Google Earth 6.1.0.4738 released

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Date: Thursday, September 22nd, 2011, 08:45
Category: Software

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On Thursday, software giant Google released version 6.1.0.4738 of its popular Google Earth program. The new version, a 23.8 megabyte download, adds the following new fixes and changes:

- Improved the robustness of network access by providing better support for Proxy and SSL certs. This will fix issues users have experienced of not being able to see balloon content or embedded browser content.

- Improved the resolution seen in elevation profiles for lines and tracks.

- Added the ability to sort “My Places,” and improved the user interface to be able find points across my places.

- There were several improvements to Street View in Google Earth. We added the ability to zoom into a Street View photo by using a zoom slider. Streetview in Earth feels more immersive now due to wider field of view. It is now faster and smoother to use. We made several small tweaks to the user interface including adding a way to navigate floors when you are indoors and there are multiple floors available in Street View.

- Fixed bugs related to missing road labels in cases where roads were curvy or zoomed into.

In Google Earth API for browser plugins:
- Added API for working with tours.

Fixed bugs or minor changes:
- Several performance improvements that would allow smoother experience in specific computer configurations.

- Fixed ‘Restrict to View’ functionality during a shapefile import in Google Earth Pro.

- Fixed an issue where Google Earth would sometimes save incorrect ordering of elements in KML.

- Added field of view recording to tours and ability to play back those changes.

- Fixed an issue where the icon heading did not work in Google Earth API.

- Changes to reduce occurrences of missing desktop icon and shortcut menu items on an update.

- Sped up overlay polygon rendering in OpenGL mode.

- Fixed loading of kmz files when the first file at the root level was image file.

- Upgraded GDAL support to 1.7.0 and fixed issues with importing .tab files in Google Earth Pro.

- Fixed the discrepancy caused in measurements due to multiple radii of Earth used inside Google Earth.

- Fixed an issue where placemarks created with UTM coordinates did not move when edited.

- Fixed an issue when screen overlays disappeared in a print-out.

Google Earth 6.1.0.4738 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

Google Chrome updated to 14.0.835.186, resolves Flash Player vulnerability

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Date: Wednesday, September 21st, 2011, 04:32
Category: News, Software

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Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 14.0.835.186 for the Mac. The new version, a 38.9 megabyte download, offers the following changes:

- This release includes an update to Flash Player that addresses a zero-day vulnerability.

Google Chrome 14.0.835.186 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Google releases Google+ app with native iPhone/iPod touch support, non-native iPad support

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 11:55
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

Google has updated its Google+ social networking app, adding native iPod touch and non-native iPad compatibility along with several other minor improvements according to iLounge.

Released last month and similar to Facebook, Google+ provides access to Google’s new social network allowing users to share information with people in their Google+ Circles and keep up to date on what their Google+ friends are doing. The initial version of the app was specifically designed to run only on the iPhone, leaving iPod touch and iPad users unable to load the app on their devices at all; this latest update resolves that issue by adding compatibility with the iPod touch and iPad in 2X mode—native iPad support is not provided.

Additional improvements include customizable Huddle settings, aggregated add notifications for Circles and performance and stability improvements. Google+ is available via the App Store as a free download.

If you’ve tried the app and have any feedback, let us know in the comments.

New Mac OS X trojan horse goes live, acts as Adobe Flash Player updater application

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Date: Monday, August 8th, 2011, 08:46
Category: News, security, Software

The bad news: There’ll always be people designing viruses, trojans and malware for computers.

The good news: It’s quite a bit rarer on the Mac OS X side of things.

Even so, the latest attempt from digital wrongdoers to infect your Mac has been spotted taking on the look and feel of Adobe’s Flash Installer.

According to CNET, the trojan, which has been dubbed as fairly serious since it mimics the Adobe Flash Player updated, has been named the Trojan Bash/QHost.WB by F-Secure, which provided some insight as to how it works.

Once installed, the Trojan adds entries to the hosts file to hijack users visiting various Google sites (e.g., Google.com.tw, Google.com.tl, et cetera) to the IP address 91.224.160.26, which is located in Netherlands. The server at the IP address displays a fake Web page designed to appear similar to the legitimate Google site.

