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Aug 16
Apple wants more sticky functionality in Mac OS X

An Apple patent (number20120210264) for sticky functionality has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to graphical user interfaces for computer systems, and more particularly to a user interface which allows easier manipulation of elements of the user interface via a cursor control device such as a mouse.

Per the patent manipulation of elements in a graphical user interface is aided by allowing the graphical user interface to treat certain mouse button actuation and releases as holding the mouse button in an actuated state. When predetermined conditions are satisfied, the graphical user interface will treat a mouse button actuation and release as if the mouse button were held in an actuated state.

A user can then manipulate elements in the graphical user interface as if the user held the mouse button in an actuated state. The types of manipulation can include the moving of a window, the resizing of a window, moving an icon, and the...

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Aug 16
Apple patent is for transport control of a media...

An Apple patent (number 20120207444) for transport control of a media device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It involves manipulating a media processing device to control the presentation of content.

The patent is for a method of scanning content comprises receiving an input signal indicating that content being displayed is to be scanned, sensing a duration of the received input signal, and scanning the content at a rate based at least in part on the sensed duration of the received input.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Media processing devices embedded with media applications capable of playing audio and visual content enhance user experience. The content can include music, video, photographs, and the like. Such media processing devices can be configured to play either a single type of content. For example, certain DVD players can play back only video content stored on a DVD. Other devices can be configured to play a...

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Aug 16
Would you buy an Apple Watch?

Kate MacKenzie of "PixoBebo" (http://macte.ch/PMQYf) thinks Apple's "next insanely great thing" will be a watch.

Wait, you say: Apple already makes a semi-watch in the iPad nano. There are lots of third party "watch bands" that allow you to wear it on your wrist. And the iPad nano comes with digital clock faces range from classic analog looks to your favorite Disney characters including Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

My problem with using the nano as an iWatch is that the screen frequently goes dark to save battery power. So you have to “wake up” the nano to see what time it is. I prefer a wristwatch I can simply glance at to check the time. So perhaps there's an opportunity for an Apple watch.

MacKenzie envisions the Apple watch "as not much more than a dumb screen on your wrist that receives signals via Bluetooth from your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or even your Mac." This would allow phone...

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Aug 16
Apple eyeing illuminated touchpads

Apple has given us illuminated keyboards, so why not illuminated touchpads? An Apple patent (number 20120206392) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company may be working on just that.

The invention pertains to improved feedback mechanisms for touch pads. One aspect relates to devices capable of illuminating the touch sensitive surface of the touch pad. Another aspect relates to methods for providing visual feedback at the touch pad.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The invention relates, in one embodiment, to an illuminated input device. The illuminated input device includes an object sensing mechanism capable of sensing a user input over an input surface. The illuminated input device also includes a visual feedback system configured to illuminate the input surface in association with a user input.

"The invention relates, in another embodiment, to a method of operating an input device. The method includes sensing an object over...

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Aug 16
Is Apple working on a Photoshop competitor?

An Apple patent (number 20120206471) for systems, methods and computer-readable media for managing layers of graphical object data has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It hints that Apple may be working on a Photoshop competitor.

Systems, methods, and computer-readable media for managing layers of graphical object data are provided. For example, a graphical display system may be configured to implicitly manage various graphical object layers. In some embodiments, any new graphical object of a first type of graphical object may be generated in a current top layer of a stack when the current top layer is associated with the first type of graphical object. However, when the current top layer of the stack is not associated with the first type of graphical object, any new graphical object of the first type of graphical object may be generated in a new top layer of the stack. Moreover, any new graphical object of a second type of graphical object may similarly...

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Aug 15
Do we still need Office apps on our Macs?


In a recent Tech Night Owl (http://macte.ch/FbSAz) Gene Steinberg questioned whether we still need Office for Mac software.

Some folks, especially in the business world do, but for most end users, Office is no longer a necessity. Many, like me, prefer the simplicity of Pages, Numbers and Keynote to their Office alternatives. Plus, at US$20 a pop, the Apple iWork apps are a lot cheaper than Microsoft's offerings.

"Certainly, Microsoft appears to be running out of ways to make Office more compelling," Steinberg writes. "The most notable change in Office 2013 for Windows is half-hearted support for touch. But it appears to be limited to expanding the ribbons to improve your aim if you choose to activate those functions with your fingers. What a waste!"

However, he points out the fact that "if you work at a company that requires Office, there's no real choice" and, per Pages, "fidelity with Word...

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Aug 14
Apple working on ways to for multi-touch input...

An Apple patent (number 8243041) for multi-touch input discrimination has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to data input methods and devices for electronic equipment and, more particularly, to methods and devices for discriminating between various inputs to a multi-touch touch-surface input device.

