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Feb 24
Is the future of cloud-based systems cloudy or bright?

I think cloud computing has a great deal of potential. However, I'm not ready to trust all -- or even most -- of my data to the "cloud."

However, members of IEEE (http://www.ieee.org) -- a technical professional association -- are working to deliver on the promise of cloud computing by helping enterprises of all sizes address the barriers that can potentially reduce the adoption rates of this game-changing technology.

IEEE says prospective benefits of cloud-based systems are hard to ignore: significant cost reductions in the operations and maintenance of the IT infrastructure; extreme scalability and accessibility; fewer concerns about overloading servers or lack of storage space; and rapid deployment. Of course, challenges and perceived risks prevail, with lingering concerns about cloud security and privacy, performance unpredictability, and if the ultimate return on investment makes cloud adoption a fit...

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Feb 23
Apple eyeing ways to make keyboards thinner

An Apple patent (number 20120043191) for a single support keyboard mechanism at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company is working on new, thinner keyboard for its portable Macs -- and perhaps desktop Macs, as well.

A keyboard mechanism for a low-travel keyboard and methods of fabrication are described. The low-travel keyboard is suitable for a thin-profile computing device, such as a laptop computer, netbook computer, desktop computer, etc. The keyboard includes a key cap that can be formed of a variety of materials in the form of a flat slab. The key cap is attached to one end of a support lever that supports it from underneath. In one embodiment, the support lever is formed of a rigid material and is pivotally coupled with a substrate on the other end.

In another embodiment, the support lever is formed of a flexible material and is fixedly attached to the substrate on the other end. The portion of the support lever that is attached to the...

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Feb 23
Apple working on ways to improve its microphones

According to patent number 20120046780, Apple is working on ways to improve the microphones in its various devices. The invention involves a composite microphone boot has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to consumer electronic devices and more particularly, methods and apparatus for providing microphone capabilities for consumer electronic devices.

A microphone assembly for an electronic device is described. The microphone assembly can include a microphone, a microphone boot and a printed circuit board. The microphone boot can be a composite microphone boot that is formed from multiple materials. A hardness of the each of the materials used in the microphone boot can be selected to improve sealing integrity and reduce shock transmission. In one embodiment, the composite microphone boot can be formed using a double-shot injection molding process. The inventors are Fletcher R. Rothkopf, Phillip M. Hobson, Adam Mittleman and Anna-Katrina Shedlesky...

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Feb 23
Apple patent is for a location-based profile on a...

An Apple patent (number 20120046040) for a location-based profile has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to location-based data processing on a mobile device.

Methods, program products, and systems implementing location-based profiles are disclosed. A location-determination subsystem can determine a location of a mobile device. A monitoring subsystem of the mobile device can be configured, using a profile (e.g., default configuration profile), to monitor states of a wireless connection between the mobile device and a communications network. When the monitoring subsystem detects an interruption of the wireless connection, a virtual geofence can be constructed around the location of the mobile device when the interruption occurred.

The geofence can indicate a boundary of an enclosed geographic area. The geofence can be associated with a diagnostics profile for controlling the collection of diagnostic data the mobile device. The...

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Feb 23
Apple to overhaul iTunes Store? What about iTunes...

"9to5Mac" (http://macte.ch/dXs6P) says Apple is preparing its first iTunes Store redesign in nearly three years. The new design will purportedly be simpler and more user-friendly than the current design.

Apple is working on ways to enhance the speed and efficiency of finding new content, such as songs, videos, and applications, according to "9to5Mac." iTunes itself could also use some overhauling. Perhaps Apple will offer a new version that reflects the OS X counterparts in iOS, which do make more sense.

Last year MobileTrax (http://www.mobiletrax.com) analyst Gerry Purdy wrote an open letter to new Apple CEO Tim Cook, recommending that Apple change the name of iTunes to iMedia since they sell TV shows, movies and more, not only music.

That makes sense. But I think an even better idea would be to break iTunes into...

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Feb 22
How about an Aereo chip in an iMac?

In my never-ending quest to come up with new features for the 27-inch iMac -- and you're welcome, Tim Cook -- which is one of my two favorite Macs, I had this thought: what about an Aereo chip in iMac?

According to "The New York Times" (http://macte.ch/UMOWa) an online television company called Aereo (https://aereo.com) has come up with a way to stream local television stations to paying subscribers on the Internet, "potentially forming a new cord-cutting threat for cable and satellite distributors." The company recently unveiled the service, and it will go live in New York City only (for now) in March for US$12 per month.

Aereo will stream all programming of the major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) and will include an Internet-powered digital video recorder. No cable or satellite channels are offered. However, the service will only work as long...

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Feb 21
Apple patents hint at touchscreen Macs

Two Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that hint that Apple is at least investigating touch screen Macs. For example, patent number 8118274 is a support mechanism for supporting an object on a surface is disclosed.

