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Mar 24
iPhone 5 likely to sport a bigger screen

Rumors are that the iPhone 5 will have a 4-inch screen compared to 3.5-inch screens on the Apple smartphones that came before it. If so, it's a screen expansion that's perfectly timed.

According to The NPD Group (http://www.npd.com), a market research company, U.S. consumers are willing to give up room in their pockets and handbags to gain a richer media experience on their mobile devices. The U.S. market share for iPhones and other smartphones with screen sizes between 3.5 inches and 3.9 inches have remained steady, but smartphones with the largest screens (four inches or larger) have grabbed market share from devices with screen sizes that are less than 3.5 inches.

Based on the latest information from NPD's Mobile Phone Track, smartphones with 4-inch-or-larger screens, like Samsung's Galaxy S, HTC's EVO 4G and Motorola's Droid X, which debuted in the second quarter (Q2) of 2010, quickly grew to encompass 24...

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Mar 24
Apple patent is for LED backlight for display systems

An Apple patent (number 20110069511) for a LED backlight for display systems has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to device display systems, and more particularly to an LED backlight with highly uniform color for illuminating display systems.

The patent is for a LED backlight method for display systems comprising receiving a plurality of light emitting diodes categorized into a plurality of bins, wherein each bin references a separate range of white point colors, and determining an optimal order for mounting the plurality of light emitting diodes at spatially distributed positions, the plurality of light emitting diodes comprising white point colors associated with separate bins, wherein the optimal order of the plurality of light emitting diodes produces a light of a desired white point color when the light outputs of the plurality of light emitting diodes are mixed. The inventors are Wei Chen, Jun Qi, Victor Yin and John Zhong.

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Mar 23
Greg's bite: Xoom Fades to Black

By Greg Mills

Remember all those tablet computer "iPad killers" showcased at recent electronics shows? As many as 100 tablets were shown in various states of development. Since then, only a handful of tablets have actually been launched, and the iPad is absolutely creaming them in the market.  

The Motorola's Xoom tablet seems to have met an early end. The Xoom was really ill-fated coming out just before iPad 2 hit the market. It seems Motorola has just scaled back the parts on order required to assemble more Xooms. They killed all the parts orders that were not already in the supply chain. It appears Apple's hammerlock on the tablet market and poor Xoom sales caused them to pull back. Ouch, that is sure to hurt the bottom line and Motorola stock prices.

This does not bode well for Motorola's stab at entering the tablet computer market or for the Android HoneyComb OS. From what I hear the new Android HoneyComb OS crashes a lot...

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Mar 23
Magazines look to join books in transition to digital

As far as I know, there are no stats on how successful the iPad-only publication, The Daily, has been. But there's more evidence that digital newspapers and magazines are part of the wave of the future.

E-book distributor LibreDigital (http://www.libredigital.com) says that its business in distributing digital magazine content generated 175% more revenue November through January that in the previous 12 months combined. Surge in demand for digital magazines from LibreDigital’s tablet and e-reader partners drove the increase.

“Demand for digital reading is exploding,” says Russell P. Reeder, LibreDigital president and CEO. “LibreDigital’s goal is to bring scalable solutions to publishers and marketplaces to meet that demand. We are excited to be bringing our experience as the leader in the e-book distribution business to the early stages of an exciting digital periodicals market.”

...

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Mar 22
Apple patent involves the ol' soft shoe

As a runner, I know to replace my running shoes every 400 miles or so. Evidently, Apple wants to simplify that process for me. A new Apple patent (number 7911339) at the US Patent & Trademark Office is for a shoe wear-out sensor, body-bar sensing system, unitless activity assessment and associated methods.

Per the patent, a shoe wear out sensor includes at least one detector for sensing a physical metric that changes as a sole of a shoe wears out, a processor configured to process the physical metric over time to determine if the shoe is worn out, and an alarm for informing a user of the shoe when the sole is worn out. A body bar sensing system includes a housing with at least one detector for sensing a physical metric that indicates a repetition movement of the housing when attached to the body bar, a processor for processing the physical metric over time to determine repetitions thereof, and a display for informing a user of the repetitions.

A system assesses...

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Mar 22
Apple wants to provide an universal container for...

Apple wants to provide you with an "universal container for audio data," per a patent (number 7912730) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

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

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

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Mar 22
Apple patent is for display that emits circularly-...

An Apple patent has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office for a display that emits circularly-polarized light. The invention generally relates to liquid crystal displays.

More specifically, the present invention relates to a liquid crystal display that emits circularly-polarized light and thereby reduces perceived distortion when the display is viewed through linearly-polarizing filters such as polarized sunglasses. One embodiment of the present invention provides a display that emits circularly-polarized light. This display includes a display mechanism that emits linearly-polarized light and a layer placed in the path of the linearly-polarized light.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Explosive growth in the popularity of mobile communication and computing devices has created a burgeoning demand for low-power displays. Most portable digital devices include at least one display screen to output information to users. Liquid crystal displays (LCDs...