Techniques for identifying and discriminating between different types of contacts to a multi-touch touch-screen device are described. Illustrative contact types include fingertips, thumbs, palms and cheeks. By way of example, thumb contacts may be distinguished from fingertip contacts using a patch eccentricity parameter. In addition, by non-linearly deemphasizing pixels in a touch-surface image, a reliable means of distinguishing between large objects (e.g., palms) from smaller objects (e.g., fingertips, thumbs and a stylus) is described.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "There currently exist many types of...

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Aug 14
Apple patent involves reordering user interface

An Apple patent (number 8245147) for a system and method for reordering an user interface has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to dynamic user interfaces and more specifically to reordering groups of user interface elements accessing a highly structured document.

The patent involves systems, computer-implemented methods, and tangible computer-readable storage media for customizing a user interface. The method displays an interface to a user. In the interface, a slice has interface elements, a stack has a group of slices, a window has a group of stacks, and each interface element is associated with a segment of a highly structured document.

The interface includes a panel having one or more containers, each container representing one stack, and one or more tokens, each token representing one slice. The method relocates at least one token to a different location in the container based on user input, displays in the panel a preview based on...

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Aug 14
Could an 'iTV' replace the desktop computer?

In a recent note to clients, Barclay analyst Ben Reitzes says the market for consumer desktops could see pressure in the wake of an Apple-branded HDTV (the rumored "iTV") in "much the same way that the overall notebook market's growth slowed after the introduction of the iPad." I beg to differ.

"The reason is that an Apple TV would represent an easy way to check email and the web as well as share photos (and even edit them in the same way as an iPhone/iPad can),"Reitzes.

However, I've continually argued that the iPad and laptop (as well as a desktop) aren't competitors but complementary products. The iPad is great for content consumption, but less capable for content creation than a full-fledged computer.

If you only use your desktop to surf the web, watch videos, check your email, get on Facebook, etc., perhaps you'd be happy with an iTV and no desktop. But for most of us, the iTV would be another Apple device in our home (or office), not a replacement....

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Aug 14
Apple patent is for multi-participant conference set-...

An Apple patent (number 8243905) for a multi-participant conference set-up has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The architecture has one participant's computer in the conference act as a central content distributor for the conference.

The central distributor receives data (e.g., video and/or audio streams) from the computer of each other participant, and distributes the received data to the computers of all participants. In some embodiments, the central distributor receives A/V data from the computers of the other participants. From such received data, the central distributor of some embodiments generates composite data (e.g., composite image data and/or composite audio data) that the central distributor distributes back to the participants.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "In recent years, users of local and wide area networks (e.g., the Internet) have upgraded to increasingly higher bandwidth connections. The common user...

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Aug 14
Apple patent hints at future Apple TV, iTV features

An Apple patent (number 8243017) for a menu overlay including a context dependent menu icon has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It shows that Apple is investigating cable and satellite connectivity for its Apple TV set-top box and may hint at features of the rumored Apple-branded HDTV (the "iTV").

Per the patent, a video device displays video in one of a plurality of contexts in an onscreen display area. In response to the menu command, the video device generates a menu overlay within the onscreen display area while maintaining the video within the menu overlay, and generates within the menu overlay a context icon based on the selected context.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Media devices, such as digital video receivers and recorders, can include multiple functions and capabilities, such as recording and replaying stored content, and the like. Often content, browsing and selecting from recorded content and broadcast...

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Aug 14
Apple wins patent for touch screen liquid crystal...

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8243027) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a touch screen liquid crystal display. Further refinements of the technology are certain to make its way into upcoming iOS devices.

The patent is for liquid-crystal display (LCD) touch screens that integrate the touch sensing elements with the display circuitry. The integration may take a variety of forms. Touch sensing elements can be completely implemented within the LCD stackup but outside the not between the color filter plate and the array plate.

Alternatively, some touch sensing elements can be between the color filter and array plates with other touch sensing elements not between the plates. In another alternative, all touch sensing elements can be between the color filter and array plates. The latter alternative can include both conventional and in-plane-switching (IPS) LCDs.

In some forms, one or more display structures can also have a touch sensing...

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Aug 13
Tablet installed base to continue to grow and grow and...

There's no end in sight to the iPad's dominance, it seems. The tablet market will not plateau any time soon, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics (http://www.strategyanalytics.com). The installed base of tablet computers will continue to grow at a strong pace for the coming years, surpassing 780 million in 2016, predicts the research group.

"Since the introduction of the iPad, the tablet market has shown hyperbolic growth rate," says Matthew McKee, analyst at Strategy Analytics. "Yet, many households remain tablet-less. Price erosion in the premium and high tier segments, as well as the availability of a number of smaller, lower cost tablets, like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, will drive further sales."

