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May 27
Apple working on light-transmission display system

Apple is working on a invisible, light-transmissive display system per a new patent (number 20110122560) that's appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The results could be things like light-transmissive, reconfigurable keyboards.

Per the patent, substantially invisible, tapered, light-transmissive holes are penetrated in a light-transmissive pattern through at least a portion of the light resistant material using a laser beam having a focal width less than the smallest diameter of the tapered holes. The inventors are Bartley K. Andre, Daniel J. Coster, Richard P. Howarth, Daniele de Iuliis, Jonathan P. Ive, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Douglas B. Satzger, Calvin Q. Seid, Christopher J. Stringer, Eugene Antony Whang, Rico Zorkendorfer, David Morgenstern and Paul C.L. Chow.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present invention relates generally to device display systems, and more particularly to invisible, light-...

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May 27
Apple patent involves safer batteries

An Apple patent (number 20110123844) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office showing that Apple wants to make the batteries that appear in its products safer. The patent is for a pressure-relief mechanism to improve safety in Lithium-Polymer battery cells.

The disclosed embodiments relate to a battery cell which includes a weakness for relieving pressure. This battery cell includes a jelly roll comprising layers which are wound together, including a cathode with an active coating, a separator and an anode with an active coating. The jelly roll also includes a first conductive tab coupled to the cathode and a second conductive tab coupled to the anode.

The jelly roll is enclosed in a flexible pouch, wherein the first and second conductive tabs extend through seals in the pouch to provide terminals for the battery cell. This pouch includes a weakness which yields when internal pressure in the pouch exceeds a threshold to create a hole which releases the...

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May 27
Apple patents range from video display to user input

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

Patent number 20110122954 involves decoding independent frames of a video display. A module may provide codec-independent services including determining frame display order, frame dependency sets, and queuing the dependency frames in advance so as to enable display of a video. The module enables a video to be played forwards or backwards at a variety of playback speeds from any position within the video. In one implementation, a device communicatively coupled to a plurality of decoders accesses a video that includes a plurality of frames. One or more of the frames are decodable by one or more of the communicatively coupled decoders. The device identifies a frame in the video that is to be displayed, and determines a plurality of dependency frames in the video upon which decoding of the frame to be displayed depends. The device provides an indication that one...

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May 26
No end in sight to Apple's retail success

Despite a tough economy and prices that some still perceive as too high (they're wrong; but that's another story), there seems to be no end in sight to Apple's retail success.

The company's brick-and-mortar retail stores are the world's fastest growing retail business, according to the National Retail Federation (http://macte.ch/Robvf), and their customers are among the most satisfied, according to a study by the Yankee Group (http://www.yankeegroup.com).

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Apple saw a compound annual growth rate of 40.9% in retail sales from 2004 to 2009. The 2009 figures (the latest compiled by the NRF) show that Apple's group revenue was almost US$37 million.

Meanwhile, the Yankee Group says that "Apple’s iconic retail business is already a story worthy of a Harvard Business School...

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May 25
Framework--Browser Exploitation Kit: Macs need not...

There are increasing reports of Mac OS malware and viruses, though, so far, the deluge that some security experts have predicted hasn't arrive. In fact, there's a new report that reinforces the Mac's security.

According to "The Hacker News" (http://macte.ch/evzkV), "Russo" is the creator of the Impassioned Framework--Browser Exploitation Kit, a subscription-based software vulnerability exploit service. This toolkit is designed to be stitched into a website and probe visitor computers for security holes that can be used to surreptitiously install malicious software.

Security weaknesses in the file-sharing website thepiratebay.org have exposed the user names, e-mail and Internet addresses of more than four million Pirate Bay users using this kit. Though Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera have all been affected, the effects have only been seen on Windows systems. Mac OS X and Unix systems...

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May 24
Could Apple be planning a dedicated video/still camera...

An Apple patent (number 7,949,250) for an electro-mechanical shutter control has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves the shutter in iOS devices and the iSight ("cellular phones and multi-function or smart phones"), but also hints at a "dedicated" video and still cameras.

The patent is for a method in a camera device having an image sensor and an electro-mechanical shutter mechanism. A constant drive current is applied to the shutter mechanism to close shutter at the end of a first exposure. Then, a decaying drive current is applied to the shutter mechanism during a readout interval for the first exposure. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. Richard Tsai is the inventor.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "As discussed above in the Background, in an effort to obtain lower power consumption, the drive current of a bipolar electro-mechanical shutter mechanism should be pulsed...

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May 24
Amazon.com selling more Kindle Books than print books

Amazon is now selling more Kindle books than print books. It's going to be interesting to see just how successful Apple's iBookStore will be.