The support mechanism includes a joint connected to the object; and a stand connected to the joint. The joint may selectively rotate to allow the stand to support the object on the surface in: a first position comprising a landscape orientation at a first angle between the object and the surface, a second position comprising a landscape orientation at a second angle between the object and the surface, a third position comprising a portrait orientation at a third angle between the object and the surface, and a fourth position comprising a portrait orientation at a fourth angle between the object and the surface. The inventors are Stephen R. McClure and Joshua D. Banko.

Here's Apple's summary of the...

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Feb 21
Some preliminary thoughts on Mountain Lion

I've had a few days to cull through all the info on Mac OS X 10.8 ("Mountain Lion") and play around with the Messages beta. Here are some preliminary thoughts.

AirPlay Mirroring

One of the features of Mountain Lion I'm really looking forward to is AirPlay Mirroring, which lets you stream what’s on your Mac to your HDTV via an Apple TV.

Right now the only product I know of that can do this is the MacTivia (see our review at http://macte.ch/ksZpI). And as far as I know, this is the first time the concept of streaming computer content has been built right into an operating system.

Being able to view my Mac's content on my HDTV will be very convenient. Heck, I've ripped many of my DVDs to my Mac's hard drive. Now I can play them on my Mac and view them on my large screen TV.

AirPlay Mirroring on the Mac may be bad news for the makers of the MacTivia. However, it could...

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Feb 20
Surprise! Moms and dads use smartphones differently

Cozi (http://www.cozi.com/), an online and mobile family calendar and organizer, recently surveyed American families on smartphone usage and must-have apps. The entire family agrees on their most-loved smartphone apps: Facebook, Pandora and Angry Birds were in the top five for moms, dads and children alike.

That may be the one similarity they share, as they differ in many of the ways they use their phones. When it comes to choosing apps and smartphones, moms tend to be more social. Cozi’s survey of nearly 2,000 parents showed that moms are more likely than dads (65% vs. 58%) to get app information from their friends, and twice as likely as dads (10% vs. 5%) to say a friend’s recommendation was the most important factor in choosing a smartphone.

Moms were also more than twice as likely as dads (19% vs. 8%) to say Facebook was the activity they do most on their smartphones. This doesn’t mean dads aren’t...

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Feb 17
Changes are underway in the TV viewing world

More data suggests that this is the time for Apple to make a move into the television market (with the rumored "iTV"), as well as roll out the hoped-for iMac with TV functionality (see http://macte.ch/34WZQ).

Americans spend more than 33 hours per week watching video across various screens, according to the latest "Nielsen Cross-Platform Report" (http://www.nielsen.com). But how they’re consuming content -- traditional TV and otherwise -- is changing.

Demonstrating that consumers are increasingly making Internet connectivity a priority, 75.3% pay for broadband Internet (up from 70.9% last year); 90.4% pay for cable, telephone company-provided TV or satellite. Homes with both paid TV and broadband increased 5.5% since last year.

Changes are coming, however, as consumers seek out the entertainment option that makes the most sense...

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Feb 16
Apple wins patent for remote container

Apple has been granted a patent (number 20120042174) for a remote container. Apparently, it involves the company's iCloud service.

Methods, program products, and systems implementing remote container techniques are disclosed. A relational database can include a container data field, which can be a data field for storing multimedia data. In one aspect, when the multimedia data are inserted into the container field, the multimedia data can be stored in one or more remote database files. The remote database files can be located separately from other data of the relational database and remotely from a client computer accessing the relational database. Corresponding data structures, or remote containers, can be configured to store metadata of the database files.

References to the remote containers can be stored as values of the container data field. Using various encryption techniques, the remote database files can be given same access restrictions as access restrictions...

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Feb 16
Apple works on ways to manage to-do items, messages

An Apple patent (number 20120042028) for methods and systems for managing to-do items or notes and electronic messages has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Methods and systems for managing to-do items and/or notes and/or emails (or other electronic messages) are described. A record, such as a To do item, in a database maintained locally by the data processing system is encoded into metadata. The metadata is sent as a false email message by an email client application executing on the data processing system to a remote email message server.

An email client application executing on a remote processing system accesses the email message server and receives the false email message containing the metadata. The remote client application then either converts the metadata back into a database record editable at the remote processing system or presents a non-editable view of the database record, for example as an incoming email message. The inventors are...

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Feb 16
Apple patents involve population segmentation for...

A handful of Apple patents involving population segmentation have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. They relate to electronic content delivery and, more specifically, to intelligent targeting of invitational content to a user based on user characteristics.

