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Oct 04
Greg's bite: hands on with the Apple TV

By Greg Mills

FedEx delivered my Apple TV device Friday. It was such a small package it sort of surprised me.  When when the packaging came off it was even smaller than I had even first thought. Slickly packaged in the typical Apple retail box, the cord, remote controller and instructions were artfully packed.  

Note that this is the 187th remote control in this house. Due to controller command conflicts with my great but discontinued Apple HiFi sound system, I had to put some black electrical tape over the window air conditioner's RF eye. Remote controllers reproduce like rabbits around here.  Turning the sound system on and off with the remote used to also turn the window air conditioner on and off as well. Reminds me of a time in my youth when I installed a radio in my cousin's car and turning the radio on also opened the passenger window. Oops, I guess I drilled a hole into a hidden wiring harness.   

It was a snap to hook the Apple TV up...

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Oct 01
Greg's bite: Building a house upon the sand

By Greg Mills

The Stuxnet worm news continues to resonate around the world regarding the malware that hides in Microsoft Windows operating systems and is still infecting industrial control systems. As civilians, this seems a bit out of our area of concern, until we really understand the implications and solutions.  

Most of us can agree that the nuclear reactor and uranium enrichment facilities in Iran that is being targeted represents a serious threat to the free world. However, the "blowback" from this attack may be unexpected catastrophic manmade industrial disasters down the line. Most experts think the target of Stuxnet has already been hit, and we are now seeing the collateral damage. We do know there was some sort of "accident" that hit the uranium enrichment facility that the Iranians are not talking about.

We live in a world infrastructure operated by countless computer systems. These control systems operate the valves and switches...

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Oct 01
Maybe next iMac will see updated speakers, tweaked...

While we're waiting for the next rev of the iMac -- which should be next spring or summer if Apple maintains its usual update schedule -- I'm happy to speculate about what features I'd like. And, no, I'm not going to reiterate my plea for Blu-ray playback (well, okay, just briefly -- please, Steve). Instead I'd like to call for improved speakers and an even better display.

The downward firing speakers in the all-in-one iMac are decent 2.1 speakers. However, Apple could do better. I don't really like comparing a Mac to a PC, but I think Acer may be onto something with the audio system in its new Aspire AZ3100-U3072 -- is that a boring moniker or what? -- which sports high-def 5.1 channel audio and a display with true 1080p resolution.

The Acer system is only US$599. Surely, those are features that Apple can add to a machine that costs more (but is certainly worth the moolah).

Or consider the The Wind Top AE2420 3D from MSi, which delivers 2.1 channel surround sound...

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Sep 30
Apple patents involve camera flashes, backlights, more

Several Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 20100238344 is for an electronic device having a camera flash redirector. An electronic camera device has an imaging sensor to capture an image of a scene, a flash to illuminate the scene for capture by the sensor, and an evaluator to detect a condition in the scene. A redirector shifts the peak of a spatial energy profile of light from the flash. The peak is shifted from being aimed at one region in the scene to being aimed at another region in the scene, in response to the evaluator having detected the condition in the scene. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. The inventor is Richard Tsai.

Patent number 20100244701 involves temperature based, white point control in backlights. Systems, methods, and devices are provided for maintaining a target white point on a light emitting diode based backlight...

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Sep 30
Apple wants to beef up audio system for the iPhone

An Apple patent (20100246855) for a dynamic audio parameter adjustment using touch sensing has appeared at the US Patent and Trademark Office for . It describes a new audio sensory system for iOS devices -- or at least the iPhone.

An audio communications device has a handset in which a touch sensing ear piece region is coupled to an acoustic leakage analyzer. The acoustic leakage analyzer is to analyze signals from the touch sensing ear piece region and on that basis adjust an audio processing parameter. The latter configures an audio processor which generates an audio receiver input signal for the device. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. The inventor is Shaohai Chen.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "People have long been accustomed to making telephone calls using a handset whose earpiece portion the user typically presses up against her ear (in order to better hear the voice of the other party.) As mobile phones became...

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Sep 30
Future versions of Mac OS X could include virtual...

An Apple patent (number 20100245250) for virtual input tools hint at some potentially fascinating developments in upcoming versions of the Mac OS X.

A virtual input device, e.g., a virtual representation of a physical input device, is disclosed. In one aspect, virtual coordinates of the virtual input device correlate to real coordinates on the physical input device. Dimensions of the physical input device are proportional to dimensions of the virtual input device, and interactive objects are presented in the virtual input device. The inventor is John O. Louch.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Traditional user interfaces allow a user to navigate between one or more interface elements (e.g., application windows) through the use of physical input devices (e.g., a keyboard, mouse, trackpad or touchpad). For example, a user can press a combination of keys (e.g., Command+Tab) on a keyboard to cycle between the one or more interface elements. As...

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Sep 30
Greg's bite: Apple TV, iOS developers, the...

