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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,...

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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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Feb 22
Apple patent hints at Macs with stylus-based input...

Apple is at least considering a pen/stylus-based input system (as well as voice recognition) for future Macs. A patent (number 7894641) for a method and apparatus for acquiring and organizing ink information in pen-aware computer systems has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

An ink manager running at a computer system receives ink information entered at a pen-based input/display device and accumulates the ink information into ink strokes. The ink manager communicates with a handwriting recognition engine and includes an ink phrase termination engine that is configured to detect the occurrence of one or more ink phrase termination events by examining the ink information.

Upon the occurrence of an ink phrase termination event, the ink manager notifies the handwriting recognition engine and organizes the preceding ink strokes into an ink phrase data structure. The ink manager may also pass the ink phrase to an application executing on the computer system...

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Feb 22
Greg's bite: what's wrong with Apple's...

By Greg Mills

Apple, having become big enough to cross the radar of the monopoly cops, around the world, has been taking a lot of heat from publishers who are screaming "rape" at the well publicized marketing rate of 30%.

Apple has pioneered the "go to market" plan that includes posting downloadable digital material on its servers and advertising and selling that content at a 30% profit. Sounds like free enterprise to me. If Apple is gouging publishers they have the perfect right to refuse to to do business with Apple and or start their own on line publishing business.  

The problem is that the publishers want it both ways: the power of Apple's marking system without paying for it. In addition to that, they want to pocket the money they save in not having to buy paper, ink, print or deliver their merchandise. I call that greed.  

One of the most notable things about an entirely new business model is the give and take of establishing a...

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Feb 22
Blu-ray sales up 76% in Western Europe, 120% in Japan

It's been a while since I've had a rant about Apple's lack of support for Blu-ray playback, so here goes: media control GfK International, which specializes in international media and entertainment tracking servicing, says in its "2010 Year End Home Video Retail Sales Report" that Blu-ray sales last year were up 76% in Western Europe and 120% in Japan.

While combined retail sales of DVD/Blu-ray units declined (-) 4.8% in Western Europe, video retail markets in Germany, France, and Finland performed better than the previous year.

"A slower adoption rate of the Blu-ray format in Western Europe is the prime lagger for some key retail markets in Western Europe not able to offset declines in sales of standard definition DVD," says Brad Hackley, president of media control GfK, USA.

The Japan video retail market remained somewhat buoyant from the prior year, with combined retail sales of DVD/Blu-ray units declining only (-) 1.73%. The video market in Japan was...

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Feb 22
Apple patent is for bitrate audio encoding

An Apple patent (number 7895045) for bitrate constrained variable bitrate audio encoding has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. A hybrid audio encoding technique incorporates both ABR, or CBR, and VBR encoding modes.

For each audio coding block, after a VBR quantization loop meets the NMR target, a second quantization loop might be called to adaptively control the final bitrate. That is, if the NMR-based quantization loop results in a bitrate that is not within a specified range, then a bitrate-based CBR or ABR quantization loop determines a final bitrate that is within the range and is adaptively determined based on the encoding difficulty of the audio data. Excessive bitrates from use of conventional VBR mode are eliminated, while still providing much more constant perceptual sound quality than use of conventional CBR mode can achieve. THe inventors are Shyh-shiaw Kuo, Hong Kaura and William G. Stewart.

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

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Feb 22
Apple patent involves vector processing computer...

An Apple patent (number 7895252) for single-channel convolution in a vector processing computer system has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The invention relates generally to signal processing within a computer processor.

It involves a system and method for performing convolution in a single channel of a vector processing computer system takes advantage of the parallel computing capability of the vector processing system and the distributed properties of the discrete-time convolution sum by performing convolution on portions of an overall data stream, or data chunks, simultaneously. Partial solution are thereby obtained and superimposed to achieve an overall solution data stream. To simplify the convolution sum and eliminate the need for calculating products, a specialized data signal or vector containing a series of ones may be used in the convolution operation. The inventors are li Sazegari and Doug Clarke.

