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Heads-up: More updates than you can shake a stick at September 28, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, Updates & Patches.
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In the aftermath of the new firmware update for the iPhone, there’s been a flood of other updates for iLife and iWeb that haven’t been given much attention. (Actually, these might be not too late-breaking; dunno if I’ve been slacking on Software Update, but I haven’t seen news of these floating on the web. Whatever.)

Scared to update Keynote right now, since I have a big presentation this afternoon, so I’ll do it later. Did the others yesterday, details on the changes later (iMovie‘s much better now). As usual, no detailed info about any of them from Apple at the moment.

Am too rushed now to type them out neatly, so just look at the pics for the details of what they are and how big the downloads will be (check the relevant dates). The first batch (in the Installed Updates pic below) I installed yesterday, but forgot to blog about them.

All in all, nine updates. Wowza.

Google Calendar interface for iPhone upgraded September 26, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Announcements, Apps, iPhone, Updates & Patches.
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The Google Calendar graphic interface has just been upgraded to have an iPhone-specific look when using the popular phone.

Being tailored for the iPhone, it’s now a perfect fit, and can show distinctive colors based on your calendar preferences. iPhone users can just point their Safari browsers to http://calendar.google.com.

For more info just head on over to the Official Gmail Blog here.

WinDiscrimination: Microsoft slaps Mac users; apologizes September 23, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, Issues, Microsoft, The Other Side of the Fence.
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Several days ago users of Microsoft‘s Windows Live Messenger who used dotMac addresses to get their Windows Live IDs found out that they were being blocked from using the online service. When trying to log in, it would return an error message that told them they had now had to change their address in order to continue using the service.

Because of a recent system update, you must change the email address that you use to sign in to Windows Live Messenger. Until you change your email address, you won’t be able to use Windows Live Messenger.

Eh? Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder?

Other users who registered with other addresses like GMail were not affected, and only those with .Mac-related logins were specifically rejected from the Microsoft service.

MacNN contacted Microsoft about this, and MS officials told MacNN that it had recently become aware of an

…internal error during routine testing that resulted in customers using .Mac domains being asked to change their e-mail address in order to access to their Windows Live IDs.

Internal error. Surrrrre it was. Some code became wonky and spontaneously, independently and without human intervention, began mysteriously blocking their IM users, but somehow only those using dotMac addresses. Internal error. Creepy code, that.

Microsoft immediately created a support page for affected users and further apologized in a statement that read in part:

Access to Live IDs has been restored to our customers who use .Mac domains. We regret any inconvenience this caused for our customers.

Hmph. We regret it too.

(This begs the question: why would some folk who obviously use Macs actually sign up for a Microsoft online service? Does this imply that they deserve what they got? Hmm.)

New OpenOffice for Mac available Sept (next year) September 20, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Announcements, Apps, FOSS, Share/Freeware.
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On the heels of the release of OpenOffice.org 2.3.0 update for most operating systems on the planet this week, the group has announced that they are releasing a new native Mac version of OpenOffice, the FOSS alternative office suite, one that does not require X11 to run, in September – of 2008.

I actually did a double-take when reading the original report from Computerworld, thinking they meant this September we’re in now – which made me wonder about the odd statement; why not just say this month then?

Macworld UK didn’t even notice the year: writer Jonny Evans, citing the exact same original report I linked to, wrote totally a off-the-mark and misleading report that headlined “Mac native OpenOffice this month?” It further says:

Popular and free Microsoft Office alternative OpenOffice seems set to ship in a native Mac OS X version later this month.

A report on Computerworld claims that OpenOffice 3.0 will ship later this month, citing a presentation to be made today by the lead engineer working on the project, Eric Bachard.

If you hurry, you can still read Macworld UK’s big blooper (if they haven’t yet pulled it by now) here. (If they have, I can still show you – I saved the page, heh heh.) They should read more closely, especially if they’re just snagging a report. Macworld should be more careful. If you’re just going to crib (like me), at least get the dates right. Tsk tsk.

Ahem. Back to the story.

Development for the Mac platform has been lackluster and perfunctory of late, but with the increasing popularity and acceptance of Macs and OS X as part of the halo effect of the various Apple “side” projects, apparently the group has re-thought their commitment to the Mac community and redoubled efforts to develop the suite for the platform, and assigned a few more people to the project. But – a year?

Version 3.0 is being designed for OS X 10.5, although by then 10.6 might be the prevailing OS for the Mac.

A year might be too long for most people. Like me. This is one instance where I literally can’t wait. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Breaking news: Free software-based iPhone unlocker September 12, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, Downloads, iPhone, Updates & Patches.
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A hundred bucks? iPhoneSIMFree be damned. Some guys from the iPhone Dev Team have created a free software unlocker, and the app and the source code are available on the net from their site and mirrored on Gizmodo. Get the unlock file source code here, and the unlock file itself here.