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Mar 22
Apple patents involve input devices, Bonjour, audio...

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

Patent number 7910843 is for a compact input device, specifically input devices utilizing three conducting layers and formed on flexible substrates. The input devices may be formed using three or more conducting layers. By including three or more conducting layers, the diameter of the input device may be minimized. In addition, to improve the flexibility of portions of the input device mounted, some portions of the input device may be made to have fewer layers than other portions of the input device. The inventors are Fletcher Rothkopf, Jan Moolsintong, Joseph Fisher,Wendell Sander, and Erturk Kocalar.

Patent number 7912501 involves an audio I/O headset plug and plug detection circuitry. A single prong, multiple signal conducting plug and plug detection circuitry is provided. The plug may be electrically coupled to a stereo...

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Mar 22
Buying iOS apps, then not using 'em? You're...

If you're buying apps at the Apple App Store hand-over-fist, then find you rarely use them, you're not alone.

In a mobile application analytics study of the iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 markets, Localytics (http://www.localytics.com) found that while smartphone and tablet owners are very willing to give applications a try, 26% of the time they never use the same application again. In this study, the research group found that another 26% of people become very loyal, repeat customers, using a new application more than 10 times. And many go on to use an app hundreds of times.

With over 10 billion downloads from just Apple’s App Store, it’s clear that people are willing to try new apps. It’s equally clear that app developers and publishers need to look beyond downloads and focus marketing resources on attracting and retaining the quarter of customers who tend to become...

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Mar 21
Greg's bite: AT&T gobbles up T-Mobile

By Greg Mills

The only constant in the cell phone market is that amazing changes come quickly. Remember that cute dark headed girl in the red and white striped dress (Carly Foulkes) that lampoons AT&T in T-Mobile commercials? I guess she really got to them, so AT&T spent US$39 billion in cash and AT&T stock to buy out T-Mobile and get her off the air. 

The move makes sense, as T-Mobile and AT&T use the same GSM format and that makes their cell towers and backbone compatible with little effort.

T-Mobile, the fourth in size in the USA if merged into AT&T, makes AT&T larger than Verizon, formerly the largest cell phone company in the US. Sprint remains a distant #3. Soon former T-Mobile customers can buy and use iPhones with their existing T-Mobile accounts. This is assuming AT&T can get the government to allow the merger. Some experts think AT&T may be quite disappointed as network monopoly issues will certainly...

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Mar 21
Shipments of smartphones grew 74% in 2010

According to a new research report by Berg Insight (http://www. berginsight.com), global shipments of smartphones increased 74% in 2010 to 295 million units. And the future looks good -- and that's good for Apple.

Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32.4 percent, shipments are forecasted to reach 1,200 million units in 2015. The global user base of smartphones increased at the same time by 38% year-on-year to an estimated 470 million active users in 2010. In the next five years, the global user base of smartphones is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42.9% to reach 2.8 billion in 2015. And you know Apple isn't going to let this opportunity slip by.

Smartphones are receiving more attention from handset manufacturers, network operators and application developers. Most importantly, an increasing number of users are now discovering how smartphones can act as personal computing devices...

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Mar 18
Consumer boxed software sales not dead just yet

There is still life in the consumer boxed software market, despite reports of the demise of the industry, according to market research company the NPD Group (http://www.npd.com). Some reports of that demise are due to the success of the Mac App Store and Apple's reduction of space in its retail stores for boxed software.

But don't weep for the box just yet. According to NPD's Retail Tracking Service, total consumer retail software (excluding games) increased 1% in 2010, to US$2.42 billion. The slight growth comes after two years of steep declines of 8% in 2008 and 10% in 2009.

Sales of business products led the way with 14% revenue growth on the strength of Microsoft's launch of Office 2010. Imaging and graphics was also a strong category with a 10% increase in revenue, as product launches from Adobe and Apple bolstered sales in the high-end professional segments of the market. And, so far, products like...

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Mar 17
Apple patent involves rendering system log data

An Apple patent (number 20110066973) for rendering system log data has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, messages generated by processes on a computer system are aggregated into process groups. The process groups can be displayed in a single user interface using a number of graphs and plots to provide a holistic view of message activity for a given process group, and for all processes running on the computer system. The inventors are Richard Plom and ALi Sazegari.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Modern computer systems can have many processes running at the same time. Some of these processes generate system log data, which describe the health or status of the process. Conventional operating systems may include a simple message or log viewer that displays system log data as a flat list of messages. A flat list of messages, however, does not provide the user with a sense of trends or interaction between processes...

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Mar 17
Projected 14% growth in computer market will be good...

Okay, when is the next iMac update going to be out? Soon, I'm sure. That -- coupled with the fantastic market reception for the revamped MacBook Airs and 2011 MacBook Pros -- should keep the Mac's momentum going at a fortuitous time.