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

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Feb 21
Greg's bite: bring Apple assembly home

By Greg Mills

I wrote a piece (http://www.macnews.com/2011/01/11/gregs-bite-what-if-apple-assembled-its...)a couple of weeks ago citing an interesting study (http://www.adbi.org/files/2010.12.14.wp257.iphone.widens.us.trade.defici...) done by the Asian Bank Institute that posed the rhetorical question, "What if Apple assembled products at home instead of China?"

I got feedback that ranged from strong support of the idea to absolute ridicule. Massage the numbers any way you like, but the result is a slightly lower profit at Apple with a major benefit for the US economy. Assembling Apple products...

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Feb 21
Are businesses eager for cloud adoption?

Fonality, a business communications company has released the results of a comprehensive survey conducted by Webtorials that focused on the communications needs of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). I'm a bit dubious of the results, however.

The “2011 Small and Medium-Sized Business Communications Plans and Priorities” State-of-the-Market Report polled "highly skilled, technically Proficient" Professionals considered to be on the “leading edge” of technology adoption. Respondents emphasized that cloud-based business applications or AaaS (Anything as a Service) will be increasingly embraced to control costs, and return on investment (ROI) is a key factor in their decision-making.

“Based on the results of this survey, it’s clear that SMBs see the value of cloud-based solutions and are eager to benefit from a Productivity and ROI perspective,” says Fonality president and CEO, Dean Mansfield. “Cloud-based communications tools in particular can be leveraged by...

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Feb 18
Don't write an obit for the computer just yet...

You've probably heard it numerous times: the personal computer is dying, destined to be replaced by numerous gadgets like the iPhone and iPad. Malarky, says I.

In case no one has noticed, Mac sales are up. Way up. Both the IDC and Gartner research groups had Apple in the No. 5 position among US computer vendors for the fourth quarter, behind Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Toshiba. According to the IDC research group, Apple sold over 6.5 million Macs in the US in fiscal year 2010 for 8.8% market share. The compares to over 5.6 million Mac shipments in 2009 for 7.8% market share -- a growth of 18.4%.

According to Gartner, Apple sold 1.9 million Mac desktops and laptops during the fourth quarter to snare 9.7% of the U.S. market. IDC listed U.S. Mac sales at 1.7 million, giving Apple an 8.7% share. Apple beat the U.S. industry average growth rate by huge margins. Only once since 2003 has the Mac not grown in year-over-year sales faster than the industry average. For the...

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Feb 17
Apple developing a virtual safe deposit box for the...

A new Apple patent (number 20110040980) shows that Apple is developing a virtual safe deposit box for Mac OS X.

The patent involves a file management safe deposit box. In one aspect, first input dragging-and-dropping a first file representation onto a safe deposit box icon is received, and a file corresponding to the first file representation is encrypted. Second input selecting the safe deposit box icon is received from a user. The user's identity is verified in response to the second input. A safe deposit box window, including a second file representation of the file, is displayed. A user is allowed access to the file in response to third input selecting the second file representation. Duncan Robert Kerr and David R. Falkenburg are the inventors.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Computer users typically store files of varying importance, and varying secrecy, on their computers. Users may wish to have additional copies of important files to...

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Feb 17
Apple files patent for new video/music interface

Apple has filed a patent (number 20110041060) for a video/music interface. Apparently, it would involve both Macs and the Apple TV.

The invention relates generally to the field of media and, in particular, to a media interface with enhanced features such as, for example, providing options while the playing of a media file or media broadcast is paused. A system in accordance with the present invention may include one or more processors, memory from which the processor may fetch instructions according to a clock operating at a frequency, a display device, and one or more programs stored in the memory, with instructions to open a media file, play content of the media file, render graphically on the display device the played content of the media file, pause the played content of the media file, and render graphically on the display device options available during the pause. The inventors are Windy Chien, Robert Henry Kondrk, Gary Stewart and Jeff F. Southard.

Here's...

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Feb 17
Apple eyes info retrieval system that combines search...

According to Apple patent 2010040739 for a portable browsing interface for information retrieval the company is considering changes to Mac OS X that will beef up search features by combining the functionality of a full-text search engine with the flexibility of a browser.

The patent involves an integrated searching/browsing mechanism employs user-constructed information hierarchies that represent a cognitive framework for the organization of information. The hierarchies are independent of the information itself. This feature permits them to be shared among multiple users, and applied to any of a variety of different sources of information.