Honey, I Shrunk the MP3s September 9, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, DRM, iPods.
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The new iPod Classics sport a ton of storage – 160 gigs to be exact; about 40,000 songs, give or take a few grand. For a few people, that still might not be enough.

Here’s the solution: ShrinkMyTunes.

This new commercial app compresses your songs even further, often twice as much, with no appreciable loss in quality – so you can squeeze off roughly a third of a terabyte from an iPod classic, and listen to 80,000 songs. That’s roughly 7.5 months of continuous listening with no repeats, if my math is correct.

It’s relatively tiny – a 2mb app, and has no frills to speak of: only two settings are available – Better Compression, and Better Quality. It uses a NASA-designed algorithm (“content sensitive heuristic optimization algorithm”) that trims off excess and redundant sound, and adjusts sound quality downward so that it compresses better, without unduly compromising the music. If you can live with it, it’ll at least double your storage. This’ll be great for the legions of 8gb and 4gb iPhone users, shufflers and for the coming horde of 8gb and 16gb iPod Touch users.

It works for most MP3 players, not just the iPods, and maintains all the tags and info after conversion, which averages about 30 seconds per song. You get 2x compression in most cases, 4x in others, like audiobooks and spoken word files. There are gotchas, though: only works for MP3 and WAV files, is audio-only, and worst, it’s for Windows only for now. AAC and Mac support coming within the year, don’t worry.

US$39.95. Here.

iPhoto 7.0.2 Update August 29, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, iLife, Updates & Patches.
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There must be something seriously wonky with the dotMac Web Gallery, because the new iPhoto 7 that’s part of the iLife ’08 suite is also being updated to address issues with it. If you remember just recently, iMovie from the same suite was also updated for the same reason. Either that, or the new apps really need more work.

So heads up, iPhoto 7.0.2 is available as a 10.2MB download via Software Update, or a direct 8.8MB download on the Apple site. Aside from fixing that thing with the Web Gallery, it also addresses issues with editing books and rebuilding thumbnails, plus a lot of other minor problems and issues.

Veddy British August 26, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, Operating System.
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It’s always been a sci-fi conceit to have the computer talk with a perfect, natural-sounding speaking voice, and so far all we’ve had are the usual halting, phoneme-mangling robotic voices built into the operating system. There hasn’t yet been the smooth, soothing menace of HAL, the business-like LCARS computer voice of the Starship Enterprise, or the prissy Brit butler accent of C3PO. Instead we get Vicki, Bruce or Zarvox.

At least one company has been trying hard to accomplish this difficult feat, and they’re closer to it as anyone has been, and that’s Infovox iVox, from the Acapela Group and AssistiveWare. They have been providing wonderful voices, in many languages, for use with any software compliant with Mac OS X’s Speech Manager, like TextEdit, Preview or Adobe Acrobat, or even Tiger’s VoiceOver screen reader feature. Notable in iVox are the Lucy and Graham voices, which eerily sound like something you’d hear from a spaceship computer.

Well, the company is releasing a new British voice named Peter, which I imagine would sound real cool when it tells you the hour on the hour. This will be in addition to the many existing accented voices ranging from American to Flemish (eh?). Peter is included in the British voice pack which sells for 99 Euros. Existing owners get Peter as a free upgrade.

If you’re curious, there’s a fully functioning demo available here.

iMovie ’08 updated August 23, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apple Inc., Apps, iLife, Updates & Patches.
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The controversial iMovie ’08 app from the iLife ’08 suite just got an update – 7.0.1, available through Software Update or via a direct 9MB download.

iMovie’s new version is controversial because of accusations that it’s a dumbed-down version, or more a downgrade than an upgrade to the previous version, since some major features seemed to have been deliberately removed. Some users say they would have preferred not to have gotten this particular upgrade had they known this would happen. Additionally, it has pretty high hardware requirements, and will not port older iMovie files from previous versions. Doh!

For non-Intel Mac users, the app is notorious as well because it’s the only component in the suite that requires an Intel or at least a 1.95GHz G5 processor and will not install on older Power PC Macs, even though the rest of the suite will. As usual Apple is vague on the specifics of this update, except to say that it addresses .Mac Web Gallery issues and improves stability of the app. The biggest disappointment with the update is that it does not restore the omitted features, as some had hoped. (For 9mb, what did you expect?)

Serious business August 22, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, Business, Tips.
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After giving you guys that link to core Apple apps everyone should be using, I found an aggregation of links to business applications for the Mac on theAppleBlog, and I figured it might be a nice eye-opener to what’s out there.

Using Macs isn’t all fun (and certainly not all games as well); the page shows you what’s available for Macs from time tracking and invoicing to money management, project management, contact management and more. And it being a list of business apps, most of them are shareware and commercial software, with maybe just one or two freebies thrown in there. Hey, we should be so lucky.

Check it out.