Peter King, director of Tablets & Touchscreen Strategies (TTS) at Strategy Analytics, adds: "By the end of 2016, the Asia Pacific region will represent one-...

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Aug 10
Will Apple adopt Touché technology?

Disney's Apple and Disney are good buddies, so it will interesting to see if the former adopts, helps with or has any interaction with Disney's new Touché technology.

According to Disney, Touché is a new sensing technology that proposes a novel Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing technique that can not only detect a touch event, but simultaneously recognize complex configurations of the human hands and body during touch interaction. This enhances touch interaction in a broad range of applications, from enhancing conventional touchscreens to designing interaction scenarios for unique use contexts and materials.

For example, in Disney's explorations, the company says it added complex touch and gesture sensitivity not only to computing devices and everyday objects, but also to the human body and liquids. The company says instrumenting objects and material with touch sensitivity is easy and straightforward. Purportedly, a single wire is sufficient to make objects and...

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Aug 09
Apple working on motion tracking user interface

An Apple patent (number 20120200498) for a motion tracking user interface shows that the company is at least considering such technology for Macs and perhaps the rumored "iTV."

The patent involves a method to transition focus of a display corresponding to an object's motion tracked by a video camera or like device is disclosed. In one implementation, the display shows one or more windows or user interfaces on the display. The object's motion can be used to select one of the windows or user interfaces on the display and manipulate content presented in the window or user interface.

In another implementations, the object's motion can manipulate a three-dimensional graphical icon in a three-dimensional display environment, for example, by rotating it. In another implementation, the method further tracks motion of a second object and shifts focus of the display corresponding to the motion of the second object. In another implementation, a second display may be added to...

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Aug 09
Apple eyes backlit keyboard for controlled brightness

An Apple patent (number 20120199455) for a keyboard design has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It's for a backlit keyboard with controlled halo brightness and contrast.

Per the patent, a keycap assembly is mounted into a case web having intersecting ribs. A flange, which can be angled, is on the bottom perimeter of the keycap and a correspondingly shaped flange is on each rib of the case web. An overlap of the keycap flange and the case web flanges prevents direct sighting of the backlight light source and also provides a more evenly distributed halo around the keycap, thereby improving both aesthetics and functionality by providing better light control and contrast.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "In one embodiment, a backlit keyboard assembly includes a keycap assembly mounted in a case web at an aperture formed by intersecting ribs of the case web. The keycap assembly has a flange around a perimeter of the bottom of the keycap and an...

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Aug 09
Apple patents protect against attacks, reverse...

An Apple patent (number 20120201374) for systems and methods for implementing block cipher algorithms on attacker-controlled systems has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. In other words, Apple is working to it harder to hack or attack its various devices -- or reverse engineer them.

The patent is for systems and methods for an implementation of block cipher algorithms (e.g., AES) to use lookup tables to obscure key information, increasing difficulty of reverse engineering efforts. The inventors are Mathieu Ciet, Augustin J. Farrugia and Filip Toma Paun.

Also appearing today at the U.S Patent & Trademark Office are:

° Patent number 20120204039 for a method and apparatus for obfuscating computer software code, to protect against reverse-engineering of the code. Farrugia,, Ciet and Pierre Betouin are the inventors.

° Patent number 20120204038 for performing Boolean logic operations using arithmetic...

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Aug 09
Apple, holograms and 3D tech: what the future could...

Ben Kunz writing for "Bloomberg Businessweek" (http://macte.ch/rLG6B) thinks that Apple devices will soon project holograms "like you’ve never seen." Sounds a bit out-there, right? But Kunz may be onto something.

Kunz notes that in November 2010, Apple patented a three-dimensional display system that would “mimic a hologram” without requiring special glasses. The patent notes that one current market gap in screen technology is the ability of a device to project stereoscopic 3D images to multiple viewers at the same time.

Patent number 20118118 is for a 3D display system that would provide a projection screen having a predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function. Three-dimensional images are respectively modulated in coordination with the predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function to define a programmable mirror with a programmable deflection angle.

Apple's 3D...

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Aug 08
Reasons Mac market share will continue to beat the...

Asymco (http://macte.ch/g6hKp) notes that the Mac grew at the extremely low rate of 1.8% over last year’s second quarter and ponders whether Apple's computer growth rate will level off to that of the overall personal computer market -- which is stagnant. I don't think it will.

But first a bit of background. Apple sold four million Macs in its most recent fiscal quarter that ended in June. That's "only" an increase of 2% over the year-ago quarter compared to overall industry contraction of 1% (per the IDC research group). In fact, the June quarter saw Macs beat the overall industry growth rate for the 25th straight quarter.

