Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.4 build to wider developer base for testing

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, April 29th, 2010, 04:40
Category: News, Software

applelogo_silver

Apple on Wednesday released a widespread developer beta version of its Mac OS X 10.6.4, the fourth maintenance and security update for its Snow Leopard operating system. Until now, the future OS had been under development internally for several weeks.

According to AppleInsider, the beta, labeled Mac OS X 10.6.4 build 10F37, made its way to Apple Developer Connection (ADC) members just one day after a more elite set of testers belonging to Apple’s Apple Seed program were able to test the beta.

According to sources familiar with Wednesday distribution, Apple has asked developers to test four key areas of the system, including graphics drivers, Windows file sharing, USB devices and Voice Over.

Although the build released to ADC members on Wednesday is identical to the one issued to Apple Seed members on Tuesday, an emphasis on evaluating Time Machine backups noted in the Apple Seed distribution was not extended to the ADC version.

It’s unclear what specific issues Mac OS X 10.6.4 will target upon its release, as Apple reportedly stopped short of including a list of enhancements with either of the aforementioned distributions.

That said, the updated build could arrive sooner than later given that the Mac maker went through 36 builds internally before tapping its developer community to put its weight on the software.

Apple listed only one known issue in documentation accompanying Wednesday’s build: that iChat will require a password each time it’s launched.

Apple opens up video decoding APIs to Adobe, other developers

Posted by:
Date: Monday, April 26th, 2010, 04:36
Category: News, Software

adobelogo

Sometimes a well-publicized conflict between two large companies can actually lead to something good. Per Macworld, Apple has released information on how third-party developers can take advantage of hardware acceleration for graphics, a previously unavailable feature that’s been blamed for Flash’s poor performance on the Mac platform.

Traditionally, Flash hasn’t performed nearly as well on Mac OS X as it has on Windows, especially when it comes to video playback despite the fact that these days both platforms run on comparably-powerful hardware. Adobe has been adamant thatany performance issues in Flash are the result of Apple not making the necessary video decoding application programming interfaces (APIs) available to developers, thus preventing them from taking advantage of hardware acceleration on Macs that support it.

However, a recently released Apple Technical Note for Mac OS X 10.6.3 details a new Video Decode Acceleration Framework that may help developers. The framework seems to be a relatively simple and straightforward set of APIs to do precisely what Adobe wants: use hardware acceleration to decode raw H.264 video.

“We will be enabling support for hardware accelerated video decoding for Flash Player on Mac,” said Adobe spokesperson Matt Rozen. “Now that the required APIs are available, we are working on an additional Flash Player release to follow shortly after Flash Player 10.1 to include this functionality for the hardware configurations supported by the new APIs.”

Until now, the only way to take advantage of hardware acceleration when decoding video was to use Apple’s QuickTime APIs, which only work with video that is stored in a “traditional” H.264 container, such as an MP4 file. By letting developers use the raw hardware-decoding capabilities of the graphics processors available in many Macs, Apple allows decoding video that is stored in any format, even if it’s not considered “standard.” By communicating directly with the hardware, an application can now decode video regardless of where or how it’s stored.

Unfortunately, the Video Decode Acceleration Framework has its limitations in that it can only take advantage of hardware video decoding with those GPUs that support that functionality. These GPUs include NVIDIA’s GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M, or GeForce GT 330M graphics chipsets and, because they require Mac OS X 10.6.3, the new APIs are only available on Intel-based Macs.

Even with these limitations, Apple may be lending Adobe and other developers the access they need to help improve Flash on Mac OS X or even bring it to the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad somewhere down the line…

Amidst harsh words, Adobe cancels Flash port work for iPhone OS

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 21st, 2010, 03:39
Category: iPhone, News, Software

adobelogo

A lot can change in two week’s time.

Per Mashable, in that span of time, Adobe has gone from touting its technology for building Flash applications that run on the iPhone to canceling future development of that technology.

