AT&T using iTunes, telephone-based assistance for iPhone unlock process

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Date: Monday, April 9th, 2012, 07:36
Category: iPhone, News

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Following up on Friday’s story, wireless carrier AT&T began allowing out-of-contract customers to unlock their iPhone for use on other carriers yesterday, and the unlock codes are applied to the device after restoring through iTunes.

Per AppleInsider, customers who were among the first to take advantage told the web site that after dialing 611 to speak with a customer service representative, they were met with a lengthy wait to speak with a technician.

Once that AT&T representative was on the phone, they asked a series of qualifying questions to ensure that the user was eligible for their iPhone to be unlocked.

The unlock process is detailed by AT&T in a PDF document shared by users who request the service. In it, the carrier offers a series of four steps that must be accomplished in order to complete the unlock.

The unlock code actually comes through Apple and is administered through iTunes. AT&T’s instructions tell users to open iTunes on their Mac or PC, connect their iPhone via USB, and backup and restore their handset. Restoring the iPhone will unlock it for use on other carriers.

AT&T’s instructions also include a link to a support document available on Apple’s website. There, users are instructed to reseat the SIM card in their iPhone, restore their handset, or contact their carrier if they experience issues with unlocking via iTunes.

If the authorized unlock is completed successfully, users are met with the message: “Unlock Complete. Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked. To set up and sync this iPhone, click Continue.”

If you’ve been part of the unlock process, please let us know how it went via the comments and thank you.

Apple releases iTunes 10.6.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, March 28th, 2012, 16:02
Category: News, Software

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On Wednesday, Apple released version 10.6.1 of its iTunes multimedia/jukebox application. The new version, a 64.9 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Fixes several issues that may cause iTunes to unexpectedly quit while playing videos, changing artwork size in Grid view, and syncing photos to devices.

- Addresses an issue where some iTunes interface elements are incorrectly described by VoiceOver and WindowEyes.

- Fixes a problem where iTunes may become unresponsive while syncing iPod nano or iPod shuffle.

- Resolves an ordering problem while browsing TV episodes in your iTunes library on Apple TV.

iTunes 10.6.1 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

Apple releases iTunes 10.6 update, adds support for 1080p video, other fixes

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Date: Wednesday, March 7th, 2012, 13:52
Category: News, Software

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It’s an update day.

And that’s kind of nifty.

Following its iPad 3 press event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Apple released version 10.6 of its iTunes multimedia/jukebox application. The new version, an 81.4 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- iTunes 10.6 adds the ability to play 1080p HD movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store.

- Improved song matching via iTunes Match.

- Improved album artwork handling, downloading, and display.

- Addresses an issue where songs may skip when playing from iCloud.

iTunes 10.6 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

SkyDrive OS X client pics, specs leaked, iCloud may have worthwhile competitor

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Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 07:10
Category: Rumor, Software

If you’re not totally enthralled with iCloud at all times, Microsoft is working to ensure that there are options.

Per Germind, Microsoft is readying a significant update to SkyDrive in Windows 8, and reportedly leaked screenshots of the revamped file syncing and cloud storage service show that a Mac OS X client could be poised to compete with Apple’s iCloud.

Also of note are paid storage options that can be purchased in 20GB, 50GB or 100GB flavors for approximately US$10, US$25 or US$50 per year, respectively.

The extra space will supplement the already copious 25GB in free storage offered by SkyDrive. In comparison, iCloud only offers 5GB of free cloud storage, however Apple’s system does not count Photo Stream, iTunes’ media, apps and iBooks against the limit.

According to Microsoft’s blog, the Metro-style cloud-based Windows 8 app will share characteristics with Dropbox in that users can sync and backup certain files automatically, though SkyDrive goes further and allows limited remote access to files not synced to the cloud. Maximum file size for remote file fetching is pegged at 2GB.

