Apple Quietly Offers Matte Screen Option for 15″ MacBook Pro Notebook

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Date: Tuesday, August 11th, 2009, 04:08
Category: MacBook Pro

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Following up on a rumor from a few weeks ago, Apple has quietly restored the antiglare upgrade option for its 15″ MacBook Pro notebook line. Per AppleInsider, the change is a slight reversal from two years ago when the company began transitioning its entire Mac product line away from matte displays to the highly-reflective option that was the only offering on the 15″ MacBook Pro lineup. The change is available as a US$50 add-on.

Previously, only the 17-inch MacBook Pro offered the US$50 antiglare option. Tuesday’s change brings the features to the 15″ line, though the 13″ Pro model remains glossy-only.

The transition towards glossy displays appears to have been sparked by the original iPhone, whose glass touchscreen and black border resonated well with customers. The reception was favorable enough that Apple, in a bid to push the envelope and standardize materials across its product families, gave similar treatment to its iMac line a few months later.

That October, Apple announced that its new line of unibody notebooks would also forgo matte displays for glossy ones, with the exception of a US$50 antiglare option on the pricey 17-inch MacBook Pro. These new displays “provide crisp images and vivid colors which are ideal for viewing photos and movies,” Apple said, “and the edge-to-edge cover glass creates a smooth, seamless surface.”

The move was met with indifference from some users while others threw their arms up in panic, horrified at the glare now present on their high-end notebooks.

Whatever the case, Apple seems to have appreciated the concern, as it did with the outrage over the brief absence of FireWire on its 13″ notebook offerings. Apple has apparently been following the numerous petitions and online threads dedicated to the display matter and quietly reversed itself where possible.

Latest iPhone OS 3.1 Beta Cites Unknown Device

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Date: Wednesday, August 5th, 2009, 04:44
Category: News

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Once again, a mystery device in the latest iPhone OS 3.1 firmware beta is being referred to, the device featuring a new model number and fueling speculation that Apple has a new touchscreen device based on its mobile operating system coming soon.

According to ArsTechnica, a device called “iProd 0,1″ was first discovered in March in the iPhone 3.0 OS beta firmware. The latest beta update also includes a reference to iProd, but this time the USBConfiguration.plist file gives the product the “1,1″ distinction — something Apple typically uses to refer to its first-generation products.

The information has led to speculation that a new, unannounced piece of hardware running the iPhone OS could be nearing launch.

The reference to iProd 1,1 has a product ID of 4762, while the original iProd 0,1 was model 4757. The new model also features references to Ethernet configurations, leading the report to suspect the supposed new device could have “gained high-speed networking capabilities” since the 0,1 hardware incarnation.

“What we are willing to bet on is that with a 1,1 moniker the product will see public release soon—perhaps as early as September, when Apple typically unveils new iPods,” the report concludes.

Apple always uses the first number in these device identifiers to refer to major revisions, the naming schemes allude to a second major reworking of the iPhone in testing at Apple as well as a minor revision of the current iPod touch and a third-generation overhaul. The original iPhone is seen as iPhone 1,1, while the iPhone 3G appears as iPhone 1,2 — a minor upgrade to an existing design. The first- and second-generation iPod touch show as 1,1 and 2,1 respectively.

Rumor: Netflix May Bring Streaming Service to iPhone, Other Handsets

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Date: Tuesday, August 4th, 2009, 05:16
Category: iPhone 3GS, Rumor

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Citing an unnamed source described as “an industry executive familiar with Netflix’s plans,” an article in Multichannel News is claiming that Netflix will soon offer its Watch Instantly streaming video service on the iPhone, iPod touch and the Nintendo Wii.

The brief reportdescribes the move as the next step for Netflix’ content, which currently streams to Windows PCs, Macs, the Xbox 360, TiVo DVRs, the Roku, and certain TV and Blu-Ray players built to support video downloads.

Unlike its DVDs-by-mail service, Netflix’ Watch Instantly library offers much less variety, with limited popular content such as recent movies and TV series. Older titles and oddball independent films are also available for immediate viewing and the Watch Instantly service is also included for viewing at no extra cost over the base Netflix subscription, in contrast to iTunes’ pay per view pricing.

Unlike media purchased or rented from iTunes, Netflix’ streaming content plays back directly with no download. This requires no local storage on the playback device, but results in playback quality that is dependent upon the available network bandwidth. With iTunes and the Apple TV, content is progressively downloaded, enabling users to obtain HD content even with a slower connection, albeit with a longer wait.