Amazon began selling hardcover and paperback books in July 1995. Twelve years later -- in November 2007 -- the company rolled out the Kindle and began selling Kindle books. By July 2010, Kindle book sales had surpassed hardcover book sales, and six months later, Kindle books overtook paperback books to become the most popular format on Amazon.com. Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, Amazon.com customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books -- hardcover and paperback -- combined.

Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded. If included that would make the number even higher.

As of March, Apple had sold...

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May 24
Apple patents involves P-chassis, video conferencing,...

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

Patent number 7,948,576, won by Apple, is for a P-chassis arrangement for positioning a display stack. It relates to portable electronic devices and, more particularly, to a chassis which may be used to align a display stack with respect to a bezel.

Methods and apparatus for aligning a display stack with respect to a housing associated with a portable electronic device are disclosed. According to one aspect of the present invention, a chassis arrangement suitable for use in aligning a display stack with respect to a housing includes a first portion, a second portion, and a coupling arrangement.

The first portion is configured to engage the display stack, and the second portion is configured to enable the display stack to be manipulated when the display stack is engaged by the first portion. The coupling arrangement couples the first...

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May 23
Sometimes I don't want to be connected to the...

I love my iPad and iPhone, but not enough to take 'em to bed and wake up with them. But apparently some folks do.

The ability to stay constantly connected to the Internet is making consumers increasingly dependent on the cloud for their daily needs, Ericsson ConsumerLab (http://www.ericsson.com/thecompany/our-insights/consumerlab) research has found. And while the smartphone revolution may have started this trend, the research has shown it is app usage that is likely to make it continue. Apps are actually shaping the way people are using connected devices.

Behavior around apps is also creating a new set of expectations when it comes to connecting consumer electronic devices. Devices must be connected if they are to be useful. For example, 54% of US users of portable storage devices said that they wanted to be able to...

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May 20
Greg's Bite: Bug infestation

By Greg Mills

Some years ago there was a TV series featuring Tom Selleck as Magnum, a private investigator.  One of the ongoing themes was his "little voice." Call it hearing the still, small voice of God, conscience or an instinctive thought process.  

Sometimes lessons of life come to us this way. For me an epiphany of sorts came when I was mentally comparing a real life bug problem with those suffering non-Apple platforms. Malware is not the fault of the user. I regularly pillar Microsoft for all manner of bugs, viruses, trojans and blue screen of death crashes without any real sympathy for the millions of Windows users. Buggy software and insecure software cost the economy as much as the war on terror.  

The other day our 11-year-old daughter mentioned that she had trouble sleeping and was itchy. We figured it was just dry skin or whatever and dismissed it. That night as she went to bed, within minutes she was complaining again. My wife...

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May 20
The iPad will continue to evolve -- and impact other...

The iPad isn't going to replace tradition computers for the most part, but it will continue to evolve as the tablet market grows and influences the development of the personal computer.

The evolution of the tablet is due to the fact that consumers want something more portable than a laptop, more powerful than a netbook, and more comfortable than a smartphone. Last year the iPad set the benchmark for tablets on a global scale by selling more than 15 million units in a single year. This compelled pretty much every other major consumer electronic manufacturers to introduce competing products in the market, though, so far, none have been particularly successful.

Worldwide tablet market sales in 2010 was nearly US$9 billion, and it's anticipated that tablet unit sales will cross 100 million units by 2015, according to Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com). In 2010...

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May 19
Apple developing ways to make laptops run cooler

A new Apple patent (20110114295) involving heat removal in compact computing systems shows that the company is working ways to make MacBook Pros, MacBooks and MacBook Airs run cooler.

The invention relates generally to small computing devices such as laptop computers and in particular, providing a heat removal system that is efficient in both space and heat removal. A low profile heat removal system suitable for removing excess heat generated by a component operating in a compact computing environment is disclosed. The inventors are Brett W. Degner, Peteris K. Augenbergs, Frank Liang, Amaury J. Herestyn, Dinesh Mathew and Thomas W. Wilson Jr.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Compact computing devices such as laptop computers, netbook computers, etc. have become ever smaller, lighter and more powerful. One factor contributing to this reduction in size can be attributed to the manufacturer's ability to fabricate various components of these...

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May 19
Mac OS X could get 'floating,' docking...

Mac OS X could get "floating" interface elements. An Apple patent (number 20110119609) for docking user interface elements has popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to docking graphical user interface elements, for example, a Heads-Up Display (HUD) element.

Per the patent, methods, systems, and apparatus for managing elements in a user interface for a software application executing on a computer system include displaying a user interface having separate elements including at least an image browser element for viewing preview thumbnails of available images, an image viewer element for accessing a selected image and a Heads-Up Display (HUD) element that displays metadata for the selected image; receiving user input requesting that the HUD element be moved from a current location in the user interface to a destination location in the user interface; and modifying the displayed user interface by moving the HUD element to the destination location and...