By Greg Mills

Today there are a number of interesting issues in Apple news. The Apple TV is being sliced, diced and analyzed.  

"iFixIt" and others quickly took their new Apple TV device apart and posted pictures of the internal parts. I have not found a list of parts norApple's part costs and assembly estimate, but as with the original AppleTV there may not be much profit in them. It is very common for companies selling video content delivery devices to sell them at a loss to get their "box" in our living rooms. They bet on the long-term profit of selling content and are willing to take a hit on the device up front. My Apple TV device is on the way from China and as of this morning is at the FedEx facility in Anchorage, Alaska.  

A classic example of this marketing approach is the Sony Playstation 3. It was estimated Sony took up to an US$200 loss on each early version of that game console they sold. They were betting the fees...

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Sep 30
What should Apple do with Final Cut Pro?

In February it was announced that Apple had cut some staff working on its Final Cut video editing software suite. Some folks took it as a bad sign, that Apple was ignoring the software -- indeed, all its pro level software - to focus on consumer products (specifically, iOS devices). So what should Apple do with Final Cut Pro?

February's cuts could represent the end of an upgrade development cycle, as the next version upgrade of Final Cut could already be in preparation. Or it could be a bad sign for Final Cut Pro.

Philip Hodgetts, president of Intelligent Assistance, feels that Apple isn't abandoning the software, and I think he's right. Hodgetts feels Apple is planning an update that will "see Apple at least catching up to its competitors with 64-bit nativity, 4K and larger timeline support; native support for media that currently has to be transcoded or rewrapped into a QuickTime container, the ability to use all the processor cores to their fullest and better media...

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Sep 29
Greg's bite: Apple hogs the news/Stuxnet update

By Greg Mills

The Pew Research people have confirmed what everyone in the tech news industry already knew: Apple hogs the tech news space. Mainstream news commonly has stories about Apple products or goings on. As Apple has risen in the last few months to be the second most highly valued company in the world, every peep out of Steve Jobs' mouth has been tech head lines.

According to the research on the amount of press different companies get, Apple leads the pack by a wide margin. Google comes in second, with Microsoft getting only one-fifth the press space as Apple. Further, most of the Apple news has been positive. Even when "Antennagate" blew up, the press was still pretty forgiving and covered the news on the issue with breathless anticipation.  The entire time, Apple was selling the iPhone 4 as faster than they could make them.

The reasons why Apple is so interesting are many. First of all, the secrecy at Cupertino is legendary. It is...

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Sep 29
Could regime change make NBC more receptive to Apple...

NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker says (ttp://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2010/09/24/nbc-universal-president-jeff-zucker-step/#content) he'll step down after cable provider Comcast takes control of the company later this year. The news came as Jonathan Klein, president of CNN, was fired and replaced by Ken Jautz, the head of the network's sister channel HLN.

This is, of course, the same NBC that repeatedly refuses to place content on iTunes. While I'm sure this isn't the only -- or even the main issue -- it is certainly indicative of bad decision making. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?

It also makes me wonder if the regime change will mean that NBC might be more receptive to Apple's overtures? On the other hand, based on the way Comcast has ben jacking up their cable rates, the change might not be a good thing.

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Sep 28
Apple granted patent for antennas for wireless devices

Apple has been granted a patent (number 7,804,453) for antennas for wireless devices. The invention relates to antennas, and more particularly, to dielectric antenna windows that allow antennas to operate from within electronic devices such as laptop computers.

Antenna window structures and antennas are provided for electronic devices. The electronic devices may be laptop computers or other devices that have conductive housings. Antenna windows can be formed from dielectric members. The dielectric members can have elastomeric properties. An antenna may be mounted inside a conductive housing beneath a dielectric member. The antenna can be formed from a parallel plate waveguide structure. The parallel plate waveguide structure may have a ground plate and a radiator plate and may have dielectric material between the ground and radiator plates.

The ground plate can have a primary ground plate portion and a ground strip. The ground strip may reflect radio-frequency...

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Sep 28
Apple patents involve encoding, interfaces, media...

Apple has been granted three patents by the US Trademark and Patent Office. Patent number 7,804,897 is for a method for implementing an improved quantizer in a multimedia compression and encoding system.

Some embodiments limit the changes to a buffer occupancy accumulator with respect to a target number of bits of the current frame. Limiting the change of the buffer occupancy accumulator will prevent one odd significantly different frame from significantly changing the quantization. Some embodiments improve upon the quantizer adjustment by making more accurate estimates of the amount of information needed to encode each macroblock. Specifically, some embodiments estimate the bits per macroblock in a manner that varies from frame type to frame type.

Specifically, for frame types with motion compensation, some embodiments exploit the correlation between the complexity of the macroblock and the number of bits needed. In the case of frame types without...

