Rumor: Microsoft working on “iWatch” device of its own

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Date: Monday, April 15th, 2013, 06:17
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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You know that rumor about Apple working on an iWatch of sorts?

Microsoft may be working on its own.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is apparently working on designs for a touch-enabled watch device, executives at suppliers said, potentially joining rivals like Apple Inc. in working on a new class of computing products.

Earlier this year, Microsoft asked suppliers in Asia to ship components for a potential watch-style device, the executives said. One executive said he met with Microsoft’s research and development team at the software company’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters. But it’s unclear whether Microsoft will opt to move ahead with the watch, they said.

Microsoft declined to comment.

Some investors and big technology companies are betting on a boom in wearable, computerized devices built around the growing power and slimming size of sensors that can detect body temperature, geographic location and voice commands of people on the go.

Some of the new wearable gadgets, like Nike Inc.’s FuelBand, measure physical activity, while others are intended to supplement functions of a smartphone, such as receiving text messages, taking photos or checking the weather. Apple has also experimented with designs for a wristwatch-style device.

Startup Pebble Technology Corp. is selling a watch that syncs wirelessly with smartphones and vibrates to alert wearers to incoming phone calls, Twitter posts and emails. Google Inc. is testing with consumers a device it calls Google Glass, an eyeglass-style gadget that displays certain computerized information in a user’s field of vision.

“We see growing demand for wearable gadgets as the size of the smartphone has become too big to carry around,” said RBS analyst Wanli Wang. “A smart watch that is compatible with a smartphone and other electronics devices would be attractive to consumers.”

Research firm Gartner expects the market for wearable smart electronics to be a $10 billion industry by 2016.

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has shown an interest in wearable gadgets. Microsoft a decade ago unveiled a “Smart Watch” powered by the company’s software. For a subscription fee, Smart Watch wearers could have news headlines, sports scores and instant messages beamed over FM radio to their wrists. But sales stopped in 2008.

For its potential new watch prototype, Microsoft has requested 1.5-inch displays from component makers, said an executive at a component supplier.

The tests of a computerized watch also underscore Microsoft’s ambitions in expanding its hardware offerings. Last October, Microsoft launched the Surface tablet-style computer, and the company is prepping more homegrown computing devices including a smaller, 7-inch version of a tablet to compete with popular gadgets like Apple’s iPad Mini, people familiar with the matter have said.

Microsoft also is continuing to test its own smartphone, although it isn’t clear whether it will bring such a device to market, component suppliers said.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Independent study finds Bing engine returning five times the as many malware websites as Google

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 12th, 2013, 07:55
Category: News

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Well, this is a bit awkward.

Per PC Magazine, searches on Bing returned five times more links to malicious websites than Google searches, according to an 18-month study from German independent testing lab AV-Test. Though search engines have worked to suppress malicious results, the study concluded that malware-infested websites still appear in their top results.

The study looked at nearly 40 million websites provided by seven different search engines. About 10 million results came from Bing and another 10 million from Google. 13 million sites were provided by the Russian service Yandex, with the rest coming from Blekko, Faroo, Teoma and Baidu respectively. Of these 40 million sites, AV-Test found 5,000 pieces of malware—and admittedly small percentage of websites.

The study concluded that while all the search engines the lab evaluated delivered malware, Google delivered the least. It was followed by Bing, which returned a disconcerting five times as much malware as Google. Yandex, the Russian website, delivered 10 times as many malicious sites.

Thankfully, the 5,000 pieces of malware the study found are concentrated in Yandex results—which had 3,330 malicious links out of the 13 million the AV-Test looked at. Bing had a little under half that, with 1,285 malicious results out of 10 million pages. Google returned a mere 272 malicious results in 10 million while Bleko had even fewer: 203 out of around three million.

The good news is that if you’re a Google user or even a Bing user, the chances that you would encounter a malicious website in your search are low. Doing some quick arithmetic, it looks like the chance of a Googler hitting malware is about one in 40,118.

Of course, those odds are repeated billions of times a day. “[It] is important to remember that Google alone deals with a phenomenal total of 2 to 3 billion search requests worldwide every day,” reads the study. “If this total is factored into the calculations, the total number of websites containing malware found by the search engine is enough to make your head spin!”

In 2009, Google reported it handled around 320 million searches a day for America alone and around 2 billion worldwide. That’s potentially about 50,000 malicious sites a day.

In an era where malware is becoming more and more prevalent on the Mac, it never hurts to start with the right search engine.