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May 19
Apple working on new ways to present data in Mac OS X

Apple is working on new ways to present data in Mac OS X, it seems. A company patent (number 20110119615) for an adaptive data loader has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent involves methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for presenting data. In one aspect, a method includes receiving a request for data; submitting the request while maintaining a currently displayed user interface; determining whether a specified amount of the data has been received within a threshold delay period; if the data has been received within the threshold delay period, displaying a new user interface including representations of a portion of the received data; and if the data has not been received within the threshold delay period, displaying a placeholder user interface. The inventors are Pavel Cisler, Loic Vandereyken, David Hart and Peter McInerney.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention...

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May 19
Apple eyeing new ways to view digital media files

Apple is working on new ways to view all your digital media on both iOS and Mac OS X devices.

An Apple patent (number 20110119634) involving a global view for digital assets has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to browsing large sets of digital assets, and more specifically to generating and displaying a global view of a library of digital assets.

Per the patent, processes and systems are presented, for generating and displaying a flat all-projects view of a library of digital assets. In one aspect, a process includes receiving input from a user of the application requesting to view content accessible by the application. The accessible content can include a plurality of digital assets, folders and projects stored in a hierarchy accessed by the application, and each project represents a user-defined set of digital assets. All projects residing at any location within the hierarchy can be identified, and a flat view of all...

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May 19
IF Apple announces a new product today, look for new...

There's expectations that Apple will unveil something new today to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its retail store line. If that's true (and I'm dubious), I suspect it will be new MacBook Airs.

Apple retail's first stores opened at Tysons Corner, Virginia, at 10 am May 19, 2001, followed by the Glendale Galleria opening three hours later. I was at the Tysons Corner opening, and it was quite the event. Steve Jobs himself was on hand and in fine, if somewhat testy, form.

Apple now has 323 retail stores with over 30,000 employees all total, with 85 of those outside the US. It's expected to open its first store in Moscow within the next 12 months.

I'm not convinced that Apple will introduce something new today. If it does, I think it will be MacBook Airs with (I hope) Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt technology.

Other updates we'll see soon are Mac Pro updates, Mac mini updates and the new Final Cut Pro. But I don't expect those to arrive...

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May 18
Greg's Bite: HP & Dell lose market share

By Greg Mills

My, how things are changing in the PC market. Microsoft's "rounding error" that amounts to Apple surging spreads to Dell Computer and HP.  

Both of the blockbuster PC makers have seen the market for PCs shrink, even as the economy seems to be recovering. Mike Dell, president of the Dull Computer company, once famously gloated that Apple ought to just sell it assets and return stockholder money and go away quietly. Now, his computer company has a market cap of roughly US$30 billion -- or about 10% of Apple's current value. 

What one has to remember is that consumers buy computers in cycles. We don't buy a computer every month; we wait a couple of years until our hardware runs into obsolescence or breaks down before we buy a new one. Well, the market is changing from PCs to tablets for a lot of people and no one has a decent tablet but you know who. I noticed Sam's was selling the iPad 1 yesterday at a discount over the original...

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May 18
The Mac continues to make quiet headway

As many pundits continue to obsess over iOS devices -- including what features the iPhone 5 will have and when it will ship -- the Mac quietly continues to make headway.

For example, when it comes to "real growth in operating sales in 2010," Apple had 15.8% growth to US$520 million, reports "The Register" (http://macte.ch/RxPXC). In fact, the Mac has been growing at such a fast rate for almost four years that it's considered a bit of a downer that year-over-year sales in April were "only" up a "soft" 9%, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

Examining data from the NPD Group, he told clients in a note -- as reported by "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com) -- that 9% is well below the 22% year-over-year increase investors on Wall Street are expecting. (April is the first of three months in Apple's June...

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May 17
Greg's bite: Microsoft to merge with Nokia

By Greg's Mills

Rumors in the technosphere are often so outrageous they sound true. Such is the rumor that some sort of merger or buyout between Microsoft and Nokia is in the works.  

A number of web sites began to blog yesterday that a deal was in the works. We know Microsoft is collaborating on bringing the Windows Mobile OS to Nokia smartphones. Just how deep the deal goes and what form it takes are the questions.  

Some of the rumors put the deal more in the buy-out sort of arrangement,while others make it more of a merger. The Nokia market cap has shrunk 50% since Apple released the iPhone, and Nokia still doesn't have a valid competitor. Nokia recently gave up developing their own mobile OS in favor of using someone else's platform. Keep in mind developing all the parts of a valid mobile platform isn't cheap or easy.  

Nokia had to jump on board with the Google Android OS or go with Microsoft's Mobile OS. Ironically, going with...

