Sunday, July 20, 2008

Upgrade your iPod touch to 2.0 for Free

The iPhone Software 2.0 update is free for iPhone users, but is $10 for those who have iPod touch. I found out you can get it for free.

Upgrade your iPod Touch to 2.0 for Free
Apple released their newest software update for both iPhone and iPod touch just about a week ago, July 11. It includes bug fixes and the anticipated App Store, which allows you to purchase and download third-party applications right to your iPhone or iPod. The update is free for iPhone users, but is $10 for those who own an iPod touch.

But I recently came across this method of upgrading your iPod to the latest version of the software (firmware, too). It involves tricking iTunes into restoring your iPod to software 2.0. However, it also involves wiping out your music and video collection in your iPod. Hence, the word 'restoring' your iPod. If you don't mind this, or if you have complete backup of your music collection in your PC, then this won't be an issue for you.

For this to work, you need a legitimate iPod Software 2.0 Restore file. Back in July 11 or 12, a link that directly points to an unrestricted Apple Phobos site leaked on the internet. A backdoor to the Apple Software server was available, which allowed the free download (and fast, too, as the file sharing sites give you a measly 5 kbps download rate) of the restore file. However, it's now currenly patched (as well as the link I used to get the file) and locked, and the only way to get the software restore file, iPod1,1_2.0_5A347_Restore.ipsw, is through torrents or file sharing sites. I got one from the Apple server itself, so I'm sure it's legit. I'm not so sure about those circulating in torrents and file sharing sites.

When you plug in your iPod, the little iPod window appears in iTunes. That's where the device info is shown - the iPod model, how much space it has, and how your music, videos, and photos take up that space, shown as a bar at the bottom. You'll also see two buttons - the Check for Updates and the Restore button. We're interested in the Restore button, since the Check for Update only prompts us to buy the update. We don't. We want it free!

If you hold Shift on your keyboard while clicking on Restore, a little window will appear that allows you to select which Restore file iTunes will use to restore your iPod to. Get it now? By selecting the Software 2.0 version (iPod1,1_2.0_5A347_Restore.ipsw) as a restore file, iTunes inadvertently updated your firmware version to version 2.0.

It will take a long time to prep your iPod for the restore, so be patient. There won't be any disk activity or CPU usage for that matter - just a window telling you that it's preparing your iPod for restore. Be patient.

After that, the restore (or upgrade) will happen - your iPod will reboot, and an Apple logo with a spinning throbber will appear. Wait until it's finished, and your done!

Reboot your iPod, and viola! An App Store icon right on the Home screen! Check the firmware version by going to Settings > General > About. Mine says Version 2.0 (5A347). It's only a matter of restoring your music and video files back to the iPod (as well as a restore from a backup) and you're good to go.

If you have an iTunes account, you can now purchase or download free applications for your iPod touch. Just go to the iTunes Store and download those applications.

Great! I just feel bad that Apple is forcing you to buy an upgrade now. Before (think iPod mini and nano), the updates for the firmware is free. And the discrimination between the iPhone and the iPod touch (remember, the update is free for the iPhone, original and the 3G version) is just wrong. But then again, it's just $10.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Apple Quietly Releases iPod Touch Update

If you own an iPod touch that hasn't been updated to version 2.0, Apple quietly released a free iPod touch 1.1.5 update, but we haven't seen much improvement yet.

Apple Quietly Releases iPod Touch 1.1.5 Update

While some forward-thinking individuals were dropping US$10 to purchase the iPod touch 2.0 software update, Apple quietly issued a free iPod touch 1.1.5 update. If you own an iPod touch that hasn't been updated to version 2.0 and would like the update, just plug your iPod touch into your Mac and decline the 2.0 update. iTunes will then inform you that the 1.1.5 update is available for download and installation.

Some across the Internet have suggested that the 1.1.5 update improves the touch's performance. However, applications launched in the same amount of time, Safari pages loaded identically, YouTube videos downloaded and displayed in approximately the same period of time, and stocks and weather between the two versions of the iPod software.

