Archive for the 'Software' Category

Apple announces the iPhone

apple iphone

I think perhaps for most of us this was the most expected announcement made by Apple at MacWorld. With all the buzz flying around, and no solid facts. Though Kevin Rose apparently spilled the details a lot of people were holding his story credible, but it isn’t all true. In fact, most of it is wrong. At the MacWorld keynote, Steve Jobs, explained how they had to keep this a secret for over 2 and a half years. However they managed that, I am truly amazed. The full specs and details are listed below.

  • Single front button
  • 3.5 inch widescreen display, 320 x 480 at 160dpi
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • iPod dock connector
  • Accelerometer to detect the changed between landscape and portrait mode and adjusts the screen accordingly
  • Proximity sensor to turn off the display backlight when you are holding the phone to your head, which saves battery life.
  • 11.6 mm thick
  • Syncs with iTunes
  • GSM/EDGE
  • 802.11b/g WiFi – Switches seamlessly between WiFi and EDGE whenever you are in/out of coverage
  • Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR and A2DP
  • Cinglar only (US)
  • Visual voicemail – shows a list of your voicemails like you see a list of emails
  • Error correcting with the on-screen keyboard
  • Gestural interface
  • Apple Mail
  • Safari
  • iTunes with intergrated CoverFlow
  • Google Maps
  • Widgets
  • Free Yahoo! IMAP email service to all iPhone purchasers
  • 5 hour video battery life
  • 16 hour audio battery life
  • Runs on Mac OS X*

The 4GB costs $499 and the 8GB $599, which includes a two year contract. It starts to ship in June for the US, 4Q 2007 for Europe and for Australia they see it in 2008 (ouch).

*Though Apple lists the iPhone to run OS X, and what Steve Jobs said, it has been confirmed by an Apple Rep that it will not allow you to install OS X applications. This is a big blow to the device, at least in my opinion. Why would Apple, and Steve Jobs, specifically highlight the fact that it runs OS X when in actual fact, it is a truncated version of OS X, probably incapable of running fully featured applications. This has irritated many people, including myself. Will you not be able to run any applications at all from it, or will Apple release some sort of optimiser to iPhone-ise exisiting applications? From what I know, you will be able to add your own Widgets, or exisiting ones that you can download for the Dashboard.

What are my thoughts on the iPhone? Well I like it. I thing the design is amazing, not just the user interface, but of the phone as well. The ideas that have been incorporated are truly unique and visionary. Apple really has set the bar high this time. What I am annoyed about is not only the lack of 3G, instead uses EDGE (2.5G, Enhanced GPRS), but the fact that it is only coming out in the 4Q of 2007 here. Though I already have my K800i, which is one amazing phone, I don’t know if I could give it up for the iPhone. Though it’s PDA-esque features are nice, what would I do about applications like GPS software (I use TomTom on my PDA) and other 3rd party software I have come to love and enjoy, especially with the news that you can’t install your own applications. The price as well is intimidating. I currently don’t use my phone enough to warrant a Pay Monthly service (I use Pay as you go), but with the 2-year contract, the base price, as well as a monthlu plan that will have to have an unlimited service (how could I not use Safari while on the go?) Not only that, but what service provider will we get out here in the UK. I don’t want some crappy provider like Vodafone or O2. I hate them, I do, more so than Orange, which have the world’s worst customer support.

Scratches? Don’t even get me started, with a massive 3.5 inch screen, this is destined for scratches. You would have to buy a protector/shield for it as well, which is not free, and there is none out there on the market yet for the iPhone. The proximity sensor is truly inspirational, and who else but Apple would come up with something like that. It is nice for Apple to incorporate an accelerometer to switch between the landscape mode and portrait mode in the OS, as well as other functions. I have something similar in my Canon PowerShot A540, which automatically changes the orientation based on how you are holding it. Well done Apple, you have once again succeeded at making me want I product I cannot afford, nor cannot get my hands on until 3/4 of a year later.

Engadget has a lot of photos taken during the keynote, of the iPhone and its interface, as well as fully explaining the demo Steve Jobs gave. You can check that out here.

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Month of Apple Bugs: So VLC is Apple software?

moab

I have been reading up on this ubiqutous ‘Month of Apple Bugs’, and in light of this article, I have become increasingly angered with the website. The article on AppleGazette makes very valid points, as to why effectively the MOAB project has lost all of its credibility. I want to state upfront that I’m not writing this as an Apple Fanboy (though I am), I am writing this as a user of OS X and Windows, and various Apple products.

The MOAB project aims to show off a vunerability in Apple products over the 31 days of January. The first bug was understandable, a Quicktime based Buffer Overflow that has a “vulnerability in the handling of the rtsp:// URL handler allows remote arbitrary code execution.” This affects Windows an Mac OS X. This is a real flaw in Apple software, and can allow the execution of malcious code, via this buffer overrun, so it is critical.

