Apple releases Boot Camp 3.3 update

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

Late Wednesday, Apple released Boot Camp Software Update 3.3, an update which offered revised Windows support for Macs running Boot Camp 3.x, included as part of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Apple only notes that update supplies “critical bug fixes and hardware support.”

This update is targeted at users running Windows 7 in either the 32 or 64-bit version via Boot Camp 3.2 on Snow Leopard.

Macs running 10.7 Lion do not need the update, as that version (Boot Camp 4) can upgrade itself. Users running Boot Camp 3.2 can download the new package through Software Update or from Apple’s download page.

The update also offers specific support for the ATI-Radeon HD 5870 graphics card, Apple USB Ethernet Adapter, MacBook Air SuperDrive, and addresses critical bug fixes.

That update addressed users of Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 running BootCamp 3.1 on Snow Leopard.

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

Skype to purchase GroupMe, looks to add group texting, added conference call support to application

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Date: Monday, August 22nd, 2011, 08:59
Category: News, Software

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When in doubt, try to have your software become more functional.

Per Macworld, Internet calling company Skype said Sunday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire GroupMe, a startup that offers a free group text messaging and conference call service on mobile phones.

Skype did not disclose how much it is paying for GroupMe.

Set up in 2010, GroupMe offers its application on Apple’s iOS, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, and phones running the Android operating system. In July the company launched a version of its application for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. A short message service (SMS) version for users without smartphones is also available in the U.S.

GroupMe also introduced earlier this month a new version of its application that supports direct messaging to a person in the group, and “questions” that can be directed to a few people, members of a group, or all known users, or broadcast over Twitter and Facebook. GroupMe 3.0 also allows users to manage groups, send messages, share photos, and ask questions from a website, without downloading the application.

As part of the deal with Skype, GroupMe will remain in New York, with its team intact and working on its standalone application, GroupMe said in a blog post.

GroupMe will continue to be a separate application, a Skype spokeswoman said in an email on Monday. Skype and GroupMe will work together on integration areas, she added, but did not provide details.

For Skype, which already offers voice and video services, the acquisition of GroupMe will add the ability to offer text messaging for groups as well. Through the acquisition, Skype continues its drive to provide global multi-modal and multi-platform communications, the company said.

Microsoft said in May that it has agreed to buy Skype for US$8.5 billion. Once the merger is complete, Microsoft plans to add Skype support to its Xbox and Kinect gaming devices and Windows Phone mobile operating system, and connect Skype users with its own Lync, Outlook and Xbox Live communications services.

The deal is subject to customary closing conditions and potential regulatory approvals, and will likely be closed by the end of this month, the spokeswoman said. GroupMe will continue as a separate and independent company until the transaction is closed, she added.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Walmart to close online MP3 store later this month

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Date: Wednesday, August 10th, 2011, 04:11
Category: News, retail, Software

Retail giant Walmart revealed on Tuesday that it will close its MP3 store later this month, even as Apple’s iTunes continues to dominate the digital music industry.

The company declined to provide further details regarding the move, saying only that it was a “business decision,” as noted by the Associated Press. Walmart will close the store on August 29, though customers who have already purchased music through the site will still be able to access their music there.

Walmart opened its MP3 store in 2003 in direct competition with Apple’s iTunes. The digital storefront failed to gain much traction, however, with music sales on iTunes eventually passing Walmart’s combined physical and digital sales in 2008. Apple held 26.7% of all music sales by 2009, more than double Walmart’s 12.54% share.

As of late last year, Apple continued to dominate the digital music market with a 66% share, while second-place Amazon had climbed to 13.3%. Walmart’s share stood at less than 1% at the time.

NPD analyst Marshall Cohen characterized the retail industry as being in flux, noting that Walmart may be better off focusing on what it does best, rather than continuing to deliver a sub-par experience to consumers.

“It is very easy to become antiquated very quickly in the entertainment industry,” he said. “If you are losing ground, and they probably were losing ground more rapidly year after year, it’s probably better to regroup and retool.”

Walmart’s failure with its digital music store has been partially attributed to its choice of format. The company bet on Windows Media Audio, but eventually found itself competing with Microsoft’s own Zune Marketplace while being blocked from Apple’s iPod.

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.

