News

Apple appoints Ronald Sugar to its Board of Directors

Apple on Wednesday appointed Ronald Sugar to its Board of Directors. Sugar will serve as the Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee.

Sugar is the former Chairman of the Board and CEO of Northrop Grumman. He held the positions from 2003 until he retired in 2010. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Sugar fills the vacancy in Apple’s board left when Google’s Eric Schmidt quit last year.

Apple has Beatles exclusive until 2011

Apple launched the Beatles on iTunes Tuesday, but the company this afternoon answered another question about band’s music — the exclusivity of the deal with Apple.

“The Beatles will be available for digital downloads exclusively on iTunes, with the exclusive expiring in 2011,” an Apple spokesperson told The Loop.

Apple declined to comment on exactly when the exclusivity with iTunes would end, only saying 2011.

Apple approves Google Voice iPhone App

The latest episode in the long-running Google-Apple soap opera came to a conclusion on Tuesday when Apple finally approved the official Google Voice application for the iPhone, which will let iPhone owners make calls and send text messages through a Google Voice phone number.

If you missed this particular drama, here’s a brief recap. In July of last year Google submitted a Google Voice application to the iTunes App Store. The application was not initially approved by Apple and after some back-and-forth, the Federal Communications Commission began an inquiry asking why the app had not been approved.

Apple told the F.C.C. that the app “duplicated” services already available on the iPhone. Google tried to argue its case too, discussing openness and Android, to no avail.

Now, well over a year later, Apple has approved the Google application, although it is not clear what pushed the app over the finish line and onto consumers’ phones.

Bugs & Fixes: Beware OS X 10.6.5 and PGP WDE Protected Drive

If you are using PGP Whole Disk Encryption, beware of updating to Mac OS X 10.6.5. PGP Technical Support has issued the following alert:

“Mac OS X PGP WDE customers should not apply the recent Mac OS X 10.6.5 update. Compatibility issues may prevent the system from successfully booting. In the interim, customers can accomplish the upgrade safely if the PGP Whole Disk Encrypted system system is first decrypted, then apply the Mac OS X 10.6.5 update and then re-encrypt.”

If this advice comes too late because you’ve already updated to Mac OS X 10.6.5 and find yourself with an unbootable drive, PGP Technical Support recommends you do the following...

Apple releases iTunes 10.1

It’s time to start your Software Update engines, as Apple on Friday released iTunes 10.1.

iTunes 10.1 brings full support for AirPlay, its new technology evolved from AirTunes. AirPlay allows you to stream music, video, and photos from iOS-devices or iTunes to other AirPlay-enabled devices, such as the new Apple TV and a growing array of consumer electronics and home entertainment devices.

iTunes 10.1 also supports syncing an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with iOS 4.2, which Apple is expected to release soon.

Twitter + Ping = Discovering More Music

Every day, millions of people use Twitter to follow and share what they care about. Twitter users now send over 95 million Tweets a day, many of which are about the music they're listening to.

Starting today Ping, iTunes' new social network for music, and Twitter are making it even easier for people to share music discoveries with their friends by putting Ping activity, song previews and links to purchase and download music from the iTunes Store right in their Tweets on Twitter.com.

On Ping you can easily link to your Twitter account to instantly find Ping users among the people you already follow on Twitter. Once you’ve linked the accounts, whenever you Post, Like, Review, or tell your friends why you purchased a song or album on Ping, this activity will also be tweeted to your Twitter followers – complete with playable song previews and links to purchase and download music from iTunes.

Mac OS X v10.6.5 Update

Apple on Wednesday released an update for Mac OS X Snow Leopard, bringing the most current release to 10.6.5.

Choose Software Update from the Apple menu to check for the latest Apple software via the Internet, including this update. This update also includes the improvements found in the Mac OS X v10.6.1, 10.6.2, 10.6.3, and 10.6.4 updates.

