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iPhone v1.1.2 update
Ahead of the iPhone launches in the UK and Germany (and as expected), Apple today posted iPhone v1.1.2 [160MB], the latest update to the software for the iPhone. Although some parts of Germany have already experienced the launch, the company has posted its new software its servers, but not yet provided the release notes or the update via iTunes. Specifically, reports indicate that the update is expected to bring wider language support with international keyboards and special character keys, and access to The Cloud Wi-Fi hotspots for UK users. Other reports indicate that it will patch the TIFF exploit that hackers have used to "jailbreak" v1.1.1 iPhones, requiring hackers to find another way to gain access to the iPhone system and install third-party apps. The corresponding iPod touch v1.1.2 update is also available, altough the details of the changes are not noted.
German iPhone debut
The German iPhone launch happened today in Cologne, with shuttles bringing customers from Hamburg, Berlin, and Munich. Ahead of the full-scale deployment in the UK and Germany, one T-Mobile store has opened at 12:01 AM to allow anxious customers to be the the first to purchase the official European iPhone. Customers in Germany will be paying 400 €, which will include a two year T-Mobile contract. Italian news site setteB.IT has been covering the event from 6PM, local time, and has provided us with a glimpse of what happened before the official product launch.
M-Audio ships headphones
M-Audio today announced its entry into the headphone market with the Studiophile Q40 closed-back dynamic headphones. The Studiophile Q40 headphones make use of professional-grade dynamic drivers -- which measure 40 millimeters in diameter -- that deliver full-range specs and sonic detail, according to the company. A combination of vented diaphragms made of low-mass treated mylar, neodymium magnets, and copper-clad aluminum voice coils are designed to deliver efficient performance for enhanced bass. The new headphones are already available for $180.
REALbasic copy protection
SecuTech today along with Monkeybread Software unveiled cross-platform software copy protection for applications developed with REALbasic. The new UniKeyMBS class enables REALbasic developers to use a driverless UniKey dongle to protect their software created for Mac OS X, Linux, and Microsoft Windows. "REALbasic developers need not change any source codes, and can now enjoy the flexibility provided by the UniKey cross-platform software copy protection solution," SecuTech said. REALbasic developers can apply for a free software development kit, and can contact SecuTech for pricing inquiries.
LaCie revamps Hub
LaCie today unveiled an update to its USB/FireWire peripheral Hub alongside a new version of the device that offers USB connectivity only, and announced that it has received a 2008 Designer Observer Award for the device. The company's Hub was developed by French industrial designer Ora-Ïto, featuring a glossy white polycarbonate finish with flexible cables. The re-designed Hub ($80 and up) also offers an entirely round base that allows it to wobble back and fourth for ascetic pleasure, according to LaCie, while the new version provides USB 2.0 connectivity only (pricing was unavailable).
Little Snitch 2.0 ships
Objective Development today released Little Snitch 2.0, a "totally overhauled" application with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard compatibility. The latest release of the internet traffic monitoring and management utility introduces predefined "smart rule suggestions" to help less experienced users choose a reasonable action for each connection query. The update lists all defined rules and supports user-specific configurations for customized traffic management settings. Little Snitch 2.0 is priced at $25, with upgrades from older versions available for $13. Additionally, Little Snitch 1 users who have license keys starting with "32" can use the same key to activate Little Snitch 2 for free.
Reviews, free iPhone cases
In brief: MacNN has reviewed a UFO-themed USB hub, a new set of iPod speakers, the Morpheus Photo Animation Suite. GEAR4 has launched a new promotion offering the first 100 customers who purchase an iPhone from anywhere in the UK a free iPhone iVak case. Saitek Industries' Mini UFO Hub ($10, shown at right), reviewed by MacNN, is a small USB hub modeled after the classic flying saucer-shaped UFO. The device is two inches long and less than in inch tall, featuring a pulsating light that flashes between red, green, yellow, and blue to achieve the effect of a foreign flying spacecraft.
