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New Apple firmware
Apple today released several firmware updates, including the Mac Pro SMC Firmware Update v1.7f8, which adjusts fan behavior in the Mac Pro and the Mac Pro (mid 2006) EFI Firmware Update 1.0, which fixes several Boot Camp and start up issues on Mac Pro computers. In addition, the company has posted Firmware Restoration CD 1.1, which restores the firmware of an Intel-based iMac (early & mid 2006), Mac mini (early 2006), MacBook Pro (early 2006), Mac Book (early 2006), or Mac Pro (mid 2006) to original factory condition. Apple says the CD-based firmware can only be used to restore the firmware after an interrupted or failed update.
iPod-ready mobile theater
Dual Electronics today began shipping the XDVD8182, a new mobile theater system that combines DVD-based entertainment options with full iPod control capability. The XDVD8182 features a 7-inch touch-screen motorized TFT LCD display in widescreen format. The unit is compatible with DVD, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD, CD-R/RW, MP3, and WMA media, featuring easy integration within the most modern mobile entertainment systems via 5.1-channel preamp outputs, as well as one set of audio/video inputs. The system also includes two dedicated video outputs to drive optional headrest monitors, and a rear view camera input. Information such as playlist, artist, album, and track are displayed on the unit's LCD screen once an iPod is connected with the supplied interface cable.
Callas debuts pdfaPilot
Callas Software today debuted pdfaPilot (site not updated), a plug-in for Adobe Acrobat specifically designed for users who need to quickly check whether existing PDF documents can be archived as PDF/A. The plug-in, which comes just prior to Digital Management Solutions (DMS) 2006 in Cologne, allows users to save existing PDF files as PDF/A-compliant files with one click via the interface, and enables quick analysis of existing PDF files as well as the simple creation of ISO-compliant PDF/A files. PdfaPilot is expected to ship in December (pricing and system requirements were unavailable).
Printable postage in UK
The UK's Royal Mail today unveiled a new service allowing Mac as well as Windows users to purchase and print postage stamps online. Customers can pay for postage online by selecting the amount for their parcel, then paying via credit card, debit card, or a pre-pay account, according to Macworld UK. A unique barcode is printed directly onto envelopes, labels, or paper before posting in the usual manner. The new service requires no subscription fee, and costs the same amount as normal postage. Online postal options are not limited in any way, allowing users to send mail First Class or internationally. The service also allows users to print numerous forms online, according to the report. "The service is perfect for busy people, but it is also aimed at home workers who post small quantities of mail on a regular basis as well as people who sell goods via auction websites," said Alex Batchelor, marketing director for Royal Mail.
Zune Sharing DRM Defended
When Microsoft announced the Zune last week, digital rights activists openly criticized Microsoft for statements that it would impose DRM on any music sent from one Zune to another as part of the player's unique wireless sharing feature. Particularly noteworthy is the Zune's potential legal violations: under the terms of the international Creative Commons license, copy protection cannot be added to files where it does not already exist - rendering Microsoft liable for any changes that might be made to relevant songs. Microsoft's Cesar Menendez today defended the sharing practice in his Zune Insider blog. The protection is not applied permanently to any songs in the user's library, writes Menendez, and is limited only to the temporary file. He similarly refutes notions that the Zune's sharing equates to "viral" DRM that protects files which artists intend to share freely. The protection only exists to encourage users to buy music when the usage rights expire, he says. The response does not completely address the issue of whether or not temporary DRM constitutes a Creative Commons violation by its very existence.
360: Classics, Lumines
Tetsuya Mizuguchi tells Eurogamer that Lumines Live should arrive at the Xbox Live Arcade in October. "Next month," the Lumines creator says. "The middle of next month. I think so." The PSP's Lumines II is scheduled for November. Meanwhile, MCV says that Microsoft has confirmed the existence of its budget Classics line for the 360. The first four games to be discounted will be King Kong, Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo: Elements of Power, and Condemned: Criminal Origins. Publishers tend to create "greatest hits" lineups when otherwise decent games drop off in sales.
Sony HVR-V1U Camera
A clear limitation of even the most advanced home HDV cameras is their 1080i resolution. Despite the improvement over standard-definition video, the interlaced format falls short for professional videographers, even in Sony's HDR-FX7 prosumer camera. Sony recognizes this and today announced the HVR-V1U video camera, an entry-level pro model which shares the same three-chip sensor as the FX7 but records 1080p video at the 24 frames per second common to large-screen films. Higher frame rates are possible when using HDV at 720p or 1080i. Additional pro features beyond the FX7 include better audio controls, a shotgun microphone, a slot that preserves settings to Memory Stick cards for transfer to other cameras, and an optional 60GB hard drive for longer video shoots. Sony plans on shipping the V1U in December for $4,800 at the SonyStyle website.
