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Mar 31
Are tablets just a fad? No, but ....

Katherine Noyes, writing for "PC World" (http://macte.ch/byR2m), says tablets are just a fad. I disagree with her basic premise, but she does have some good points.

Among Noyes' reasons for doubting the future of the tablets are:

° Limited functionality: "As far as I can tell, tablets do not offer any significant functionality that's not already available on a smartphone or notebook computer, yet they lack critical components like keyboards. In fact, you can get a laptop with considerably more memory and storage and a much better CPU for a significantly lower price, as my PCWorld colleague recently pointed out."

° They're inconvenient: "Unlike smartphones, the tablet form factor is too large to fit in a pocket or purse, yet it doesn't offer anywhere near the functionality of only slightly larger devices like notebooks and laptop computers."

° Waning excitement: "It's true that other...

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Mar 31
Apple patents involve unibody design, map layouts

Two Apple patents involving computer housing and map layouts have appeared at the US Patnet & Trademark Office.

Patent number 20110073575 is for a computer housing and involves the "unibody" design of recent Apple laptops and iMacs. A visually seamless method of joining a first piece of metal and a second piece of metal is described. The first piece of metal is placed in contact with an edge of the second piece of metal. In some embodiments, the edge includes a sacrificial lip.

The first piece of metal forming a junction area with the edge of the second piece of metal, applying a forging force to the first piece of metal, the forging force having an effect of creating an extremely tight fit up between the first and the second pieces of metal, welding the first and the second pieces to form an assembly and forming a cosmetically enhancing protective layer on the surface of the assembly, the protective layer obscuring any visible artifacts on the surface of the...

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Mar 30
Greg's bite: correction -- PlayBook runs Android...

By Greg Mills

Sometimes I miss something major, lost in the small print when I do my research. I discovered this morning that I made an understandable error in yesterday's post when I bluntly stated that RIM's soon-to-be-launched, PlayBook would run Android Apps.  

RIM announced with great fanfare on March 24 that PlayBook would be able to run Android apps. Well, that is sort of true, but sort of isn't completely true at this time, maybe ever.  Don't buy a RIM PlayBook based upon the promise of running Android apps.

With all the other "got ya" problems with PlayBook, even stating that it would run Android Apps isn't without major complications. It seems RIM is promising an "Android platform runtime app" (to be released this summer) that will enable Android v2.3 apps that have been specifically "adapted" by their developers for RIM's PlayBook OS to run in a "sandbox" environment. That means the Android apps may not be full featured when run on...

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Mar 30
Anticipating the next iMac

In a series of Tweets (via MacNews.de), CNET's Brian Tong says he's received word from a "reliable source" that new iMacs will arrive in late April or early May. That's no surprise, and it's easy to guess at some of the features, though others I would love to see probably won't make the cut.

The updated iMacs will doubtless feature dual and quad Sandy Bridge processors, as well as Thunderbolt technology. The lower end iMacs will probably sport 2.3GHz and 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5s, while the high-end iMacs will tout 2.0GHz and 2.3 quad-core Intel Core i7s. The low end models will most likely sport integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 384MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with the main memory. The higher end models will likely come with an AMD Radeon HD 6490M graphics processor with 256MB of GDDR5 memory or an AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor with 1GB of GDDR5 memory.

The revved iMacs will certainly sport Thunderbolt I/O technology. Developed by Intel with...

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Mar 29
Apple patent involves antenna isolation for future...

An Apple patent (number 7916089) for antenna isolation for portable devices has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It shows that Apple is far from finished with antenna implementations in future iPhones.

Per the patent portable electronic devices are provided with wireless circuitry that includes antennas and antenna isolation elements. The antennas may include antennas that have multiple arms and that are configured to handle communications in multiple frequency bands. The antennas may also include one or more antennas that are configured to handle communications in a single frequency band. The antennas may be coupled to different radio-frequency transceivers.

For example, there may be first, second, and third antennas and first and second transceivers. The first and third antennas may be coupled to the first transceiver and the second antenna may be coupled to the second transceiver. The antenna isolation elements may be interposed between the...

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Mar 29
Apple patent is for dock that operates in multiple...

An Apple patent (number 7916467) for methods and apparatuses for docking in a portable electronic device that has a planar-like configuration and that operates in multiple orientations has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

A docking system is disclosed. The docking system includes a portable electronic device capable of operating in multiple orientations including vertical and horizontal. The docking system also includes a docking station configured to mechanically accept and operatively interface with the portable electronic device in any of its multiple orientations including vertical and horizontal. The inventors are Steve Hotelling and Gus Pabon.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Many electronic devices include a docking station for providing a convenient interface for transferring data between the electronic device and other devices, such as a computers, speakers, monitors, and printers. The docking station may also include...

