Apple releases OS X 10.8.1 update

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Date: Thursday, August 23rd, 2012, 07:29
Category: News, Software

The bug fixes had to come sometime.

On Thursday, Apple released version 10.8.1 of its OS X Mountain Lion operating system. The new version, a 24.2 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Resolve an issue that may cause Migration Assistant to unexpectedly quit.

- Improve compatibility when connecting to a Microsoft Exchange server in Mail.

- Address an issue playing audio through a Thunderbolt display.

- Resolve an issue that could prevent iMessages from being sent.

- Address an issue that could cause the system to become unresponsive when using Pinyin input.

- Resolve an issue when connecting to SMB servers with long names.

- Address a issue that may prevent Safari from launching when using a Proxy Automatic Configuration (PAC) file.

- Improve 802.1X authentication with Active Directory credentials.

OS X 10.8.1 requires an Intel-based Mac running OS X 10.8 to install and run, the update itself being attainable by using OS X’s Software Update feature.

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

Motion Picture Experts Group releases H.265 draft standard, offers Web-based video at twice the quality, half the data size

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Date: Thursday, August 16th, 2012, 08:10
Category: News, Software

If you think Web-based video is impressive now, wait a bit.

Per AppleInsider, the Motion Pictures Expert Group has issued a new video standards draft that promises to deliver twice the video quality at the same size, or alternatively, identical video quality at half the data rate as today’s MPEG-4 H.264 standard.

The new H.265 draft specifically addresses mobile devices and networks overloaded with video. Products using the new H.265 video compression standard could begin to launch as early as 2013.

Apple is likely to quickly adopt support for the new H.265 specification, just as it has rapidly rolled out support for new features of H.264, including support for expanded H.264 profiles in the new third generation Apple TV and the new iPad.

MPEG, formed by the International Standards Organization in 1988, first developed a joint video compression format in 1993 intended for Video CD. Its video codec, H.261, was used to deliver multimedia video clips. The audio portion of that standard, MPEG-1 Audio Layer III (also known as MP3) revolutionized the portability of music by allowing users to rip CDs to files that could be compressed enough to be used in mobile devices with limited storage.

Apple backed MP3 with the iPod in 2001 at a time when Microsoft and Sony were working to entrench their own proprietary standards with strong DRM (Windows Media and ATRAC, respectively).

MPEG released the MPEG-2 standard in 1994, which enabled high quality DVD and efficient digital TV transmissions. MPEG-2 incorporated the initial H.261 video compression standard as well as a more efficient H.262 and, later, the H.263 ASP codec implemented by DivX and Xvid, popular formats used for video file sharing. Work on an MPEG-3 standard aimed at HDTV was abandoned and folded into the MPEG-2 portfolio.

MPEG-4, initiated in 1998 and released in 2003, merged the television and video industry’s expertise with work pioneered by Apple’s QuickTime on desktop computers, resulting in a video format that incorporated Apple’s QuickTime container format. This helped to simplify video editing tasks, even as Apple began adopting advanced bidirectional compression technologies in QuickTime that had been contributed to the MPEG-4 pool by the rest of the industry.

MPEG-4 carried forward H.263, which Apple hadn’t ever widely used, while also introducing H.264, which enabled a doubling of video quality at the same size as the earlier H.263 codec.

Before MPEG-4, Apple had previously used proprietary video codecs from Sorenson in QuickTime, but rapidly began adopting MPEG standards as the pooled efforts of every major company with video expertise began to quickly outpace the development of alternatives.

Apple helped to popularize MPEG-4′s AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) format as a more efficient replacement for MP3 in iTunes, then brought MPEG-4′s H.264 video compression into the desktop computing mainstream as the default video codec in QuickTime. It is now essentially the only video standard supported by the iPhone and other iOS devices, and H.264 is deeply integrated into the architecture of QuickTime.

While MPEG itself usually refers to its MPEG-4 audio and video standards as AAC and AVC, Steve Jobs introduced the new video standard to the world as H.264, and Apple continued to refer to it by its ITU numerical designation. MPEG is now referring to its newest H.265 standard as “HEVC” (High Efficiency Video Coding).

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft: No plans for Mac version of Office 2013

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Date: Thursday, July 19th, 2012, 06:20
Category: News, Software

Sometimes it’s just natural to want to take the ball and run off with it.

Per Cult of Mac, when Microsoft recently announced an Office for Mac 2011 update was in the works it also confirmed that OS X users would not be able to take advantage of the newer Office 2013 as the software suite is reserved for Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines only.

