VLC 1.1.10 update released

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Date: Monday, June 6th, 2011, 05:21
Category: News, Software

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Video Lan Client, the nigh-indispensable open source media player for multiple audio and video formats (MPEG, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Divx, ogg, etc.), was updated to version 1.1.10. The new version, a 43.9 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Security update regarding an integer overflow in xspf demuxer.

- Rewrite of the pulseaudio audio output module.

- Update of libmodplug for security reasons in Windows and Mac versions.

- Major updates in most language translations.

- Removal of the font-cache re-building on the freetype module on Windows.

- Numerous updates and fixes on the interface and look of VLC for Mac OS X.

- Many miscellaneous fixes in decoders, demuxers and subtitles.

- 3rd party libraries updates.

VLC 1.1.10 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 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.

Rumor: iCloud service to be initially free for certain customers, then available for $25/year

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:49
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

You can have it for free…for a while.

Per the Los Angeles Times, music industry insiders allege that Apple’s forthcoming iCloud service will have an initial free period for iTunes Music Store customers, but the company plans to eventually charge a US$25 a year subscription fee.

The newspaper confirmed on Thursday earlier reports that Apple had finalized contracts with the last of the major music labels, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

“The service initially will be offered for a free period to people who buy music from Apple’s iTunes digital download store,” the report read. “The company plans to eventually charge a subscription fee, about US$25 a year, for the service.”

It is unclear, though, whether the report refers to the cost of the whole iCloud service or just the streaming music feature. By comparison, MobileMe, Apple’s current online storage and sharing solution, costs US$99 a year.

In addition to charging a subscription fee, “Apple would also sell advertising around its iCloud service,” the report noted, without providing details on why Apple would both charge for the service and sell advertising. Sources also indicated that Apple “envisions the service to be used for movies, TV shows and other digital content sold through iTunes.”

Sources stated on Wednesday that Apple could offer general iCloud features free to Mac users who make the upgrade to Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”), though a music streaming service would likely come with a price tag. Music industry executives have previously suggested that Apple’s cloud-based music service could be free at first, but would eventually cost money.

According to sources knowledgeable with the terms of Apple’s agreements with the music labels claim 70% of the revenue from iCloud’s music service will go to the labels and 12% will go to the publishers, leaving Apple with 18%, according to Thursday’s report.

However, those numbers contradict a report from CNet earlier on Thursday that alleged Apple would keep 30% of revenue and share 58% with the labels and 12% with publishers. That report also cited sources claiming Apple’s streaming music service won’t be available on Monday “but will be offered soon,” though it will reportedly store only music purchased from the iTunes.

Apple is set to unveil the service next Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote in San Francisco, alongside a preview of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and the introduction of iOS 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Parallels Desktop 6.0.12090.660720 released

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 09:24
Category: News, Software

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Parallels Desktop, the popular virtualization application that allows users to run the Windows and Linux operating systems simultaneously alongside Mac OS X, reached version 6.0.12090.660720 on Thursday. The new version, available here, sports the following major fixes and changes:

- Adds support for Ubuntu 11.04 virtual machines.

- Improves mapping of Mac OS X system shortcuts to their equivalents in guest operating systems.

- Improves sharing clipboard between Windows and Mac OS X.

- Post about your exploring Windows on the Mac to Twitter and Facebook right from Parallels Desktop.

- Migrate multiple user accounts from a PC to your Mac using Parallels Transporter.

- Many issues have been fixed.

Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac retails for US$79.99 and requires Mac OS X 10.5.2 later to install and run.

Microsoft looking to ARM processors, HTML5 for Windows 8 mobile strategy

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 04:38
Category: News, Software

There may be something to this whole HTML5 thing…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft has provided a look at how it plans to bring Windows to more mobile devices in the future, leveraging ARM processors and using HTML5 as the basis of a new app platform.

As demonstrated at the D9 conference, Windows 8 will deliver a touch-centric new interface for apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that runs on top of the existing, conventional Windows platform.

The company showed off a new Start screen patterned after the tiled home page of Windows Phone 7. The company says the new tiled interface “replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.”

Microsoft’s mobile Windows CE core operating system differs dramatically from its desktop Windows operating system, but the two will grow closer together in appearance as Windows 8 adopts a similar, top level interface to Windows Phone 7 and the Zune.

In contrast, Apple’s desktop Mac OS X and mobile iOS share the same core operating system and use optimized versions of the company’s proprietary Cocoa development platform to deliver native apps, but differ in the interface they present, with Mac OS X retaining a mouse-based windowing environment while iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad present a completely rethought, touch-based interface.

Microsoft’s own efforts to build a cohesive development environment for both the Windows CE-based Windows Mobile 6 and its desktop Windows XP/Vista/7 platform initially revolved around the company’s .Net APIs before shifting Windows Phone 7 to use Microsoft’s Adobe Flash-like Silverlight as its mobile app platform.