Adobe releases Flash Player 11.7.700.169

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, 08:15
Category: iOS, iPad, News, security, Software

A hefty update is never unappreciated.

On Wednesday, Adobe released Flash Player 11.7.700.169 for Mac OS X, a 16.9 megabyte download via MacUpdate. The new version adds the following fixes and changes:

Fixed Issues:
- On Retina-enabled OS X devices, Flash applications are scaled incorrectly upon opening (3496539).

-In AIR on iOS, loading a SWF with and embedded video can cause a crash in some circumstances (3514499).

- In AIR on iOS, loading an image from a remote server can cause a crash (3476445).

- On OS X, setting stage.fullScreenSourceRect when renderMode is set to “GPU”, leads to inaccurate mouse position reporting (3512232).

- In the Chrome browser, the copy shortcut (Ctrl/Cmd+C) fails (3496300).

- Attempting to embed a Flash project into Microsoft word can result in a crash (3498002).

- In AIR for iOS, some apps get rejected for missing push notification entitlement (3501744).

- In AIR for iOS, Flex applications running on iPad2 over 3G connections can experience a crash (3435401).

- In AIR for iOS, reloading of pure asset SWFs isn’t allowed (3516971).

- On OS X, some fonts do not rending properly when viewing Flash content in the Google Chrome browser (3506958).

New Features:
- Sandboxing enhancements.

- Prevent Cloud backup for Shared Objects (iOS).

- Use CPU render mode for selected devices (iOS).

- Externally host secondary SWF files (iOS).

Adobe Flash Player 11.7.700.169 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

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

Google Chrome updated to 26.0.1410.63

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, 07:32
Category: News, Software

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An update’s an update.

On Wednesday, Google released version 26.0.1410.63 of its Chrome web browser. The update, a 49.8 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- Stability improvements.

- A new version of Adobe Flash.

Google Chrome 26.0.1410.63 requires an Intel-based Mac with Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run. If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple’s OS X 10.8.3 prompts use of discrete GPU in mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 08:42
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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There’s sort of a love/hate relationship with operating system updates, especially given the fact that you never quite know what’s going to change with your Apple hardware and how it performs after the fact.

To that end, the mighty Topher Kessler has written a terrific piece over on CNET as to Apple’s latest OS update for its mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks.

To this end, a number of the notebook’s owners noticed that after upgrading to OS X 10.8.3, their systems with dual graphics cards would automatically switch to using the more powerful discrete graphics chip regularly, even when using non-graphics intensive applications like Google Chrome, Dropbox, and Growl. This does not result in crashes or other interruptions in workflow, but it does increase the drain on the systems’ battery and result in a shorter working time when not connected to AC power.

The article then moves on to discuss how to ration battery power, how to drop back to OS X 10.7 if necessary and the new challenges for developers under these conditions.

It’s there, it’s good, so take a gander and let us know if you’ve seen anything like this with your mid-2010 MacBook Pro on your end.

Parallels Desktop updated to 8.0.18483

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 07:38
Category: iMac, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Parallels released version 8.0.18483 of its Parallels Desktop virtualization software. The new update, a 320 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- Better compatibility with new iMacs.

- Create Boot Camp virtual machines on new iMacs with 3 TB hard drives.

- Create virtual machines from the Boot Camp partition with Windows 8 installed.

- Support for Fedora 18.

- Fixed visual artifacts when changing screen resolution in a Windows 8 Pro virtual machine with more than 256 MB of video memory and nested virtualization enabled.

- Resolves an issue with the Command + click combination not opening links in new tabs in Windows browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.).

Parallels Desktop 8 retails for US$79.99 and requires a 64-bit Intel-based processor, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended to run Windows 7), at least 700 MB of space available on the boot volume for Parallels Desktop installation and 15 GB of available disk space for Windows.

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

Amazon releases Cloud Drive app for Mac

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013, 06:18
Category: News, Software

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Never doubt the power of competition in the cloud-based market space.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Amazon has introduced file syncing to its Cloud Drive app for OS X, which essentially makes Cloud Drive Amazon’s version of Dropbox.

Like Dropbox, the app allows files put into the Cloud Drive folder to be available on any Mac or Windows machine running Cloud Drive with your login details. The files are also available through any web browser.

Cloud Drive users receive 5 GB of storage space for free, which is equal to Google Drive’s initial offering but more than double Dropbox’s 2 GB of storage for new users.

