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.

VMWare releases Fusion 3.1.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 04:41
Category: News, Software

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Late Friday, virtualization softare maker VMWare released version 3.1.3 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 150 megabyte download via MacUpdate, can be found here, offers the following new features and fixes:

- Microsoft Windows 7 Service Pack 1: Support for Windows 7 SP1 32-bit & 64-bit.

- Ubuntu: Support for Ubuntu 10.10 and 11.04 32-bit & 64-bit.

- Microsoft Office: Fixed a problem opening attachments in Outlook 2010.

- Video: Updated Windows WDDM driver with stability improvements.

- File access: Improved reliability accessing shared files on the Mac.

- Internet: Fixed slow first page loading in Internet Explorer 8.

- USB: Improved handling of smartphones including the Nokia N8.

Fusion 3.1.3 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and retails for US$79.99.

Apple posts support document describing how to remove Mac Defender phishing software

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 05:13
Category: News, Software

Apple has posted a support document explaining how to “avoid or remove” the infamous Mac Defender program and stated it would release an update to Mac OS X to automatically find and remove the malware.

The new support document describes the malware as a phishing scam that redirects users from legitimate websites to “fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus.”

The websites then offer phony antivirus software for a license fee between US$59.95 and US$79.95 to solve the problem, under the names Mac Defender, Mac Protector and Mac Security, often with MAC spelled in all caps.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s removal steps detail quitting the offending app and deleting it from the Utilities folder it is installed into by default. The primary damage caused by the malware is to nag the user for their credit card information in an attempt to sell them a solution to a nonexistent problem.

Windows PC pundits, have made highly publicized reports of the Mac Defender malware, suggesting it is evidence that Macs are now experiencing malware and virus problems comparable to those experienced by Windows users over the past two decades.

Security expert Charlie Miller, who has regularly won security contests demonstrating Mac exploits, has downplayed that real threat of the few Mac malware titles that have surfaced, recently noting in an interview that “Microsoft recently pointed out that 1 in 14 downloads on Windows are malicious. And the fact that there is just one piece of Mac malware being widely discussed illustrates how rare malware still is on the Mac platform.”

Miller explained that while antivirus software can help protect your system from being infected, he also countered that “it’s expensive, uses system memory and reduces battery life,” stating, “At some point soon, the scales will tip to installing antivirus, but at this point, I don’t think it’s worth it yet for most people.”

Apple recommends that Mac users “should exercise caution any time they are asked to enter sensitive personal information online” and notes that it “provides security updates for the Mac exclusively through Software Update and the Apple Support Downloads site.”

The Mac Defender scam presents a phony website scanner with an appearance modeled after iTunes, and depicts itself as being an “Apple security center,” apparently modeled after the “Windows Security Center” Microsoft added to its own product.

Because the phony web page and its popups are tied to the browser, they do not look native alerts from Mac OS X. The scam site is also unable to install the malware without the user supplying an administrative password. Even so, hundreds of users have been duped by the scam, although the outbreak appears to be more of a nagware annoyance than a serious security problem.

In other news, the developers of Mac Defender also have a bridge they’d like to sell you…

Microsoft’s Ballmer cites Windows 8 release for 2012, begins to drop details

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 02:59
Category: News, Software

Ok, this isn’t amazing news about an upcoming Apple notebook or a revelation that the next iPhone will be able to paint your living room, but it never hurts to run a Windows partition on your Mac…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed plans for a 2012 launch of the “next generation of Windows systems,” which will include Windows 8 slates and tablets at a developer forum in Tokyo on Monday.

During the keynote, Ballmer publicly used the name “Windows 8″ for the first time. While touting advances made in Windows 7, Ballmer noted, “There’s a whole lot more coming.”

“As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors” he said.

