Rumor: Apple may be looking to move away from Intel chipsets, begin using its own processors for certain products

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Date: Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012, 07:15
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, Processors, Rumor

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It’s been six years.

Maybe it’s time for a change.

Per Bloomberg Businessweek, Apple has reportedly “deliberated” moving its lineup of Mac computers away from Intel processors, though such a change apparently isn’t “imminent.”

The details come from a profile of Apple’s current state under CEO Tim Cook published Wednesday by Bloomberg Businessweek. Citing two unnamed sources familiar with Apple’s discussions, the report indicated that Apple would like to move away from Intel’s CPUs in its Macs.

“Such a shift would be difficult and isn’t imminent, though it would allow Apple to further distinguish its laptops and desktops from competitors that run Intel’s chips and Microsoft’s Windows software,” authors Brad Stone, Adam Satariano and Peter Burrows wrote.

Apple’s interest in moving away from Intel is not new, but Wednesday’s report is an indication that the desire still exists at the company. Per AppleInsider, Apple had discussions with Intel’s chief competitor, AMD, about switching to its chips for future Macs.

Apple previously differentiated its Mac lineup from Windows PCs by utilizing PowerPC chips built by IBM and Motorola. But in 2005, Apple announced it would switch to Intel microprocessors for all of its Mac hardware. The transition was complete by August of 2006, and starting with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in 2009, support for legacy PowerPC Macs no longer existed.

While Intel currently powers Apple’s Mac lineup, the company is absent from Apple’s more popular iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. Intel has instead pushed its own “Atom” processors for mobile devices, but tests have shown that Apple’s latest A6 CPU found in the iPhone 5 outperforms Atom.

While AMD would be an option if Apple were to abandon Intel, Apple has made headway in designing its own custom silicon for the iPhone and iPad. Earlier this year, rumors suggested Apple was looking to use its own ARM processors in upcoming iterations of the MacBook, especially in power-critical applications like the thin-and-light MacBook Air.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Initial tests show forthcoming OS X 10.8.2 update may help resolve battery life issues

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, September 11th, 2012, 06:30
Category: News, Software

They may not be scientific tests, but they prove a point.

Per the intensely cool cats at The Mac Observer, a set of tests published on Monday claim to show significant a boost in MacBook battery life using a new developer build of OS X Mountain Lion, with the latest beta showing an 85-minute increase from the current 10.8.1.

The unscientific test from The Mac Observer pitted numerous revisions of OS X, from 10.6 Snow Leopard to 10.8.2 Mountain Lion developer build 12C35, against each other to determine how the operating system effects battery life.

The test used a 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro running a 2.0 GHz i7 processor with 8 GB of RAM, a Radeon HD 6490M GPU and two internal hard drives, an OCZ Vertex 4 64 GB SSD and a Seagate Momentus 750 GB HDD.

Each operating system was tested at full charge, with all applications and services disabled save for Wi-Fi, screen adjusted to 50 percent brightness with display set for continuous use and screen saver disabled. A moderate workflow was simulated using a custom Automator application, which repeated until the battery was fully drained.

Using OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard as a baseline, the compiled test data showed a significant hit to battery performance with the introductions of 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion. Upon release, Lion lost over 40 minutes of battery life and took three revisions to regain Snow Leopard power efficiency. In contrast, Mountain Lion saw a huge 105 minute loss in battery performance when it was released in July, with the latest 10.8.1 version moving the OS only 30 minutes closer to baseline.

With OS X 10.8.2, however, battery life is not just brought back in line with Snow Leopard levels, but the OS actually outperforms its predecessor by eight minutes. This marks an 88.5 minute savings in power consumption from the most recent 10.8.1 version of Mountain Lion.

