Google reports brief search outage in China

Google's search engine in China appeared to have been blocked overnight Thursday, but a Google spokeswoman said the service was up and running Friday morning local time.

A Google site that monitors the company's services in China indicated that its Web search service had been blocked, along with its image search, ads and mobile services.

Google's services in China are being closely watched for signs of disruption ever since the company stopped censoring its search results there earlier this year.

Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell said the company may have overestimated the latest disruption, however.

Google reports brief search outage in China

"Because of the way we measure accessibility in China, it's possible that our machines can overestimate the level of blockage," she said. "That appears to be what happened last night when there was a relatively small blockage."

Attempts to use Google's search engine from Beijing Friday morning were successful, though when blockages are in place they can vary by region.

Last month Google faced a possible shutdown of its services in China when it was unclear whether the Chinese government was going to renew its Internet Content Provider license. The government finally renewed t

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Lab tested: 21.5-inch Core i3 iMac/3.06GHz

On Monday, Apple updated its entire line of iMac and Mac Pro systems. And while the new Mac Pro models won’t be available until sometime in August, the new iMacs are in the Macworld Lab right now.

The first system to finish our testing regime is the new entry-level iMac, a 21.5-inch model with a 3.06GHz Core i3 processor, and our Speedmark 6 test results show an impressive performance improvement over the system it replaces.

In the last generation of iMac, all but the highest-end standard configuration continued to use the older Core 2 Duo line of processors. But these new iMacs have now completely transitioned from using the Intel Core 2 Duo processors to Intel Core i3 and Core i5 processors. The Core i3 processor used in this iMac supports Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, which gives the two-core processor four “virtual cores” for better performance in multithreaded applications.

Another positive step is the inclusion of discrete graphics across the entire product line, with the entry-level model using the ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics previously available on just the two middle-tier systems of last generation. (The Nvidia integrated-graphics technology used in the previous generation of iMacs isn’t compatible with the Core i3 processor, so a change was inevitable.)

In addition to the 3.06GHz Core i3 processor and Radeon HD 4670 graphics with 256MB of dedicated GDDR3 SDRAM, the new entry-level iMac includes 4GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM and a 500GB hard drive for £999 - the same price as the model it replaces. That older model had Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics, a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo processor, the same 500GB hard drive, and 4GB of slower 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM.

In our tests of the new entry-level iMac, we found that the new system was a little more than 20 percent faster overall than the Core 2 Duo system it replaces, and just about 9 percent faster than the previous 3.2GHz Core 2 Duo model. We saw impressive improvement over the previous 21.5-inch systems in processor-intensive tasks, like MathematicaMark (40 percent), Cinebench (25 percent), and Compressor (11 percent).

The biggest gain, however, was in graphics performance. The previous entry-level iMac, with its integrated graphics, lagged well behind the new Core i3 iMac with the Radeon HD 4670 discrete graphics. The new system was able to display nearly four times as many frames per second as its predecessor. It even bested the old model by 12 frames per second.

But faster though the new Core i3 system is, it’s still 15 percent slower than the previous top-of-the-line quad-core 2.66GHz Core i5 iMac. That quad-core i5 system was 29 percent faster in Cinebench, 60 percent faster in MathematicaMark, and about 20 percent faster in Compressor. Interestingly, the new 3.06Ghz Core i3 was faster than the quad-core 2.66GHz iMac in iTunes import and WorldBench multitasking tests.