Patent number 20120042253 involves population segmentation. Per the invention, segments used to select content to be targeted to a user are recursively refined based on continuously derived user characteristics. Based on information gathered from new requests for targeted content and/or user interaction with previously delivered content the user is assigned to one or additional candidate segments.

The candidate segments can be used to select content to be delivered to the user based on the user's assignment to the targeted segments. Accordingly, each user is grouped into one or more targeted segments and based on the user's inclusion in those segments, requests for targeted...

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Feb 16
iPad near top of small business wish lists

There seems to be no end to the sales potential of the iPad. A new customer survey conducted by B2B daily deals service RapidBuyr (http://www.RapidBuyr.com) has found that mobile technologies and travel deals top the list of purchases that small business owners plan to make in the coming year.

Not surprisingly, tablet computers, like the iPad, appear to be in high demand, with 49%t saying they intend to purchase one in the next six to 12 months. In addition, 44% plan to buy mobile phones, which can only be good news for the iPhone.

Perhaps related to the mobile demand, travel services also top the list of planned expenditures, with 62% of respondents planning air travel, while 55% will need hotel rooms. Restaurants and rental car services also show strong demand, at 38% and 34%, respectively.

"These results underscore just how important having access to the latest technology can be for...

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Feb 15
Retina display Macs coming soon?

John Gruber at "Daring Fireball" (http://www.daringfireball.net) points out that Safari’s "hovering-over-a-link pointing-finger" cursor looks a little different in Mac OS X 10.7.3 and could hint at "retina display" Macs in the near future. I'd love to see that happen, though I'm a bit dubious.

Noting that several icons and images have gotten the "high-DPI treatment in 10.7.3," Gruber says that "the simplest explanation is that Apple only just now got around to increasing the resolution of these elements for the benefit of users who use the cursor-zooming Universal Access feature."

True, but, as he notes, "combined with the fact that some people with Mac minis connected to TVs via HDMI are reporting that after upgrading to 10.7.3, their system rebooted in HiDPI mode, I can’t help but wonder whether we may be on the cusp of Apple releasing HiDPI Mac displays and/or HiDPI MacBooks. I.e.:...

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Feb 14
Apple patent is for online head-to-head comparisons

An Apple patent (number 8117228) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows how the company intends to offer head-to-head comparisons of products at its online stores.

The invention provides a comparison of a set of similar items includes: receiving from a first member of an online community a selection of a stored prior comparison created by another online community member of a set of similar items; providing to the first member a template for the comparison, the template being at least partially pre-populated using data from the stored prior comparison created by the other online community member; and receiving from the first member a submission of the comparison, wherein the comparison includes one or more modifications as made by the first member to the template. The inventors are Kenneth N. Chang, David A. Koski, Pedraum R. Pardehpoosh and Ralph E. Zuzula.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In the context of online stores, a user or potential...

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Feb 14
Apple works on universal container for audio data

A patent (number 8117038) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple continues to work on an universal container for audio data. It relates generally to digital audio and, more specifically, to a universal container for audio data.

Storing audio data encoded in any of a plurality of different audio encoding formats is enabled by parametrically defining the underlying format in which the audio data is encoded, in audio format and packet table chunks. A flag can be used to manage storage of the size of the audio data portion of the file, such that premature termination of an audio recording session does not result in an unreadable corrupted file.

This capability can be enabled by initially setting the flag to a value that does not correspond to a valid audio data size and that indicates that the last chunk in the file contains the audio data. State information for the audio data, to effectively denote a version of the file, and a dependency indicator...

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Feb 14
Apple patent involves fixing image distortion

As evidenced by a new patent (number 8116586) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, Apple is working on further ways to improve the camera abilities of various iOS devices.

The patent involves estimating and removing distortion from an image. Some embodiments provide a method of editing images with distortion caused by a camera lens. The method identifies a set of geometries on a set of images taken by the camera lens. The method finds transformations for applying on the set of identified geometries to remove distortion on the geometries.

The method applies the transformations to images taken by the camera lens to remove distortions. In some embodiments the identified geometries are curvilinear lines that correspond to straight lines in the scene being captured by the lens. Some embodiments provide a method of matching distortion for adding graphical objects to images. The method first removes the distortion on the images as described above. The method then adds...

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Feb 14
Are you having a love affair with your iPhone, iPad?

Note to guys: it's Valentine's Day. Don't forget your sweetie.

Note to assorted guys and gals: if your main squeeze is a piece of technology, please re-evaluate your life.

Apparently, some of us have waaaaaay too much affection for gadgets such as the iPhone and iPad. Asurion (http://www.asurion.com), which specializes in technology protection services, says its national survey results show that nearly 30% of survey participants believe their cell phone is more helpful to them than their significant other. 

Reasons frequently given by the 3,000 survey respondents include that the cell phone is more entertaining than their significant other, they appreciate that the cell phone has an off button and that the device never talks back.