Consumer Reports rates MacBook Air Highest in Their Categories

Apple’s MacBook Air is proving to be a well designed computer, as Consumer Reports gave both models their highest rating.

The Consumer Reports “Laptop Ratings & Reliability” report, which is only available to subscribers, rates Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air a 67 out of 100. That’s the highest in the category, with the Toshiba Satellite coming in with a score of 51 out of 100.

The 13-inch MacBook Air had much more competition in its category, but it still came out on top. Scoring 78 out of 100, the 13-inch MacBook Air topped the list that included 11 other computers.

Office 2011 Update boosts Security, Stability

Two weeks after launching Office 2011, Microsoft has rolled out an update that aims to improve the security and stability of the latest version of its office productivity suite.

Release notes for the Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 14.0.1 Update say that the release fixes “critical issues” in the latest version of Office that could cause components of the suite to stop responding or quit unexpectedly. Microsoft says the update also fixes a security vulnerability that could allow an attack to overwrite the contents of a computer’s memory with malicious code.

Outlook 2011 gets a number of improvements in this update, including better reliability for deleting messages from multiple IMAP accounts, a Sync Services fix, and improved reliability for importing Office 2008 identities into the new version of the suite. The update also allows Outlook to retain e-mail passwords in the keychain after users import new accounts into the mail client.

Microsoft offers more details about the 14.0.1 update fixes on its website.

Firesheep Security Tool highlights Perils of Open Networks

Sometimes in the security world there are problems we know about for a long time that are mostly ignored until someone finally kicks us in the face with a dramatic demonstration. On 24 October 2010, freelance developer Eric Butler virtually body slammed a large percentage of the Internet with the release of Firesheep, a Firefox plug-in that enables anyone on the same local network to sidejack certain webmail, social networking, shopping, and other sessions without any technical skills; it does not work past a local router. Users on the same network connecting to sites such as Twitter, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and Facebook are all potentially vulnerable to Firesheep.

This attack is known as HTTP session hijacking or sidejacking. You don’t need to steal a user’s username and password, just the special bits of information that keep his or her session active with the site they are visiting. This includes a unique token sent by the Web server to a browser; for some sites, a few other details are captured, too.

The reality is there is only so much you can do to protect yourself until the sites you visit build in the proper security measures.

Consumer Spending on Electronics Gifts to reach an All Time High this Holiday, according to CEA

This holiday season, spending on consumer electronics gifts will reach historic highs, despite an overall decline in gift spending, according to new research released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). CEA unveiled the 17th Annual CE Holiday Purchase Patterns Study today at CEA’s Industry Forum in San Francisco, a four-day conference designed to inform and connect leaders in the consumer electronics (CE) industry.

Consumer electronics will once again be the “hottest” gifts, both to give and to receive, this holiday season. Overall, consumers will spend $750 on holiday gifts, down two percent from last year. They will, however, spend more on CE gifts than ever before.

Three of the top five, and four of the top ten, items on adults overall holiday gift wish list are electronics. Notebook/laptop computers and Apple’s iPad ranked second and third on the list respectively, trailing only peace and happiness.

Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac is Free

Security expert Sophos has announced its latest antivirus product for Mac owners, and it's completely free. Sophos has created a home version of its popular corporate Mac antivirus solution, offering Apple users a simple and elegant way to stay virus-free.

The most common threats to Mac users are still socially engineered Web sites, pirated software, and social network scams on Facebook and Twitter--all of which can contain malicious code that runs on your Mac, collects your password information, banking information, or directs you to malicious Web sites.

Many Mac users also don't realize that your Mac can still transmit and spread Windows-targeted viruses. If you get a file with a virus, it may not affect your machine, but if you send it to a friend with a PC, his or her computer could get infected. The Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac solution promises to catch these types of files and help you get rid of them safely.

MacGraPhoto 2 promises 9 Premium Graphics Apps at Discount Price

Apparent Software has announced the launch of their MacGraPhoto 2 bundle, promising 9 premium graphics applications for the price of one.