Parallels Desktop for Mac
Parallels today released an update to its Parallels Desktop for Mac virtualization software that adds Windows Vista support and improves support for Apple's new Mac Pro systems with performance improvements and new tool help users with large RAM configurations. Build 1898 of Desktop for Mac substantially improves Mac Pro and 64-bit iMac performance; it also eliminates kernel panics and major bugs, according to the developer. "In this build, we've included a tool that will help you take this action without any command line coding. With a single click you can limit your RAM and make your Mac Pro fully compatible with this build. You can easily revert your memory back at any time to the full configuration with the same tool." The build also adds support for Windows Vista RC1 as a guest OS, and adds an improved Parallels Tools package for all of the Vista builds that improves mouse movement, and video resolutions, and networking performance. The full application is available for $80 or as a 15-day trial.
Disney sees $50m revenue
In Brief: Walt Disney has sold 125,000 movie downloads worth $1 million in revenue through Apple's iTunes store and now says it expects the movie downloads to generate $50 million in added revenue during the first year.... Windows users are being warned of a circulating Zero-day Internet Explorer exploit that affects any Windows-based syste--even when fully patched and secured with a firewall.... DigitalLife 2006, a consumer technology, gaming & entertainment event, will take place October 12–15 at the Javits Center, New York (MacNN readers can get free passes by using 'INSIDER').... SendStation has kicked off the final days of its current iTunes promotion, offering 50 free iTunes songs with the purchase of a smartCharge iPod Car Charger for $25.... Crucial is offering a "barrel of swashbucklin" 2GB Gizmo! Overdrive flash drives, to users who visit their website and find the appropriate treasure (no purchase necessary).
Wii at a concert
Nintendo has announced that several Wii games will be playable at upcoming concerts, including Excite Truck, Wii Sports, Metroid Prime 3, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam, and WarioWare: Smooth Moves. All you have to do for access is pay for some mediocre rock. The concerts are a part of Nintendo's Fusion Tour, starting September 27th, which will be headlined by emo band Hawthorne Heights. Nintendo should also be showcasing a few DS games at the concerts, namely Elite Beat Agents (known as Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! in Japan).
Whistler GPS Car Units
Known for its radar detectors and other in-car equipment, Whistler today introduced a suite of new GPS receivers designed explicitly to cope with the needs of long road trips. First is the WGPX-550 (pictured) that caters to in-car media viewing: the color touchscreen device has dedicated programs for playing back MP3 music and JPEG photos on SD cards. A stylus bundled with the 550 lets users control functions without smudging the display. Also made available today were the WGPX-635 and WGPX-650 navigators. These two new models are largely similar but exchange media playback in favor of road-related features. Both the 635 and 650 have a Speed Alert function that can warn the driver when the car exceeds a speed limit, whether automatically based on map data or manually for special conditions. The 650 adds a wireless remote for basic map controls. All three GPS systems come with maps of Canada and the US pre-programmed with points of interest and are available today. Official prices have been set at $600 for the 550 and 635 models and $650 for the 650 model; online retailers are selling the systems for less.
Lenovo Core 2 Duo
In addition to inheriting IBM's reputation for durable laptops, Chinese manufacturer Lenovo also inherited the American company's typically conservative approach to system upgrades, often updating its models only after the initial wave of updates from rivals. Lenovo's newly released 3000 N100 laptop at once follows this tradition and defies it. While the new model has become available with Lenovo's common lack of fanfare and misses the flurry of earlier product launches, the adoption of Intel's latest processor is unusually quick for the brand and is targeted at the mainstream user - not Lenovo's more prevalent business travelers. The 15.4-inch N100 ships relatively well-equipped with a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo, 1GB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, and an 8X DVD rewriter. Bluetooth is standard and a fingerprint reader is optional. Lenovo is taking orders today for $999 but estimates a 3-4 week shipping time. Other models from the company, including the ThinkPad line, have yet to receive a corresponding update.