Now, Microsoft is announcing a new shift that leverages the interest in HTML5 to deliver “web-connected and web-powered” apps (similar to HP’s webOS platform acquired from Palm) that will run alongside legacy Windows apps on the forthcoming Windows 8. Microsoft says this approach “is designed and optimized for touch,” although the company also says “it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard.”

Ironically, the new HTML5 layer of Windows 8 works like the Dashboard layer of Mac OS X, although rather than only supplying quick assess to simple widgets, the new “Windows 8 apps” are intended to supply a layer of highly animated, full screen, touch-based apps capable of competing with native apps running on Apple’s iPad.

Like Apple’s iOS, Windows 8 is intended to be deployed on highly mobile devices such as ARM-based tablets in addition to the conventional PCs Windows has powered in the past. Unlike Apple’s iOS, which became instantly popular on the iPhone before expanding to the iPod touch and iPad, Microsoft’s tile-based Zune interface hasn’t yet found a significant, sustainable audience. After the Zune failed, Microsoft KIN and Windows Phone 7 have both found little interest among consumers.

Microsoft’s radical experimentation with Windows Vista in 2007 caused a negative backlash from Windows PC users, which has only settled down with the more conservative release of Windows 7. Sales of PCs have yet to rebound to levels prior to the release of Vista, and new mobile devices, in particular Apple’s iPad, have siphoned off a significant amount of demand among generic PCs.

Microsoft does have considerable clout among its developers and hardware makers however, and describes the new Windows 8 as its biggest risk yet, hoping the new release, due sometime over the next couple years, will bring it back into relevance among new generations of consumers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VMWare releases Fusion 3.1.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 04:41
Category: News, Software

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Late Friday, virtualization softare maker VMWare released version 3.1.3 of its Fusion software for the Mac.

Similar to other virtualization software packages, VMWare allows users to run alternate operating systems such as Windows and Linux distributions on Intel-based Macs at native speeds. Other features, such as Unity, allow users to run and minimize Windows applications from the Mac OS X Dock.

The new version, a 150 megabyte download via MacUpdate, can be found here, offers the following new features and fixes:

- Microsoft Windows 7 Service Pack 1: Support for Windows 7 SP1 32-bit & 64-bit.

- Ubuntu: Support for Ubuntu 10.10 and 11.04 32-bit & 64-bit.

- Microsoft Office: Fixed a problem opening attachments in Outlook 2010.

- Video: Updated Windows WDDM driver with stability improvements.

- File access: Improved reliability accessing shared files on the Mac.

- Internet: Fixed slow first page loading in Internet Explorer 8.

- USB: Improved handling of smartphones including the Nokia N8.

Fusion 3.1.3 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and retails for US$79.99.

Apple releases Security Update 2011-003, removes Mac Defender malware

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 03:15
Category: News, security, Software

Beating the expected arrival date (the Mac OS X 10.6.8 update had been anticipated to take care of this), Apple has released Security Update 2011-003, which adds malware detection and removal for the “MAC Defender” scam and delivers a daily update mechanism for updating subsequent malware definitions.

Per AppleInsider, the 2.3 megabyte security update for Mac OS X 10.6.7 is available as a direct download or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature. Installing the update does not require a system reboot.

The update adds malware discovery and removal for MAC Defender and all of its known variants, using the simple malware file quarantine feature that was first added to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

The Mac OS X file quarantine feature examines external files downloaded within Mail, iChat, Safari or other file quarantine-aware applications, warning users of downloads that match the definition of malware.

In addition to adding a definition for the latest “MAC Defender” trojan horse to warn users that the download should be deleted, the new security update adds a daily malware definitions check to make subsequent malware attempts even easier for Apple to protect it users from.

Users can opt out of the daily malware definitions update check by unchecking the new “Automatically update safe downloads list” checkbox in Security Preferences.

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

Apple announces iCloud name, Steve Jobs keynote, other presentations for WWDC

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Date: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011, 05:43
Category: News

Apple announced on Tuesday that company CEO Steve Jobs will return to the stage, along with a team of company executives, to present Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and iOS 5 as well as introduce its new iCloud service.

Per AppleInsider, The Worldwide Developers Conference keynote will begin Monday, June 6 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. Apple confirmed that it will show off the now-officially-named iCloud, dubbed “Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering.” No additional details were given.

Also set to be revealed by Jobs and Apple executives are Mac OS X 10.7, (a.k.a., “Lion”), the eighth major release of Mac OS X, and iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

The conference will feature more than 100 technical sessions presented by Apple engineers. Mac developers will see and learn how to develop world-class Mac OS X Lion applications using its latest technologies and capabilities. Mobile developers will be able to explore the latest innovations and capabilities of iOS and learn how to greatly enhance the functionality, performance and design of their apps. All developers can bring their code to the labs and work with Apple engineers.

Though Tuesday marks the first official confirmation of the iCloud service, its existence was hardly a secret. The company acquired the iCloud.com domain name for an estimated US$4.5 million in April.

The iCloud service is expected to replace the existing MobileMe cloud service, which offers e-mail and syncing of contacts and calendars.