And let's keep that "only 2% growth rate" in perspective. Not only was it the most Macs ever sold in the June quarter, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer says the Mac had its best ever educational quarter.

The current fiscal quarter should be even better. Last...

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Aug 07
Apple patent involves syncing multiple media streams

An Apple patent (number 8239748) for a synchronization manager synchronizes multiple media streams. has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to synchronization of media streams, and more specifically to utilizing clocks on multiple media devices and on a single host to synchronize multiple media streams.

The synchronization manager queries a media stream output device associated with each media stream to synchronize, and in response receives the current device clock time of each device, each device's next available media stream output time, and each device's delta between available media stream output times. The synchronization manager uses this timing information to determine an earliest available media stream output time common to each media stream output device, and synchronizes the output of the media streams by providing each stream to its associated output device at the earliest available common output time.

Here's Apple's background...

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Aug 07
Apple granted patent for recovering a computing device

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8239688) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for securely recovering a computing device. It involves the Find my Mac and Find my iPhone features on its various devices.

A method and an apparatus for establishing an operating environment by certifying a code image received from a host over a communication link are described. The code image may be digitally signed through a central authority server. Certification of the code image may be determined by a fingerprint embedded within a secure storage area such as a ROM (read only memory) of the portable device based on a public key certification process. A certified code image may be assigned a hash signature to be stored in a storage of the portable device. An operating environment of the portable device may be established after executing the certified code.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "A method and apparatus for establishing an operating environment for a...

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Aug 07
TVs, Blu-ray players the future cf connected devices...

Connected TV penetration in North America and Western Europe will surge from just over 10% in 2011 to over 50% by 2017, according to ABI Research (http://www.abirsearch.coim). Blu-ray penetration is expected to have a similar progression, increasing from about 25% in Western Europe and North America in 2011 to over 76% by 2017 (standalone and game consoles included).

Too bad Apple has chosen not to embrace Blu-ray. Oh well. Meanwhile, game console penetration rates by 2017 are only expected to pass 61% and 46% in North America and Western Europe respectively, with rates significantly lower in other regions.

There are four major connected video CE devices: connected TV (such as, perhaps, the rumored "iTV"?), Blu-ray players, game consoles and Smart set-top boxes (STBs). According to ABI Research Senior Analyst Michael Inouye, most CE manufacturers (notably, Samsung and LG) use a common...

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Aug 07
Apple working on alternate iOS input methods

A patent (number 8,239,784) for "mode-based graphical user interfaces for touch sensitive input devices" shows Apple is working on an alternative input method for iOS devices.

A user interface method is disclosed. The method includes detecting a touch and then determining a user interface mode when a touch is detected. The method further includes activating one or more GUI elements based on the user interface mode and in response to the detected touch.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The invention pertains to gestures and methods of implementing gestures with touch sensitive devices. Examples of touch sensitive devices include touch screens and touch pads. The invention also pertains to user interfaces and methods of implementing user interfaces with displays.

The invention can be implemented in numerous ways, including as a method, graphical user interface, computing device, or a computer readable medium. Several embodiments of the invention are...

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Aug 07
Apple eyeing NFC-capable, barcode-reading shopping...

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,239,276 ) for an "On-the-go Shopping List" that hints at an NFC-capable barcode-reading shopping assistant.

NFC (Near Field Communication) is a short-range wireless connection technology that could turn the iPhone into an electronic wallet or security passkey. NFC is already in use in Asia and is expected to explode here in the next three to five years, especially if Apple adopts the technology.

A report from Juniper Research (http://www.juniperresearch.com) finds that the NFC retail payments market will exceed US$180 billion globally by 2017, more than a seven-fold increase over 2012. The leading regions of North America, Western Europe and Far East & China will contribute 90% of this market value as smartphones with NFC payment technology become standard. The Juniper report found that 2011 was a watershed year for NFC payments. 

...

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Aug 06
Mobile integration key to set-top box market

Smart set-top boxes such as the Apple TV often garner less attention than other connected CE [consumer electronic] devices like TVs and game consoles; Apple has referred to its Apple TV as a "hobby" although it leads the market with around 4 million units shipped through 2011.

Roku has had recent success (e.g. passing 2.5M units in 2011), but the future looks at the very least challenging for these dedicated streaming devices to break out of a niche status. TVs, game consoles, Blu-ray players, and even mobile devices are quickly conspiring to engender a very competitive market for the digital living room. Even so, set-top box shipments are expected to reach as high as 57 million by 2017.

"Google has a split personality in this market," says Sam Rosen, practice director of TV & video at ABI Research (http://www.abirsearch.com). "On the one hand, China, in particular, is seeing growing...

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Aug 03
Apple 'improves' MagSafe connector -- and...

