VirtualBox updated to 4.2.14

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Date: Monday, June 24th, 2013, 06:21
Category: News, Software

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Never knock a steadily updated app.

VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.2.14. The new version, a 150 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:
- VMM: another TLB invalidation fix for non-present pages.

- VMM: fixed a performance regression (4.2.8 regression; bug #11674).

- GUI: fixed a crash on shutdown.

- GUI: prevent stuck keys under certain conditions on Windows hosts (bugs #2613, #6171).

- VRDP: fixed a rare crash on the guest screen resize.

- VRDP: allow to change VRDP parameters (including enabling/disabling the server) if the VM is paused.

- USB: fixed passing through devices on Mac OS X host to a VM with 2 or more virtual CPUs (bug #7462).

- USB: fixed hang during isochronous transfer with certain devices (4.1 regression; Windows hosts only; bug #11839).

- USB: properly handle orphaned URBs (bug #11207).

- BIOS: fixed function for returning the PCI interrupt routing table (fixes NetWare 6.x guests).

- BIOS: don’t use the ENTER / LEAVE instructions in the BIOS as these don’t work in the real mode as set up by certain guests (e.g. Plan 9 and QNX 4).

- DMI: allow to configure DmiChassisType (bug #11832).

- Storage: fixed lost writes if iSCSI is used with snapshots and asynchronous I/O (bug #11479).

- Storage: fixed accessing certain VHDX images created by Windows 8 (bug #11502).

- Storage: fixed hang when creating a snapshot using Parallels disk images (bug #9617).

- 3D: seamless + 3D fixes (bug #11723).

- 3D: version 4.2.12 was not able to read saved states of older versions under certain conditions (bug #11718).

- Main/Properties: don’t create a guest property for non-running VMs if the property does not exist and is about to be removed (bug #11765).

- Main/Properties: don’t forget to make new guest properties persistent after the VM was terminated (bug #11719).

- Main/Display: don’t lose seamless regions during screen resize.

- Main/OVF: don’t crash during import if the client forgot to call Appliance::interpret() (bug #10845).

- Main/OVF: don’t create invalid appliances by stripping the file name if the VM name is very long (bug #11814).

- Main/OVF: don’t fail if the appliance contains multiple file references (bug #10689).

- Main/Metrics: fixed Solaris file descriptor leak.

- Settings: limit depth of snapshot tree to 250 levels, as more will lead to decreased performance and may trigger crashes.

- VBoxManage: fixed setting the parent UUID on diff images using sethdparentuuid.

- Linux hosts: work around for not crashing as a result of automatic NUMA balancing which was introduced in Linux 3.8 (bug #11610).

- Windows installer: force the installation of the public certificate in background (i.e. completely prevent user interaction) if the –silent command line option is specified.

- Windows Additions: fixed problems with partial install in the unattended case
Windows Additions: fixed display glitch with the Start button in seamless mode for some themes.

- Windows Additions: Seamless mode and auto-resize fixes.

- Windows Additions: fixed trying to to retrieve new auto-logon credentials if current ones were not processed yet.

- Windows Additions installer: added the /with_wddm switch to select the experimental WDDM driver by default.

- Linux Additions: fixed setting own timed out and aborted texts in information label of the lightdm greeter.

- Linux Additions: fixed compilation against Linux 3.2.0 Ubuntu kernels (4.2.12 regression as a side effect of the Debian kernel build fix; bug #11709).

- X11 Additions: reduced the CPU load of VBoxClient in drag’and’drop mode.

- OS/2 Additions: made the mouse wheel work (bug #6793).

- Guest Additions: fixed problems copying and pasting between two guests on an X11 host (bug #11792).

VirtualBox 4.2.14 is available for free and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

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

Growing number of users cite Wi-Fi connectivity issues with 802.11ac-equipped MacBook Air notebooks

Posted by:
Date: Friday, June 21st, 2013, 05:15
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software, wireless

To be fair, this is what they invented firmware updates for.

Per Gizmodo, some early adopters of Apple’s latest MacBook Air models have found their new thin-and-light notebook will unexpectedly and repeatedly drop its wireless connection.

