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

Posted by:
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

Posted by:
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

Posted by:
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

Posted by:
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

Posted by:
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

Posted by:
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.

Recent support note indicates that 2011 MacBook Air, Pro units will only support Windows 7 under Boot Camp

Posted by:
Date: Monday, February 28th, 2011, 06:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Per a recent Apple support note released Friday, the company’s new MacBook Pro models and the recently refreshed MacBook Air won’t support Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Note: Windows XP and Vista drivers are not supplied for these computers and are not supported.

According to the Apple Core, the note states that Book Camp will support 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate. If you’re running Window XP or Vista on an older Mac and are moving up to one the new notebooks, then you will have to put a Windows upgrade into your budget.

Window 7 running on Boot Camp requires:

-An optical drive (MacBook Air computers require an external optical disc drive to install Windows 7).

-A blank CD or USB storage device to contain the Windows Drivers created by the Boot Camp Assistant.

-For 32-bit versions of Windows, at least 16 GB of free space.

-For 64-bit versions of Windows, at least 20 GB of free space.

-Boot Camp Assistant, which is pre-installed in /Applications/Utilities/

-An authentic, 32-bit or 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate disc.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you have a new early 2011 MacBook Pro notebook and have had any experience with Boot Camp, please let us know in the comments.

Parallels Desktop 6.0.11994.637263 released

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011, 05:13
Category: News, Software

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Parallels Desktop, the popular virtualization application that allows users to run the Windows and Linux operating systems simultaneously alongside Mac OS X, reached version 6.0.11994.637263 on Thursday. The new version, available here, sports the following major change:

- Resolves compatibility issues with Mac OS X 10.6.5 and 10.6.6.

Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac retails for US$79.99 and requires Mac OS X 10.5.2 later to install and run.

VLC 1.1.6 update released

Posted by:
Date: Monday, January 24th, 2011, 05:36
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 1.1.6. The new version, a 40.6 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Security updates in codecs and demuxers.

- Support for RTP/PCM 24bits, audio/L24.

- Support for MPC SV7/SV8 on Windows and MacOS builds.

- Faster Webm/VP8 decoding.

- Support for Midi on MacOS.

- Major updates in most language translations.

- Support for projectM visualisation on Windows.

- KDE and PulseAudio integration improvements.

- Subtitles fixes and improvements.

- Improvements in visualisations and interfaces.

- Codecs updates.

- Many miscellaneous fixes.

VLC 1.1.6 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

HandBrake updated to 0.9.5, now Intel-only

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 4th, 2011, 05:14
Category: News, Software


Handbrake, Eric Petit’s incredibly useful open-source DVD ripping/conversion utility, has been updated to version 0.9.5 and gone Intel-only.

The new version, which can be found here, boasts the following fixes and changes:

Core Library:
- BluRay disc structure support (No decryption support)
- Updated Libraries (x264, ffmpeg)
- SSA Subtitle support (Including burn-in)
- MP3 audio now supported in MP4 files (Note: Limited Player compatibility)
- VOBSUB subtitle now supported in MP4 files (Note: Limited Player compatibility)
- Updated Presets for newer devices and better quality
- AC3 encoding support
- Many Bug Fixes and other small improvements
- Improved DVD Main Feature detection (when using dvdnav)
- Universal audio downmix support (all audio types can be downmixed)
- Poin-to-Point encoding (second or frame start and end times)
- Peak framerate option (Capped VFR)

All GUIs:
- Updated x264 Advanced Panel
- Video Quality Slider drops % value and only shows RF for x264
- Batch Scan (Scan Multiple files at once. N.B: Does not include multiple VIDEO_TS folders / Image files)
- Many Bug fixes
- Many Tweaks to improve usability
- Ability to edit queue jobs

Mac GUI:
- New Audio Panel supporting >4 Audio Tracks
- VLC detection in /Applications and ~/Applications
- Multiple instance support

Windows GUI:
- Encode Status in GUI. (CLI window is now always hidden)
- Improved Auto-Naming for Destination file name
- Drag / Drop Video onto Main Window to scan

Linux GUI:
- Multiple instance support (run multiple copies of ghb at once)
- Many Bug fixes and UI improvements

Handbrake 0.9.5 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.