In his "Pogue's Post" column at "The New York Times," author and tech guru David Pogue blasts Apple's MagSafe 2 connector -- and he's right. Apple blew it on this one.

It's a case of improving something until it breaks. The original MagSafe was pretty much perfect the way it was. But the "sequel" is .... well, Pogue describes it perfectly in this column:

"The beauty of the MagSafe connector was that Apple had found precisely the right balance between attachment and detachment. Strong enough to hold the connector in place, weak enough to detach if it gets yanked.

"The MagSafe 2 connector fails that balance test. Badly. The magnet is too weak. It’s so weak, it keeps falling out. It falls out if you brush it. It falls out if you tip the laptop slightly. It falls out if you look at it funny. It’s a huge, huge pain.

"That weakness is compounded by a second problem: a return to the 'T" design of older MagSafe connectors. In other words, this thing comes...

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Aug 02
Apple eyeing a portable device (an iPad?) with a...

Three Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that show Apple is working on ways to simplify the production of its various portable computing devices.

Patent number 20120194998 is for a portable computing device that can take many forms such as a laptop computer, a tablet computer, and so on. The portable computing device can include at least a single piece housing. The single piece housing can be machined from a single billet of material, such as a billet of aluminum. The single piece housing can include ledges with a surface receiving a trim bead and a cover. Corner brackets can be attached to the single piece housing to improve the damage resistance of the housing.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In recent years, portable computing devices such as laptops, PDAs, media players, cellular phones, etc., have become small, light and powerful. One factor contributing to this reduction in size can be attributed...

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Aug 02
Apple working on ways to simplify portable device...

Three Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that show Apple is working on ways to simplify the production of its various portable computing devices.

Patent number 20120194998 is for a portable computing device that can take many forms such as a laptop computer, a tablet computer, and so on. The portable computing device can include at least a single piece housing. The single piece housing can be machined from a single billet of material, such as a billet of aluminum. The single piece housing can include ledges with a surface receiving a trim bead and a cover. Corner brackets can be attached to the single piece housing to improve the damage resistance of the housing.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In recent years, portable computing devices such as laptops, PDAs, media players, cellular phones, etc., have become small, light and powerful. One factor contributing to this reduction in size can be attributed...

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Aug 02
Apple patent is for user interface for backup...

An Apple patent (number 20120198383) for an user interface for backup management has appeared at the U.S Patent & Trademark Office. It seems to involve a revamped version of Mac OS X's Time Machine feature.

The patent is for methods and a computer program product for providing a user interface including earlier versions of data. In one implementation, a method is provided. The method includes receiving, while a current view is displayed in a user interface, a first user input requesting that a backup interface be displayed. In response to the first user input, the transition from displaying the current view in the user interface to displaying the backup interface is animated.

The backup interface is displayed including a display area for presenting at least a first visual representation of an earlier version of the current view, where the earlier version includes a first element. While the backup interface is displayed, a second user input is received requesting...

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Aug 02
Apple files patent for iPad Smart Cover design

An Apple patent (number 20120194308) for a foldable accessory device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Said foldable device being the Smart Cover for the iPad.

A magnetic attachment mechanism and method is described. The magnetic attachment mechanism can be used to releasably attach at least two objects together in a preferred configuration without fasteners and without external intervention. The magnetic attachment mechanism can be used to releasably attach an accessory device to an electronic device. The accessory device can be used to augment the functionality of usefulness of the electronic device.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "An accessory unit includes at least a hinge span having a first magnetic element, a flap portion pivotally connected to the hinge span. In the described embodiment, the flap portion includes a plurality of segments all but one of which are substantially the same size and wherein one segment is longer that...

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Aug 02
A proposal for Apple that puts Americans to work

The following is an opinion editorial provided by Long-Stanton Group CEO, Dan Cunningham. It was originally published in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday, July 8, 2012:

I have a Billion Dollar idea for Apple: build an iPhone plant in Cincinnati and eventually other U.S. cities to supply the U.S. market with iPhones.

This would yield a billion dollars in additional profit to Apple because of the assurance of long-term sustainable product dominance for Apple, the ability to manufacture ‘mass customized' iPhones in the U.S., and the removal of 35 days of rapidly changing inventory in transit from China to the U.S. This projected profit is based on the forecast of 44 million iPhones to be sold in the U.S. in 2012 (11.6 million in 2011 Q4) and increasing the profit by $23 each.

Because the U.S. market is demanding such a high number of units of iPhones, the plant that I am proposing would be completely automated, and highly flexible to the point...

