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Nov 02
Greg's Bite: Duqu Trojan uses MS Word

By Greg Mills

To a hacker, an un-patched zero-day vulnerability is extremely valuable and never frivolously wasted. The Duqu worm seems to have used an unknown Windows vulnerability just to get information for a future attack from "secure" computer networks. No money was stolen. That who ever wrote the worm was more interested in information than money says a lot about who might be behind the project.

Microsoft is working on patching the rare kernel vulnerability as quickly as possible. The recently discovered Duqu worm, which only infects Microsoft Word documents, (.doc) files and then uses a vulnerability in the very kernel of the Windows PC OS to do its dirty work is very well written.

Duqu appears to have been written by the same group that launched Stuxnet last year based upon similarities and the sophistication of the newly discovered malware. No one took credit for Stuxnet but Israel and the US were widely blamed. Stuxnet set Iran...

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Nov 02
Greg's Bite: Apple's evolution

By Greg Mills

There has been a lot of speculation in the press regarding the direction Apple will go under new leadership. New CEO Tim Cook, while presenting a firm hand on the day to day operations of Apple must rely upon the product instincts of his management team. The late Steve Jobs had the genius to see markets that begged to be fixed and had the gaul to revolutionize entire industries. Despite being a micromanager, Jobs' attention span was too short to follow up on minute details like Cook does. Apple needs Mr. Cook, but it also needs to boldly go where thinking different will lead Apple.

That it takes a team to replace Steve Jobs isn't a problem or even a liability; it will be a strength. The decision to encompass a new industry or market is a decision that has to be made crisply and timely to keep Apple relevant and growing. Apple has made some mistakes in the past; mistakes are survivable if not so major they take the company down due to...

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Nov 02
The Mac Pro's days may be numbered

I expect to see a revamped Mac Pro before the end of 2011. It will probably be the last incarnation of the pro desktop.

Despite the coming availability of a new generation of Sandy Bridge desktop CPUs suitable for advancing the Mac Pro line, Apple has reportedly been evaluating whether to continue to invest in its full-sized workstation line beyond this year in the face of limited sales, according to "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com).

That's not surprising. Except for a few users the iMac, Apple's best-selling desktop, has plenty of processing power. You can attach two Thunderbolt Cinema Displays to the Thunderbolt-equipped iMac for plenty of screen real estate. And Thunderbolt technology "will ultimately allow other, more popular members of the Mac product family to assume the vast majority of the roles that once required the Mac Pro's flexibility and architecture," as "...

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Nov 01
The Northern Spy: Jobs' legacy, some Apple...

By Rick Sutcliffe

Prescience was not foreseen by the Spy when he titled last month's column, but said monicker now seems faintly evocative of a sad prophecy. The iCEO has not merely stepped down, he's left us altogether. 


Steve Jobs' legacy sees us all materially wealthier, for he had a unique talent for putting his finger on the pulse of the market two or three years down the road, then inventing the product to create the market his mind's eye saw. When the history of our time is written, Steve Jobs' name will be far more prominent than any of the politicians whose images and dulcet tones saturate the daily media, more lasting than any entertainment idol, have more footnotes and records than any athlete. Jobs was unique. He passes to the next life to no one's benefit and everyone's regret.

Meanwhile, back at the iCompany, business carries on and will carry on for years to come much as it has in the past. The workaholic culture of excellence...

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Nov 01
Ultrabook sales to fall short -- is anyone surprised?

Shipments of ultrabook by Acer and Asustek are expected to reach 100,000 units each by the end of 2011, falling short of their targets of 200,000-300,000 units, due to relatively high prices, reports "DigiTimes" (http://www.digitimes.com), quoting unnamed "sources at channels." Is anyone surprised?

I mean why would you buy an ultrabook? If you want a compact device for content consumption, get an iPad. If you want a compact device for content creation and already have a desktop computer, get a MacBook Air. If you need a compact device for content creation and don't have a desktop computer, get a MacBook Pro. It's that simple.

Of course, to some folks it may not be that simple. Last month Acer Vice President Scott Lin said (http://macte.ch/StrCT) said that upcoming ultrabooks would eat the iPad's lunch. He said that ultrabooks will...

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Nov 01
Apple patents involve authentication, ITO layer...

Apple has won several patents applications by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Two involve authentication and indium tin oxide layer forming, while several others are for iPod designs. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 8051097 involves a system and method for authentication using a shared table and sorting exponentiation. Disclosed are systems, computer-implemented methods, and computer-readable media for authentication using a shared table. The method receives an authentication challenge from a first entity including an accumulator with an initial value, lists of elements in a shared table, and a list of sorting algorithms, each sorting algorithm is associated with one of the lists of elements and modified to include embedded instructions operating on the accumulator.

The method then generates a temporary table for each list of elements in the shared table by copying elements from the shared table as indicated in each respective...

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Oct 31
Smartphones, tablets pass laptops as airport Wi-Fi...