The second vuneralibility however is debatable. In my eyes, this flaw is neither OS X, nor Apple. This flaw is based within the popular VLC Media Player. Now lets stop here for a second. VLC? Yes, the cross platform and open-source media player available on Windows, Linux, *nix and other platforms. However you look at it, I have no idea how this is an Apple Bug. Yes remember the title of the project. Other than running on OS X, and the actual vunerability allowing execution of arbitrary code (as with the Quicktime flaw above) which as you can see it would allow execution of code on OS X. But does this mean the problem is anything to do with Apple themselves? NO. Do we blame Microsoft for 3rd party software that has holes in it which can cause Windows to get a buffer overrun? Abosultely not. We blame the software developers. Why should Microsoft (or in this case Apple) deal with an application that they do not develop? It makes no sense. If you call your project ‘Month of Apple Bugs’ then please use Apple bugs, and not an open source software that has the same vunerability in every other distribution!
As AppleGazette pointed out, they do state on their website:

Are Apple products the only one target of this initiative?
Not at all, but they are the main focus. We’ll be looking over popular OS X applications as well.

Yeah they do defend themselves, but for goodness sake, if you create a title, which is then missleading what do you expect people to do? How is an OS X application an Apple Bug. It is only on the same OS. I’ll re-iterate myself: Do we blame Microsoft for flaws in developer ‘x’ software? Hell no. The developer is blamed. It seems that they are only seeking attention by putting Apple and Bugs in the same title. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for this. After all publicising vunerabilities helps to get them fixed faster, and thus leading to a more secure application. However I don’t like the other statement on their website:

John Doe has written a ‘post’ in his blog, saying he debunks the XXX bug, what’s that?
No worries. It’s probably someone begging for attention or PR-brainwashed.

Maybe they should have a look at their answer, because when you post titles of the project on social websites like Digg, del.icio.us, forums, etc, people will be miss-lead on what the actual flaws are on. Posting an open-source software bug on the second day is no good way to get started, and with their title it seems like they are the ones begging for attention.

The third vunerability is similar to the first one in that it is a vunerability which allows the execution of arbitrary code through Quicktime, but in Windows. Specifically it is “A vulnerability in the handling of the HREFTrack field allows to perform cross-zone scripting, leading to potential remote arbitrary code execution.” I understand that this is Apple bugs, and again this makes sense, even though the proof of concept “uses Microsoft Text Driver ADODB connection which requires an anonymous FTP login to the exploit location, for an unknown reason“. After all, Quicktime is Apple software. It’s like Microsoft patching flaws in Microsoft Office for Mac.

How many actual flaws do they have that are Apple software / OS X bugs? I would like to know, as it seems to me they have little. Displaying a flaw in an a open-source and cross-platform (Windows & Linux included) which is not even developed by Apple on the second day is really shoddy. I for one am quite annoyed, not for the fact that they are displaying Apple bugs, but because they don’t! Granted we have only seen three, and 2 out of these 3 were Apple software (Quicktime) related. I am saying this for all the Diggers and those alike who like to skim read articles and are a lot of time miss-informed by such things.

Get your act together MOAB, this is not a good start (a pretty bad one at that).

My Macworld 2007 Predictions

apple logo

I have finally gotten round to write a prediction list. This one is for the upcoming Macworld 2007 Expo that is happening in San Francisco on January 9 – 12. So what do I think big Stevie will announce, well here they are:

  • iWork and iLife ’07 – This one is a definite. Every year Apple announce the release of a new version of their iLife and iWork suite, and every year it has been at Macworld. I think largely iWork will remain the same, except (hopefully) a spreadsheet application will also be intergrated. Maybe called ‘Numbers’ (as the old rumours have put it). iLife will get upgrades, but nothing too major.
  • Detailed iTV information – I think this one is also a definite. More specific information about the iTV; such as it’s actual name, as I hardly think Apple would keep such a name. I couldn’t imagine the legal battles that would ensue from the UK’s ITV TV channel, and maybe Elgato with their eyeTV software (not same spelling but it is a homophone). Other information such as its actual price, maybe a HDD inbuilt with PVR — a feature I’m sure many people would love — functionality, maybe a 802.11n wireless. Release date will be soon, if not the same day.
  • Leopard ship date – This will most likely be announced, maybe available to buy quite soon. A lot of people have been waiting for this, including me, and I will most likely be getting it. I don’t care that it will probably have bugs, and some software will be incompatible, I want it! I just hope that my mac mini can handle it ok. It seems to have been under a lot of pressure lately, and has begun to slow down some bit, even with a 1GB memory upgrade.
  • iPhone – But it won’t be called the iPhone — Apple will user some other name, because of Linksys’ iPhone. It seems that everyone has been talking about it, and a lot of people want it, even though not a peep has come out of Cupertino at all. Kevin Rose seems to think it will happen with his inside information, 4GB and 8GB, flash memory, slide out keyboard, maybe touchscreen. I personally don’t want one. My current SonyEricsson K800i works just fine for me. It has a fantastic camera, nice big screen, plenty of memory, and works with my Mac — effortless syncing.
  • iPod revisions – It’s been ages since Appl last updated the iPod ;), so it’s about time. Nothing too major, maybe making it thinner/smaller, slightly longer battery life, and a software update for some enhancements. I don’t expect a widescreen ‘video’ iPod at all.
  • iTunes 8 – Or maybe a smaller update, but I think Apple will have HD content. This is the year of high-def (for the second year running ;)) and with Apple’s high-def trailers, I think Apple will jump aboard the ship and have high-def movies from Disney.
  • Core 2 Duo Mac mini – I think Apple will keep one Core Duo just for the pricing scheme, however you will be able to buy the updated Core 2 Duo Mac minis. A similar thing happened with the MacBook. It’s bound to happen.

