Facebook announces Skype video chat integration, other changes to social networking site

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Date: Wednesday, July 6th, 2011, 10:11
Category: News, Software

If there’s a major tech news story of the day, this might be it.

Per Electronista, Facebook at its special event Wednesday brought out Skype-based video chat. The approach lets Facebook members hold one-to-one video calls between each other without having to load a separate app; complete newcomers should be talking in 30 seconds, Facebook says. The platform should also work tightly with an updated desktop app and, eventually, mobile versions.

Skype 5.3 on Windows already lets users bring in a Facebook news feed, post status updates, and make calls directly to Facebook users from Skype. A 5.5 beta release also builds in Facebook chat with live status as an option. Mac versions are expected to come in the future.

Text chat got its own update at the event. Ad-hoc group chats are now possible and don’t need users to jump into a group chat. Regular chat also has a new, simplified design that adapts to the browser size and rolls in a sidebar that allows almost immediate text chat. The reworking is also intended to accommodate “future announcements,” Facebook hinted.

Facebook was shy on whether its own mobile apps would get video chat or whether group video chat was coming. The social network and Skype did cast the video chat as a starting point and hinted groups might come along in the future.

No mention has been made of Facebook’s native iPad app. Some had anticipated it coming with the Facebook event, but it’s now seen as more likely coming in the next several weeks. In the nearer future, Facebook is also expected to show Project Spartan and bring HTML5-native, Flash-free games to iOS and Android devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google announces early, publicly available build of Swiffy Flash-to-HTML5 converter tool

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Date: Wednesday, June 29th, 2011, 03:15
Category: News, Software

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Google on Tuesday unveiled a new experimental tool for developers called Swiffy, which converts some .SWF Flash files into HTML5 code compatible with devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Per AppleInsider, Swiffy is available at Google Labs, where the search giant’s engineers create experimental applications that may not be ready for primetime or intended for the masses. Using the Swiffy website, anyone can upload an SWF file and convert it to HTML5.

Swiffy supports most of the Flash 5 ActionScript specification. The output file works in all browsers based on Apple’s open-source Webkit engine, which powers the Mobile Safari browser found on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Also available on the site are a gallery of videos and games that have been converted to HTML5 from Flash, as well as a list of frequently asked questions. Among those questions is a query about what Adobe, the creator of Flash, thinks of Swiffy.

Google has made moves to support HTML5 in the past, including conversion of videos on the popular Web video destination YouTube. But Google also still includes Adobe Flash Player embedded in its Google Chrome browser.

The company is also pushing its own video playback format dubbed WebM over the Apple-backed H.264 format. The search company believes that its own WebM format will “enable open innovation.”

If you’ve tried the Swiffy application and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

Adobe releases Flex 4.5, Flash Builder 4.5, updates tools for building iOS apps

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Date: Monday, June 20th, 2011, 05:01
Category: iOS, News, Software

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Sometimes the Hatfields and the McCoys can put their differences aside and get along where the iOS platform is concerned.

Per the company’s official blog, Adobe this week released Flash Builder 4.5 and Flex 4.5, adding the ability to build and distribute iPhone, iPad and iPod touch applications on Apple’s official App Store.

The new functionality was announced on the company’s official blog, where Adobe Product Marketing Manager Puneet Goel revealed that App Store software could be created “using one tool chain, programming language and code base — a first for developers.”

The support for iOS applications comes in addition to the ability to create software for Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, also new features of Flash Builder and Flex 4.5. Initially, application support was only available for Android software.

Flash Platform evangelist Serge Jespers demonstrated the ability of Flash Builder 4.5 and Flex 4.5 to build iOS software in a video accompanying the post. The same stock market tracking application was shown running on an iPad 2 and iPod touch, in addition to an Android-powered HTC smartphone and the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Jespers also showed off the ability of Adobe’s software to allow developers to quickly created tabbed applications, or add features like automatically rotating between portrait and landscape mode. By checking the appropriate boxes, developers can easily export their mobile software for Apple’s iOS alongside BlackBerry Tablet OS and Google Android.

A “Platform Settings” option also allows developers to select their target device when creating iOS software. Through this, software can be created specifically for the smaller screen sizes of the iPhone and iPod touch, the larger 9.7-inch display of the iPad, or both.

“When your application is ready, you don’t actually have to build the application separately for every single platform,” Jespers said. “You can actually do that in one code. It’s pretty amazing.”

Flash 4.5 and Flex 4.5 are offered as standalone products for developers to purchase, or are available through Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium and Master Collection.

Last September, Apple revised its policy on third-party development tools for iOS, and decided it would allow developers to use tools like Adobe’s in order to create software made available to download on the App Store. That was a change from an earlier policy, when Apple’s iOS 4 software development kid license banned tools that would port applications from Flash, Java and Mono.