Microsoft to open 75 retail locations over next 2-3 years

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Date: Wednesday, July 13th, 2011, 13:16
Category: News, Retail Store

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If you can’t beat ‘em, follow their lead and eventually try to take them down.

Per Neowin, Microsoft plans to massively expand its retail presence to take in the U.S. in the next 2 to 3 years, with an aggressive goal of 75 new stores to take on Apple’s own retail operations.

The plans are said to be part of the company’s effort to expand the “Microsoft story,” an initial map showing clusters of stores in California, Texas, Florida and the Northeast.

Microsoft gave a presentation at its Worldwide Partner Conference on Wednesday. Currently, the Redmond, Wash., software giant has a total of 11 stores across America, mostly in California, with a new one that just opened in Los Angeles.

“Also shown off during this presentation was that an Apple retailer in Latin America was showing off Apple hardware running Windows 7,” the report said. “Microsoft used this to poke fun that Apple makes fantastic hardware but their OS is still behind Windows 7.”

Microsoft first announced in early 2009 that the company planned to open new retail stores, in an approach that mimics Apple’s own wildly successful retail operations. The company pushed hard with viral marketing buzz, and even poached employees from Apple’s retail operations with the promise of pay raises and compensation for moving expenses.

In a recent instance, Microsoft was able to court an Apple retail market manager who had recently left the company. That person said they were offered a pay raise and were then allegedly asked to contact employees they had previously worked with at Apple in an effort to recruit them.

Little has been said of Microsoft’s retail operations since their debut in 2009, but Wednesday’s latest development indicates that the company has high hopes for the future of its brick-and-mortar ventures. The news comes as it was revealed that Apple single-handedly accounted for one fifth of all sales growth by publicly traded American retailers during the first three months of 2011.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

SpamSieve updated to 2.8.6

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, July 7th, 2011, 02:26
Category: News, Software

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Michael Tsai’s must-have shareware program, SpamSieve, has just been updated to version 2.8.6. The new version, an 8.3 megabyte download, makes the following fixes and improvements:

- Made various changes to improve SpamSieve’s filtering accuracy.

- Improved compatibility with Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion).

- Added support for Postbox 2.5.

- Updated the Setting Up MailMate instructions for the new preferences in MailMate 1.1.2.

- Updated the Setting Up Outlook instructions for Microsoft Office 2011 Service Pack 1.

- Updated the Setting Up Postbox instructions to ensure that messages that you train as spam are moved to the junk mailbox or trash.

- Worked around a rare OS/hardware condition that could prevent SpamSieve from launching.

- The Apple Mail plug-in is better at reporting errors when it’s unable to fully load itself.

- Made various other clarifications to the manual.

- Adjusted the help page titles to fit better in the menu and search results.

SpamSieve is available for a US$30 registration fee and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to run. The new version can either be downloaded directly from the web site or brought up to the current version via the program’s built-in update feature.

Microsoft releases 14.1.2 update for Office 2011, 12.3.0 update for Office 2008

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Date: Wednesday, June 15th, 2011, 03:06
Category: News, Software

On Monday afternoon, Microsoft released version 14.1.2 of its popular Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac suite. The update, a 109 megabyte download, can also be located, snagged and installed via the Microsoft AutoUpdate program, offers the following fixes and changes:

- This update fixes critical issues and also helps to improve security. It includes fixes for vulnerabilities that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer’s memory with malicious code.

In an updated security bulletin, the company admitted that a “specially crafted” Excel file could allow unwanted access, thus leading to the updates.

Microsoft Office 2011 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and is available for US$149.99 and up depending on the suite purchased.

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

In other news, Microsoft also released version 12.3.0 of its Office 2008 suite for Mac. The update, a 333 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Improves stability. In addition, it includes fixes for vulnerabilities that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer’s memory with malicious code.

Microsoft Office 2008 12.3.0 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run and
Microsoft Office 2008 with Service Pack 1. The update can, of course, be located and installed with the Microsoft AutoUpdate tool.

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

AT&T to argue need for T-Mobile resources, spectrum, in merger deal

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Date: Friday, June 10th, 2011, 06:13
Category: iPhone, News, wireless

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You may not think too highly of wireless carrier AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA, but apparently it’s necessary for the company to move forward.