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May 17
Samsung tablet foreshadows the iPad 3

At this week's SID Display Week 2011 International Symposium in Los Angeles, Samsung Electronics will demo the industry’s first 10.1-inch WQXGA format PenTile RGBW tablet display. "So what?" you ask. It sports an ultra-high resolution, liquid crystal display (LCD) with 2560 x 1600 resolution. And that may spur development of the iPad 3 along just a bit.

The Samsung prototype demonstration marks the first time this resolution has been available for the tablet market in the 10.1-inch format. The 300 dpi display is ideal for applications that require extraordinary image and text clarity such as browsing the web and viewing high-definition movies, or reading books and spreadsheets. Samsung expects to have commercial availability of this technology for tablet applications later this year.

A high resolution display like this definitely foreshadows a Retina display in an iPad 3. However, don't expect a shrunken version of the display to appear in an Apple tablet. So far...

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May 17
Apple granted patent for encoding video

Apple has been granted a patent (number 7994971) by the US Patent & Trademark Office 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 any other section of any other image, and a second...

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May 16
Greg's Bite: Dropbox data not encrypted or secure

By Greg Mills

It seems there isn't a day that goes by without another data security risk coming to light. As I have mused in this space, the cloud is not secure. I have Dropbox on my iPhone and iPad but haven't used it much. Those who have posted their data to their Dropbox account ought to reconsider using that site for anything remotely private. Your data is not secure or even encrypted. 

If what you want to store on your cloud data storage file is already held elsewhere on the Dropbox servers, they don't even bother to upload your data file; they just make note that you have access to their copy of that file. That saves them space on their servers and saves money as well.

Imaging you have purchased a movie using the digital download method of marketing video. That movie is not duplicated in the files of all the subscribers on-line. All that exists in your cloud file is a note that you have access to that movie any time you want to see it....

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May 16
Most global organizations planning to adopt cloud...

A new study says most global organizations are planning to adopt a cloud strategy. I'm not surprised, but I hope that's not their only strategy.

ITSM provider, Axios Systems (http://www.axiossystems.com), recently revealed a global survey showing that more than half of IT professionals (51%) don't think their ITSM processes are mature enough to effectively manage cloud-based services. Twenty-six percent of IT professionals do think their organizations are ready, while the remaining 23% feel unsure.

The survey also revealed that only eight percent of organizations currently use their ITSM tool to manage cloud-based services; 19% think their current tool could support management of cloud services, but they have just not started to do so. About one-third (31%) of IT professionals indicate that their current ITSM tool would not support the management of cloud-based services; the remaining 42% of...

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May 13
Is the personal computer in its twilight?

In a recent editorial, Jean-Louis Gassée. former president of the Apple Products Division (and now a general partner for Allegis Capital), said in a "Monday Note" column (http://macte.ch/ZHgnV) that the "PC market is in its twilight." I beg to differ, though, to be honest, Gassée doesn't say the PC is heading for extinction.

Gassée says ARM continues to out-maneuver Intel on the power-efficiency front. He writes that the PC market is in its twilight, "with mobile devices proliferating and stealing growth from the PC." Gassée thinks that we'll see ARM processors such as those in iOS devices on entry level Macs and "maybe" on middle-of-the-line Macs.

However, he points out that there's no roadmap for ARM chips to handle the high-end, for media creation and editing. What about Photoshop, FinalCut, and other applications, including CAD where the Mac is getting back in the game? There’s no roadmap for ARM...

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May 13
Apple eyes more interesting screen savers

Apple wants to make screen savers more interesting. At least on iOS devices, as well as, perhaps, Macs. A company patent (number 20110109538) for environment sensitive display tags has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

This is directed to dynamic tags or screen savers for display on an electronic device. The tags can include several dynamic elements that move across the display. The particular characteristics of the elements can be controlled in part by the output of one or more sensors detecting the environment of the device.

For example, the color scheme used for a tag can be selected based on the colors of an image captured by a camera, and the orientation of the movement can be selected from the output of a motion sensing component. The tag can adjust automatically based on the sensor outputs to provide an aesthetically pleasing display that a user can use as an fashion accessory. The inventors are Duncan Kerr, Nicholas King and Michael B. Victor...

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May 13
Apple plans to beef up iPhone's text-to-speech...

An Apple patent (number 20110111805) for a synthesized audio message over communication links has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It shows that Apple is planning on beefing up the text-to-speech and speech-to-text capabilities of the iPhone.

Per the patent, a communication device establishes an audio connection with a far-end user via a communication network. The communication device receives text input from a near-end user, and converts the text input into speech signals. The speech signals are transmitted to the far-end user using the established audio connection while muting audio input to its microphone. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. The inventors are Baptiste P. Paquier, Aram M. Lindahl and Phillip G. Tamchina.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "A user of a communication device (e.g., a telephone) may sometimes have to make or answer a phone call in a noisy environment. Noise can interfere with a phone...

