13-inch MacBook Pro determined as “best performing Windows laptop” according to PC services company Soluto

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 07:44
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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You’re gonna either love or hate this.

Per CNET, Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro is the “best performing” Windows laptop.

The MacBook Pro won out over established PC makers like Dell, Acer, and Lenovo, according to Soluto, which was quick to explain its finding.

A main factor in this machine’s metrics is the fact that every Windows installation on it is clean. With PC manufacturers loading so much crapware on new laptops, this is a bit of an unfair competition. But, on the other hand, PC makers should look at this data and aspire to ship PCs that perform just as well as a cleanly installed MacBook Pro.

The report went on to admit that it might be more fair to compare a cleanly installed MacBook Pro with a cleanly-installed PC from Acer or Dell.

The company’s metrics included crashes per week, hangs per week, Blue Screens (of Death) per week, and average boot time.

Soluto did list the disadvantages of running Windows on a Mac, including that it’s more work to set up Windows on a Mac and there may be driver issues.

Acer’s Aspire E1-571 came in second and Dell’s XPS 13 received the third-highest ranking.

Apple begins incorporating “Download Later” for larger purchases in iTunes 11

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Date: Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013, 07:37
Category: iTunes, News, Software

This could be useful.

Per Macworld, Apple added a welcome tweak to large media purchases initiated either via the mobile iTunes Store or iTunes 11. Users attempting to download large media files such as movies or music box sets are presented a prompt enabling them to commence the download immediately or save it for a time when they presumably have better bandwidth.

When purchasing any of the above items using iTunes 11 on a Mac or Windows PC, or an iOS device running iOS 6 or later, you’re now presented with “Later” and “Download” (or “Download All”) buttons. Tap “Later” and the purchased items will be added to your iTunes account and accessible to stream or download in the future via Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud feature.

The option to “download later” is exclusively applicable to TV seasons, Season Passes, movie bundles, music box sets, individual movies and TV episodes.

Apple outlines the specifics of the new software tweak in the following updated support document. Lastly, note that the prompt will only appear for users in countries where Apple provides iTunes in the Cloud support.

If you’ve seen this change on your end and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Microsoft planning boot-to-desktop mode for Windows 8.1 update

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 17th, 2013, 07:33
Category: Rumor, Software

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If you’re using a Windows 8 partition, then there’s a fairly decent chance you want to strangle whoever created the Metro interface, as great as Microsoft seems to think it is.

Per The Verge, in an apparent attempt to have its latest operating system better appeal to business customers, Microsoft reportedly plans to add a “boot to desktop” mode to its Windows 8.1 update, allowing users to bypass the Metro Start Screen.

In current test builds of Windows 8.1, codenamed “Windows Blue”, the operating system includes an option to boot directly to the traditional Windows desktop, sources familiar with the company’s plans indicated to reporters. That’s a major change from the current version of Windows 8, which automatically boots to the new Start Screen which features the tiled “Metro” user interface.

Windows 8 currently boots to the new Start Screen, requiring an extra step to reach the desktop.

The new Start Screen has been criticized by PC users who feel the interface is not ideal with a traditional keyboard and mouse setup. Some believe the Metro user interface is better suited for touchscreen devices, like tablets and phones.

While Microsoft reportedly plans to make the desktop view a default option when booting a system, the company is said to be keeping the invisible “hot corners” it introduced with Windows 8. That function allows users to bring up the operating system’s “Charms” or the Metro Start Screen by touching or dragging their PC mouse to the corner of the screen.

Windows 8 launched last fall with a great deal of hype from the Redmond, Wash., company, which claimed the new operating system was a revolutionary upgrade from its predecessor, Windows 7. But Windows 8 got off to a soft start, and failed to turn around sales in the sagging PC hardware market.

Continuing woes in the PC market have been generally blamed on the popularity of Apple’s iPad, which reached a new, lower entry price of US$329 last fall with the debut of the iPad mini. In comparison, many new touchscreen Ultrabooks running Windows 8 cost over a thousand dollars.

The struggles seen by PC makers have led market watchers to predict that the industry could see a major shakeup in the coming years. Some believe that remaining companies could merge, leading to fewer options, while others see gross margins shrinking in an effort to cut prices and boost sales.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Parallels Desktop updated to 8.0.18483

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 07:38
Category: iMac, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Parallels released version 8.0.18483 of its Parallels Desktop virtualization software. The new update, a 320 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- Better compatibility with new iMacs.

- Create Boot Camp virtual machines on new iMacs with 3 TB hard drives.

- Create virtual machines from the Boot Camp partition with Windows 8 installed.

- Support for Fedora 18.

- Fixed visual artifacts when changing screen resolution in a Windows 8 Pro virtual machine with more than 256 MB of video memory and nested virtualization enabled.

- Resolves an issue with the Command + click combination not opening links in new tabs in Windows browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.).