Applications include those covering vector drawing, brochure design, smart screen capturing, creating HDR photos, preparing photos for print and framing them, creating posters and postcards and more.

Included in this bundle are the Sandvox, AtomicView, Posterino 2, Sketch, Swift Publisher, Layers, Snapshot, ImageFramer 3, Hydra and DVD-Library. MacGraPhoto 2 costs $39.99, an apparent 91 per cent saving on the full $444 price.

Apple sending Xserve to Giant Server Farm in the Sky

After more than eight years on the market, Apple is euthanizing the Xserve.

On January 31, 2011, Apple will stop selling the Mac server hardware, though support will continue for the three companies that have purchased Xserves. We're just kidding; there are plenty of admins who are undoubtedly surprised and disappointed by the news. Apple is offering one small consolation: the Mac Pro Server.Apple issued a transitional guide for those looking for something to fill the empty server rack in their hearts. The document recommends that users check out either the Mac mini server or the Mac Pro running Snow Leopard Server. Customers who buy Xserves up until January 31 will get the standard one-year warranty from Apple, and AppleCare customers will still be able to extend that support out to three years if they so choose

Fans of the Xserve will undoubtedly still be disappointed, though. The Mac mini can't measure up in terms of performance, and the Mac Pro requires significantly more physical space than an Xserve (not to mention that it lacks certain features that the Xserve has, such as Lights-Out Management (LOM).

New Variant of Mac OS X Trojan Discovered

In late October, SecureMac discovered a new trojan that affected users of Mac OS X. On Thursday, the company posted a warning that a new variant of the trojan has been discovered.

Microsoft has also documented the trojan for both Mac and Windows, rating the threat level for both operating systems as severe. SecureMac rates the security risk of the malware as being critical. Only Intego has rated the threat level as minimal, contradicting Microsoft, SecureMac and ESET’s interpretation of the malware’s threat to users.

SecureMac released a free tool to detect and remove the malware. It is available for download from the company’s website. Instructions to manually remove the malware are also available from SecureMac.

Sophos unveils Free Antivirus Software for the Mac

Sophos unveiled free antivirus software today that Macintosh users can install to detect and block malware that targets computers running the Mac operating system.

Sophos Anti-Virus Home Edition for Mac also detects malware written for Windows that Mac users can spread via USB drives and e-mail, Chet Wisniewski, a senior security adviser at Sophos, told CNET. The software is a noncommercial version of Sophos Anti-Virus 7.2 for Mac, targeted at home users and modified so it is easier to install and use, he said.

The free Mac antivirus software from Sophos, which also launched a Mac support forum, will compete with ClamXav, Avast, and PCTools' iAntiVirus.

Apple confirms move to 90 Second iTunes Samples

Longer song samples are finally on their way to iTunes.

An Apple spokesman confirmed for CNET this evening a report by Symphonic Distribution, a digital music distributor, that iTunes would soon be extending the length of song samples from 30 seconds to 90 seconds for songs that are at least two-and-a-half minutes in length. Shorter songs would continue to offer the 30-second sample. Apple notified the top music labels and other business partners in the music industry about the change today.

The samples are, of course, the snippets of music that Apple offers to iTunes users so they can determine whether they want a song or not.

Some Apple Execs exercise Stock Options

Several Apple executives took advantage of the fact that Apple stock hit an all-time high recently to cash out some stock options for extra christmas spending money. Apple hit $319 on October 18 and Bertrand Serlet, software engineering senior VP exercised 5,000 options at $318.50 while controller Betsy Rafael, operations SVP Jeffrey Williams and hardware SVP Bob Mansfield all sold at over $300.

Mansfield in particular made a killing exercising 40,000 options that were priced at $36.54 for $308 each. That's a tidy profit of $10.844 million.