The advantage of Netflix’ instantly streaming video is that little or no storage is required. If the iPhone and Wii are powerful enough to decode the live stream, this could add a new customer segment for Netflix, the users not having to worry about their devices storing the downloaded content.

Whether the iPhone or Wii could decode quality video only using software may be an issue, as Netflix playback on the more powerful Apple TV has been cited by some as not practical due to its lack of any Windows Media codec hardware acceleration.

Video playback over AT&T’s mobile network would likely also be prohibited by any Netflix streaming player app, making any iPhone version Wi-Fi only, in line with other video streaming apps such as SlingPlayer Mobile.

As a workaround to the iPhone’s intentionally missing support for Windows DRM, Netflix could also take a page from Google and utilize the native support in iPhone OS 3.0 for HTTP Live Streaming, which plays streaming video to the iPhone and iPod Touch using standard MPEG AAC/H.264 codecs over familiar web-based protocols.

At the launch of the iPhone, Google shifted its Flash-based YouTube service to also support H.264 at Apple’s behest, allowing the iPhone to work around the need for Flash playback while also delivering hardware accelerated video playback using open protocols.

Support for HTTP Live Streaming will also be built into QuickTime X playback for Snow Leopard, and appears to be slated for adoption in the next revision of Apple TV. Third parties will also be able to implement HTTP Live Streaming on their own devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Releases iPhone OS 3.0.1 to Close SMS-Based Security Hole

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Date: Friday, July 31st, 2009, 10:29
Category: iPhone

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Responding to a dangerous security exploit unveiled this week, Apple released an update to its iPhone operating system Thursday to patch the security hole.

iPhone OS has just become available for the iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS handsets. The update is between 230 and 300 megabytes and appears to exclusively fix the reported SMS exploit.

According to AppleInsider, security researcher Charlie Miller, co-author of The Mac Hacker’s Handbook, demonstrated the hack Thursday at the Black Hat 2009 conference in Las Vegas. The attack takes advantage of a vulnerability in the phone’s short messaging service, or SMS, feature, allowing an outside party into the phone’s root access without the owner’s knowledge.

The exploit takes advantage of the fact that SMS can send binary code to a phone which is then automatically processed without user interaction, and can be compiled from multiple messages, allowing larger programs to be sent to a phone. The exploit supposedly exposes the iPhone completely, allowing access to the camera, dialer, messaging and Safari. It occurs regardless of hardware revision or which version of the iPhone OS is running.

The technique involves sending only one unusual text character or else a series of “invisible” messages that confuse the phone and open the door to attack. Given that users won’t know which messages to block in advance, there’s little iPhone owners can do but to shut off the phone immediately if they suspect they’re at risk. Once exploited, the trick could also be used to make an iPhone send additional messages of its own, thereby spreading the problem.

To install the new iPhone OS firmware, simply connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC, open iTunes, select the iPhone in the device window and tell it to check for an update. The process will complete on its own.

If you’ve tried the new firmware, let us know what you make of it in the comments or forums.

Apple Updates Knowledge Base/Troubleshooting Articles for iPhone, Notebook Optical Drives

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Date: Friday, July 31st, 2009, 05:20
Category: iPhone, News

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If you’re in a pinch, the Apple Knowledge Base has generally been a useful place to go. Per MacFixIt, the company has just updated Knowledge Base articles for both its iPhone hardware as well as the slot-loading optical drives found on various Macs and notebooks.

For the iPhone hardware article, click here.

For help with slot-loading optical drives, click here.

Head on over, take a gander and let us know what you think.

Apple Releases MobileMe Application for iPhone

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Date: Thursday, July 30th, 2009, 05:48
Category: iPhone, Software

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I’m not sure how critical your MobileMe account is to you, but as of yesterday, it came to the iPhone. According to Engadget, Apple released MobileMe iDisk, a long-awaited free application for iPhone OS 3.0 that enables iPhone and iPod touch users with MobileMe accounts to access the inner sanctums of their own iDisk.

The app lets users log in, view files up to 20 megabytes and share files by sending others a link via email to whatever you deem appropriate. The application includes an option to password protect assorted files and limit the amount of days the download is active, though viewing files is limited to iPhone-supported file types such as iWork, Office, QuickTime, PDF, etc.

MobileMe iDisk requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later to install and run.

