Disk Doctors Photo Recovery now supports PSD files


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Disk Doctors has enhanced its Photo Recovery software to work with Adobe Photoshop files. Users can now recover PSD files from hard rives, memory cards, and other devices the content could be stored on. The application additionally recovers other file formats such as RAW photographs captured by a variety of DSLR cameras including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Kodak….



Sirius XM app soars even without Howard Stern


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Sirius XM reports today that the iPhone app [App Store] it released June 18th has become the top free download in the Music Category on iTunes.

It has been grabbed more than 1 million times either by Sirius XM subscribers or people who did not have Sirius hardware and simply wanted to pay the US$13.00 a month fee for access to the 120 plus channels available.

“Reaching more than 1 million downloads so quickly is a strong testament to our world-class programming and SIRIUS XM’s instant brand recognition,” said Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer of SIRIUS XM Radio. “Our goal is to give people access to the best audio entertainment wherever they go with what we think is the best music and audio entertainment application available on the App Store.”

The numbers are impressive but the subscribers still can’t listen to Howard Stern who is one of the big draws to the satellite broadcaster. Sirius really hasn’t had any substantive comment about omitting Stern, but the issue appears to be Stern himself, who wants more money to be offered on cellular devices. On his daily show in June he said “It was a rights thing, a contractual rights thing, It was a rights issue and a whole entanglement thing. So, we’re not on it. Maybe one day we will be.”

Although the app is a very popular download, it has very negative reviews at the App Store. As of this morning more than 38,000 reviewers gave it one star, more than twice all the other ratings combined.

TUAWSirius XM app soars even without Howard Stern originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Mon, 06 Jul 2009 18:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Justice Dept. Begins Peeking Into Exclusive Carrier Agreements


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The United States Department of Justice has taken the first baby steps that could eventually lead to an official investigation of the Telecom industry and the effects its exclusive carrier agreements have on consumer prices and choices, according to a Wall Street Journal report Monday.

The initial review looks to determine whether large U.S. telecom companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. have abused the market power they’ve amassed in recent years, according to people familiar with the matter.

Largely moribund and hamstrung by internal politics and inefficiency during the Bush administration, DOJ under President Barack Obama has seen renewed relevance as an arm of the Federal government and has lately signaled business as usual could soon be ending for an industry left to its own devices during the past decade or more.

Many people have long decried exclusive carrier agreements that make popular gadgets such as Apple’s iPhone available only to consumers willing to sign multi-year service agreements with AT&T and likewise Blackberry’s Storm to those who’d sign with Verizon.

The Wall Street Journal quoted the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, Christine Varney, saying she wants to “reassert the government’s role in policing monopolistic and anti-competitive practices by powerful companies.”

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Demand surges for Apple and Palm smartphones


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As consumers plan to purchase more smartphones than ever, future demand for Palm and Apple devices also continues to surge, according to recent survey data collected by ChangeWave. While a March survey indicated only four percent of surveyed individuals expected to buy a Palm in the next 90 days, the group has doubled to eight percent in the June data….



UN-SCAN-IT gel 5.3 – Converts your scanner into a gel analysis system to quantify electrophoresis gels.


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From the developer: “The UN-SCAN-IT gel software turns your scanner into a high speed digitizer/densitometer system that converts scanned graphs and gels into digital data. UN-SCAN-IT gel works with any full page or hand scanner to automatically determine (x,y) point locations, peak heights, band densities, band locations, molecular weight values, and other graphical and gel parameters. The data can be stored in ASCII format for use in other software programs.”

Snow Leopard in Depth: Grand Central Dispatch


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Grand Central Dispatch

At the beginning of the decade, Intel was imagining that by 2010 it would have processors with over 1 billion transistors running at a clock speed of 20GHz. As we move into the second half of 2009, the reality is that we will soon have 3GHz mobile chips with four cores on them and 2010 will likely see 4GHz desktop chips with six and eight cores. Ultra-fast processors running at clock speeds over 4GHz have just been too expensive to power — and to cool off. So the other solution is to have more processors.

These new processors, based on the Nehalem architecture, or the Westmere 32nm process that will follow, will also feature simultaneous multithreading (what Intel calls “hyperthreading”) to allow for two threads to be executed on a single core. So instead of a superfast 20GHz chip, you could have a Mac Pro in 2010 with 16 cores capable of executing 32 simultaneous threads. Apple is preparing for this massively multi-core future with features in Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) that can take full advantage of all this raw power.