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May 12
Apple planning nicer media-rich invitations on mobile...

An Apple patent (number 20110113089) for delivering media rich invitation content on mobile devices has popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves the provisioning of invitational content, and more specifically to providing media-rich-invitational content -- including advertisements, on mobile devices from within mobile applications.

Per the patent, the technology relates to providing invitational content having enhanced content and capabilities to make the invitational content more engaging and useful for users. Specifically, the invitational content can be configured to call on and utilize core operating system functions, additional web content, and other mobile device applications. The inventors are Eswar Priyadarshan and Ravikiran Chittari.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The use of mobile phones in the United States and around the world has increased dramatically. It is projected that soon the number of mobile phone...

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May 12
Apple eyeing more adjustments presets for digital...

An Apple patent (number 201101113361) involving adjustment presets for digital images at the US Patent & Trademark Office indicates that Apple plans to beef up (even more) the digital editing features in apps like iPhoto, Aperture ad perhaps iMovie. It relates to previewing and applying adjustment presets to digital images.

Per the patent, processes and systems are presented, for previewing and applying adjustment presets to digital images. The disclosed processes enable a user to preview selected adjustment presets before applying the previewed adjustment presets to the digital image. One or more preview image frames to display the effect of corresponding one or more adjustment presets applied to the digital image can be presented to the user simultaneously with the original (i.e., un-adjusted) digital image. The inventors are Nikhil Bhatt, Mark Lee Kawano and Blake Seely.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Image processing applications...

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May 12
Apple patent is for advanced keyboard with air-based...

An Apple patent (number 20110107958) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office for a keyboard with advanced sensors, an air-based feedback and tactile feedback features.

The patent describes input devices for processor-based systems, including computing systems, to provide enhanced user experience. The described systems provide tactile sensations providing feedback to a user. In some systems, feedback is provided before actual contact with the key expelling air from the input device proximate the key when user selection is imminent. In other examples, the tactile sensation results from automatic movement of the key in response to detected user selection of the key. The inventors are Aleksandar Pance, Michael Sinclair and Brett Bilbrey.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present disclosure generally relates to input devices and methods of their operation, and more particularly, to input devices for computing systems, and methods...

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May 12
Greg's Bite: controlling your own hardware

By Greg Mills

When you buy a TV set, you expect to be able to tune it in to any channel you want to view. Certainly, that right to view content is based upon either getting your signal over the air (which is really a declining market) or by cable. You wouldn't expect the manufacturer of the TV to electronically reach out and disable some feature of your TV set. Most TVs don't require system updates and all the capacities of the device are hardwired in.  

When you buy a computer, smartphone or tablet computer the arm of the manufacturer is much longer. System updates allow features to be added and killed when you accept the updated operating system. Changes can be minor, such as the software fix allowing iPad to use the slider switch to either lock the screen into landscape or portrait format or mute the sound. One expects changes in the device when you choose to update the OS.

Some Internet TV sets are beginning to bridge the gap and are...

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May 12
Sounds like Apple may beef up its audio offering

In recent weeks, rumor has it that Apple has hired Tomlinson Holman to run the company's audio initiatives. Apple hasn't confirmed it, but that makes sense. It could tie into the company's speech recognition plans (see yesterday's op-ed), improve iTunes files, or result in better speakers on Apple products.

Holman is an American film theorist, audio engineer, and inventor of film technologies, notably the Lucasfilm THX sound system. He developed the world's first 10.2 sound system. Earlier, Holman developed what was known as the Holman Preamplifier, for the Apt Corporation. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Holman is currently a professor at the University of Southern California; he holds an Academy Award for technical achievement and an IEEE Masaru Ibuka Award. Holman is also the holder of 7 U.S. patents, and 16 patents in other countries, as well as the author of several books on audio.

He certainly sounds...

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May 12
Apple patent involves adjusting time metadata of...

An Apple patent (number 20110109769) for adjusting the time metadata of digital media items has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The invention involves editing digital media items, for example, based on the metadata associated with the digital media items.

The patent is for methods, apparatuses, and systems for adjusting time metadata of digital media items. A digital image captured at a location is associated with a time of capture and a location of capture. It is determined that a time of capture of the digital image is in a preset time zone that is different from a time zone of the location.

In response to the determining, multiple locations are provided, each being associated with a respective time zone including a time zone of the location. A selection of a location is received and the time of capture is adjusted based on a time zone associated with the selected location. The inventors are Nikhil Bhatt and Alexander David Wallace.

Here'...

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May 12
Greg's Bite: the FEMA 'PLAN,'...