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Sep 28
Greg's bite: more on the Iranian worm

By Greg Mills

The Stuxnet Windows worm I wrote about recently has begun to spread uncontrollably through personal PCs in Iran, as well as being found in completely isolated industrial servers not even hooked up to the Internet.  

It's believed that there are now five previously unknown Windows vulnerabilities that have been used instead of four. Reports from Iran indicate that "the worm is mutating and wrecking further havoc on computerized industrial equipment. The attack is still ongoing and new versions of this virus are spreading." Talk about the Windows tax penalty ...

From what I have read, the worm hides in blocks of the Windows operating system code used to do utilitarian functions of a PC. The worm is hard to find and has a lot of tricks that it uses to hijack systems for industrial control devices. It misdirects operators with wrong information, reverses the instructions at the controlled device, as in "close the valve" instead of "...

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Sep 28
Big Brother is watching -- and wants to watch more

I want to see terrorism fought as much as anyone, but where do we draw the line when it comes to our personal privacy. In yet another example of the federal government wanting more power, the Obama administration is developing plans that would require all Internet-based communication services -- such as encrypted BlackBerry e-mail, Facebook, and Skype -- to be capable of complying with federal wiretap orders, reports "Fox News" (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/09/27/seeking-expand-internet-wiret...).

According to a report published Monday by "The New York Times," national security officials and federal law enforcement argue their ability to eavesdrop on terror suspects is increasingly "going dark" as more communication takes place via Internet services, rather than by traditional telephone. The...

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Sep 27
The coming of Internet TV

The revamped Apple TV is due within the next few weeks. If Apple will finally take the device seriously, it has incredible potential as TV viewing is poised for some major changes in the years ahead.

A new report from Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/bb5c9e/internet_televisio) says the television industry is at the beginning of a generational change which will eventually see a new type of television service -- Internet Television -- being delivered directly to TV sets in broadband-enabled households around the globe. In the end, practically all new TV sets will incorporate Internet television functionality as a standard feature that viewers will be able to use alongside their existing television services.

With the Apple TV Apple could beat everyone to the punch.

By 2014...

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Sep 27

Greg's bite: Viacom's CEO doesn't get...

By Greg Mills

The newer "go-to-market" models for digital video content that took Blockbuster down, (NetFlix and on-demand cable TV) is also threatening over-the-air broadcasting.  Rabbit ears don't hack it anymore.  

Broadcast TV is becoming a class-defining technology.  People who have the money to spend on entertainment are going to alternative ways to obtain video content. The numbers are disturbing to the broadcast industry, which relies on heavy advertising to survive. Even in the deepest recession in the living memory of the American public, the share of viewers watching "free" broadcast TV (over-the-air) are declining. Frankly, when almost half of over-the-air programing is advertising, it is no wonder those who can afford to get TV other ways do so. 

The content providers are getting used to a steady stream of money from cable and satellite TV systems. There is a small amount paid per customer to each channel provided. This amounts to...

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Sep 24
Greg's bite: the Stuxnet virus attack on Iran

By Greg Mills

Apple computer became the second most valuable company in the world. The valuation has a long ways to go as the market share of Apple products are still small compared to the overall market. Buy Apple stock folks ...

Departing from my normal focus on things Apple, there are stories around the web on an interesting virus or worm attack that some very well funded hackers have unleashed upon Iran's nuclear weapons program. The Stuxnet virus was able to concentrate on infecting and spreading on control servers, not connected to the Internet, by way of hiding on USB thumb drives used to transfer other data from server to server. The virus is of course a Windows bit of malware, so Macs are unaffected.

I was somewhat surprised that Israel and the Untied States allowed the Iranian nuclear reactor, built by our good friends the Russians, to go on line a few weeks ago. The threat of an Islamic bomb under the control of radicals is a...

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Sep 24
The Mac, not the iPad, is the 'Mac for the masses...

I always like hearing Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster's take on Apple's outlook. I think he's usually on target (though I think he's off base in predicting that Apple will introduce its own line of HDTVs within two years), but I think he's a bit off base when he calls the iPad the "Mac for the masses."

In a note to clients Thursday, Munster predicts that Apple will sell 21 million iPads in 2011. That's more than he had previously predicted due, he says, to t broader distribution, an international rollout and enterprise demand. For those reasons he dubs the iPad the "Mac for the masses."

However, I'll continue to maintain that the Mac is the "Mac for the masses." After all, its market share is, by some reports, nearing 10% in the US. I think it will reach that goal as the iPad, iPod and iPhone lines have a "halo effect" of luring more people to the Mac. Plus, despite the miserable economy, for the fiscal 2010 third quarter that ended June 26, Apple shipped 34.7...

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Sep 23
Greg's bite: TV's changing channel

By Greg Mills

Things are starting to fall into place on the Apple TV front. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy, as expected, under great market pressure from NetFlix and RedBox. Apple will seal the doom of Blockbuster by adding one more strong competitor to the mix of TV content providers.  