Additional shots have also leaked through liveside.net that showed SkyDrive would support file sharing through social networks like Twitter and Facebook, BitLocker recovery keys, OpenDocument files from Office Web Apps and URL shortening.

iCloud’s current file-syncing implementation is aimed mainly at iOS users who can backup device profiles and data to the cloud. Apple’s free service does support certain automatic syncing to OS X programs such as Photo Stream and a clunky Pages document syncing procedure, but the process is not as smooth as other third-party solutions.

This situation could change when OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is released this summer as many iOS features like Notification Center and iMessage will be ported to the desktop operating system, though no official word has been given regarding iCloud upgrades.

Apple has invested heavily in iCloud, and the service which was introduced alongside iOS 5 could be getting more features, as previous reports that the company offered to buy Dropbox in a failed nine figure deal point to a definite interest in automatic file storage and syncing.

The SkyDrive update is set to launch later this year with support for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 already announced.

It remains to be seen which Windows 8 SkyDrive features will be implemented in the rumored Mac client, if any, and to what extent the service will affect iCloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple universal remote patent points towards upcoming television set

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Date: Thursday, January 26th, 2012, 05:26
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent applications that provide the niftiest hints.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple has shown interest in building a new, simplified remote control that would automatically control a variety of devices while reducing setup and frustration for the user.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application entitled “Apparatus and Method to Facilitate Universal Remote Control,” it describes a touchscreen-based controller that would reduce the confusing clutter found on current universal remotes.

The filing notes that current remotes have a large number of buttons and switches to control the functions of a device, and while those buttons are necessary to control all of the functions, the average user typically only uses a handful of the buttons.

“The controls that are not normally used clutter the remote control and can cause confusion to the user when trying to locate a seldom-used feature,” the filing notes.

It also details how current universal remotes are even more complex to operate than the basic remotes that ship with specific devices, like a television set or receiver. And often times, those universal remotes cannot replicate some of the tasks found on the original remote.

“Hence, users must spend time learning a new remote control or programming an existing universal remote each time they purchase a new remotely controllable appliance, which detracts from the enjoyment of using the appliance after it is first purchased,” Apple’s application states. “What is needed is an apparatus and a method to provide remote control over multiple appliances without the difficulties described above.”

Apple’s proposed solution is a remote control with a dynamic touchscreen used for input. The remote would include a “discovery mechanism” that would discover available appliances for it to control, negating the need for users to enter complex codes and program individual devices.

The filing describes a remote controlling one or more of a television, video players, a stereo, a “smart home” control system, and even a Mac. The document notes that the controller could also be used beyond electronic appliances, and could control programs and functions on a computer, like allowing a user to play songs on iTunes on their Mac or PC.

Apple’s solution would simplify the user interface by having devices wirelessly transmit a specific interface for that device. The remote would receive this customized button layout, and dynamically present input options to the user without the clutter of a typical button-based universal remote.

The remote would also detect which appliances are within range of the controller. If, for example, a specific appliance could not be detected, the remote would gray that option out so the user would know it is not available.

The proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in September of 2011. It is credited to Albert Vidal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent towards HDTV design with additional backlighting features

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Date: Thursday, January 5th, 2012, 08:51
Category: News, Patents

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This could turn into something pretty cool.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple is looking into building displays with dynamic backlight adaptation for better picture quality, particularly when watching letterboxed widescreen movies on a high-definition screen.

The concept was revealed this week in a new Apple patent application discovered by AppleInsider. The filing, entitled “Dynamic Backlight Adaptation for Black Bars with Subtitles,” focuses on improving picture quality when watching letterboxed content, like Hollywood movies, on an LCD display.

The application was filed just months ago, in September of 2011, and comes as rumors of a full-fledged Apple television set continue to build. One report this week claimed that Apple design chief Jonathan Ive has a 50-inch prototype set located in his secure work studio at the company’s corporate headquarters.

A common problem with LCD displays is the ability to show “true” black colors on the screen. This becomes amplified when black bars are included in a video, such as when watching a letterboxed film. The difficulty of adjusting the backlight properly when the black bars are present can result in poorer quality of the remainder of the video.