A growing discussion thread on the Apple Support Communities website details the connectivity problems being experienced by numerous users. The problems appear to apply to both the 11- and 13-inch varieties of the recently updated notebook lineup.

In addition, an anonymous source from an Apple retail store in London said that their store has had complaints about wireless connectivity for the new MacBook Airs that are “well above average.”

In the thread, users say they’re experiencing the problems across a range of routers, including Apple’s own AirPort accessories. Users say they can initially connect to a Wi-Fi network, but that connection will drop after a short period of use.

At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be an available solution that addresses the problems seen by all users, though some have had success with various routers or even different placement of the MacBook Air.

The updated MacBook Air lineup launched last week at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. In addition to faster 802.11ac connectivity, the notebooks also feature Intel’s latest Haswell processors, helping to enable battery life as great as 12 hours.

The new MacBook Airs are also priced US$100 less than their predecessors, with the new low-end US$999 11-inch model packing 128 gigabytes of flash storage.

If you’ve picked up the new MacBook Air and noticed any issues with Wi-Fi connectivity, please let us know in the comments.

Intel-based MacBook Air batteries show best-ever test results according to Macworld Lab

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 20th, 2013, 06:02
Category: battery, MacBook Air, News

The new MacBook Air batteries have been tested.

And you’ll probably like the results.

Per Macworld, the Macworld Lab has completed its run of tests on Apple’s new battery for its updated Haswell-based MacBook Air notebook. And while Macworld Lab didn’t experience the 12-hour battery life cited by Apple, the tests do show that the new MacBook Air lasts considerably longer than before. The results were better than anything seen before by the lab.

The tests were run with the brightness set to maximum and made sure that automatic brightness adjustment was off, backlit keyboards were off, and Screen Saver was set to never start.

In the first test, the lab looped a movie clip in full screen mode with Wi-Fi disabled. The new 11-inch MacBook Air lasted 6 hours and 6 minutes, compared to just 3 hours and 34 minutes for the 2012 model. The new 13-inch standard configuration MacBook Air lasted 8 hours and 18 minutes, 36 percent longer than the new 11-inch MacBook Air, and 65 percent longer than last year’s 13-inch MacBook Air. Compared to a 2013 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, the 13-inch MacBook Air lasted 75 percent longer.

The lab also ran the tests on “ultimate” configure-to-order (CTO) MacBook Air models from this year and from last year. There wasn’t too much of a battery life hit on the new CTO model compared to the standard configuration; the standard configuration model lasted just 11 minutes longer than the CTO unit that has a faster processor, more RAM, and twice the hard drive capacity. Comparing this year’s CTO “ultimate” to last year’s, they saw that the new model lasted 65 percent longer.

The second run of tests used Futuremark’s free Peacekeeper browser test, which has an option to run the online test repeatedly and report the time at which the system being tested stops responding. This test is much more taxing than the movie playback, using more of the system’s memory and processor. Hence, the lab found that the notebooks couldn’t last as long when running the Peacekeeper test, but did find that the performance still scaled as expected.

In the Peacekeeper tests, the new 13-inch standard configuration MacBook Air lasted the longest at 5 hours and 45 minutes, which was 2.5 hours less than in the movie test. The new 13-inch standard configuration model lasted 41 percent longer than the new 11-inch model and 25 percent longer than the new CTO MacBook Air. It should be pointed out, however, that the CTO Air outscored the new stock 13-inch MacBook Air by about 20 percent in the tasks that Peacekeeper repeatedly runs during its battery test. The new standard configuration 13-inch Air lasted 63 percent longer than last year’s 13-inch MacBook Air and 67 percent longer than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

The increased battery life is the result of two under-the-hood changes to the MacBook Air. First off, there is more battery capacity. iFixit’s teardown demonstrated that the new models using slightly higher capacity batteries. Second, the new MacBook Air has also switched from using Intel’s third generation Ivy Bridge Core processors to fourth generation Haswell processors. A key difference between the generations is decreased power consumption, which results in increased battery life on the portables it powers.

