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

Posted by:
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

Posted by:
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.

Apple to expand USB takeback program to UK, other countries

Posted by:
Date: Monday, August 12th, 2013, 14:30
Category: Accessory, iPad, iPod Touch, News, retail, Rumor

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The Apple USB power adapter takeback program has expanded.

Per MacNN and 9to5Mac, Apple is extending the number of eligible countries in its USB adapter takeback program. The program began in China August 9th, and is coming to the US on August 16th. Now also joining on the 16th will be Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the UK.

The deadline for the program in the new countries is October 18th, as in the US. Participants can get a new USB adapter at a discounted price, so long as they bring in an old third-party adapter plus an iPhone, iPod, or iPad to validate a serial number. The lower price is $14 in Canada, €10 in France and Germany, ¥1,000 in Japan, and £8 in the UK.

9to5Mac claims that each retail Apple Store will have at least one iOS Genius on hand to conduct trade-ins for the old adapters. Stores are also, reportedly, already receiving related training materials.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype updated to 6.5.0.443

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, June 25th, 2013, 06:25
Category: News, Software

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On Tuesday, version 6.5.0.443 of the Skype VoIP application was released. The new version, a 40 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:
- [Contact] Scroll bar is displayed when sending multiple contacts.

- [Contact] User cannot drag & drop contacts who are already existing participants in the conversation.

- [Calling] Call toolbar + button contextual menu items will is not disabled after sending contact.

- [Calling] Call duration info in history is correctly displayed.

- [Conversation] Chat input field switches to SMS mode when adding PSTN numbers to new conversation.

- [Conversation] ‘Check Spelling While Typing’ setting is saved.

- [Generic] Detached conversation window is opened automatically after restarting Skype.

- [File Transfer] Received file is saved in download folder when custom download folder no longer exists.

- [File Transfer] File transfer control buttons are presented after reconnection.

- [Preferences] Skype does not freeze when switching the ringing output to all devices from USB headset.

Skype 6.5.0.443 is available for free and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 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.

VirtualBox updated to 4.2.14

Posted by:
Date: Monday, June 24th, 2013, 06:21
Category: News, Software

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Never knock a steadily updated app.

VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.2.14. The new version, a 150 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:
- VMM: another TLB invalidation fix for non-present pages.

- VMM: fixed a performance regression (4.2.8 regression; bug #11674).

- GUI: fixed a crash on shutdown.

- GUI: prevent stuck keys under certain conditions on Windows hosts (bugs #2613, #6171).

- VRDP: fixed a rare crash on the guest screen resize.

- VRDP: allow to change VRDP parameters (including enabling/disabling the server) if the VM is paused.

- USB: fixed passing through devices on Mac OS X host to a VM with 2 or more virtual CPUs (bug #7462).

- USB: fixed hang during isochronous transfer with certain devices (4.1 regression; Windows hosts only; bug #11839).

- USB: properly handle orphaned URBs (bug #11207).

- BIOS: fixed function for returning the PCI interrupt routing table (fixes NetWare 6.x guests).

- BIOS: don’t use the ENTER / LEAVE instructions in the BIOS as these don’t work in the real mode as set up by certain guests (e.g. Plan 9 and QNX 4).

- DMI: allow to configure DmiChassisType (bug #11832).

- Storage: fixed lost writes if iSCSI is used with snapshots and asynchronous I/O (bug #11479).

- Storage: fixed accessing certain VHDX images created by Windows 8 (bug #11502).

- Storage: fixed hang when creating a snapshot using Parallels disk images (bug #9617).

- 3D: seamless + 3D fixes (bug #11723).

- 3D: version 4.2.12 was not able to read saved states of older versions under certain conditions (bug #11718).

- Main/Properties: don’t create a guest property for non-running VMs if the property does not exist and is about to be removed (bug #11765).

- Main/Properties: don’t forget to make new guest properties persistent after the VM was terminated (bug #11719).

- Main/Display: don’t lose seamless regions during screen resize.

- Main/OVF: don’t crash during import if the client forgot to call Appliance::interpret() (bug #10845).

- Main/OVF: don’t create invalid appliances by stripping the file name if the VM name is very long (bug #11814).

- Main/OVF: don’t fail if the appliance contains multiple file references (bug #10689).

- Main/Metrics: fixed Solaris file descriptor leak.

- Settings: limit depth of snapshot tree to 250 levels, as more will lead to decreased performance and may trigger crashes.