21.5-inch Core i3 iMac/3.06GHz

How we tested. Speedmark 6 scores are relative to those of a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook, which is assigned a score of 100 (higher scores are better). Call of Duty score is in frames per second (higher is better). MathematicaMark is a performance score (higher is better). All others are in minutes:seconds (lower is better). The new 21.5-inch3.06GHz Core i3iMac was tested with OS X 10.6.4. Both 21.5-inch3.06GHz Core 2 DuoiMacs were tested with OS X 10.6.1. The 27-inch2.66GHz Core i5iMac was tested with OS X 10.6.2. The 20-inch2.66GHz Core 2 DuoiMac (early 2009) was tested with 10.6.1. We duplicated a 1GB file, created a Zip archive in the Finder from the two 1GB files and then unzipped it. We converted 90 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using iTunes’ High Quality setting. In iMovie '09, we imported a camera archive and exported it to iTunes using the Mobile Devices setting. We ran a Timedemo at 1024-by-768 with 4X anti-aliasing on in Call of Duty 4. We imported 150 JPEGs into iPhoto '09. The Photoshop Suite test is a set of 14 scripted tasks using a 50MB file. Photoshop’s memory was set to 70 percent and History was set to Minimum. We used Compressor to encode a .mov file to the application's H.264 for video podcast setting. We ripped a DVD chapter to the hard drive. We recorded how long it took to render a scene with multiprocessors in Cinebench. We ran the Evaluate Notebook test in MathematicaMark 7. We ran the WorldBench 6 multitasking test on a Parallels 5 VM running Windows 7 Professional. We timed the import and thumbnail/preview creation time for 150 photos in Aperture.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, Mckinley Noble, Blair Hanely Frank, and Chris Holt.

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Blu-ray 3D, more TV models boosting 3D TV shipments

3D TV shipments are on the rise with the availability of more TV models and increasing movie and sports content in 3D, research firm DisplaySearch said on Wednesday.

3D TV shipments could reach 3.4 million this year, a sharp increase from the 214,000 units that shipped last year, said Paul Gray, director of European TV research at DisplaySearch.

Hollywood is generating more 3D movies, which are being released on Blu-ray 3D discs, Gray said. That has led to increased interest in 3D TVs, Gray said.

"The formation of a 3D Blu-ray specification at the end of 2009 gave confidence that 3D was a consumer format and not just for movie theaters," Gray said. Consumer electronics companies such as Samsung and Sony have released Blu-ray 3D movie players.

The broadcast of sports events such as the FIFA World Cup in 3D is also creating interest in 3D TVs, Gray said.

And 3D gaming is also available now. Microsoft in June introduced the Kinect gaming kit, which allows users to play 3D games using the Xbox 360.

But only a few companies such as Panasonic and Samsung have rolled out 3D flat-panel TVs. More models will be launched later this year, which should also drive adoption, Gray said. New models are expected to launch at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, Sept. 3-8.

The prices of 3D TVs have also been falling. Samsung announced a new lineup of 3D TVs in March, with a basic 40-inch LCD UN40C7000 model priced at US$1,999. The same TV is now available on for $1,499.98 (the price is listed only during checkout) and on B&H Photo and Video's website for $1,699.

Looking into the future, DisplaySearch predicted that 3D TV shipments will reach around 42.9 million units in 2014. For now, consumers have to wear a separate pair of glasses to watch 3D TVs, but companies such as Samsung are researching 3D TVs that do not require glasses.

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Bike Doctor iPhone app shows you how to repair your bike

As London gears up for Mayor Boris Johnson's London Cycle Hire scheme, one iPhone developer is encouraging commuters and those out for a day in the sun to stay on two wheels longer.

Bike Doctor for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch from developer London Cyclist promises tips on repairing and maintaining your bike.

"It's called Bike Doctor and it helps complete beginners look after their bike. It's like having a little bike mechanic in your pocket ready to spring into action whenever you need them," Andreas Kambanis, London Cyclist founder tells Macworld.

"Say for example you are cycling on your way home and suddenly you hit a bump and your brakes keep touching the wheels. Load Bike Doctor, tap the part of the bike with a problem and you get a list of repairs. You can then follow each repair with easy step-by-step instructions and colour pictures."

Bike Doctor iPhone app shows you how to repair your bike

So far Bike Doctor has outperformed Kambanis's expectations, currently a Top 5 hit in the iTunes App Store, updates will appear shortly.

"There has been a lot of positive feedback and also a lot to build upon," Kambanis notes. "The first priority is to increase the number of repairs in the app from 20 to 30. Then we will start looking into ways we can make bike maintenance as easy as possible for someone and something they can largely forget about."