It was previously reported that Apple’s Mountain Lion was causing battery life issues for many users, with some MacBook Air owners seeing their batteries lasting half as long as when OS X 10.7 Lion was installed. Subsequent tests of the latest public version of OS X, Mountain Lion 10.8.1, showed Apple engineers were working on a fix as battery life was substantially improved. If Monday’s tests are accurate, OS X 10.8.2 will bring further battery life improvements, perhaps besting even the legacy OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

While the final public version of OS X 10.8.2 may not boast power savings identical to the home-brew test, the developer builds are promising and show Apple is taking an aggressive stance in solving the battery degradation issues seen at Mountain Lion’s launch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve gotten your mitts on the current OS X 10.8.2 beta and have any feedback about battery life under the forthcoming operating system revision, please let us know in the comments.

Oracle releases patch for Java 1.7, works to close hole on discovered security flaw

Posted by:
Date: Friday, August 31st, 2012, 06:33
Category: News, security, Software

With any luck, the patch fixed the issue.

Per AppleInsider, Oracle on Thursday released a patch for the Java 1.7 runtime, plugging a recently discovered security hole that allowed malware to take over any operating system when a user visits a malicious website.

In an update to its “CVE-2012-4681″ security alert, Oracle addressed three separate vulnerabilities and one “security-in-depth” issue affecting Java 7.

It was reported on Monday that a new zero-day exploit had been discovered and proven to be effective within the Java 1.7 runtime, which includes the latest Java 7 update, in browsers on any operating system.

According to researchers, the flaw allows malware to breach the security of a Mac or PC by having a user visit a compromised website hosting the attack code. Because Java came bundled with older versions of OS X like Leopard or Snow Leopard, Macs running the legacy software are potentially more vulnerable to the attack than those with the latest 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Apple removed Java from OS X last year with the release of 10.7 Lion after a security flaw in Oracle’s software allowed the infamous Flashback trojan to affect a reported 600,000 Macs. As a safety precaution, users must now authenticate browser requests to download and install Java, proactively blocking potential exploits.

From Oracle’s alert:
“If successfully exploited, these vulnerabilities can provide a malicious attacker the ability to plant discretionary binaries onto the compromised system, e.g. the vulnerabilities can be exploited to install malware, including Trojans, onto the targeted system. Note that this malware may in some instances be detected by current antivirus signatures upon its installation.”

The patch for Java 1.7 can be downloaded directly from Oracle’s java.com web site, while more information about the security issues can be found at the company’s security page

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Analyst: Java 1.7 zero-day less likely to affect Mac users due to lack of current installed base on platform

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Date: Wednesday, August 29th, 2012, 07:53
Category: News, security

Yesterday, we posted as to a new Java vulnerability that could open the gates for additional malware on the Mac.

Today, there’s some better news regarding this.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, online backup service CrashPlan co-founder Matthew Dornquist had the following to offer about the new Java vulnerability and what it could mean for the Mac.

In a recent study of a random sample of 200K recent users; Dornquist’s numbers showed that the overwhelming majority of CrashPlan’s Mac users are on Java 1.6 (92%) and a small minority on the older 1.5 version. The percentage on the 1.7 version targeted by the malware? Approximately zero.

Research shop FireEye identified a Java zero-day exploit this weekend that is already targeting fully patched versions of the Java JRE version 1.7 running on Windows machines. The exploit attempts to install a dropper executable (Dropper.MsPMs) on the machines it attacks. In theory, a separate dropper could be crafted to attack Mac or Linux systems, although none has yet been observed in the wild.

That’s a reason for Mac users to rest a little more easily, but it’s not the big one. As noted by CNET, the vulnerable edition of the JRE — 1.7 — isn’t installed by default in a stock configuration of OS X. The Java that Apple delivers on Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion is JRE 1.6 (and on Lion and Mountain Lion, it’s only installed on demand when needed to run Java applications); in order to be on 1.7 and be theoretically susceptible, you’d have to install the Oracle beta build manually.

If you did install the Oracle build and you’re concerned about the new exploit, you can disable the Java plugin in each of your browsers individually, or uninstall 1.7 entirely. While it bears repeating that there is no evidence of a Mac payload for this exploit at this time, if you don’t have a specific reason to run the new version then it’s probably safest to stick with JRE 1.6 instead (or turn off Java completely if you don’t need it). In response to past exploits including Flashback, Apple’s Java web plugin is now set to auto-disable when it isn’t used for some time, further reducing the attack surface for Mac users.