Time for Software to Catch Up

The introduction of dual-core systems was a brilliant success. Even code that was not built or optimized for multiple cores would run at least a little faster because the OS would use the second core, leaving more processing power available to the foreground app. The dual-core systems were noticeably more responsive to the user, and we loved them for this feeling of instant power at our fingertips. Quad-core and 8-core systems have been confined to the Mac Pro line, partly for cost, but also partially because the average user does not have software that can really take advantage of all those cores. Many people would be disappointed to learn that their quad-core iMac did not really seem any faster. Software applications, like Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, were designed by teams with significant engineering resources so that they could take advantage of a system with four or eight cores, and even then certain operations will still bottleneck the application.

What Have We Been Doing?

Multithreaded programming is not new on the Mac. We have had POSIX threads, or pthreads, (and NSThread on top of that) since OS X 10.0. The Mac has a scheduler that is multi-processor aware and can assign processes and threads to available CPUs as needed.

There are two ways that software benefits from concurrency (running multiple software tasks simultaneously). The first is to keep certain parts of the software, say the user interface for a financial management app, responsive while waiting for another task that is being processed, say downloading some stock quote data from the Internet in the background. The second opportunity is to design a function that can be parallelized, or split up into smaller chunks, like encoding a video by splitting it into sections that can each be encoded by a different CPU or core. The responsiveness of the app, and the performance of a parallelized function, are great for the end user. However, each developer is still responsible for managing the threads in the application and designing algorithms and functions for atomicity, parallelization and re-entrancy while avoiding deadlocks, resource starvation, deadly embrace, and so on. Concurrency is a challenging endeavor.

So Why Do We Need Grand Central Dispatch?

Grand Central Dispatch (PDF) is a new technology that will be available in Snow Leopard that helps developers more easily write software for multi-core systems. It does not make multi-threading automatic, or write thread-safe code for you, but it does add semantic and syntactic extensions to C, C++, and Objective-C to make code more readable and better organized with hooks into tools to analyze the multi-threaded performance of an application. Developer still have to do the hard conceptual work around figuring out concurrency in their application, but the implementation of those ideas is cleaner.

How Does Grand Central Dispatch Work?

The core functionality of Grand Central Dispatch is provided by organizing code into blocks and queues. A block is a self-contained unit of work that can represent anything from a simple step to a complex function with all the associated arguments and data. Queues are a method to schedule the execution of blocks and define the relationships between them. Instead of spawning and managing threads in the application, the developer marks sections of code as blocks and then places them in a queue. GCD steps in and manages all the queues and pulls blocks out and assigns them to available threads of the appropriate priority to be executed.

The Instruments utility in Xcode lets developers see how their code runs in GCD, so that they can learn how to improve performance. GCD also has a view of the entire system and the resources available to try to maximize efficiency across all running applications. It also relies on native hardware support for locking in Intel CPUs to implement some of its magic. This stuff won’t work on PowerPC, which is another reason why Snow Leopard is Intel-only.

What About the Users?

If you are an end-user, you will not benefit one bit from installing Snow Leopard and having GCD available unless the software you use is written to take advantage of it. It is not at all guaranteed that developers will jump to GCD. If a certain application would benefit from concurrency, then the developer has probably already started using pthreads to make the software more responsive and take advantage of current multi-core systems. If you look in your Activity Monitor, you will see that most applications have multiple threads already. Since multi-threaded code is hard to begin with, I do not see many projects choosing to rewrite all their pthread code to use GCD blocks and queues right away, especially since it means leaving all Leopard, Tiger and earlier users behind.

The low price on the Snow Leopard upgrade is a nice perk for existing Leopard users, but I think it is also meant to reassure developers that a very large percentage of their existing Leopard customer base will be able to run Snow Leopard-only software. If your app runs fine now using NSThread on Leopard, there is little reason to adopt GCD. So why build GCD at all?

I think the most obvious reason for building GCD is that Apple will be able to take advantage of it with all the system processes and included applications that people use all the time. Looking at my Activity Monitor right now, I see the kernel has 66 threads, Safari has 19, Mail.app has 18, mds has 16, SystemUIServer has 13, Spotlight has 6, and so on. Helping all those threads run more efficiently is going to pay off for the user experience on the Mac. If it helps a few other developers along the way, all the better.