The app is available as a free download and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried Cloud Drive and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Leaked Blackberry product roadmap shows potential iPad competitor on the horizon

Posted by:
Date: Monday, April 1st, 2013, 06:45
Category: Hardware, iPad, News

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You may not love and adore Blackberry, but it looks like the company intends to stick around long enough to release a tablet competitor to the iPad.

Per @BB10Leaks and TechnoBuffalo, Canadian manufacturer BlackBerry appears to be readying another go at the tablet sector, as an image purporting to be a leaked product roadmap shows a potential iPad competitor slated for a late 2013 release.

The supposed product roadmap appeared Friday in a tweet and appears to show BlackBerry’s forthcoming products through the second quarter of 2014. In addition to the already released Z10 and its hardware QWERTY keyboard sporting counterpart, the Q10, the roadmap shows a tablet, a phablet, and a phablet-esque device with a hardware QWERTY keyboard of its own.


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The iPad competitor appears to be named the B10. The roadmap gives no details on its dimensions or specifications, but it looks to be a large tablet in the vein of Google’s Nexus 10 and Apple’s full-size iPads. Should the device materialize, it would represent BlackBerry’s second attempt at breaking into the tablet segment.

The Canadian manufacturer previously released a 7-inch PlayBook tablet, meant to provide enterprise-minded customers with a more portable alternative to Apple’s iPad, which dominated the tablet segment then as it does now. Poor software implementation and developer support, though, doomed the PlayBook to sluggish sales even as Apple’s tablet moved to greater heights. Eventually, then-RIM’s inventory of unsold PlayBook units caused the company to take a US$485 million charge.

With the launch of BlackBerry 10, though, the manufacturer has seen encouraging signs. BlackBerry’s most recent financial figures revealed one million Z10′s shipped since the device’s launch in February. That, in combination with drastic cost reductions, led to BlackBerry’s first profitable quarter in some time.

A new tablet would help flesh out the range of devices BlackBerry offers, making it a more capable alternative for customers looking outside of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Speaking earlier in March, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said that the company would have to do something “really substantial and meaningful… [and] profitable as well,” if it were to enter the tablet space again.

Should the leaked roadmap prove accurate, BlackBerry’s tablet will see release some time in either the third or fourth quarter of 2013. It would be followed shortly thereafter by a large-screened BlackBerry 10 device, apparently dubbed the U10. That device — likely a “phablet” in the vein of Samsung’s Galaxy Note II — may be the rumored Aristo device that surfaced late last year. Following the phablet’s release, another large-screened model would follow quickly thereafter, this one sporting a hardware QWERTY keyboard much like BlackBerry’s forthcoming Q10.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple now hiring Maps Ground Truth managers in seven countries to help clean up iOS 6 Maps application

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, March 28th, 2013, 05:04
Category: iOS, News, Software

When in doubt, add additional staff to a project.

Per iMore, Apple is increasing its efforts to improve Maps around the world, having recently posted open positions for Maps Ground Truth managers in seven countries. Previously, Apple had only been hiring for these positions in Australia. Among other dutites, managers are expected to be able to do things like provide feedback for their area to enhance maps, according to the company’s job postings web site.
- Testing new releases of map code and data around the U.S.

- Collecting ground truth data to allow for analysis of the impact of potential map code or data changes relative to known truth.

- Utilizing local expertise to provide feedback about U.S.-specific mapping details.

- Evaluating competing products in-region relative to our maps.

Ground truth refers to collecting mapping data locally rather than by satellite imagery or other remote means. We heard about Apple retail employees being asked to help improve Maps back in October. This, however, points to teams of people dedicated to mapping improvements.

Apple has been steadily improving Maps since the launch of iOS 6 in September of last year. Enhancements to Flyover, 3D buildings, and turn-by-turn navigation have been made to locations around the world. There is still a long way to go, but there is no doubt that Apple’s making the effort to fix its mistakes.

Google Chrome updated to 26.0.1410.43

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, March 27th, 2013, 05:12
Category: News, Software

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You can’t knock a worthwhile update.

On Tuesday, Google released version 26.0.1410.43 of its Chrome web browser. The update, a 48.8 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- “Ask Google for suggestions” spell checking feature improvements (e.g. grammar and homonym checking).

- Desktop shortcuts for multiple users (profiles) on Windows.

- Asynchronous DNS resolver on Mac and Linux.

Google Chrome 26.0.1410.43 requires an Intel-based Mac with Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run. If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.