"While the content of the communications might vary wildly among users, there's no doubt mobile devices are now the primary way people stay in touch with...

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Feb 14
Apple patents involve image sensors, impact protection...

Apple has been granted several patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Following are some of the highlights.

Patent number 8115825 is for an electronic device with two image sensors. The electronic device may include a black-and-white camera having a first sensor area configured to receive luma data pertaining to the object. The first sensor area may correspond to a first pixel array, the luma data associated with the first pixel array. The electronic device may also include a color camera having a second sensor area configured to receive chroma data pertaining to the object.

The second sensor area may correspond to a second pixel array. The chroma data may be associated with the second pixel array. The electronic device may also include first logic configured to correlate pixels in the first pixel array with locations on the second sensor area. The inventors are Michael F. Culbert and Chris Ligtenberg.

Patent number 8115773...

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Feb 13
Technisource survey: IT worker confidence returns

The IT Employee Confidence Index, a measure of overall confidence among U.S. technology workers, showed a positive uptick in confidence from 47.3 to 52.0 in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a recent online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Technisource. 

Showing some much needed signs of recovery, the survey of 3,721 U.S. adults, among which 246 are employed in information technology, denotes the return of positive confidence levels (above 50) amongst IT professionals. The increase in IT professionals' confidence in the economy was largely led by a perception of more jobs being available and an increased ability to get those new jobs. 

Mirroring this increase in confidence is a decreased belief that IT pros will lose their jobs within the next 12 months. Results from the Q4 IT Employment Report include:

° In this survey, IT professionals demonstrated a spike in confidence in the overall economy, with 22% now believing the economy is...

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Feb 10
Ways an 'iTV' could stand out from the...

In a note to clients -- as reported by Bloomberg (http://macte.ch/bJWYW) -- Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek underscores his belief in an upcoming Apple HDTV (the "iTV") and thinks user generated video from customers who use iPads and iPhones as video recorders may play a role, giving Apple "the ability to leverage content into a YouTube-like model."

That's hardly the a la carte offering of channels/programs I'm hoping for, but at least it's SOMETHING that would differentiate an iTV (and, I suspect, a new Apple TV for those who won't spring for a pricey, Apple-branded television set) from competitors. In the highly competitive world of TV set sales, Apple will need all the differentiation it can get to succeed.

Misek thinks that by partnering with carriers and cable operators, Apple could enter the market on a level playing field with everyone else for content. Apple could then package everything...

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Feb 09
Apple patent reflects work on 3D interface

A patent (number 20120036433) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is looking into three-dimensional interfaces for at least some of its products. The patent is for 3D user interface effects on a display by using properties of motion.

The techniques disclosed use a compass, MEMS accelerometer, GPS module, and MEMS gyrometer to infer a frame of reference for a hand-held device. This can provide a true Frenet frame, i.e., X- and Y-vectors for the display, and also a Z-vector that points perpendicularly to the display. In fact, with various inertial clues from accelerometer, gyrometer, and other instruments that report their states in real time, it is possible to track the Frenet frame of the device in real time to provide a continuous 3D frame-of-reference.

Once this continuous frame of reference is known, the position of a user's eyes may either be inferred or calculated directly by using a device's front-facing camera. With the position of the...

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Feb 09
Apple patent is for magnetic fasteners

An Apple patent (20120032765) for magnetic fasteners has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The various embodiments described in the patent generally relate to magnetic fasteners.

More particularly, the various embodiments described relate to apparatus, methods and systems for utilizing programmable magnetic devices to fasten, or unfasten, two or more components or devices. The inventors are Brett Bilbrey, Aleskandar Pance, Peter Arnold, David L. Simon, Jean lee, Michael D. Hillman, Gregory L. Tice, Vijay Iyver and Bradley Spare.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Traditionally, various mechanical types of fasteners have been utilized to facilitate a permanent, semi-permanent or temporary coupling of the two or more devices. Examples of devices utilized to accomplish such coupling include screws, rivets, nails, bolts and nuts, non-programmable magnets, tape, wire binding, soldering, and other fastening devices and techniques...

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Feb 09
OS X, iOS -- and 'synergy' between the two

"AppAdvice" (http://macte.ch/0ghLi) and various other sites have reported that, back in 2010, Tristan Schaap -- a student who had spent a 12 week internship with Apple -- wrote a thesis that detailed his time spent with Apple’s Platform Technologies Group. They conducted experiments regarding Mac OS X and ARM processors. Could this mean an iPad running Mac OS X? I doubt it.

"The project was only made public several months ago. While iOS also uses the Darwin kernel, this project involved Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and was left for the CoreOS teams to continue," says "AppAdvice." "Since Mac OX X 10.7 Lion has since shipped, as have newer generations of iPad and MacBook Air, without any sign of Mac OS X on ARM, it’s unknown if this project is still ongoing or has since been put on the shelf. However, the author of the paper is now a full-time employee at Apple, working as a CoreOS Engineer."