When Apple altered the terms of its iPhone 4.0 software developer kit license, it effectively blocked Adobe’s move. But in his Tuesday announcement that Adobe will cease future development of the Flash-apps-on-iPhone technology, Mike Chambers, Adobe’s principal product manager for the Flash platform, offered the following quote outlining the conflict between Adobe and Apple:

“As developers for the iPhone have learned, if you want to develop for the iPhone you have to be prepared for Apple to reject or restrict your development at any time, and for seemingly any reason,” Chambers said. “The primary goal of Flash has always been to enable cross browser, platform and device development. The cool web game that you build can easily be targeted and deployed to multiple platforms and devices. However, this is the exact opposite of what Apple wants. They want to tie developers down to their platform, and restrict their options to make it difficult for developers to target other platforms.”

The company also disclosed in a regulatory filing that its business could be harmed if the iPhone and iPad don’t support Adobe technology with one report stating that the company could be considering legal action against Apple, too, according to one report.

Recently, Adobe also gainded an ally in competing against Apple: Google.

“Fortunately, the iPhone isn’t the only game in town. Android based phones have been doing well behind the success of the Motorola Droid and Nexus One, and there are a number of Android based tablets slated to be released this year. We are working closely with Google to bring both Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0 to these devices, and thus far, the results have been very promising,” Chambers said.

The upcoming Flash Player 10.1 and related AIR 2.0 programming foundations are currently in private beta testing stages for Android and the software, which is scheduled to arrive this quarter, will work on a variety of other phone operating systems, including Windows Phone 7, the BlackBerry OS, Symbian OS, and Palm’s WebOS.

“I think that the closed system that Apple is trying to create is bad for the industry, developers, and ultimately consumers, and that is not something that I want to actively promote,” Chambers said. “We are at the beginning of a significant change in the industry, and I believe that ultimately open platforms will win out over the type of closed, locked-down platform that Apple is trying to create.”

The Adobe technology for bringing Flash-derived applications to the iPhone is now effectively irrelevant at the very moment when Adobe is bringing it to market in its CS5 product line.

“There is no technical reason that Flash can’t run on the iPhone,” Chambers said.

Apple may include printing support in iPhone OS 4.0, other update

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 7th, 2010, 03:34
Category: News

A recently discovered clue is hinting that Apple may add printing support to iPhone OS 4.0 or another update of the operating system. Per AppleInsider, support notes for the iPad’s iWork apps all note that “printing directly from iPad is not currently available” and imply that it will be an option at a later date. Rumors so far haven’t confirmed whether or not it would appear in Thursday’s special event, though it presents the first clear opportunity.

Pure touchscreen tablets have been rare, but most non-Windows tablets have traditionally had printing as a key weakness. Neither Android nor iPhone OS currently have built-in faculties for printing, and many also lack USB ports. Any Apple solution would most likely involve connecting either directly to a printer over Bluetooth or over a local network using Wi-Fi.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recent Study Finds Neither Adobe Flash, HTML5 Has Significant Performance Advantage

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, March 11th, 2010, 06:36
Category: News

As the war between Adobe Flash and HTML5 heats up, a recent comparison with numerous different browsers on both Mac and Windows produced wildly different results based on the operating system and browser, making neither a clear winner.

Per Streaming Learning Center, which conducted the study in response to recently alleged comments from Apple CEO Steve Jobs that reportedly called Flash a “CPU hog”, the test found that HTML5 is significantly more efficient than Flash on the Mac when running the Safari Web browser, those same advantages do not exist on other Mac browsers, or in Windows.

“It’s inaccurate to conclude that Flash is inherently inefficient,” author Jan Ozer wrote. “Rather, Flash is efficient on platforms where it can access hardware acceleration and less efficient where it can’t. With Flash Player 10.1, Flash has the opportunity for a true leap in video playback performance on all platforms that enable hardware acceleration.”

The report noted that Apple has not enabled the hooks to allow GPU-based acceleration for H.264 video decoding. Anand Lai Shimpi, founder of AnandTech, asserted “it’s up to Apple to expose the appropriate hooks to allow Adobe to (eventually) enable that functionality.”

