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Sub-$1,350 MacBook Pro
Apple is still offering its sub-$1,350 refurbished MacBook Pro top-end notebooks with free shipping alongside a slew of other pro portables. The refurbished 15-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro ($1,349) ships with 512MB of memory, an 80GB hard drive, a slot-loading SuperDrive DVD±RW/CD-RW, an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics card with 128MB of video memory, and the built-in iSight camera. Other refurbished high-end notebooks include the 17-inch 2.16GHz MacBook Pro ($1,999) with 1GB of memory and a 120GB hard drive (5,400 rpm) with a glossy or standard display; and the 17-inch 2.16GHz MacBook Pro ($1,999) with 1GB of memory and a 100GB hard drive (7,200 rpm) with a glossy or standard display. All refurbished MacBook Pro notebooks come with an Apple Remote and the company's Front Row multimedia software. AppleCare Protection Plans are also available to extend the MacBook Pro notebook warranty for $349.
Forums December 26
Forums roundup: Members are discussing the possibility of a Mac Pro update at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco next year, including which processor the rumored revision will feature.... One member is looking for a means to deal with his new MacBook Pro arriving with a dead pixel after learning Apple offers no dead pixel-free guarantee.... Another user is seeking assistance from fellow users to replace the hard drive in his MacBook Pro as a result of high noise-levels.... Other members are discussing the disappearance of the standalone iSight from Apple's online store.... Meanwhile, several posters are debating the chance of Apple releasing a new iMac revision at Macworld on January 7th.
BusinessWeek: Apple no. 2
BusinessWeek.com has awarded Apple the no. 2 spot in its 'Tech Hot Growth 50' list, comparing technology companies as they struggle to grow after the "bubble-bursting years" of 2000 and 2001. "It's no surprise to find Apple and Google at the top of our list," wrote BusinessWeek.com's Arik Hesseldahl. "Apple Computer, no. 2 on the Tech Hot Growth ranking, is the prime example of a company that has created its own opportunities." The list measures companies by sales growth, total return to shareholders, return on equity, and overall sales. Apple this year sold 39 million iPods alongside 5 million Macs, signaling "breakthrough innovation" that has made the company "an international icon."
Review, iPod shuffle clasp
In brief: MacNN has reviewed the Griffin Centerstage iPod Case ($25, shown at right), a small stand designed for Apple's video iPod that holds the device upright for viewing.... The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office today published Apple's newly granted patent for its iPod shuffle 'Clasp'.... Speck Products is offering 15 percent off entire orders at speckproducts.com via the 'Shop4Me' promo code from today until January 12th.... SmartSound is extending its 25 percent off sale until the end of the year for consumers who purchase Sonicfire Pro 4 or the Strata Series library of multi-layer music tracks.... Kensington is offering 25 percent off its mobile accessories such as speaker systems and FM transmitters via the promotional code 'HH2007' until December 31st.... Nemetschek of Germany and Nemetschek North America have reached an agreement with the shareholders of Graphisoft -- the makers of ArchiCAD -- to acquire a majority stake in the company.
UI Browser 2.0 released
PreFab Software has launched UI Browser 2.0, a major update to its GUI accessibility and scripting assistant software. The new version is a Universal Binary that runs natively on both older PowerPC and newer Intel Macs. UI Browser 2.0 adds a host of new features, according to PreFab, including an enhanced Screen Reader that displays all of the actions, attributes, and notifications supported by the UI element currently under the mouse in real time. The new edition is available for free to all users who bought UI Browser after January 1st, 2006; a $10 upgrade fee applies to earlier releases. New copies are available for $55. The software requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
You Control Fonts Update
You Software today announced the release of You Control: Fonts 1.2, the latest version of its font menu creation tool. The latest revision is the first iteration to run natively on PowerPC as well as Intel-based Macs as a Universal Binary, and receive updates for compatibility with newer applications including QuarkXPress 7. You Control: Fonts 1.2 also adds Suitcase Fusion support, displaying any font sets created in Fusion with the ability to activate and deactivate font sets directly from the You Control: Fonts menu. Version 1.2 is a free update for all currently registered users, and is available directly from the company's online store for $20. You Control: Fonts 1.2 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
Tune Belt Open View
Tune Belt today launched its Open View armband for the second-generation iPod shuffle. The case is engineered to improve on Apple's design by including a cord management flap that keeps earbud wires tucked away during exercise. The combined neoprene protective shell and mylar window serve to prevent scratches while still offering access to the iPod's controls. The strap is adjustable between 8 and 18 inches to fit most wearers. The Open View is available for $15.
