New tests yield additional battery life in absence of Adobe Flash

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Date: Friday, November 5th, 2010, 04:40
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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It’s had a good run.

Hell, it’s had a great run.

Still, Apple has ceased bundling Adobe Flash on its new Macs, ostensibly so users could obtain the latest, secure version themselves with vastly increased battery life seems to be another leading reason for this change.

According to the mighty Ars Technica, the new MacBook Air can last for a full six hours after loading a series of webpages in Safari, but its battery performance drops down to four hours once Adobe Flash is installed and the same sites are loaded.

“Flash-based ads kept the CPU running far more than seemed necessary,” stated the article. Without the Flash plugin installed, websites typically display static ads in place of Flash content, erasing the need for constant processing power demanded by the Flash plugin’s rendering engine.

With Flash ads consuming as much as 33% of the MacBook Air’s battery potential, it’s no wonder why Apple has demonstrated no interest in getting a version of Flash installed on its iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, all of which have much smaller batteries.

This summer, Adobe launched a public relations attack on Apple for failing to support Flash on its iOS devices, nor allowing Adobe to deliver a version of Flash for the iOS platform, nor approving apps for the iOS that were created in Adobe’s Flash Professional application. Apple has backed away from refusing to approve apps created with third party tools, but has shown no interest in getting Flash content to run on its iOS.

When asked for “any updates” on the company’s stance on Flash during its quarterly earnings report, chief executive Steve Jobs quipped, “flash memory? We love flash memory,” before taking the next question.

Apple’s removal of Adobe’s Flash plugin from a default install on the new MacBook Air coincided with the company’s debut of a more conservative new “wireless productivity test” it said was more in line with actual use, and better standardized for accurate comparisons between models. Being able to test the new machine without its battery being taxed by Flash ads certainly helps the company achieve better results.

Microsoft stopped bundling Adobe Flash with the release of Windows Vista in 2007, although its motivation was likely due to the company’s efforts to push its rival Silverlight plugin. However, Windows implements Flash as an ActiveX control, which means users can click on Flash placeholders within a webpage and the Flash plugin will install itself. New Mac users will have to manually download and install Flash from Adobe in order to make it available.

Apple sells far more iOS-based devices (such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch) than Macs, and no iOS devices support runtimes for Flash content. That has had a major effect upon advertisers, publishers, website design, and online video broadcasters, who have collectively made monumental shifts away from Flash. This in turn has made Flash playback far less important on the desktop than it was just a year or two ago, although there is still important content tied to Flash.

Apple has removed Flash content from its own website, although it also has supported Adobe’s efforts to add hardware acceleration to the Mac OS X version of Flash, and has approved the Skyfire plugin for iOS’ Mobile Safari, which uses a gateway service to translate Flash videos into HTML5 videos that can play on Apple’s devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen MacBook Air to feature longer lasting battery, upgradable RAM

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Date: Monday, October 18th, 2010, 12:17
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

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Because next-gen MacBook Air rumors and details are the hip thing today, a couple new interesting tidbits have emerged from the cool cats at Cult of Mac. Per the article, an anonymous source has stated that the refreshed MacBook Air will offer 8 to 10 hours of battery life as well as upgradeable RAM, which will arrive with 2GB onboard that can be upped later on.

The source also indicated that the notebook will be smaller, but will still offer a battery 50% larger, boosting battery life to between 8 and 10 hours, up from the current model’s 5-hour battery life.

The report also rumors that the new MacBook Air will be offered in two sizes: an 11.6″ screen, and a 13.3″ display. The source stated that the 13″ model could be priced as low as US$1,100, while the 11″ model could be just US$999.

The report also indicate that the solid state drive on the device will be upgradeable. Sources have stated that the new device will feature an “SSD Card” that lacks a traditional drive enclosure, and will instead more closely resemble NAND flash. However, it was said the storage will not be easily user replaceable and will be based off of an SATA connection.