What purpose does this update serve? So far, Apple is mum on the subject as it hasn't issued any technical notes on the update. Therefore, until we hear differently, we'll assume that all changes take place "under the hood."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

iPhone 2.0 Software Jailbroken

The iPhone Dev Team has unlocked the iPhone 2.0 system on older iPhones

iPhone 2.0 Software Jailbroken

The iPhone Dev Team has announced that they can unlock and jailbreak the iPhone 2.0 system. This is on the old iPhones it seems, not on the new ones.

The unlocking is unsurprising. Apple seems incapable of stopping the unlocking, and there are reports that a huge percentage of iPhones are unlocked and run on other networks, especially in the Far East.

But at first the jailbreak may seem like an odd accomplishment; why would you want to jailbreak the iPhone now that they have the App Store? Because you might want to run applications not in the store I guess. Because you might want to show that nobody's telling you want you can and can't run on your phone. Stuff like that.

And the punch line is that the hack is not yet available. But this group has published these same hacks on earlier versions in the past, so I don't doubt them now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Apple sells 1 million iPhones in first 3 days

Apple has sold 1 million iPhones in the three days after releasing the latest model last Friday.

Apple sells 1 million iPhones in first 3 days

Apple said Monday it has sold 1 million iPhones in the three days following the release of the latest model on Friday.

"iPhone 3G had a stunning opening weekend," said Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive, in a statement Monday.

But the launch was plagued by software problems. All the new iPhones had to connect to Apple's servers for activation, which quickly overloaded them. Lines of customers built in stores as employees were unable to get the phones working.

Additionally, new software was released for the old iPhone, which required reactivation of those phones. Many owners of the older phone were left with unusable units.

The iPhone 3G was launched simultaneously in 21 countries, including the U.S.

Apple had sold about 6 million units of the first-model iPhone since it launched in the U.S. a year ago. The company has set a goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008.

Shares of Apple rose $5.32, or 3.1 percent, to $177.90 in morning trading.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thinking of Nabbing an iPhone Today? Wait.

Welcome to the iPocalypse.

Thinking of Nabbing an iPhone Today? Wait.

Reports are flooding in from Gizmodo (which posted that clever Apple meets Armageddon phrase), TechCrunch, the IDG News Service and pretty much any other iPhone-manic news outlet that stalwart Apple fans who rushed to buy their new iPhone today are left holding beautifully designed bricks that can't be activated.

Apple's network reportedly can't handle the huge flood of phones hitting it today to activate and pull down the 2.0 firmware. Sounds an awful lot like what happened with Firefox's Download Day last month - I bet the Mozilla folks are nodding their heads knowingly.

CrunchGear has two potentially helpful posts for eventually getting the update and fixing an iPhone that's stuck in a reboot cycle after a failed update that might help you out if you're an unlucky iBrick holder.

For the rest of us (yep, I'm jumping on the bandwagon), your best bet is to hold off until the traffic spike dies down before heading off to buy your own new iPhone. And when you do go, head to an Apple store instead of AT&T - according to Silicon Alley Insider, the AT&T stores they checked in NYC were all out, while the Apple store was still stocked. Might be just chance, or it might indicate that Apple stocked its own stores better (as SAI suggests).

iPhone Activation Woes Hit Early Buyers

Some of the first people in the U.S. to purchase the iPhone 3G walked out of an Apple Store in New York disappointed Friday when Apple's plan to activate the new devices in stores backfired.

iPhone Activation Woes Hit Early Buyers

Problems with the iTunes server caused some enthusiasts who had waited in line for hours to walk out of the store unable to use their new iPhones, according to the disgruntled customers.

"I've got two phones on me and neither of them work," said Adolfo Peralta, a Brooklyn resident who lined up to purchase the iPhone 3G at 6:30 a.m. local time for the 8 a.m. SoHo store opening. "I have to go find a pay phone to make a phone call."

Apple Store employees deactivated his original iPhone to activate his new one, but the activation could not be completed because they could not connect to iTunes, he reported.