Microsoft announced in January that it plans to port Windows 8 to the ARM system-on-a-chip architecture in order to compete with devices like Apple’s iPad. “Windows PCs will continue to adapt and evolve. Windows will be everywhere on every device without compromise,” said Ballmer at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Early builds of Windows 8 hint at a scalable cross-platform solution that could make its way into tablets and phones. Microsoft has struggled in the mobile market, partly due to Intel’s unsuccessful efforts to meet low power requirements with its line of Atom chips.

Ballmer admitted on Monday that the company’s “big sort of effort” to transform communication with Windows Phone had arrived late. “We came to market with Windows Phone about a year later than I wish we had, shame on us. But, we’re moving forward very actively,” said Ballmer. The company is set to launch a major upgrade to Windows Phone on Tuesday.

For its part, Apple will unveil the future of Mac OS at the Worldwide Developers Conference early next month. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion brings several major features from iOS back to the Mac and is due out this summer.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google launches cloud-based music service, demos upcoming version of Android

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Date: Wednesday, May 11th, 2011, 03:48
Category: News

Google launched the invite-only beta of its new cloud music streaming service Tuesday, along with Android movie rentals, and Honeycomb 3.1 for tablets. It also previewed Ice Cream Sandwich, the next major Android release, and promised that devices will receive future Android updates for 18 months after they launch, through a new agreement with carriers and device makers.

Per AppleInsider, the company launched its new Music service, a streaming product that will remain free while in beta. Initially, the service is only available to those who are given an invite.

The license-free cloud product allows users to upload their library of music to Google’s servers, and stream those tracks to Android devices and computers, on both Windows and Mac. The Music Beta software allows users to upload all of the music within their iTunes library and access it on the go.

The search giant unveiled the new product as part of its I/O 2011 conference on Tuesday. It boasted that the music service, when synced to the cloud, means users will never have to sync with a cable again.

Music Beta by Google also lets users “pin” their music for offline use, allowing content to be accessed when a data connection may not be available. Music Beta can be used on Android devices running Froyo or Gingerbread.

Google also unveiled movie rentals for Android devices, with thousands of movies available to rent for US$1.99 A new movies application for Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom allows users to watch movies on the go as well.

Like with music, users can “pin” their movie and download it, even if it’s rented and streaming, for playback when a data connection may not be available, such as on a plane ride.

Movies are now available on the Android market, and the official Movies application is available as part of today’s Honeycomb 3.1 release, while smartphone users with Android 2.2 will receive the application in the next few weeks.

Google also announced that an update for Honeycomb, its tablet-centric mobile operating system, is available today for Verizon customers. Those who own a Motorola Xoom will be able to update to Android 3.1.

The new update adds the ability to make Android devices act as USB hosts. In one example, they showed an Xbox 360 wired controller being used with an Android tablet via USB.

With the update, users can also stretch widgets horizontally or vertically to make them fit their needs.

Android 3.1 will also come to Google TV this summer, and bring the Android Market with applications. Google also revealed that there are now more than 200,000 applications available on the Android Market.

Google’s philosophy with the next major release of Android, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, will be “one OS everywhere,” across a range of devices. That would mean that Android phones and tablets would be running the same operating system, unlike the current landscape where Honeycomb is restricted only to tablets.

Google said it would have an “advanced app framework” in the next release of Android, allowing developers to scale their software to different platforms. They also boasted that their mobile operating system will “all be open source.”

Ice Cream Sandwich is also said to include a new user interface, new widgets, and new applications. It said the next user interface would be “state of the art.”

In one demonstration, Google showed off 3D headtracking on a Motorola Xoom using the hardware’s forward facing camera.

Google also vowed to streamline the updating process for Android devices. Carriers and device makers have agreed to provide new updates for 18 months after devices are launched, provided the hardware can support the newer versions of Android.

The company also showed off a new standard called Android Open Accessory. Using this, external can be connected to Android handsets and be supported by third-party software.

The search giant provided a demonstration of Android Open Accessory by connecting an Android phone to a stationary bike. It also demonstrated home automation integration called Android @ Home, with Android-compatible lightbulbs from Lighting Science set to go on sale by the end of the year.

If you’ve received an invitation to Google’s new music service and had a chance to play with it, please let us know.