Cult of Mac also reported that the new MacBook Air could come in two different configurations: a 2.1GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, and a 2.4GHz processor with 4GB of RAM. It also said that the notebook will sport Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics, a GPU first introduced this April in the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The report also included a mockup of the device, which is said to be “thinner, lighter and boxier than the current model,” according to author Leander Kahney.

Other details include the following:
- The quick boot time on the new MacBook Air is said to be “unbelievable” and “amazing.”

- The new model has an aluminum unibody design, but is “not as curvy” as the current model.

- The source indicated it is “boxier” like the iPhone 4.

- For inputs, the source indicated the device has two USB ports, an SD card slot on the right side, and a Mini DisplayPort adapter on the left side.

Here’s hoping for the best and let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Review: 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro 2.5″ Notebook Drive

Posted by:
Date: Sunday, October 10th, 2010, 12:35
Category: hard drive, Hardware, Review

Maybe it’s part of getting older.

When the idea of solid state hard drives first emerged a few years ago, there was some hesitancy on my part.

Not quite the smashing of all available nearby looms, but some hesitancy.

This was a new thing, a hard drive made entirely of flash memory with no moving parts whatsoever and thus mysterious. And after years of fighting with both ATA-IDE drives (including occasionally realigning the pins with a pen when they bent) and SATA-based hard drives, you become hesitant to change.

Beyond my own hesitancy came the idea of sheer capacity. Yes, various hard drive companies had been offering solid state options for a while, but when they first hit, their capacities were a fraction of what you’d find on a conventional hard drive with moving parts. Yes, a MacBook Air with a quiet solid state hard drive seemed cool when it first came out, but when your capacity topped out at 40 to 80 gigabytes, this put pause on being an early adopter.

Still, 120 gigabytes didn’t seem like something to sneeze at and with my 2008 white plastic MacBook’s conventional SATA hard drive slowing down during iMovie work, there seemed to be no time like the present to try an alternative.

The result: I’m going to be reluctant to have to ship Other World Computing’s 120GB Extreme Mercury Pro SSD drive back in a couple of days.

Having done the classic hard-drive-swaperoo of taking the new drive, putting it in an external carrier, cloning the old hard drive’s data to the new drive and then swapping the new drive in, the drive booted cleanly and without issue. In the following months, the drive has run a bit quieter than its conventional SATA alternative and felt just as brisk as a conventional notebook hard drive.

Even if the drive itself doesn’t blaze along at a professional grade speeds (there’s always been something cool about a high end 10,000 RPM desktop hard drive tearing through Photoshop and Final Cut processes without slowing down in the least), the Mercury felt like something you could install and forget about. Yes, this was a new thing, my very first flash hard drive. Still, once installed, it fell into the background, ran completely reliably no matter what was thrown at it and never seemed to slow.

Granted, this isn’t the most exciting news in the world, but it does offer a promise for the encompassing technology itself. Even if conventional SATA notebook drives still offer a larger capacity and these are the early years of flash-based notebook hard drives, there’s something reliable here. As strange as the idea of a hard drive without moving parts may be (upon removal from the box, the drive itself weighed next to nothing, almost if if you’d received a fake cardboard hard drive in the mail), the end product works reliably enough to install into grandma’s Apple notebook if need be (provided it supports SATA hard drives), makes sure all her old files have been cloned over for her to use and you’re off to the races.

No, this isn’t groundbreaking, but it is cool, fun to install and reliable in the end. The drive installs, it works briskly and you can put it in the back of your mind and get on with the rest of your day, remembering to feed your pets instead of wondering why your hard drive appears to be groaning loudly or, worse, scraping one of its data platters during day to day operation.

And at the end of the day, none of these are terrible things.

Give it a gander.

The 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro retails from US$289.99 and is available now.

Apple opens iOS development to third-party tools, introduces Review Board

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Date: Thursday, September 9th, 2010, 06:30
Category: News

Apple on Thursday announced that the company would no longer ban intermediary development tools for iOS as long as App Store software does not download any code, potentially paving the way for third-party software to convert applications from other formats like Adobe Flash.