Peralta said he felt cheated by the fact he didn't have a working iPhone when he left the store. "You wait all this time," he said. "I don't think it's worth it."

Still, he said he was "thrilled" to have been one of the first to get the 3G device.

Other enthusiasts reported similar issues as they left the store on Prince Street at around 10:30 a.m.

Anoele Perillo, who got in line at 7 a.m. outside the SoHo store to purchase her iPhone, stood outside around 10:30 a.m. smoking a cigarette while she waited for problems inside the store to be fixed.

"All of the systems are down," Perillo said, adding that she had finished two crossword puzzles while waiting for her iPhone activation to be complete. She said employees were shutting down some computers at the store to try to fix some of the problems with the iTunes network the store was experiencing.

Jason Pinsky, a chief technology officer of a clothing company in New York, also attributed the activation problems he experienced at the SoHo store to the iTunes network.

While he could make phone calls with his new iPhone 3G -- a feature he demonstrated outside the store -- Pinsky couldn't use the iPod functionality because the iTunes part of the activation couldn't be completed in the store due to the network "bailing."

Pinsky had bought the original iPhone last year and said he didn't feel cheated by paying the premium for the original product. "I'm an early adopter," he said. "There's always a price to pay" for being first.

Apple requires customers to activate the iPhone 3G in stores where they were purchased. This was not a requirement for the original iPhone, which was released a little more than a year ago.

Apple did not immediately return requests for comment Friday morning. An Apple Store employee at the SoHo store said no one there was qualified to comment on the problem, but said that to him, things "appeared to be going smoothly."

Some customers did leave the store with their iPhones successfully activated and reported no activation problems, they said.

As customers waited for their iPhones to be activated at the SoHo store, more continued arriving to purchase the phone. The line snaked for several blocks by 11 a.m. local time.

The activation process was also slow at Apple's flagship New York store on Fifth Avenue and at the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco, customers reported.

An environmental activist group called Waiting for Apples, who were the first in line at the Fifth Avenue store -- having camped out for a week to purchase their iPhone 3Gs -- were still awaiting activation at about 11:30 a.m., reported a group member, who asked not to be named.

He added that Apple Store employees were calling the activation problem a "hiccup" and that activation would go smoothly for awhile before another hiccup occurred.

At 7:30 a.m. local time in New York at the flagship store, about 1,000 people were in a line that stretched around the corner on the same block where the famous FAO Schwarz toy store is located.

One person standing in line, who asked not to be named, said the crowd was about half the size of the throng that waited for the first iPhone. One reason for the smaller crowd, noted a few passersby, was that last year the launch was at the end of the day, giving people time to get out of work and check out the scene.


iPhone Activation Woes Hit Early Buyers (Part 2)

Some of the first people in the U.S. to purchase the iPhone 3G walked out of an Apple Store in New York disappointed Friday when Apple's plan to activate the new devices in stores backfired.

iPhone Activation Woes Hit Early Buyers

The consensus of about a half dozen people standing in line was that most users want the new iPhone mainly for the 3G (third-generation) speed. Several people said they own an iPhone, but want the speed of the new version. That was also the issue at the top of mind for some first-time iPhone buyers.

"It's 3G now, it's faster," said Ryan Tracy, the president of Cheech and Chong dot com, a retail and marketing company and Web site for the Cheech and Chong comedy team. Tracy said he was standing in line for several hours before the store opened.

"There's also a lot of other goodies you can download," Tracy said, referring to the iPhone 2.0 platform that lets users download applications from the iTunes service.

He also agreed with other people in line that the lower price was not the biggest issue. Asked whether the combination of applications, speed and lower price will make the new iPhone into a hot product, Tracy said "It's already a hit product, everyone's talking about it, everyone's here."

Software problems with the network of telecommunications operator O2 at Apple's London flagship store also caused activation delays, where the iPhone 3G also went on sale at 8 a.m. local time. O2 is the exclusive network operator for the iPhone in the U.K.

Problems with activation could affect the number of iPhone 3Gs Apple sells over the weekend if people decide to wait a few days for the problems to be resolved before making their purchases.