Blockbuster expects to shed about US$900,000 million of debt and leases by going bankrupt. While they will be leaner and meaner, it is far from certain they will survive.

Blockbuster's biggest problem is that they were way too slow to abandon the business model that had worked for so many years. Putting in brick and mortar stores in every town and lining the shelved with TV and game content in physical form worked for a long time. They rented the titles and had to purchase all the content in vast quantities, distribute and keep a running inventory of all those VCT tapes, DVD disks and game disks. They had to sign leases on the store fronts for period of years...

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Sep 23
Apple working on camera technology for upcoming iOS...

Apple is working on technology for upcoming cameras in iPhones, iPod touches, probably the iPad and perhaps other devices. A patent (number 20100238344) for an electronic device having a camera flash redirector has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

An electronic camera device has an imaging sensor to capture an image of a scene, a flash to illuminate the scene for capture by the sensor, and an evaluator to detect a condition in the scene. A redirector shifts the peak of a spatial energy profile of light from the flash. The peak is shifted from being aimed at one region in the scene to being aimed at another region in the scene, in response to the evaluator having detected the condition in the scene. Other embodiments are also described and claimed in the patent. The inventor is Richard Tsai.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "In photography, there has been recognized the need for providing flash illumination, at an angle that is...

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Sep 23
Apple wants to shrink audio jacks on future iPhones,...

An Apple patent for an audio jack with pogo pins for conductive contacts has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office showing that Apple plans to build even smaller headphone jacks in upcoming iPhones and iPods.

The patent involves an audio jack that can allow electrical connections between an audio plug and an electronic device. The audio jack can include a series of pogo pins operative to extend into an audio jack cavity to provide conductive contacts for an audio plug placed within the audio jack. When an audio plug is inserted in the audio jack, the deflectable tips of each pogo pin can deflect and contact audio plug contact portions or regions. The end of the pogo pins opposite the deflectable tips can be coupled to an appropriate electronic device component, such as a printed circuit board, flex circuit, cable, or any other suitable component to provide a conductive path for signals between the audio plug and the electronic device. The inventors are Sean Murphy...

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Sep 23
iPad could be a boon to the book industry

For those who think technology is killing pastimes such as reading, well, think again. In fact, the iPad as an ebook reader could actually be a boon to the book industry.

Currently, just one in 10 Americans (8%) uses an electronic reader device of some kind, according to a new Harris Poll of 2,775 adults surveyed online between Aug. 9 and Aug. 16 by Harris Interactive (http://www.harrisinteractive.com). But that will change -- and perhaps publishers should be glad.

Those who have eReaders do, interestingly, read more. Overall, two in five Americans (40%) read 11 or more books a year with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (19%). But among those who have an eReader, over one-third read 11-20 books a year (36%) and over one-quarter read 21 or more books in an average year (26%).

eReader users are also more likely to buy books. One in five Americans (21%) say they...

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Sep 22
What your gadgets reveal about you

By Andrew Eisner

Whether you're a Mac or a PC, an iPhone, Android, or a BlackBerry user, the gadgets you use say something about you. Based on Retrevo's 2010 Gadget Census, gadget owners exhibit different behavior and characteristics depending on which gadget camps they belong to. Here's a list of some of the more interesting conclusions we've drawn from looking at the gadgets people use in thousands of households across the country and around the world.

Mac Owners Buy More Apple Products

It may not come as a big surprise that computer owners who indicated they use the Mac OS as their primary OS, purchase more iPhones and other Apple gear. In fact, households, where the Mac OS is listed as the primary OS, purchase more than three times as many iPhones and almost 6 times as many iPads.

Once You Go Mac You Never Go Back

Although Windows still dominates Mac OS by a very large margin, the Gadget...

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Sep 22
Greg's bite: RIM's BlackPad iPad killer?

By Greg Mills

As I read iPhone/iPad killer stories on the web, I am always amused that a "too late to the party, me too" product would be launched with the wild idea of actually replacing Apple's products.

Frankly, most of the competitors would be happy to not actually loose money on their device, and the notion of killing the Apple product is a headline used by journalists to attract readers. Apple is too well established to be displaced with some suddenly released stronger competitor.  The real risk is Apple being reduced, over time market share wise, by a slew of similar product that dilute the market. Note that "similar" means fully similar in both function and price. So far any real competitors to iPad are vaporware or pads lacking a critical ingredient to actually compete.   

Android is the only real threat in the long term to iPhone, but since it is open source and relies on third party hardware, it is unlikely to beat the smoothly...

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Sep 22
Time to ban the sale of ultraviolent video games to...

Do you think ultraviolent video games should be sold to minors? I don't, and apparently most adults agree with me.