The hierarchical organization that is provided by the framework gives the user the ability to browse around any available document database in a manner that is intuitive to the user. Two or more hierarchies can be combined to locate documents which match the criteria of both hierarchies, and thereby refine search results to an...

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Feb 17
Apple patent is for Mini DisplayPort

Apple seems to be planning a new version of the Mini DisplayPort, according to a new patent (number 20110039443) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent involves connectors having a smaller profile. These connectors are useful as a reduced form factor DisplayPort connector. Keys on a receptacle are used to indicate when an insert is fully engaged. Edges of the receptacle and insert are chamfered in such a way as to prevent the pins of the connector from being damaged when an improper insertion is attempted. User experience is also enhanced by the use of one or more latches.

As the connector is inserted, the latch provides resistance that builds until the connector is inserted a certain distance, after which the latch enters a cutout portion of the insert thus releasing the pressure and letting the user know the connection has been made. Fingers are employed to provide mechanical stability and electrical connection between receptacle and insert. The...

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Feb 17
Future MagSafe connectors may also send, receive data

An Apple patent (number 20110038582) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office, showing that Apple is working on a future MagSafe connector for portable Macs that would allow it to send and receive data, as well as power the device.

The patent is for circuits, apparatus, and methods that provide a connector system that can supply both power and data to a mobile computing or other type of device using a single connection. Further examples also provide a power and data adapter that can provide power and data to a mobile computing device using a single cable. Further examples provide an easy disengagement when a cable connected to the connector is pulled. One such example provides a magnetic connector that uncouples without binding when its cord is pulled. Another example prevents power from being provided at a connector insert until the connector insert is placed in a connector receptacle. The inventors are John C. DiFonzo, Chris Ligtenberg and Michael Culbert....

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Feb 17
Apple's digital subscription model likely to...

Apple may have finally bitten off more than it can chew with its "my way or the high way" approach. This week Apple unveiled its new subscription model for the Apple App Store, confirming that magazine and newspaper publishers will be forced to pony up 30% of their cover price.

It's nice that Apple is making it easier for consumers to buy subscriptions and may help publishers find new subscribers. But 30% is too steep a fee and is almost certainly going to squash any hopes of a digital publishing revolution that will "save" newspapers and magazines. The margins for digital content are simply too thin for this to be acceptable to a majority of publishers.

There are other drawbacks to Apple's plans as well. A publisher can learn the name, e-mail address and zip code of in-app subscribers only if the user agrees to share that information. Most of us won't do that, but, traditionally, publishers have used this info to, among other things, target advertisers. Also,...

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Feb 17
Apple patents range from call replacement to Rubik...

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

Patent number 20110041183 is for a system and method for call replacement. Disclosed are systems, computer-implemented methods, and computer-readable storage media for obfuscating a function call. The method receives a computer program having an annotated function and determines prolog instructions for setting up a stack frame of the annotated function and epilog instructions for tearing down the stack frame. The method places a first portion of the prolog instructions in the computer program preceding a jump to the annotated function and a second portion of the prolog instructions at a beginning of the annotated function. The method places a first portion of the epilog instructions at an end of the annotated function and a second portion of the epilog instructions in the computer program after the jump. Executing the first and second portions of the...

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Feb 16
'To the cloud'? Not entirely, not ever

In addition to reviving the rumor (which may or may not turn out to be true) of an iPhone mini, the "Wall Street Journal" thinks Apple may eliminate internal storage altogether. The solution, per the "WSJ"? Making MobileMe -- now US$99 per year --a free service that would serve as a "locker" for personal memorabilia such as photos, music and videos, eliminating the need for devices to carry memory.

I don't think that's going to happen. If it does, it's going to result in a solution that won't please a lot of people. Most people don't want all their data in "the cloud." The cloud should be used in addition to current storage methods, not as a replacement for them. There's no way I'm entrusting all my data -- tunes, videos, photos, etc. -- for total safekeeping on someone else's servers, even if those servers are in Apple's in-the-works, massive facility in North Carolina.

Also, as "Ars technica" notes (http...