By Greg Mills

Heros of our privacy in the USA, like Senator Al Franken, put Apple and Google on the hot spot for surreptitiously tracking smart phones.

With this secret assault upon our location privacy still simmering in the news,  FEMA has pushed the FCC to add a "special" chip to all smart phones, to enable the US government to alert us with text like messages. The alerts are local and all the big cell phone networks are on board. Adding another set of initials to our vocabulary, "PLAN" is short for Personal Localized Alerting Network.

The chip is mandatory on cell phones coming out next year and hooks up with GPS. It is unknown at this time what security issues are involved and how this is all going to shake out.  The cell phone emergency notification PLAN is expected to have Presidential level alerts that are not to be user disabled. Local emergency alerts and Amber alerts may be turned off as the PLAN exists now. The alerts will produce a...

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May 11
Listen up, Apple is eyeing the future of voice...

"TechCrunch" (http://macte.ch/UNEAw) is reporting that Apple is hammering out a deal with Nuance, which specializes in speech software and voice recognition technology, to either license its technology or (less likely) buy the company outright. It's a match that makes sense.

After all, Apple introduced voice control on the iPhone with iOS 3.0. The company is likely planning on extending this functionality -- and perhaps bringing voice recognition to the Mac in ways beyond what's been accomplished before.

According to "The Next Web" (http://macte.ch/Dfd7f), Siri uses Nuance to do the "heavy lifting" of processing speech into data. It then interprets and uses that data in interesting ways -- like firing up an app, writing a text message or checking email.

"TechCrunch" says Apple will announce the Nuance partnership at next month's...

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May 11
Greg's Bite: Ballmer the great deal maker

By Greg Mills

Someone needs to explain the concepts behind selling things at a profit and buying things competitively to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. The conversation ought to be in one syllable words, quit simple, so he can understand.    

One might imagine selling the rights for to use a fresh mobile OS to the biggest cell phone company on the planet (for the time being) would net you a chunk of change enough to retire on. The great dealmaker Ballmer actually agreed to pay one billion dollars to Nokia for them switching to Windows Mobile 7.  

Nokia had already publicly indicated they were throwing in the towel on their own mobile OS efforts, so Ballmer had them over a barrel. Smelling blood in the water, like a great white shark, Ballmer circled his prey and then viciously bit his own foot off.  

Now, anxious to outdo his Nokia deal making blunder, rumors are that Microsoft has agreed to pay US$4.5 billion more than...

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May 10
Greg's Bite: The Skype deal

By Greg Mills

When Thomas Edison invented the telephone, he and his associates just strung wire between the phones, no matter how far apart they were. Each city had one or more switching stations so wires between cities could be hooked up between users and the long distance lines on each end.  

Remember long distance phone bills? I can remember not that long ago playing musical phone companies to get the lowest prices for long distance. In those days long distance was often more than your local service each month.

What changed all that was the simple notion that the owners of long distance lines ought to be forced to share that capacity with competing services. The FCC made it competitive for companies that got into the long-distance business since they all had access to what had been a monopoly owned by AT&T. That was the giant AT&T of 20 years ago. The AT&T of today is a radically different animal.

The same notion of...

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May 10
Don't hold your breath for ARM-based Macs anytime...

The SemiAccurate (http://macte.ch/LUHV) web site generated a lot of discussion over the weekend when it said that Apple was planning to dump Intel from its laptop lines within 2-3 years. That's an interesting idea, and perhaps it's on target, but I don't think that's going to happen.

But first, some background. Here's part of SemiAccurate's report: "The short story is that Apple is moving the laptop line, and presumably desktops too, to ARM based chips as soon as possible. With A15/Eagle allowing more than 32-bit memory access, things look up, but it seems silly to do so before the full 64 bit cores come in the following generation. Nvidia is directly telling certain favored analysts that they will have Denver out in Q4 of 2012, maybe Q1/2013, and that uses the full on 64-bit ARM instruction set. It won’t be out by then, but that gives you a good estimation of when that ISA will break cover from one vendor or...

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May 10
Apple patents involve compression/encoding,...

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent number 7940843 is for a method of implementing improved rate control for a multimedia compression and encoding system. The rate controller in a digital video encoding system is responsible for allocating a bit budget for video frames to be encoded. The rate controller considers many different factors when determining the frame bit budget. One of the factors considered is the complexity of the frames being compressed. Occasionally there will be a very complex frame that is not representative of the overall video frame sequence. Such a rare complex frame may cause a disproportionate affect on the bit budget allocation.

The system of the present invention limits the amount that a very complex frame can change the bit budget allocation. The rate controller of the present invention also includes a relaxation factor. The relaxation factor allows a user to determine if the...