CSSEdit 2; xTime Planning
CSSEdit 2.0.2 ($30) is a graphical-based CSS editor designed to create numerous types of style sheets without writing a single line of code. Users can quickly dissect third-party websites, and the latest release integrates the new Validation service hosted by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), which checks CSS sheets for consistency.
[Download - 1.54MB]
xTime Planning ($70) is a scheduling program enabling users to keep track of human and material resources, shifting views between timescales ranging from a single day to a year. Users can convert resulting tables into PDF files, or upload them a website. Users who purchase a license before December 31st will receive a discount on the final version, which is expected to launch on January 9th. [Download - 2.3MB]
Bloxter 1.3.5 ($20) is a Tetris-like puzzle game in which you try to form lines of three or more colored blocks, avoiding dangers such as intruding aliens. Graphics are rendered in 3D. The 1.3.5 update makes the game a universal binary, and also improves general compatibility. Both the complete and free trial versions require Mac OS X 10.2 or later. [Download - 2.5MB]
Groupcal 3.75 ($55) is a tool for managing Microsoft Exchange calendars from iCal without the need to install special software on an Exchange server. Version 3.75 improves the user interface, adds mapping for new or missing time zones, and fixes problems with mixed-case e-mail addresses. The update also remedies issues with detached and recurring events. [Download - Size Unknown]
WebcamTweaker 1.2.3 ($16) is an add-on for an iSight camera, allowing users to record pictures and video with various special effects. Images are optionally sent directly to iPhoto or an iChat Buddy picture, and users can import videos to iTunes or attach them to an e-mail message. The latest release adds Tunnel, Focus, Kaleidoscope, Multiply and Timewarp effects. [Download - 2.4MB]
Zipeg 1.2.1 (freeware) is an archive creation and extraction with support for previewing files with mouse-over thumbnails, offering images and EXIF data. Zipeg 1.2.1 removes all size limitations, and adds support for an increased number of archive formats which include ARJ, RAR, TAR, GZ, and LZH. Zipeg files are also optionally associated with individual archive types. [Download - 415KB]
Amazon.com, record sales
Amazon.com over the holiday season saw more than 4 million orders placed in one day, with Apple's iPod and Canon's Powershot Digital Elph cameras among the top selling consumer electronics items. The company said it again had its "best ever" sales, shipping more than 99 percent of its orders in time to meet holiday deadlines internationally, according to the Associated Press. Amazon.com also sold more than 1,000 Xbox 360 game consoles in 29 seconds as part of a promotional deal, offering the media devices for one-third of the regular retail price. Top-selling DVD titles included 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' -- which is available online via the iTunes Music Store for purchase and download -- as well as several book titles such as Barack Obama's 'The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream."
Apple beats Tiffany & Co.
Apple retail stores sell more per square foot than Best Buy or Tiffany & Co., according to one research report. Apple stores raked in $4,032 per square foot annually, while retail chain Best Buy made $930 and luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. produced $2,666 during the same time period. "This may be as much an indicator that Apple's store placement is better than Tiffany's," said Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle. Best Buy makes around $38 million annually via its retail space -- which are on average seven times as large as Apple stores typically measuring under 6,000 square feet, according to the Red Herring. "If you're measuring a store in terms of production per store, that's pretty impressive," said Enderle. "That should be a wakeup for Best Buy."
Apple wins two patents
The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office today published Apple's newly granted patent for a 'Hybrid low power computer mouse' as well as a 'Method and system for automatically resizing and repositioning windows in response to changes in display.' The former describes an ultra low power computer mouse with an optical tracking engine and an inertial tracking engine that cooperate to provide velocity data to a computing device. The latter invention relates to the automatic repositioning and/or resizing of utility windows in response to actions that affect the view or content of the windows on a display.