In a new report from Canalys (http://www.canalys.com), the research group estimates global computer growth of 14% for 2011. The Mac is already doing better in incremental growth than the industry overall. New Macs and the "halo effect" of the iPhone and iPad should keep the Mac in solid growth figures.

That said, the Canalys analyst firm predicts that much of the global computer growth will come from pad/tablet shipments, which will increase to 52 million units worldwide in 2011. Of these shipments, Apple is expected to account for over 75%, leaving approximately 12 million units for other vendors.

Canalys anticipates that the iPad’s success will continue, and...

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Mar 16
Keyboards for the iPad not real hot sellers

I've long maintained that the iPad is being used mostly for media consumption, not media creation. There's more evidence that this is the case.

Most tablet manufacturers, including Apple, have designed their products to allow support of an external keyboard. However, "DigiTimes" (http://macte.ch/GSYGM) says Taiwan-based keyboard makers are taking a conservative attitude about demand of such products in the future since, according to Apple iPad's accessory sales status, less than 20% of the Apple tablet users would purchase an external keyboard for their machine.

Quoting "sources from keyboard makers," the article says that that since most iPad applications are designed with touchscreen input as the major consideration, this leaves only e-mail as the only application that still requires a keyboard for operation, while Google's Android is also designed with touchscreen being the major input method. I'd...

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Mar 16
Greg's bite: second guessing the design of the...

By Greg Mills

I am not an engineer or nuclear expert, so my common sense solutions might have valid explanations for why they were not done. As the news gets more grim from the nuclear disaster zone that is northern Japan, some of the problems seem to beg simplistic solutions that seem to have been overlooked in the planning stages of those plants.  

While they planned well for a large earthquake, common sense is that along with a large earthquake a tsunami is not an unusual event in Japan. Both happening at once is what really threw a monkey wrench into the current situation. Hindsight is always 20/20 so here goes:

1. The first issue is the density of the individual reactors, where one nuclear plant's emergency high radioactivity can keep workers away from all three other active reactors. Those other reactors also need constant attention to avoid melting down. With as many as four reactors in one complex, the worst case situation, where one...

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Mar 15
Greg's bite: the Zune dies a lingering death

By Greg Mills
A non-announcement from Microsoft, sort of a "no comment confirmation" has the Zune going the way of the dodo bird. Ironically, many in the press blame Apple's iPod for killing the Zune. I submit that iPod was there first and that the ill conceived clone that was Zune was inferior and doomed to fail in the market place from day one.  

The lesson Microsoft has yet to learn is that while you can copy revolutionary products, there is no guarantee such cloned products will succeed in the market place. It wasn't that Zune was so inferior in its hardware, it was the lack of the magic that Apple put into the entire iPod experience that doomed it. I asked my 11-year-old daughter if she preferred an iPod or a Zune and her answer was, "Daddy, what's a Zune?"

Having the cash flow to make massive mistakes in tactical direction, but being able to survive over 12 years of shiftless management due to the lucrative Windows OS franchise, Microsoft...

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Mar 15
Ultraviolet format, meet the DVD

In a move that could bring the UltraViolet proposal closer to our homes, some at the major film studios want to take advantage of UltraViolet to prevent DVD libraries from being rendered obsolete in a format upgrade, according to a "CNET" report (http://macte.ch/VIi18).

But first some back ground: in July 2010, a group of media and electronics companies have announced an agreement on an all-formats system called UltraViolet for digital downloads. The single standard will, at least in theory, allow the consumer to purchase films to be viewed on any device -- a computer, smartphone, game console, Blu-ray player, and television. And it sounds like something Apple would like, but that remains to be seen.

Backed by 48 companies -- including film studios such as Paramount, Warner Bros., Sony and Fox, and tech firms like Microsoft, Toshiba, Panasonic as well as Intel and Comcast -- the consortium, called the...

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Mar 14
Content protection key to successful Internet video

Consumers increasingly want to access video content across the various video-capable devices they own, and service providers, content owners, online video distributors and device manufacturers are all keen to provide it.

However, new technologies are urgently needed to secure multiplatform video content against piracy and unauthorized access, according to a major new report from Heavy Reading (http://www.heavyreading.com), the research division of Light Reading (http://www.lightreading.com).

"Content owners will not allow their content to be distributed on a platform that is vulnerable to piracy," says Aditya Kishore, Senior Analyst of Heavy Reading and author of the report. "However, consumers want to be able to access copies of their purchased content across devices. The entire value chain needs a secure but...

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Mar 11
Looking at this week's Apple rumors...

The rumor mill has been working overtime this week. Here's my thoughts on some of the speculations.

This week photos of a possible prototype 64GB iPhone were posted to the M.I.C gadget. If authentic, that doesn't necessarily mean that Apple will release such a beast. However, if Apple can maintain price points, a 64GB version would make sense considering all the data types that the iPhone -- which is much more than a phone -- can store.