HTC Touch Review
Even though enthusiasts knew the phone as the Elf, the HTC Touch emerged as a surprise when it was announced this spring in part because of its less-than-subtle touchscreen interface changes and naming scheme. For many, these were a sign that HTC was hoping to ride the wave of iPhone publicity. If so, it worked: the device sold more than 800,000 units during its first three months on sale. That it should not be ignored is beyond doubt; whether it really offers the same qualities as the iPhone, however, is another matter. Read ahead for our full review of the phone running with Canadian cellular provider Telus.
Stereo Sound Recorder
Tunewear has announced a new product, the Stereo Sound Recorder for iPod, which allows users to record interviews, classes, meetings, or any similar event. The company says that the recorder functions with the new iPod classic, 5th gen iPods, 2nd and 3rd generation Nanos. The recorder has two built-in omni-directional microphones that are capable of recording sound in either mono (16bit, 22KHz, 2.5MB/s) or CD-quality stereo (16bit, 44KHz, 10MB/s), which it then saves in WAV format. The Tunewear Stereo Sound Recorder for iPod is currently available from the company's online store for $50.
Canadian cell users upset
The happiness of Canadian cellphone users is actually on the decline, a J.D. Power and Associates study concludes. Rating on a 1,000-point scale, the satisfaction of subscribers with contracts has fallen 18 points since last year, to sit at 657; overall satisfaction is down 12 points to 702. These figures are so terrible that the average Canadian would prefer to deal with car repairs, traditionally a high-stress affair, than cope with cellular companies. J.D. Power's senior director of research, Charles Schade, says that Canadians believe they are typically paying more than they would in other countries, while receiving little to nothing new.
Sub Pop starts MP3 sales
Indie record label Sub Pop, home to artists like Patton Oswalt, Iron & Wine and The Postal Service, has begun selling select albums in MP3 format. As of press time over 200 albums were online; many of these are already available on other online stores, but Sub Pop is charging $9.90 per release, making them 9 cents cheaper than the average iTunes cost. The files are also in a 192kbps, DRM-free format, meaning that they can be used with any software or media player.
Blockbuster Digital Kiosks
Blockbuster is considering opening download stations as a way of shoring up its failing rental business, according to company chief Jim Keyes. The executive says that the company will launch an experiment which brings kiosks which could download movies directly to a portable media player, bypassing the need for a DVD or for transferring videos from a computer. The stations will appear at Blockbuster's own stores and may also branch out into malls and other areas where the chain typically does not operate.
Jay-Z bans songs on iTunes
Hip hop star Jay-Z has banned his latest album from Apple's iTunes Store, saying that wants the "work of art" to be enjoyed in its entirety. The album, titled American Gangster and serving as the 'imaginary soundtrack' for the film of the same name, is not to be offered as individual tracks via iTunes as is customary of most works sold via Apple's digital storefront, according to WCCO.com. The decision comes after rock band Radiohead chose to sell their works only as complete albums.
MS downplays Android
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has challenged the significance of Google's future Android operating system for cellphones. Android contrasts with Microsoft's Windows Mobile in that it is an open platform; while developers can write third-party programs and layers for Windows, Android should allow cheaper and easier customization, better suited to the requirements of phone makers. The problem, says Ballmer, is that Android is merely in its beginning stages.
Samsung AMOLED Ships
Samsung today revealed that it had begun mass production of the circuitry for the world's first active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) displays, opening the door to their use in cellphones, media players, and other devices in the near future. Based on conducting electricity between two organic layers, the technology allows Samsung to power a 320x240 screen that can still reproduce 16.7 million colors at once -- enough to match much larger displays. As the organics are luminous on their own, they suffer none of the ghosting effects seen with LCDs in scenes with fast movement.
Virtual String Machine
M-Audio today released Virtual String Machine, an artificial instrument developed by partner GForce, which is designed to emulate the tones of over a dozen vintage string instruments. Virtual String Machine can be used as a standalone application in conjunction with a MIDI controller, or it can be used as a plugin for GarageBand, Logic, Cubase, Protools and a host of other audio editing applications. M-Audio is selling Virtual String Machine for $150, available through its website and international retailers.