Chalk another win up for the iPad, iPhone and, I suspect, for the MacBook Air. Boingo Wireless (http://www.boingo.com), a provider of software and services worldwide, has released its Wi-Fi Snapshot, a data-driven infographic that provides detail related to significant trends seen among Wi-Fi users from its managed network of 60 airports and aggregated network of hundreds of thousands of hotspots worldwide.

Mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) surpassed laptops as the most widely carried Wi-Fi device in airports, reaching 58.9% of all devices in June. Mobile devices passed the 50% mark for the first time in February 2011.

The overall size of the Wi-Fi device market has increased fivefold in the last five years, with laptops doubling overall while the explosive growth of smartphones/tablets constituted the bulk of the growth.

iOS has a commanding market share of mobile devices actively using...

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Oct 30
Greg's Bite: Siri For the rest of us?

By Greg Mills

People were still standing in lines around the block when iPhone 4S firmware was hacked to work with iOS 5 to allow Siri to run on iPhone 4. The first attempts were a proof of concept but the hacked iPhone had trouble connecting with Apple's servers that were configured to only allow Siri to work on the newest iPhone.

I speculated at the time, that restricting Siri to iPhone 4S was likely a marketing ploy to push people into trading up to the new iPhone. Apple indicated that the dual A5 chipset was required to process speech at the speed required for Siri to work properly. It appears now that just about any iOS device that can run iOS 5 can also run Siri.

There might be a slight hit on the processing speed and some problems also might be due to the quality of the microphones on early iOS devices. See...

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Oct 29
Greg's Bite: No Margin, No Apple TV Set

Posted by Greg Mills

Those who predict Apple products tend to be wrong as often as they are right. Apple is famously secretive in its product development, for very good reasons. First the free publicity is worth millions when the curtain is drawn and months of speculation comes down to "oh, one last thing". If Steve Jobs had any fun in life that really mattered to him, it was in making monkeys out of the competition and us Apple tech writers in releasing the latest Apple device that we got wrong.

The second reason for the dark drapes of secrecy in Apple product development is that from the first products Apple put out years ago, the competition has reversed engineered or just plain stolen Apple's marketable ideas. Patents and trade secrets are the second line of defense as secrecy is the first. The competition hears about the latest Apple products at the public release and have no time to duplicate Apple products for some period of time,...

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Oct 28
Ivy Bridge offers hope for 'retina display'...

Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge processors may portend the coming of "retinan display" Macs -- in other words, Macs with ultra high resolution (4096 x 4096 displays).

"VR-Zone" (http://macte.ch/xfvzb) says that Intel recently revealed that they'll be able to support 4K resolutions and process video at that resolution."It's the vastly improved display capability, and associated ultra high resolution video processing, of the new chip -- in fact, so high it stands on an equal footing with the fastest high end discrete GPUs in this particular measurement: the 4K display resolution," the article adds.

Not only can the MFX engine display up to 4096 x 4096 pixels on a single monitor, but it can also handle video processing for 4K QuadHD video as well. Imagine a 27-inch iMac (my model of choice) with 4096 x 4096 resolution -- or perhaps "just" 3840 x 2160.

The current high-end model has "only" 2560 x 1440...

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Oct 27
Apple patent involves peer-to-peer synchronization

An Apple patent (number 20110264623) for a method and system for using global equivalency sets to identify data during peer-to-peer synchronization has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

It involves systems and methods for synchronization including the use of a global equivalency identification datum or set of datum. A universally unique identification datum may be associated with each independently created associated data set. In some embodiments, a synchronization server software element may be responsible for maintaining synchronization for a plurality of clients, including software elements or devices.

A record believed to be new by the software elements may verify that the record is actually new. In some embodiments, verification of the record's newness involves assuming that the local ID is a global identification datum and comparing that datum to the all the sets of datum that the Sync-Server knows about. The synchronization server software...

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Oct 27
Apple patent is for controlling devices with hand...

Apple is eyeing ways to interact with video capture devices though means such as hand gestures, as evidenced by a patent (number 20110261213) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

A method and apparatus of interaction with and control of a video capture device are described. In the described embodiments, video are presented at a display, the display having contact or proximity sensing capabilities. A gesture can be sensed at or near the display in accordance with the video presented on the display, the gesture being associated with a first video processing operation. The video are modified in accordance with the first video processing operation in real time. The inventors are Benjamin A. Rottlier and Michael J. Ingrassia.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The embodiments described herein relate generally to real time interactive control of image processing by a video capture device. More particularly, gestures can be applied in real time to...

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Oct 27
The iPad succeeds because other tablets cost too much

As you doubtless know, Apple dominates the tablet market with the iPad. What's surprising is that one reason for this is that other tablets cost too much.

Ever since the first iPad’s debut at $499 for the base model, Apple has maintained a price advantage against new entrants to the space. According to a new report from iGR (http://www.igr-inc.com), entrants into the tablet space likely need to price their tablets far less than the $499 iPad 2 in order to stand a chance at generating the same level of sales.