The Future

Things get a little more interesting when you consider that future iPhones will likely have multi-core CPU’s and that Intel is advising developers to prepare for a future with “thousands of cores” available. Add in something like Larrabee, which presents dozens of additional cores to the system, and the wisdom of a systemwide approach to managing threads becomes apparent.



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FinalPrice shopping app released


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For those of you who still frequent brick and mortar stores, Jimmi Rehman has released the new FinalPrice 1.0 shopping app for the iPhone/iPod Touch at 99 cents. It requires 3.0 software to run.

This app is a useful one-trick-pony. If you find a sale, the idea is to have your iPhone figure out how much something will cost after the item is discounted and after adding your local tax.

The calculations are solid but I had some trouble with the interface. Tapping the info button didn’t work well at first. I had to tap it a number of times using various amounts of pressure for it to be recognized. The other buttons are not as unresponsive, but it still takes a number of taps for any of them to be recognized.

The info screen tells you to enter the original price and then tap the check mark to the right. When you do, the full amount gets displayed on the top green window. Next, enter the sales tax and click the check box to the left. After a few tries, when the click was accepted, a picker with discount percentages in five percent increments is displayed and you can choose the discount percent. Lastly, click on the ‘What’s the Final Price’ button and your calculated price is displayed in the top window.

This is a very useful app and for those who like to peruse shopping malls, which doesn’t include me, I can see a good deal of value here. Along with the Amazon app, (previously reviewed) you’ll be carrying a nice toolbox to check prices and find out if you are getting a deal or not.

I just wish the buttons were more responsive.

What apps do you take shopping? As an iPhone newbie I would like to know, and I’m sure so would many of our readers looking for another way to simplify their shopping trips.

TUAWFinalPrice shopping app released originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Mon, 06 Jul 2009 17:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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UN-SCAN-IT 5.2 – Converts scanned graphs to (x,y) data at full scanner resolution.


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From the developer: “”The UN-SCAN-IT software allows you to automatically convert scanned graphs to (x,y) data at Full Scanner Resolution! UN-SCAN-IT works with any full page scanner, hand scanner, or other image input device to digitize strip charts, instrumental output, old graphs, published graphs, etc. In addition to the many digitizing features, UN-SCAN-IT also integrates peak areas, smooths data, takes derivatives, re-scales graphs, and exports (x,y) ASCII data for use in other software programs.””

Note: This program costs $345 to register and the demo allows you to test digitize your own image or digitize an included sample image.

China Unicom leading the pack for iPhone deal


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In the tug-of-war that has kept the iPhone out of China in the two years since it's been on the market, China Unicom is purportedly closest to reach a deal but still faces an attack from dominant carrier China Mobile.

Boris Continuum Complete 6 AVX ships for Avid DS


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Boris FX has released its Boris Continuum Complete 6 AVX video effects package for Avid DS. The package consists of approximately 180 filters, including 30 new effects such as Pixel Fixel, DV Fixer, Swish Pan, Cartoon Look, Pencil Sketch, Charcoal Sketch, and Water Color effects. The plug-in also includes such OpenGL-accelerated effects as 3D Extruded Image Shatter, Damaged TV, Glint, Glare, Glitt…



WWDC Demo: Dive Log, Trimix and Nitrox for iPhone, iPod touch


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Living in a landlocked state I was never much of a diver. But if you are an active SCUBA diver, you may find Dive Log (and companions Trimix and Nitrox) useful. Dive Log (iTunes link) does what you’d think: it logs your dives. If you’ve never been diving this may seem trivial. Dive logs, however, are far from trivial, as they contain crucial data related to dives — like how much weight you added to your belt in a given location. Dive Log will import/export your data in UDCF format, and offers full sync with Diving Log 4.0 (unfortunately only on Windows). Plus, the developers have a free app for backing up your logs, and you can import logs from MacDive.

Nitrox Tools and Trimix Tools (both iTunes links) are more specialized diving apps for the serious SCUBA guy or gal, who may mix their own tanks. I’m certainly not one of them, but the tools look sufficiently hardy for those folks, plus there’s an online version of Nitrox here (for Safari) that will give you a taste of the app’s capabilities.