Also, there's a rumor that Apple plans to ditch the glass back design of the iPhone 4 in favor of an aluminum back on the iPhone 5. This would also make sense as aluminum would be lighter and less scratch prone.

German site Macerkopf.de claims that an unnamed source tells them that Apple is planning an early April media event to introduce iOS 5 and a revamped MobileMe services. I'm not convinced that this will happen with iOS 4.3 having just been released. I wouldn't expect iOS 5 to be previewed until early May.

As for...

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Mar 10
Greg's bite: iPad 2 reviews are mostly positive

By Greg Mills

I always find negative articles about Apple products interesting, as most of the time, the authors admit at some point in the article that they haven't really used the product personally that they are dissing.  

Some authors expected the iPad 2 to have a mug warmer app to keep their coffee hot, cure world hunger and cancer -- and also end war. The first incarnation of iPad was so good it is a hard act to follow even for Apple, let alone the clueless competitors.   

There is something about the human experience that sometimes is hard to put a spatial experience into words. When Steve Jobs referred to the newly launched iPad as magical, Apple believers took him at his word and nay-sayers ate crow. Just as the first Mac changed computing forever, lightning struck twice, and Apple's iPad is revolutionizing consumer's notions of what a computer is.    

While the technology and software of the quickly evolving iOS platform is...

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Mar 10
Patent hints at better iOS/accessory authentication

Improved techniques to control utilization of accessory devices with electronic devices are disclosed in a new Apple patent (number 20110061113) at the US Patent & Trademark. The invention relates to electrical devices and, more particularly, to electrical devices, such as media players, that receive accessory devices.

Per the patent, the improved techniques can use cryptographic approaches to authenticate electronic devices, namely, electronic devices that interconnect and communicate with one another. One aspect pertains to techniques for authenticating an electronic device, such as an accessory device. Another aspect pertains to provisioning software features (e.g., functions) by or for an electronic device (e.g., a host device). Different electronic devices can, for example, be provisioned differently depending on different degrees or levels of authentication, or depending on manufacturer or product basis. Still another aspect pertains to using an accessory (or...

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Mar 10
Apple plans to beef up remote control features for iOS...

Apple has plans for letting you remotely control the cameras in certain iOS devices. A patent (number 20110058052) for systems and methods for remote camera control has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, a camera capable of capturing still images and video and included in a portable media device can be controlled remotely using an accessory. The accessory can register with the PMD to automatically receive notifications whenever there is a change in the camera state. The camera states can include mode, operation status, and configuration settings. The accessory can send instructions to a camera application that interfaces with the camera to control the camera.

The accessory can remotely activate the camera, change camera mode, and send instructions to operate the camera. The accessory and the PMD can concurrently control the camera. The PMD can send the captured still images and recorded video to the accessory for preview and receive...

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Mar 10
Apple patent involves anodization treatment

An Apple patent (number 20110056836) for anodization and polish surface treatment -- used its the company's iOS line of products -- has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, a metal surface treated to have a distinct cosmetic appearance such as an integral layer that is glossy may be used in electronic devices. The surface treatment may include polishing a metal surface, texturing the polished metal surface, polishing the textured surface, followed by anodizing the surface, and then polishing the anodized surface. The metal surface may also be dyed to impart a rich color to the surface. The inventors are Masahige Tatebe, Howard Bujtor, Jody Akana and Jonathan P. Ive.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Many products in the commercial and consumer industries are metal articles, or contain metal parts. The metal surfaces of these products may be treated by any number of processes to alter the surface to create a desired...

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Mar 10
Some thoughts about the 13-inch MacBook Pro

The latest MacBook Pro rev is getting great reviews, especially the 15-inch and 17-inch models. But there are some concerns -- minor, true, but still concerns -- with the 13-inch MBP.

First, why is the screen resolution on the 13-incher stuck at 1280 x 800 when the 11-inch MacBook Air has 1366 x 768 native resolution and the 13-inch MacBook Air has 1440 x 900? The entry level MacBook Pro should at least match the resolution of the similar sized Air model.

Also, it's nice that the smallest MB Pro gets a performance boost thanks to its Sandy Bridge processors. But isn't it time for Apple to include a prop pro-level graphics chip in this "pro" laptop? Its bigger siblings sport dual graphics chips and automatic switching technology, while the 13-inch model chugs along with the not-bad-but-not-great integrated Intel HD Graphics GPU.

A built-in HDMI port would be nice, but I wasn't expecting that. Blu-Ray playback would also be great, but, well, that's not going to...

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Mar 10
Apple patent is for electromagnetic induction

An Apple patent (number 20110057629) for harnessing power through electromagnetic induction has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Systems for harnessing power through electromagnetic induction utilizing printed coils are provided. A system can include one or more moveable magnets adjacent to printed coils on a circuit. For example, a system can include one or more magnets that are operative to move alongside a circuit board that includes printed coils.