Windows Vista NYC Debut
Microsoft intends a high-profile launch of its upcoming Windows Vista OS similar to that of its predecessors, according to a report by the Seattle Times. Scheduled for January 29th, the event -- dubbed "The Wow Starts Now" -- will combine a press luncheon at Cipriani's in downtown Manhattan with a public event at 1515 Broadway in Times Square to celebrate the launch of the upgrade. The party will likely eclipse the November 30th launch of Vista for business, which was marked by Microsoft's ringing the NASDAQ bell.
The spectacle will represent the end of a five year saga for the beleaguered Windows XP replacement, which missed shipping in time for the all-important holiday season and prompted a last-minute upgrade coupon program offering upgrade discounts to hesitant buyers.
Best Buy $15K home system
Best Buy is planning to offer ConnectedLife.Home, a less expensive home integration system which will let users control media, heating and lighting from a central location, or even from the web. Users will buy the package from a retail outlet, which will contain an HP Media Center PC, Lifeware control software, an Xbox 360 for media extension, plus two wireless cameras, a thermostat, five dimmers, five switches, and two keypads.
The key to the cost is the use of powerline Ethernet, which replaces the custom wiring used in more elaborate home automation technology. Customers will have to install the dimmers, switches and keypads themselves, but will then be able to call a 1-800 number to have a technician finish the work. Best Buy is currently testing the system in Rancho Cordova, California, but expects the final package to sell for $15,000. Remote access to a ConnectedLife network will cost $20 a month. [Via CE Pro]
iQua Bluetooth Headset
iQua today began carrying its simple BHS-302 wireless headset for cellphone users. The company breaks with the traditional one-piece shape by breaking the speaker away from the receiver: callers can attach the iPod shuffle-like receiver to their clothes or a bag through an integrated clip. The separated hardware is better-suited to joggers or others who might otherwise lose a headset through exercise, iQua says. Simple controls allow for quickly answering or rejecting calls, which can last as long as 9 hours courtesy of a built-in battery. iQua retails the headset today in black, silver, or white trim for $50 through its online store. [Via Chip Chick]
PCMag: switching to Mac
PC Magazine software expert Robyn Peterson has answered 'the five questions most frequently asked by recent Mac converts' who are pondering a potential switch from Microsoft Windows to Mac OS X. "When Apple switched to Intel processors, I switched to a Mac," Peterson wrote. "It was that simple. And judging by Apple's latest financial report, millions of you are coming with me." The five questions include "where's the start menu?," "where's my right mouse button?," "how do I install apps?," "how do I search for files or apps?," and "where's the C: drive?" Answering these questions in order reveals the presence of Finder windows as well as the system dock, control-clicking with built-in support for two-button mice, drag-and-drop application installation, Spotlight, and terminal windows alongside Finder navigation.
Snooper Indago GPS
Producing a higher-end counterpart to its Syrius receiver, Snooper has just launched its Indago GPS mapper. In contrast to its larger but more basic predecessor, the 3.5-inch Indago sports a 256MB SD card preloaded with UK-only street level maps but gains extra camera detection features. Snooper promises speed-sensitive warnings not only of the country's fixed speed cameras but also of mobile cameras, congestion toll cameras, and even roadwork cameras. The Indago can be plugged into a car's power supply but also has its own battery for completely wireless use. It can be found online today for £399 ($776) or less after tax. [Via NaviGadget]
Bluedot Mobile TV Viewer
Bluedot today used the close of 2006 to reveal its BTV-400K media player. The company has focused the 4-inch widescreen handheld solely on tuning Japan's 1Seg digital mobile TV broadcasts; its single-purposed nature simplifies the controls and slims the device down, according to Bluedot, which measures the system at only 11mm (0.43 inches) thick. Support for an electronic program guide allows the BTV-400K's owner to see programming in advance and switch channels accordingly. Battery life is rated at three hours and can recharge just as quickly through either an AC outlet or a computer's USB port. The company expects an official launch in early February for $254.
