VLC 2.0 arriving with all-new UI, native full screen in Lion, Blu-ray support, more

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VideoLAN, the organization behind the open-source cross-platform VLC media player, is geared to launch VLC 2.0—a total rewrite of the program with new capabilities and an all-new user interface on the Mac platform. Available on Mac OS X, Windows and a variety of Linux/Unix platforms, VLC 2.0 [changelog] includes enhancements such as a native full screen mode in Lion, a redesigned subtitle manager, support for multiple video files inside RAR archives and enhanced video output modes. The Mac version will also support unprotected Blu-ray media, and Windows users will get to enjoy a 64-bit version.

The developers also added support for VLC’s lua-based extensions, letting users get information about movies from Allociné, post to Twitter, fetch subtitles automatically, and so forth. No disc burning features are included because “there are more suited apps for that.” One of the developers on the project Felix Kühne published a series of screenshots (more available on Flickr) highlighting the new Mac interface, credited to designer Damien Erambert. According to Kühne:

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Mac OS 10.7.3 released, includes Safari 5.1.3

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Apple just released Mac OS 10.7.3 via Software update and manual download.  Apple released some peripheral downloads today as well:

Release notes are as follows: Read more

Mac Superbundle deal. Parallels 7 + nine Mac Apps: $49

From 9to5Toys.com:

Nova offers its MacSuperbundle Winter Deal for $49. We are picky about our bundles, but Parallels alone makes this one worth noting.  There are some solid extras here as well.

Valued at over $470 if purchased separately, the nine software titles and exciting bonus app in the new 2012 Mac SuperBundle are available for just $49, an 89% savings, and offer innovative solutions no Mac user should be without. Nova’s biggest bundle to date and best consumer deal yet features the award-winning and #1 selling virtualization software Parallels Desktop® 7 for Mac, (a $79.99 value alone), and includes essential Mac maintenance tools and organizational apps, plus audio, video and digital creativity software and much more. The Mac SuperBundle launches on January 25th, 2012 and will be available for 14 days only.

Other applications include:
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Review: Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac

(We’re offering a $10 discount/free Parallels MacBook Air contest this week)

If you are not new to Parallels, you will already be familiar with its ability to run Windows in a virtual machine within OS X. You might also be familiar with its Coherence view mode that allows you to run Windows and Mac OS applications side by side, rather than a full-blown Windows 7 in a separate window. However, Parallels Desktop 7 takes it to the next level with some of the deepest Windows/OS X integration yet.

The name of the game for the new Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac is definitely OS X Lion integration. Pretty much every new UI feature incorporated into Lion has been integrated into Parallels, and thus Windows 7. We put the new version to the test with both Windows 7 and Windows 8 developer preview on last year’s iMac with 4GB of RAM.

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Little bug in Windows Phone 7: An SMS message can crash the phone and break the messaging hub, more

According to Winrumors, you can take out a Windows Phone 7 device (they say various Windows Phone 7s on any carrier) with a single, solitary SMS message with a [redacted at request of Winrumors].  Worse (or better?) yet, it doesn’t have to be a text, it can be a Facebook message or Windows Live chat.

The flaw works simply by sending an SMS to a Windows Phone user. If the SMS contains a particular string of text then Windows Phone 7.5 devices will reboot and the messaging hub will not open despite repeat attempts. We have tested the attack on a range of Windows Phone devices, including HTC’s TITAN and Samsung’s Focus Flash. The attack is not device specific and appears to be an issue with the way the Windows Phone messaging hub handles particular characters. The bug is also triggered if a user sends a Facebook chat message or Windows Live Messenger message to a recipient.

And you don’t just get a reboot.  When your phone comes hobbling back to life, the Messaging hub no longer works.  And other parts of the OS are wonky.

If a user has pinned a friend as a live tile on their device and the friend posts a particular string of text on Facebook then the live tile will update and causes the device to lock up.

The fix? Hard reset of the device.  Ouch.