Controversy over Apple’s decision prompted CEO Steve Jobs to pen a letter in which he explained that allowing Flash conversion tools would produce “sub-standard apps” for the iPhone and iPad, hindering the progress of the iOS platform. Jobs said at the time that it was known from “painful experience” that allowing developers to become dependent on third-party tools 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 said in April 2010.

Though Flash remains banned on iOS devices, Adobe has continued to expand its support for the iPhone and iPad, and this march released a Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool. The “experimental” software called “Wallaby” allows for Adobe Flash Professional files with the .fla extension to be converted to an HTML format that can be opened in the Mobile Safari browser on iOS devices.

If you’ve had a chance to play with the new versions of Flash Builder or Flex, let us know what you think in the comments.

Rumor: iPhone 4 flash orders scaled back, iPhone 5 camera system undergoing redesign

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Date: Thursday, June 16th, 2011, 06:07
Category: iPhone, Rumor

It’s the leaks that make technology interesting.

Per Electronista, parts supplier leaks on Wednesday supported beliefs that Apple redesigning the camera flash for the iPhone 5. The company has reportedly “greatly reduced” the number of orders from Philips for the LED flashes used in the iPhone 4 over the past one to two months. Although it couldn’t be confirmed, there’s been talk of a switch to a Taiwanese supplier but said it could be a sign Philips wasn’t being used for the next iPhone, or at least not as-is.

The rumor has been corroborated by new iPhone camera parts that separated the camera sensor from its flash. The move is likely a reflection of lessons from the iPhone 4 and general photography: moving the flash further from the sensor reduces the instances of blown-out highlights and effects like red-eye.

Changes to the sensor itself may have also necessitated the shift. Apple is rumored to be using an eight-megapixel CMOS sensor from OmniVision that would be more sensitive than in the past. While excellent for low light, it could also be overly sensitive to light from a flash that on the iPhone 4 is just a fraction of an inch away.

Apple is rumored to be starting production in July for the next iPhone and would likely be winding down the majority of its part production to make way for the new device. Old components probably won’t be phased out entirely as Apple will likely want to keep the iPhone 4 as the new entry-level model.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-party case points to edge-to-edge screen for iPhone 5

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Date: Monday, May 16th, 2011, 04:56
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Additional evidence that the iPhone 5 will have an edge-to-edge screen surfaced over the weekend in the form of a case manufactured by Chinese firm Kulcase.

Per Electronista, which found the case listed on Alibaba.com, the listing describes it as a “crystal case for Apple iPhone 5g”.

Images of the case include a mock up of the iPhone 5, which has an edge-to-edge screen on the front, with the rear of the device showing that the camera lens and flash have been moved to opposite corners of the device.

While the iPhone 5 is expected to be the same size as the iPhone 4, this is not the first time that rumours of a larger screen have come to light and an edge-to-edge display would enable Apple to increase screen size while keeping the chassis the same size.

Going back to the camera lens and flash, the mockups appeared to show that the camera lens would remain on the top left of the back of the device, while the flash would move to the top right hand side.

Further evidence that this could be the case appeared on the Apple.pro website over the weekend, which published photographs of what it claims are various different camera components for the next-generation iPhone.

The iPhone 5′s rear-facing camera component does not have an LED flash next to it, as it does on the iPhone 4, suggesting that the flash will indeed be moved to elsewhere on the device.

Though misleading mock-ups and fake components for future Apple products have been seen in the past, the edge-to-edge screen has been mentioned several times in iPhone 5 reports, so it would be surprising not to see it on the iPhone 5 when it launches.

At this point, a June launch for the iPhone 5 handset is regarded as unlikely, with September or perhaps even early 2012 more realistic.

However, contradictory reports about the next-generation iPhone emerged late last week, suggesting that rather than the iPhone 5, the name is likely to be the iPhone 4S. While analyst Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co thinks that it will have an A5 chip, this will be the only significant spec change.

Misek made no mention of an edge-to-edge screen or NFC capabilities and as such the iPhone 4S will be little more than an incremental upgrade, hence the name.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google Chrome updated to 12.0.742.30

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 09:21
Category: News, Software

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Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 12.0.742.30 for the Mac. The new version, a 36.2 megabyte download, offers the following the following changes:

- Finished implementing support for hardware-accelerated 3D CSS, which allows web developers to apply slick 3D effects to web page content using CSS.

- In addition to protecting you against malware and phishing websites, Chrome now warns you before downloading some types of malicious files.

- You now have more control over your online privacy. Many websites store information on your computer using forms of local data storage such as Flash Local Shared Objects (LSOs). In the past, you could only delete Flash LSOs using an online settings application on Adobe’s website, but we’ve worked closely with Adobe to allow you to delete Flash LSOs directly from Chrome’s settings.