"We also want to add an on-the-road emergency repairs section so that anyone stuck in the middle of nowhere can improvise and get their bike home."

Available from the Apple iTunes App Store, Bike Doctor costs 2.99 and requires the iPhone OS 3.1.3 Software Update or later.

Bike Doctor iPhone app shows you how to repair your bike

Meanwhile, the Major's London Cycle Hire scheme starts tomorrow, Friday, 30 July. More than 9,000 people have already signed up to the scheme which offers bikes for hire across London. Two dedicated iPhone apps, including one from FIPLAB offer details of cycle stations, local cycle routes and more to complement the new service.

A TFL spokeswoman said: "Barclays Cycle Hire is designed to be an easy-to-use, low cost, convenient, quick and healthy way to make short trips." More information can be found at

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Photoshop Automator Actions updated for Adobe CS5

Author, photographer, scripter and Macworld contributor Ben Long has updated his popular set of Automator Actions for Photoshop.

Revised for Adobe CS5, the update to Version 5 adds new Diptych and Triptych actions, which automate the process of creating two-up, and three-up layouts. These offer full control over margins and spacing, diptych and triptych creation.

Photoshop Automator Actions updated for Adobe CS5

A new Contact Sheet action replicates most of the functionality of the Contact Sheet script that is available as an optional install from Adobe. "Of course, the advantage of having such power within Automator is that you can now automate the production of your contact sheets. Contact Sheet produces a PSD - either flat or layered - and gives you the option of displaying up to two lines of metadata beneath each thumbnail," Ben notes.

Automator Actions for Photoshop comes in two versions - a free bundle includes 41 actions for day-to-day automation needs, while a $20 (around 12) Pro bundle includes 95 actions. The two packages are available for Photoshop CS4 and CS5. More details can be found here.

[Via John Nack on Adobe]

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Adobe acquires Web software maker for $240 million

Adobe Systems has agreed to buy Web software maker Day Software Holding in a deal worth $240 million, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Day Software, of Basel, Switzerland, specializes in Web Content Management, Digital Asset Management and Social Collaboration, which Adobe plans to use to strengthen its enterprise software offerings, it said in the statement.

"With the addition of Day to our enterprise portfolio, we will be able to enhance the value of our offering and deliver on our vision of the Web as the hub of customer interaction," the U.S. software vendor said.

Day will become a product line within Adobe's Digital Enterprise Solutions Business Unit, and Day's CEO, Erik Hansen, will join Adobe as part of the deal.

Adobe will launch a tender offer for Day's publicly held stock shares, an offer that Day's board of directors has already voted to recommend, according to the statement.

The deal is subject to government approval before it can be finalized. Adobe expects to close the deal in the fourth quarter of its 2010 fiscal year, which is later this calendar year.

Slash talks about Donningtion gigThird annual Amsterdam FCPUG SuperMeet: Tickets now on sale

Third annual Amsterdam FCPUG SuperMeet: Tickets now on sale

Tickets are now on sale for the third annual Amsterdam FCPUG SuperMeet, to be held on Sunday, 12 September at the Hotel Krasnaplosky. The hotel is located in the heart of Amsterdam, close to the RAI center, which will host IBC 2010, a leading international forum for the electronic media industry, which runs from the 9 to 14 September.

The FCPUG event brings together digital filmmakers from around the world working with Apple, Adobe and Avid creative tools. The user-driven format promises engaging presentations and training by community members and industry leaders.

Doors to this year's SuperMeet open at 4:30 pm with the 'SuperMeet Digital Showcase,' featuring over 25 software and hardware developers including Adobe, Automatic Duck, Autodesk, Avid, Blackmagic Design, GenArts, Matrox, Noise Industries, Red Giant Software, The Foundry, Vimeo and others. Attendees can learn about the latest trends in collaborative editing workflows for postproduction and broadcast markets as well as network at the popular party event. A "world famous raffle" will offer thousands of euros worth of filmmaker-related prizes.

The SuperMeet producers have also announced the Amsterdam debut of 'Open Screen Theatre.' Filmmakers and digital content creators will have a 10 minute chance to get seen in an informal setting.