Per Macworld, the company revealed that it had made “important changes” to sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 of its iOS Developer Program license, relaxing some of the restrictions that were put in place earlier this year. The company has also published the approval guidelines for its tightly controlled App Store, in which all software must be reviewed before it is released.

The changes come just weeks after evidence surfaced that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission was looking into a complaint from Adobe over Apple’s banning of Flash from iOS devices. The FTC denied a public records request related to the case, stating that the release of such documents could interfere with an ongoing investigation.

Earlier this year, Apple updated its iOS 4 SDK to ban intermediary tools that would allow the porting of applications from Adobe’s Flash, Sun’s Java, or Microsoft’s Silverlight/Mono.

The change was made after Adobe announced that its Creative Suite 5 would include an application that would allow developers to port their applications to the iPhone from Flash. Adobe eventually abandoned further development of the application following Apple’s announcement. That was also when the company filed a complaint with the FTC.

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs publicly commented on the matter in an open letter published in late April, in which he slammed Adobe Flash as a Web tool that is unfit for the modern, mobile era of computing. He also said that an intermediary tool for converting Flash applications to the iPhone would produce “sub-standard apps,” and would hinder the progress of the platform.

At the time, Jobs said he knew from “painful experience” that allowing developers to become dependent on a third-party tool, such as Adobe Flash, rather than writing natively for the iPhone is restrictive. “We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers,” Jobs wrote.

As for the publication of App Store approval guidelines, Apple has repeatedly come under fire for not being open enough with developers. Some who write for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch have complained that it is unclear what software is acceptable.

The most high-profile App Store review incident came in 2009, when Apple refused to approve the Google Voice application, a telephony service from the search giant. The matter was investigated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, and Apple at the time denied that it had rejected the Google Voice app, but said it was continuing to “study it.”

The full statement from Thursday is included in its entirety:

“The App Store has revolutionized the way mobile applications are developed and distributed. With over 250,000 apps and 6.5 billion downloads, the App Store has become the world’s largest mobile application platform and App Store developers have earned over one billion dollars from the sales of their apps.

We are continually trying to make the App Store even better. We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.

In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.

In addition, for the first time we are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps. We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store.

The App Store is perhaps the most important milestone in the history of mobile software. Working together with our developers, we will continue to surprise and delight our users with innovative mobile apps.”

Finally, Apple also revealed the formation of an App Review Board, with the goal of giving developers “the opportunity to appeal the rejection of an application if [they] believe that the functionality or technical implementation was misunderstood.”

This new board should help address the accusations often made about the arbitrariness of the app approval process by providing developers with a way to formally ask Apple to review a rejection, based on criteria that may not have been anticipated by the approval guidelines; that’s often been the source of embarrassment for the company.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Nvidia announces seven new GeForce 400M notebook graphics card with accelerated Web browsing features

Posted by:
Date: Friday, September 3rd, 2010, 14:26
Category: News, Processors

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This could be nifty.

Graphics chip maker Nvidia on Friday announced seven new GeForce 400M series graphics cards for notebooks, which could provide parallel-processing capabilities to accelerate Web browsing and 3D image rendering.

Per Macworld, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome have either implemented or will soon include the capability to offload tasks like rendering of HTML 5 or Flash video content to graphics processors. Nvidia’s new GeForce graphics cards will be faster at processing those tasks than CPUs, which should make Web browsing snappier.

The new graphics cards will be around 40% faster than the earlier 300M series at execution of tasks, said Ken Brown, an Nvidia spokesman.

While the CPU remains at the center of running tasks, developers are writing applications to harness the parallel-processing capabilities of graphics processors to speed up applications, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

“That’s one of the changes with the new browsers, is they support that capability,” McCarron said.

Notebooks with Intel’s latest Core processors already have a graphics processor integrated in one chip next to the CPU. However, discrete GPUs have a faster and wider pipe to run applications, McCarron said.

Still, graphics processors can draw more power than CPUs or integrated graphics, which can affect battery life of notebooks. Nvidia’s graphics cards support new switchable technology called Optimus, where specific tasks like video rendering can be seamlessly switched between the CPU and GPU. The GPU kicks in only when needed, preserving the notebook’s battery life.