Apple may have...

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Feb 09
Apple patents involve media conferencing, RAW images,...

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

Patent number 20120036192 and number 20120036193 are for NAT traversal for media conferencing. Methods for establishing a direct peer-to-peer ("P2P") connection between two computers are disclosed. In particular, the methods are designed to work in cases where one or both of the computers are connected to a private network, such private networks being interconnected via a public network, such as the Internet. The connections between the private network and the public network are facilitated by network address translation ("NAT"). The inventors are Joe Abuan, Joshua Graessley, Hyeonkuk Jeony and Berkat Tung.

Patent number 20120033103 involves RAW-split mode image capture and involves the camera on the iPhone 4S. Systems, methods and a computer readable mediums for reducing run-time bandwidth requirements within digital...

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Feb 08
No keyboard-equipped iPad coming; a MacPad, perhaps?

After meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook, Citigroup analyst Richard Gardner told clients in a note -- as reported by "V3" (http://macte.ch/zf70V) -- that Apple may be redesigning the iPad. I beg to differ. It won't happen -- at least in the way Gardner hints.

The analyst thinks Apple may redesign its tablet to meet the needs of those wanting an ARM-based hybrid device with, say, a keyboard. "We have wondered whether Apple might offer an ARM-based version of the MacBook Air at some point; we walked away from this meeting with the impression that Apple feels the iPad satisfies -- or will soon satisfy -- the needs of those who might have been interested in such a product."

There's no way Apple will introduce an iPad with a keyboard other than a virtual one. It goes against the entire "post-PC' aesthetic of the tablet. Want to use a physical keyboard with your iPad? Apple expects you to spring for one of the...

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Feb 07
Apple patent is for using portable media player as a...

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8112032) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for using a portable media player as a remote control. Could this be a hint of the rumored Apple HDTV (the "iTV") or merely affirmation of ways Apple has provided for using current iOS devices, such as with a Mac?

Per the patent, a portable multimedia player is used to wirelessly access and control a media server that is streaming digital media by way of a wireless interface to a media unit such as a stereo/speakers in the case of streaming digital audio. In one embodiment, the portable multimedia player is wirelessly synchronized to a selected one(s) of a number of digital media files stored on the media server in such a way that digital media file metadata (song title, author, etc.) associated with the selected digital media file(s) only is transferred from the media server to be stored in the portable media player. Steve Ko and Stephen O. Lemay are the inventors.

Here's...

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Feb 07
Apple eyeing ways to control power provided to an...

Apple is working on ways to control power provided to an accessory, per a patent (number 8112567) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. A method for a portable media player to control power provided an accessory is disclosed.

The method includes requesting information about the power capabilities of the accessory by the portable media player. The method further includes providing information about the power capabilities of the accessory by the accessory to the portable media player, and utilizing the information to set the power of the accessory.

A method and system in accordance with the present invention provides a system that allows a portable media player to obtain information from an accessory concerning its power requirements. A portable media player can then utilize the power requirements information to allow for the powering of the accessory when connected to the portable media player. The inventors are Gregory T. Lydon, Scott Kureger, Donald J....

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Feb 07
Gamers not that keen on 3D consoles

So far 3D game consoles don't seem to be faring much better than 3D TVs in the U.S..

Nintendo posted an US$626 million loss for the first nine months of the fiscal year that ended March 2012, a complete reversal of its fortunes compared to the same time last year, where the console manufacturer netted $637 million in profit. An independent survey shows that gamers are against 3D gaming, perhaps providing an explanation for Nintendo’s about-turn.
 
3D-enabled consoles haven't been a hit with gaming fans, according to the results of a new study which has revealed that almost three quarters of gamers are opposed to future generation consoles having 3D capability. The independent survey by coupon website http://www.CouponCodes4U.com polled 2,291 gamers and was conducted following Nintendo’s recently announced financial losses, to delve into whether or not consumers were against 3D gaming...

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Feb 07
Patent patents involve encoding video, mode pruning,...

Apple has won several patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 8111751 is for encoding video. Some embodiments of the invention provide a method for encoding a video signal that is formed by a series of successive images. Each image includes several sections, and each section has a set of image values. To encode a particular section of a particular image, the method initially partitions the particular section into several sub-sections. For each of at least two particular sub-sections, the method then computes a statistical parameter regarding the image values of the particular sub-section.

The method compares the computed statistical parameters, and based on the comparison, selects an encoding technique from a set of encoding techniques to encode the particular section. In some embodiments, the set of encoding schemes includes a first scheme that encodes the selected section without reference to...