So, yeah, try to avoid manually updating to Java 1.7 on your Mac until this is sorted out and we’ll have additional details as they become available.

Mozilla to discontinue support for Firefox under Leopard this October

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Date: Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012, 09:22
Category: News, Software

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Ya gotta upgrade sometime.

Per Macworld, Mozilla will drop support for Apple’s OS X 10.5, or Leopard, after it ships Firefox 16 in October, according to company developers.

“We are not planning to support Mac OS X 10.5 with Firefox 17,” said Josh Aas, who works on the Firefox platform group, in a message last month on Bugzilla. “The builds will fail to run on anything less than Mac OS X 10.6.”

OS X 10.6 is Snow Leopard, the 2009 follow-up to Leopard, which shipped in October 2007.

By Mozilla’s release calendar, Firefox 16 is to debut Oct. 9. Firefox 17, the first that will not to pushed to Leopard users, is slated for a Nov. 20 launch.

Mozilla is following Google’s lead in dropping Leopard; Google released its last browser for OS X 10.5, Chrome 21, on July 31.

Although Mozilla talked about ditching OS X 10.5 support in December 2011, it decided then to keep Apple’s OS on the list. Discussions among engineers, managers and contributors restarted in late June.

According to Mozilla, Leopard’s importance is diminishing. “Mac OS X 10.5 users have been declining by 1% per month, as a share of our total Mac OS X users,” said Aas. “This, combined with the impact of the release of Mac OS X 10.8 [Mountain Lion], means that Mac OS X 10.5 users will likely make up around 10% of Mac OS X users when Firefox 17 ships.”

As of June 21, 17% of Firefox 13’s Mac users were running Leopard, with larger shares on Snow Leopard (35%) and Lion (48%), Aas said. Only 4.6% of all Firefox 13 users were running it on a Mac.

Like Google, another reason Mozilla cited for dumping Leopard was that Apple has also ended support.

The last time Apple patched bugs in Leopard was November 2011, and its most recent security update, in May 2012, disabled older copies of Flash Player to stymie Flashback rather than fix specific security flaws. Nor has Apple maintained Safari on OS X 10.5. The final update was issued over a year ago.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts official list of OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)-compatible Macs

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, July 12th, 2012, 06:38
Category: News, Software

If you qualify, you’ll try to high-five everyone you meet today and your friends will eventually want you to shut up about it.

If you don’t, well, you can meet me down at the corner pub for happy hour…

Per The Verge, Apple has posted a “How to Upgrade” page on its website that contains a list of Mac models with Intel chipsets that qualify for Mountain Lion:

- iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)

- MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)

- MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)

- MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)

- Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)

- Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)

- Xserve (Early 2009)

After verifying that a Mac is eligible for the upgrade, users are instructed to check that they have OS X Lion or the latest version of Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.8) installed. The third step is simply to “download OS X Mountain Lion when it becomes available in July” and follow the onscreen instructions to install it.

Apple announced OS X Mountain Lion in February, specifically mentioning newer Macs as qualifying for the upgrade. At the time, it was suspected that Macs with Intel’s GMA 950 and GMA X3100 integrated graphics processors would not be capable of running OS X 10.8.

By distributing new versions of OS X solely on the Mac App Store, Apple has also drawn a line in the sand, since Macs not capable of installing at least OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8 won’t be able to access the App Store.

The Mac maker appears on track to release Mountain Lion this month as promised. Developers received the Golden Master version of the OS on Monday and an invitation from Apple to submit applications for the update to the Mac App Store. The US$19.99 upgrade contains over 200 new features, such as closer integration with iCloud, new security checks and voice dictation.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

And as much as I love my 2006 Mac Pro, maybe it’s time we started seeing other people…

Apple releases Aperture 3.2.4 update

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Date: Thursday, May 24th, 2012, 12:07
Category: News, Software

On Thursday, Apple released version 3.2.4 of Aperture, its pro-grade image editing application. The new version, which is available as a direct download or via Mac OS X’s Software update feature, is a 635 megabyte download and offers the following fixes and changes:

- Improves stability on Mac OS X Snow Leopard.