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May 09
Greg's Bite: Speech -- the next user interface?

By Greg Mills

"Star Trek" has a rosy view of the future where hunger and want are historic, and computers listen to users to input information. To access a computer you say "computer," and then give your command or search information. You dictate text and it just appears on the screen. That is a cool concept and it has been hinted at for years on PCs of both stripes.

Speech interpretation is problematic for a number of reasons. Background noise we instinctively tune out easily confuses speech recognition. Strong accents also tend to stumble speech recognition. Once the bugs are fixed, the potential is amazing. The form of speech software to come may be pretty interesting. The old system of speech recognition was for the local computer to do the work of interpreting the sounds into text. The next generation of speech-totext involved the cloud.  

I have a number of MP3 audio files I would really love to convert to text, to clean it up and publish...

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May 09
Greg's Bite: The Daily bleeds $10 million

By Greg Mills

Bleeding, as a medical therapy, is one of those historic absolutely backwards things that were done in Medieval ignorance. Someone who is already weak from an illness would be bled every day to get rid of the "bad blood."

There is no way of knowing how many people died from the bleeding treatment instead of what they were trying to be cured of. We know now there is no such thing as bad blood or good blood.

In business there is normally a period of time where new ventures require an investment to get to a break even point.  Sometimes the venture or new product proves to be so ill-founded the plug is pulled to stop the loss. Recent examples of failed product releases that bad include Microsoft's Kin phone and perhaps RIMs PlayBook. Sometimes the venture or new product turns around and begins to make money and the initial investment is finally paid back, handily.

"The Daily" digital newspaper was launched with great fanfare as...

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May 09
DVD, Blu-ray still dominate home video

While digital home-video options are gaining in popularity and Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls Blu-ray a "bag of hurt," more than three quarters of U.S. consumers continue to view movies on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Nearly 80 cents of every dollar spent on home video movies goes toward the purchase or rental of physical discs.

According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, consumers are still using DVDs and Blu-ray Disc (BD) to watch movies more than all digital-video options combined. Over the past three months, 77% of consumers reported watching a movie on a DVD or BD, which is unchanged from last year. Those who viewed movies from physical discs reported watching an average of four hours per week, which is also unchanged from the prior year. By comparison 68% watched a movie on a TV or cable network channel, 49%t at a theatre, and 21% used paid video on demand through their TVs.

According to data from NPD's "Entertainment Trends in America" report, when...

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May 06
Will Lion's Server features tempt enterprise...

When the next version of Lion prowls, it will certainly be an interesting critter. In some ways, it's designed to be the ultimate consumer-oriented operating system as it melds iOS and traditional Mac OS elements. In other ways -- or at least one -- it may well appeal to the enterprise.

Lion will include Lion Server at no extra charge. In other words, there'll no longer be separate Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server versions -- there'll just be one Mac OS X. You'll be able to provision any Mac with Lion as a server through a simple setup process.

As Ryan Faas, writing for "Computerworld" (http://macte.ch/PlNri), notes, this move by Apple is pretty surprising, especially if you're used to dealing with Microsoft's client and server products, which are clearly differentiated by features and pricing. Fass says he can't imagine Microsoft ever giving away Windows Server in any form for the price of a client...

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May 05
Rumors of the day: iOS updates, iPad 3, more

Apple will provide over-the-air updates for iOS 5, while the upcoming version of Mac OSX Lion will be delivered via the Mac App Store, according to two separate reports (http://macte.ch/RkI8A). Instead of having users chained to iTunes for their iOS updates, Apple may introduce wireless OS updates, removing the need for a computer in the process.

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty says the company sees product cycles as being driven by software rather than hardware and is expected to announce major software updates at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, according to "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com).

The follow-up to the iPad 2 will incorporate a glasses-free 3D screen. The claim comes from an alleged Hollywood insider who told RCR Wireless (...

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May 05
Apple patents involve FaceTime, digital images, more

A handful of Apple patents has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office, several of which relate to the company's iLife suite, FaceTime and Aperture software.

Patent number 20110102457 involves brushing tools for digital image adjustments. Among other things, methods, systems and computer program products are disclosed for applying an image adjustment to an image. A choice of image adjustments is presented to a user of a data processing device. A user selection is received from among the choice of image adjustments at least one image adjustment that a user desires to apply to an area of interest of the image.

The user selected image adjustment is applied to an entirety of an image. A preview of the user selected image adjustment applied to the entirety of the image is displayed. Also, user input comprising user selection of a brushing application is received. The user selected image adjustment is applied to the area of interest of the image...

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May 05
Greg's Bite: Microsoft buys RIM? LOL

By Greg Mills

Sometimes the synergy of two companies are so symmetrically fitting a merger or takeover is like a marriage made in heaven. Everything just fits like a glove.