"Our ongoing survey results are pretty clear and consistent: the vast majority of respondents are only interested in an iPad -- and it would take a discount well over $100 to convince them to buy another original equipment manufacturer’s tablet," says ays Matt Vartabedian, vice president of the wireless and mobile research service.

Almost all competing tablets launched to-date that have...

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Oct 26
Greg's Bite: Strategic Use of Apple's Nest...

By Greg Mills

I have purchased the book "Steve Jobs" and have read the first fourth of it so far. There are interesting insights into the black hole of information that describes what most of us know about the life and dealings of Steve Jobs. I downloaded it onto my iPad, a fitting tribute to the digital downloaded book concept he pioneered.

Two relevant stock issues are in the news: Sprint is rebounding somewhat from almost historic lows but still floundering without the vision and steady hand they need. I am still of the opinion Apple ought to buy Sprint and own a national cellular network they could fix. The profit alone on the iPhones Sprint has ordered over the next four years is enough to buy the company outright. Apple needs to think differently and just buy the company.

NetFlix also is in the news as it is being punished for its marketing stupidity and incredibly poorly thought-out moves. NetFlix has shed one-third its...

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Oct 26
Can Apple stay on top without Jobs? Yes

A new report from the IHS research group (http://www.ihs.com) asks, "Can Apple stay on top without Jobs?" Even without reading the report, I can tell you the answer to that question: yes.

But back to the report. Here's part of what iHS has to say:

"In life, Steve Jobs’ vision gave Apple Inc. a commanding lead over the competition. But after his death, it will be Jobs’ skills as a manager -- specifically whether he built an organization that can carry on his legacy without him -- that will determine whether Apple can maintain its advantage. However, no matter how successfully Jobs seeded Apple with his genius, his spark may prove irreplaceable over the long term ... [Apple's] stunning accomplishments have entirely been due to Jobs and his laser-like focus, along with his willingness to buck convention and his knack for reinventing existing products and business models. But perhaps most of all, it was Jobs’...

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Oct 25
Apple patent is for multiband antenna for laptops,...

A new Apple patent (number 8044873) for antennas with periodic shunt inductors has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It's for a cellular antenna that could be used in future laptops and iPhones.

Per the patent, an antenna may be formed from conductive regions that define a gap that is bridged by shunt inductors. The inductors may have equal inductances and may be located equidistant from each other to form a scatter-type antenna structure. The inductors may also have unequal inductances and may be located along the length of the gap with unequal inductor-to-inductor spacings, thereby creating a decreasing shunt inductance at increasing distances from a feed for the antenna.

This type of antenna structure functions as a horn-type antenna. One or more scatter-type antenna structures may be cascaded to form a multiband antenna. Antenna gaps may be formed in conductive device housings. The inventors are Bing Chiang, Gregory Spring, Douglas Kough, Enrique...

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Oct 25
Number of consumers planning to buy a 'smart TV...

If Apple truly intends to roll out its own television set as the rumors predict, the next few months might be a good time to do so. The number of U.S. consumers planning to purchase a smart TV has nearly doubled in less than a year, according to new consumer research from Parks Associates (http://www.parkassociates.com).

The firm's "Consumer Decision Process: Summer Update" reports more than 10% of broadband households plan to purchase a smart TV in the second half of 2011, up from 6% in the first half. These households, representing 50% of the nearly one-fourth of U.S. broadband households planning to purchase a flat-panel TV, anticipate an average cost of $1,000 for the smart TV, defined as an HDTV with built-in Internet access capability.

"Advertising campaigns from manufacturers such as Sony, Samsung, and VIZIO have boosted consumer awareness and interest, making connectivity a must-...

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Oct 25
Apple patents involve key generation, power functions

Apple patents involving key generation and power functions have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 8045708 involves a discrete key generation method and apparatus. It involves a computer enabled secure method and apparatus for generating a cryptographic key, to be used in a subsequent cryptographic process, where the key is to be valid only for example during a specified time period. The method uses a polynomial function which is a function of an input variable such as time, and dynamically computes the key from the polynomial.

This is useful for generating decryption keys used for distribution of encrypted content, where the decryption is to be allowed only during a specified time period. The inventors are Pierre Betouin, Mathieu Ciet and Augustin J. Farrugia.

Patent number 8046397 is for computations of power functions using polynomial approximations. Per the...

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Oct 24
Half of US info workers split time between office,...

Half of US information workers now split their time between the office, home, and other remote locations, according to Forrester’s Q2 2011 US Workforce Technology And Engagement Online Survey (http://www.forrester.com) of 4,985 US information workers. And the survey looks good for Apple.

The study, which sheds new light on today’s increasingly mobile and distributed workforce, was published in conjunction with the first day of Forrester’s Content Collaboration Forum. The report also reveals that workers are untethered from the office as they rise in rank. Fifty-three percent of individual workers are office-bound, but that number drops to 35% among managers and supervisors, and plummets to just 10 percent among directors and executives.