Nvidia declined to comment on the exact power drawn by the new graphics cards, citing company policy. In recent years the company has taken charges for faulty dies and weak packaging material used in its graphics chips that led to notebooks overheating. Those issues have been resolved for a while, Brown said.

“Nvidia GPUs are made with a different manufacturing substrate to prevent chips from experiencing thermal issues over time. Our GPUs run in the tolerance level of their specification and the notebook chassis design constraints,” Brown said.

More laptops are shipping with discrete GPUs as users look for stronger multimedia capabilities, McCarron said. Nvidia will be trying to extend its presence in the market with the new products, and it will have to compete with rival Advanced Micro Devices, which already offers Radeon HD notebook graphics cards.

Beyond Web browsing, the graphics cards will provide a better gaming experience and bring Blu-ray 3D movie playback to laptops, Nvidia’s Brown said. The graphics cards will support DirectX 11, Microsoft’s latest graphics technology included in the Windows 7 OS.

The new offerings include the GeForce GT 415M, GT 420M, GT 425M, GT 435M, GT 445M, and the faster GTX 460M and GTX 470M graphics cards. The cards will be available only through the PC makers, and Nvidia did not comment on when the notebooks would become available. The graphics cards will be offered through PC makers including Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba.

Individual pricing for the graphics cards and whether or not the cards would eventually find their way to Apple’s notebook products were not disclosed.

Adobe releases Flash Player 10.1.82.76 for Mac, adds hardware acceleration for H.264 content

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 11th, 2010, 05:25
Category: News, Software

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In spite of the constant back and forth between Apple and Adobe, a new version of Flash Player for Mac has shipped that officially supports hardware acceleration for H.264 video content.

Per AppleInsider, the update 10.1.82.76 was announced Tuesday by Adobe product manager Thibault Imbert on his blog. The feature, code-named “Gala,” had been announced several months prior, but was unavailable with the official release of Flash Player 10.1 for Mac in June. In a break from usual protocol, Adobe enabled the new feature in a security release.

Hardware acceleration in Flash Player 10.1 for Mac is available only for Mac OS X Snow Leopard and the following graphics cards: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M or GeForce GT 330M.

According to Adobe, a CPU utilization reduction of up to two-thirds is possible when GPU hardware acceleration is active.

Adobe Flash Player 10.1.82.76 can be downloaded here and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

Leaked photo illustrations suggest camera, flash on next-gen iPod touch

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, August 5th, 2010, 05:14
Category: iPod Touch, Pictures, Rumor

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A series of leaked photo illustrations supposedly obtained from iPod case manufacturers show a new version of the iPod touch with a camera and flash.

Per a leaked image on HardMac, the English language version of France’s Macbidouille, the next generation iPod touch in shown in a clear case. The website claims the source of the image is “very reliable.” The image appears to show a rounded back with a rear-facing camera and flash.

A rounded back would be a clear departure from the design of the iPhone 4, which has a flat glass back.



According to the web site, the source has been reliable in the past, correctly confirming the inclusion of a camera on last year’s iPod nano. Technical issues have been cited as the reason for the lack of a camera on last year’s iPod touch model.

Although rumors of a camera-enabled iPod touch have persisted for several years, the June unveiling of Apple’s FaceTime video call feature for the iPhone 4 served to strengthen the rumors. At that time, CEO Steve Jobs expressed plans to make the feature an “open industry standard” that works between different devices. When speculating which devices are likely to adopt the FaceTime standard, many analysts have kept the iPod touch at the top of their lists.

Reports from “supplier” sources corroborate the iPod touch camera rumor, although the details don’t always match. In July, U.K. retailer John Lewis claimed the next iPod touch will have a 5 megapixel camera, while the Taiwanese publication Digitimes cited sources predicting a 3 megapixel camera.

Either way, this will probably be resolved upon the new iPod touch’s release, which is expected to occur sometime in September.