Parallels Desktop 8 retails for US$79.99 and requires a 64-bit Intel-based processor, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended to run Windows 7), at least 700 MB of space available on the boot volume for Parallels Desktop installation and 15 GB of available disk space for Windows.

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

Amazon releases Cloud Drive app for Mac

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013, 06:18
Category: News, Software

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Never doubt the power of competition in the cloud-based market space.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Amazon has introduced file syncing to its Cloud Drive app for OS X, which essentially makes Cloud Drive Amazon’s version of Dropbox.

Like Dropbox, the app allows files put into the Cloud Drive folder to be available on any Mac or Windows machine running Cloud Drive with your login details. The files are also available through any web browser.

Cloud Drive users receive 5 GB of storage space for free, which is equal to Google Drive’s initial offering but more than double Dropbox’s 2 GB of storage for new users.

The app is available as a free download and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

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

Microsoft to begin automatically pushing Windows 7 Service Pack 1 update starting today

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Date: Tuesday, March 19th, 2013, 06:03
Category: News, Software

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If your Windows 7 partition seems to be updating itself after you’ve booted into it, there’s a reason why.

Per ZDNet, as Microsoft marches toward its early April 2013 end of free support deadline for Windows 7, the company is planning to update automatically some of those who still have yet to install the first (and seemingly only) Service Pack for the operating system.

As announced on March 18 via its “Blogging Windows” blog, Microsoft plans to begin rolling out Windows 7 SP1 automatically, via Windows Update to Windows 7 users who still are running the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version without SP1 installed. This process will begin on March 19.

From the blog post:

“Starting tomorrow, the installation will be fully automatic with no user action required for those who already have Automatic Update enabled. SP1 will be released gradually over the coming weeks to all customers on the RTM version of Windows 7. The service pack will take slightly longer to install compared to other updates. To ensure Service Pack 1 is installed without issue, customers should check for sufficient free disk space and that AC power is present on a laptop. If additional space needs to be created, we recommend using the Disk Cleanup tool to delete some files so that the service pack will install. If the service pack installation is interrupted, it will reattempt to install automatically after the next restart.”

This automatic update will be applied only to Windows 7 consumer PCs that are not managed via other Microsoft management tools like System Center Configuration Manager or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), the post noted. Some admins have chosen to temporarily block their users from getting SP1 until they’ve tested it to their satisfaction. Those in that category won’t be getting SP1 pushed to them starting tomorrow.

Windows 7 RTM, with no service pack installed, will no longer be supported as of April 9, 2013, according to a February 14 post on the Microsoft Springboard Series blog. Support for specific Windows releases ends 24 months after the release of a new Service Pack, and Windows 7 SP1 was released in February 2011.

Windows 7 SP1 mainstream (free) support continues until January 13, 2015. Extended (paid) support for Windows 7 SP1 is available until January 14, 2020. (Microsoft continues to provide security updates for free during the Extended support phase of a product.)

Microsoft made available last week a Windows 7 hotfix rollup that includes 90 previously released hotfixes.

So, if you’ve been lax with the “Windows Update” feature on your Windows 7 partition, it might just do it for you.

Oracle releases emergency Java patch, advises users to update to latest version

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Date: Tuesday, March 5th, 2013, 08:58
Category: News, security, Software

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This is why updates were invented.

Per CNET, in response to discovering that hackers were actively exploiting two vulnerabilities in Java running in Web browsers, Oracle has released an emergency patch that it says should deal with the problem.

“These vulnerabilities may be remotely exploitable without authentication, i.e., they may be exploited over a network without the need for a username and password,” Oracle wrote in a security alert on Monday. “For an exploit to be successful, an unsuspecting user running an affected release in a browser must visit a malicious web page that leverages these vulnerabilities. Successful exploits can impact the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of the user’s system.”

Hackers were recently found using one of the vulnerabilities to get into users’ computers and install McRAT malware. Once installed, McRAT works to contact command, control servers, and copy itself into all files in Windows systems.

Only days after scheduling its last zero-day vulnerability in February, Oracle found these two new exploits. Rather than wait to include the patch in its scheduled quarterly April update, Oracle issued the emergency patch on Monday.

“In order to help maintain the security posture of all Java SE users, Oracle decided to release a fix for this vulnerability and another closely related bug as soon as possible,” Oracle software security assurance director Eric Maurice wrote in a blog post today.

According to Oracle, the most recent vulnerabilities are only applicable to Java running in Web browsers — they don’t affect Java running on servers, standalone Java desktop applications, or embedded Java applications. They also do not affect Oracle server-based software.

Users can install and update their Java software by going to the Java Web site or through the Java auto update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VirtualBox updated to 4.2.8

Posted by:
Date: Monday, March 4th, 2013, 06:17
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.2.8. The new version, a 109 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:
- VMM: fixed guest crash with huge amount of guest RAM on VT-x hosts (bug #11306)

- GUI: fixed a layout bug in the Mac OS X clone VM dialog (bug #10982).

- GUI: not all the translation tags were taken into account during the language switch (bug #11342).