If you’ve picked up a new Haswell-based MacBook Air notebook and have any feedback about its battery life, please let us know about your experience in the comments.

Apple releases Java 2013-004 update for Mac OS X 10.7, 10.8 operating systems

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, June 19th, 2013, 05:00
Category: News, security, Software

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A well-timed security update never hurts.

On Wednesday, Apple released its Java 2013-004 update for its Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.8 operating systems. The update, a 64 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- Java for OS X 2013-004 supersedes all previous versions of Java for OS X.

- This release updates the Apple-provided system Java SE 6 to version 1.6.0_51 and is for OS X versions 10.7 or later.

- This update uninstalls the Apple-provided Java applet plug-in from all web browsers. To use applets on a web page, click on the region labeled “Missing plug-in” to go download the latest version of the Java applet plug-in from Oracle.

- This update also removes the Java Preferences application, which is no longer required to configure applet settings.

The Java 2013-004 update requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7 to install and run. If you’ve installed this new update and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Google Chrome updated to 27.0.1453.116

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, June 19th, 2013, 05:21
Category: News, Software

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Never doubt a good update.

On Tuesday, Google released version 27.0.1453.116 of its Chrome web browser. The update, a 50.4 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- [249335] Medium CVE-2013-2866: Clickjacking in the Flash plug-in.

This build also has fixes to the following issues:
- Multiple flash movies on one page not playing [Issue: 243290].

- Arc rendering bug in canvas [Issue: 243996].

- Select box with Multiple option fires Onchange event on scroll [Issue: 244406].

Google Chrome 27.0.1453.116 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 releases Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 16

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Date: Tuesday, June 18th, 2013, 14:07
Category: News, security, Software

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This might come in handy.

On Tuesday, Apple released Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 16, a security update that stands as a 69.48 megabyte download and offers the following fixes and changes:

- This update enables website-by-website control of the Java plug-in within Safari 5.1.9 or later, and supersedes all previous versions of Java for Mac OS X v10.6.

- This release updates the Apple-provided system Java SE 6 to version 1.6.0_51 for Mac OS X v10.6.

The update requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later to install and run.

The updates can be located, snagged and installed via the Software Update feature built into the Mac OS X operating system.

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

Parallels Desktop updated to 8.0.18494

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, June 18th, 2013, 05:52
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Parallels released version 8.0.18494 of its Parallels Desktop virtualization software. The new update, a 336.4 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- Use Parallels Desktop with OS X 10.9 Mavericks Developer Preview (experimental support).

- Work with Parallels Desktop on new MacBooks Air (Mid-2013).

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.

Review: Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Posted by:
Date: Friday, June 14th, 2013, 08:23
Category: Review, Software, Software

The space opera that is StarCraft continues in fine style.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, the latest installment in Blizzard’s epic StarCraft real-time strategy series, has been out for a while now, reflects a fairly major overhaul in its unit progression, achievement and multiplayer systems. Picking up where StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty left off, the story hones in on Sarah Kerrigan, who, under the protection of Jim Raynor, is attempting to resolve being human again after her transformation into the Queen of Blades and the overall conflict against Emperor Mengsk’s Dominion forces.

Like any space opera, the plot grounds itself in tragic elements, Kerrigan witnessing Raynor’s death at the hands of Mengsk’s forces, allying herself once again with the now-scattered Zerg and working to reunite the Swarm as a tool for vengeance. Not a bad start within the first few missions of the game and Blizzard’s classic strong voice acting and marquee-level cut scenes continue to tell a great, relatable story to its audience.


Send in enough flying units to take down powerful defenders like the Terran Thor unit.

Send in enough flying units to take down powerful defenders like the Terran Thor unit.


If there’s one thing that makes Heart of the Swarm work, it’s an easier approachability than Wings of Liberty offered – and flustered some players with. Unlike Wings of Liberty, unit upgrades aren’t hooked into a currency system and are therefore easier to earn and work with. Unit upgrades can also be switched prior to the beginning of each mission, meaning you aren’t completely locked into a given upgrade once your choice has been made. This comes as a welcome change and it’s fun to experiment with alternate upgrades to see what works best in different situations.