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Feb 06
LCD TV area demand to reach 116 million square meters...

If Apple is indeed planning its own branded HDTV (the rumored "iTV") it needs to think big. The LCD TV market saw a rapid shift toward sizes larger than 40 inches at the end of 2011, as consumers, particularly in North America and China, took advantage of new sizes and more affordable prices.

As larger sizes such as 46 inches, 47 inches 55 inches, 60 inches and 65 inches are being adopted by consumers, panel makers are also developing other new large size TV panels, including 43 inches, 48 inches, 50 inches, 70 inches, and even 75 inches, 80 inches and larger.

In response to the strong end-market adoption, NPD DisplaySearch (http://www.displaysearch.com) has increased its forecast for LCD TV area demand. According to the "NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Worldwide FPD Shipment and Forecast Report," LCD TV panel demand will reach 85 million square meters in 2012, nearly 2% higher than the...

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Feb 03
IWant an iDesk

I always enjoy the annual article "Mac/Life" on products Apple should/could develop. In their latest feature, I was particularly intrigued by the iDesk.

The iDesk is a conceptual re-imagining of the desk. Not the Mac OS X Desktop, but an actual, physical desktop.

Here's how "Mac/Life" describes it: "Imagine an entirely adaptable workspace that doesn’t just hold your equipment, but enhances and interacts with it. As with Microsoft’s Surface technology, the entire desk would be a touch-sensitive display capable of running several simultaneous apps, some of which--such as a calendar, phone, and digital Post-It notes—would replace their physical counterparts entirely. Notifications, to-do lists, video conferencing, Adobe tool palettes, and countless widgets such as calculators and weather reports would all appear right on the surface of your desk, literally putting your entire working world at your fingertips."

The article says that the iDesk would sync with your...

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Feb 02
Apple patent hints at touchscreen Mac

Although the late Steve Jobs dismissed talk of a Mac with a touchscreen display, an Apple patent (number 20120030626) at the U..S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company has considered/is considering the idea. The patent is for a computer with a touchscreen.

Per the patent, a control object including a knob element is displayed in a GUI [graphical user interface]. A first user input can be detected that indicates selection of the knob element. In response to the first user input, the knob element can be visually augmented. The visual augmentation can include displaying text labels of range limit values and a slider element with the knob element.

The slider element can include a fill bar to indicate the current value of the knob element. A second input can be a linear motion on or near the slider control. In response to the second user input, both the fill bar of the slider element and a fill portion of the knob element can be visually augmented to...

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Feb 02
Apple patent involves programmable magnets and...

A new Apple patent (number 20120028480) has appeared at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Among other things it would facilitate the assembly of Apple devices via programmable magnetic devices.

The patent involves alignment and connection for devices. relate generally to programmable magnetic devices, and more particularly to multi-part devices that may be joined or separated through programmable magnets. A plug or connector including a coded magnet and an electrical contact is disclosed.

As the plug approaches a corresponding port, the coded magnet interacts with a magnet within the port. The interaction between the plug coded magnet and the port coded magnet provides a force to connect and/or align the plug with the port. Once the plug is received within the port, if a process is completed, the coded magnets polarities are altered to eject the plug from the port.

“Correlated magnets” or “coded magnets” are magnetic structures formed of multiple...

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Feb 02
THIS is why I'd love to ditch satellite/cable TV

Here's one of the reasons why so many people want Apple (or Netflix or someone) to break the stranglehold the cable and satellite companies have on us:

My DishTV account jumped US$20 in one month. I didn't order any extra channels, but evidently some appeared anyway -- and we were billed. It seems to be part of what I consider a scam. For a short period, you're have access to some channels beyond the basic package (such as HBO and Showtime) for free. But if you don't specifically tell Dish TV that you don't want them, the channels continue past the free period, and you're billed. 

I did battle with Dish TV over this, something I hoped wouldn't occur. I switched to Dish after Comcast raised my cable TV bill about 150% in 24 months.

Currently, I subscribe to Dish TV's "America's Top 120" package. Of those 120 channels, there's maybe 20 that my family watches. I'd love to be able to pay only for those channels, not the other 100 we never tune into.

There are...

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Feb 02
Apple patents involve audio playback, notifications,...

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

Patent number 20120026403 is for facilitating audio playback during display sleep mode. The disclosed embodiments relate to a system for managing power for a display. During operation, the system receives a video-blank command, which specifies that the display is to enter a video-blank mode wherein the display outputs a blank screen. In response to the video-blank command, the system causes the display to output a blank screen, and powers down display components associated with outputting a display signal to the display.

In some embodiments, the display additionally comprises audio components including an audio-output device, and powering down the display components involves maintaining an existing power state for the audio components, so that the audio components can continue to output an audio signal while the display components are...

| Read more »
Feb 01
The Northern Spy: Tempus Fugit

By Rick Sutcliffe

Or "Time flies like an arrow" ...