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Mar 29
Greg's bite: bomb threat at Apple shipping -- and...

By Greg Mills

People do the strangest things. Yesterday the shipping department at Apple's Elk Grove, California, shipping facility got a bomb threat. After evacuating the buildings and doing a thorough bomb squad search, an explosive device was not found. Was someone pissed off about Apple's shipping delays? Hopefully, the cops will catch the hoax perpetrator.  

Allegorically speaking, suggestions that iPad 2 was going to "bomb" in the market place have been just as false at the explosive sort of empty threat. The Apple iPad 2 is flying off the shelf around the world.  The lines of eager Apple fans are queued up to pay up for the latest tablet computer that seems to be redefining what a computer means to consumers of downloadable digital data. The tablet computers doomed to "bomb" in the market place aren't found at Apple.

Naysayers incorrectly panned the iPad 2 as only a minor update to the iPad 1. Frankly, the iPad 1 was so far ahead of the...

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Mar 29
2011 Apple Design Awards: the good news and the bad...

Apple has announced the dates of its 2011 Worldwide developer Conference (June 6-10), which will be home to, among other things, the 2011 Apple Design Awards. There's good news and bad news about the awards.

The good news is that, unlike last year, Mac apps will be eligible for the awards. In 2010, Apple caused quite a stir and a stink by only giving out awards to iOS-based apps. This increased the hoopla that Apple had lost its love for the Mac and that the company's focus would soon be on iOS devices only.

That's certainly proven to be incorrect. And the 2011 Apple Design Awards will honor both iOS AND Mac OS X software, which is great news. Unfortunately, those awards seem to be limited exclusively to titles available via the Mac App Store or Apple App Store, based on the wording at Apple's 2011 Design Awards website (http://developer.apple.com/wwdc/ada/).

That'...

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Mar 29
Apple patents range from user interfaces to web clip...

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

Patent number 7917892 is for a user interface driven by dynamic state changes. A method for responding to changes to properties of component instances is disclosed. A routine, that is to be informed of changes that occur to a particular property of a plurality of properties of a component instance, is registered. The value of the particular property is detected as changed when the value of the particular property changes because of a change to another property of the plurality of properties. A call is made to the routine to indicate that the particular property has changed. Bradley D. Ford is the inventor.

Patent number 7914320 involves a cable connector assembly with sticky film. It includes an insulative housing, a plurality of contacts received in the insulative housing, a cable electrically connected with the contacts...

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Mar 28
Will Apple license AirPlay to TV makers?

Apple is considering allowing TV makers to build its AirPlay media-sharing protocol into their sets, according to a "Bloomberg" (http://macte.ch/i3UoT) report last week. However, I'm dubious for two reasons.

But let me back up. AirPlay is a feature for streaming music, video and photos wirelessly from an iPad, iPhone and iPod touch to the Apple TV. The wireless technology is being integrated into speaker docks, AV receivers, and stereo systems from companies such as Bowers & Wilkins and Denon -- for audio only.

Under the expanded AirPlay plan, Apple would license its AirPlay software to consumer-electronics makers that could use it in devices for streaming movies, TV shows and other video content, says "Bloomberg." An expanded AirPlay would let users stream programming wirelessly from an Apple mobile device to a TV that carries the technology.

However, I have my doubts. Reason one: it would...

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Mar 25
Greg's bite: RIM falls 10% over PlayBook flaws

By Greg Mills

As I have maintained, the prospects for RIM's PlayBook appear grim. The stock market took it out on them yesterday savaging RIM's stock prices. Analysts seem to agree with my assessment that RIM's days are numbered and that PlayBook is fatally flawed.  RIM's cell phone sales numbers have declined five quarters in a row.

Meeting Apple's iPad price points on PlayBook sounds like a great idea, but is there any profit left? RIM also has to cut in retailers and compete with Apple's sleek industrial manufacturing footprint.

As I pointed out yesterday, native RIM apps are lame. Just today it comes out they are going to enable Android apps to work on PlayBook. Forgive me if I miss something in PlayBook specs, as they are announced and changed on the fly.

From the latest information I have, PlayBook still requires a BlackBerry to work. That sounds nuts to me as it prevents wider assimilation in the market as one would have to put...

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Mar 24
There's still LOTS of room for Mac market share...

I've long contended that the Mac is the most underestimated of Apple's crown jewels, lost in the adoration of the iPad and other iOS devices. Sure, there's room for growth of the iPad, the iPhone, certainly the Apple TV, and, yes, even the iPod. But there's also incredible room for Mac growth.