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Feb 15
Apple patents involve cable grounding, hyperlink info

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Patent number 7889139 is for a handheld electronic device with cable grounding and involves iOS devices.

According to the patent, the conductive elements may form an antenna ground plane. One or more antennas for the handheld electronic device may be formed from the ground plane and one or more associated antenna resonating elements. Transceiver circuitry may be connected to the resonating elements by transmission lines such as coaxial cables. Ferrules may be crimped to the coaxial cables. A bracket with extending members may be crimped over the ferrules to ground the coaxial cables to the housing and other conductive elements in the ground plane.

The ground plane may contain an antenna slot. A dock connector and flex circuit may overlap the slot in a way that does not affect the resonant frequency of the slot. Electrical components may be isolated from the antenna using isolation elements...

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Feb 15
Mobile Internet on the rise, but not yet threatening...

I've said it before and now a survey backs me up: despite mobile device functionality becoming ever more sophisticated, research by mobile media company BuzzCity (http://www.buzzcity.com/) shows that mobiles are actually sustaining, not replacing, consumer demand for computers.

The global research, which surveyed 5,000 people, found that computing tools remain important and even aspirational, for mobile Internet users. Fifty-one percent of mobile Internet users don't have daily access to fixed line Internet, and 23% don't use the fixed Internet at all.

Of those surveyed, 21% plan to buy a computer accessory in the next 12 months and 36% have already tried out tablets. So although ultimately mobiles may overtake computers for Internet browsing, there are absolutely no signs that the computer will disappear.

Mobile gaming is a whole different ball game, however, and the indications are that...

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Feb 14
Greg's bite: The Nokia/Microsoft deal

By Greg Mills

If anything, the apparently sudden meltdown at Nokia's software division where the CEO threw up his hands in dismay, then fired hundreds of software staffers who had worked there for years,  shows how profoundly Apple has shaken up the cell phone industry and that half-baked won't sell. 

Nokia is writing off literally billions of dollars of R&D investment, dropping development of the new MeeGo OS and announcing also they are dropping further development of the long time Nokia OS for dumb phones called Symbian. This a major development that caused Nokia stock to drop like a rock. Ironically, Microsoft stock also dropped right along with Nokia's. Nokia hopes to sell 150,000,000 handsets featuring and abandoned OS. Good luck, Nokia.

At one time Nokia owned half the world market for cell phone hardware, but that giant share is plummeting dramatically as dumb phones are still out there, but steadily declining as people replace...

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Feb 14
Digital publishing success won't be tied to one...

Buy-anywhere electronic versions of books, magazines and newspapers will drive the digital publishing market, according to ABI Research’s (http://www.abiresearch.com) latest study of "Digital Publishing for Portable Devices," which foresees digital content sales growing to nearly $16.5 billion worldwide in 2016, more than five times their 2010 level.

The study says the variety of applications that allow people to buy this digital content reassures them that they won’t be tied to a single store -- or device -- for content. If the gang at ABI is right, Apple won't be happy as it likes to tie its digital content to the iTunes Store.

Despite the enormous media focus on iPads, Kindles, Nooks and other eReaders, the market for digital content will not be tied to the success or failure of any single one of these devices, according to the new study, says ABI Research. The Sellers Research Firm...

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Feb 11
Greg's bite: At Apple, the details matter (take...

By Greg Mills

The uproar was tremendous when Apple refused to support Adobe Flash with the iOS. I will admit some frustration as web pages loaded on iPad with the admonition to load Flash to view the content. I knew I couldn't do that. Oh, well, I figured I didn't need to see that content any way or bother with web sites that didn't support compatible graphic display software.  

Steve Jobs took the extraordinary step of explaining why Adobe Flash wasn't up to the standards Apple required for content players in great detail. While everyone has to admit that Jobs is as anal as you can get, that means Apple product users don't have to be that way to get products that are completely polished and just work. Jobs has taken the frustration out of our experience for us. Thank you, Steve.

Adobe wrung its hands in anguish, claiming everything from industrial warfare to malicious slander. Recently, Adobe launched an...

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Feb 11
HP's new TouchSmart could offer a glimpse at a...