This was the statement from company officials on Thursday, who said the deal would allow AT&T to significantly improve its mobile network capacity and give better service to its customers.

Critics of the deal, including competitor Sprint Nextel, are incorrect in asserting that AT&T is sitting on mobile spectrum, said Bob Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs in a Macworld article. The proposed US$39 billion deal, announced in March, is a “very clean and quick way to deal with some of the spectrum issues that are facing this country and this company in particular,” he said during a press briefing.

The deal is necessary because AT&T is facing a spectrum shortage as mobile broadband use continues to skyrocket, the company has argued. While critics have suggested AT&T is hoarding spectrum, the company is using its 700MHz spectrum, acquired in 2008 auctions, and its AWS (advanced wireless services) spectrum to roll out 4G LTE (long-term evolution) service, Quinn said.

Sprint has questioned why AT&T, with the largest spectrum holdings of any U.S. carrier, needs T-Mobile. “AT&T has repeatedly reassured investors that it has the spectrum and network capacity it needs to meet the growing demand for data services,” Sprint said in a May 31 filing at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. “If AT&T has capacity constraints, they are the result of its failure to upgrade and invest in its network. AT&T has lagged significantly in network investment.”

Dozens of groups have voiced opposition to the merger between the second-largest mobile carrier in the U.S. and the fourth-largest. The merger would reduce competition in the mobile market and likely drive up prices, said critics including Public Knowledge, the Rural Telecommunications Group and the NoChokePoints Coalition, a coalition of telecom customers, consumer groups and small carriers concerned with mobile backhaul rates.

The merged company would be “contrary to the express policies of Congress and the Commission to rely on competition rather than regulation to protect consumers and spur deployment of new services,” Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition wrote in a May 31 filing to the FCC.

The combined company would be the largest mobile provider in the U.S. and would be able to assert control over mobile handsets, applications, equipment and protocol development, Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition said in their filing.

But AT&T, in a response filing to be sent to the FCC on Friday, will argue the merger will be good for mobile customers. By combining networks, AT&T will be able to increase its mobile capacity by 60% in New York City in the short term, and by more than 80% in the long term, Quinn said.

Los Angeles and San Diego would both see short-term spectrum gains of more than 45%, Quinn said.

The merger would give AT&T more spectrum and cell tower coverage, giving customers better mobile data service, he said. AT&T has tried other ways to improve capacity, including distributed antenna systems and Wi-Fi hotspots, Quinn said.

“We are not stupid,” he said. “We’ve been in the wireless business for a long time. We’ve tried all of these as short-term methods … to fix and provide for more capacity. While they give you some short-term benefit, they’re not long-term benefits to address the kind of bandwidth demands that we’re seeing.”

AT&T, in its FCC filing, will also note support for the merger from dozens of groups, including 15 state governors, 10 labor unions, nine venture capital firms and several tech firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Oracle and Yahoo, Quinn said.

Many groups supporting the merger see the potential for AT&T to bring mobile broadband to more corners of the nation, he said. AT&T has said it plans to cover 97% of the U.S. population with 4G service if the merger is approved by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice. Right now, the company plans to cover 80% of the population with 4G service.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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.

Skype posts workaround instructions for connection issues found on Mac OS X, Windows (updated)

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 05:55
Category: News, Software

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Er, if Microsoft paid US$8.5 billion for something, I suppose they’d like it to work on all the platforms it services…

Per Macworld, Skype has published workaround instructions for correcting an issue that prevented many Mac users from successfully logging into the service. The company also published a set on instructions focused on resolving connections on the Windows operating systems.

Early Thursday morning, some Skype users found that they couldn’t log in or stay connected. Not all users were affected, however: Folks using Skype on iOS and Android devices were fine, as were some people using different desktop editions of the client.

The issue prevented some callers on Mac OS X and various incarnations of Windows from connecting. According to Skype, Mac users battling connection issues can repair the problem by following these steps:

- Quit Skype.

- Navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/Skype/ (~ refers to your Home directory).

- Locate the file shared.xml, and delete it.

- Launch Skype again.

Upon relaunch, Skype will generate a new version of the XML file. There’s no word yet on what caused the issue, or why deleting the XML file will correct it.

If you’ve seen this issue or tried this fix on your end, please let us know.