Valentina, rooSwitch Lite
Valentina 2.4.2 or all developer and business products ($50) is an update to the object-relational database model that builds on the traditional relational database model. The update includes 23 performance improvements to the Valentina 2.4.2 database kernel, and offers speed improvements for "update" and "where" SQL statements.
rooSwitch Lite 1.0 (free) is a free version of roobasoft's rooSwitch software, enabling users to manage multiple profiles for nearly any application while focusing on a select set of common applications. Users can switch between profiles to activate the desired data, acting as a multi-user environment within one application. [Download - 1.7MB]
Relaunch 1.0 ($5) is a Mac OS X menu bar utility that allows users to take a snapshot of all currently running applications, and later launch them automatically after the next login or reboot. Users can also launch a snapshot from the menu itself, rather than having relaunch automatically launch the snapshot after a logging in or restarting. [Download - 1.6MB]
Tone Mapping Plug-In 1.1 ($70) is a free upgrade for registered users of the plug-in that reveals details in highlights and shadows of a 32-bit or 16-bit image. The latest iteration adds a "Micro-smoothing" setting that smoothes out local detail enhancements, makes settings "sticky," and extends the range of setting "Light Smoothing." [Download - 168KB]
Shivering Kittens 2.0 ($9) enhances the panic-inducing puzzle game for Mac OS X, where players must rescue kittens from their icy imprisonment. The block-matching puzzle game charges players with forming lines of frozen kittens, and forming groups of those thawed kittens to rescue them. [Download - 2.2MB]
Private Contact 1.0 ($25) stores contacts securely, allowing users to manage those contacts in an easy and intuitive manner. Actual contacts are listed on the left, while details are presented on the right. Private Contact saves data to disk using Blowfish encryption algorithms, making the job of a malicious user much more difficult should they attempt to access contact information. [Download - 240KB]
Forums September 19
Forums roundup: Members are discussing the recent sneak preview of the upcoming "iTV" media center from Apple, speculating on what might still be under wraps..... Other users discuss the speed difference between a quad 2.0GHz Mac Pro and an iMac and the advantages of each.... Another user brings a Dell PC and CAD work into the battle of power supremacy for a prospective workstation buyer, while one member looks into the possibility of replacing the aging screen of his 15-inch PowerBook G4 with a higher resolution version from a later model.... Meanwhile, one user wonders what features and specs an an updated MacBook Pro would bring and at what price.
No Vice City Stories PS2
Liberty City Stories was so successful in its original PSP edition, Rockstar decided to port it to the PS2. With Vice City Stories coming on October 30th, one would think that another PS2 game would be around the corner. Not so, says CVG. The site was told by Rockstar representatives that the developer "has no plans to do so." Rockstar may eventually change its mind, naturally, but it's discouraging that the company refuses the possibility. On the other hand, it may have a good excuse. Since GTA4 is just over a year away, it could be that Rockstar is devoting all its resources to its biggest cash-cow.
iPod sales may be on track
Apple's new line of iPods is expected to help the company regain some lost marketshare in August and should help the company meet analysts estimates for September quarter iPod shipments. Calling Apple "roughly on track or perhaps slightly light," investment research firm Merill Lynch this morning told clients that while demand for music players in the US remained strong during the month of August with 26 percent year-over-year growth, US sales of the iPod slipped to 19 percent growth over the same period last year. In contrast, Apple saw 22 percent growth in July and 24 percent growth in June, according to NPD data. Apple may have large shoes to fill when comparing September numbers with same period last year, when the company first launched the iPod nano; however, both channel fill considerations and strong notebook sales could offset any potential weakness in iPod sales, Merill analyst Richard Farmer wrote in his research report.
Warner 3-layer Disc
Toshiba's recent hybrid DVD/HD DVD disc provides an upgrade path for DVD owners who are considering an upgrade to one next-generation disc format, but does not address the more serious dilemma of the new format in question. For now, users' libraries are still at risk of becoming obsolete if Blu-Ray becomes the dominant standard. Video stores are also forced to carry both standards until a clear victor appears. Warner Brothers Pictures recognizes this problem and has taken the unusual step of researching its own hybrid disc, according to New Scientist. The triple-layer format would turn the thinner Blu-Ray layer into a mirror-like surface that would transmit laser light to the deeper HD DVD layer while still reflecting enough light that a Blu-Ray drive could still read the data. These same discs could also have a DVD layer on the reverse side should it be necessary. Warner's first movie to support the new discs will be Lake House, which will run on all current and next-generation players when released September 26th.