Adobe’s update to Flash 10.1 on the Mac improved CPU efficiency within Safari by 5%, but the Web format still trails far behind HTML5 due to hardware acceleration. With Google Chrome, neither were particularly efficient, and Firefox saw slightly better performance than Chrome.

On Windows, Apple’s Safari browser doesn’t play HTML 5 content. But the Google Chrome browser in Windows played Flash 10.1 content with 58% more efficiency than HTML5.

HTML5 has yet to receive native support in Firefox or Internet Explorer, but the update from Flash 10 to Flash 10.1 improved CPU performance for the browsers by 73% and 35%, respectively. Flash 10.1 in Windows offers added hardware acceleration.

“When it comes to efficient video playback, the ability to access hardware acceleration is the single most important factor in the overall CPU load,” Streaming Learning Center noted. “On Windows, where Flash can access hardware acceleration, the CPU requirements drop to negligible levels.

“It seems reasonable to assume that if the Flash Player could access GPU-based hardware acceleration on the Mac (or iPod/iPhone/iPad), the difference between the CPU required for HTML5 playback and Flash playback would be very much narrowed, if not eliminated.”

Google added native YouTube support in January. The beta opt-in program is available only for browsers that support both HTML5 and H.264 video encoding.

Scrutiny over Flash has grown in recent months since Apple introduced its multimedia iPad device, which does not support the Web format from Adobe. Apple, instead, has placed its support behind HTML5.

Adobe CTO Defends Against Rumored Flash Criticism From Jobs

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 18th, 2010, 05:22
Category: News, Software

adobelogo

Adobe Chief Technical Officer defended the Flash platform this week against rumored comments from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and also said performance improvements for the scrutinized, embattled Web platform are coming to the Mac.

Per BoomTown, Lynch stated that unlike Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ rumored comments, the Adobe staff wasn’t lazy and said he and his team work very hard on their company’s product.

“It feels pretty busy around here, so I’m not sure what that’s about,” Lynch said. “And that’s a rumor. I haven’t heard that necessarily he did say that. But maybe he did, whatever.”

He went on to say that regardless of whether Jobs said anything disparaging about Adobe, he and the company are receptive to public criticism. He said they are working to improve the Flash experience for users.

“We’re totally open to hearing feedback like that,” Lynch said. “And that’s one of the really important things to do in a situation like this, when people are complaining about something — not going into internal mode, or whatever, (but) really listening to what people are saying. We do that with our customers, we do that with our critics, and often there are kernels in there that we ought to do something about, and so we are.”

Lynch then revealed that Adobe is working to improve the performance of Flash on the Mac. Currently, he admitted, video renders are more processor intensive on Apple’s hardware than they are on Windows machines.

He also made note of Adobe’s forthcoming Creative Suite 5 for Mac, which he said is “just terrific.”

“We work with Apple all of the time,” Lynch said. “We’re one of the biggest Macintosh software makers around.”

Lynch said that 19 of the top 20 smartphone makers (Apple being the only one absent) have signed on to the company’s Open Screen Project and its push for Flash on mobile devices. He also said that 85% of the top Web sites on the Internet feature Flash content.

But Flash’s spotty performance history on the Mac platform and processor-intensive requirements have led Apple to support alternatives such as HTML5. The Cupertino, Calif., company has even encouraged developers to “stick with standards” and use CSS, JavaScript and Ajax instead of Adobe Flash.

Lynch told Swisher that Adobe is supportive of the progression of HTML, including HTML5. This week it was said that an Adobe official was attempting to hold up advancement of the HTML5 spec, though those claims were later disputed.

“I know that there are certainly some who are working on HTML5 who are out to kill Flash,” Lynch said, adding that he doesn’t see the push for HTML5 as a move to “kill” Flash.

As always, feel free to hurl your two cents in on this.

