Apple releases iMac Graphics Firmware Update 3.0

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Date: Thursday, August 25th, 2011, 03:12
Category: iMac, News, Software

Amidst a wild series of events at Apple yesterday, the company released its iMac Graphics Firmware Update 3.0, a 482 kilobyte download designed to fix a graphics issue that may cause an iMac to hang under certain conditions.

Apple doesn’t specify which iMac models the firmware update targets, but the package will only install on applicable models and requires Mac OS X 10.7 or later to install and run. iMacs that need the update can download it through Software Update or from Apple’s download page.

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

Onyx 2.4.0 released, now available for use with Mac OS X 10.7

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Date: Monday, August 22nd, 2011, 04:52
Category: News, Software

onyxicon

Onyx, Titanium Software’s popular freeware multifunction utility for Mac OS X, has been updated to version 2.4.0. The new version, a 6.6 megabyte download adds the following fixes and changes:

- New version for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion only.

Onyx 2.4.0 requires Mac OS X 10.7 or later to install and run.

Controversy surfaces over Kagi’s VisualHub updater

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Date: Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, 11:41
Category: News, Software

There’s good news and bad news.

The good news: VisualHub, a beloved video converter utility that exported to roughly nine zillion formats but was discontinued in 2008, has been updated with support from the author.

The bad news: It apparently wasn’t updated in a way that the author, Tyler Loch, approved of. Per Macworld, Kagi, a popular payment processor for independent software developers, recently began selling a US$5 Lion-compatibility patch for the discontinued-in-2008 VisualHub video converter that Loch stated he didn’t authorize—and isn’t getting paid for. Kagi has taken steps to defend the move, arguing that it’s merely helping less tech-savvy customers that the developer abandoned.

Though Loch no longer offers support for VisualHub, Loch did post updated files and instructions for getting VisualHub to work under Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”).

After receiving complaints from customers about Lion compatibility, however, Kagi—VisualHub’s former payment processor—decided to offer its own vHub Updater for VisualHub patch for US$5, without informing Loch.

Per the article, representatives from Kagi explained that the US$5 updater Kagi now sells merely wraps the updates that Loch offers on his own site in a more usable interface. Loch’s instructions for updating VisualHub require copying a trio of AppleScript files into the app’s package contents; he also recommends installing an updated copy of the open source conversion utility ffmpeg.

The Kagi app “downloads his patches, and we also download the new ffmpeg,” installing all necessary files without additional user involvement. The updater avoids altering your original copy of VisualHub, instead creating a duplicate application called “VisualHub Lion.”

At this point, there’s a significant amount of back and forth between Loch and Kagi, representatives from Kagi stating that, with regard to the vHub Updater, “we would be pleased if Tyler was to release an updater that performs the function that our vHub Updater performs,” Nethery said. “His users deserve better than to be completely abandoned in 2008 and to be asked to be technical enough to edit an application package. We just want the customers to get the support they deserve.”

For his part, Loch pointed out that—though open-source forks of the code at the center of VisualHub exist—“VisualHub, as it exists in the world, is not. I gave no permission and had no prior knowledge of Kagi hosting, redistributing, and indirectly selling the components I wrote in [vHub Updater].”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.7.1 update

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 14:34
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Apple released Mac OS X 10.7.1, the update to its recently-released Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” operating system. The update, a 79.1 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:

- Address an issue that may cause the system to become unresponsive when playing a video in Safari.

- Resolve an issue that may cause system audio to stop working when using HDMI or optical audio out.

- Improve the reliability of Wi-Fi connections.

- Resolve an issue that prevents transfer of your data, settings, and compatible applications to a new Mac running OS X Lion.

The update can be located, downloaded and installed via the Software Update feature in Mac OS X.

Mac OS X 10.7.1 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7 to install and run.

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

Apple begins selling $69 Mac OS X 10.7 USB thumb drive

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 06:11
Category: News, retail, Software

If you don’t have a killer broadband connection, then this can’t hurt.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is now selling the US$69 Mac OS X 10.7 USB install drive in its online store.