If we would marry Virgil's observations on its irretrievability to the unidirectional dictum of modern physics. "Time's a wasting," is an apt observation in any day and age, and for all that a week now seems a relative eternity in Internet time, we assume that the flight of time still takes place at the same speed in some external time-inertial frame of reference, call it eternity or what you will.

Certainly investors seem to have concluded that time has already flown for RIM, which benighted company resolved to solve its market share problems by appointing a company insider to be its great helmsman, only to see its shares plummet. Excuse us, but the Spy fails to see how someone who's been part of the problem these last several years can suddenly morph into the solution. It is for situations like this that the expression "changing deck chairs on the Titanic" was coined.

... | Read more »
Feb 01
2012 looks to be a great year for Apple in the...

If you think Apple had a great year in 2011, you ain't see nothing yet. While still firing on all cylinders in the consumer market, the company is also making great gains in the enterprise arena.

Forrester Research's (http://www.forrester.com) latest "Global Tech Market Outlook" states that enterprises will spend US$19 billion on Apple hardware in 2012 -- which is 68% more iPads and 45% more Macs than purchased in 2011.

"Apple's products are much more visible in business environments than they used to be," writes analyst Frank E. Gillet. "To quantify Apple's business presence, Forrester surveyed almost 10,000 information workers -- workers that use a computer for work an hour or more per day -- across 17 countries globally and more than 3,350 IT hardware decision-makers in North America and Western Europe. We analyzed the data to profile how information workers use Apple products for work, how...

| Read more »
Jan 31
Apple patents involve iOS, Macs, retail stores, more

Apple has been granted several patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. They involve everything from iOS devices to Macs to Apple retail stores. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 8104911 is for a display system with a distributed LED backlight. Per the patent, each tile LED light source has a tile and a plurality of similar LED light sources on each tile connected for emitting light therefrom. The inventors are Michael D. Hillman, Gregory L. Tice, William Sauway, Sean Bailey, Ann Torres, Efrain Alcorta and Perry Anderson.

Patent number 8106630 involves a method and system for operating a portable device in a power-limited manner. Per the patent, improved techniques to manage operation of a portable electronic device having a substantially depleted battery when power is available from an external, power-limited source are disclosed. In one embodiment of the invention, the substantially depleted battery can be...

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Jan 31
Should the government help Apple move jobs back to the...

Last week I asked (http://macte.ch/rxr8P) if Apple should be doing more to help the U.S. economy. Some readers, including my long-time friend, J. Scott Anderson, asked the flip side of the question: should the U.S. government be doing more to help companies like Apple move jobs back to this country.

"I think it is the other way around," says Scott. "The US should do more that would attract companies to bring more manufacturing and other business functions back to the US. This is a complicated issue that has a lot of components. However, the bottom line is that Apple should do what is best for them and their customers."

President Obama touched on this subject last week in his State of the Union address. he recommended proposals for tax breaks benefiting companies that keep jobs in the United States, and eliminating tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

-- Dennis Sellers

| Read more »
Jan 30
More and more folks watching video online

Here's another good reason to think that Apple may be planning an Apple HDTV: more and more people are watching video online.

Online video continues to increase in popularity, with 143 million Americans watching content online in 2011 according to the latest report from media analysts Nielsen (http://www.nielsen.com). The "2011 State of the Media Report" looked at how consumers in the USA watched video and found that although viewing content on a traditional TV is still the most popular method of watching programs, online video is reaching millions of consumers. An "iTV" could serve the best of both worlds.

The most popular video website is YouTube, which received 126.5 million unique visitors in 2011 but in terms of the time spend on the website the Google owned site comes second after Netflix. YouTube viewers spend an average of 2 hours and 52 minutes watching content on the site, compared to...

| Read more »
Jan 27
Online movie purchases in 2011 accounted for only 1%...

Apple will almost certainly never support Blu-ray on the Mac -- though I'd love to be surprised with, say, a "Super" SuperDrive with an accompanying Mac OS X update that supports playback of Blu-ray movies.

I won't be at all surprised if the next iMac and MacBook Pro upgrades lack an optical drive entirely a la the MacBook Air and Mac mini. After all, Apple is determined to encourage (force?) you into using iTunes to rent/buy movies as well as purchase music.

That's a mistake. The day may come when buying films online is feasible, but, with bandwidth considerations, that day hasn't come.

Compare the online market for music purchases with that of movie purchases. Digital sales accounted for 32%of global music revenues in 2011, compared with just 1% for films (and, just so you'll know, 5% for newspapers and 4% for books).