The Trojan is currently dormant, meaning that while it will take you to the fake Google site, nothing will happen. It is, however, programed to serve pop-up ads once the user has accessed the false IP.

The current solution is to only install Adobe updates from Adobe’s official Web site. As with any Trojan designed for Mac, the malware only works if the user allows it. Most of the threats currently in the wild can be avoided by simply sticking to paid versions of software obtained directly from trusted creators of the product.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T cracking down on customers using tethering, hotspot cracks

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Date: Friday, August 5th, 2011, 10:53
Category: iPhone, News

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If you thought you were clever in tethering your smartphone or turning it into a Wi-Fi hotspot, AT&T might have some words about that.

Per 9to5Mac, users have reported being kicked off their unlimited data plans for using free tethering apps such as MiWi for jailbroken iPhones or PDANet for Android handsets. AT&T is reportedly sending notices to these customers, informing them their plans will switch automatically to a US$45 per month DataPro plan on August 11. The carrier discontinued its US$30 unlimited data plan last summer, but allowed existing subscribers to be grandfathered in.

An AT&T representative wouldn’t confirm the hard cut-off date, but did acknowledge that it’s now cracking down on free tethering to 9to5Mac. The carrier started sending ultimatums to customers earlier this year, complete with a lovely passive-aggressive tone.

AT&T isn’t the only carrier that’s taking a hard stance against free tethering. Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and AT&T have apparently pushed Google into hiding free tethering apps from the Android Market, though only on smartphones sold by those carriers. Verizon also reportedly shows a warning page when it catches a user tethering without paying, and provides a number to call and set up a mobile broadband package.

Unfortunately, AT&T’s current customer agreement says that it may terminate or modify a customer’s service for unauthorized tethering.

If you’ve seen this on your end, please let us know.

Google Chrome updated to 13.0.782.107

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Date: Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011, 04:21
Category: News, Software

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Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 13.0.782.107 for the Mac. The new version, a 42.1 megabyte download, offers the following the following changes:

- Instant Pages.

- Security fixes and improvements.

Google Chrome 13.0.782.107 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Apple TV units moving briskly, no signs of updated models for Q3

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Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 10:42
Category: Apple TV, News

Albeit not as popular as some of its other products, the Apple TV unit seems to be achieving moderate success, selling roughly 500,000 units per quarter as the 2011 holiday shopping season approaches.

The latest update to Apple’s US$99 streaming media box arrived last fall and within just a few months went on to sell a million units. Even so, Apple has provided no update on sales of the device. Per AppleInsider, Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo tells has stated that his industry checks indicate the company shipped 480,000 units during the second calendar quarter of the year, representing more than 70% year-over-year growth.

Although Apple continues to see Internet television devices as a nascent category, frequently referring to the Apple TV as a “hobby,” when sales of the device are pit against its peers, the Apple TV appears to be a runaway success.

For instance, Logitech said this week that “very modest sales” of its US$249 Google TV-based Revue set-top-box were exceeded by returns of the product from unhappy customers, prompting the company to slash pricing by 66% to match Apple TV’s US$99 price point.

The move will reportedly cost the device maker some US$34 million in one-time charges as it hopes to “remove price as a barrier to broad consumer adoption.” The failed partnership with Google also contributed to a US$29.6 million loss for Logitech during its fiscal first quarter, prompting the exist of chief executive Gerald P. Quindlen.

Looking ahead to the second half of the year, Kuo said his industry checks have turned up no evidence that Apple plans push a hardware revision to the Apple TV into production during the third quarter. Instead, the Cupertino-based company will reportedly take a more measured approach to advancing the platform in 2011, relying instead on an Apple TV Software Update this fall that will allow devices such as the iPad 2 and upcoming iPhone 5 to beam their content to the big-screen.

The technology, dubbed AirPlay, essentially allows devices equipped with Apple’s A5 processor and the forthcoming iOS 5.0 update to mirror their video content from supporting applications to HDTVs hooked up to an Apple TV. While ideal for sharing video with friends and family, the feature is even more significant for Apple’s encroachment on the gaming market, as it will allow any iOS game developer to offer console-style gaming (demos below) by which the the iPhone or iPad transforms into a wireless controller, equipped with gyro sensors and touch-screen controls.