Users Report Window Rendering Bug on MacBooks Under Mac OS X 10.6.X

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 14th, 2010, 06:18
Category: MacBook, Software

143393-09macbook386_original

As much as you may like Mac OS X, there may still be some bugs to hash out. Per CNET, several MacBook users have reported experiencing a problem in OS X where the system shows areas of graphics corruption around windows. The corruption appears to be a black area of blocky lines in no particular pattern, and seems to be in the area of the window’s shaded region, moving with the window when it is moved.

GMA3100GraphicsCorruption

The behavior seems to be specific for computers that are running Intel GMA X3100 graphics chipsets. It started occurring with Mac OS X 10.6 for some people, though for others the 10.6.1 update spurred the problem, and as of the latest 10.6.2 release this problem has not been addressed. The issue seems to happen most when multimedia files are being played, especially with beta versions of Adobe flash are being used. From user descriptions, the problem seems to stem from a bug waiting to be fixed in the Mac OS X 10.6 operating system.

Recent reports suggest Apple is working on significantly improving support for more OpenGL 3.0 functions and extensions in OS X 10.6.3, which implies Apple will be updating the graphics drivers in the next update. Hopefully the bug that is causing this problem will be addressed then.

In the meantime, you can try the following fixes and workarounds:

- Reset PRAM and SMC.

- Boot into safe mode and clear caches with OnyX or other maintenance utility.

- Try a different user account.

- Try different graphics settings (bit depth, resolution).

This glitch won’t hurt anything and only affects the MacBook’s rendering of window shadows, which can still be interacted with normally. If you’ve seen this issue on your end and found your own fix or workaround, please let us know.

Google Chrome Beta Arrives for the Mac

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, December 8th, 2009, 11:05
Category: Software

google-chrome-logo

At long last, the official beta of the Mac version of Google Chrome has arrived. The beta, a 17.6 megabyte download, is the current version of Google’s speedy, home-brewed web browser, which until now has been available only for the Windows operating systems.

The beta requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

If you’ve played with it and have an opinion, let us know what you think in the comments.

VirtualBox 3.1 Released

Posted by:
Date: Monday, November 30th, 2009, 09:05
Category: Software

virtualbox.png
VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 3.1. The new version, a 65 megabyte download, sports the following fixes and changes:

- Teleportation (aka live migration); migrate a live VM session from one host to another (see the manual for more information).
- VM states can now be restored from arbitrary snapshots instead of only the last one, and new snapshots can be taken from other snapshots as well (“branched snapshots”; see the manual for more information).
- 2D video acceleration for Windows guests; use the host video hardware for overlay stretching and color conversion (see the manual for more information).
- More flexible storage attachments: CD/DVD drives can be attached to arbitrary storage controllers, and there can be more than one such drive (the manual for more information).
- The network attachment type can be changed while a VM is running.
- Complete rewrite of experimental USB support for OpenSolaris hosts making use of the latest USB enhancements in Solaris Nevada 124 and higher.
- Significant performance improvements for PAE and AMD64 guests (VT-x and AMD-V only; normal (non-nested) paging).
- Experimental support for EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface; see the manual for more information).
- Support for paravirtualized network adapters (virtio-net; see the manual for more information).
- VMM: guest SMP fixes for certain rare cases.
- GUI: snapshots include a screenshot.
- GUI: locked storage media can be unmounted by force.
- GUI: the a log window grabbed all key events from other GUI windows (bug #5291).
- GUI: allow to disable USB filters (bug #5426).
- GUI: improved memory slider in the VM settings.
- GUI: the VirtualBox website couldn’t be opened from the help menu (bug #4559).
- 3D support: major performance improvement in VBO processing.
- 3D support: added GL_EXT_framebuffer_object, GL_EXT_compiled_vertex_array support.
- 3D support: fixed crashes in FarCry, SecondLife, Call of Duty, Unreal Tournament, Eve Online (bugs #2801, #2791).
- 3D support: fixed graphics corruption in World of Warcraft (#2816).
- 3D support: fixed Final frame of Compiz animation not updated to the screen (#4653).
- 3D support: fixed incorrect rendering of non ARGB textures under compiz.
- iSCSI: support iSCSI targets with more than 2TiB capacity.
- VRDP: fixed occasional VRDP server crash (bug #5424).
- Network: fixed the E1000 emulation for QNX (and probably other) guests (bug #3206).
- NAT: added host resolver DNS proxy (see the manual for more information).
- VMDK: fixed incorrectly rejected big images split into 2G pieces (bug #5523, #2787).
- VMDK: fixed compatibility issue with fixed or raw disk VMDK files (bug #2723).
- VHD: fixed incompatibility with Hyper-V.
- Support for Parallels version 2 disk image (HDD) files; see the manual for more information.
- OVF: create manifest files on export and verify the content of an optional manifest file on import.
- OVF: fixed memory setting during import (bug #4188).
- Mouse device: now five buttons are passed to the guest (bug #3773).
- VBoxHeadless: fixed loss of saved state when VM fails to start.
- VBoxSDL: fixed crash during shutdown (Windows hosts only).
- X11 based hosts: allow the user to specify their own scan code layout (bug #2302).
- Mac OS X hosts: don’t auto show the menu and dock in fullscreen (bug #4866).
- Mac OS X hosts (64 bit): don’t interpret mouse wheel events as left click (bug #5049).
- Mac OS X hosts: fixed a VM abort during shutdown under certain conditions.
- Solaris hosts: combined the kernel interface package into the VirtualBox main package.
- Solaris hosts: support for OpenSolaris Boomer architecture (with OSS audio backend).
- Shared folders: VBOXSVR is visible in Network folder (Windows guests, bug #4842).
- Shared folders: performance improvements (Windows guests, bug #1728).
- Windows, Linux and Solaris Additions: added balloon tip notifier if VirtualBox host version was updated and Additions are out of date.
- Solaris guests: fixed keyboard emulation (bug #1589).
- Solaris Additions: fixed as_pagelock() failed errors affecting guest properties (bug #5337).
- Windows Additions: added automatic logon support for Windows Vista and Windows 7.
- Windows Additions: improved file version lookup for guest OS information.
- Windows Additions: fixed runtime OS detection on Windows 7 for session information.
- Windows Additions: fixed crash in seamless mode (contributed by Huihong Luo).
- Linux Additions: added support for uninstalling the Linux Guest Additions (bug #4039).
- Linux guest shared folders: allow mounting a shared folder if a file of the same name as the folder exists in the current directory (bug #928).
- SDK: added object-oriented web service bindings for PHP5.

VirtualBox 3.1 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

Firefox Web Browser Unlikely to Come to iPhone, iPod Touch

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, November 18th, 2009, 05:55
Category: iPhone, News

elfirefox

Representatives from Mozilla, the company responsible for Firefox, have announced that the web browser will not be coming to the iPhone. Responding to questions from ElectricPig.co.uk, Mozilla’s European president, Tristan Nitot, said that Firefox on the iPhone isn’t an option with Apple’s current restrictions on web browsers that would compete with Mobile Safari.

“The issue is more with Apple than with us because they control the App Store and because they refuse applications which compete with something that is already on the phone. It’s unlikely that we’ll see a version of Firefox running on the iPhone,” said Nitot.

Nitot also stated that Mozilla is so sure it isn’t going to happen that he said the foundation isn’t even looking in to making a version for just in case Apple changes their mind.

“We’re not investing time and energy in this direction because we’re pretty sure it would be blocked by Apple, so we’re better off using our time in terms of development to do things on open platforms”.

“[Firefox for mobile] is a modern browser with all the bells and whistles that you’ll find in your desktop browser so you need a powerful operating system such as Android or Maemo or Windows Mobile,” he said. “The list of operating systems we want to support in the mobile world is already pretty long – I guess BlackBerry would be one of the last in our priority list”

Firefox Mobile will be launching on Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile, and Nokia Maemo tablets in December.