"Looking out five years, Forrester sees three technology 'trains' impacting the future of workforce productivity, innovation, and advocacy," says ays Matt Brown...

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Oct 22
Greg's Bite: Apple May Get Serious About TV

By Greg Mills

Let me first make it very clear: Apple getting serious about TV does not mean they are going to try to compete with the always cheaper, large flat screen HDTV TV manufacturers. There is just no money in throwing low margin TV sets out the door to flood an already saturated retail TV market. I have read the stories in the press and still doubt Apple plans to launch Apple branded Flatscreen TV set. Something more like a more advanced Apple TV device with DVR features yes, expensive, low margine TVs, no this is why:

Apple is way too smart to do that. It is hard to imagine anything short of a projected, 3D, HD, full color hologram projector system that would be revolutionary enough to allow Apple to make money on TV sets. While a hologram projector system is the sort of thing Apple would work on, I don't think technology is there yet to make such a system ready for consumer sales.

With current known display technology it is hard...

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Oct 21
Greg's Bite: Siri, the Mother of Apple Robotics?

By Greg Mills

Siri, Apple's new sassy voice controlled digital assistant may actually be the foundation for the future for Apple. Robotics is a very broad technology that has a dramatic future and fits into what Apple does best. Science fiction and movies have popularized robots, but also given us a comic book concept of what in actuality is very real and not so human in most cases.

We remember futuristic movie robots from outer space like Gort, the robotic galactic cop seen in "The Day the Earth Stood Still." We love Mr. Data, the human simulation or android robot that has endearing humanity developing in his positronic brain.

The reality is more like robotic arms with spray guns attached that paint cars perfectly without taking a break. Robotic vacuum cleaners sucking up dust in set patterns on the floor without a human operator, a lawn mower run by a computer are less than practical robots actually sold but never popularized by consumer...

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Oct 21
Siri -- is is 'another FaceTime'?

In a recent "iDownload.blog" (http://macte.ch/NTMev), Oliver Haslam asked a relevant question: will Siri be another FaceTime?

In case you're not familiar with Siri, it's "the intelligent personal assistant that helps you get things done just by asking" that Apple introduced along with iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S. It allows you to use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more.

According to Apple, Siri -- which is currently in beta testing -- isn’t like traditional voice recognition software that requires you to remember keywords and speak specific commands. Siri understands your natural speech, and it asks you questions if it needs more information to complete a task.

Siri uses the processing power of the dual-core A5 chip in the iPhone 4S, and it uses 3G and Wi-Fi networks to communicate with Apple’s data centers. So it can quickly understand what you say and what...

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Oct 20
Greg's Bite: Stuxnet's New Trick?

Posted by Greg Mills

Much has been written about the Stuxnet worm that invaded Iranian Windows PCs and hijacked critical control devices that ran their rouge nuclear weapons program equipment. The sophistication of the Stuxnet worm was unlike anything software security experts had ever seen. The Stuxnet worm spread far and wide, but only did damage to plutonium enrichment devices and a nuclear reactor in Iran. That software attack set back the Iranians as much as three years in developing a nuclear weapon according to experts. The original Stuxnet Trojan rewrote industrial controllers that were hooked up to the PCs.

The fear among those same computer security experts is that the Stuxnet worm that used three rare Windows 0 Day exploits and amazingly compact code was the forerunner of other malicious code that could create havoc in power plants and critical infrastructure around the world. That has not happened, but still remains a threat....

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Oct 20
Apple patents involve PWM, data transformation system

Two new Apple patents involving a PWM and a data transformation system have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent number 20110254464 involves a pulse width modulation (PWM) closed loop LED current driver in an embedded system. Methods and systems for providing stable and accurate low noise DC reference voltage are described. In the described embodiments, a feedback controlled DC reference voltage supply provides a stable and well controlled sense current. The sense current is in turn used to produce a stable and well controlled light output from a light emitting diode (LED). The inventors are Li-Quan Tan, Wing Kong Low and Thai La.

Patent number 20110255687 is for a data transformation system using cyclic groups. It in asymmetric (dual key) data obfuscation process, based on the well known ElGamal cryptosystem algorithm, and which uses multiplicative cyclic groups to transform (obfuscate) digital data for security purposes. In the present system the...

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Oct 20
Apple patents reflect proposed laptop designs

You knew it was bound to happen. With the MacBook Air doing so well, Apple is planning thinner versions of its MacBook Pro line, as evidenced by a new patent (number 20110258649) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. And another new patent hints at an Apple laptop with a camera and illuminable latch.

The embodiments in the patent describe an apparatus and method for a reduced Z stack slot loading optical disc drive (ODD). In one embodiment a reduced Z stack height slot loading optical disc drive (ODD) is described. This may be a bit of a surprise as I expected the next major rev of the MacBook Pro to forego an optical drive entirely -- with folks who need/want one steered to Apple's external US$79 SuperDrive.