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Aug 01
The Northern Spy: going the new server route

Under another hat, the Spy runs WebNameHost, which is a small hosting company in business for a decade now, and offering professional hosting in a safe environment for Christian, authors, small businesses, and personal sites. This is less than a living business, but much more than a hobby, as his teaching demands that he be able to discourse with students on all manner of computing technology without seeming too much a fool or irrelevant. It also needs to break even.

Though he is otherwise Mac-centric, the commercial hosting environment of choice is a CentOS machine running Cpanel/WHM, with billing and help desk provided by WHMCS, previously a separate company, but as of this month a WHM partner. Cork, the machine he was using for everything was a dual opteron of several years seniority running CentOS 4, and therefore his version of CPanel (11.32) was the last he could use without upgrading as future versions would no longer support CentOS 4. Since it is as...

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Aug 01
Greg's Bite: Google's ball drops -- Nexus Q...

Google had already launched its Nexus Q media hub device and promised delivery in three days, until they suddenly decided to hold the product back and make improvements that they don't care to divulge. It could be a software glitch or a defect in manufacturing. At any rate, they are giving the US$300 round, black box device away to customers who had pre-ordered.

The specs didn't include a ThunderBolt port, which is sort of peculiar as Google is busy launching the 1Gig Fiber experiment using a different media box. The Nexus Q is sort of a warmed-over, spherical, sexy Apple TV hub with a lighted ring. The claim that Apple limited its TV hook-up device to its own network is no worse than the Google Nexus Q, which severely limits function to Google's sandbox. You can't even play your own music over the Nexus Q.  

The Google Fiber project in Kansas City is now way behind the anticipated launch date, but progress is being made. Google has divided the Kansas...

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Aug 01
42% of parents plan to buy electronic gadgets for...

This should be good news for Apple: as another school year approaches, the demand for electronics in the classroom is high.

A new survey from CouponCabin.com reports that 42%of parents plan to buy new electronic gadgets -- such as laptops, tablets, cellphones and e-readers -- for their children for the upcoming school year. In addition, nearly half (49%) of parents said their children's school requires them to purchase certain electronic gadgets for learning purposes.

When asked which of the following electronic gadgets, if any, their children's school requires them to purchase, parents with school-age children said: computer (24%), mobile phone (20%), tablet (19%), e-reader (9%), other (5%) and none (51%). However, with parents feeling the pressure to buy electronic gadgets for school use, 75% said they are at least somewhat overwhelmed with the cost of buying tech devices for their children.

With 78% of adults planning to spend $500 or less per child on...

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Jul 31
Apple patent is for remote access to playlist of a...

An Apple patent (number 8234572) for remote access to advanced playlist features of a media player have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Per the patent, a media player can have advanced-playlist creation capabilities such as the ability to automatically generate a playlist around a "seed" song selected by a user.

In some embodiments, the accessory can determine whether the media player can use a particular song as a seed song for an advanced playlist and can so inform the user. The user can then operate the accessory's user interface to create an advanced playlist based on a particular song, rather than having to interact directly with the media player.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "Certain embodiments of the present invention relate to increasing a user's ability to control a media player using an accessory device. For example, the media player can have advanced-playlist creation capabilities such as the ability to automatically...

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Jul 31
Apple patent is for power adapters, charging...

An Apple patent (number 8232672) for power adapters for powering and/or charging peripheral devices has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Ti covers the powering mechanisms of a variety of devices.

A power adapter for a peripheral device such as portable electronics device is disclosed. The power adapter includes a housing that contains electrical components associated with the power adapter. The power adapter also includes a data port provided at a surface of the housing. The data port is configured to provide external power to the peripheral device.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The invention pertains to power adapters that allow a user to power and/or charge a peripheral device such as a portable electronic device without requiring any additional cables or connectors. The invention also pertains to a connection method for powering a peripheral without requiring a host, peripheral or hub to remain powered on. The connection method allows...

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Jul 31
Smartphones overtaking computers in 2012, but so what?

The recent influx of smartphones to the UK has prompted a slump in the popularity of desktop computers, according to a new study, though I don't buy it.

The survey found that while 64% respondents owned a desktop computer, 94% now own a smartphone. YouGov research commissioned on behalf of Kaspersky Lab, a developer of secure content and threat management solutions, also revealed that users are now reaching for their smartphone ahead of their computer when looking up something online. Seventy-eight percent of respondents went to their smartphone first, compared to the 57% who chose their desktop. 

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the correlation in the fact that more people are surfing the Web on smartphones rather than on desktop computers. Maybe there are folks out there who purchase a computer mainly to surf the web, but I doubt it. Those who buy a computer want to also do other entertainment and productivity tasks that just aren't possible on a...

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Jul 31
Apple granted patents for text input, camera features...

Apple has been granted patents for a predictive text input user interface and digital camera features.