Apple releases Safari 5.0.1 update

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, July 28th, 2010, 06:16
Category: News, Software

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Amidst yesterday’s updates and product releases, Apple released Safari 5.0.1, the newest version of its web browser. The new version, available here (or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature), sports the following fixes and changes:

- More accurate Top Hit results in the Address Field.

- More accurate timing for CSS animations.

- Better stability when using the Safari Reader keyboard shortcut.

- Better stability when scrolling through MobileMe Mail.

- Fixes display of multipage articles from www.rollingstone.com in Safari Reader.

- Fixes an issue that prevented Google Wave and other websites using JavaScript encryption .libraries from working correctly on 32-bit systems.

- Fixes an issue that prevented Safari from launching on Leopard systems with network home directories.

- Fixes an issue that could cause borders on YouTube thumbnails to disappear when hovering over the thumbnail image.

- Fixes an issue that could cause Flash content to overlap with other content on .www.facebook.com, www.crateandbarrel.com, and other sites when using Flash 10.1.

- Fixes an issue that prevented boarding passes from www.aa.com from printing correctly.

- Fixes an issue that could cause DNS prefetching requests to overburden certain routers.

- Fixes an issue that could cause VoiceOver to misidentify elements of webpages.

Safari 5.0.1 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 (under Mac OS X 10.5) or Mac OS X 10.6.2 (under Mac OS X 10.6) or later to install and run and is available for free.

Apple changes iOS SDK rules to accept Lua but restrict Flash

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Date: Monday, June 14th, 2010, 05:01
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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Something about this reminds me of when the cool kids wanted to keep the nerds out of the clubhouse, if only on principle.

According to AppleOutsider, Apple has changed its iOS SDK rules for iPhone developers have relaxed the restriction of section 3.3.2 pertaining to interpreted code, enabling Apple to forbid Flash and other middleware platforms while still enabling popular game engines and libraries.

When the 3.3.2 rules were first published, the restriction stated that iOS apps must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++ or JavaScript, and that “no interpreted code may be downloaded or used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s Documented APIs and built-in interpreter(s).”

Apple’s goal seemed to be limited to stopping third parties from shifting iPhone developers from using Apple’s own Xcode development tools and instead making them dependent upon their own middleware meta-platforms.

The most obvious example of this was Adobe’s efforts to turn its Flash Professional CS5 application into a product that could export iPhone apps, facilitating cross platform development centered on Flash as a platform rather than Apple’s own Cocoa Touch.

Apple’s 3.3.2 restriction made it clear the company would refuse to sell such apps in its iTunes Store.

Strangely enough, the wording of the restriction appeared to also target any iOS apps that might include any interpreted code, including a large number of games that make use of general purpose, reusable code engines or libraries to expedite development.

Adobe has argued that any iOS restrictions on development with its Flash tools would also halt the use of popular game engines or libraries such as Unity 3D and Lua. Such a situation would imperil many popular iPhone games that Apple has already approved (and often singled out for targeted promotion), including Tap Tap Revenge and Rolando.

The latest modifications to the 3.3.2 section indicate Apple won’t be forced to dump popular, existing titles just to block middleware meta-platforms as a threat to iOS development. The most recent wording of the iOS SDK, published by Matt Drance of Apple Outsider, articulates an additional option Apple can invoke when choosing to approve apps:

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, with Apple’s prior written consent, an Application may use embedded interpreted code in a limited way if such use is solely for providing minor features or functionality that are consistent with the intended and advertised purpose of the Application.”

Drance notes, “these new terms seem to acknowledge that there’s a difference between an app that happens to have non-compiled code, and a meta-platform.”

Adobe releases Flash Player 10.1.53.64

Posted by:
Date: Friday, June 11th, 2010, 03:52
Category: News, Software

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Late Thursday, Adobe officially released Flash Player 10.1.53.64, the newest version of its multimedia software for Mac OS X. The new version, a 7.4 megabyte download, offers a slew of security fixes detailed here with full (and extensive) release note changes documented here.

The new version is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.