Time Machine issues
A slew of Mac owners are experiencing two prominent issues with Apple's Time Machine backup software, which comes bundled as part of the company's new Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard operating system. Numerous complaints began pouring in on the Cupertino-based company's own support forums, mostly citing either stalled backups or invisible backup sets, according to Computerworld. Apple failed to properly test Time Machine before it launched Leopard, according to Ombudsman and former vice president of engineering at LaCie, Mike Mihalik. "The two tech notes that it's released clarify what Apple should have done as part of the normal release," Mihalik said, referring to two Apple notices covering the largest of the problems experienced by Time Machine users.
7Digital on Death of DRM
The absence of digital rights management lockdowns on tracks is spurring a renaissance of legal online music downloads, according to a report from British direct-download service 7Digital. The company observes that the introduction unprotected MP3 versions of songs for sale through its site has encouraged users to buy more music than they would have in the past, including full albums. About 80 percent of tracks bought through the store now omit DRM; 70 percent of those sales are now for full albums rather than individual songs, company managing director Ben Drury says. The change comes despite a relatively limited catalog of DRM-free songs made available almost exclusively from music label EMI.
TiVo Lifetime Memberships
DVR maker TiVo today announced a special deal to jumpstart sales of its recorders for the holidays and to simplify subscriptions for other users. Resurrecting a plan that had previously been available only to early members of the subscription service, the company is offering a $399 lifetime plan to existing customers; those with existing devices will receive the service free of charge regardless of the length of use. These should also transfer to new TiVo devices in the future, based on the company's past history. The discount lasts until February 2nd and will be accompanied by a temporarily lowered $13 monthly rate for one-year subscriptions (down from $17) and drops in the cost of prepaid subscriptions to $129 for one year (from $179) and $249 for two years (from $279).
Vonage, AT&T negotiate
AT&T has agreed to settlement talks in its lawsuit against VoIP carrier Vonage, according to the Associated Press. AT&T had made the accusation that Vonage violated a patent for connecting traditional phones to Internet services; the companies had actually attempted to negotiate a license for the patent for two years, but the issue was never resolved. Under a proposed deal, Vonage would compensate AT&T with $39 million over the course of five years. Word of new talks caused Vonage stock to rise 23 percent (to $2.70) in premarket trading.
LG Touch Phone Pre-orders
Verizon today posted pre-order information for the LG-made Venus and the Voyager, providing a glance at the final pricing and features for the touchscreen phones ahead of their fall launch. The Venus will use the cost advantage of a partial touchscreen interface to bring its price to $200 when bought with a two-year plan, or $369 without a contract; new in the updated details is news that the slider will include a special pink version with side trims and a keypad in the new color. The standard black version ships first on November 19th and will be followed by the pink edition on December 11th.
Fido adopts HSDPA
Although parent company Rogers has had HSDPA in limited fashion for a while, and recently expanded its service area, Fido has only now joined the ranks of Canadian cellular companies offering 3G broadband. Some 25 cities are being covered at launch, including Calgary, Montreal, and Vancouver, as well as most other major urban areas; Toronto is conspicuously absent from the list, but the region is among those covered by Rogers. Services available through Fido's HSDPA include video calls, mobile TV and XM Radio streaming.
Apple's multitouch patent
Several patent applications surfaced today detailing several Apple inventions which include a multitouch surface controller as well as three other patent applications that describe a means of processing audio via a serial connection at a faster pace, device-independent management of cryptic information (DRM), and plans for generating a format translator. Apple's Multipoint Touch Surface Controller patent application establishes the fact that the multitouch screen described could apply to notebook and desktop personal computers, as well as a tablet or handheld device. The patent language coincides with several industry analysts who expect Apple to debut a new, ultraportable Mac notebook some time next year.