Canadian Markets Complain of iPhone 3GS Supply Shortage

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Date: Wednesday, July 29th, 2009, 04:23
Category: iPhone, News

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Up in the frosty north, the Canadian markets are complaining about a shortage in the iPhone 3GS supply. According to The Unofficial Apple Weblog, the major suppliers, Fido and Rogers, are both reporting they are sold out pretty much across the country. Some Apple Stores in Canada have them in stock, but a couple of calls revealed that even Apple Stores are often out of stock.

Both Rogers and FIDO say new shipments will arrive in ‘weeks,’ and that back orders are being filled on a priority basis. No dates are being given, and buyers are being told to check back with their local stores or online.

Similar shortages occurred in Canada and the UK earlier this month and during the Apple conference call last Tuesday, COO Tim Cook said iPhone demand has been “staggering in almost every country we’ve shipped in.”

Apple has stated that the company will release the new iPhone to 20 more countries on August 22nd.

Samsung Releases 1GHz Hummingbird Processor for Future Smartphones

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Date: Monday, July 27th, 2009, 07:41
Category: Processors

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Electronics giant Samsung unveiled a new ARM processor intended for future smartphones. Per MacNN, the processor, nicknamed “Hummingbird”, uses the same Cortex-A8 architecture as the chip in the iPhone 3GS but clocks at 1GHz, significantly higher than the 833MHz of its previous best. The feat is accomplished both by a smaller, more energy-efficient 45 nanometer process as well as partly customized circuits designed to handle the load.

Samsung has stated the processor can handle up to 2 billion instructions per second but will consume only 640mW of power and doesn’t need more than 1V of voltage. As a Cortex-A8 chip, Hummingbird is a dual-issue (two instructions at a time) processor with special media extensions, known as Neon, that can speed up common audio or video tasks.

Specific customers haven’t been named for the processor, although Samsung makes it clear it sees Hummingbird reaching “advanced mobile devices” once it’s turned into standard system-on-chip processors. Apple has been one of Samsung’s larger customers for ARM processors, although it has typically underclocked the processor for the iPhone to accommodate the heat concerns in the tight enclosure.

iPhone 3GS Hardware Encryption Cracked in Two Minutes

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Date: Monday, July 27th, 2009, 05:35
Category: iPhone 3GS, security

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As cool as the recently-released iPhone 3GS may be, there may be room for improvement. According to a blog entry over on Wired’s Gadget Lab, iPhone Forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski describes how the hardware encryption of the iPhone 3Gs can be worked around and demonstrates how both the passcode and backup encryption can be bypassed in about two minutes.

Zdziarski goes on to comment that all data on the iPhone, including deleted data, is automatically decrypted by the iPhone when it’s copied, allowing users and law enforcement agencies alike access the device’s raw disk as if no encryption were present. A second demonstration features the recovery of the iPhone’s entire disk while the device is still passcode-locked.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve heard anything about this, let us know in the comments.

iPhone OS 3.1 to Support Augmented Reality Applications, New Snow Leopard Seed Distributed

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Date: Monday, July 27th, 2009, 04:16
Category: Software

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Recently, Apple released word that its upcoming iPhone OS 3.1 firmware will be the first to officially support augmented reality apps that support the iPhone 3GS’ camera. Such programs would allow for more extended use of the iPhone 3GS’ improved camera and overlay information and controls on top of real-world objects seen through a camera.

Per AppleInsider, iPhone OS 3.1 has so far only been known to expose some video camera controls for developers, third-party producer Acrossair was told by Apple that the future release would be needed for its Nearest Tube and future Nearest Subway apps to work properly.

These applications are already highly dependent on the built-in compass and autofocusing camera of the iPhone 3GS, both of which are needed to alternately recognize the direction the iPhone is facing as well as to get a detailed enough look at a subject to tag it with information. As a demonstration of the technology, Acrossair’s software can show the subway stops visible in a particular direction and their distance relative to the user.

iPhone OS 3.1 is anticipated to be ready by early September, just in time for Apple’s by now yearly iPod updates. The release could also dovetail with the seemingly probable release of an iPod touch with a camera that could take advantage of augmented reality when using Wi-Fi.

On Friday, Apple distributed Mac OS X Snow Leopard build 10A421. The update comes just ten days after 10A411 and is said by people familiar with the changes to be very modest on the surface, including general compatibility, security and stability fixes.

Apple’s increased frequency in providing updated Mac OS X 10.6 (“Snow Leopard”) builds is expected with just weeks left before the revision is due to reach stores, as the company will now be looking to isolate and fix the remaining obvious bugs instead of changing functionality.