TUAWWWDC Demo: Dive Log, Trimix and Nitrox for iPhone, iPod touch originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Mon, 06 Jul 2009 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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New algorithm guesses SSNs using date and place of birth


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companion photo for New algorithm guesses SSNs using date and place of birth

For citizens of the US, the social security number (SSN) is the gateway to all things financial. It fills its government purpose of helping us pay our taxes and track our (in many cases, hypothetical) government benefits, and it has also been widely adopted as a means of verifying identity by a huge range of financial institutions. As a result, anytime you disclose an SSN you run a real risk of enabling identity theft. So far, most of the SSN-related ID theft problems have resulted from institutions that were careless with their record keeping, allowing SSNs to be harvested in bulk. But a pair of Carnegie Mellon researchers has now demonstrated a technique that uses publicly available information to reconstruct SSNs with a startling degree of accuracy.

The irony of their method is that it relies on two practices adopted by the federal government that were intended to reduce the ability of fraudsters to craft a bogus SSN. The first is that the government now maintains a publicly available database called a Death Master File, which indicates which SSNs were the property of individuals who are now deceased. This record provided the researchers with the raw material to perform a statistical analysis of how SSN assignments related to two other pieces of personal information: date and state of birth.

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Babylon translator expands to 33 languages


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Babylon has produced an updated version of self-named app, used to translate a variety of languages. The software now supports both online and offline dictionaries, allowing users to work when missing an Internet connection. The number of supported languages has meanwhile been expanded from 17 to 33; users have access to over 1,400 dictionaries and glossaries, including Oxford, Britannica, Merriam…



iPhone Popularity Rockets Up Flickr Charts: UPDATED


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most_popular_overall.png

Apple’s iPhone has recently become the most popular camera on Flickr, one of the Internet’s most well-regarded photo sharing social media sites.

Expressed in “percent of members” terms, the iPhone has lately bested two models of Canon’s EOS Digital Rebel, of which the XTi had long been the clear favorite choice of Flickr members.

UPDATE: Since this post was originally published, the Flickr site’s graph has been changed, and now shows the iPhone is the #2 camera among Flickr members, resting just behind the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi, which has apparently enjoyed a bump in popularity for which the previously published graph did not account.

[Thanks Rafael, for the heads-up on the graph change!]

Among popular camera phones, the iPhone has outdistanced its rivals since its release two years ago and recently widened the gap between its nearest competitor, the Nokia N95, by a huge margin.

The data is to be taken with a grain of salt as anecdotal and largely unscientific, but it is interesting to note such graphic evidence of popularity for a phone camera that had been denigrated by many as one of the most pitiable features of Apple’s popular smartphone.

Apple recently upgraded the specs on the iPhone camera, giving it a boost in pixel capacity and adding both variable focus and video capabilities, which should only increase its attractiveness going forward.

popular_cameraphones.png

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iPhone apps: Photo+Map, Mathemagics, Instaviz


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Photo+Map ($2) can combine a map showing the location where a picture was taken and the picture that was taken there. The maps are automatically retrieved and are added as an extension to the image instead of reducing the original size of the image. Users can additionally choose to add a time-stamp along with latitude and longitude information to the image. A recent update includes support for the…



Pentax K-7 DSLR camera now shipping


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The Pentax K-7 digital SLR camera introduced at the end of May is now available via online retailer Amazon. Offered as a body-only, with no bundles in sight, the camera is priced at its promised $1,300. The 14.6-megapixel camera is Pentax’ flagship, and can capture HD videos in 720p. Unlike other HD-capable cameras in the class, it also has a microphone jack for external input….



Conformalizer 3.1.3 includes AVID Pro Tools 8 support


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Maggot Software has released v3.1.3 of its Conformalizer utility. The application is used during sound editing in video recuts, and can detect VFX changes as cuts evolve. The update includes support for AVID Pro Tools 8, and adds new auto-conform routines, an updated search feature, and improved QuickTime views with better response and restored playback controls….



Apple’s Tilt to SD Cards Looking Smarter Than Ever


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Last month I commented that Apple’s substitution of Secure Digital Card (SD) slots for ExpressCard slots in the 15″ MacBook Pro made considerably good sense. It would be nice to have both, but the ExpressCard support wasn’t being heavily used, according to Apple, while SD was growing more popular. The 13″ MacBook Pro also gets an SD slot where the preceding unibody MacBook was slotless, so it’s pure value-added there.