Pandora Music at ATT
AT&T today introduced its own version of Pandora, giving users a customized music streaming service from cellphones. Like the desktop version as well as the mobile edition for Sprint, AT&T's new feature automatically creates an Internet stream of music based on a user's initial selections and listening habits. Frequent use will result in as many as 100 stations that accurately reflect tastes without the user having to add songs by hand, AT&T says. Songs that aren't already owned can be flagged and downloaded later through the carrier's mobile music store.
CEH duplicates iPhone test
The Center for Environmental Health, an activist group which claims that many modern ailments are attributable to industrial chemicals, now says that it has duplicated Greenpeace's tests of the iPhone, specifically those that showed the presence of phthalates in the headphone cables. Phthalates are typically contained in PVC plastics, and are used to increase their flexibility; while normally safe, certain toxic varieties -- including a pair in Apple's iPhone cables -- may hinder the sexual development of mammals.
Pharos Drive GPS 250
Pharos today sought to drive down the prices of GPS units by unveiling two no-frills GPS navigator units. The GPS Drive 150 and 250 provide mapping on their respective 3.5-inch and 4.3-inch touchscreens without some of the features that add to the price but with a few unusual advantages: the larger 250 is capable of running for up to seven hours on a single battery charge versus the three to five of competitors, Pharos notes. Each is based on Microsoft's Windows CE and includes modern GPS features such as a 3D view for a more natural perspective on the route ahead.
Leopard gets SMS support
Nova Media today released FoneLink 1.2, adding a complete SMS manager to send as well as receive and archive SMS messages under Mac OS X Leopard. The mobile phone companion software suite provides a Finder-like view for all files stored on a mobile phone alongside the exchange of data and media files. Media is automatically converted for the best listening and viewing experience on the mobile device, according to Nova Media, and the software is priced at $50 requiring Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later.
Macs cheaper than PCs?
Despite popular perceptions, Macs are cheaper computers to own than PCs, a new article argues. Although the Salon piece concedes that most Macs are more expensive than comparatively-powered PCs when purchased, they are said to maintain better resale value, offsetting any initial costs. Held up as examples are last year's HP Pavilion Media Center A1640n, and a Mac mini; although the Mini would have cost $799 versus the A1640n's $699, while being less powerful, the resale value for the A1640n has plummeted, and is now between $236 and $257 on eBay. By contrast, the Mac mini is going for $445 to $500, netting a $50 advantage. [corrected]
iPhone v1.1.2 due Friday
Apple has confirmed that it will deliver the iPhone v1.1.2 update to all users on Friday, the same day it will launch the iPhone in the UK. Although the exact time of release could not be confirmed, the report says that iPhone owners who sync their device with iTunes tomorrow in the States will be presented with the option to upgrade to the new firmware. Specifically, the update is expected to bring wider language support with international keyboards and special character keys, and access to The Cloud Wi-Fi hotspots for UK users.
OLPC SimCity Deal
Just a day after its XO notebook began production, the One Laptop Per Child project today announced a deal with Electronic Arts that would see a Linux version of SimCity preloaded on to each system, giving children in developing countries as well as Western participants in the Give 1 Get 1 program an opportunity to play an educational game out of the box without having to install software. The city building and management game should make the notebook entertaining for children while also teaching them skills, EA boasts.
AMD FireStream 9170
AMD today became the first company to launch a video card specifically tailored to users who need to process both graphics and hard data from the same system. The FireStream 9170 (not yet pictured) uses an enhanced version of ATI's stream computing technique to process general calculations with the unused shader units on the card, potentially accelerating work well past what would be possible with one or more extra CPUs; up to 500 gigaflops are possible with the very first model's 320 shaders running at 775MHz, according to AMD's estimates. The new model also rivals NVIDIA's Quadro FX cards in its ability to handle double-precision floating point math, ensuring that very accurate calculations can be done without turning to the CPU.
Sprint Improves Plan Fees
Sprint today announced that it would be the next to take on customer complaints by changing the way it handles switching plans or canceling its service. Following in the steps of carriers such as Verizon, the company from Monday onwards will allow customers to change their rate plans without extending their contracts, giving subscribers the option of stepping down to a more affordable plan or one with better services while still giving the option of jumping to a different service provider at the same time as before the change. Agents will also call customers after they sign up and if they run over their allotted minutes or other data within the first six months; these will make sure that customers are not overcharged by choosing a plan below their actual needs, Sprint claims.