Even though modern television sets are built with widescreen 16-by-9 aspect ratios, Blu-ray and DVD films, as well as those sold on iTunes, often show movies in an even wider format, leaving black bars at the top and bottom. For example, many movies are shot in Panavision’s 2.35:1 ratio.

“Many video images are encoded with black bars, e.g., non-picture portions of the video images,” the filing reads. “These non-picture portions complicate the analysis of the brightness of the video images, and therefore can create problems when determining the trade-off between the brightness of the video signals and the intensity setting of the light source. Moreover, these non-picture portions can also produce visual artifacts, which can degrade the overall user experience.”

Further complicating picture quality and brightness is the fact that users can often view subtitles in the black bars located at the top and bottom of a widescreen film. This makes it even more difficult for the system to dynamically adjust and ensure the highest level of quality.

Apple’s solution is a complex processing system that could “spatially vary visual information” on a display. This would dynamically adjust the backlight source on a screen, like a high-definition television set, in a way that would improve the picture quality.

The display would have multiple brightness settings for its backlight based on the processing of the image. For example, the “picture portion” of the screen would be illuminated by LED backlighting to an appropriate level, whereas the “non-picture portion,” which would include the black bars, would have a different backlight setting.

The application describes an “extraction circuit” included in the display, which would calculate a brightness metric associated with the video signal. Then an “analysis circuit” would analyze and identify specific subsets of a video, like black bars that are shown when watching a movie.

The display would also include an “intensity circuit” that would determine the ideal intensity of the light source that illuminates the LCD display. The system could also employ a mapping function to determine optimum quality by using features like a “distortion metric” to limit image distortion.

Apple’s system could also process the video signal in advance and synchronize the intensity of the light source based on the image currently being displayed.

“The system determines the intensity setting of the light source on an image-by-image basis for the sequence of video images, where the intensity of the given video image is based on the brightness setting and/or brightness information contained in the video signals associated with the given image,” the filing reads. “Then, the system synchronizes the intensity of the setting of the light source with the current video image to be displayed.”

The filing, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is credited to inventors Ulrich T. Barnhoefer, Wei H. Yao, Wei Chen, Barry J. Corlett, and Jean-didier Allegrucci.

Though rumors of a full-fledged Apple television set have persisted for years, they picked up once again late last year, when it was revealed that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told his biographer that he had “cracked’ the secret to building an integrated, easy-to-use television set.

“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine,” Jobs said, prompting speculation that an Apple-branded television would use Siri, Apple’s voice control software featured on the iPhone 4S, as its primary input method.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intego warns of new, detailed phishing scam aimed at Apple’s user base

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Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 05:02
Category: News, security

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There’s a few things you can count on: death, taxes and various groups of wanders trying to get personal information from you via scams and phishing efforts.

Per AppleInsider, security firms have issued warnings regarding a new “well-crafted” phishing scam that attempts to fool customers into providing their AppleID billing information.

Intego posted an alert on the scam earlier this week, noting that the first emails appeared to have gone out on or around Christmas day. The phishing email purports to come from “appleid@id.apple.com” and informs recipients that their billing information records are “out of date.”

Customers are directed to click on a link to http://store.apple.com, but they are instead redirected to a “realistic-looking sign-in page,” according to the security firm’s report.

Though phishing scams targeting Apple customers are by no means new, this particular scam has attracted attention because it is unusually detailed in its efforts to deceive. The email makes use of the Apple logo and shading and employs better formatting than similar frauds in the past.

As a precautionary measure, users should remember not to click directly on links from email messages and instead navigate to the website in question on their own.

In August, scammers set out to trick Apple’s MobileMe subscribers into upgrading to the then-forthcoming iCloud service. Around the Thanksgiving holiday, another scam cropped up falsely advertising an iTunes gift certificate that was actually malware meant to pilfer passwords and other personal information.