VLC 1.1.9 update released

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Date: Wednesday, April 13th, 2011, 03:29
Category: News, Software

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Video Lan Client, the nigh-indispensable open source media player for multiple audio and video formats (MPEG, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Divx, ogg, etc.), was updated to version 1.1.9. The new version, a 42.1 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Security update regarding a heap-based buffer overflow in mp4 demuxer.

- Update of libmodplug for security reasons in Windows and Mac versions.

- Major updates in most language translations.

- Numerous updates and fixes on the interface and look of VLC for Mac OS X.

- Growl on Mac OS X is now bundled.

- Many miscellaneous fixes.

VLC 1.1.9 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

AT&T quietly raises upgrade prices, non-iPhone handset purchase prices

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Date: Monday, April 4th, 2011, 07:54
Category: iPhone, News

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Ok, you’re not going to be happy about this one.

According to AndroidCentral, wireless carrier AT&T has quietly raised early and exception upgrade pricing for iPhones and other smartphones. A notice to store staff has warned that, as of Sunday, users are paying US$50 more. The move would change the premature upgrade price from US$249 for an iPhone 3GS to US$299, and up to US$449 or US$549 for an iPhone 4 before normal eligibility comes up.

A separate memo both confirms the price hikes and showed across-the-board pricing increases. With the exception of the iPhone, pricing will go up sharply for anyone buying a phone contract-free or a shortened one-year contract. Those without a contract will pay at least US$50 more, AndroidCentral saw, while one-year buyers will spend US$150 more.

Basic messaging phones are also going up by US$20 off-contract or US$10 on a one-year deal.

AT&T has yet to officially confirm the rate hikes, though they will ultimately have the largest impact on non-Apple hardware. Pricing for Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7 devices will now mostly be competitive on a two-year plan where the iPhone may be the more reasonable deal on shortened terms.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available

Mozilla releases Firefox 4.0 web browser

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Date: Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011, 03:52
Category: News, Software

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Late Tuesday, Mozilla.org released version 4.0 of its Firefox web browser. The new version stands as an 26.8 megabyte download offered the following fixes and changes:

- Firefox 4 is available in over 80 languages

- Uses JägerMonkey, a new, faster JavaScript engine that is up to six times faster than Firefox 3.6

- Support for the Do Not Track (“DNT”) header that allows users to opt-out of behavioural advertising

- Firefox Sync is included by default, allowing you to securely synchronize between multiple computers and mobile devices

- Certain graphics rendering operations are now hardware-accelerated using Direct3D 9 on
Windows XP, Direct3D 10 on Windows Vista and 7, and OpenGL on Mac OS (OpenGL on Linux will be supported in the future)

- Direct2D Hardware Acceleration is now on by default for Windows 7 users

- WebGL is enabled on all platforms that have a capable graphics card with updated drivers

- Native support for the HD HTML5 WebM video format, hardware accelerated where available

- Firefox button has a new look for Windows Vista and Windows 7 users

- Tabs are now on top by default on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux

- You can search for and switch to already open tabs in the Smart Location Bar

- The stop and reload buttons have been merged into a single button on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux

- The Bookmarks Toolbar has been replaced with a Bookmarks Button by default (you can switch it back if you’d like)

- Crash protection for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X when there is a crash in the Adobe Flash, Apple Quicktime or Microsoft Silverlight plugins

- You can turn any tab into an “App Tab” by right-clicking on it and selecting “Make into App Tab” from the context menu

- The default homepage design has been refreshed

- Overhaul of the bookmarks and history code, enabling faster bookmarking and startup performance

- Per-compartment garbage collection is now enabled, reducing work done during complex animations

- Additional polish for the Firefox Add-ons Manager

- Improved web typography using OpenType with support for ligatures, kerning and font variants

- Web developers can animate content using CSS Transitions

- Responsiveness and scrolling improvements from the new retained layers layout system