Still, it’s the sheer joy of a Zerg-focused StarCraft game that sells Heart of the Swarm. Here, you’re greeted with the fully awesome disgustingness of the insect/reptilian armies you’ll happily grow, spawn and mutate to defend your nest and annihilate your enemies with. From gruesome-yet-fun “Splortch!!!” sounds as your units emerge from their cocoons to the sounds of your multi-legged units skittering and/or oozing their way towards battle, there’s the unassailable enjoyment of creating and fighting with the most disgusting army in any real-time strategy game.


When in doubt, send everything you've got.

When in doubt, send everything you’ve got.


Heart of the Swarm doesn’t provide a massive graphical update over Heart of the Swarm, but it’s still noticeable. Where Wings of Liberty sometimes chugged along slowly on my late-2011 MacBook Pro, Heart of the Swarm ran briskly, complete with detailed characters and fluid animation. Whatever Blizzard did under the hood of the game, it worked and the title still features all the terrific slime, gore, fangs and ooze you’d expect from the Zerg, even with the resolution turned down to more minimal levels.

It was the new multiplayer features that caught my eye when Heart of the Swarm was in development, Blizzard offering new and altered units and abilities. Even though there’s something of a learning curve with the new stuff, Blizzard came through and delivered, new units such as the Viper allowing you to literally pull your opponent’s high-value units out of a cluster and drag it towards your forces to be quickly attacked and torn apart. Upgraded mine units allow you to create a defensive line where needed and Blizzard has incorporated something of an “arcade” feel to its revised multiplayer gameplay, the program visibly awarding experience points for actions such as gathering resources, building units and defeating enemy units. It’s a small thing, but it brings back a sort of action-based/arcade feel to even standard multiplayer gameplay and makes achievements that much more fun to work towards.


The new Zerg Abomination unit can slug it out with even the toughest ground defenders.

The new Zerg Abomination unit can slug it out with even the toughest ground defenders.


Top this off with new game modes, new customer maps and a better means of sorting players by appropriate player and skill level and the Heart of the Swarm can stand on its own as a multiplayer-only title should you choose to ignore the core campaign. Battle.net, Blizzard’s multiplayer gaming service, has improved dramatically over the years and the only limitations are occasional downtimes for server upgrades and perhaps how your Internet connection happens to be behaving at that point in time.

If there are points of contention to deal with with Heart of the Swarm, they come in the form of some familiar points of conflict gamers have had with Blizzard in recent years. Blizzard has disabled Local Area Network multiplayer gameplay, which is meant as a piracy-prevention technique, but also removes what would literally be the fastest form of multiplayer gameplay available to a group of players. This, combined with the fact that, once activated and hooked into an activation code, players are unable to resell their used copies of Heart of the Swarm down the line. Perhaps Blizzard will figure out a way around this or a more moderate fix, but it still feels like a heavy-handed approach to copy protection. Finally, Blizzard has instituted a requirement that single player achievements can only be earned (and recorded) if the account has logged into Battle.net. Granted, this isn’t as draconian as Blizzard’s requirement that players always be logged into Battle.net even during single player gameplay in Diablo 3 and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, but there’s still a sense that you’d like to just open the game and polish off a few single player missions in your free time without having to log into the server.


Send Reaper units after space-based enemies to help keep the Hyperion safe in side missions.

Send Reaper units after space-based enemies to help keep the Hyperion safe in side missions.


Game companies have always had a hard time incorporating replay value into single player campaigns and Heart of the Swarm suffers from some of this, but not to a deal-breaking extent. There’s a fair amount of challenge involved with the Normal difficulty – which makes the game fun – and the game’s challenge scales well with each level of difficulty you attempt, but absolute die-hards have cited that the game could be more challenging in its most difficult modes. This comes down to personal taste and Wings of Liberty had some more definitive storyline and plot-based choices that added to the title’s replay value, but there’s still enough challenge and variety to be found in Heart of the Swarm’s multiplayer game modes to keep you coming back for more.


There's nothing like sweet, sweet StarCraft victory. And explosions to go along with it.