RBC Capital Markets projected that Apple may sell more than 1 million phones worldwide over the first weekend to meet pent-up demand, according to a report by analyst Mike Abramsky. The number could be four times more than the 270,000 iPhones that were sold at launch last year, he wrote.

But limited supplies could frustrate buyers as Apple shipped only 1.5 million iPhone 3Gs, Abramsky wrote. As supplies normalize, iPhone 3G is set for long-term success, and the company could ship up to 5.1 million iPhones in the quarter, according to the report.

More than half of current iPhone owners are likely to upgrade to iPhone 3G, according to a study from ChangeWave Research. Around 55 percent of current iPhone buyers said they are likely to upgrade to 3G iPhone, with more than half of them not planning to wait long, according to the research.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Vista Cleans Mac OSX's Clock

In absolute numbers, figures from Net Applications are not particularly impressive.

New Survey: Vista Cleans Mac OSX's Clock

Apple fans have made much of the fact that the newest figures from Net Applications show that Apple's share of the operating system market has jumped almost 32% in the past year. But they're ignoring a simple fact: Vista's market share during that same time leaped more than 355%. When you add in other Windows versions, Microsoft owns more than 90% of the market.

Net Applications reports that the Mac had 7.94% market share in June, up from 6.03% a year ago. Going from a little more than 6% to just under 8% may be a big gain when measured as a percentage of growth. But when seen in absolute numbers, it's not particularly impressive.

Vista, by way of contrast, showed far more explosive growth. In June, 2007, it had 4.54% market share. In June, 2008, it had reached 16.14% --- more than a 355% gain. Those numbers are substantial not just in percentage terms, but in raw terms as well. Apple would sell the first-born children of most of its employees if it could ever get to a 16% market share.

Net Applications says that in June, all versions of Windows were on 90.89% of computers, down from 93.34% a year ago. Both Windows XP and Windows 2000 market share shrunk, while Vista's skyrocked.

It's true that in the last year, Mac OSX has made some small inroads into the operating system market. But Windows is still on more than 90% of computers. Shaving a point or two here and there won't change Microsoft's domination.

For a chart of overall operating system trends, according to Net Applications, click here. For a chart that includes version numbers, click here.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Google's Free Web Application Security Scanner

Google has made public a beta version of one of its internal tools used for testing the security of Web-based applications.

Google Gives Away Free Web Application Security Scanner

Google has released for free one of its internal tools used for testing the security of Web-based applications.

Ratproxy, released under an Apache 2.0 software license, looks for a variety of coding problems in Web applications, such as errors that could allow a cross-site scripting attack or cause caching problems.

"We decided to make this tool freely available as open source because we feel it will be a valuable contribution to the information security community, helping advance the community's understanding of security challenges associated with contemporary web technologies," wrote Google's Michal Zalewski on a company security blog.

Ratproxy -- released as version 1.51 beta -- is quick and less intrusive than other scanners in that it is passive and does not generate a high volume of attack-simulating traffic when running, Zalewski wrote. Active scanners can cause problems with application performance.

The tool sniffs content and can pick out snippets of JavaScript from style sheets. It also supports SSL (Secure Socket Layer) scanning, among other features.

Since it runs in a passive mode, Ratproxy highlights areas of concern that "are not necessarily indicative of actual security flaws. The information gathered during a testing session should be then interpreted by a security professional with a good understanding of the common problems and security models employed in web applications," Zalewski wrote.

Google has posted an overview of Ratproxy as well as a download link to the source code. Code licensed under the Apache 2.0 license may be incorporated in derivative works, including commercial ones, but the origin of the code must be acknowledged.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

IBM Develops Audio-masking Technology

IBM India has developed audio masking technology that could protect confidential information in audio recordings.

IBM Develops Audio-masking Technology

IBM's India Research Laboratory (IRL) has developed technology that automatically detects and masks sensitive information in audio recordings.

