taxes and fees.
    Though the report is speculative, it does suggest that Apple could introduce a pre-paid or $99 iPhone to accompany reduced plans from AT&T in a bid to attract lower income consumers. The article also cites a survey indicating that 43% of existing iPhone owners make salaries in excess of US$100,000, noting that this pool of wealthy consumers is quickly running dry.
    “A cheaper plan, coupled with new and possibly cheaper iPhones, could give AT&T a larger share of the U.S. smartphone market,” the report says. “And unless prices drop on other smartphones in AT&T’s stable, those rival handset makers, such as Research In Motion could end up losing market share in AT&T’s stores.”
    Apple’s attempts to reach lower income markets to expand its iPhone market share aren’t unheard of, as the company currently introduced the handset to various Wal-Mart locations earlier this year.
    In its report Monday, BusinessWeek also noted that Apple may have greater freedom to mark down the price of its next-gen iPhones with the cost of touchscreens, the most expensive component, having declined by more than 30% in the past year.

    VMWare Cautions Users with ATI Graphics Cards from Installing Mac OS X 10.5.7

    Posted by:
    Date: Monday, May 18th, 2009, 07:16
    Category: News

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    VMWare, makers of the popular Fusion virtualization software, has officially warned users away from installing Mac OS X 10.5.7 if their Mac uses an ATI graphics card or chip.
    According to VMWare’s blog, the update will break the 3D graphics acceleration feature supported by Fusion.
    “You will likely see issues ranging from slow performance, to incorrect rendering, and even crashes, when you run your 3D applications in a Windows virtual machine on Mac OS X 10.5.7,” reads the blog.
    “Both Apple and ATI are aware of this problem and are working to correct it in a future software update. In the meantime, if you have an ATI graphics card in your Mac and need VMware Fusion’s 3D features to work, we recommend that you do not upgrade to Mac OS X 10.5.7,” the entry concludes.

    Adium X Updated to 1.3.4

    Posted by:
    Date: Monday, May 18th, 2009, 07:39
    Category: Software

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    Adium, the open source instant message chat client with support for multiple programs (including AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Yahoo! Google Talk, Bonjour, etc.) has been updated to version 1.3.4.
    The new version, a 21.2 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

  • Facebook fixes:
    Updated to pidgin-facebook 1.5.0, fixing a major bug in which massive amounts of data could be continuously sent and received under certain situations as well as several minor bugs.
    Fixed a bug in which the Facebook numeric ID rather than name could be shown in the contact list (#11676).
    Improved proxy support.
  • Fixed a crash when loading Jabber/XMPP account preferences when the computer’s host name is not set (#11246).
  • Fixed a display issue in message windows when running Safari 4.
  • Updated to libpurple 2.5.6.
  • Adium X is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to run. The program functions as a Universal Binary and runs at native speeds on both PowerPC and Intel-based hardware.

    How-To: First Mac OS X 10.5.7 Problems Reported, Fixes Offered

    Posted by:
    Date: Friday, May 15th, 2009, 08:40
    Category: How-To, Software

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    Apple’s Mac OS X 10.5.7 update has been released, none of my Macs are on fire and I consider this a good thing.
    Still, there’s bound to be problems and the hep cats at MacFixIt have begun to collect reports on a couple of outstanding issues:

    Blue Screen
    This update may automatically restart your computer up to three times during the update process, and for some people this has not happened but instead has hung on the first restart at the blue screen. Several people have reported waiting for the hang to resolve itself, but that has so far not been successful. When this happens, the fix so far has been to manually reset the computer:
    -Listen to the computer and be sure the hard drive is not being accessed.
    -Press and hold the power button until the computer shuts off.
    -Power on and hold the shift key to boot into safe mode.

    This procedure has apparently helped a few people, and while some did not need to boot into safe mode, for others the computer would continually hang until they tried safe mode.
    Blue screens have occurred via past Mac OS X updates and are generally due to permission and accessibility problems during the update. The likelihood of these can be reduced via the following steps:

    -Don’t use Software Update. Instead, download the standalone “Combo” updater.
    -Reboot into Safe Mode.
    -Run Disk Utility and perform a Permissions fix and hard drive repair.
    -Run the updater.
    -Immediately repair permissions again.

    Other users have reported that their new display resolutions are disappearing, resulting in the computer outputting non-native display resolutions to the monitor. In most cases, instead of being able to choose 1920×1200 as the resolution (the native resolution for many widescreen displays), the computer will only output 1920×1080 (the maximum for HDMI connections). This seems to be a conflict in the drivers, since 1920×1080 is the maximum display resolution for HDMI connections.
    Fixes to this problem include zapping the PRAM (which can be done by holding the options-command-P-R keys all at once at reboot, and holding them down until the computer resets a few times, then releasing them and allowing the computer to boot normally) as well as using a program called SwitchResX, which allows for fine-tuned customization of monitor outputs. The program is a demo, but installing it, setting the screen resolution, and then optionally uninstalling it seems to clear the resolution problem the OS X update.
    Other general troubleshooting tips include the following:

    -Boot into Safe Mode and run a permissions fix with Disk Utility.
    -Reset the PRAM.
    -Reinstall the update using the downloadable “combo” update (not any other), and following the “safe” method of installation mentioned above.