Per the new patent, the reduced Z stack height ODD includes at least a hub/turntable arrangement having a hub portion and a turntable portion, the turntable portion arranged to support an optical disc secured thereto by way of the hub such that when a...

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Oct 20
Apple patent hints at iOS gadget designs with improved...

An Apple patent (number 20110188180) for a portable electronic housing with outer glass surfaces has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office, showing that Apple is considering iOS gadget designs that will simplify repairs.

Improved housings for electronic devices are disclosed. In one embodiment, an electronic device housing can have one or more outer members (e.g., exposed major surfaces), such as front or back surfaces, that are formed of glass. The one or more glass surfaces can be part of outer member assemblies that can be secured to other portions of the electronic device housing. In other embodiments, apparatus, systems and methods for robustly attaching a cover portion of an electronic device to a bottom portion, e.g., a housing portion, of the electronic device are described. The electronic device can be portable and in some cases handheld. The inventors are David Pakula, Richard Hung Minh Dinh and Scott Myers.

Here's part of Apple's background and...

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Oct 20
Greg's Bite: The Self-Cannibalism Effect at Apple

By Greg Mills

Apple has a uncanny ability to understate the forecast for the following quarter's revenue each time they do the quarterly financial report to the analysts who are hanging on every word. Then 90 days later, they wow the very same crowd with unexpected numbers that blow the lid off the highest estimates. It is a game with gigantic money at stake.

This time around, despite a gigantic increase in sales and net revenue, iPhone 4 sales were a bit lower than expected and you would have thought Apple was going under. The stock plunged and headlines were published that "Apple Disappoints" and the entire market took a hit for a while. Cook correctly stated that the problem was simply people waiting for the next iPhone in the que, rather than any weakness in the red hot market for things Apple.

The CEO of Microsoft, while in its prime, stated that: "A company that fails to obsolete its own products is doomed to see the competition do it."...

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Oct 20
Apple's stock dip is indeed a 'knee jerk...

On Tuesday Apple reported selling a record number of Macs and iPads. However, the company's stock dropped because Apple "only" sold 17 million iPhones, less than the 20-22 million units Wall Street pundits had predicted.

Does that make sense? Of course not. And let's be clear: iPhone sales were up 21% year-over-year. Despite this, Apple's stock fell more than US$28, or almost 7%. Brian Marshall, an analyst with the International Strategy and Investment Group was correct when he called this a "knee jerk" reaction."

"The question everyone's asking is, 'What happened to three-to-four million iPhones?' " Marshall told "Computerworld" (http://macte.ch/IQIUS). "The problem is that this update was delayed by several months, and exacerbated the transition to the iPhone 4S. Is their share declining? No that the sales that would have otherwise been in the third quarter simply shifted into the current period, with...

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Oct 20
Future iOS devices could have ejectable components

Future iOS devices could have compact, ejectable components, per a patent (20090267577) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, The ejectable component assembly may include a tray that can be loaded with one or more removable modules, wafers coupled to circuit boards, cages and retaining plates to assist in retaining the tray within the assembly. The ejectable component assembly may include springs operative to engage detents in the tray to retain the tray in the assembly. The ejectable component assembly may include a tray ejector mechanism for ejecting the tray from the assembly. The inventors are Scott Myers, Erik Wang and Jason Sloey.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "To enhance the use of electronic devices (e.g., cellular telephones), ejectable component assemblies may be used to couple removable modules to the device. Some known ejectable component assemblies for personal electronic devices include a tray for receiving a...

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Oct 20
Apple patent involves data syncing between a client...

An Apple patent (number 20110258254) for method and apparatus for updating and synchronizing information between a client and server has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It seems to involve the new iCloud service, as well as Apple's (or at least the late Steve Jobs') preference of HTML5 over Flash.

The invention provides a method and apparatus for integrating applets running on a client with the application logic for applications running on a server. According to Apple, the mechanism of the present invention provides two significant advantages over the prior art: the synchronization of state, and the recognition of user actions in the browser including the invocation of the appropriate application logic in the server. Instead of using the FORM element available in HTML, individual active applets are available and may be created that obtain user input (e.g. a checkbox, textbox, button, etc.).

"A hidden applet called the Applet Group Controller is...

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Oct 20
Apple is working on fuel cell technology

Two new Apple patents show that Apple is working on hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Patent number 20110256463 is for a parallel fuel stack architecture. The disclosed embodiments relate to a system that provides a power source. The power source includes a set of fuel cells arranged in a fuel cell stack. The power source also includes a power bus configured to connect the fuel cells in a parallel configuration. The inventors are Steven C. Michalske and Bradley L. Spare.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The disclosed embodiments relate to a system that provides a power source. The power source includes a set of fuel cells arranged in a fuel cell stack. The power source also includes a power bus configured to connect the fuel cells in a parallel configuration.