The technology is expected to be useful for call center operations which record conversations between call center staff and customers for a number of reasons, including monitoring of service quality, said Guruduth Banavar, director of IRL, in a telephone interview on Wednesday. Some of these audio recordings are also used to train new staff, he added.

The technology utilizes a combination of speech analytics and metadata to locate and mask portions of an audio recording during playback to individuals that are not authorized to hear the sensitive information, according to Banavar. The information that is to be masked can be configured depending on the requirement, and the masked portions can be presented in many ways, such as white noise, silence or an announcement that the information has been edited, he added.

The ability to maintain customer trust requires organizations to be able to ensure the security of their customer's private information, such as credit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PIN), social security numbers and other information collected through interactions between call center staff and customers, IBM said.

IBM is currently running pilots of the technology within the company. A decision on commercializing the technology will be taken by the business units in IBM, Banavar said. The technology has applications in a number of other areas, such as medical diagnosis, where recorded information collected in one context is later used for training people, he added.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mozilla's Firefox 3 Sets Geeky World Record

Mozilla is successful in setting the world record for most software downloads in one day with Firefox 3.

Mozilla's Firefox 3 Sets Geeky World Record

It's official: Mozilla has set possibly the geekiest world record ever with the release of Firefox 3.

The open-source company said Wednesday that the browser's 8,002,530 downloads in its first 24 hours of release set a Guinness World Record for the most software downloads in that period of time.

Mozilla Vice President of Marketing Paul Kim thanked Firefox fans in a statement, calling them "instrumental in achieving this record."

"Our community members came together and not only spread the word, but also took the initiative to help mobilize millions of people to demonstrate their belief that Firefox gives people the best possible online experience," he said.

Mozilla unveiled a campaign on May 28 to set the record, which previously did not exist.

The company asked Firefox enthusiasts to pledge to download the browser on the day it was released -- June 17, which it dubbed "Download Day."

Mozilla also hosted a Download Day event, the Camp Firefox BBQ, at its offices in Mountain View, California, and asked other Firefox fans to host similar download parties. It also encouraged people to place "Download Day" buttons on their Web sites as reminders of the big day.

Despite its eventual success, Firefox 3 Download Day didn't go off without a hitch. Interest in the endeavor crippled Mozilla's servers on the day of the release, so the U.S. part of the download process started about two hours later than originally planned when Mozilla's site wouldn't work properly.

The European leg of the effort began a little more than an hour later than planned and marked the start of the download-logging process. There were no more problems reported once the U.S. site was back up and running.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Blizzard Announces Diablo III

The rumors were true: Blizzard Entertainment has announced Diablo III. The game is currently in development for Mac OS X and Windows.

Blizzard Announces Diablo III

Blizzard unveiled Diablo III at a worldwide invitational gaming event held in Europe over the weekend, and has posted details to its Web site, including a cinematic trailer and gameplay video that offers an in-depth look at some of the game's new capabilities and features.

A new sequel to Blizzard's action role-playing game series, this is the first new Diablo game to be announced since Diablo II was released in 2000. Since then the company has turned its attention to its Warcraft franchise, first with Warcraft III and more recently with World of Warcraft; the company is also working on StarCraft II, a followup to its enormously popular real time strategy game series.

Diablo III is set in a fantasy world populated by vicious monsters and demons. It's the world of Sanctuary, a land saved twenty years prior by the heroes of the first two games -- heroes who lost their minds by facing the armies of the Burning Hells. The game retains the familiar isometric (three-quarters perspective) view of previous installments, though graphics and gameplay have, of course, been updated to suit modern computer systems. Blizzard confirms that the game is being developed simultaneously for both Mac OS X and Windows, as the company has long done for its games.

Five character classes will be included in the game, and players who tire of single-player action will be able to participate online using Blizzard's service.

System requirements have not yet been announced, nor has a release date or pricing -- Blizzard famously tells the public that its games will be released when they're done. Look for many more details to be offered prior to the game's release.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Microsoft Patches its XP Patch

A free tool repairs PCs impaired by the XP SP3 update and a conflict with Symantec's software.