In a totally unrelated note, the head of the Windows Phone 7 division was fired today.  Read more

Too little too late for the Windows tablet?


A Windows 8 tablet mockup

If you believe today’s Forrester Research report, a Window of opportunity is closing fast as customers are losing interest in the forthcoming Windows 8-powered tablets. Microsoft on its part previewed Windows 8 two months ago and won praise for its touch interface. To be perfectly honest, the UI does look nice and interesting and support for ARM/x86 architectures and app market makes it better suited to compete in the post-PC era. But timing is everything and “Windows 8 is going to be very late to the party”, Forrester argued. Here’s the gist of their report:

For tablets, though, Windows really isn’t a fast follower. Rather it’s (at best) a fifth-mover after iPad, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP’s now-defunct webOS tablet, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. While Windows’ product strategists can learn from these products, other players have come a long way in executing and refining their products — Apple, Samsung, and others have already launched second-generation products and will likely be into their third generation by the time Windows 8 launches. Meanwhile, newer competitors like Amazon (Kindle Fire) and Barnes & Noble (Nook Tablet) are reshaping consumer expectations in the market, driving down price points (and concomitant price expectations), and redefining what a tablet is.

Interestingly, Microsoft has a web tool that, when accessed on one’s iOS or Android device, lets one run an emulation of Windows Phone 7. In what some might dub a sign of desperation, Microsoft is reportedly readying a version of the Office suite for iPad – an ironic move, really, as they didn’t even announce Office apps tailored for Windows 8 tablets.

Announcing Windows 8 well ahead of the promised late-2012 release may have backfired as the excitement surrounding Windows 8 tablets wore off and competitors like Apple and Google can close any perceived advantages. In the first quarter, 46 percent of U.S. consumers yearned for a Windows tablet, Forrester noted (your chart goes right after the break). Last quarter, consumer interest plummeted to just 25 percent. Apple went from 16 percent to 28 percent and Google from 9 percent to 18 percent. But even though more people yearned for a Windows tablet than an Android one, Forrester notes:

Microsoft has missed the peak of consumer desire for a product they haven’t yet released.

Of course, gauging demand for an unreleased product can be misleading and even Forrester analysts were forced to change their ideas of how the market works when early iPad sales caught everyone flabbergasted. On the other hand, we do know Windows 8 tablets won’t ship in volume before this time next year. And herein lies the problem…


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Here’s how you can try out Windows Phone on your iPhone

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Curious to see how Windows Phone feels, but don’t have a device around to do so? Us neither. But Microsoft has just released a new HTML 5 website that allows iPhone and Android users to get a taste of the Windows Phone 7 (Mango 7.5) operating system. The trial requires no downloads or registration, and you can try it out by just going to the webpage http://aka.ms/wpdemo on your mobile device.

While it doesn’t use any of the data on your phone like your contacts, the demo does give you a pretty comprehensive look at all of Windows Phone’s features. Microsoft uses a blue dot to guide you around the operating system, and obviously some features like voice recognition just don’t work in the browser. Drat, that’s something we really wanted to try.

Will this draw users over to the Windows Phone platform? Probably not, but it’s always cool to see what the competition is up to.

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Skype adds Facebook-to-Facebook calling to desktop client

Skype announced in a blog post today a new version of its desktop client that supports Facebook0-to-Facebook video calls and other enhancements such as smoother video rendering on the Mac platform and group screen sharing for Windows users with a Premium subscription, which is currently available for Mac users. Users who are chatting one-on-one will also be able to screen share with live video streaming.

The Facebook video calling is obviously the most interesting feature. You could previously see your Facebook friends’ social feed, like posts and update your Facebook status from within the Skype app and now you can call them in-app:

Initiating a Facebook-to-Facebook call from within Skype is quite easy; all you need to do is connect your Skype and Facebook accounts. Then, select a Facebook friend and hit the video call button in Skype- your friend simply picks up the call from Facebook. 