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said that the use of touch screen technology on Macs will be via devices such as the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse, not by touching the screen itself. We'll see; however, if Apple is planning a touchscreen desktop Mac, the iMac would be the most likely choice. And HP's new TouchSmart PCs might offer a glimpse at what Apple has in mind.

The TouchSmart Consumer PC and TouchSmart 9300 Elite Business PC sport a 60-degree reclining display, enabling users to adjust the display’s position "for a comfortable user experience." They recline from upright to almost flat.

James Mouton, senior vice president, Desktop Organization, Personal Systems Group, HP, says the ergonomic design enables users to do more and share more such as "creating art projects, to playing games, to enabling natural front-desk interaction where eye contact is important." He says they're ideal for customer-facing environments in hospitality, retail and healthcare.

Both the...

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Feb 11
Greg's bite: The Daily -- just a hyped up news...

By Greg Mills

As with a lot of us who have embraced the iPad experience, I downloaded The Daily app and have been using it each day to read the first virtual newspaper.  While certainly things commonly improve over time, I am reluctantly of the opinion that The Daily lacks any killer features that would cause me to pony up my hard earned US$40 a year.

The biggest problem all web sites faces is the revenue issue. Subscription is certainly one way to go ,and perhaps it will work. The problem is that the web surfing population has gotten used to great content offered in abundance for free. The problem of finding a way to extract revenue from readers is based upon a couple of issues. First is how to painlessly move the money and then finding compelling reasons for people to pay.

The free download vs the paid download goes back to music and the iTunes Store. Back when you could steal music using Napster most people began to figure copyrights were...

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Feb 10
Greg's bite: Apple, the new cell phone company?

Apple's Tony Fadell is named as the inventor of a novel method of using various existing cell phone company's excess capacity cobbled together to create a new Apple branded virtual cell phone network.  

The concept is that as Apple's newest iPhones and coming iPads are now able to operate on all cell phone networks around the world, buying excess network capacity in large blocks makes sense. Then Apple could resell that network access to consumers at retail prices per minute and pocket the difference. Some predicted Apple would buy an existing cellular network to get into the cellular business. That won't happen, but this new concept just might work.

Think of this as an extension of the digital download concept Apple is working on cornering with it's new data centers. This can all be done using the newly patented Apple technology without building even one cell phone tower, anywhere.  The patent was issued yesterday and is US patent #7,885,654. I have provide a link...

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Feb 10
Apple patent involves color correction of electronic...

Apple is eyeing ways to beef up the color correction on its electronic displays. A patent (number 20110032275) for color correction of electronic displays utilizing gain controls has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It generally relates to display correction and, more specifically, to correcting the displayed color by reducing its dependency on various variables, such as temperature.

A video-rendering chip performs gain correction on received display input, based on a display temperature, to produce output values that are shown on the display. The video-rendering chip includes multipliers, a microprocessor, and a memory. The microprocessor receives a display temperature from a sensor, determines gain correction coefficients that correspond to the display temperature, and provides the correction coefficients to the multipliers. The multipliers then multiply the display input by the correction coefficients to produce the output values. The microprocessor may...

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Feb 10
Greg's bite: Jonathan Ive, Apple under the hood

By Greg Mills

The team at Apple has no shortage of talent. Jonathan Ive is the public face of the industrial design at Apple. Being vice president of Design at Apple has given Ive the opportunity to create designs that are part of the lives of people all around the world.  Even the Queen of England has an iPod and surely an iPad. The elegance of Ive designs is perfectly in line with the minimalist tastes of Steve Jobs.

Coming from England to the US in 1992 to work for Apple, Ive's designs so intrigued Jobs when he returned from Siberia that in no time, the famous Jobs/Ive team were working on killer new concepts in computers and the rest of the product line at Apple.

Some have suggested that Ive might be in line for CEO of Apple when Steve Jobs retires.  I think that would be a waste of his energy as, Jobs aside, what it takes to be a great CEO isn't creativity in industrial design. A good CEO could provide the environment for Ive to thrive in...

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Feb 10
What I'd like to see in an Apple television

Along with my "MacNews/MacTech" columnist/compadre, Greg Mills, I'm dubious (and have been, for a long time) that Apple will start making its own television sets, though Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is sure the company will enter this market (though no earlier than 2012). Let's assume he's right. What do I want in an Apple television?