Common Sense Media, a national non-profit organization "dedicated to helping kids and families thrive in a world of media and technology," has released the results of a nationwide parent poll that revealed nearly three-quarters of adults would support a law that prohibits minors from purchasing ultraviolent or sexually violent video games without parental consent.

The video game industry has aggressively fought -- in court -- a 2005 California law banning the sale of these games. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on November 2.

“The results of this poll clearly show that not only do the effects of ultraviolent or sexually violent games weigh heavily on the minds of parents, but also that parents feel the video game industry is not doing enough to protect kids from accessing these games,” says James Steyer, CEO and founder, Common Sense...

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Sep 21
Apple wins patent for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad...

Apple has been granted several patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office, including one filed in 2005 that points to such upcoming devices as the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Patent number 7,800,592 is for a handheld device with multiple touch sensing devices. The inventors are Duncan Kerr, Steve Hotelling and Brian Huppi.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The invention relates, in one embodiment, to a handheld electronic device. The handheld electronic device includes a first touch sensing device located in a first region of the hand held electronic device. The handheld electronic device includes a second touch sensing device located in a second region of the hand held electronic device. The second region is at a different location than the first region of the hand held electronic device.

"The invention relates, in another embodiment, to a hand held electronic device. The handheld electronic device includes a housing. The handheld electronic...

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Sep 21
Greg's bite: Adobe Flashes away privacy

By Greg Mills

I read an article in the "Wall Street Journal" this morning about another problem with Adobe Flash that I had never heard of. It turns out Adobe Flash, in addition to the other known issues related to crashing, memory hog problems etc, also exposes users to being tracked as they surf the web.  

The cookies that are picked up like little muddy footprints across the web are now not the only web tracking method we have to worry about. Adobe Flash keeps a log of where you have been in another place in your system files. These Adobe Flash tracking files can be apparently accessed without your consent.

While Adobe condemns the use of Flash to track users, the infrastructure of Flash certainly allows it. A company called Ring Leader Digital has been using Flash to make sure you get advertising that they think fits your web browsing history. How nice of them.  Ring Leader Digital claims anyone who wants to opt out can go to...

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Sep 21
iPads complement, don't replace, your primary...

A recent study by market research firm Technology Business Research (TBR) has confirmed what I've said since the iPad's introduction: its a complement to your primary computer (for me, an iMac), not a replacement. The tablet is good at many things, but it can't handle all the chores a desktop can.

TBR finds that the iPad will displace many consumers' secondary computers, creating a third major device category for personal computing and connectivity. The study points to the success of the Apple tablet as a demonstration that the consumer seeks quick, easy e-mail and web access via a device that features more portability than a laptop while providing instant-on and more usability than a smartphone.

Although laptops will lose some ground to tablets, TBR believes the market will support all three device styles for computing and connectivity, including the laptop, tablet and smartphone. And, in fact, analyst Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros. told clients on...

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Sep 20
Greg's bite: Apple to fix newspapers

By Greg Mills

As I have mused in this space before, Apple has great expectations to develop digital download "go to market" systems that will revolutionize content publishing industries of all kinds. What they did to music with iTunes, they will do with books, newspapers, magazines, video games, software and movies.  

We see large chunks of that infrastructure already in operation. I don't claim clairvoyance, but the iPad is the format of choice for things graphic, the iPod is the format of choice for things musical and the Apple TV is the device that will allow Apple to control the digital market place for video content and games.

The server farm going on line soon in West Virginia is going to hum soon, and the cash registers in cyberspace are going to sing! We have become used to software updates streaming in from the Apple servers linked to our system software. That same infrastructure is easily able to simply download Mac OS applications....

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Sep 17
Greg's bite: iPad sales, Slate OS war, Apple...

Well, who would have thought iPad would cut into laptops sales. ... read that: PC laptop sales. Mac laptops, unaffected. Sort of like viruses and worms, PCs are suffering while the Mac is unaffected.  

While there might be a slight dip in the steep growth curve for Mac laptops, they are still selling very well despite the recession. One only has to use an iPad a while to swear off a desktop computer or PC laptop for a lot of applications.

I submit that part of the reason iPad is killing PC laptops is not just about the fabulous form factor and all that makes iPad so revolutionary. It's also that iPad is an Apple product and all that goes with that perception. Smart, stylish and easy to use, without the learning curve associated with Windows. This sells people who are open to finding a better way to do things.

I had a sonogram test to check my neck arteries for blockages today just as a health screening exercise and the PC laptop running the sonogram device...

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Sep 17
Maybe we'll see Macs with USB 3.0, after all

My gut had been telling me that Apple -- always an innovator -- would forego USB 3.0 entirely and go straight to Light Peak technology in 2011. Apparently, my gut was wrong. Maybe the feeling was indigestion.

Whatever it was, Intel said this week that Light Peak won't be shipping in computers or other devices until 2012. The chipsets to drive the fiber optic data link WILL be ready by late 2011, but that means Macs with Light Peak won't arrive before early 2012, at the latest.