However, as I learn more about the Secure Digital format, both what’s already available and what’s coming, I’m even more convinced that Apple made the right call.

For one thing, while ExpressCard 34 cards are smaller than the old PCMCIA CardBus cards they replaced, the standard SD Card format measures 32mm x 24mm in footprint (roughly the viewing area of a 35mm film negative or slide) vs. 75mm x 34mm for the ExpressCard, and it is only 2.1mm thick. That is especially helpful in computers as thin as Apple’s MacBook family — even more so if Apple builds a tablet or notebook smaller than the MacBook Air.

Another SD Card advantage is hardware standardization. The SD format shows potential for becoming the standard for removable storage in portable computers. The majority of PC laptops, and most netbooks, are available with SD Card slots, so Apple is no longer the odd man out in that context. Apple portables honcho Todd Benjamin told PCMag’s Mark Hachman in an interview that one reason the company went SD is that the format has become “really ubiquitous,” and not just in laptops. Consistent with Apple’s focus on consumer electronics and Mac market positioning as a digital hub, SD Card support is built into a myriad of consumer digital devices, especially cameras and Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs).

The iPhone doesn’t support removable storage as of yet, but in my opinion, it’s virtually inevitable that it will, and when it’s added, the tiny Mini SD variant (15mm x 11mm) is a likely bet.

SD Cards Just Have More to Offer

Currently, standard SD Card storage capacity tops out at a modest 4GB, but a much higher capacity variant, called SDHC, offers up to 32GB, and an eXtended Capacity SDXC spec that was unveiled at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show supports memory capacities above 32GB up to a potential 2TB, with data transfer speeds up to 104MB/sec and potential future throughput up to 300 MB/sec. The SDXC standard uses Microsoft’s exFAT file system (FAT64). Existing SD and SDHC host devices won’t be compatible with the new SDXC cards, but SDXC host devices will be backwards-compatible to work with SD and SDHC cards. A microSDXC card also is reportedly in the works for use in small mobile devices, with plenty of development headroom apparent in the SD format.

Cards conforming to SD (4MB to 4GB) and SDHC (4GB to 32GB) standards are supported by the slots in the new MacBook Pros. MultiMediaCards (MMC) can also be used in this slot, while MiniSD, MicroSD, and higher density formats like MiniSDHC and MicroSDHC can work but require “passive” adapters that conform to the standard SD width and thickness specifications.

MacBook Pro SD Card slots support a maximum throughput of 240Mbit/s, which exceeds the transfer rate of most SD media (about 17-21Mbit/s to 30Mbit/s, depending on type) by a substantial margin. MacBook Pros recognize cards inserted in their SD card slots as USB storage devices that can be mounted, read from, and written to as with any other USB storage device.

You can even make SD Cards (with a capacity of at least 8GB) bootable by changing their default partition table to GUID using Mac OS X Disk Utility and formatting the card to use the Mac OS Extended file format, instead of standard FAT32 DOS formatting. Macworld’s Roman Loyola has posted a video tutorial showing how to create a bootable SD Card. Loyola also reports that a variety of other Macs, besides the SD Card equipped mid-2009 MacBook Pros, including an iMac and a Mac mini, can be successfully booted from SD Card boot disks via a SanDisk MicroMate SD card reader.



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Removing duplicates from your iPhoto library


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While I’m frequently called upon by friends and family to assist in cleaning up their iTunes duplicates, I was recently asked by a friend to help clean up duplicates of a different sort: an iPhoto library. At first glance, I knew this was going to be a tough job: duplicates were littered throughout my friend’s library, and there was no visible pattern to it.

So, rather than manually sifting through what was, at the time, a 10GB iPhoto library — which would’ve tested the limits and accuracy of my eyes, as well as taking me through my AARP years to complete — I decided to think different — ’cause that’s what us Mac users do. After doing some research, I stumbled upon Brattoo Propaganda’s Duplicate Annihilator (link). The end result was a 10GB iPhoto library trimmed down to 6GB.

Continue reading Removing duplicates from your iPhoto library

TUAWRemoving duplicates from your iPhoto library originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Mon, 06 Jul 2009 15:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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