The one or more magnets may move, for example, when a user shakes the system or when the user walks or runs while holding the device. The movement of the one or more magnets may create an electromotive force (e.g., a voltage) across the printed coils, and this force may be used to generate electric power. The inventors are Gloria Lin, Pareet, Michael Rosenblatt, Taido Nakajima and Bruno Germansderfer.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Traditional systems for harnessing...

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Mar 09
Greg's bite: iPad copy cats to crash and burn

By Greg Mills

The recent electronics consumer shows have been loaded with "me too" iPad incarnations from every competitor of Apple. By some counts over 100 prototypes or concept models were shown.  To date, only a handful of actual products have made it to market. The most notable thing about all of them is that when a price is really announced, without exception, the specs and price are compared to the iPad.  

The market has quickly discounted the offerings despite serious marketing programs. Some analysts now expect a serious blood bath as most of the "iPad killers" fall to the wayside. Keep in mind, it is very expensive designing and starting up an assembly line to manufacture slate computers. The devil is in the details, as parts have to be identified and purchased months in advance to get part prices that add up to something at or under US$250.  

The reason I set a part cost level at $250 is that by the time the parts are assembled and...

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Mar 09
Could an 'iHome' be closer when Lion prowls?


With Mac OS X Lion set to prowl this summer, it's looking like the "iHome" could be closer to being a reality. Now we just need some iTunes/iBooks/Mac App Store sharing, and we truly would have the core for a real home server.

Lion will ship with Mac OS X Lion Server -- which Apple says will make setting up a server easier than ever -- and adds support for managing Mac OS X Lion, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. Now we'll see if Apple will intro some real home server features.

What features? Things like -- as mentioned -- iPhoto and iTunes/iBooks/Mac App Store sharing and collaboration. Perhaps an iDisk for the local server that can also sync with the iDisk on Apple servers. How about the ability to set up the iCal and Wiki servers with templates and services that make it easy for home uses to use? I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
 
I’ve long hoped for an Apple home server product. A 2010 consumer survey conducted by ABI Research...

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Mar 08
Apple granted digital video encoding patent

Apple has been granted a patent (number 7903730) by the US Patent & Trademark Office for a method and apparatus for variable accuracy inter-picture timing specification for digital video encoding. It relates to the field of multimedia compression systems. In particular the present invention discloses methods and systems for specifying variable accuracy inter-picture timing.

Specifically, the present invention discloses a system that allows the relative timing of nearby video pictures to be encoded in a very efficient manner. In one embodiment, the display time difference between a current video picture and a nearby video picture is determined. The display time difference is then encoded into a digital representation of the video picture. In a preferred embodiment, the nearby video picture is the most recently transmitted stored picture. For coding efficiency, the display time difference may be encoded using a variable length coding system or arithmetic coding. In an...

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Mar 08
Greg's bite: Microsoft pays Nokia $1 billion to...

By Greg Mills

Talk about mutual desperation or a marriage from hell. "Bloomberg" reports that Nokia has held out for US$1 billion from Microsoft to use Windows 7. Microsoft head honcho Steve Ballmer seems to think he can buy his way into the smartphone market that Microsoft abdicated over the last few years.  

Nokia and Microsoft both have seen Apple eat their market share with the viral iPhone and iOS since it was launched. At one time Microsoft had some traction in the semi-smart phone market with its rather primitive phone software. The market shunned the Microsoft OS as it was light years behind Apple's iOS. Nokia, likewise, had a giant share of the dumb phone market and has seen its share drop dramatically since the iPhone 1 taught the world what a true smartphone could do.  

A few weeks back the CEO of Nokia famously pounded his chest with a visceral proclamation of defeat at the hands of Apple and Android. The dumb phone market is...

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Mar 07
Greg's bite: Flummoxed defined

By Greg Mills

While I think I have a pretty good vocabulary at my disposal, the word "flummoxed", which Steve Jobs used when he dropped the iPad 2 bomb on the PC market, perplexed me.  

I was pretty sure he wasn't complementing the competition, but I had to Google the word to fully understand what he was saying. Having studied up on the word flummox and it's deviates, I thought it might be fun to define the word in the context of the PC market, in a way everyone would fully appreciate. 

Flummoxed comes from the transitive verb "flummox." The origins of the word are unknown, but the earliest documented use of the word goes back to 1837. Merriam-Webster uses the sentence "an actor who's easily flummoxed by any changes in the script" as an example of the proper use of the word. "Confuse" is similar to the basic intent of the word.  

Flummoxed synonyms listed by Merriam...

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Mar 07
Study says casual games can reduce depression, anxiety

Okay, gamers, here's some fodder for your argument that games are good for you. Well, it's fodder if you're a "casual gamer."

East Carolina University’s Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic recently revealed the results of a year-long randomized, controlled clinical study that measured the efficacy of so-called “casual” video games (CVGs) in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety as a co-morbid condition. Nearly 60 subjects, half of whom served as controls, all meeting the criteria of clinical depression, participated in the study, which involved three family-friendly, non-violent puzzle games: Bejeweled 2, Peggle and Bookworm Adventures. (Taken note that all of the games are made by PopCap Games, underwriter of the study.)
 