Clearly, there's great growth potential for movies on iTunes, books at the iBookstore and newspapers at Newsstand (the latter two...

| Read more »
Jan 26
Apple considering an universal remote control

A new patent (number 20120019371) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on a apparatus and method to facilitate an universal remote control. Could this hint at the much-rumored Apple HDTV (the "iTV")?

One embodiment of the present invention provides a universal remote control, which includes a display screen and a user input mechanism. The universal remote control also includes a processing unit that is configured to display information on the display screen and to accept selection data from the user input mechanism. The universal remote control additionally includes a wireless communication mechanism that is configured to provide communications between the processing unit and an appliance or computer program running on a computer system.

The appliance provides information to be displayed on the display screen, and information entered through the user input mechanism is communicated to the appliance. Since the appliance provides the...

| Read more »
Jan 26
Apple eyeing location-based media presentation

How would you like access to certain media based on your current location? According to a new patent (number 20120021773) at the U.S. Patent & Trade Association, Apple is working on such technology.

Per the patent, media can be presented based on location associated with presentation of media (e.g., physical location of a device that is to present media). Presentation of media can be effectively controlled in order to automatically present a first media content (e.g., a list of songs, an album) in accordance with a first set of media presentation attributes or parameters (e.g., volume associated with presentation of audible media) at a first location, while a second media content is automatically presented in accordance with a second set of media presentation attributes or parameters when the current location is changed to a second location. Michael M. Lee is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Traditional electronic devices (e...

| Read more »
Jan 26
Apple working on programmable, magnetic connectors

A patent (number 20121619) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on programmable, magnetic connectors for its iOS devices -- and perhaps OS X systems.

Connectors and methods of coupling electronic devices and cables are provided in the patent. In one embodiment, a connector has a first coded magnet on a first surface of a first device. The first coded magnet has at least two different polarity regions on the first surface. A second coded magnet on a second surface of a second device is also provided.

The second coded magnet is configured to provide identifying information regarding the device on which it is located. The inventors are Brett Bilbrey, Aleskander Pance, Peter Arnold, David I. Simon, Jean lee, Michael D. Hillman, Gregory L. Tice, Vijay Iyer and Bradley Spare.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Electronic devices are common in both home and work environments. Indeed, it is common for multiple...

| Read more »
Jan 26
Apple patent involves playing data from an optical...

A new patent (number 20120020644) from Apple at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for playing data from an optical media drive.

The patent relates generally to optical media drives and to systems using such optical media drives; as well as to improved methods of operating such optical media drives. It's a bit surprising to see this patent, as most evidence indicates that Apple will phase out built-in optical drives on most Macs. But perhaps this involves a revamped, external SuperDrive.

In an example embodiment, the disclosure relates to playing data from an optical media drive. Example embodiments provide various techniques for playing data from an optical media drive. The optical media drive may detect certain media access information for use in accessing optical media. This media access information is stored a non-volatile memory.

The optical media drive then retrieves the media access information from the non-volatile memory once the optical media...

| Read more »
Jan 26
Steve Jobs' name appears on interface-related...

The late Steve Jobs' name is listed as an inventor on a new patent at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Patent number 20120023434 regards an user interface for providing consolidation and access.

Methods and systems for providing graphical user interfaces are described. To provide greater access and consolidation to frequently used items in the graphical user interface, a user bar is established which includes a plurality of item representations.

To permit a greater number of items to reside in the user bar, a magnification function can be provided which magnifies items within the user bar when they are proximate the cursor associated with the graphical user interface. The inventors are Bas Ording, Steven P. Jobs and Donald J. Lindsay.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "According to exemplary embodiments of the present invention, these and other drawbacks and difficulties of conventional GUIs are overcome by providing a simple, consolidated and...

| Read more »
Jan 26
Apple patent is for magnetically implemented security...

A new Apple patent (number 20120023597) for magnetically implemented security devices has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to programmable magnetic devices, and more particularly to security for computing devices and peripherals that may be provided by programmable magnets.

Security devices and methods of securely coupling electronic devices and peripherals are provided. In one embodiment, a peripheral has a first coded magnet on a first surface of a first device. The first coded magnet has at least two different polarity regions on the first surface. A second coded magnet on a second surface of a second device is also provided.

The first coded magnet is configured to securely provide data to a device associated with the second coded magnet, if the first and second coded magnets' patterns are keyed to one another. The inventors are Brett Bilbrey, Aleskandar Pance, Peter Arnold, David I. Simon, Jean Lee, Michael D. Hillman,...

| Read more »
Jan 26
Apple eyeing SDK for iAP accessories

A new patent (number 20120023199) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is considering a software development kit (SDK) for iAP [in-application programming] accessories. It relates generally to communication between an accessory and a mobile computing device and in particular to using accessory and/or application specific protocols for such communications.

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...

| Read more »
 
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