Holiday gift round-up: Part Deux

Posted by:
Date: Friday, December 20th, 2013, 08:16
Category: Accessory, battery, Consumer Electronics, Gadget, Hardware, Holiday, retail, Review, Software, The Apple Core

Christmas-GiftHere’s part 2 of my Gift Guide, which may turn into that “what I get when I return my Christmas gifts for credit” list, seeing as how it’s only 6 days until Christmas. The second half includes a number of gift ideas that I’ve stolen borrowed from some other gift guides because they are really good suggestions for things I’d like to get for myself. I’ll throw in a couple more of my own at the end.

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Review: Budget Lightning cables from iSmooth (Updated)

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Date: Wednesday, November 20th, 2013, 11:02
Category: Accessory, Consumer Electronics, Hardware, Opinion, Review

LIGHTNING2MCABLEMAIN_mediumBefore I upgraded from my iPhone 4S to the new 5S, I wanted to be prepared. Unlike previous iPhone upgrades, I had to deal with the switch from the 30-pin to the Lightning connector which was introduced with the iPhone 5. Over the years I had collected a stash of chargers and cables as well as accessories, such as the Mophie Juicepack, which I had grown dependent on, and now had to replace. Not an inexpensive endeavor, especially with Apple’s premium price for replacement Lightning cables ($19-$29). Not expecting to find anything, at least not of great quality, I hit Amazon.com to see if there were some cheaper alternatives. After some exhaustive reading of reviews, I settled on cables made by iSmooth.

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Apple releases OS X 10.8.5 Supplemental Update 1.0 for late-2013 iMacs

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Date: Friday, October 25th, 2013, 10:49
Category: iMac, News, Software

Better this came out now than wait a while…

On Friday, Apple released its OS X Supplemental Update 1.0 for its late-2013 iMac lineup. The firmware update, a 17.9 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:
- Fixes an issue that may cause external drives to be ejected after the computer goes to sleep.

- Fixes an issue that may prevent certain USB Bluetooth adapters from working.

The update requires a late-2013 iMac running OS X 10.8.5 or later with NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics to install and run and can also be downloaded and installed via OS X’s Software Update feature.

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

VirtualBox updated to 4.3.0

Posted by:
Date: Saturday, October 19th, 2013, 22:22
Category: News, Software

virtualbox

You can’t knock a tidy update.

VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.3.0. The new version, a 113 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes with the full release notes posted here:
- VMM: major rewrite of the VT-x code and the AMD-V code including many bug fixes and performance improvements (for example bug #9659).

- VMM: introduced a lightweight instruction interpreter for situations not handled by hardware virtualization.

- GUI: extended messaging mechanism (new non-modal popup overlays used to show non-critical warnings and provide user with additional information).

- GUI: keyboard shortcuts management (input page of global preferences extended with possibility to edit general keyboard shortcuts for VirtualBox Manager and Virtual Machine).

- GUI: video capturing support (bug #4766).

- Added USB touch device emulation.

- Added experimental support for webcam passthrough complementing USB passthrough (see the manual for more information).

- Added SCSI CD-ROM emulation, including boot support.

- VRDP: support for IPv6.

- Guest Control: guest sessions now are running in dedicated, impersonated session processes (needs at least Guest Additions 4.3 installed).

- Guest Control: implemented IGuestFile support.

- NAT: experimental virtual router mode: several VMs are attached to the same internal network and share one NAT service (see the manual for more information).

VirtualBox 4.3.0 is available for free and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

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

Apple releases MacBook Air EFI Firmware 2.7 update for mid-2013 MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Friday, October 11th, 2013, 20:49
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

This might come in handy.

On Friday, Apple released MacBook Air EFI Firmware 2.7, a 4.6 megabyte download that offers the following fixes and changes for the mid-2013 MacBook Air notebook:
- MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update addresses an issue which may cause a black screen to appear when installing Windows 7 or Windows 8 using Boot Camp Assistant if both an external optical drive and USB thumb drive are connected to the system. This update also ensures that the system will boot by default into OS X after installation of Windows 8.

The update requires a mid-2013 MacBook Air running OS X 10.8.5 or later to install and run and can also be downloaded and installed via OS X’s Software Update feature.

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

Apple releases OS X 10.8.5 Supplemental Update 1.0

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Date: Thursday, October 3rd, 2013, 13:28
Category: News, Software

It’s been a little while since Apple released a supplemental update…

On Thursday, Apple released OS X 10.8.5 Supplemental Update 1.0. The update, an 831 megabyte download (for the combo updater) adds the following fixes and changes:
- Resolves an issue that may prevent certain applications from using the FaceTime HD camera on mid-2013 MacBook Air systems.

- Fixes an issues that may cause external drives to be ejected after the computers goes to sleep.

- Addresses an issue that may prevent HDMI audio from working after waking from sleep.

- Fixes an issue that may prevent certain USB Bluetooth adapters from working.

OS X 10.8.5 Supplemental Update 1.0 requires an Intel-based Mac running OS X 10.8.5 or later 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 whatsoever, please let us know in the comments.

Chipworks continues examination of A7 processor, finds new architecture, quad-core GPU

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Date: Monday, September 30th, 2013, 07:57
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

a7processor

There’s some cool stuff going on with the iPhone 5s’ new A7 processor.

Per an analysis published by Chipworks, the A7 contains assorted changes from the previous A6 processor, including the addition of a mysterious SRAM cell never seen in A-series silicon.