Even so, Apple continues to struggle with the second prong of its Apple TV strategy: HD video content. Unlike the inaugural Apple TV that offered a trove of archived television content priced between US$2 and US$3 an episode, the company continues to face opposition from networks who feel the new Apple TV’s US$0.99 per episode HD rental model devalues their content, according to people familiar with the matter.

Over the past year, Apple has failed to reach licensing agreements with content producers that would have them join Fox and partner Disney, for which Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is a director and largest individual shareholder, in providing their television content to Apple TV users. As such, Apple is now reportedly in talks to grow its streaming video business through a potential acquisition of Hulu, an ad-supported streaming service that offers video content from NBC, ABC, USA, Bravo, FX, A&E, and numerous other television networks.

“[W]e love the product. It’s clear that customers love the product,” Apple chief operating office Tim Cook said this month of the Apple TV. “We really guided right when we went to the new Apple TV just last fall. But right now, it’s still a hobby status that we’re continuing to invest in it because we think that there is something there.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google works around Maps bug, quietly reposts fixed travel/arrival times

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Date: Monday, July 18th, 2011, 06:24
Category: iOS, News, Software

Well, this was a little awkward.

Per PC World, Google has removed a service that predicted travel times with traffic from the browser-based version of Google Maps.

Google Community Manager Daniel Mabasa announced the change in the Google help forum in response to a question from a user who noticed that ETA with traffic had disappeared from Google Maps.

“…We have decided that our information systems behind this feature were not as good as they could be,” Mabasa said. “Therefore, we have taken this offline and are currently working to come up with a better, more accurate solution.”

Apparently the “information systems behind” the feature weren’t bad enough to remove the service from mobile. Google Maps for Android and iOS both still predict travel times with traffic.

Oddly enough, Google Maps’ Navigation Android App was recently updated to help steer users clear of traffic jams. The data reportedly comes from others who are using Google Maps on their smartphones.

In a 2009 blog post, Google stated that a phone with an active Google Maps App “sends anonymous bits of data back to Google describing how fast you’re moving. When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions. We continuously combine this data and send it back to you for free in the Google Maps traffic layers.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t go all the way and tell you when you’ll get to where you’re going…

Which is kind of the other piece of the puzzle.

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.

Apple revises App Store guidelines to reject apps that focus on DUI checkpoint avoidance

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Date: Thursday, June 9th, 2011, 06:48
Category: iOS, News, Software

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Apparently, there are some apps that just won’t fly on the App Store.

Per Macworld, Apple has quietly updated its App Store Review Guidelines to effectively ban apps that warn drivers of nearby police checkpoints. The move comes after members of Congress had put pressure on both Apple and Google to remove such offerings from their respective mobile app stores.

The update to Apple’s guidelines, which was posted on June 6, and verified by an Apple spokesperson, includes a new entry in Section 22: Legal requirements. The last subitem on that list, number 22.8, now reads as follows:

“Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected.”

Apple’s change of heart comes more than two months after four U.S. Senators sent a letter to Google and Apple asking that DUI checkpoint apps—which include programs like Buzzed, DUI Dodger, and Fuzz Alert Pro—be removed from the iOS and Android app stores. Congress ratcheted up the pressure even further last month during a hearing on location data. While that hearing ostensibly focused on privacy issues, Senator Charles Schumer of New York used his time on the floor to ask Apple executive Bud Tribble why Apple hadn’t removed or rejected apps that help drives avoid DUI checkpoints.

Tribble, Apple’s vice president of software technology, told Schumer:

“One of the things we found is that some of these apps are actually publishing data on when and where the checkpoints are [using information] published by the police departments. In some cases, the police department actually publishes when and where they’re going to have a checkpoint… They believe that these checkpoints provide a deterrent effect.”

Apple’s updated policy singles out apps that share unpublished DUI checkpoints, but seemingly leaves wiggle-room for Apple to ban apps using public data—when that data is couched in terms of avoiding detection for driving under the influence. It seems likely that existing apps that do not follow these rules will be removed from the App Store as well.

A check of the App Store Wednesday revealed that Fuzz Alert Pro has removed all mention of DUI checkpoints from its marketing, and the app no longer offers DUI data. At this writing, however DUI Dodger and Buzzed both remain in the App Store with their more singular DUI focuses intact.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and above all…drive safe!