The hypothesis was tested using technologies including psycho-physiological, biochemical and psychological measurements, and found an average reduction in depression symptoms of 57% in the experimental (“video game”) group. The...

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Mar 04
Consumers not ready to embrace cloud-based solution

I've long been skeptical about cloud-based solutions, at least solutions that are totally cloud-based. Apparently, I'm not the only one.

The industry is rapidly moving content solutions to the cloud, but consumer interest is not keeping pace, as less than 30% of U.S. broadband households find the digital locker an attractive alternative for music or video, according to Parks Associates (http://www.parksassociates.com).

A new report from the international research firm, highlights the challenges within the industry, including device and format interoperability, consumer awareness, and security and delivery issues. Market fragmentation is also a major inhibitor, and efforts including Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem's (DECE) UltraViolet initiative and Disney's Studio All Access aim to overcome these barriers.

"In terms of rich media, consumers want everything, everywhere,...

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Mar 03
Apple eyeing Mac technology for serving multiple...

An Apple patent (number 2011054880) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that shows that Apple is planning on beefing up its Mac OS X and iOS technology for special needs students. The patent is for a system to accommodate disabilities of several students at once.

Techniques and systems for content transformation between devices are disclosed. In one aspect, a system includes a host device that sends content to client devices, and client devices that receive content from the host device in one format and transform the content into a different format. The client devices present the transformed content to users.

In another aspect, the host device presents content in a native format, determines that a client device requires the content to be in a different format, converts the content to a reference format, and sends the converted content to the client device. Christopher B. Fieizach is the inventor.

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

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Mar 03
The iPad 2 looks to be a solid upgrade, if not...

So much for the iPad 2 being a disappointment. My iPad is going to my son, and I'll certainly be getting an iPad 2.

The second incarnation is thinner (33%), lighter (1.3 pounds compared to 1.5 pounds), has a much faster processor (the dual-core A5), two cameras (I was only expecting one) and more. The Smart Cover looks very, very cool. What's not to love?

Well, if you were expecting the rumored doubling (quadrupling?) of the screen resolution, you'd be disappointed. But I never expected that to happen (though it will reach 2048x1536, eventually). If you were expecting a Thunderbolt port, you might be let down. But I'm not really sure that's feasible or necessary.

Actually, there are three items I would have loved to have seen. One: a 128GB model; 64GB fills up pretty quickly if you're dealing with digital media. Two: I'd love to have seen either an SD card slot or a USB connector for added capacity. Three: wireless syncing with my Mac.

Still, it's an...

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Mar 03
Apple may have bigger plans for Faces, Places

An Apple patent (number 20110050706) for modifying graphical paths has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Offices. It indicates that Apple has plans to further beef up the Faces and Places features of iPhoto -- and perhaps incorporate such technology in other apps, as well.

A computing device includes a memory configured to store images and associated timing data. The computing device also includes a processor configured to execute instructions to perform a method that includes producing a graphical path on a digital map that represents positions associated with the images. The positions are estimated from the timing data associated with the images. The method also includes modifying the graphical path based upon data that represents user provided adjustments to the estimated positions of the images. The method also includes presenting the modified path. The inventors are Tim Cherna, Nikhil Bhatt and Alexander David Wallace.

Here's Apple's background and...

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Mar 03
Apple patents involve iCal, audio decoding more

Apple has been granted a patent involving iCal. Also, several other patents have popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent number 20110054976 involves scheduling of recurring calendar events, a feature of iCal. Methods, systems, and computer-readable media for scheduling a recurring event are disclosed. When a calendar application receives an invitation from an organizer to an invite, the calendar application expands the recurring event into a plurality of occurrences, and detects any scheduling conflicts that can be caused by each of the plurality of occurrences. The calendar application notifies the invitee of the detected scheduling conflicts before the invitee makes a decision regarding the invitation.

An invitee is provided an opportunity to accept only the non-conflicting occurrences of the recurring event. If the invitee chooses to accept only the non-conflicting occurrences, the invitee is given opportunities to respond to each of the...

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Mar 02
One small step closer to the day of cutting the cable...

Good news of sorts for those of us who hope that, somewhere down the line, a device such as the Apple TV can free us from cable and satellite TV fees. However, to challenge the cable and satellite TV industry's dominance in the living room, online video services need hit movies and TV shows to attract viewers, and access to high-speed Internet networks to reach them.

Until now we've had no rights to either. However, that's changing. To win government approval to take over NBC Universal last month, cable giant Comcast has agreed to let online rivals such as Netfllix license NBC programming, including hit shows such as "30 Rock" and "The Office," reports the "Associated Press" (http://macte.ch/LG4Ya). Comcast also agreed not to block its 17 million broadband subscribers from watching video online through services such as Netflix and iTunes, the article adds.