Continuing its comprehensive investigation of the new A7 SoC, which on Tuesday confirmed a 28nm manufacturing process, silicon experts at Chipworks are digging deeper into the processor’s major structures and overall design.

The firm notes in the report that the latest findings are currently just “best guesses,” as circuit extraction testing has not yet been performed to yield conclusive data.

Taking the caveat into consideration, one of the more interesting findings would be the “secure enclave” used for Touch ID fingerprint data storage that Apple discussed during the iPhone 5s reveal earlier this month.

Chipworks was unable to identify a given area it had noted, but guesses that a new SRAM cell located above the GPUs is a prime suspect as the rather large storage space is a new addition to the A-series lineup. Extrapolating the size of the memory block and comparing it with metrics of known technology, the firm estimates the SRAM module to have a density of about 3MB.

Moving to the CPU, the A7′s dual-core unit and accompanying memory, estimated at 1MB for L2 cache and 256KB for L1, takes up about 17 percent of the die area. Located across from the CPU setup is a quad-core GPU with shared logic, which accounts for 22 percent of on-die space.

A side-by-side comparison of the A7 and last year’s A6 show the chips’ CPUs do not share the same layout. The new A7 appears to be closer to a conventional automated design, which would be a departure from Apple’s most recent custom-architected A-series SoCs.

Aside from the above discoveries, the rest of the A7′s design appears to be carried over from the A6. Of note, the USB, LCD and camera interfaces are identical to those found in Apple’s A5, A6 and A6X chips.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iMac EFI Firmware Update 2.1 for late-2013 iMacs

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Date: Wednesday, September 25th, 2013, 13:24
Category: iMac, News, Software

Never doubt a firmware update.

On Wednesday, Apple released version iMac EFI Firmware Update 2.1 for its just-released late 2013 iMacs. The update, an 8.7 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- This update addresses an issue which may cause a black screen to appear when installing Windows 7 or Windows 8 using Boot Camp Assistant if both an external optical drive and USB thumb drive are connected to the system. This update also ensures that the system will boot by default into OS X after installation of Windows 8.

The update requires a late-2013 iMac running OS X 10.8.4 or later to install and run and can also be downloaded and installed via OS X’s Software Update feature.

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

VMWare releases Fusion 6.0.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, September 25th, 2013, 07:32
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, virtualization softare maker VMWare released version 6.0.1 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 244.6 megabyte download, can be found here and offers the following fixes and changes:
Addressed an issue that caused VMware Fusion 6 to crash when opening
- Improved support for Boot Camp on 2013 Macs.

- Improved detection of Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 media.

- Resolved an incompatibility with certain USB audio devices.

- Resolved an issue where Cubase could cause virtual machines to not power on.

- Addressed a graphics issue when switching between spaces in single window mode.

Fusion 6.0.1 retails for US$59.99 and requires an Intel-based Mac, 2 GB of RAM, Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later (10.7 recommended) and a copy of Windows (if you’ll be installing Windows).

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

Parallels Desktop 9 announced, adds cloud support, Windows 8 Start button, other new features

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Date: Thursday, August 29th, 2013, 09:47
Category: News

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Parallels announced its Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac client today, the new version of the virtualization software offering the following set of fixes and features:
- Cloud storage optimizations for iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive.

- Support for OS X Launchpad in Windows applications

- Enhanced support for Apple’s forthcoming OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

- Incorporates the familiar Start menu and Windows Start button for Windows 8 users..

- Extends the OS X PowerNap feature to Windows and Windows applications.

- Allows Mountain Lion Dictionary gesture compatibility in Windows apps.

- Allows users to connect Thunderbolt and FireWire devices to either their Mac or virtual machine, just like with USB.

- Enhances the virtual machine wizard, making it easier to create new systems by automatically locating operating systems on a Mac. Users can also manually select a range of media types to install.

- 40 percent better disk performance than the previous version.

- Virtual machines shut down up to 25 percent faster than the previous version.

- Virtual machines suspend up to 20 percent faster than the previous version.

- 3D graphics and web browsing is 15 percent faster than the previous version.

- A new Security Center in Parallels Desktop 9 is said to make it easier to ensure that files are secure, both on the Mac and in a Windows virtual machine.

- In addition, Parallels Desktop 9 comes with a six-month subscription to Parallels Access for iPad, announced earlier this week. That new software allows customers to remotely access and experience Windows and Mac applications as if they were designed for Apple’s iPad.

- Mac gestures inside Windows apps: Parallels Desktop now includes the addition of the Dictionary lookup gesture in Windows applications.

- PDF printer for Windows: Lets people print from any Windows application to a PDF on the Mac desktop, even if the application doesn’t have that functionality.

- Sticky multi-monitor setup: When using Windows in Full Screen mode and connecting to an external monitor, Parallels Desktop will remember settings and put the Windows virtual machine back in full screen mode on the remote monitor.

- Custom keyboard: Editable keyboard shortcuts help customize the Windows experience.

- Linux guest integration: Parallels Desktop customers who use Linux now have additional and enhanced integration with the Mac OS.

Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac will become broadly available for purchase next Thursday, Sept. 5. It is now available as a US$50 upgrade for legacy Parallels users, and a free upgrade for those who recently bought Parallels Desktop 8.

Thursday’s launch of Parallels Desktop 9 is available for existing customers for US$49.99, while those who recently purchased may be eligible for a free upgrade. Customers who buy Parallels Desktop 8 today will also be eligible to upgrade to the new version at no additional charge.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.