Mac users were also the target of an elaborate hoax involving fake anti-virus software, usually dubbed MacDefender, earlier this year. The application would automatically download itself onto users’ computers in an attempt to obtain their credit card information. Russian police later found evidence tying the scam to online payment service Chronopay.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iTunes 10.5.2 update

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Date: Monday, December 12th, 2011, 17:55
Category: News, Software

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On Monday, Apple released iTunes 10.5.2, the latest version of its multimedia/jukebox application for Mac OS X. The new version, a 102 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Several improvements for iTunes Match and fixes an audio distortion problem when playing or importing certain CDs.

iTunes 10.5.2 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

Delicious Library updated to 2.7.5

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Date: Thursday, December 8th, 2011, 05:51
Category: News, Software

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On Wednesday, software company Delicious Monster released version 2.7.5 of the shareware favorite, Delicious Library. Delicious Monster allows Macs with webcams to scan the bar codes of any book, movie, music CD or video game, then creates an archive based on background information from the Internet. Additional features help keep the library organized and reseller’s tools allow for items to be quickly posted for sale online.

The update, a 16.4 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Easily see which shelves contain your items!

- Use the new “Shelves” column in list view.

- Control-click an item for the new “Show on Shelf” menu.

- Include the set of shelves containing each item when exporting.

- Recognize a larger variety of iTunes audiobook formats.

- Those with old iTunes libraries should, in iTunes, choose File > Library> Organize Library‚Ķ, selecting to “Reorganize files”.

- Improved display of Nintendo 3DS game boxes.

- French translation improvements, thanks to Fabrice Deville.

- Export directly to Numbers.

- Excel exporter now uses CSV format instead of the ancient SYLK format, providing better support for long values and values in more languages.

- Cover drawing fixes on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion (fixed blurry covers, incorrectdrawing after changing dimensions, and more).

- Many fixes to the importer.

- Accept USB scanners that send EAN-5 along with the EAN-13 barcode.

- We’re aware that some customers have issues using their USB barcode scannerswith Delicious Library. We’d like to address this as soon as possible. Ifyou have a USB scanner (working or not), please email support@delicious-monster.comwith the make and model, and whether or not scans are recognized.

- Work around Amazon returning strange item dimensions (manifesting as coversbeing tiny)

- Better handling of large cover images.

- Strip ColorSync profiles from images when publishing for smaller file sizes.

- Fixed a cause of large memory usage when publishing.

- Add a work-around for an Apple bug in 10.7 that produces invalid HTML when publishing
Enable “Refresh Details from Internet” for items with an EAN or ISBN, butwithout an ASIN.

- Fixed a crash when selecting “Enable Bluetooth Scanning” and Bluetooth isdisabled (Apple’s bug).

Delicious Library 2.7.5 retails for US$40 and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Apple TV updated to 4.4.3

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Date: Friday, November 18th, 2011, 04:24
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

Apple on Thursday released a software update identified as version 4.4.3 for its Apple TV set-top box, though what changes it includes are unknown.

Per AppleInsider, the new Apple TV update is labeled build 9A4051, and can now be downloaded directly from the device. The version number would suggest that it is a minor update, fixing issues in the Apple TV version 4.4 software update that accompanied the launch of iOS 5 in October.

Version 4.4.3 marks the third update to have arrived since the release of 4.4, a more significant update that added AirPlay Mirroring support, Wall Street Journal Live, National Hockey League Content, Photo Stream, and iTunes Trailers. Details for Apple TV Software Update 4.4.3 have not yet been revealed by Apple.

The last Apple TV update arrived in late October with Software Update 4.4.2. It addressed an issue that required a small number of Apple TV units to be connected to iTunes in order to complete an update.

Apple also quietly added support for iTunes Match to the Apple TV early this month, without the need for a software update on the device. The $24.99-per-year iTunes Match service, which lets users re-download their entire music library on a range of devices, launched this week with the release of iTunes 10.5.1.

If you’ve tried the new Apple TV update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments and feedback.