Those requirements by the Federal...

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Mar 01
Apple working on ways to 'wake up' your Mac...

Two Apple patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office show that Apple is dedicated to making your Mac "wake up" faster whether or not it's equipped with a solid state drive (which is faster than the traditional hard disk drive).

Patent number 7899923 is for a method and apparatus for waking up a sleeping system. It relates to a method and an apparatus for waking up a sleeping system that resides on a computer network.

One embodiment of the present invention provides a system that wakes up a sleeping target system located on a target LAN (Local Area Network) from a remote system located on a remote LAN. Because the sleeping target system is in a sleep state, it receives packets of a lower-layer protocol which cannot be used by the remote system to directly send packets to the sleeping target system. During operation, the remote system creates a wake-up packet. The remote system then uses a second protocol to send the wake-up packet to a relay agent located on the...

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Mar 01
The Northern Spy: some things old, some things new

By Rick Sutcliffe

For the last two months the Spy has digressed from the reader's usual fare to cover two endemic ethical issues -- to wit, the misconduct of the spammer, and that of the rogue board member. For March, there are many interesting technology news items to consider. To complete the title, the Spy may borrow a rumour or two, and will certainly consider things Blue (-Ray, that is.)

New products are now in the stores, as Apple has released the expected iteration of the Mac Book Pro. The main item of interest, besides the number of cores in a portable, is the new high speed data channel -- Thunderbolt, which incorporates and subsumes the display port. What does this mean for the longer term?

° That as usual Apple is a good year ahead of the pack in introducing new technology,

° Far higher data transfer speeds, as manufacturers of disk drives adopt the new interface,

° Apple now seems unlikely to adopt USB 3.0, include...

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Mar 01
TRIM support in Mac OS X Lion is overdue

One of the nice surprises (though it shouldn't have been a surprise) in the Mac OS X Lion preview that Apple released last week is the addition of TRIM support. Since the long-term future of the Mac is with solid state drives, it's about time added this.

A TRIM command allows an operating system to inform an SSD which data blocks, such as those belonging to a deleted file or affected by a format command, are no longer being used so can be wiped internally. That's important because the low-level operation of SSDs differs from traditional hard disk drives in the way operating systems handle operations like deleting and formatting. TRIM enables the SSD to handle garbage collection overhead which would otherwise significantly slow down future write operations to the involved blocks, in advance. In other words, it helps maintain optimal performance and extend the life of your SSD.

Mac OS X 10.6 doesn't optimally handle SSDs. All versions of OS X up to Lion treat SSDs as a...

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Mar 01
Apple granted iPhone 4, iChat, keyboard patents

Apple has been granted patents for the iPhone 4, iChat and the Apple Keyboard (apparently both the wired and wireless versions) by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent D633493 is for the iPhone 4. The inventors are Jody Akana, Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Jeremy Bataillou, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Steve Jobs, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent number 7899170 is for a multi-participant conference set-up (iChat). The inventors are Jim Normile, Hyeonkuk Jeong, Joe Abuan, Ryan Salsbury and Berkat Tung.

Patent number D633,498 is for a keyboard. The inventors are Jody Akana, Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Jeremy Bataillou, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Steve Jobs, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Christopher...

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Feb 28
Greg's bite: FaceTime, Mac to iPhone

By Greg Mills

Apple continues to tweak telephony technology with a real world video phone application called FaceTime. While FaceTime between iPhone 4 users was already up and running, FaceTime between Macs and iPhones is new. SInce all new Macs have a front facing camera and 99% hook up to the Internet, connecting Macs to the telephone network is pretty much a slam dunk.

My wife uses Yahoo to chat with her relatives in the Philippines computer to computer.  FaceTime between Mac is also established but FaceTime between Macs and iPhones is what is new. I predict that the front facing iPads that are about to be released will also do that trick.  

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Apple may well be ramping up a cell phone network using excess capacity of existing sell phone companies with technology patented by Apple invented by Tony Fadell. Imagine the entire system of Macs and iPads via the Internet connecting with iPhones that are subscribed to...

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Feb 28
Younger adults leading the way in increased mobility

Many devices have become popular across generations, with a majority of adults now owning cell phones, laptops and desktop computers. And that doesn't appear to be changing, which is good news for several companies, especially Apple.

Younger adults are leading the way in increased mobility, preferring laptops to desktops and using their cell phones for a variety of functions, including Internet, email, music, games and video, according to a study by Pew Research (http://www.pewresearch.com). Among the findings:

° Cell phones are by far the most popular device among American adults, especially for adults younger than age 65. Some 85% of adults own cell phones. Taking pictures (done by 76% of cell owners) and text messaging (done by 72% of cell owners) are the two non-voice functions that are widely popular among all cell phone users.

° Desktop computers are the most popular with adults...

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Feb 24
New MacBook Pro or iMac?