Eric Jackson, the founder and managing member of Ironfire Capital, has nailed it in a recent column (http://macte.ch/LaAHk) for "Forbes." He had this to say: "We know that Apple has focused on the education segment for a long time. The idea is to seed the next-generation of Mac buyers. Admittedly, such a strategy requires patience.  But, with the Baby Boomers retiring, the college kids coming into the workforce in increasing numbers, and a critical mass of Apple products (iPhone, iPad, and TV), there is likely to start to be a rapid increase in Mac usage. The last quarter saw Macs set a new record (3.47 million sold in...

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Mar 24
Future iOS devices may be even more graphics driven

Per a new patent (number 201110071977) at the US Patent & Trademark Office, Apple is considering using graphics and multi-touch gestures in lieu of, or perhaps in addition to, text on future iDevices for accessing music, contact lists and more.

According to the patent, entitled "Segmented Graphical Presentations for Recommending Elements," systems, methods and machine-readable media are disclosed for providing segmented graphical representations of elements, such as songs, videos, pictures, graphics, or address book contacts. In some embodiments, an electronic device may identify remote and/or local elements based on a seed element and may display a segmented graphical representation of the seed element (e.g., a tiled album cover).

At least one of the segments may be associated with one or more of the identified elements. In response to receiving a user selection of a segment, the electronic device may perform any of a number of suitable actions based on the...

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Mar 24
Apple planning further facial recognition enhancements...

Apple is already planned to beef up its Face recognition technology in iPhoto and perhaps iMovie, as indicated by a new patent (number 20110069085) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The patent is for generating slideshows using facial detection information.

Methods and systems are presented for automatically generating a slide associated with a slideshow. In one aspect, a method includes selecting an image for inclusion in a slideshow, where the image has associated facial detection information. A face location is determined in the selected image based on the facial detection information and the selected image is cropped based on the determined face location to generate a cropped image depicting the included face. The cropped image is inserted into a slide associated with the slideshow.

Further, an animation having a defined animation path can be associated with the slide. Also, the face location can be identified as a position in the animation path and the...

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Mar 24
Greg's bite: the freedom of the app

By Greg Mills

Apple takes heat for about anything they do, it seems. A conspiracy theory built upon the design of iPhone security screws blew over a few weeks ago. Apps that take political points of view or make a social statement tend to be the latest point of dispute. Political correctness seems to be in the eye of the offended.

The latest tempest in the Apple tea pot involves a ministry portal app to Exodus International, (ExodusInterntional.org). The Exodus organization offers help for people who want to exit the gay life style. The Exodus app was approved with a score of 4 by Apple, some time back.  It got yanked yesterday for not meeting unwritten Apples standards for apps (not being too controversial). As long as no one objected, Apple seemed okay with it. It is hard to meet undocumented standards for apps that support opinion without being politically un-correct.  

The gay community got wind of one purpose of the app, offering helping...

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Mar 24
iPhone 5 likely to sport a bigger screen

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

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

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

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Mar 24
Apple patent is for LED backlight for display systems

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

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

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Mar 23
Greg's bite: Xoom Fades to Black

By Greg Mills

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

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

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

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Mar 23
Magazines look to join books in transition to digital

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

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

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

...

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Mar 22
Apple patent involves the ol' soft shoe

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

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

A system assesses...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Greg Mills

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

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

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

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Mar 21
Shipments of smartphones grew 74% in 2010

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

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

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

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Mar 18
Consumer boxed software sales not dead just yet

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

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

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

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Mar 17
Apple patent involves rendering system log data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 16
Keyboards for the iPad not real hot sellers

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

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

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

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

By Greg Mills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 15
Ultraviolet format, meet the DVD

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

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

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

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Mar 14
Content protection key to successful Internet video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for...

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

By Greg Mills

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

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

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

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

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Mar 10
Patent hints at better iOS/accessory authentication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 10
Apple patent involves anodization treatment

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

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

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

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Mar 10
Some thoughts about the 13-inch MacBook Pro

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

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

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

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

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Mar 10
Apple patent is for electromagnetic induction

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

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

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

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

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

By Greg Mills

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Mar 08
Apple granted digital video encoding patent

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

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

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

By Greg Mills

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

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

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

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Mar 07
Greg's bite: Flummoxed defined

By Greg Mills

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

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

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

Flummoxed synonyms listed by Merriam...

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Mar 07
Study says casual games can reduce depression, anxiety

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

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

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Mar 04
Consumers not ready to embrace cloud-based solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, it's an...

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