'Early Bird' ticket prices are available online at and cost €10 for adults and €7 for students.

"We are excited to return to Amsterdam and even more so to hold this SuperMeet once again at the Hotel Krasnapolsky," said Michael Horton, SuperMeet co-producer and head of the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group (lafcpug). "The Krasnapolsky's not only easy to get to, but it's a beautiful venue to visit and network. And SuperMeets are all about networking."

Tickets now on sale

(Visit our sister site MacVideo for in-depth details and analysis regarding Final Cut Pro and digital filmmaking.)

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Nuance launches Dragon Dictation 2 for iPhone, iPad

Nuance Communications on Friday released version 2.0 of its popular Dragon Dictation app for the Apple iPhone and Apple iPad, adding the ability to send dictated messages to social-networking services. Its the first time the app has been available officially in the UK.

The app, which provides voice-to-text transcription using Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking software, originally allowed users to send their recorded snippets to Mail, SMS, or to iOS's system-wide clipboard for pasting somewhere else.

With version 2, Dragon Dictation has added Facebook and Twitter to that list, allowing you to send a tweet or status update on the go (though for common sense reasons, we do not recommend using this feature while driving a moving vehicle). In addition, SMS messages are now pasted directly into the iPhone client, and dictated text is now auto-saved if interrupted by a phone call.

Also new to the app is a "Languages" menu; currently, only American and UK English are available, but the company plans to roll out more languages in the coming months, beginning with German.

Dragon Dictation is a universal app available for free on the App Store for iOS devices running 3.1 or later.

Nuance launches Dragon Dictation 2 for iPhone, iPad

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USB 3.0: Four Things You Need to Know

USB 3.0 devices will be among us soon, but just how good is the update to Universal Serial Bus? Here's what you need to know.

USB-perhaps the most successful, versatile computer interface yet - is getting a major overhaul. The third version brings big improvements, including higher speeds and better power management. The first devices began hitting stores this year, and a flood of new products is expected to follow.

Adoption of USB 3.0 could bring an end to interfaces that use serial ports such as e-SATA, which, while fast, require an additional power cable.

IT'S FAST. USB 3.0 features an extra set of pins that creates a faster data bus capable of supporting real-world speeds of between 3.2 and 4 gigabits per second. That makes it about 10 times as fast as today's USB 2.0 and comparable to using serial ports. A fully '­bidirectional bus means that data can be sent and received at the same time, further boosting performance. To reflect this, equipment makers have dubbed the new version "SuperSpeed."

IT'S BACKWARD COMPATIBLE. USB 3.0 sockets are designed to accept today's plugs and cables, they'll just operate at USB 2.0 speeds. To get the faster performance, you'll have to use new cables between compatible devices. Consequently, USB 3.0 will take over the external-drive market by 2013 and ship in 225 million flash disks in 2014, predicts In-Stat.

IT'S SMART ON POWER. USB 3.0 increases the power available via a USB connection by 50 percent to 150 milliAmps, but that doesn't necessarily mean your laptop battery will run down faster. Whereas the current USB protocol keeps devices powered and ready at all times, USB 3.0 has superior power-management capabilities that allow unused devices to enter idle, sleep and suspend modes, cutting down on power consumption.

IT'S NOT EVERYWHERE. Support for USB 3.0 was added to the Linux kernel last September, and the first hardware controllers and devices appeared at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in January. But it's still an emerging technology. Microsoft hasn't implemented it in Windows yet, though it's rumored to be coming soon in the first service pack for Windows 7. Intel doesn't plan to support it until 2011.

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Apple sending out free Bumper emails

Following Steve Jobs announcement that every iPhone 4 owner would get a free Bumper, Apple is sending out emails to iPhone 4 customers that purchased a Bumper offering a refund.

Customers don't need to do anything to claim the refund, Apple will automatically process it.

There is no word yet of how the free Bumper / iPhone 4 case scheme will operate. We believe that Apple will send emails to all iPhone 4 customers asking them to make a selection from the Apple Web site.