The number one thing that would make me buy one right off the bat: a box with the "innards" and technology to allow Apple to really take on the cable and satellite companies. I'd like an Apple HDTV with a built-in Internet connection and software especially designed to connect to iTV, an offshoot of iTunes.

iTV (long the rumored name of the Apple TV before it arrived) is my moniker for an imagined Apple service based on the ginormous data facility the company is building in North Carolina, that would offer a la carte pricing for subscriptions to TV shows. With cable and satellite packages, you have to pay for a bundle of programs...

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Feb 10
Greg's bite: slate city and no iPad killer yet

By Greg Mills

A lot of what Apple has done is incremental. They build upon one successful concept to support another. The iTunes method of selling digital material set the stage for the app store that creates the environment that is making iPhone and iPad so hard to beat. It takes more than a capable device to make a platform viable.

Dull continued their losing streak by pulling a high-end lapflop off the market. Intended to compete with hig- end (Apple) portable computers the market pumped another dose of reality into them. When you sell US$500 laptops there isn't enough profit left in them matter.  No one wants to pay for a top end laptop and walk away with just a Dell. They have created their own corporate image, and it isn't high end.  

HP yesterday launched two cell phone and announced a line of slate computers that appear to be reasonably viable but held back on announcing price points. At this stage of the game, they certainly know what...

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Feb 09
Greg's bite: Nokia's 'MeeGo' no-go

Well, more blood in the water as Nokia's last best chance to compete with Apple's iPhone gets the ax. Nokia, in an uncharacteristic public wringing of the hands, has admitted defeat in the smartphone market as Apple and Google have battered Nokia into a declining market position.

The CEO of Nokia likened their situation as being like a man on a burning oil platform: do you jump into the cold raging sea or wait to be burned to death? Presumably, the dramatic image is likened to the choices of going forward with the troubled proprietary OS dubbed MeeGo, based upon a variation of Linux and being burned to a crisp by Apple's iOS or Google's Android or jumping into the sea by dropping development of their own smartphone OS and going Android or even, ouch ... Windows Mobile 7?!

Long the industry leader, Nokia was caught flatfooted as Apple taught the world what a modern touch screen smartphone had to be. Nokia, RIM and others haven't had a chance to catch their breath as...

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Feb 09
Greg's bite: Tim Cook, Apple under the hood

By Greg Mills

As the tech world waits with baited breath for information on the iPad 2, the iPhone 5 and new MacBooks, much attention has been focused on Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook recently. Mr. Cook is famously filling in for Apple CEO Steve Jobs who is out of the office for health reasons. We wish good health and long life to Mr. Jobs. 

All eyes are on the Apple products that wow us with cool features and the sparkle of innovation.  If one looks closely at Apple's manufacturing operations as the engine of what will soon become the most valuable company in the world, the face of Tim Cook stares back at you.  

Mr. Cook has been the supply chain guy at divisions of IBM and Compaq before coming to Apple in 1998. Before Tim Cook, there was a lot of waste at Apple due to a sloppy supply chain where excess parts were wasted and late product releases hampered maximum growth of the company.

When you consider that the parts for an...

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Feb 09
So when will we see Sandy Bridge Macs?

I was expecting to see Macs packing Sandy Bridge processors pretty soon, but that timetable is almost certainly pushed back slightly due to Intel's problems with the Sandy Bridge chip.

To be more specific, I was expecting a Sandy Bridge refresh of the MacBook Pro line in late February/early March and an update of the iMac line in late March/early April. Now it seems those launches will be delayed at least a couple of weeks. Assuming of course, I'm right in guessing Apple's timetable.

Of course, Apple hasn't announced any Sandy Bridge-based systems, but they're certainly coming. The MacBook lineup consists of aging (by computer standards) Core 2 Duo processors (MacBook, MacBook Air, and 13-inch MacBook Pro) and previous-generation Core i5 and i7 processors (15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros). The iMac uses last-generation Core i3 and Core i5 chips.

According to "CNET" (http://macte.ch/ZAzAY), Intel...

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