I think that’s most of it. There will be a one more thing, however I think it will be the iPhone, or maybe Apple actually announcing the early availablity of Leopard. Just maybe…

Gaming News in Review: Part 2

xbox hd-dvd

Part deux of the gaming news round-up over the last few weeks.

  • Could the Wii not support game saves to SD memory cards? According to the manual it is, but not according to the console itself. That’s what Joystiq found out. Lets hope Nintendo fix this in time for the release, as we wouldn’t want to replay an entire game when at your friends house, do we? [link]
  • Engadget’s Wii software walkthrough video and gameplay walkthrough videos allow you to see what it would be like if you owned a Wii. Shortly it will come true for a lot of people, or at least we hope.
  • Microsoft revealed the HD download service for US Xbox 360 owners. These will allow you to download 720p HD TV shows from CBS, Comedy Central VH1 and more. Deleted TV shows can be re-downloaded for free in either HD or SD. Movies are ‘rent-only’, whereby you have two weeks to watch a movie, but after you start watching, you have 24 hours to finish the film. After that the film will no longer play. During the 24-hours, you can watch the film an unlimited number of times. [link]
  • Engadget open the retail version of the Xbox 360 HD-DVD player and have a play around with it, naturally with tons of photos (above) [link]
  • The PS3 gets dismantled before it is even in circulation. The four part videos take you through a detailed disassemblement of the PS3 showing the CPU, heatsink, the blu-ray drive, etc. [part 1] [part 2] [part 3] [part 4]
  • PS3 kiosk is a fake! The PS3 behind the glass in retail outlets are not even functional, no, it seems that Sony may be scared of the PS3 overheating or exploding, so they placed a separate version enclosed in the kiosk. The actual console is very well ventilated to make sure the heat dissipates as much as possible. My, my… [link]
  • Size comparison of the Wii, the PS3 and the Xbox 360. The PS3 is the largest, and the Wii is the smallest (though it’s not like we didn’t know that) [link]
  • The Xbox 360 HD-DVD player is fully functional in PC’s. Hook it up using the USB, and some Toshiba drivers you can not only view the files on the HD-DVD, but if your PC can handle it, it can also play back the movie. Nice. What’s more, the Mac recognises the drive instantaneously without any drivers, but there is no software to playback the video. Oh well! [link]
  • A DVD ‘enhanced’ version of the Wii will be released to the US and Japan in the 2nd half of 2007. The current Wii’s contain the DVD drive, however they do not have the software capable to play movies. The most likely reason for not including the software, is to avoid licencing fees which would increase the price of the console. [link]

MacHeist Invites: Get it here

macheist invite

I have seven MacHeist invites to dish out, and I will hopefully get more soon. To those who are unaware, and have been sitting under a rock for the past few weeks, MacHeist is created by the founders of MyDreamApp. The idea is, you follow cryptic messages and use all your geek knowledge to complete various missions. At the end, you will receive a code to put into the MacHeist safe to unlock the freebies for that mission. Lots of different applications (Mac-only, duh!) will be available to unlock during the six different missions. The first mission has started, and is nearly over, and you unlock three pieces of software in total that amount to a saving of $40.95. I won’t give any spoilers, so if you are seriously interested, then leave your email in the comments below. I will try to send out the email as soon as possible. This is based on a first come first served basis.