Remote Buddy 1.0 RC1
IOSPIRIT has released Remote Buddy 1.0 RC1, offering support for the Nintendo Wii remote with Bluetooth-enabled Macs. Nintendo Wii users can control Macs remotely while browsing local as well as shared iTunes libraries and selecting individual tracks, albums, or playlists. The software also enables users to select and launch VIDEO_TS folders directly from within Remote Buddy, locating the respective folders without requiring extra configuration. The latest release of Remote Buddy also features a 'Custom actions' item that creates executable actions directly within mapping tables. A new multi-threaded driver architecture guarantees exact timing, according to IOSPIRIT, and offers higher performance. Remote Buddy 1.0 RC1 runs natively on Intel-based Macs as a Universal Binary, requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later, and is priced at $14 for a limited time.
Zune Masters Edition
Photos of a uniquely-styled version of the Zune have surfaced, according to a newly discovered Flickr stream. The back of the digital music player is decorated with custom art by artist Jeremy Fish, who is responsible for much of the artwork behind Microsoft's advertising campaign for the new player. The otherwise commonplace brown player also garners attention for its connection to Microsoft's controversial Zune Masters program: the special edition is available only to ambassadors of the program aged 18-22 and is meant to reward college-age listeners who actively promote the new jukebox to friends and peers.
Microsoft has previously attempted to drive the exclusivity of the Zune through special editions, handing out orange and pink Zunes to the project's staff as well as to random stores. Click through for a selection of photos from the collection.
AOC V500 media player
Chinese company AOC has launched the V500, a media player that's barely thicker than an iPod nano, measuring just 0.4 inches. The screen is a 2.4-inch LCD capable of QVGA resolution (320x240), and it plays AVI and MPEG-4 videos, or MP3, WAV and WMA audio files. Users can also browse JPEG images. Storage on the player is internal, offering anywhere between 128MB and 2GB of flash depending on the particular model. Content is transferred via a USB 2.0 cable. The V500 should be shipping to Chinese retail shops in the near future, selling at several unknown price grades. [Via imp3]
SCIRC Outdoor Webcam
Device maker digitalXtractions has revealed its SCIRC t1 webcam for outdoor travelers. Unlike notebook-orientedwebcams, the stand-alone SCIRC model is independent of any separate host device or network connection. The 1.3-megapixel camera can send still images or video to the company's own Web hosting service by using built-in support for GPRS and EDGE mobile Internet access, bypassing a computer entirely. Even a battery is sometimes unnecessary, the company says. A rechargeable battery is packed with the camera, but optional 6- and 12-watt solar panels will keep the t1 powered and recharge the battery during idle moments.
The camera ships today for $450, although a subscription to the company's image hosting requires $60 per month. Solar panels are also available now for $150 (6-watt) and $250 (12-watt) each. [Via The Raw Feed]
Trinity iPod transmitter
Trinity today launched its DS-CHFMT car FM transmitter for Apple's iPod. The combination dock and tuner fits in most vehicle cup holders, providing a stable base for an iPod without obscuring the radio or other controls on the car's central column. Audio from the digital player is broadcast through a user-specified FM channel while the holder attaches to the car's 12-volt power port to keep any dockable iPod fully charged. A 3.5mm minijack also streams music from generic music players, and Trinity claims that the new design helps drivers by surmounting some of the audio quality problems that plague most FM adapters. A new PLL chipset actively monitors treble in the initial music source and adapts to the sometimes distorted FM output, according to Electronista. Available in black or white, Trinity's audio adapter is shipping from Japan for $55.
Illuminated CD player
Created by Yanko Design, the Square CD is a wall-mounted CD player that's as much about aesthetics as audio. Made out of white corian, the player normally sits as a featureless square on your wall; turn it on, however, and light begins to radiate from the tray, the sides, and the controls. The buttons are actually just pressure-sensitive regions in the Square's uniform smart surface, which can also double as a speaker using technology from FeONIC. The Square CD is not yet available to order, but should be sold directly from Yanko when it is. [Via Crave]
Mywaves Cellphone Vodcasts
Young startup Mywaves today announced the finished version of its self-titled video subscription service for cellphones. A combination of RSS news feed technology and agreements with major content providers lets owners of 3G wireless handsets subscribe to regular video streams. As many as 10,000 separate channels are available, the company boasts, giving access to content such as CNN news clips or highly-rated YouTube videos. A Mywaves user can filter by category and tag channels with ratings; though the software is primarily managed on a PC, word of new videos can also be sent by SMS text messages.