Microsoft Patches its XP Patch

Nearly three weeks after security vendor Symantec Corp. released a free tool to clean up PCs crippled by the Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) update, Microsoft Corp. issued a fix that should reestablish lost Internet and wireless connections.

Last week, Microsoft posted a hotfix for a problem users first reported in mid-May. Users of Symantec's consumer security software said that after updating their PCs to XP SP3, a bug emptied Windows' Device Driver and deleted network connections.

Although Symantec initially blamed Microsoft for the snafu, it later accepted some responsibility. In late May, Symantec acknowledged that Microsoft's updating process and a security feature in its own Norton-branded software combined to swamp the Windows registry with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of bogus and corrupted keys. That security feature, dubbed "SymProtect" by Symantec, was designed to protect the company's security software from attack by guarding against unauthorized changes to the registry.

Although Microsoft had previously declined to comment on the episode, the support document that accompanied the hotfix fingered Symantec's software. "This problem occurs when the Fixccs.exe process is called during the Windows XP SP3 installation," said Microsoft. "This process creates some intermediate registry subkeys, and it later deletes these subkeys. In some cases, some anti-virus applications may not let the Fixccs.exe process delete these intermediate registry subkeys."

The hotfix replaces the Fixccs.exe file with an updated version, but it can only be applied if the user has booted into Windows' Safe Mode, according to the support document.

Symantec has contended that other security software with registry-change monitoring defenses also caused similar problems for users updating to Windows XP SP3, but there have been few reports logged to Microsoft's support forums. Microsoft, however, intimated that Symantec might not be alone when it used the generic, and plural, "some antivirus applications" in its explanatory document.

Users can download the hotfix from the Microsoft site.

Microsoft has not yet begun serving up Windows XP SP3 via Windows Update's Automatic Updates feature, and conceivably could prevent machines that have specific security programs installed from receiving the update. It's already done exactly that by blocking other systems, notably those running AMD processors, from getting XP SP3 to sidestep an endless reboot bug.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Intel Backstabs Microsoft by Abandoning Vista

The news that Intel has decided it won't upgrade its PCs to Vista - is this the kind of payback that Microsoft expected?

Intel Backstabs Microsoft by Abandoning Vista

The news that Intel has decided it won't upgrade its PCs to Vista must be especially
bitter for Microsoft because court documents show that Microsoft may have launched its ill-fated "junk PC" Vista scheme at the behest of Intel. Is this the kind of payback that Microsoft expected?

According to the New York Times, Intel has decided that it won't upgrade the PCs of its 80,000 computers to Windows Vista. The Times reports:

the company made its decision after a lengthy analysis by its internal technology staff of the costs and potential benefits of moving to Windows Vista, which has drawn fire from many customers as a buggy, bloated program that requires costly hardware upgrades to run smoothly.

Microsoft has good reason to feel bitter about the decision. Microsoft's "Vista Capable PC" scheme may have been launched specifically to help Intel meet its quarterly earnings by selling older Intel chipsets that couldn't properly run Vista.

A refresher for those who might not remember the "Vista Capable PC" scheme: It was a marketing scheme in which people claim that Microsoft misled consumers into buying the Windows Vista Capable PCs, even though the PCs couldn't run the most important features of Vista.

According to court documents released in a suit related to the scheme, Microsoft's John Kalkman sent an email to Scott Di Valerio, who was in charge of the company's relations with PC makers, noting that the Vista Capable PC scheme was being launched on behalf of Intel:

In the end, we lowered the requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with the 915 graphics embedded. This in turn did two things: 1. Decreased focus of OEMs planning and shipping higher end graphics for Vista-ready programs and 2. Reduced the focus by IHV's to ready great WHQL [Windows Hardware Quality Labs] qualified graphics drivers. We can see this today with Intel's inability to ship a compelling full featured 945 graphics driver for Windows Vista.

Kalkman makes clear in the email that it was a mistake to try and bail out Intel:

So Microsoft went out on a limb to bail out Intel, and this is the payback it gets? They're not doubt talking about back-stabbing at Redmond these days.