- Addresses an issue that could prevent the Viewer from updating correctly after editing a photo using an external editor.

Aperture 3.2.4 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.8 or Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

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

Apple releases Flashback removal tool for Mac OS X 10.5.x operating systems

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Date: Tuesday, May 15th, 2012, 05:21
Category: News, security, Software

If you’ve yet to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.6 or Mac OS X 10.7, there’s some good news.

Per Macworld, Apple on Monday released a pair of security updates for the older operating system: Leopard Security Update 2012-003 and Flashback Removal Security Update.

The Leopard Security Update disables older versions of Adobe Flash Player that don’t contain the latest security updates, prompting you to upgrade instead. That mirrors an update Apple offered for Safari on Snow Leopard and Lion last week.

The Flashback Removal Security Update finds and removes the most common variants of that malware; the updater may need to restart your Mac to complete the removal of any malware.

Both updates are available directly from Apple’s website or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.5.8 to install and run.

If you’ve tried the updates/malware removal tools and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Safari 5.1.7 nixes outdated Flash versions, focuses on security-based issues

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 10th, 2012, 06:32
Category: News, security, Software

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When in doubt, go with the update.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Wednesday released an update to its Safari web browser that automatically disables old versions of Adobe’s Flash Player as they don’t have the most up-do-date security features.

After pushing out OS X Lion 10.7.4 which included Safari version 5.1.6, Apple rolled out a separate update for the browser that can be downloaded by Mac OS X 10.7.3, Mac OS X 10.7.4 and Windows users.

According to the Safari 5.1.7 support page, the update is meant to disable older versions of Flash that pose a security risk as they lack the latest vulnerability patches.

Safari 5.1.7 will scan a Mac’s Flash assets for out-of-date software, disable it if found and inform the user via a dialog box. A link to Adobe’s website is integrated into the dialog so that users can easily locate and install the most current Flash Player.

If users need to roll back to a previous version of Flash, they must navigate to the “/Library/Internet Plug-Ins (Disabled)” folder on their Mac, drag “Flash Player.plugin” into the active “/Library/Internet Plug-Ins” folder and restart the browser.

Apple has become increasingly leery about third-party applications, perhaps due to the recent Flashback malware debacle that affected more than 600,000 Macs worldwide. One of the trojan’s first iterations was discovered in 2011 when it disguised itself as a Flash Installer, though the exploit had nothing to do with Adobe’s software.

Most recently, Apple released a Java update to cope with Flashback and even created a dedicated removal tool for those Mac owners who didn’t already have Java installed on their computers.

The Safari update comes in at 44.98MB download and can be acquired via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple offering MobileMe users free Snow Leopard update to upgrade users to Lion

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Date: Thursday, April 19th, 2012, 07:20
Category: iCloud, News

Offer them what they want and you might get a few new customers.

Per Macgasm, Apple is apparently sweetening the deal for MobileMe subscribers who still haven’t made the move to Mac OS X 10.6/10.7 and iCloud. As the last elements of MobileMe terminate on June 30 this year, the company is offering one of the upgrades free for the taking.

“Get your Mac ready for iCloud,” the MobileMe web page reads. “To take advantage of the great features of iCloud, your Mac must have OS X Lion installed. If you are running OS X Leopard, you will need to install Snow Leopard first and then purchase Lion from the Mac App Store.”

To ease in this transition, Apple is giving away free DVDs of Snow Leopard (a US$29 value) to MobileMe subscribers who log into their accounts and fill out the form found here. “After you have installed Snow Leopard on your Mac, run Software Update from the Apple menu to get the latest version of Snow Leopard 10.6.8,” step one of then process explains.

From here, users can pay US$29.99 for Mac OS X Lion from the Mac App Store, move their MobileMe account to iCloud and be done with it.

It generally doesn’t hurt to upgrade, so you might want to look into it, especially if there’s a freebie on the table.