Sometimes, such a business marriage is conceived in a far darker and hotter place. PC Magazine's Peter Pachal appears to be having hallucinations or the blue screen of death happened on his PC, once too often. The URL for the story is: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2384918,00.asp (this article is best read while eating corn flakes).

Peter Pachal has suggested that in some way Microsoft and RIM could merge and in combination break into Apple's monopoly in the smartphone and tablet markets. This is partly due to a surprise announcement yesterday that RIM will make Bing the default search engine for RIM devices. We don't know how much Microsoft is paying RIM for dumping Google. More on this development later.

If we examine the situation Pachal proposed, one has...

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May 05
Whatever happened to iWork.com?

In 2009, Apple launched its iWork.com site in beta -- and it's been there ever since. That seems likely plenty of time for Apple to work out the kinks, so perhaps a finished version will be part of "iCloud" or "Castle" or whatever Apple's rumored, upcoming cloud service will be dubbed.

iWork.com is designed as a service to share iWork documents online. Using your Apple ID, you click the iWork.com icon in the Keynote, Pages or Numbers toolbar to upload your document and invite others to view it online. Viewers can provide comments and notes, and download a copy of your document in iWork, Microsoft Office or PDF formats. A consolidated online list of all your shared documents indicates when your viewers have posted comments.

The service is still there, and still in beta. Let's hope that one of these days it arrives in finished, polished form.

Let's also hope that iCloud makes it a no-brainer to share documents among multiple Macs and iOS devices. For example, if...

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May 04
Rumors of the day: new Apple hire, Lion, keyboards

According to "Gigaom" (http://macte.ch/yFDta), Apple has reportedly hired Tomlinson Holman as its new audio chief, according to a tweet by Leo Laporte Wednesday morning. Laporte said he had it “on good authority” that Holman “is joining Apple to run audio.” Holman is the brain behind Lucasfilm’s THX sound, and the world’s first 10.2 surround sound system.

According to "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com) with the release of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion this summer, Apple will make the switch to a new kind of digital distribution for its operating system upgrades by releasing the software first through its new Mac App Store. The Mac App Store, available to all users running the most recent version of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, will become the de facto method for obtaining the Lion upgrade, the article says, quoting "people familiar...

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May 04
New iMacs offer great bang for the buck

When it comes to bang for your buck, you really can't beat the new iMacs. The all-in-one's rev will certainly spur Apple's desktop sales, which have been slow compared to the company's laptop sales.

It's true that they're not revolutionary updates -- the design is still the same -- but they're substantial updates just the same. Here are some random thoughts on the new desktops.

I had hoped that the new iMacs might sport a "Retina Display," but I didn't really expect them to. Oh well, maybe next time.

A high-DPI mode for resolution independence has purportedly been in development at Apple for a long time and may be coming at long last with Mac OS X Lion. This hints that Apple may expect 200ppi+ laptop and desktop displays to become available during Lion’s lifetime. The system is reliant on pixel doubling and asset redesign, like the move from the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4, instead of using vector graphics or 3D rendering, meaning this is more about clarity than...

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May 03
Greg's bite: bin Laden iPhone tracked?

By Greg Mills

Sometimes  two elements of current events cross paths.  I just about died laughing at a cartoon I saw where it was implied bin Laden was taken down due to carrying an iPhone.  

The truth is, he didn't trust anything more electronic than a toaster and only toasters without an LED on them. The Australian press ran a story speculating that a million dollar villa that didn't have a telephone or Internet was part of what confirmed to our intelligence agencies that someone who lived there was hiding. The tracking of everything electronic by governments around the world is well known. The extent of that surveillance is not as well known.  

Unlike a lot of people who carry smart phones, the notion that your phone carried a virtual map with dated location points came as a shock to a lot of us. From what I hear, Apple will be removing the location cache held on the computer iOS devices sync with and reducing the maximum location files to...

| Read more »
May 03
The Mac App Store changing the general perception of...

I'm not sure exactly how many apps are available at the Mac App Store, but there are enough that the perception that there's "no software" for the Mac will vanish -- if it hasn't already.

Also, it seems that the quality of the average app on the Mac App Store is higher than that for a typical iOS device on the Apple App Store. (By the way, don't you think the Apple App Store should be redubbed the iOS App Store? After all, the Mac App Store is as much an "Apple" store as the one for the iPhone, iPad and iPod.)

Joseph Beauliue, senior stock analyst with Morningstar (http://macte.ch/CjURB), an investing research group, also thinks the Mac App Store is going to help Macs in a bit way.

"We think the launch of the Mac Application Store (patterned after the iTunes Application Store) could help Apple maintain or accelerate its pace of market share gains," he writes. "Historically, one of the biggest...

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21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP
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