Zero-day IE Exploit
VisualHub 1.1.3 released
Techspansion today released VisualHub 1.1.3, offering support for the higher resolution H.264 video (640x480) at speeds up to 40 percent faster than Quicktime and iTunes, according to the company. VisualHub is a third-party video converter featuring a simple interface and a broad compatibility range with numerous video formats. VisualHub 1.1.3 also features variable quality as well as bitrate, a selectable image size allowing users to convert "anamorphically" for widescreen HD playback, and two-pass encoding for enhanced image quality. VisualHub 1.1.3 is available for $25, and is a free upgrade to all registered users. The software requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.
New triple-hybrid HD disc
As Sony and Microsoft bicker about HD gaming formats, New Scientist writes that engineers working for AOL/Time-Warner are developing a disc that will play on Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, and regular DVD players. The key to the technology is the depths the various lasers work at: while Blu-Ray scans at 0.1 millimetres, HD-DVD scans at 0.6 mm. By manufacturing two layers with the top one being a two-way mirror, the engineers think they can produce a format that will work perfectly with any DVD system. For standard DVD, users would simply flip a disc to its opposite side. No timeline is offered for the arrival of the first hybrid movies. In theory, this technology might also allow game developers to release a single disc for the 360 and PS3.
Colored Nano sleeves ship
Fabrix today unveiled its new collection of iPod nano sleeves in new colors to match Apple's latest second-generation iPod nano. Each sleeve is cushioned with internal quilted padding that provides the portable player with protection against scratches, light bumps, and knocks. The cases are hand sewn to precise dimensions to offer a snug fit, according to Fabrix, and the four new colors are priced from $16.
iTunes 7 under fire
Apple's recent release of its iTunes 7 multimedia software is drawing complaints from Mac as well as PC users, which range from poor sound quality to mobile phone troubles. Apple has already acknowledged numerous issues which include AirTunes' inability to connect to remote speakers, iTunes 7 inability to play interactive booklets purchased from the iTunes Music Store, album art not downloading properly, iPods not playing content purchased from the iTunes Music Store, and numerous cell phone users reporting that music transferred to their handsets after upgrading to iTunes 7.0 fails to play on the device. Some users reported only receiving audio during video playback, and one user claims his iTunes software has slowed to a crawl following the update, according to CRN. "Unless it is absolutely necessary for you to upgrade to iTunes 7 right now, I would advise holding off until a correct version is released - these forums are full of members who have spent hours trying to work out fixes - just stick with 6.0.3," one user suggested.
M-BUZZ music service
Sony-Ericsson today unveiled its M-BUZZ mobile music service, initially highlighting specific Sony artists and their music. The service is offering songs and other content from the musicians that users can download via supported phones. Compatible phones begin with the higher-end W850 and W950 models shipping before the end of this year, with more support planned as new phones arrive, according to Electronista. While Sony-Ericsson is one of the best-known music phone manufacturers, its Walkman phones have never had a compatible music service designed to work with them because their format support is limited to AAC and MP3 files.
Lexar JumpDrive Mercury
External displays on flash drives are rarely practical because of the inherent power draw, leaving users to plug the storage in before they can see available space. Using e-paper is the solution, according to flash storage manufacturer Lexar. Its new JumpDrive Mercury takes advantage of the permanence of e-paper displays to reflect internal storage. The storage meter can remain static without consuming any power whatsoever; as the capacity only needs to be updated when the drive is plugged in, power for the display comes through the USB port instead of a dedicated battery. No special software support is needed and the drive will work with both Mac and Windows PCs. Lexar is shipping the new drive in 1GB and 2GB versions for $75 and $100 respectively.
IBC tradeshow insights
Apple is among the highest profile companies in the post-production markets, according to a new survey from an investment research firm. Analyst firm Piper Jaffray said that Apple had one of the busier booths and packed customer sessions at last week's Amsterdam-based tradeshow IBC focused on creation, management and delivery of content for the entertainment industry. The firm said that Apple is, by far, the favorite solution provider for the European post production market, as professionals look to Apple for video editing solutions, such as Final Cut Pro Studio and the newly released Mac Pro. A survey of 35 European post production professionals on their spending habits and trends found that 83 percent are expecting to spend the same amount or more (compared with 2006) on post production tools -- a signficant increase from 53 percent who expected to see 2006 budgets stay flat or increase (as compared with 2005). More importantly for Apple, among those who expect to spend more, Apple's solutions are among the top of their list.