- VBoxManage: fixed setting the parent UUID on diff images using sethdparentuuid.

- Linux hosts: work around for not crashing as a result of automatic NUMA balancing which was introduced in Linux 3.8 (bug #11610).

- Windows installer: force the installation of the public certificate in background (i.e. completely prevent user interaction) if the –silent command line option is specified.

- Windows Additions: fixed problems with partial install in the unattended case
Windows Additions: fixed display glitch with the Start button in seamless mode for some themes.

- Windows Additions: Seamless mode and auto-resize fixes.

- Windows Additions: fixed trying to to retrieve new auto-logon credentials if current ones were not processed yet.

- Windows Additions installer: added the /with_wddm switch to select the experimental WDDM driver by default.

- Linux Additions: fixed setting own timed out and aborted texts in information label of the lightdm greeter.

- Linux Additions: fixed compilation against Linux 3.2.0 Ubuntu kernels (4.2.12 regression as a side effect of the Debian kernel build fix; bug #11709).

- X11 Additions: reduced the CPU load of VBoxClient in drag’and’drop mode.

- OS/2 Additions: made the mouse wheel work (bug #6793).

- Guest Additions: fixed problems copying and pasting between two guests on an X11 host (bug #11792).

VirtualBox 4.2.14 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 AirPort Utility 6.3, AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.7.1, adds support for 802.11ac AirPort Extreme units, bug fixes

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Date: Tuesday, June 11th, 2013, 06:56
Category: News, Software, wireless

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OS X’s Software Update feature is your friend.

Per The Mac Observer, Apple released updates for the Mac, iPhone and iPad versions of AirPort Utility late on Monday following the release of the redesigned 802.11ac-compatible AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule Basestations. The update added support for the new wireless network routers.

AirPort Utility 6.3, a 20.64 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- The ability to extend the Guest Wi-Fi network on a network that is configured with multiple AirPort Base Stations.

- The ability to add a WPS-capable Wi-Fi printer.

- Improved international support.

AirPort Utility 6.3 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.5 or later to install and run.

AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.7.1, a 4.6 megabyte download via Software Update, adds the following fixes and changes:
- Update for AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base stations with 802.11ac.

- Resolves a rare issue that may cause the hard drive in AirPort Time Capsule or a hard drive connected via USB to become unresponsive.

AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.7.1 requires and Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

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

Apple releases updated MacBook Air, cites 12-hour battery, Intel Haswell architecture

Posted by:
Date: Monday, June 10th, 2013, 12:45
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

It’s the MacBook Air with the battery you always wanted.

Per The Mac Observer, Apple introduced updated MacBook Air models on Monday during its World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco. The new ultra-light models sport what Apple called “all day battery life” and also run Intel’s Haswell UTC processors.

The new 13-inch MacBook Air offers up to 12 hours battery life and over a month of standby time, and while it doesn’t gain a high resolution Retina Display, it does include 802.11ac wireless networking — a first for Apple’s product lineup. The new Wi-Fi spec means the MacBook Air can transfer data faster and network connections are more robust.

Like the previous model, the new Air includes Thunderbolt and USB connectors, a built-in camera and microphone, built-in speakers, Bluetooth, and more.

The updated MacBook Air is available now and is priced at US$999 for the 11-inch model, and the 13-inch model is US$100 less at US$1,099.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Security researchers to demo 30-pin dock connector hack/malware injection at Black Hat next month

Posted by:
Date: Friday, June 7th, 2013, 07:57
Category: Hack, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, security, Software

dockconnector

You’re not going to like this.

Per Senor O’Grady over on the Apple Core, a group of researchers from Georgia Tech have discovered a way to hack into an iPhone or iPad in less than a minute using a “malicious charger.” The group plans to present its findings at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas on July 27, 2013.

Billy Lau, Yeongjin Jang and Chengyu Song are presenting a session is called “Mactans: Injecting Malware Into iOS Devices Via Malicious Chargers” at the popular security conference next month. The name “Mactans” comes from Latrodectus Mactans, the highly venomous (and deadly) black widow spider.

According to the synopsis on the Black Hat website, the Mactans session will describe how USB capabilities can be leveraged to bypass Apple’s defense mechanisms built into the iPhone.

Jason’s got the full details, so head on over, take a gander and get ready to never completely trust your iOS device’s 30-pin dock connector again…