A major new component of iCloud is expected to be a music streaming service that will allow users to access their music library from any Internet-connected device, like an iPhone, without the need to save music files locally on the device. It is expected that the product will scan users’ iTunes libraries and then mirror them with Apple’s own high-quality audio files stored in the cloud.

The picture for Lion is slightly more clear, as Apple first showed off the Mac software update last October and preview releases of the software have been provided to developers. Lion will bring iOS features “back to the Mac,” including home screens, tighter integration with the Mac App Store, new multi-touch gestures, and full-screen applications that auto-save and auto-resume.

As for iOS 5, both it and Mac OS X Lion are rumored to have deep connectivity with the new iCloud service. Numerous reports have claimed that iOS 5 will offer improved voice commands, but the software is not expected to be unveiled alongside new iPhone hardware. Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone is expected to show up sometime later this year, and not at WWDC.

A more recent iOS 5 rumor from last week suggested that Apple also plans to add widgets to its mobile operating system. It was also said that Apple plans to revamp its notification system, a part of the operating system that has been heavily criticized when compared to competing platforms like Google Android and HP’s Palm webOS.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may incorporate widgets, new mapping technology into iOS 5

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Date: Monday, May 30th, 2011, 04:29
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The widgets: they can be useful.

And for that reason they may find themselves a part of iOS 5.

Per TechCrunch, Apple is looking to incorporate Widgets (small programs in floating windows that provide quick access to information or functions, such as weather, or website news feeds) into iOS 5. Google Android already has widgets, as do other smartphone platforms. There has been criticism from techies that widgets have been omitted from the iPhone and iPad platform to this point.

It’s unclear how widgets would be implemented on Apple mobile devices. Other moves Apple has been making may offer some clues.

Apple is merging the look and feel of its desktop and mobile operating systems. Last year, it said it was taking many iOS developments “back to the Mac”, for example. The next release of OS X — codenamed Lion — mirrors many iOS features. That isn’t surprising since iOS already borrows many features from Apple’s desktop operating system Mac OS X, such as the ever-present Dock at the bottom of the screen, and Spotlight search.

The widget system is called Dashboard within Mac OS X, and that is perhaps the name we will see when widgets are rolled out for iPhones and iPads. The widget interface for the mobile devices also may have a separate ‘space’ that users can swipe to, like what is being rolled out with the upcoming release of Mac OS X.

One suggestion is that it will replace the existing search screen, which is uncovered by swiping left to right from the first home screen.

As for what the new notification system might look like, that’s harder to guess. On Apple desktops, many Mac users rely on third-party add-ons like Growl.

Earlier this year, Apple was rumored to have purchased a small company that produces a notification application for the iPhone.

Apple has also snapped up mapping technology companies recently, though current rumors cite that iOS 5 will stick with a Google Maps backend. Google Maps data underpins Apple applications and those of third-parties that use mapping services. Also circulating within the rumor mill is the notion that although Apple doesn’t have its own mapping technology in place, there might be a new front-end application providing turn-by-turn navigation, so the iPhone can be used within vehicles for navigation without the need to buy a third-party application.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available and please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple releases third Mac OS X 10.6.8 build to developer community

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Date: Monday, May 30th, 2011, 03:21
Category: News, Software

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If you’re hankering for the Mac OS X 10.6.8 update, it’s coming.

On Friday, Apple seeded the third build of Mac OS X 10.6.8 to developers, with no known issues.

Per AppleInsider, the 1GB download is labeled 10K531. MacStories reports that focus areas for the beta software remain unchanged: Airport, Graphics Drivers, Mac App Store, Networking, QuickTime and VPN.

Thus far, Apple has maintained a weekly release schedule with developer builds of Mac OS X. The first release came two weeks ago, and the second build arrived last week.

It is as yet unclear whether Mac OS X 10.6.8 contains a fix that will find and remove the MAC Defender malware, though Apple may likely release the fix as a standalone security update. The company promised earlier this week to release an update to Mac OS X that would resolve an issue with phony antivirus software that automatically downloads as a phishing scam looking for users’ credit card numbers.

The malicious software first appeared in early May, though one noted security expert has downplayed the threat as being “simply a trick website” rather than a viral attack.

Apple released the latest update to Mac OS X Snow Leopard in March with changes designed to improve the reliability of Back to My Mac, resolve issues when transferring files to SMB Windows Files Sharing servers, and address Mac App Store bugs. Mac OS X 10.6.7 also contained fixes for Thunderbolt MacBook Pros to address “minor FaceTime performance issues” and improve “graphics stability and external display compatibility.”

This summer, Apple will launch the next major upgrade to its flagship operating system in the form of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Mac OS X Lion contains numerous new features and changes, many of which are drawn from Apple’s experience with iOS.

If you’ve gotten a chance to play with the new build and have any feedback, please let us know.

Skype updated to 5.1.0.968, resolves connection issue

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 12:09
Category: News, Software

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On Monday, version 5.1.0.968 of Skype went public. The new version, a 20.2 megabyte download, resolves an issue in which users had trouble connecting to the Skype network.

Skype 5.1.0.968 requires 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, please let us know.