Brother today announced a new low-profile color inkjet Multi-Function Center line: the MFC-845cw offers a combination of built-in Ethernet, wireless 802.11b/g connectivity and 5.8GHz digital cordless handset technology. The MFC-845cw shares the same base features as the recently announced MFC-240c, MFC-440cn and MFC-665cw, which include color printing, color copying, color scanning, color faxing, PC Fax send (Windows only) and PhotoCapture Center technology (media card slots and Pict-Bridge interface). The device offers offers up to 27ppm black and up to 22ppm color printing; up to 6000 x 1200 dpi print resolution with droplet sizes as small as 1.5 picoliters; a 5.8GHz cordless telephone handset (expandable up to total of 4 handsets), and a 2.5-inch flip-up color LCD display; a photo bypass tray that holds up to 20 sheets of 4" x 6" glossy paper; up to a 10-page auto document feeder; and a built-in digital answering machine (stores up to 29 minutes) and full duplex speakerphone. The MFC-845cw will be available in late October for $250.
Ikaruga sequel in works?
Treasure has a quiet fame outside of its Japanese home, but one that's well-deserved. The developer has a number of classic games to its credit - these include Gunstar Heroes, Guardian Heroes, Wario World, and of course, Ikaruga. Spotted by a reader of Retro Gaming, a report in UK magazine Play says that Treasure is now working on an "original shooting game" for the Xbox 360. It's suggested that this could be "Project RS3," a codename for the final shmup in the trilogy begun with Radiant Silvergun and followed by Ikaruga. The choice of platform would be an odd one though; Treasure's biggest fanbase is in Japan, and the 360 has sold miserably there. Of course, an Ikaruga sequel might be just the kick the system needs.
Although Sony-Ericsson is one of the best-known musicphone manufacturers, its Walkman phones have never had a compatible music service designed to work with them; their format support is limited to AAC and MP3 files. The cellphone alliance is changing its approach with Tuesday's announcement of the new M-BUZZ portal. In contrast to other cellphone music services such as Verizon's VCast, Sony-Ericsson is not opening the site as a conventional music store. M-BUZZ instead will initially serve as a means of highlighting specific Sony artists and their music, offering songs and other content from the musicians that can be downloaded by supporting phones. The first phones ready for the site's features are the higher-end W850 and W950 models shipping before the end of 2006, with more support to come at the same time as new phones arrive. Sony-Ericsson opens access to M-BUZZ on October 2nd.
BioWare's DS game
In other BioWare news, the company has just founded a development team devoted to handheld gaming. The group will be led by Dan Tudge, former president of Exile Interactive, an outfit best known for World Series Baseball 2K3 on the Xbox and PS2. The team's first project will be an unidentified Nintendo DS game; we do have some clues, however. BioWare president Greg Zeschuk says that “As always, we [BioWare] are committed to creating the best story-driven games in the world, and the Nintendo DS offers us an exciting new platform to engage." A story focus suggests another RPG, which isn't surprising. More significant is a survey the company is said to have sent out, in which community members were asked if they would play a handheld game set in an existing BioWare franchise. With any luck, we may be playing a new Knights of the Old Republic game on the DS in the near future.
Motorola KRZR Launches
Announced earlier in the year, the KRZR is intended as the direct successor to the RAZR cellphone that many credit for saving Motorola from obscurity. The company is looking for repeat success as it begins its global launch of the KRZR in the Chinese market today. The new flip-phone exchanges the absolute focus on thinness for a considerably narrower and smaller overall design. It also continues the trend initiated with the PEBL and will arrive in bolder colors than the generally subdued RAZR, starting with a deep blue enhanced by a glossy glass front shell. The functionality of the phone is also improved: the KRZR shipping today has a 2-megapixel camera and can play AAC or MP3 music stored on microSD cards. In its current form, it operates on GSM networks and can connect to EDGE broadband. Launches in the rest of the world, including North America, are imminent. Motorola says it will launch the KRZR in other countries over the course of the next several weeks. Details of the upcoming CDMA version and the music-oriented K1m variant were not revealed in the Chinese launch.
Three-piece iPod case
Ifrogz is shipping its three-piece silicone iPod case that protects the digital media player while offering users more than 300,000 ways to customize the look of the device. The cases provide three distinct components which include "Wrapz," "Bandz," and "Screenz" to protect the iPod. "Wrapz" -- which come in 38 colors -- are the main case component of the ifrogz system, covering the entire player from top to bottom while exposing the screen, scrollwheel, and ports. "Bandz" -- which also come in 38 colors -- stretch around the sides of the iPod, protecting exposed ports with a single opening over the iPod's headphone jack. "Screenz" are protective sheets of transparent plastic that lay over the iPod's clickwheel and are available in more than 200 unique options. The ifrogz cases fit iPod mini, iPod nano, 20GB as well as 40GB iPods, and 30GB as well as 60GB video iPods.