There’s nothing like sweet, sweet StarCraft victory. And explosions to go along with it.


In conclusion, Heart of the Swarm adds a solid contribution to the space opera story that the “StarCraft” franchise is known for, some nice core engine and gameplay improvements and is just as fun as an RTS fan would expect the latest installment of StarCraft to be. The assortment of new units make the single and multiplayer modes that much more fun and it’s cool to go back, look over the new units and develop new offensive and defensive techniques to use based on the new tools available to you. Yes, Blizzard creates its own foibles thanks to its current (and somewhat ever-changing) privacy-prevention techniques, but there’s also the sense that they might be able to eventually arrive at a set of methods that both players and the company can live with. Heart of the Swarm isn’t perfect, but the good more than outweighs the bad, it’s what the next chapter of StarCraft needed to be and the joy of playing – and conquering – with the Zerg is everything you could have hoped for.

Minimum System Requirements:
- Mac OS X 10.7 or later
- Intel Core 2 Duo or faster processor
- NVIDIA GeForce 9400M or ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro or better graphics card
- 2 GB RAM
- 20 GB available hard disk space
- Broadband Internet connection
- DVD-ROM drive
- 1024 x 768 minimum display resolution

Recommended System Requirements:
- Mac OS X 10.8 or later
- Intel Core i3 or faster processor
- ATI Radeon HD 4850 or NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M or better graphics card
- 4 GB RAM
- 20 GB available hard disk space
- Broadband Internet connection
- DVD-ROM drive
- 1024 x 768 minimum display resolution

Rumor: Flextronics to handle U.S. assembly of redesigned Mac Pro

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 13th, 2013, 06:02
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, Rumor

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Some details have surfaced as to which outfit will construct the upcoming Mac Pro tower.

Per Economic Daily News and Macotakara, the desktop will reportedly be built in U.S. facilities run by Singapore-based manufacturer Flextronics.

It was said that the information was shared by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, who has a strong track record in predicting Apple’s future product plans.

The official Flextronics website reveals that the company already has facilities in a number of locations across the U.S., including Texas, California, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and both North and South Carolina. The report did not indicate which U.S.-based Flextronics facility will handle assembly of the new Mac Pro.

“Our United States teams offer a wide spectrum of capabilities, including electrical and mechanical design and the manufacturing of flexible and rigid printed circuit boards and printed circuit board assemblies, specialty coated thin film flexible materials, backplanes, box-build, cable assemblies, camera modules and assembly,” the site reads. “Our facilities also have clean room capabilities, functional and reliability testing, new product introduction support, design for manufacturing, supply chain management and logistics.”

The transition to Flextronics, if true, would mean that Foxconn will no longer be responsible for manufacturing the Mac Pro. But because Apple’s high-end desktop is geared toward a small market, the shift is not expected to have a major effect on Foxconn, which operates largely out of China.

Though Apple will build its new Mac Pro in the U.S., the company is not expected to bring assembly of any of its MacBook lines to America. EDN noted that most of the supply chain remains overseas, which would make it logistically difficult to build large numbers of Macs stateside.

Apple’s new MacBook Air units are reportedly being assembled by Quanta Computer, which specializes in laptop construction. Though Quanta does have some facilities in the U.S., it’s not expected to begin building MacBooks domestically.

The dramatically redesigned Mac Pro’s feature list includes graphical support capable of driving three 4K-resolution displays and is slated to arrive later this year with Intel Xeon processors, PCI Express flash storage, and Thunderbolt 2 ports.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft releases Office 2011 14.3.5 update

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Date: Wednesday, June 12th, 2013, 11:53
Category: News, Software

It’s not a huge update, but it might be helpful.

Microsoft on Wednesday released version 14.3.5 of its Microsoft Office 2011 suite for the Mac. The update, a 113 megabyte download, features the following change:

- Fixes an issue that affects IMAP-based email accounts in which the flagged or starred state of a message was not set correctly.

The update can also be located and installed via the Microsoft AutoUpdate feature.

Microsoft Office 2011 14.3.5 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8 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.