Adobe issues Flash Security Advisory

Adobe Systems has issued a new security advisory for Flash Player, Adobe Reader, and Adobe Acrobat. The company has rated a new vulnerability as “critical,” and said that it could result in a crash of your system, and result in the bad guys taking over your computer.

The problem exists in Adobe Flash Player 10.1.85.3 and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Solaris, as well as Adobe Flash Player 10.1.95.2 and earlier versions for Android. Adobe Acrobat 9.4 and earlier 9.x versions for Windows and Mac OS X.

Adobe also said that there are active exploits target the vulnerability in the wild for Acrobat and Reader, though there are no known active exploits for Flash Player.

Apple passes RIM, now #4 Cell Phone Maker Globally

Apple's stellar fiscal fourth quarter results continue to break records for the company. It sold 14.1 million iPhones, and its $20 billion in revenue topped one of Microsoft's best quarters ever. Now, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics, the iPhone has catapulted Apple past both RIM and Sony Ericsson to make the company the fourth largest mobile phone vendor in the world.

Apple's sales of 14.1 million iPhones was enough to capture 4.3 percent of the global mobile phone market for the last quarter. That's double the roughly 2 percent market share the company managed this same time last year.

"We've now passed RIM—and I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future," CEO Steve Jobs boasted during Apple's most recent quarterly earnings call.

iFixit finds MacBook Air full of Pesky Screws, Proprietary Parts

The new 11" MacBook Air has hardly arrived in one piece, and already iFixit has broken it down to get a first-hand look at its components. The system is more closed than ever, with tricky screws on the bottom and its RAM soldered to the logic board. Still, once inside, some of the parts are still easily replaceable.

iFixit seemed pretty miffed about the new five-point Security Torx screws that hold the MacBook Air's underside together. The screws' points are rounded, like flower petals, and the authors had to "file down a couple of flathead screwdrivers" in order to prise the thing open.

Once inside, the biggest changes were readily apparent.

Microsoft launches Office 2011

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced the official release of Office 2011 for Mac, the latest incarnation of its popular office suite.

The widely anticipated release includes a completely reworked user interface, based on the ribbon menus that were first featured in the 2007 edition of Office for Windows; it also adds several new features, including support for document co-authoring and the inclusion of a Mac version of the Outlook mail and calendaring program, which replaces the Entourage application that shipped with previous versions of the suite.

Additionally, the new Office brings back an old favorite: macros, which can once again be written and run using Microsoft’s Visual Basic for Applications language. Macros are popular with power users, who take advantage of them to automate complex tasks.

It’s also worth noting that the licensing terms of the suite have changed significantly from its predecessor—a move that has caused some controversy with owners of multiple Macs.

Security Firms differ on Severity of New Mac Malware Threat

While a new piece of Mac malware is on the prowl, the threat it poses may be overblown, according to one security firm.

Boonana is a Mac version of the Koobface worm, which itself is a maliciously crafted Java applet that infects users via messages on social networking services like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, as well as other sites. The messages often contain the subject line “Is this you in this video?” along with the infected link.

While SecureMac contends that Boonana is a “Critical” risk, security firm Intego—which says it has been monitoring the malware for some time—deems it only a low-risk threat, due to the fact that the implementation of the malware program is itself flawed and many of the remote servers it seems to rely on are inactive.

While the order of the day is always to be careful about what links you click on, concerned Mac users can take further steps such as disabling Java in Safari’s Preferences -> Security.

Secret Button Sequence bypasses iPhone Security

A security flaw in the iPhone allows strangers to bypass the handset’s lock screen with a few button presses.

Tap the “Emergency call” button, then enter three pound signs, hit the green call button and immediately press the lock button. That simple procedure gives a snoop full access to the Phone app on the iPhone, which contains the address book, voicemail and call history.

Wired.com tried out the procedure with complete success on an iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.

Apple did not immediately return a phone call or e-mail requesting comment.