Well, Apple, you've made my life difficult. When I upgrade my Mac next time will I go with an iMac or a MacBook Pro? I'll probably stick with the former as my 27-inch iMac is my favorite computer ever. On the other hand, one model in particular of the MacBook Pro tempts me.


That's the 2.2GHZ quad-core 15-incher. Sandy Bridge processors? Check. Thunderbolt technology? Sweet. Integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 384MB of DDR3SDRAM shared with the main memory and the ability to switch between these integrated graphics chips and the more powerful discrete graphics processors from AMD? Lovely. A new FaceTime HD camera with 720p resolution? Nice.

If I ordered the MacBook Pro, I'd go for the standard model, though I'd substitute a 500GB 7200 RPM drive for the 7250GB 5400 RMP drive (you can do that at no extra charge).

On the other hand, I'm sure Apple will upgrade the iMac soon -- and I'll certainly get more bang for my buck. Way more hard disk space. Probably a...

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Feb 24
Apple plans to simplify info sharing between Macs, iOS...

Apple plans to make it easier to share info between Macs and iOS devices, as evidenced by a patent (number 20110047598) for device identity matching at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The technology is related to identifying devices based on their owner, and more specifically related to recognizing commonly owned devices, and devices owned by contacts, to authorize network connections between the devices.

Per the patent, devices are identified by their owners and authorization to network two or more devices is based on device ownership. Data structures such as address books can store information about an owner of a device and maintain an entry indicating that a particular entry identifies the owner of the device. Other entries in the address book are contacts of the owner.

A host device can authorize a client for communication with the host based on a relationship between the owner of the client and the owner of the host as indicated by the presence of the...

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Feb 24
Future Apple laptops could sport touch screen lids

Future Apple laptops could sports touch sensitive controls on their covers/lids, per a new patent (number 20110043227) for a method and apparatus for capacitive sensing at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The disclosure addresses methods and apparatus facilitating capacitive sensing using a conductive surface, and facilitating the sensing of proximity to the conductive surface. The sensed proximity will often be that of a user, but can be another source of a reference voltage potential. In some examples, the described systems are capable of sensing capacitance (including parasitic capacitance) in a circuit that includes the outer conductive surface, and where that outer conductive surface is at a floating electrical potential.

In some systems, the systems can be switched between two operating modes, a first mode in which the system will sense proximity to the conductive surface, and a second mode in which the system will use a capacitance measurement to sense...

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Feb 24
Will we see a new iMac today?

Rumors abound that Apple will announce a revamped line of MacBook Pros today. In fact, they may already have, as I'm penning this on Wednesday evening. Will we see new iMacs, as well?

In a report (http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20110221PD220.html) touching on Apple's anticipated MacBook Pro refresh, DigiTimes suggested that Apple may also update its iMac line either alongside or soon after the notebook line's update. In addition, the iMac update may see a change in screen size offerings from the current 21.5- and 27-inch models, the article adds.

Apple's iMac line of desktops were last updated in July 2010 with Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 processors and ATI Radeon graphics. The current lineup has a starting price of $1,199. I'm rather dubious that we'll see new iMacs today, though, if we don't, I think we'll see them soon.

If DigiTimes is...

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Feb 24
Apple patents involve cache management, call paths

Two new Apple patents involving cache management and call path enforcement have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent number 20110043528 is for cache management for glyph display. This is directed to managing a cache size for glyphs used to display text or other information in an electronic device. In particular, this is directed to defining a variable hit rate for retrieving glyphs loaded in cache to limit the number of times the device is required to read glyphs from storage.

The hit rate can vary based on any suitable number or type of factors, including for example the characters previously displayed or to be displayed in the future, the system requirements for system memory, or any other suitable factor. In some embodiments, the hit rate can vary when characters in a second alphabet are displayed among or after characters in a first alphabet (e.g., Japanese characters in a listing of Latin characters). The inventors are Dmitriy Solomonov,...

| Read more »
Feb 23
Some predictions on the iPhone 5

With techies and enthusiasts in mind, risk manager Tony Harvey and his team of oddsmakers at Bookmaker.com, an online sportsbook, have calculated the odds on what’s to come for the iPhone 5, expected this summer. Here is what the odds look like: 
 
Will the iPhone 5 have a 4-inch screen or larger?
Yes: -1000 (90%)
No: +400   (20%)
 
Will the device have a 10-megapixel camera or better?
Yes: +250 (28%)
No: -500 (83%)
 
Will the device feature a physical keyboard?
Yes: +150 (40%)
No: -200 (66%)
 
Will the device have a sliding cover?
Yes: +1000 (1%)
No: -5000 (99%)
 
Will the device be thinner than previous versions?
Yes: +1000  (1%)
No: -400 (80%)
 
[The +/- Indicates the Return on the Wager. The percentage is the likelihood that response will occur. For Example: Betting on the candidate least likely to win would earn the most amount of money, should...

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