Marine Wi-Fi system ships
QuickerTek has unveiled the QuickerTek Marine System (QMS), a wireless network specifically designed for marine and RV applications. The QMS allows boaters to use the internet at any marina with any number of on-board computers. QMS includes all of the necessary marine-related products, such as mounting hardware and software required to install as well as operate a high-speed wireless network. A universal repeater supplies an RF signal boost for computers on-board, while a wireless connection is established to the marina via 802.22b and/or 802.11g access point or Apple Base Station. QuickerTek's QMS is available for $1,000.
Neverwinter Nights 2 delay
Some slightly bad news for fans of PC RPG's, or Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter Nights 2 Vault is saying that the game has been delayed to October 31st. It had been targeted for October 17th. The title is being developed by Obsidian Entertainment, who previously helped BioWare with Knights of the Old Republic II. Like KOTOR2, NWN2 is a sequel to a previous BioWare RPG. The Neverwinter series is designed as a sort of role-playing toolbox, encouraging players to create custom story modules that can be shared over the Internet. Gamers can also produce custom objects, spells, characters and terrain.
Sony 18X DVD burners
Sony today unveiled the DRX-830U and DRX-830UL/T, two external DVD writers capable of burning single-layer DVDs at an 18X rate. The drives can record a full 4.7GB disc at top speed on standard 16X media within five minutes, according to Electronista, and the new drives write to dual-layer media at 8X. The USB 2.0-based DRX-830U is designed primarily for Windows users, and includes the full Nero 7 suite for authoring DVDs and videos. The more advanced DRX-830UL/T, however, includes both FireWire and USB 2.0 ports to improve Mac support, and ships with both Nero 7 and a Mac-only version of Roxio 6 Lite to author DVDs. Sony said it will ship the 830U in early October for $140, while the 830UL/T drives are due to arrive in mid-December for $150.
Apple media info UI patent
In brief: The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office today published Apple's newly granted patent describing a 'user interface for presenting media information,' which refers to a "Media Channel Drawer" usable on a Web TV system, networked computer, or mobile phone.... Cisco security CTO Bob Gleichauf has said that certain aspects of Windows Vista have him "scared" from a security standpoint, and that such a major change in architecture will likely introduce its own share of security problems.... The new DigiMate III Touch Screen edition ($50) has begun shipping, allowing users to store photos or other data directly onto Compact Flash, Memory Stick, and SD cards as well as an optional 2.5-inch notebook hard drive.... Shirt Pocket is offering a 10 percent discount on its SuperDuper 2.1.3 backup software via the coupon code "getsmart" for the rest of Tuesday, September 19th in honor of Apple Evangelist Guy Kawasaki's recent data loss experience.... P.I. Engineering and Script Software today released iKey for X-Keys and X-Keys hardware for Mac OS X, automating repetitive tasks and triggering macros with the touch of a button.
Core 2 Quadro Details
Intel has previously announced that it will advance the release of its first quad-core desktop processors to late 2006. Little else has been revealed about the chip designer's plans since then. New information about the processors and their support have come to light Tuesday, according to DailyTech. Officially titled Core 2 Quadro, the new line of processors will debut in November with a flagship Core 2 Extreme model. The introductory QX6700 will run at 2.66GHz per core; this is lower than the 2.93 GHz of its current dual-core equivalent due to heat issues, but should be faster overall for programs that support more than two processors. It should ship in November at the same $999 price as the dual-core chip it replaces. More important is the mainstream Core 2 Quadro Q6600: while it will launch at 2.4GHz in early 2007, it should also be priced dramatically lower and compare to the $530 price of today's 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo. Both quad-core designs are likely to require new mainboards using Intel's 975X chipset. Users of workstation systems such as the Mac Pro can expect a Xeon equivalent to the QX6700 to arrive before the end of 2006.
Mac OS share stagnates?