Amazon offers a New Way to Shop — on an iPad

Amazon on Tuesday released a new application for Apple’s iPad that it says offers “a complete rewrite” of Amazon.com designed specifically, and exclusively, to work on the iPad. The app, Windowshop, is available as a free download from the iTunes App Store. It makes it simple to browse Amazon’s millions of items in a more efficient and speedier way than navigating the cumbersome Web site.

In a press release, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and founder, said the new iPad app offers a “fluid interface designed specifically for lean-back, touch screen tablets.”

Mr. Bezos also said the app is “designed and built without compromise just for iPad,” noting that it’s a “top-to-bottom rewrite of Amazon.com.”

MacUpdate Desktop adds Automatic Update Checking

MacUpdate Desktop, an application developed by the folks that run the MacUpdate website, has been updated adding new features and a number of improvements. MacUpdate Desktop allows users to make sure their installed software is up-to-date without having to visit multiple websites and track down the updates manually. In fact, you don’t even have to visit the MacUpdate website — the application does it all for you.

Improved version matching, application matching, and an improved installed engine have been added, making updates more accurate. MacUpdate 5.0.5 can be downloaded from the company’s website.

Jobs: There won’t be a "mute-switch becomes an orientation lock" Option for iPad

Back in January 2010 Apple announced that the hardware switch on the side of the iPad would be a mute switch, just like on the iPhone. Then, closer to the product’s launch in March of this year, Apple revealed that the mute-switch magically transformed into a very handy orientation-lock. Now with iOS 4.2 for iPad, Apple again transformed the hardware switch’s purpose and now it is once again a mute-switch. As we now know, you can lock the iPad’s screen orientation via a menu to the left of the multitasking dock.

Since Apple is clearly able to change the switch’s purpose via a software update, many have wondered if Apple would make an option in settings for the user to choose whether they want it as an orientation lock or as a mute switch. Well today, we have the answer and it comes straight from the top.

PBS launches Full Content iPad App

PBS on Monday joined the ranks of networks like ABC and TLC with an official iOS app for streaming full-length content. Called simply PBS for iPad, the network’s new app allows you to watch full-length episodes on your iPad from 25 of its programs, including Nature, Masterpiece Theater, News Hour, and Circus, a new show that, according to ReadWriteWeb, is debuting first on the iPad.

PBS for iPad’s arrival also coincides with the network's major revamp of its site, which can now blend national and local news together. PBS.org can auto-discover your location and include content from local PBS stations alongside important national news. This feature works with a dozen stations now, and the rest will be brought on within a few months.

PBS for iPad is available now for free in the App Store, requiring an iPad that runs iOS 3.2 or higher.

Lending coming to the Kindle

Amazon said that later this year a lending feature will come to the Kindle, though it has the same restrictions as the current lending feature on the Barnes & Noble Nook.

"In the coming weeks, many newspapers and magazines will be available on our Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, and then we'll be adding this functionality to Kindle for Android and our other apps down the road," the post says. "Our vision is 'buy once, read everywhere,' and we're excited to make this possible for Kindle periodicals in the same way that it works now for Kindle books. More details when we launch this in the coming weeks."

Like on the Nook, the Amazon lending feature will allow the lender to farm out certain books once for a 14-day period, and the lender cannot read the book while it's loaned out. You can loan a book to anyone with a Kindle--or a Kindle app--but it's important to note that publishers and rights holders will determine whether this feature is enabled or not. Amazon doesn't say exactly when the lending feature will arrive, but it does say it will happen this year.

Apple passes RIM in Global Smartphone Shipments

Apple CEO Steve Jobs and RIM executives have been in a war of words lately about which company is selling more smartphones, but a new report from Strategy Analytics may put an end to the battle.

According to its report, Strategy Analytics says that Apple passed RIM in global smartphone shipments for the third quarter of 2010. The data shows that RIM shipped 12.3 million smartphones for the quarter and Apple shipped 15.4 million.

Nokia remains the global leader, shipping 26.5 million smartphones during the third quarter,