- HTML5 Forms API makes web based forms easier to implement and validate

- Support for the new proposed Audio Data API

- Support for HSTS security protocol allowing sites to insist that they only be loaded over SSL

- A new feature called Panorama gives users a visual overview of all open tabs, allowing them to be sorted and grouped

- An experimental API is included to provide more efficient Javascript animations

- Firefox now supports the HTML5 video “buffered” property

- Changes to how XPCOM components are registered in order to help startup time and process separation

- New Addons Manager and extension management API (UI will be changed before final release)

- Significant API improvements are available for JS-ctypes, a foreign function interface for extensions

- CSS Transitions are partially supported

- Core Animation rendering model for plugins on Mac OS X. Plugins which also support this rendering model can now draw faster and more efficiently

- Web developers can update the URL field without reloading the page using HTML History APIs

- More responsive page rendering using lazy frame construction

- Link history lookup is done asynchronously to provide better responsiveness during pageload
CSS :visited selectors have been changed to block websites from being able to check a user’s browsing history

- New HTML5 parser

- Support for more HTML5 form controls

- Web authors can now get touch events from Firefox users on Windows 7 machines

- A new way of representing values in JavaScript that allows Firefox to execute heavy, numeric code (used for things like graphics and animations) more efficiently

Firefox 4.0 requires an Intel-based Mad and Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

2011 MacBook Pro Turbo Boost problem may be larger issue than originally thought

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Date: Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011, 05:57
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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The good news is that the new 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks are out and they are generally considered speedy and awesome.

The bad news is that Apple may have been aware for some time of the problem of new MacBook Pros crashing under heavy loads. According PC Pro magazine, Apple appears to have deliberately turned off Turbo Boost for the top-end 13″ model (with a dual-core 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7-2620M processor) when running Windows under Boot Camp.

PC Pro originally thought that Turbo Boost had been disabled under OS X as well, but then tests performed by AnandTech showed that the feature was only disabled under Windows. “We first noticed a problem when the benchmarks finished five full runs and the results popped up on screen: the times taken to complete several of the most intensive tests were rising with each run” says PC Pro. “This would suggest an overheating problem, so we ran a temperature monitor to find out how hot this Sandy Bridge CPU was getting.”

In fact, the CPU was reaching around 93°C — almost 200°F. “93°C is not necessarily too high for a modern CPU, but it is the root cause of the bigger performance problem.” The magazine went on to state that it was sure the processor isn’t turning off Turbo Boost dynamically, since it didn’t work at all during their week of testing no matter what the CPU temperature was. Also, the cheaper model with the i5 processor did use Turbo Boost, as did the i7 model under OS X.

After measuring the underside temperature of the top-end model at 60°C — 140°F — they conclude that it might actually be a better deal to buy the cheaper 13-inch MacBook Pro. If Turbo Boost is disabled on the higher model, the lower-end version will actually run Windows faster than the more expensive MacBook Pro.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Yahoo repairs server-side IMAP settings, clears up e-mail issue for Windows 7, iPhone users

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Date: Friday, March 11th, 2011, 04:20
Category: iPhone, News, Software

A fresh test on Thursday confirmed that Yahoo’s IMAP mail bug had been fixed. Per Electronista, Yahoo quietly upgraded its mail servers so that they now respond with only the data they were asked for, rather than the 25 times higher amount they were producing before. Rafael Rivera at Within Windows noted that it had previously sent the entire message header.

The improvement should cure a problem first discovered on Windows Phone 7 that led to a glut of data every time the devices checked mail. Later discoveries found that it also affected at least iPhone owners, but all of them carried the risk of running over bandwidth caps on carriers like AT&T.

Microsoft knew of the cause in Yahoo’s servers weeks after it was found but declined to name it, leaving customers without an idea as to which services to turn off. It instead gave them blanket instructions to turn off automatic mail checks or to disable cellular data. It wasn’t until Rivera investigated himself and confronted Microsoft that it was forced to acknowledge the source.

If you’ve seen any changes in your Yahoo mail on your iPhone, please let us know.