Patent number 8232973 is for a method, device and graphical user interface providing word recommendations for text input. Per the invention, a portable electronic device having a touch screen display performs a set of operations, including displaying a plurality of key icons, each having an adjustable size hit region, and receiving a sequence of individual touch points input by a user on the touch screen display.

The operations performed by the device further include processing the received individual touch points by: forming a user-input directed graph for the sequence of individual touch points received so far, determining a character corresponding to a last received individual touch point in accordance with the adjustable hit regions of the displayed key icons, displaying a sequence of characters corresponding to the sequence of individual touch...

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Jul 30
Tablets emerge as preferred online shopping device

Tablet computers such as the iPad are quickly emerging as a preferred online shopping device. Shopatron (http://www.shopatron.com), an eCommerce and order management solution for over 1,000 brands, found that, across all client stores, purchase rates are equivalent between tablet and desktop users.

In recent months, the conversion rates for tablet shoppers have been a mere 5-8% below the conversion rates of desktop-based shoppers. In addition, conversion rates from paid search ads have actually been higher on tablets (up to 3%). In a month-long analysis across several sporting goods clients, Shopatron found that click-through rates for paid search ads on tablets were 51% greater than those on computers, and the average cost per click was 7% less.

"With fewer advertisers to compete with, tablet advertising is costing less than advertising to desktop-based shoppers," says Greg Squires, Shopatron's...

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Jul 27
iPad remains best used as a supplement to the Mac

Many folks disagree with me, but I maintain that the iPad is a supplement to a Mac and not a replacement. And new data from the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) -- as reported by "eWeek" (http://macte.ch/Wmixv) -- mostly backs up my premise.

CIRP says that the new iPad (the one with the Retina display) has attracted more business users than earlier models. However, users are mostly using the tablet for surfing the Internet, playing games and enjoying entertainment.

"At least 27% of buyers, and as many as 40% use the iPad in these ways,," says CIRP's report. "Entertainment includes watching video, looking at photos and listening to music."

Business use came in fourth, with approximately 13% of all iPad owners using it for professional purposes. Among new iPad 3 owners, that figure rose to 16%t. Internet and email use were also higher on the newest iPad. Standout business users, CIRP...

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Jul 26
Apple working on ways to deal with variations in...

An Apple patent (number 201200188402) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company is working on ways to make its devices work more smoothly with an array of digital cameras.

The patent is for an apparatus and method for compensating for variations in digital cameras. The invention relates generally to digital cameras and, more particularly, to calibrating digital camera components to minimize manufacturing variations in such components.

A method of manufacturing a digital video camera is provided. The method comprises acquiring video images of colored light, and measuring a light intensity response of the video camera to the colored light. The method further comprises comparing the intensity of the measured response to a desired colored light intensity for determining a color intensity bias and storing the intensity bias for the colored light in the camera so that the bias can be applied when the camera is operating at an arbitrary lighting...

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Jul 26
Apple patent involves audio sharing network

An Apple patent (number 20120189140) for an audio sharing network has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Systems, methods, and devices for sharing ambient audio via an audio-sharing network are provided.

By way of example, a system that receives shared audio from such an audio-sharing network may include a personal electronic device. The personal electronic device may join an audio-sharing network of other electronic devices and receive several audio streams from the audio-sharing network. Based at least partly on these audio streams, the personal electronic device may determine a digital user-personalized audio stream, outputting the digital user-personalized audio stream to a personal listening device.

By way of example, the personal electronic device may represent a personal computer, a portable media player, or a portable phone. The personal listening device may represent a speaker of the personal electronic device, a wireless hearing aid, a...

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Jul 26
Apple eyeing home automation solutions

An Apple patent (number 20120188052) for a system and method for simplified control of electronic devices shows the company is eyeing the home automation market.

For example, per the patent, For example, a method for controlling a variety of electronic devices using another single electronic device may include receiving control information associated with a controllable electronic device via near field communication, determining a control scheme for controlling the controllable electronic device based on the control information, and controlling the controllable electronic device using the determined control scheme. The control information may be received from a near field communication interface of the controllable electronic device or from a radio frequency identification tag associated with the controllable electronic device.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "A person may use a wide variety of electronic devices each day, including computers and media...

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Jul 26
Could Apple products revolutionize robotics?

UBS analyst Steven Milunovich recently suggested that Apple could eventually move into the home robotics market -- though such a move is likely more than a decade away. As Quantum International (http://www.quantuminnovators.com/) works to capitalize on hot new trends in the booming robotics sector, the company says the Apple technology in your pocket could be poised to spark a billion-dollar explosion in demand for new robotics products.