Mywaves says the service will remain free for anyone with a compatible cellphone, but requires a 3G wireless data plan with most major cellular carriers in Europe or the US.
MusicMath 4.0 released
An avid Mac developer has released MusicMath 4.0, enhancing the music conversion software to offer native support for Intel-based Macs as a Universal Binary. The application converts musical values, calculating time and tempo. MusicMath 4.0 allows users to modify Hertz as well as millisecond delay values to obtain a desired tempo, and supports copying results of the Tap Tempo module as global tempo. The update includes a bug fix in 'SMPTE' calculations, and includes a new icon. Music Math provides seven conversion functions which include tempo, transpose, delay, tap, samples, notes, and SMPTE. The application is available for free, and requires Mac OS X (specific system requirements were unavailable). [corrected]
iPod Cupholder Transmitter
Trinity this morning launched its DS-CHFMT car FM transmitter for iPods. Fitting only in car cupholders, the combination dock and tuner provides a stable base for the iPod without obscuring the radio or other controls on the car's central column. Audio from the digital player is broadcast through a user-specified FM channel while the holder attaches to the car's 12-volt power port to keep any dockable iPod fully charged. A 3.5mm minijack will also stream music from generic music players.
The new design further helps drivers by surmounting some of the audio quality problems that plague most FM adapters, Trinity says. A new PLL chipset actively monitors treble in the initial music source and adapts it to the sometimes distorted FM output. Available in black or white, Trinity's audio adapter ships now from Japan for $55.
New Sony Cyber-shots
Based on filings with the Federal Communications Commission, Sony appears to be developing two new Cyber-shot cameras, the DSC-S650 and S700. Each has a seven-megapixel sensor and runs on AA batteries; the 650 has a two-inch LCD display, while the display on the 700 is 2.4 inches and supports resolutions up to 480x240. Little else is known about the cameras except that they don't appear to have any WiFi or Bluetooth capabilities. The formal announcement of the cameras will most likely be at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, scheduled between January 8th and 11th in Las Vegas. Several Sony cameras have been nominated for awards at CES, including the Sony Alpha A100. [Via LetsGoDigital]
Arctic Quest for Mac
Exclusive Games and Stargaze Interactive have released Arctic Quest for Mac, a puzzle game designed to test agility, strategic abilities, reflexes, and quick thinking. "With a wave of his icy fingers, the Snow King unleashed a bitter frost on the tropical islands across Earth. Palm trees iced over, fish were frozen solid in the seas and birds could no longer take flight. There, on the edge of his arctic kingdom the Snow King raised his icy palace, and to safeguard his empire, built a chain of 60 puzzles meant to stop even the wisest sage from reaching his castle and breaking the spell. You are the one to solve the puzzles, which take the shapes of animals or other tropical wonders. Arctic Quest offers unique hand-drawn graphics and you simply can't help enjoying those small animated fish swimming around." The game features 60 levels, six bonuses, simple mouse-based controls, hand-drawn graphics, and a final duel with the Snow King. Arctic Quest is priced at $20 and requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.
Brother Mobile Printer
Brother on Tuesday expanded its MPrint line of handheld printers with the new MW-260. Positioned as a balance between normal desktop printers and the smallest handhelds, the printer uses larger A6-sized paper instead of the A7 found in earlier models: this provides extra room for graphs or for enlarging fonts without sacrificing the level of information per page. Size is no barrier to its speed, Brother further claims. At its maximum 300x300DPI resolution, the MW-260 can output 20 black and white pages per minute.
Its design also signals the first three-interface MPrint device and connects using either Bluetooth, IR, or USB. The added support ensures that PCs or Windows Mobile-equipped handhelds can print away from home or the office without bringing a relevant cable. Brother hopes to release its latest mobile printer in Japan during March; a North American launch is set to follow shortly afterwards. No pricing has been set.