Apple may be losing its shine, according a new report that shows a slight decline in Mac OS usage on the internet. Despite a growing market-share of Intel-based Macs, Net Applications released August data that shows that Mac OS marketshare was down ever-so slightly to 4.33 percent. In December 2005, total Mac OS usage market share was 4.35 percent. The difference may be near-neglible (and within the margin of error, which was not provided), but the company says that the new data reverses a previous trend that showed consistent increases. "While this slight dip may not seem to be a cause for concern to most observers, the fact that Mac usage was steadily growing until this year's stagnation may be indicative of larger Apple problems," the company said. "Does this spell disaster for Apple? Only time will tell. They do have a history of bouncing back from tough times. Apple also have several new initiatives coming, including a new feature movie site comparable to iTunes and the iPhone which will combine the iPod with a cell phone."
Intel's "Core 2 Quadro"
Intel is expected by the end of this month to officially name its "Kentsfield" quad-core desktop processor as the "Core 2 Quadro," according to a new report. Confirming earlier reports, the new quad-core chips are expected to arrive in November, ahead of the holiday season and ahead of the expected 2007 rollout. Digitimes reports that the first quad-core processor will be an "Extreme version" designed for high-end gamers and computer enthusiasts: the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 will be available starting in mid-November, according to sources at leading Taiwan motherboard makers. The QX6700, which will be clocked at 2.66GHz, will target the high-end gaming market as well as to counter AMD's fourth quarter introduction of its Socket-AM2 Athlon 64 FX-64 CPU, which will feature speeds of up to 3.0GHz and sport a 2x1MB L2 cache.
Xnet debuts Megafon
Xnet Communications this week introduced new Mac telephony software, which it describes as a "pure Mac implementation for Mac users only." The VOIP Megafon solution is an easy-to-use internet phone for Mac OS X providing "crystal clear voice quality in an attractively sleek GUI interface. The quick one-step configuration will allow you to get talking to other Megafon users in seconds. Simply dial the number of the person you wish to talk with or select them from the Phonebook to dial their number. Create private telephone networks by using the option to add multiple SIP providers." Users can store contacts in the phone book, log missed calls, configure up to five VoIP providers in the configuration menu, setup a closed private telephone network, and select an appropriate codec (PCMU, PCMA, GSM, G276-32, etc.) as well as connect to more than one server simultaneously. The company is offering Megafon for free (as a beta download) through June of 2007, when it will charge $80 for a single-user license. Users can also buy a prepaid subscription good through the end of 2007 for $50.
Sony 18X DVD Writers
Recording DVDs has until recently been limited to a 16X speed, even for internal drives; external models at higher speeds are even less common. This bottleneck becomes less of an issue today with Sony's announcement of two new external drives that write single-layer DVDs at an 18X rate. A full 4.7GB disc can be recorded at this speed on standard 16X discs within 5 minutes, Sony says. The new drives can also write to dual-layer media at 8X. Models are differentiated primarly by interface and software: the USB 2.0-based DRX-830U is meant primarily for Windows users and includes the full Nero 7 suite for authoring DVDs and videos. In turn, the more advanced DRX-830UL/T includes both Firewire and USB 2.0 ports to improve support for Macs and ships with both Nero 7 and a Mac-only version of Roxio 6 Lite for DVD burning. Sony will sell the 830U in early October for $140; 830UL/T drives will arrive in mid-December for $150.
Sonnet PodFreq Nano, mini
Sonnet Technologies has announced price cuts on its PodFreq nano and PodFreq mini premium FM transmitters for iPod mini and first generation iPod nano models, respectively. Both PodFreq models' have been reduced to $30, a savings of between 40% and 70% off previous prices. PodFreq nano and PodFreq mini are each a premium FM transmitter, integrated dock and protective case. They improve upon all the features and functionality of the original PodFreq and include a car charger, car cradle, USB 2.0 cable, and soft carrying pouch. Sonnet notes that PodFreq nano (Part No. FMT-IPOD-NANO) is only compatible with first generation iPod nano models (and not the new, second generation iPod nano models) and that PodFreq mini (Part No. FMT-IPOD-MINI) is compatible with all iPod mini models.
One million PS3's pre-sold
In covering Berlin's Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) show earlier this month, it seems that Blu-ray.com (an unofficial site) made a remarkable comment. "Sony also showed their PlayStation 3 (PS3) game console, which drew a lot of attention as usual and with over one million consoles pre-sold the demand is not an issue." Immediately, one wonders where the Website got this figure; were they told by a spokesman? Were they thinking of long-term expectations? Sony could be in very dire straits if it managed to hawk that many pre-orders with vendors. There will only be a worldwide total of 500,000 units at launch, so retailers could be waiting until 2007 to get hardware they were promised for November. Gamer Scan will work to clarify the situation if possible.