- GUI: take guest screenshot dialog sometimes had no keyboard input available on Windows host.

- Main/Machine: fix generation of spurious event for inaccessible VMs which triggered an endless event generation loop in cooperation with the GUI which became unresponsive (4.2.6 regression, bug #11323).

- Main/Display: fix for an access violation under certain conditions in multi-monitor configurations (bug #10539).

- Main/Metrics: network metrics are now collected for active (up) interfaces only, the state of an interface being evaluated when the associated metric is enabled via setupMetrics.

- Snapshots: reduce the time for merging snapshots under certain conditions.

- Storage: fixed data corruption after resizing a VDI image under certain circumstances (bug #11344).

- Storage: fixed non working online merging of snapshots (4.2.6 regression, bug #11359).

- Storage: fixed crash when connecting to certain QNAP iSCSI targets.

- Storage: fixed incompatibility of VHD differencing images with Hyper-V (bug #5990).

- Bridged Networking: fixed TCP pseudo header checksum computation for IPv6 (bug #9380).

- 3D support: fix Battlefield 1942 game crashes (bug #11369).

- Settings: really sanitize the name of VM folders and settings file, the code was disabled before (bug #10549).

- Settings: allow to change VRDE settings for saved VMs.

- VBoxManage: don’t crash during screenshotpng if there is no display (bug #11363).

- Linux hosts: work around gcc bug 55940 which might lead to wrong kernel module code if gcc 4.7 is used to compile the 32-bit Linux host kernel (bug #11035).

- Linux hosts: fixed inconsistent lock state and deadlock warnings on module load and VM startup when CONFIG_PROVE_LOCKING is enabled (bug #11318).

- Linux hosts: made “]” key work again on Japanese keyboards.

- Mac OS X hosts: don’t crash the kernel during dtrace if the VBox kernel extensions are loaded (10.6 hosts only; bug #11273).

- Solaris / Mac OS X hosts: machine CPU load metrics now report 100% when all cores are fully utilized (used to be a single core).

- Solaris 11 host installer: wait for any services left over from a previous installation to be terminated to avoid confusing SMF.

- Guest Additions: don’t block signals for processes executed via guest control.

- Guest Additions: fixed a small memory leak in VBoxService (bug #10970).

- Windows Additions: fixed shared folder issue with large reads/writes on 64 bit Windows guests (bug #11115).

- Linux Additions: Linux 3.8 compile fixes (bug #11036).

- X11 Additions: fixed blocked SIGALRM in 3D desktop sessions (bug #10987).

- X11 Additions: fixed an unresolved reference in vboxvideo_drv for X.org 6.8 guests and before (e.g. RHEL4; 4.2.0 regression).

- X11 Additions: fixed screen automatic resizing for guests with X.org 1.3 or older (4.2.0 regression).

VirtualBox 4.2.8 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.

Dropbox 1.7.7 beta released

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 26th, 2013, 07:53
Category: News, Software

You can’t knock a steady stream of update-based goodness.

On Tuesday, Dropbox released a public beta of version 1.7.7 of its cloud-based storage client for Mac OS X. The new version, a 21.9 megabyte download (via MacUpdate), which adds the following fixes and changes:
- Fix a bug where notifications may enter a bad state without the ability to recover.

- Clicking a shared folder invitation now opens the invitation inbox.

- Re-enabled Notification Center on OS X 10.8.

- Fixed a bug where the popup would remain visible while the tray icon was hidden while quitting the application.

- Improved performance when acknowledging notifications.

- Fixed a bug where notifications would sometimes fail to appear on Windows.

- Other small fixes and polish.

Dropbox 1.7.7 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

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

Microsoft quietly increases Office 2011 for Mac price by 10 to 17%

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Date: Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, 07:03
Category: News, Software

Well, this is mildly sadistic.

Per CNET, Microsoft has quietly increased the prices of its Office for Mac 2011 by as much as 17 percent, putting it on price par with Office 2013 for Windows.

The company has also quit selling multi-license packages, which allowed customers to purchase multiple copies of the application suite at a discounted rate.

The single-license Office for Mac Home & Student now retails for US$140, an increase of about 17 percent from the previous price of US$120. Meanwhile, Microsoft raised the price of Office for Mac Home & Business, which includes Outlook, to US$220, a 10 percent increase over the previous US$200 price.

Microsoft doesn’t seem to have publicized the price increase, so it’s not clear when it actually took effect. However, Computerworld, which first reported the increase, estimates it occurred around January 29, the same day that Microsoft Office 2013 and Office 365 were launched.

In addition to the price increase, Microsoft ceased sales of multi-license editions.

The multi-user packs are still for sale on Amazon (while supplies last) at a significant discount, but the listing notes that the software is an older edition.
The moves are apparently intended to redirect customers toward Office 365, which costs US$100 for an annual subscription. The new offering is part of effort by Microsoft to bring its suite of Office server tools and collaboration work flows into the cloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.