"In some embodiments, the power source also includes a voltage-multiplying circuit configured to increase a voltage of the fuel cell stack. In some embodiments, the voltage-multiplying circuit is...

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Oct 19
So much for counting the Mac and desktops out...

Those pundits who have declared that Apple is losing interest in the Mac, especially the desktop line, might think again.

In Apple's latest fiscal quarter, Apple, as CEO Tim Cook noted, gained significant share in its computer business. Approximately 4.89 million Macs were sold during the quarter. That beats the previous record by about 750,000.

The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro were the top sellers for the company with the laptop line accounting for 74% of Mac sales. However, the desktop line -- mainly the iMac -- moved almost 1.3 million units. That's a record for Mac desktop sales.

The Mac is, as usual, outgrowing the computer industry as a whole. By more than six times, per the latest data from the IDC research group

As far as tablets replacing traditional computers, it appears the iPad is taking away SOME Mac sales, but a lot more PC sales.

Cook said it best during a conference call with analysts: "Remember, the Mac had its best quarter by far...

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Oct 18
Apple granted two solar-related patents

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

Patent number 8039360 involves a method of assembling integrated circuit components. The disclosure identified as methods of mounting integrated circuits, including solar cells, to a substrate wherein the circuits are mounted prior to being singulated into discrete die. Once the semiconductor die sites or other circuits are formed on a wafer, the wafer will be attached, either whole, or divided into one or more multi-die site wafer segments, to a substrate.

This attachment may be by conventional surface mount technology, for example. After such mounting, the individual die sites on the wafer segments will be singulated to form discrete die already mounted to the supporting substrate. The singulation may be preferably performed by laser dicing of the wafer segments. The inventors are Bradley Spare, Michael D. Hillman and Gregory Tice.

Patent...

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Oct 18
Apple drops the ball with multiple ID issue

It's very disappointing to see how Apple has not handled the multiple Apple ID issue. An Apple ID is the email address you use as a login for just about everything you do with Apple, including using iCloud to store your content, buying songs from the iTunes Store, and downloading apps from the App Store.

As you have probably discovered if you've tried to move from MobileMe to iCloud, if you have more than one Apple ID, you should be very, very, very careful. As an example, I couldn't find how to change the Apple ID that is on my iOS device. So if you put the wrong one in, it will not be part of your other devices' eco-system.

In September, it seemed Apple was working on a solution to allow users to merge multiple Apple IDs into one. The news came from a phone call from Apple's executive relations team saying that they were aware of the issue and seemingly working on it, as noted by "MacRumors" (http...

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Oct 18
Apple wins patent for integrated in-plane switching...

Apple has won a patent (number 8040326) from the US Patent & Trademark Office for an integrated in-plane switching display and touch sensor. This relates to adding multi-touch functionality to a display without the need of a separate multi-touch panel or layer overlaying the display.

Instead, embodiments of the invention can advantageously utilize existing display circuitry to provide multi-touch functionality while adding relatively little circuitry that is specific to the multi-touch functionality. So, by sharing circuitry for the display and the multi-touch functionalities, embodiments of the invention can be implemented at a lower cost than the alternative of superimposing additional multi-touch related layers onto an existing display panel.

Furthermore, since the display and multi-touch functionality can be implemented on the same circuit, they can be synchronized so that noise resulting from the display functionality does not detrimentally affect the multi...

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Oct 17
Tablets, smartphones redefining the retail shopping...

More good news for Apple: tablets and smartphones are redefining the retail shopping experience and will be a US$5 billion market per year by 2015, according to a research study released today by analyst firm IHL Group (http://www.ihiservices.com).

According to the study, "Mobility: A Gutenberg Moment for Retail, A Threat to POS," the release of the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle Fire have created price points and form factors for mobile devices that are finally allowing retailers to arm their associates with tools that will transform the in-store experience.

"The advent of mobile devices is a Gutenberg moment that is revolutionizing many aspects of the shopping experience," says Greg Buzek, president, IHL Group. "A complete transformation of the customer experience will occur at clothing and department stores over the next three years. Store personnel will be able to greet shoppers with their...

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Oct 16
Greg's Bite: Siri coming to Mac and iPad

By Greg Mills

Guessing what Apple will do, is of course, an inexact science, as they enjoy making monkeys out of tech writers. It has been said that most of the time the weather today is a pretty good indicator for what the weather will be like tomorrow. That cliche is obviously wrong a lot, but odds are that similar weather comes on consecutive days more often than not.

We can see broad trends where things happen predictably across the entire spectrum of Apple products. The touch and gesture interface has spread to both touch pads on computers and touch screens on all Apple devices. We can certainly predict that Siri will show up next on iPad 3 and even the Mac platform sooner or later. Speech recognition has made tremendous strides in the last few years.