Developed by Intel, Light Peak paves the way for a new generation of extreme computer input and output (I/O) performance, delivering 10Gb/s of bandwidth, with the potential ability to scale to 100Gbs over the next decade, according to David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager, Intel Architecture Group. At 10Gb/second, a user could purportedly transfer a full-length Blu-Ray movie in less than 30 seconds (of course, Steve Jobs doesn't' like Blu-ray, but I keep hoping he'll...

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Sep 16
Apple plans to beef up interaction between iDevices,...

Five Apple patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office show the company plans to beef up the interaction between accessories and the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Patent number 20100233961 involves an accessory and mobile computing device communication using an application communication protocol. Embodiments of the present invention provide various communication techniques for communication between a mobile computing device and an accessory. An accessory protocol that is generic to the mobile computing device can be used for some communication. An application executing at the mobile computing device can communicate with the accessory using an application communication protocol. In some embodiments, the application communication protocol can be different from the accessory communication protocol. In other embodiments the application protocol may only be recognized by the application and the accessory. In some embodiments, messages conforming to an...

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Sep 16
Consumer electronics spending trend could be good news...

The U.S. consumer electronics (CE) market has been hit disproportionately hard by the economic downturn, with U.S. households projected to spend 17% less on CE in 2010 than the previous year. This is the largest projected decline in CE spending among the 20 countries surveyed by the International Data Corp. (http://www.idc.com) in a recent ConsumerScape 3600 study. Strangely, this could be good news for Apple.

Let me explain.

Among these countries, the emerging BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are expected to lead the CE recovery with household CE spending gains of more than 20% year over year. Despite the decline in U.S. CE spending, IDC found that important opportunities still exist within key product categories and across specific consumer market segments.

Even though U.S. consumers are spending less on CE, they still own more devices (an average of 15.4 major devices per household...

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Sep 16
Greg's bite: HD content protection system hacked...

By Greg Mills

The news is full of stories related to a possible hack of the copy protection system common to HDTV, Blu-Ray disks, video game disks and even iTunes music. This is not unanticipated, but much sooner than many had expected. The sky is not falling, but this is a significant issue for reasons that go well beyond the companies that have content to protect.

Copyright protection is the legal right to sue someone for "copying" your original content. Any time something is written, drawn or fixed in a tangible form, such as paper, a disk or the like, the content is automatically protected by a copyright. The person who owns the rights is the author, unless they have assigned their rights to someone else. This article is original content, but when I submit it to "MacNews" it will become the copyright property of "MacNews" due to an agreement I made with the company.

While you can sue if your content is stolen, you are entitled only to...

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Sep 15
New MSI all-in-one could offer a glimpse of upcoming...

Apple is normally a leader in, well, just about every area of technology. However, MSI has introduced a new all-in-one computer that I think is a foreshadowing of features we'll see on upcoming iMacs. Well, at least I hope it's a hint of iMac things to come.

The Wind Top AE2420 3D (http://us.msi.com/WindTop/3DAE2420) is the world’s first 3D touch screen all-in-one computer. Unlike 3D TVs, the Wind Top AE2420 3D is designed to address the current disconnect between people’s interest in 3D entertainment, and the limited availability of content, as it can bring almost any 2D content -- from home movies to DVD rentals and 3D Blu-Ray -- to life in 3D, according to the folks at MSI.

The Wind Top AE2420 3D is powered by Intel Core i7 processors, just like the high-end iMacs. They sport 24-inch, multi-touch screens and exclusive wireless 3D shutter glasses (with rechargeable batteries...

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Sep 15
Greg's bite: super big Wi-Fi zones coming?

By Greg Mills

The FCC, the agency that controls radio frequencies in the US, is about to open up some long wave frequencies in the 700 MHz range that are now available due to the digital TV frequency changes last year. The frequencies are particularly valuable since they penetrate buildings and go further with the same amount of radio energy as shorter wave frequencies that don't go nearly so far, or through walls very well. Look for miles of transmission distances instead of hundreds of feet.  

Further, this new SuperWiFi frequencies are not going to be regulated and will, thus, be like current WiFi and BlueTooth, where the radio chip sets are tested and approved by the FCC but the use of the frequencies will be available to anyone. Wireless devices will also have to transmit back to the more distant Wi-Fi sites, so additional and more powerful SuperWIFi cards will be required.  

This will open up the way for Super Wi-Fi servers that will...