UK iPhone lineup forms
In advance of the iPhone's UK launch, scheduled for 6:02PM on November 9th, lineups have already begun forming, reports indicate. A handful of people are said to be waiting in front of the flagship Regent Street Apple Store in London, dressed for the cold weather and resting on folding chairs. Between 2PM and 6:02PM tomorrow, those in line will be the only customers at the store, as the building will be closed to prepare for the iPhone's European debut.
Sony VAIO FZ Eco Edition
Signaling the first regularly available custom graphics treatment for the VAIO FZ series notebook, Sony on Thursday launched the Graphic Splash Eco Edition to both spur sales and improve its enviroment-friendly standing. In addition to the nature-themed outer shell designs of Bloom, Caribbean Water, Clay Earth, and Spotted Life, each system contributes one percent of its sales to the 1% For the Planet foundation to reinvest some of the cost of the system back into the ecosystem. The material savings of a relatively thin notebook and computer recycling programs (including for non-Sony PCs) are also important, Sony claims.
Iomega Leopard Drives
Iomega this morning revealed that it had just begun shipping a new range of drives catering to Mac users and ideally matched with Mac OS X Leopard's Time Machine backup feature. The MiniMax as well as the UltraMax and UltraMax Pro drives all come pre-formatted with the HFS+ file system, allowing Leopard to instantly recognize them and use them as Time Machine drives without converting from a Windows file system like FAT32. All the drives are designed to fit in alongside modern Macs, with the MiniMax stacking underneath a Mac mini and the UltraMax line designed to resemble the Mac Pro and PowerMac G5 towers.
Ticketmaster and iTunes
Ticketmaster and the iTunes Store have expanded their music + tickets offerings by integrating digital album sales directly alongside concert tickets in a single transaction on Ticketmaster.com. Ticketmaster said that more than 700 musical acts with performances currently on sale via Ticketmaster, including Kanye West, Keith Urban, Modest Mouse and Bon Jovi, are among the first to have their songs and tickets jointly available to fans who search for music and concerts online. Both Apple and Ticketmaster have also launched a special dollar-off discount, which will be applied to every digital album sold on Ticketmaster and fulfilled via the iTunes Store through December 29, 2007.
Hard Drive Update 1.0
Apple has released updated firmware for some of its desktops. According to the company, the Hard Drive Update 1.0 includes bug fixes and important updates for the iMac Core 2 Duo and Mac Pro. While the description was notoriously vague, it does require Mac OS X 10.4.7 or later, but evidently is not needed on some of its newest line of Aluminum Macs (as it did not run on a 24-inch iMac model). The update is 1.4MB in size and is available via the Web. The firmware requires a restart, according to the documentation: "To complete the firmware update process, please follow the instructions in the updater application (/Applications/Utilities/Hard Drive Update 1.0.app). The updater will launch automatically when the Installer closes."
Native iPhone sync app
Ahead of Apple's official support for third-party native iPhone applications, mobile messaging company Funambol on Thursday announced it has released an open-source native app for iPhone contact synchronization. Requiring users to hack their iPhone, the Funambol plug-in for iPhone synchronizes the iPhone's address book with contacts from popular sources such as Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, GNOME Evolution and SyncML servers such as the Funambol server. The native application requires that users "jailbreak" or hack their iPhone to run third-party applications.
HP seeks OEM for digi-cams
Hewlett Packard on Wednesday announced that it will no longer be designing or manufacturing its own digital cameras, but it would continue to sell branded cameras from other OEM manufacturers. HP will be shifting company resources to focus on its Print 2.0 growth initiatives, but confirmed that it is looking for an original equipment manufacturer to produce digital cameras for the HP brand. The company, which will continue to sell its current line-up of cameras through the holiday season, said it expects to have a partnership arrangement in place during the first half of 2008.
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