Apple has publicly absorbed Siri technology and merged it, I suspect, with Nuance speech technology. I did a product review a few months ago on Nuance Speech recognition software for the...

| Read more »
Oct 14
Hollywood planning to launch Ultraviolet -- how does...

Hollywood is getting ready to launch UltraViolet, a cloud-based movie storage solution that the industry is betting (or at least hoping) will convince consumers to buy movies instead of renting them.

How? The "digital locker" solution purportedly keeps copies of films you've bought on remote servers for viewing any time on various devices. Starting this month, consumers can buy the first film discs offered with UltraViolet.

With a "buy once, play anywhere" message, studios hope consumers see more benefits to owning movies, notes "Reuters" (http://macte.ch/nuAuz). Backers are pitching flexibility for multiple devices, the promise of owning rights to a movie for a lifetime, and the advantage of a cloud-stored copy not hogging hard-drive space, the article adds.

UltraViolet offers "more value for digital ownership. You can stream wherever you are," John Calkins, executive vice president of global...

| Read more »
Oct 13
Greg's Bite: RIM, BlackOutBerries

By Greg Mills

RIM: RIM may take the "gang that can't shoot straight" title away from Microsoft and its CEO, Steve Ballmer. We are in day four of a rolling denial of service sort of thing where BlackBerrys won't send or receive email and surfing the web is faster with a dial-up connection.

RIM announced today that the problem was solved, but users in the US and other places indicate that it is not over for them. One issue is that even if you scale your servers to being able to handle double the normal traffic, four days' worth of stored email that has built up, with more being generated, represents a major electronic traffic jam that has RIM servers deeply buried in unsent data.

With most smartphones the carriers handle all the radio and net traffic and an outage with Sprint, for example, won't have any effect on AT&T, who is abundantly able to drop calls consistently on its own. Apple just builds the iPhones and sells them to the...

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Oct 13
Apple may be getting into avatar editing

Two new patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office show that Apple may be getting into the avatar editing business.

Patent number 20110248992 is for an avatar editing environment that that allows users to create custom avatars for use in online games and other applications. Starting with a blank face the user can add, rescale and position different elements (e.g., eyes, nose, mouth) on the blank face. The user can also change the shape of the avatar's face, the avatar's skin color and the color of all the elements. In some implementations, touch input and gestures can be used to manually edit the avatar.

Various controls can be used to create the avatar, such as controls for resizing, rotating, positioning, etc. The user can choose between manual and automatic avatar creation. The avatar editing environment can be part of a framework that is available to applications. One or more elements of the avatar can be animated. The inventors are Marcel...

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Oct 13
Apple patent is for 'opportunistic multitasking...

An Apple patent (number 20110252430) for "opportunistic multitasking" has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Services for a personal electronic device are provided through which a form of background processing or multitasking is supported.

The disclosed services permit user applications to take advantage of background processing without significant negative consequences to a user's experience of the foreground process or the personal electronic device's power resources. To effect the disclosed multitasking, one or more of a number of operational restrictions may be enforced. By way of example, an application that may normally be placed into the background state may instead be terminated if it controls a lock on a shared system resource. The inventors are Gregory R. Chapman, Richard Schreyer and Thomas B. Duffy Jr.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Power constrained, hand-held devices (e.g., mobile phones, personal entertainment...

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Oct 13
Apple eyeing ways to offer better content protection

Three new patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office show that Apple is working on ways to offer better content and file protection.

Patent number 20110252233 is for a system and method for backing up and restoring files encrypted with file-level content protection. The patent describes systems, methods, and non-transitory computer-readable storage media for initiating a backup, backing up encrypted data, and restoring backed up encrypted data. The method for initiating a backup includes sending a backup secret to a backup device having an encrypted file system, receiving from the backup device a backup ticket created based on the backup secret, and storing the backup ticket.

The method for backing up encrypted data includes receiving a backup ticket and a backup secret, retrieving an escrow key bag containing protection class keys, decrypting the protection class keys with the backup ticket, generating a backup key bag containing new protection...

| Read more »
Oct 13
Apple working on new Bluetooth power-down features

According to a new patent (number 20110259840), Apple is looking into a new way to power off Bluetooth-enabled electronic devices, which would let you press just one button on one device to configure or disable multiple devices.

Per the patent, a device can transmit a Bluetooth signal to a linked device to instruct the linked device to power-off. In this manner, the user need only turn off one device manually which results in all linked devices being powered off. This process can be initiated by a user through a device directly linked with the device to be powered-off or through a device that is indirectly connected, through one or more Bluetooth networks, with the device to be powered-off.

This process can also be automatically initiated by a device when a set of predetermined conditions exist. Once instructed to do so, a device can initiate a predetermined power-off process which can involve terminating any ongoing functions and turning off various subsystems. In...

| Read more »
Oct 13
Ebook market poised to explode

Here's a good reason for Apple to concentrate on its iBookstore (and make it Mac compatible): by 2017 the world e-readers market is expected to achieve unit shipments of nearly 54 million a year, according to a new research report available from the Companies and Markets research group (http://www.companiesandmarkets.com).