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Sep 14
Apple granted several patents

Apple has been granted several patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent D623,404 is for the design of an armband for the 3G iPod nano. The inventors are Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Calvin Seid, Vincent Keane, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent D623,645 is for the power plug for the MacBook and MacBook Pro. The inventors are Jody Akana, Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent number 7,795,553 is for the hybrid button on the iPod. The inventors are Douglas Weber, Pinida...

| Read more »
Sep 14
Greg's bite: the Nokia story

By Greg Mills
Nokia, in big trouble

I can remember having Nokia cell phones, but that goes back a few years. Recently the smart phone revolution has taken it's toll, and Nokia's market share has fallen off dramatically.  In an attempt to reinvigorate the company, they ditched their CEO of long standing, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo to tap a former Microsoft Executive, Stephen Elop for the job. To a great extent it might be sort of like rearranging the deck chairs on the doomed ship Titanic.  

Apple and Google have the app store business so locked up, Rim and Nokia and the also rans are struggling to even stay in the game. I can well remember extremely stupid smart phones. I had one Motorola (also a sinking ship) cell phone that had a web access element that even a Sprint service center couldn't get up and running. Despite acknowledging the problem, the Sprint customer service department was reluctant to remove the charges on my bill for that service...

| Read more »
Sep 14
More and more folks ditching pay TV

Thirteen percent of current pay TV subscribers in the US say they are "somewhat" or "very" likely to cancel their current subscription in the next 12 months -- and not sign up with another provider -- according to a survey of 2,000 US households recently conducted by Strategy Analytics (http://www.strategyanalytics). And I may be among them.

The firm says that “cord cutting,” the practice of dropping traditional paid television service in favor of free broadcast or Internet-delivered “Over the Top” (OTT) content is a growing trend. And if all cable and satellite companies are gouging customers like they're gouging me (my Comcast bill jumped $42 from one month to the next with no change in service and no explanation -- yet -- as to why), who can blame them?

“While it may represent only a relatively small percentage today, we anticipate the number of cord cutters to increase going forward,”...

| Read more »
Sep 13
What screen resolution do you prefer?

Well, I would have thought it would have been bigger, but Uptrends.com (http://www.uptrends.com), a global webs site monitoring company, says the 1024 x 768 screen resolutions size is used more often than any other size.

The 1024 x 768 screen resolution size has the largest share of global usage, with global usage of 25.17%. But less and less people are using this resolution. In April 2007, the share of global usage was 55.34%. Internet users worldwide have been increasingly choosing larger screens with higher screen resolution. Apple might make a note of this, as the company seems to think that the world wants increasingly smaller displays (witness the latest iPad nano).

In a study conducted by Uptrends, the usage of smaller screen resolutions such as 800 x 600 is also on the decline. For example in April 2007, the global usage of the 800 x 600 screen resolution size was 8.18 percent. In this year’...

| Read more »
Sep 10
Nearly 59 million mobile WiMAX subscribers predicted...

According to new projections from ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com), the number of subscribers to mobile WiMAX services will approach 59 million in 2015. And I think the technology will come to Macs in the not-too-distant future.

That represents a positive forecast in light of recent economic conditions, although research analyst Xavier Ortiz notes, “WiMAX’s growth has not been as early or as strong as many would have hoped several years ago.”

The recession certainly played a role, making investors wary and delaying some deployments, he says. On top of that, delays in the formation of the new Clearwire have constrained the rest of the ecosystem to some degree, from subscribers to devices and chipsets. The factors impeding WiMAX’s growth haven’t been technological, according to Ortiz, but economic and psychological.

"The recession certainly played a role, making investors wary...

| Read more »
Sep 09
Apple eyeing ways to beef up song options, menus on...

Two Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office showing that Apple wants to beef up the viewing options in iTunes on Macs.

Patent 20100229088 is for graphical representations of music using varying levels of detail. Systems, methods, and machine-readable media are disclosed for providing graphical representations of music of varying levels of detail. An electronic device can determine the attributes of a first type (e.g., genre) associated with the music.

The electronic device can display a graphical representation of the music using the attributes. The graphical representation can be based on a spiral, helix, map, or any other geometric shape or curve. A user can zoom into a portion of the graphical representation to select the music of a particular genre in which to view more detailed information. In response, the electronic device can determine the attributes of a second, more detailed type (e.g., artist) associated with the selected music...

| Read more »
Sep 09
Apple patent involves duplex audio for mobile devices

An Apple patent (number 2010027643) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office involving duplex audio for a mobile communication device and accessory.

Duplex audio is provided for a mobile communication device and an accessory. In some embodiments, the accessory can selectably operate in a duplex audio mode, concurrently sending audio to and receiving audio from the mobile communication device, or in another audio mode. In duplex audio mode, the accessory can enable its internal audio processing operations (e.g., echo cancellation) while the mobile communication device disables its corresponding internal operations or vice versa. The mobile communication device can control when the accessory transitions into and/or out of duplex audio mode. The inventor s are Jason Y. Yew and Lawrence G. Bolton.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present disclosure relates in general to mobile communication devices that interoperate with...

| Read more »
Sep 09
Apple working on dual mode technology for LCD screens

An Apple patent (number 20100225657) for systems and methods for operating a display has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It's for LCD screens on computers and TVs to be able to run in two different modes.