- Improved screen reader support in Chrome. Many people who are blind or visually impaired use a screen reader, a special type of software that describes the contents of the screen using synthesized speech or braille. It’s a very important technology for people who would otherwise be unable to use a computer, so we’ve added preliminary support for many popular screen readers including JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver.

- We’ve removed the Google Gears plug-in, as promised on the Google Gears blog in March. We’re excited about the potential of HTML5 to enable powerful web applications, and we hope that Google Gears rests in peace.

The full changelog can be found here and Google Chrome 12.0.742.30 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Adobe releases Wallaby preview, looking into tool to bridge Flash, HTML5 formats

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Date: Tuesday, March 8th, 2011, 04:44
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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After years of the squabble between Adobe’s Flash format and Apple’s push towards HTML5, Adobe may be developing a product to bridge the two sides. Per Macworld UK, Adobe Systems has released a preview of its Wallaby technology, which enables developers to leverage Flash development skills to build HTML files that can run on systems without the need for the Flash Player, including Apple iOS devices.

Wallaby, which will be offered for free on the Adobe Labs website, helps developers convert a Flash file created in the Flash Professional development tool to HTML. Apple’s iOS, which does not support Flash Player, is the primary use case for Wallaby. Output can also run on WebKit-based browsers like Safari and Chrome, said Tom Barclay, senior product manager for the Adobe Creative Suite business.

“It is an experimental technology that provides a glimpse of innovation that we’re doing around Flash and HTML and showing the investment that we’re making in both technologies we think are important for the long term,” Barclay said. The output of Wallaby enables use of not just HTML but also SVG and CSS, which are related technologies.

Wallaby is an AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) application for the Windows and Mac platforms. Developers can convert files to HTML5 via drag-and-drop functionality, Adobe said. Once files have been converted, developers can edit using an HTML editing tool, such as Adobe Dreamweaver, or by hand.

Wallaby was previewed last fall at the Adobe Max conference in Los Angeles. At this point, Adobe cannot indicate a product road map, as the company still is inviting user feedback.

Adobe Reader updated to 10.0.1

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Date: Wednesday, February 9th, 2011, 10:14
Category: News, Software

On Wednesday, Adobe released version 10.0.1 of its Adobe Reader application. The update, which can also be snagged through the Adobe Update Utility, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Numerous security fixes as well as improvements to Protected Mode, QTP support, Flash, and support for SCCM via newly released SCUP catalogs.

Acrobat Reader 10.0.1 and Acrobat Pro requires an Intel-based processor and Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new versions and noticed any differences, please let us know what you think.

Adobe releases Flash Player 10.2.152 update

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Date: Wednesday, January 12th, 2011, 04:37
Category: News, Software

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You may love Flash Player or hate it, but the new versions can’t be ignored.

Late Tuesday, Adobe released Flash Player 10.2.152 for Mac OS X, a 7.6 megabyte download via MacUpdate. The new version functions essentially as a pre-release to version 10.2 and includes the following fixes and changes:

- General stability fixes.
- Additional audio and video fixes.

The full notes of the new version can be found here and Flash Player 10.2.152 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

Micron announces 500GB notebook SSD hard drives

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Date: Wednesday, January 5th, 2011, 06:28
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Micron Technology on Tuesday announced its highest capacity laptop solid-state drives (SSDs) based on its smallest circuitry technology; the largest SSD doubles the amount of data that can be stored compared to its predecessor.

Micron’s new RealSSD C400 flash drive line offers capacities ranging from 64GB to 512GB and will be available in 1.8″ and 2.5″ form factors, both supporting a 6Gbit per sec serial ATA (SATA) interface. The SSDs are based on Micron’s latest 25 nanometer (nm) NAND flash lithography technology.



Per Macworld, the C400′s predecessor, Micron’s RealSSD C300 drive, was its first to leverage the SATA 3.0 specification, which offers 6Gbit/sec. throughput, and the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) 2.1 specification, which provides sequential read speeds of up to 355MB/sec. and sequential write speeds of up to 215MB/sec. The C300 also came in 1.8″ and 2.5″ models, with either 128GB or 256GB of capacity.

Crucial, a division of Micron, will begin selling the new SSD portfolio under the name Crucial m4 SSD. The Crucial m4 SSD product line is expected to be available online and through select global channel partners in the first quarter of 2011. Micron is not offering pricing information on the new SSDs.

The new drives achieve read speeds of up to 415MBps, which is 17% faster than Micron’s C300 SSDs. With write performance varying by capacity, the new 512GB drive delivers up to 260MBps write speeds, which is 20% faster than the C300 SSDs .

Micron is currently working with notebook manufacturers to qualify its new RealSSD drives, with samples of the RealSSD C400 drives available now. Micron expects mass production to begin in February.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.