Buying Lion on a physical medium from Apple’s online store carries a price more than twice that of the digital download. The drive ships for free in one to three business days.

“OS X Lion is available on a USB thumb drive for installation without the need for a broadband Internet connection,” Apple’s official product description reads. “Just plug the drive into your USB port and follow the instructions to install. OS X Lion is also available for a lower price as a digital download from the Mac App Store.”

In addition to the lower price, Apple also incentivized users to buy Lion from the Mac App Store buy giving it a month’s head start over the USB thumb drive. The 3.49GB operating system install became available for download on July 20.

The product also comes with an “Important Note” from Apple: “When you install OS X Lion using the USB thumb drive, you will not be able to reinstall OS X Lion from Lion Recovery. You will need to use the USB thumb drive to reinstall OS X Lion.”

Lion marks the first operating system release from Apple where a download is the preferred install method. AppleInsider was first to report in May that Apple planned to push users toward buying through the Mac App Store.

The last version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, also carried at US$29.99 price tag, but its default distribution method was on a physical DVD. When Apple redesigned its thin-and-light MacBook Air in 2010, it came with a USB thumb drive to reinstall Snow Leopard, as Apple began to move away from disc drives in its Mac lineup.

Apple did not reveal until Lion became available on the Mac App Store in July that a USB thumb drive would be sold in August. But the company also noted that users who do not have broadband access at home, work or school can download the multi-gigabyte install file from the Mac App Store at its retail stores at no extra cost.

If you’ve snagged the thumb drive and have any feedback to offer about the install, let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple releases Lion Recovery Disk Assistant to function with external hard drives

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 03:11
Category: News, Software

If your Lion partition is being finicky, this might help.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday released Lion Recovery Disk Assistant software to enable users to create recovery partitions on external drives.

Lion Recovery Disk Assistant expands Apple’s Recovery features in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion to add support for creating a Recovery Disk on external drives. According to Apple’s release notes for the software, the resulting partition has all of the same capabilities as the built-in Lion Recovery: reinstall Lion, repair the disk using Disk Utility, restore from a Time Machine backup, or browse the web with Safari.

Creating an external Lion Recovery using the assistant requires that the Mac already have an existing Recovery HD. The external drive must also have at least 1GB of free space, while Lion Recovery Disk Assistant is a 1.07MB download.

The new partition will not be visible in the Finder or Disk Utility on Mac OS X, but can be accessed by rebooting the Mac while holding the Option key.

Users are warned that the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant will erase all data on the external hard drive. Apple recommends either backing up data or creating a new partition on the drive before running the assistant.

Apple also notes that if the Recovery HD is created for a Mac that shipped with Lion, the external recovery drive can only be used with that system. However, if the the assistant is run on a Mac that upgraded to Lion from Mac OS X Snow Leopard, then the external recovery drives can be used on other systems that upgraded from Snow Leopard.

Max OS X Lion contains a number of advanced Recovery tools, in part because the update is deployed over the Mac App Store, rather than via optical disk as with previous OS X versions. The latest Macs, which ship with Lion pre-installed, include a new Internet Recovery feature that allows users to start a Mac directly from Apple’s servers.

Lion arrived on July 20 and was downloaded more than 1 million times in the first 24 hours. The upgrade contains more than 250 new features, including AirDrop, Mission Control and full-screen apps.

Apple plans to release a US$69 USB thumb drive loaded with Lion on its online store later this month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to officially end MobileMe sync for certain features in iCloud transition

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Date: Monday, August 8th, 2011, 03:52
Category: News, Software

Apple’s transition to the iCloud is coming and it won’t always be easy…

Per AppleInsider, while many of the features of MobileMe are simply being upgraded in the move to iCloud, Apple has previously noted that Gallery, iDisk and iWeb are on the chopping block. Now, the company has further made it clear that data sync features will also be canceled in its iCloud transition steps.

A key feature of .Mac and later MobileMe was the cloud integration of iSync, Apple’s Mac-centric tool for keeping data in sync among a variety of devices as part of its “digital hub strategy” first unveiled a decade ago. The data sync of .Mac and subsequently MobileMe moved the “truth database” from the user’s Mac into the cloud, making it possible to sync additional types of data between Macs.