Microsoft failed to mention whether a Mac version of Office 2013 was in the works when the productivity software reached Customer Preview phase on Monday, though during Wednesday’s Office for Mac 2011 update announcement the company stated that it had no such plans.

“We haven’t announced the next release of Office for Mac,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

According to the publication, Office 2013 will feature support for a new server-based version of Office which is said to be highly integrated with its SkyDrive cloud system. Microsoft released the Service Pack 2 update to Office for Mac 2011 in April to fix bugs affecting Outlook.

While Mac owners won’t be able to enjoy the newly-implemented cloud capabilites of Office 2013, the Office for Mac 2011 update will bring access to Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Office 365 where users are able to save documents off-site.

The Office for Mac 2011 update is expected to ship early next year alongside the Windows-only Office 2013.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft to release Windows 8 on October 26th

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Date: Thursday, July 19th, 2012, 05:05
Category: News, Software

You can pick up Windows 8, then begin working on a Halloween costume this year.

Per Electronista, it was revealed during Microsot’s annual sales meeting that the company’s next-generation operating system will hit shelves on Oct. 26 meaning new hardware will shortly follow including the Surface tablet.

Microsoft’s Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky made good on a promise from Windows Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller who said Windows 8 would see release sometime in October. A subsequent post on the company’s dedicated Windows blog detailed the meeting, describing upgrade tiers and purchasing options.

Windows 8 will debut in 231 markets covering 109 languages on launch day and existing users of the ubiquitous OS can upgrade to the revamped software online for US$40. According to Microsoft’s website, all PCs running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 qualify for the US$39.99 upgrade with the option to add on Windows Media Center for free though the operating system’s “add features” option.

Wednesday’s announcement also portends the imminent release of tablets, PCs and Ultrabooks running the one-OS-for-all software when Microsoft announced as much during the Surface unveiling in June.

Microsoft’s Surface will likely be one of the first Windows 8 examples on offer when the OS debuts as the device marks the Redmond-based company’s first foray into the tablet hardware market. Initially, a stripped-down ARM-based iteration called Surface for Windows RT will roll out before a more full-featured Intel version dubbed Surface for Windows 8 Pro hits stores later this year.

It is unclear what features are missing from Windows RT but Microsoft is claiming the new OS is meant to reflect a “PC+” era where all devices run identical operating systems. This is counter to Apple’s “post-PC” era which describes multiple devices running software tailor-made for specific tasks, an example being OS X for laptops and iOS for iDevices. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner claimed that the iPhone maker’s view future computing is incorrect and instead believes in a “ond-OS-fits-all” approach to OS coding. Interestingly it appears that Windows RT skews toward the “post-PC” model.

Apple is looking to release its own next-generation operating system with OS X 10.8 later in July, and while no specific date has been set a launch should be imminent as the company seeded the Mountain Lion gold master last week.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release 7.85-inch iPad this fall at sub-$499 price point

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Date: Monday, July 16th, 2012, 06:02
Category: iPad, Rumor

A rumor’s got to be true on some levels…

Per the New York Times, previous rumors have been confirmed saying consumers can expect the as-yet-unannounced iPad to boast a 7.85-inch form factor and cost “significantly less than the latest US$499 iPad” when it debuts later this year.

Previous reports from The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg both claimed Apple was working on the so-called “iPad mini” and said the new device is expected to launch before year’s end.

Most recently, images of purported iPad mini “engineering samples” were leaked and included side-by-side comparisons with the current third-generation iPad. The samples showed a rearranged speaker assembly flanking a diminutive 19-pin dock connector seen before on alleged next-generation iPhone parts.

According to analysts and executives in the technology industry, the smaller iPad is part of an Apple strategy to garner and retain a larger marketshare by introducing a variety of tablet sizes. The publication notes the Cupertino-based company used a similar model with the iPod line which now ranges from the iPod shuffle to the iPod classic.

If and when the iPad mini is announced, it will be facing stiff competition from Google’s recently-announced US$199 Nexus 7 Android tablet as well as expected offerings from Amazon. The online sales giant is rumored to be readying three distinct 7-inch Kindle Fire models for fall as well as an 8.9-inch version that may be released in late 2012 or early 2013. Sunday’s Times report cites sources who claim the larger-screened Fire is being developed as a competitor to Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad.