Despite difficult trading conditions during the recession, the e-reader market endured and is one of the most popular technological innovations in recent years. The first e-readers were available in the early part of the last decade, but consumer interest didn't pique until Amazon’s 2007 Kindle launch, which allowed users to download books wirelessly, without having to connect to a computer. Market expansion has been rapid, with many companies vying for a slice of Amazon’s success -- such as Apple.

The e-reader market is still in its infancy, holding a tiny...

| Read more »
Oct 12
Will CinemaNow come to the Mac?

Last week it was announced that CinemaNow, Best Buy’s digital entertainment service, and Intel are giving people the ability to enjoy a larger library of premium high- definition content on their PCs.

For the first time, CinemaNow will offer 1080p HD movies for rental and purchase on second generation Intel Core processor-based PCs with Intel Insider technology. So will CinemaNow and Intel offer this for the Mac? Will Apple let them?

Previously, only standard-definition movies had been available from CinemaNow on the PC. CinemaNow has now added several hundred new releases and popular catalog titles in HD from 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution for people who have Intel Insider on their computer. This is in addition to the 15,000 movies and TV episodes CinemaNow already boasts in its regular catalog. HD content offerings from CinemaNow and Intel Insider are expected to grow as more new releases and catalog titles are added weekly.

Intel...

| Read more »
Oct 11
Apple patent involves syncing playback by multiple...

An Apple patent (number 8037220) for techniques for providing audio for synchronized playback by multiple devices has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The invention relates to synchronizing audio with multiple devices and, more specifically, to handling the communication of audio information between applications and multiple devices.

The patent involves an audio system communicates with an aggregate device that includes multiple audio devices. When providing audio data for playback, the system compensates for presentation latency differences between the various audio devices. In addition, the system adjusts for device clock drift by selecting a master device and resampling the audio data provided to the other devices based on the difference between the device clock of the master device and the device clocks of the other devices. The inventors are Jeffrey C. Moore, William G. Stewart, and Gerhard H. Lengeling.

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

| Read more »
Oct 11
Greg's Bite: digital privacy issues

By Greg Mills

As the mobile computing revolution takes hold, the privacy ramifications of new mobile digital devices are dividing the courts. The legal system is trying to keep up with the existence of modern digital files using laws and court precedents based upon records written on dead trees and conventional descriptions of private space.

When the US Constitution was written the founding fathers made private our persons, houses, papers and effects. Bill of Rights Article 4: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Rather than assuming the intent of the founding fathers was that the broad privacy rights we hold most basic should logically...

| Read more »
Oct 11
As for the Mac, let's get Siri-ous

Perhaps the most gotta-have-it feature of the iPhone 4S and iOS 5 is Siri. Let's hope it comes to the Mac.

Siri on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Apple says that you can ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. I haven't tried it, but Apple says Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back.

What differentiates Siri from competing technologies is its ability to not only recognize words spoken in a normal tone of voice, but its capacity to pick up on the contextual meaning of a phrase. It looked great during the demo at Tuesdasy's "Let's Talk iPhone" event, but then demos at such events usually do. (You can see a video at http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/siri.html .)

So what about Siri for Mac OS X? It could have a variety of uses,...

| Read more »
Oct 11
Apple patents involve text-to-speech, calendaring...

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

Patent number 8036894 is for a multi-unit approach to text-to-speech synthesis. Per the patent methods, apparatus, systems, and computer program products are provided for synthesizing speech. One method includes matching a first level of units of a received input string to audio segments from a plurality of audio segments including using properties of or between first level units to locate matching audio segments from a plurality of selections, parsing unmatched first level units into second level units, matching the second level units to audio segments using properties of or between the units to locate matching audio segments from a plurality of selections and synthesizing the input string, including combining the audio segments associated with the first and second units. The inventors are Matthias Neeracher, Devang K. Naik, Kevin B. Aitken and...

| Read more »
Oct 10
Greg's Bite: RIM Crashes and Hits the Wall

Posted by Greg Mills

RIM's server network has crashed and is currently out of service in much of the world. It is unknown how long RIM phones and devices will be out of service. RIM runs its phones through a unique system that encrypts data for security reasons and thus there might be some complications with that. Only RIM devices are affected.

As the news of the RIM service disruption are in the tech news, another interesting statistic has just come out. News reports are that Apple sold 200,000 iPhone 4s units in the first 12 hours they were available online, as pre-orders. Actually, that has been revised today to at least 1,000,000 iPhone 4s sold in the first 24 hours.

To put that in perspective, RIM sold into the retail channel 200,000 PlayBooks in the first quarter they were on the market. That is not sold retail to consumers, as is the one million Apple iPhones, it is 200,000 PlayBooks sold wholesale to stores. While RIM tablet...

| Read more »
 
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