MobileMe currently allows a user to sync a variety of settings between Macs, including the layout of Dashboard widgets, Dock items, passwords and credentials saved in the Keychain, email account information including Mail Rules, Signatures and Smart Mailboxes, and System Preferences.

However, all of these features will terminate as soon as a user migrates from MobileMe to the new iCloud, according to Apple’s transition pages at me.com/move.

Other MobileMe features that are not being carried forward into iCloud include Gallery media hosting, iDisk cloud storage and its integrated iWeb web hosting, will be continued for exiting MobileMe subscribers until June 30 of 2012, even after migrating other data to iCloud. These features are easy to maintain independently from iCloud, because there is no direct equivalent in iCloud.

Gallery media hosting is being dramatically reworked as a Photo Stream feature, a push updating feature that presents a user’s photos on the mobile devices, Mac photo albums, and on Apple TV rather than via a web site. Similarly, iDisk is making way for an entirely new type of document and data updating that focuses on a users’ own hardware rather than web-centric hosting.

The iCloud migration process is currently only open to developers, as it requires users to have iOS 5 beta 5 on their mobile devices, Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 with the iCloud for Os X Lion beta 6 package on their Macs, and the iCloud Control Panel for Windows beta 4 running on any PCs they use.

Apple notes that while Mail, Contacts and Calendars can be migrated from MobileMe to iCloud, shared calendars may be affected in the move, while Bookmarks will simply be imported from a client system. This indicates the reduction in data supported in the transition to iCloud may largely be explained by Apple’s hopes to keep the migration as simple and problem-free as possible, avoiding the issues users had in the move from .Mac to MobileMe.

Another reason for the shift in features between MobileMe and iCloud may be explained by the underlying security changes that differentiate the wide open iDisk from the carefully sandboxed design of iCloud’s Documents & Data.

Currently, data synced to MobileMe by Mac OS X Sync Services is copied into openly accessible folders. It is likely Apple hopes to completely secure all iCloud data to avoid any embarrassing lapses and contain sensitive data from potential malware attacks. Individual apps, such as Keychain Access, Launchpad and System Preferences, may be modified in the future to take advantage of iCloud’s key value data store, duplicating the old MobileMe features in a more secure fashion.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Russian police raid points to MacDefender scam

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Date: Friday, August 5th, 2011, 04:26
Category: News, Software

If you wanted to know who was responsible for all that MacDefender malware nonsense a few months ago, they might have something.

After a raid on Russian payment giant Chronopay’s offices, authorities have found evidence linking the company to the MacDefender fake anti-virus scam that targeted Mac users.

Per security expert Brian Krebs’ blog post, Russian cops have discovered “mountains of evidence” that Chronopay employees were providing technical and customer support for bogus anti-virus software, including MacDefender.

Police discovered “Website support credentials and the call records of 1-800 numbers used to operate the support centers,” Krebs wrote. Evidence was also found linking the company to Rx-Promotion, an online program that worked with spammers to promote sites selling counterfeit prescription drugs.

Chronopay has a 45 percent share of the Russian e-commerce market and had denied involvement with the scam in May after Krebs leveled accusations against the company. Co-founder Pavel Vrublevsky was arrested in June over allegations that he hired a hacker to attack his company’s rival.

“If allegations against ChronoPay are true then we should expect significant decrease of revenues received by cyber criminals in the appropriate segments of black market in the near future,” said Maxim Suhanov, a specialist at computer-forensics firm Group-IB.

A recent analysis of the fake anti-virus distribution networks found that scammers were using highly profitable pay-per-install programs to deploy the malware. PPI networks reportedly charge as little as US$750 for 10,000 installs.

“If you do the math, it’s almost like you’re printing money,” researcher Damon McCoy said. “You could pay the PPI networks US$75 to get 1,000 fake AV installs. And if you had an average conversion rate of one in 50, making between US$25-US$35 on each install, that works out to about 20 sales — or conservatively US$500 per one thousand installs.”