MacExpo: Parallels

Parallels had quite a small stand, with only one rep, but they certainly impressed me. I’ve never actually had a chance to see parallels in the flesh, and I’ve only heard about it on the Interweb. Apple don’t install it on their Macs in the Apple store so this was new for me. A few people were around the rep who was explaining Parallel, what it does and how it works. When he started up Windows XP on his MacBook Pro, the speed just blew me away. Maybe it was just a fresh install and nothing else was running in the background, but it booted Windows from the BIOS screen in around 30 seconds. Wow! As it was a small booth (around 5 foot by 6 foot) there was only one Mac, which we were unable to try out. However it still had a huge impression on me, and would consider buying it, in the case that I got a Intel Mac. It is a lot easier and faster than booting up Windows in BootCamp, although not everything may work perfectly. There are bugs and flaws, which will get ironed out in future releases.
They had a special offer for those at MacExpo, where you could get Parallels for £39.99 instead of the RRP of £49.99. If I had a Intel Mac, I would have most certainly taken up that offer.

Parallels

MacExpo: Google

Google had a booth at MacExpo, not really announcing anything new, just showcasing their software for the Mac. Google’s booth was very well designed, not the best though (I would have to say Quark’s was the best), and around he front there were 6 Intel iMac’s which you could use to try out Google Maps, Google Sketchup, Google Earth and Google Video. Around the reverse of the booth there was a presentation area where Google reps were delivering various seminars on Google software and how to get the most use from it. Google’s stand was packed most of the time, so I only had a few minutes to have a look around, but it really is nothing new. They were also giving out a portfolio PR pack containing sheets about their software and a CD with the Google software on it.
A lot of companies were giving away marketing, and Google was not an exception. They had transparent packs of Google branded gummy bear and sour sweets, which were probably nothing more than Haribo with Google’s sticker slapped on them.

Firefox 2.0 is Out!

firefox logo

The much awaited revision of Firefox, 2.0, has officially been released. After a number of blunders yesterday it has finally been pushed out the door.  A lot has been added to Firefox, in the background as visually. The UI has been improved and re-done, and gives it a much more elegant feeling. Firefox 2 now has built-in phishing protection for sites that pose themselves as paypal and sites alike. This is another step making Firefox a very secure browser. There is also a built-in session saver, so you don’t need to hunt for pesky extensions. The session saver will automatically restore the windows and tabs that you closed down last when exiting Firefox. This can also be done if Firefox crashes. Many more features such as inline spell checking, enhanced searching, advanced handling of RSS feeds and live titles. For a full list click here, or you can use the link below to be taken to the firefox download page.

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Gaming News in Review

lik-sang logo

A lot of gaming news has happened while I was away, so I thought I’d summerise it all.

  • Sony sues games importer Lik-Sang out of existence. Sony originally filed a motion against Lik-Sang in August of 2005 for exporting PSP’s to the UK before the release of the console there. Just last week a high court judge in London ruled that the sales were illegal in Europe and blocked them, even though Lik-Sang argued they broke no Hong Kong laws.
    Last week, Pascal Clarysse, Marketing Manager of Lik-Sang.com argued; “Fighting multiple lawsuits in different countries at the same time and paying high premiums to expensive lawyers is an overwhelming situation for a small company like Lik Sang. Launching separate court actions with separate claims and different judges is completely unnecessary, except for the fact that it helps reaching one single target: outspend Lik-Sang to death. Pay beyond.” [link]
  • Could there be a Xbox 360 Dashboard update waiting for us in a weeks time. Xbox Live’s Major Nelson mentioned on his podcast that he has been testing out the Xbox 360 Wireless Communicator on his development kit, which has “excellent” sound quality. Major Nelson goes on to say that “even if you went to the store today and bought it, you couldn’t use it until you have the fall upgrade to the dashboard.” With the Wireless communicator being released on 31st October, it makes us wonder whether the dashboard update would be released on or before the 31st; and that day is just looming. [link] Major Nelson’s Podcast, mentioned at around 1:16:30.
  • Sony has cleared up good and bad things about the PS3. Some of the postive notes are: HD Movies can be stored on and played directly from the hard drive, although codec support is yet unknown; Reports are that within 10 seconds of selecting the movie from the menu, its playing. The bad sides include: no HD cables in the box for definite; PS3 does not upconvert DVD’s, and will not enhance PS1/PS2 game’s graphics; no included remote, one can be bought separately for $24.99, and uses bluetooth not IR, so say goodbye to your universal remote. [link]

Xbox 360 could get DivX support

360 divx

A Dutch Xbox 360 fan site (X-life) is reporting that Microsoft will be officially supporting the DivX and XviD formats within two months. This means that no 3rd party software will be needed to stream XviD and DivX files to the 360, and presumably, it also means that XviD encoded DVD’s will also be able to be played on the 360. However this is just a rumour so far, as it has not been confirmed by anyone else. The following excerpt, was translated from Dutch, during a Microsoft retailer training session.

After the event I had a short talk with the host and asked him whether there’d ever be support for DivX and Xvid playback. Much to my surprise, he started telling me that Microsoft is working hard to implement this and a firmware update is expected within 2 months allowing you to play DivX and Xvid directly on the 360.

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