Apple's Bumper refund is estimated to cost the company $175 million.

Apple sending out free Bumper emails

The email sent out today reads as follows:

Dear Apple Customer,

Apple recently announced that iPhone 4 customers who purchased an iPhone 4 Bumper are eligible for a full refund.

As of today, we have automatically processed your refund.

Thank you for choosing Apple.

Sincerely, Apple Online Store Support

Macworld will have more news on the iPhone 4 Bumper offer, and how to claim your free Bumper as it happens.

[via Pocket Lint]

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Darkspore to invade the Mac in spring 2011

If you’re like me, you probably thought Spore’s innovative creature creator could have been much more malevolent. Oh sure, being able to place arms and tails on your customizable creatures is nice and all—but what about giving your creature swords? Or flame-retardant armor?

That’s just the start of Maxis’ new sci-fi action role-playing game, Darkspore. On Tuesday, Electronic Arts officially previewed Maxis’ expansive online-only co-op game. Mostly known for developing Sim City and Spore, Maxis’ latest game appears to be darker, more violent, and more cooperative than what we typically see from the iconic developer.

At first glance, the game resembles a sci-fi dungeon crawler or Diablo in space: You must recruit the best warriors from across the galaxy, collect DNA, upgrade your arsenal, and wage war across the surfaces of infected planets in an attempt to stop a powerful evil.

But to just label this game a Diablo clone would be misleading. Sure, like any dungeon crawler, you’ll collect lots of loot. But you’ll place it on your character just how you’d like, thanks to Darkspore’s customization system that is “inspired” by Spore’s creature creator.

Similarly, you won’t be a single hero fighting an entire army. Even while playing solo, you’ll have a squad of genetic heroes you can bring to a specific mission. You’ll want to employ strategy to figure out which creatures you bring along, because each has unique abilities that you can use to complement the rest of your squad or your fellow players. In the demonstration at Tuesday’s game preview, a creature with a teleportation ability helped his teammate teleport to an elusive target and then rip it to shreds using a flaming melee attack.

Your enemies will have different abilities, vulnerabilities, and buffers as well. Your attacks on an enemy of the same type will be less effective because the enemy has resistance to its own kind. You’ll want a complimentary squad, with creatures that can augment each others’ powers to handle a variety of enemies.

Darkspore promises a strong potential for replayability, according to Mike Perry, executive producer of Darkspore. “Every time you play, you’ll confront different [non-player characters].” The enemy-AI may decide to deploy different non-player characters with different tactics depending on how you’re playing. Advanced players can therefore expect advanced challenges.

The most surprising element of Darkspore is the game’s focus on cooperative combat. You and up to three friends can play together, each bringing a squad of creatures to the battle. If you don’t have friends to play with, the game’s service will quickly match you up with suitable players. Some enemies and situations essentially demand cooperative combat—during Tuesday’s demonstration, an enemy trapped one player until a friend freed him.

Darkspore is due out in the spring of 2011. The game will be available on both Windows PC and Mac platforms though Electronic Arts hasn’t revealed specific system requirements.

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Apple VP Williams is now senior vice president of operations

While Apple's top brass may not all be household names, they're still familiar faces to many of those who follow the company. Hopefully you still have room for one more face in your head, because Apple recently added senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams to its executive team.

In his new role as senior vice president of operations, Williams continues to report to Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook. Among his responsibilities are keeping tabs on Apple's entire supply chain and overseeing the quality of the company's products.

Williams was previously the vice president of operations, a title he acquired in 2004 after six years as Apple's head of worldwide procurement. He began overseeing worldwide operations for the iPod and the iPhone with the latter's launch in 2007. Before his stint with Apple, Williams worked for IBM in operations and engineering; he earned his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University and also has an MBA from Duke University.

The promotion places Williams as the point man for Apple's quality assurance, which has taken some knocks in public perception with the recent launch of the iPhone 4 and the ensuing fuss over the phone's antenna. Some also suggest that Williams may be in line to succeed Cook, who himself has been considered a potential candidate to take over for CEO Steve Jobs in some distant, uncertain future.

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