Yet another new entrant into the tablet arena is Microsoft’s Surface, a Windows 8-powered device set to be the centerpiece to the company’s “PC+” environment despite CEO Steve Ballmer’s claim that the unit is merely a “design point.” Rather than creating hardware and software separately for different tasks, as does Apple with the iPad and iOS, Microsoft believes that a one-OS-fits-all solution is the future of computing. The ARM architecture-based Surface for Windows RT is expected to debut alongside Windows 8 in October.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Java malware goes live, begins affecting, Mac OS X, Windows, Linux systems

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Date: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012, 10:47
Category: News, security, Software

On the plus side, this keeps a security department employed.

Per F-Secure, a new form of browser-based cross-platform malware can give hackers remote access to computers running Apple’s OS X, Microsoft’s Windows, and even Linux.

The multi-platform backdoor malware was disclosed this week by security firm F-Secure. It was originally discovered on a Colombian Transport website, and relies on social engineering to trick users into running a Java Archive file, meaning it is not likely to be a major threat.

However, its cross-platform design is unique. If users grant permission to the Java Archive, the malware will secretly determine whether the user is running a Mac, a Windows PC, or a Linux machine. When running on a Mac, the malware will remotely connect to an IP address through port 8080 to obtain additional code to execute.

Anti-virus maker Sophos said on Wednesday that the new malware has the potential to affect a higher number of people because of its multi-platform strategy. Typically, malware and viruses target Windows PCs, as they represent the overwhelming majority of computers.

“Once it has found out which operating system you are running, the Java class file will download the appropriate flavor of malware, with the intention of opening a backdoor that will give hackers remote access to your computer,” explained Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with Sophos.

On a Mac, the new malware is defined as “Backdoor:OSX/GetShell.A. According to F-Secure, it is a PowerPC binary, which means users running a modern, Intel-based Mac must also have Rosetta installed.

While rare, cross-platform malware attacks are not unheard of. In 2010, a Trojan known as “trojan.osx.boonana.a” was a Java-based exploit that affected both Macs running OS X, as well as Windows PCs.

As Apple’s Mac platform has grown in popularity and outpaced the PC market as a whole, the OS X platform has become a bigger target for hackers. Last month, Apple opted to tone down promotional language on its website that once claimed the Mac “doesn’t get PC viruses.” Apple’s website now says that OS X is “built to be safe.”

That change was made just a few months after more than 600,000 Macs were estimated to have been infected by a trojan horse named “Flashback.” More than half of the Macs believed to be infected by the botnet were found in the U.S. alone before Apple aggressively released a series of software updates to quash the malware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft releases Office 2011 14.2.3

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Date: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012, 06:56
Category: News, Software

On Tuesday, Microsoft released its Microsoft Office 2011 14.2.3 update. The update, a 110 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

- This update fixes an issue that causes Outlook not to display details for certain contacts when Lync or Communicator is running.

- This update fixes a problem that occurs when users reply to or forward Exchange email messages that were downloaded from Exchange 2007 servers. When this problem occurs, the Date field is missing from the body of the message.

- To correct email messages that have already been cached, right-click the folder that contains the email messages, select Folder Properties, and then then select Empty under Empty Cache. Or, you can delete the Exchange account and then add it again to resynchronize the account.

- This update fixes an issue where users may have duplication of mail when they use Gmail and connect with Outlook by using IMAP. This update fixes an issue where some users who have IMAP accounts intermittently receive a “Too many simultaneous connections” error. A setting is now available to control the polling interval that Outlook uses with IMAP servers.

- To adjust this setting, select Tools, select Accounts, and then select Advanced for the IMAP account. The setting defaults to synchronize all lMAP folders every two minutes.

- This update fixes a connectivity issue that occurs when Outlook connects through a proxy server that uses NTLM based authentication. Improvements to Word for Mac 2011
This update improves Full Screen View integration with Word.

Microsoft Office 2011 14.2.3 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and for the Service Pack 1 updater to have been previously installed.

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

Microsoft announces October release date for Windows 8

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Date: Monday, July 9th, 2012, 13:11
Category: News, Software

You’ve been waiting for the new Windows for a while.

And it’s due in October.

Per Macworld, Microsoft revealed Monday that Windows 8 will be in the hands of its OEMs during the first week in August, with a general release in October.

The announcement that a Release To Manufacturers (RTM) edition of the program would be available next month was made by Tami Reller, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows, at a conference for the company’s partners held in Toronto Monday.

Microsoft’s partners will get an early release of the operating system so they can have it on their hardware when the OS becomes generally available in October.