"Robots for the home would represent a new category, require substantial innovation, and leverage Apple's ease-of-use knowledge and brand." He believes that Siri could be key here, with the voice tool likely to play an increased role in future Apple products," Milunovich said. "We’re already seeing the first wave of high-potential ideas emerge in robotic toys.”

The folks at Quantum International thinks Apple iPads and iPhones, the same devices...

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Jul 25
Mac sales bottoming out? Not so

So much for Mac sales bottoming out in Apple's recent fiscal quarter (which ended in June). Despite no major desktop or laptop refreshes (the new MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs weren't announced until June 11) Mac sales increased.

Not by a lot, admittedly. But they did increase. For the quarter, Apple sold four million Macs -- that's a 2% unit increase over the year-ago quarter. Also keep in mind that while Apple's current object of love, the iPad, accounted for US$9.1 billion of the company's revenue, the Mac accounted for $4.9 billion. Not bad for a platform that's been around as long as the Mac.

And the current fiscal quarter should be even better. Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion begins prowling today. Sales of the Retina display MacBook Pro, as well as the refreshed "regular" MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, will jump start Mac sales. And I'm betting we'll see that rumored 13-inch MacBook Pro and a new iMac either this fiscal quarter or next.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 24
Apple granted patent for Apple TV interface

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,230,360) for an user interface for selecting from a media collection. It apparently involve the interface of Apple's set top box, the Apple TV.

Among other things, techniques and systems are disclosed for providing a graphical user interface (GUI) to user. A system includes a content source and a GUI communicatively connected to the content source.

The GUI includes a user input area to receive user input and a display area to display available content items from the content source based on the received user input. The display area includes a presentation of the available content arranged in one or more rows. Each row includes a user selectable area to display at least one visual indication that represents one or more of the available content items.

Each row includes a holding area to display another visual indication that represents other available content items not displayed in the user selectable area. The display...

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Jul 24
Apple input patent shows interest in computer touch...

An Apple patent (number 8,228,305) for a method of proving human input into a computer has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The invention provides a method for providing human input to a computer which allows a user to interact with a display connected to the computer and shows that Apple continues to investigate touch technology for Macs.

The method includes the steps of placing a first target on a first portion of the user's body, using an electro-optical sensing means, sensing data related to the location of the first target and data related to the location of a second portion of the user's body, the first and second portions of the user's body being movable relative to each other, providing an output of the electro-optical sensing means to the input of the computer, determining the location of the first target and the location of the second portion of the user's body, and varying the output of the computer to the display based upon the determined...

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Jul 24
Could Mountain Lion be the last Apple desktop OS?

In a recent "Computerworld" (http://macte.ch/lTeMX) column, Jonny "Apple Holic" Evans (love the column name) said he thought OS X Mountain Lion might be one of the last desktop computer systems Apple ships as "operating systems are heading inexorably into the cloud." I can't see this happening, though Evans' reasoning is interesting.

He says, a la iOS, in the future your computer (Mac or PC) will carry a slimline OS in order to remain capable of doing many things offline, "but will truly come into its own when accessing the information, software and services held online." Evans says that with the proliferation of services such as Dropbox and Cortado, "computing isn't just about the data you hold on your computer anymore; it's about the data you own in the world wherever it might be stored." He foresees future Macs as devices with barely-there hard drives and most data stored in the cloud.

Evans notes...

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Jul 24
Apple patent involves graphic animation frameworks

An Apple patent (number 8228339) for a framework for graphics animation and compositing operations has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent involves a graphics animation and compositing operations framework has a layer tree for interfacing with the application and a render tree for interfacing with a render engine. Layers in the layer tree can be content, windows, views, video, images, text, media, or other types of objects for an application's user interface. The application commits state changes to the layers of the layer tree. The application does not need to include explicit code for animating the changes to the layers.

Instead, an animation is determined for animating the change in state by the framework which can define a set of predetermined animations based on motion, visibility, and transition. The determined animation is explicitly applied to the affected layers in the render tree. A render engine renders from the render tree into...

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Jul 23
Travelers left behind over 8,000 mobile devices at U.S...

If you're traveling, better keep close tabs on your laptop, iPhone, iPod and iPad. Credant Technologies (http://www.credant.com), a data protection firm, has released the results of their second survey of top airports in the United States.

In the last year, travelers left behind 8,016 mobile devices at seven of the largest airports in the country, including: Chicago O’Hare, Denver International, San Francisco International, Charlotte Douglas, Miami International, Orlando International and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Credant’s research found that of the seven airports surveyed, only one reported that they transfer their mobile devices over to the authorities.

Credant’s research found that the following types of devices were left behind: smartphones and tablets, 3,444 (43.0%); laptops, 3,576 (44.6%); and USB drives, 996 (12.4%) Interestingly, in February 2012, Javelin Research, found that 62% of smartphone...

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