Nike New Year's challenge
Visitors to NikePlus.com will be able to watch runners endure the consequences of failing to live up to their New Year's resolutions after January 31st of 2007. Failed runners will bob for lobsters, have their nose hairs plucked, and be duct-taped to a bucking mechanical bull named Helga. Starting now, runners can issue challenges to themselves and to their friends on NikePlus.com. Nike will begin posting the consequences of unaccomplished challenges on the site as shared by the runners themselves, with the most publicized challenge coming from tennis superstar Maria Sharapova to NBA All-Star LeBron James. Maria claims that she will run more miles than LeBron in January, offering to leave the tennis court to serve as LeBron's personal water girl at a game of his choice should she fail. Should she outrun LeBron in January, however, then he will act as a ball boy during a match of Maria's choice.
Apple retail in Taiwan
Apple opened its first large-scale Apple retail store in Taiwan, according to a new report. The new retail store, which opened December 23, is in Taipei, the Digitimes reported: "The new Apple Computer store is located in an area of Taipei famous for a large number of consumer electronic stores and has three floors with a total floor space of about 397 square meters (4,270 square feet) and cost NT$150 million (US$4.6 million) to set up, the sources pointed out. Unlike retail outlets set up and operated by Taiwan-based sales agents, the new store represents Apple Computer's brand image in Taiwan." The report also says that Sony will establish a large retail shop inside a new large SOGO department store scheduled to open early next year and "will provide open space for customers to experience using Sony products."
Nokia N93i FCC-approved
Nokia intends to ship an updated version of its high-end N93 smartphone to the US, according to a recent FCC filing. The new approval reveals that the update, named N93i, will see key changes to its iconic design. The thick size of the existing handheld will be slimmed down considerably and should also see a glossy mirror finish replace the solid black of the current model. A seamless, RAZR-style number pad should also make its debut. Nokia says it will also make a concession to standards: instead of the company's own Pop-Port connector, a standard mini-USB port will let the phone sync with a PC using any A-to-B USB cable.
No release date has been confirmed for the updated phone, which in FCC testing is currently a tri-band GSM phone with EDGE and UMTS broadband; to see an official release in the US, the phone will require a fourth band. Extra photos are available after the jump. [Via Slashphone]
VisionTac Bluetooth GPS
VisionTac this weekend said it would adapt a new Bluetooth-based GPS receiver, the VGPS-700, for the US market. The adapter adds mapping to PDAs, phones, and other Bluetooth-equipped devices that lack the feature. However, the company stresses that its receiver is small and light enough at 2.1 inches long and 33 grams to be carried easily in a pocket alongside its host. Despite this, it uses the current-generation SiRFStar III chipset accurate to within 1 meter and also sports its own lithium-ion battery for between 8 to 12 hours of active use. An external battery pack will extend that time to between 18 and 20 hours. VisionTac has not committed to a launch date or price but promises a low cost thanks to the VGPS-700's minimal design. [Via NaviGadget]
MBCO In-Car TV Recorder
Having chosen conventional satellite TV in favor of the more recent terrestrial digital broadcasts, MBCO today launched its Moba Ho! MBR0201 receiver. The small tuner is built for both in-car mounts and home use and is rare for its ability to record as well as play satellite TV: a miniSD card slot is built in to capture as much as 2GB of video for later viewing on an attached display. The reliance on a larger screen for the main picture leaves room for channel information and navigation on the unit's own LCD, MBCO says. A bundled wireless remote can manage playback from the back seat. Ths new receiver is due to launch in mid-January with open pricing on the Japanese market.
Lexon this weekend introduced its Lexphone handset. While a simple USB attachment meant to simplify calling in Skype or other voice chat software, the Lexphone is designed to match the aesthetic of Apple notebooks and other designer computers with an aluminum-like finish. The company keeps the phone small at 4.1 inches long by focusing on its core role as a PC companion but says it still has room for extra features such as muting, call holding, and independent volume adjustment. Unica sells Lexon's phone for $75. [Via Crave]
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