Reller also noted that Microsoft’s enterprise customers with Software Assurance benefits will have access to Windows 8 bits in August, too.

At the time the RTM is released, she continued, Microsoft will turn on the commerce platform for its Windows app store so developers will be able to start earning money for their apps. Up to now, apps at the store have been free.

Earlier this month, Microsoft made its intentions to make Windows 8 a swift hit once it’s released by announcing that legacy Windows users will be able to upgrade to the new OS for US$40 via an online connection.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

SpamSieve updated to 2.9.2

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Date: Thursday, July 5th, 2012, 12:16
Category: News, Software

spamsieve2.jpg

Michael Tsai’s must-have shareware program, SpamSieve, has just been updated to version 2.9.2. The new version, a 10 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and improvements:

- Improved compatibility with the forthcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

- The recommended condition for the Apple Mail rule is now Every Message rather than Message Type Is Mail. SpamSieve will auto-update your rules at launch on OS X 10.7 if Mail is running.
SpamSieve is better at detecting a certain type of tricky spam message.

- Worked around an OS bug that prevented SpamSieve from properly analyzing some message attachments.

- False negative files now have the .eml extension so that they work with Quick Look, etc.

- The Setting Up a Spam Filtering Drone section of the manual has been updated with simpler instructions for Apple Mail and new instructions for setting up a drone using Microsoft Outlook 2011.

- Added the Using a Spam Mailbox on the Server section of the manual (for Apple Mail).

- Updated various graphics for retina displays.

- If the Apple Mail plug-in cannot be installed due to a folder ownership problem, SpamSieve will now ask for an administrator password to try to fix the folder for you.

- Reverted to version 1.2.3 of the Growl SDK to avoid problems with high CPU usage, internal errors, and crashes.

- Improved SpamSieve’s reporting of unexpected errors as well as script errors from Apple Mail.

- SpamSieve no longer responds at all to certain invalid commands. This should work around an OS bug that could lead to crashes.

- The crash reporter can now make recommendations for you based on the contents of the crash log.

- Added a link to the forum in the Help menu.

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.

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

Apple updates Retina Display MacBook Pro FAQ, explains display settings and resolution differences in article

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Date: Wednesday, June 27th, 2012, 06:17
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

The Retina Display on your new MacBook Pro is nifty.

Now it’s time to learn the ins and outs of it.

Per AppleInsider, a Frequently Asked Questions page on Apple’s support website offers detailed information about settings for the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display in an attempt to clear up confusion about the new screen’s capabilities in low-resolution mode and Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

The page explains the difference between scaled resolutions and the Retina setting on the new notebook.

Apple also noted in the article that all of its applications included with OS X Lion support the Retina Display.

“Additionally, iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes, Aperture, Final Cut Pro X, and Motion all support the Retina display,” the page read.

Users experiencing “functional or visual issues” with applications are instructed to go into Finder to switch the application into Low Resolution mode.

“Some applications work best using the Low Resolution mode. Other applications will only run in Low Resolution mode,” said the FAQ.

For applications, such as 3D games, that want to use their own resolution settings, Apple recommends the 1440 x 900 resolution. Blizzard’s “Diablo III” game is one of the few titles that supports full 2880 x 1800 resolution on the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, though the studio is working on further optimizations that should improve the performance.

Apple provided a detailed response on options for using an external display with its high-end laptop. It also offered a hint that users can hold down the Option key when clicking the Scaled button to get more resolution choices in extended desktop mode.

Windows users will be relieved to know that installing Windows 7 via Boot Camp is supported on the Retina Display. The article did, however, note that Windows on the new MacBook Pro will automatically start up with small icons because it defaults to the maximum dpi supported (144 dpi, or 150 percent magnification). Users can adjust their settings in the Windows Display Control Panel.

As the first of Apple’s Mac models to sport a Retina Display screen, the MacBook Pro is leading the transition to high-dpi resolutions on OS X. The laptop has received largely positive reviews, with special praise reserved for the screen.

The new screens are not without problem, though. Scattered reports have emerged that users are experiencing image retention issues on some MacBook Pro models. Apple Genius technicians have reportedly been instructed to replace the screens, but crushing demand has left some owners waiting for up to three weeks.

If recent reports are to be believed, Apple could add another Retina Display-equipped Mac this fall in the form of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Though some rumors have suggested that Apple would also upgrade its iMac all-in-one desktop to a Retina Display, multiple sources recently told one blogger that it would not happen until 2013.

If you’ve snagged a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.