If Skype weren’t such a unwieldy app, we’d be tempted to consider it as a replacement for Facebook clients. To get the aforementioned features, download Skype 5.4 Beta for Mac or Skype 5.7 Beta for Windows.


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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: $150

From the Toys Section:

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Amazon offers Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 for Windows and Mac, model no. 65064073, for $149.99. With free shipping, that’s tied with our October mention of a downloaded version and the lowest total price we could find by $130. This photo editing software is designed for use with RAW files.

Adobe charges $89 to download Lightroom 3 if you are a student or teacher. More Adobe deals here including up to 80% off for Academics. Read more

Forrester relents: Recommends Macs for business because your boss wants one

IT managers’ thinking is influenced by a myriad of business factors, including research studies advising them not to adopt Apple’s computers. But their attitude is changing as Forrester Research, one of the most outspoken proponents of the Mac-free business environment, now backpedals on their 2008 report which called for a total banishment of Macs in the workplace – even for the most mundane tasks such as handling email.

According to the Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt, a new Forrester survey (available for sale on the corporate card here) of 590 IT managers, Mac users comprise “the 17 percent of information workers who use new technologies and find innovative ways to be more productive and serve customers more effectively”. Wow, talk about change in stance. But wait, there’s more. “Mac users are your HEROes and you should enable them not hinder them”, the report concludes, HEROes being a Forrester acronym for Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives.

Just like with iPhone, “Macs are being freewheeled into the office” by corporate higher-ups – typically executives, sales reps and other workaholics – who rely on MacBook Pro machines rather than Windows notebooks which “are slowing them down”:

Employees want their PCs to boot in 10 seconds, not 10 minutes, and they don’t want to have to get a cup of coffee while opening a 20 MB spreadsheet in Excel. They’re drawn to uncluttered Macs — especially those with solid-state drives, which are more responsive and boot in seconds.

That, and the looks…

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Two of your favorites come together: Skype and Facebook

Announced on the Skype Blog, Microsoft-owned Skype now integrates with (5% Microsoft-owned) Facebook on Mac.  With the update, your Facebook friends will be able to see your online status and Skype you without leaving the Skype application.  As per usual with Microsoft applications, the Mac version trails behind the Windows version…and as a bonus, non-paying Skype users will now see ads.

Today we’re launching Skype 5.4 for Mac Beta. The launch introduces the same Facebook integration found in Skype 5.5 for Windows. We are excited to finally deliver Facebook integration to our Mac users.

Just like in our Windows client, you will now be able to IM and connect with your Facebook friends without leaving Skype. You will also be able to read and update your News Feed, as well as comment and ‘Like’ your Facebook friends’ posts – all within Skype for Mac. To connect to Facebook, simply sign into Skype, click on the Connect to Facebook tab and enter your Facebook sign in details.

Skype 5.4 for Mac Beta.jpg

We are also introducing an advertising platform in this new release, but if you are a paying Skype consumer or have Skype Credit, you won’t see any display ads; similar to the model that is currently being used in our Skype for Windows client.

Download Skype 5.4 for Mac OS X Beta.  We’re sticking to 2.8, in case the snarkiness didn’t tip you off. Read more

VMware Fusion 4 hits, touts improved speed and Lion features

VMware Fusion was upgraded to version 4 today with “over 90 new features” and low introductory $49.99 price. That follows the release two weeks ago of main competitor Parallels with many of the same Lion and speed improvements but heftier $79.99 price tag.

VMware touts three major areas of improvement:

  1. Bring the Magic of OS X Lion to Your Windows Programs. Optimized for OS X Lion including Launchpad, Mission Control, and Spotlight to give the best Windows on Mac experience.
  2. Even More Mac-like. From the installation experience to the redesigned user interface, everything has been refined for the most Mac-like experience when running Windows programs on a Mac.
  3. Better Performance. Faster Graphics. Outstanding Reliability. Turbocharged for today’s multi-core Macs and delivering up to 2.5x faster 3D graphics, VMware Fusion 4 is faster than ever.

Release below:

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