Digidesign ships X-Form
Digidesign is now shipping X-Form, a new high-quality AudioSuite plug-in that delivers time compression/expansion and pitch-shifting technology. X-Form adds time-stretching and formant-correct pitch shifting to Pro Tools and Avid DNA systems to produce natural-sounding results; the plugin can be used for music production, sound design, post production, or any other application that requires time-stretch and pitch-shift processing. "The secret to X-Form's natural-sounding, polyphonic, time-stretching algorithm is frequency domain processing, a technology proven more effective than the 'frame overlap' algorithms used in most time-stretching products," reveals Digidesign Senior Product Manager Bobby Lombardi. He also added that the goal is to "provide Pro Tools users with the highest quality time-stretching and pitch-shifting processing available in the market." X-Form features minimal controls to simplify the workflow: it can process audio 1/8 to eight times its original length, or shifted up or down three octaves. X-Form is available now for $600.
Adobe DNG is Universal
Adobe today announced an update to the Camera Raw plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS2, extending raw file support to five additional camera models as well as offered an Intel-native version of its DNG Converter. The Camera Raw 3.5 plug-in builds on the raw file support integrated in Photoshop CS2 for digital cameras from leading manufacturers, while its DNG Converter is now available as a Universal Binary, allowing it to perform natively on Intel-based Mac (as well as PowerPC-based Macs). The free Adobe DNG Converter, which translates all Photoshop-supported raw photo formats into the universal .DNG file format, offers photographers a single unified file format for archiving raw files. New cameras supported by Adobe Camera Raw 3.5 plug-in and DNG Converter include Nikon D2Xs, Kodak EasyShare P712, Panasonic DMC-FZ50 and DMC-L1, and Sony A100. With this update, Camera Raw 3.5 and the DNG Converter now support more than 125 different cameras, according to Adobe.
Microsoft Soapbox Beta
Microsoft has seen its share of influence in social networking erode steadily in the wake of MySpace and YouTube: the combination of the two sites has left Internet users (especially younger ones) with few reasons to ever venture to Windows Live Spaces. In hopes of reversing this trend, Microsoft today launched a beta of its new Soapbox video service, a direct response to the abundance of web-based video sharing sites. Currently invitation-only, the service is notable for the absence of any proprietary Microsoft technology: unlike MSN Video, all videos are Flash-based instead of Windows Media and can be accessed by most any modern browser. Also significant is a hands-off approach similar to YouTube. Soapbox users can freely upload, exchange, and comment on videos without active monitoring by Microsoft; the company says it will only remove videos if copyright holders or other involved parties object. Advertising is not present in the beta but is expected to appear when the service is completed within six months.
New Apple Stores
Apple today officially announced it will open three new retail stores on Saturday, September 23, including two which will feature an updated retail designed based on its Fifth Avenue Store in New York City. Opening its first store in Nebraska, the company announced Apple Store Village Pointe, which will open at 10:00 a.m. CDT and will be located at 17255 Davenport St., Suite #0- 127, in Omaha. The company also announced that it will open its first store in Rhode Island: the Apple Store Providence will open at 10:00 a.m. EDT on September 23 at 20 Providence Place in Providence. Finally, Apple will open its fifth store in Maryland at 10 a.m. EDT in Columbia: the Apple Store Columbia will be located at 10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, Space #2025. Earlier this month, the company said it was the fastest growing US retailer and that it expects to open about 40 new retail stores per year for the foreseeable future.
VeriFinger 5.0 SDK ships
Neurotechnologija today announced the availability of VeriFinger 5.0 Software Development Kit (SDK), the first major fingerprint identification SDK to add support for the Mac OSX platform (in addition to cross-platform support for Microsoft Windows and Linux). VeriFinger 5.0 provides both 1:1 verification and 1:many matching modes with significantly enhanced fingerprint recognition reliability and fast identification speeds of up to 40,000 fingerprints per second. The company says that VeriFinger algorithm is currently used by more than 1000 biometric system developers, integrators and hardware manufacturers in more than 60 countries worldwide, and it can be integrated with any scanner, database or user interface, providing easy integration with existing security systems. VeriFinger 5.0 also offers improved automatic fingerprint quality detection and enhanced reliability as well as full compatibility with Neurotechnologija's FingerCell embedded solution algorithm.
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