Embodiments of the electronic device include a display driver with the ability to receive image data in a streaming display mode or a frame-buffered display mode. In some embodiments, the electronic device may switch seamlessly between the two display modes based on which display mode will provide reduced power usage given the type and/or variability of the image data being received. The inventors are Kapil V. Sakariya and Wei H. Yao.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are commonly used as screens or displays for a wide variety of electronic devices, including consumer electronics such as televisions, computers, and handheld devices (e.g., cellular telephones, audio and video players, gaming...

| Read more »
Sep 09
Apple wants to improve camera features on its idevices

An Apple patent (number 20100225429) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that shows the company is looking at ways and accessories to improve the camera features of the iPhone and iPod touch (and probably the next gen iPad).

Systems and methods are providing for aligning an accessory to an electronic device interface. In particular, some accessories such as optical filters and lens require specific alignment to operative properly. Using a first magnet array positioned around the periphery of the interface and a second magnet array positioned within the accessory, a user can position an accessory on the electronic device and rotate the accessory until the magnets of each array exert a force on an opposing magnet of the other array. By distributing the magnets in a manner that includes no repeating segments, only a single alignment of the accessory relative to the interface can allow the magnet arrays to be properly in opposition. Richard Tsai is the inventor...

| Read more »
Sep 09
App Store needs a Playlist feature

I haven't yet decided if iTunes 10 is, for me, an good upgrade or not. Quite frankly, I doubt I'll use Ping. I'm on Facebook and that's about enough social networking for ome.

However, it occurred to me that the Apple App Store needs playlists like the Music Store has. In other words, if I'm a very successful real estate agent that others are trying to emulate, and I want to share my setup, I should be able to create a playlist of apps that others can see.

Now maybe this will be taken care of once Ping adds Apps, Books, etc. In that case, I might use Ping after all.

-- Dennis Sellers

| Read more »
Sep 08
There's such a thing as too much love for your...

Samsung Mobile has announced the results of a new online survey that showed working Americans who own smart phones are breaking old boundaries on when and where it’s appropriate to make and take business calls. And some folks are a bit too enamored of the phones.

According to the results, these professionals conduct their business far, far away from the office setting including while on vacation, the bathroom, during a date, at church or even during -- now, c'mon, folks, get a life -- sex. Respondents admit the need to stay connected and productive with their jobs led them to take their business calls into more private settings than ever before, such as a trip to the bathroom or during an intimate moment with their significant other.

Close to three quarters (72%) were comfortable taking calls on the commode, while at least one out of every 10 people came clean about doing business over the phone at a funeral (16%) or in the throes of passion (10%). Other taboo...

| Read more »
Sep 08
The Apple TV as game console

The new Apple TV has met with a very mixed bag of advance notices (I have one ordered; when it arrives I can give you an in-depth report). However, "VentureBeat" (http://games.venturebeat.com/2010/09/06/how-apple-could-undermine-consol...) thinks the device could compete with game consoles if Apple plays its cards right. They may be onto something.

"VentureBeat" says that all Apple would have to do is launch an Apple TV version of the Apple App Store on Apple TV with downloadable game apps. The article says that Apple might "further disrupt the business by selling its own Apple-branded connected TVs with Apple TV built right in." Since Apple has cool touchscreen and motion-sensing controls in its iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone devices, it already has lots of...

| Read more »
Sep 07
Apple patents involve file extensions, latency...

Three Apple patents in addition to those already covered have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 7792881 is for a method and apparatus for managing file extensions in a digital processing system. An exemplary method of managing file extensions in a digital processing system involves a user interface and a plurality of files, each file having a name that comprises a filename and an extension. The method includes associating a file with an indicator which is user selectable for a single file in a plurality of files in said digital processing system and which indicates how to display an extension of the file, and assigning a value to the indicator, and displaying a displayed name of the file in the user interface in a style determined by the indicator. The inventors are Scott Forstall and Edward D. Voas.

Patent number 7792024 is for IO Latency Reduction. It involves an...

| Read more »
Sep 07
Apple wins QuickTime-related patent

Apple has won a QuickTime related patent from the US Patent & Trademark Office for "One-Click Full Screen Video." The invention provides a method and system for playing full-screen video on a user computer.

The method includes displaying in the user interface at the user computer a web page containing at least one link to electronic video file, selecting the link to request the video file, downloading the video file to user computer in response to the request, detecting by the user computer receipt of the video file, opening in the user interface to window of the video player in full-screen mode in response to the detecting, and reading the video file by the player to play the video in the window.

A feature of the present invention is that the video player may not have its preferences preset by the user to open in any particular mode. The mode in which the video player opens will be determined by the downloaded video file. The inventors are Robert Douglas Werner...

| Read more »
 
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