Users first discovered the MacDefender malicious software in late April. Using a method known as “SEO poisoning,” the malware automatically downloaded itself onto users’ computers and posed as an anti-virus software in an attempt to trick users into providing credit card information. Security firms categorized the threat as “low” because the users were still required to agree to install the software and provide a password.

However, in late May, a variant of the malicious software was discovered that installed itself without administrator approval. Apple issued a security update to Mac OS X meant to detect and disable the malware.

Security researchers have applauded Apple for its recent security efforts, especially in Mac OS X Lion, while also warning that the Mac platform’s increased visibility may open it up to increased threats from hackers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Forthcoming Microsoft Office 2011 update to add support for Mac OS X 10.7 feature base

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Date: Thursday, July 28th, 2011, 12:25
Category: News, Software

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The good news: Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) is out.

The bad news: Not all of Microsoft’s products support all of the Mac OS X 10.7 feature base.

Still, there may be hope on the horizon.

Per the Office for Mac blog, Microsoft has revealed that a forthcoming update for Office for Mac 2011 will add support for new features in Mac OS X 10.7, including versions, auto-save and full-screen.

Pat Fox of the Office for Mac team wrote on the company’s official blog this week that inquiries about those features have been the “most common question” for users of late. The Microsoft team is said to be “working hard with Apple” to enable the features.

“I know your next question will be ‘when?’, and unfortunately I can’t answer that — but it’s likely measured in months not days — just to set expectations,” the post reads.

The news came alongside the release of an update to Communicator for Mac, which addresses an issue related to crashing in Lion. The download is available through Microsoft AutoUpdate.

The company also reiterated that Office for Mac 2004 will not ever work on Lion, because the software was a PowerPC-based product, and Lion no longer includes Rosetta.

“Now would be a great time to upgrade to Office for Mac 2011 if you’re upgrading to Lion!” Fox said.

Office for Mac 2011, the industry’s most popular productivity suite, was released last October, delivering better compatibility with the Windows version of Office and corporate server products. It also features a revised user interface that’s similar to the “ribbon” interface used in Windows.

Those user interface elements are built on Cocoa, the development layer of Mac OS X. And the all-new version of Outlook that shipped with Office for Mac 2011 was also built from the ground-up with Cocoa for the Mac.

File versions, auto-save and full-screen are major features touted as part of the newly released Mac OS X 10.7 Lion operating system. With support for Lion, documents are automatically saved, and multiple versions of the file are stored allowing for Time Machine-like recovery of previous iterations of a file.

The new full-screen support in Lion will bring an iPad-like feel to the operating system, allowing users to concentrate on one task at a time and quickly swipe between full-screen applications with a multi-touch gesture.

Apple’s own competing productivity suite, iLife, was already updated for Lion earlier this month. iWork Update 6 adds support for full-screen mode, resume, auto-save and versions to Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.8 Supplemental Update, offers final fixes for Snow Leopard operating systems

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Date: Tuesday, July 26th, 2011, 04:19
Category: News, Software

snowleopard

Apple on Monday issued a recommended “Supplemental Update” for all Macs running Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8 that delivers a handful of final fixes for the previous-generation operating system.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has stated that the update, a 10.2 megabyte download, resolves issues with:

- Transferring personal data, settings, and compatible applications from a Mac running Mac OS X Snow Leopard to a new Mac running Mac OS X Lion.

- Certain network printers that pause print jobs immediately and fail to complete.

- System audio that stops working when using HDMI or optical audio out.

A similar 10.23 megabyte download was released for Snow Leopard Server.

For those Macs that haven’t yet moved to Snow Leopard version 10.6.8, Apple re-released its distributions of that point release with the supplemental fixes baked in:
- Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update v.1.1 (453MB)

- Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo v1.1 (1.09GB)

- Mac OS X Server v10.6.8 Update v1.1 (518MB)

Monday’s releases would appear to be the final updates Apple has planned for the Snow Leopard operating system, with the company having released Mac OS X Lion last Wednesday.

If you’ve tried the updates and noticed any changes, please let us know.