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Oct 24
Greg's Bite: Apple's new, shorter product...

As the proud owner of an iPad 3 (the "new" iPad, as Apple calls it), I was a bit frustrated to hear that the new iPad 3.5 or 4, has twice the horsepower in its chip set as my now obsolete tablet. Keeping up with the latest round of Apple products is turning out to be an expensive hobby.  

Going from the Apple dual core 5 CPU to Apple's  quad core A6X ARM microprocessor was apparently just keeping up with Apple's ongoing chip development. There is simply too much money on the table for Apple to not keep pushing the envelope. The Samsungs are still way back in the rear view mirror, but they are working hard to catch up.

Focusing on what you don't have is a trap that blinds you to what you do have.  While each new Apple product has cool new features that continue to raise the bar and flummox the competition, the usefulness of functional Mac computers and, especially, iPads, continue to fill in gaps in our technology. Perhaps one reason Apple is slowly taking the industry...

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Oct 24
A look back at yesterday's Apple media event

Apple's "We've got a little more to show you" media event has come and gone. Most of the predictions I made were correct -- though, with the preponderance of Apple rumors all over the Web, that's not the impressive achievement it might once have been. Anyway here's how I did:

My prediction: An iPad mini of 7.85 inches with a 1024 x 768 resolution but no Retina display with pricing starting at US$329.

The reality: Pretty much what I predicted, but the iPad mini is slightly bigger (7.9 inches) and more expensive.

My prediction: A 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro with a resolution of 2560x 1600, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of flash storage with pricing starting at $1,499.

The reality: A 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro with a resolution of 2560x 1600, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of flash storage with pricing starting at $1,699.

My prediction:: New iMacs in 21-5-inch and 27-...

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Oct 23
Apple wants to improve iOS devices' ability to...

An Apple patent (number 8296383) for electronic devices with voice command and contextual data processing capabilities has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The company is looking to beef up the ability of its iOS devices to handle voice-based commands.

Per the patent, an electronic device may capture a voice command from a user. The electronic device may store contextual information about the state of the electronic device when the voice command is received. The electronic device may transmit the voice command and the contextual information to computing equipment such as a desktop computer or a remote server.

The computing equipment may perform a speech recognition operation on the voice command and may process the contextual information. The computing equipment may respond to the voice command. The computing equipment may also transmit information to the electronic device that allows the electronic device to respond to the voice command.

...

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Oct 23
Apple works on ways to beef up face detection

A new Apple patent (number 8295610) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on ways to beef up face detection in its iOS and OS X products.

The patent is for feature scaling for face detection. Per the patent, a feature used in face detection can be applied to an image portion and can be scaled to fit differently sized image areas. If a feature is positioned with respect to an image area such that a vertex of the feature is aligned with a non-integer pixel location, at least one dimension of the filter can be rounded. A dimension to be rounded further can correspond to a directional component of the feature.

For instance, contrast regions within the feature can be arranged horizontally, such that the vertical dimension represents a directional component. A rounding rule associated with the feature can be used in rounding a dimension corresponding to a directional component, such that a size ratio between the contrast regions is...

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Oct 23
Apple patent is for media manager with integrated...

An Apple patent (number 8296656) for a media manager with integrated browssers has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Methods and systems that improve the way media is played, sorted, modified, stored and cataloged are disclosed.

One aspect relates to a browse window that allows a user to navigate through and select images that are related to media items. Another aspect relates to a graphical user interface of a media management program that utilizes multiple browse windows. Another aspect relates to simultaneously displayed media browse windows whose operations are integrated together so that the content shown therein is automatically synched when selections are made. Another aspect relates to resetting browsed content to the currently playing media.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Personal computers typically include media management programs for managing various media such as music and videos. The media management programs typically...

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Oct 23
What I'm expecting at today's Apple event

Apple will hold its "We've got a little more to show you" media event today at 10 am (Pacific). Rumors have been swirling about what Apple will announce. Here's what my crystal ball foresees:

° An iPad mini (d-uh!). The only shock will be if Apple doesn't announce a smaller tablet between 7-8 inches (7.85 inches is the most likely size). I foresee a device with 1024 x 768 resolution (the same as the iPad 2) with a 4-to-3 aspect ratio but no no Retina display. I think the iPad mini will come in 8GB and 16GB versions for US$250 and $299, respectively. (Though I'm note sure how practical an 8GB device is these days, cloud storage or not.)

° A 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro. The 15-inch model has been a big hit despite its considerable price tag, so a smaller, less expensive (though still pricey) version is a given. It will be a smaller version of its big brother with a resolution of 2560x 1600. I foresee pricing starting at US$1,499...

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Oct 23
Apple granted patent for iPad 2 design

Apple has been granted a patent (number D699468) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for the design of the iPad 2.

The inventors are Jody Akana, Bartley K. Andre, Jeremy Bataillou, Daniel J. Costerr, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Julian Hoenigh, Richard P. Howarth, Jonathan P. Ive, Duncan Robert Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Christopher J. Stringer, Eugene Antony Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Also appearing today at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office are:

° Patent number 8296383 for electronic devices with voice command and contextual data processing capabilities;

° Patent number 8296833 for system connections and user interfaces;

° Patent number 8296348 for encoding and decoding data arrays;

° Patent number 8295682 for techniques and interface controls that allow users of signal editing applications to easily select...

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Oct 22
Should Apple have stuck with Google Maps?

By Rob James

The recent Google Maps controversy has been a rare misstep for Apple. The company’s proprietary maps app was intended to replace Google Maps as the default map service for iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, but came with multiple bugs, ranging from missing locations to wrong directions.

Problems with the app have led to suggestions that Apple should have stuck with Google Maps, which remains the leading option for users in terms of updates and detail for different platforms. However, while looking at Apple Maps’ problems, and the backpedalling that has taken place in the past few weeks, it is possible to suggest a future for a Google Maps-less Apple.

Apple’s motivation for switching to their own maps app was, perhaps understandably, affected by their handing over of a lucrative license to Google for every iOS device that used their rivals’ app. However, and despite being pitched as an advanced maps app, Apple Maps has been roundly criticized...

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Oct 22
Survey: US small business owners not worried about...

U.S. small business owners or operators have a false sense of cybersecurity as more than three-fourths (77% say their company is safe from cyber threats such as hackers, viruses, malware or a cybersecurity breach, yet 83% have no formal cybersecurity plan.

These findings are from a new survey of 1,015 U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Symantec.  (The full survey is available at: http://www.staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/resources/ .)

This annual survey is being released in conjunction with National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a coordinated national effort focused on improving online safety and security for all Americans. The survey findings reveal some disparities such as the need for establishing Internet security policies and practices, handling and...

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Oct 19
Greg's Bite: Lickable below the Surface

By Greg Mills

The Microsoft drums are pounding again for the Surface iPad wannabe. Feeling a bit stupid this morning, I went to the Microsoft/store online and poked around.  What I found was so Microsoft. It seems nothing changes at Redmond.

First of all, many of the article sI have read touting the Surface tablet are written by people living under a rock, who have never seen or experienced a real iPad. One awestruck writer was amazed at a tablet cover that attached to the Surface tablet with tiny but strong magnets. Now there is an original idea. Who says Microsoft doesn't innovate?  

Secondly, I found it interesting that Microsoft priced the Surface tablet at price points identical to similarly configured iPads. This is to insinuate some degree of equality with Apple's products. I think they are touting more RAM without admitting the reason they have to pump the memory.  The new Windows Mobile OS and Office apps are such memory hogs they have...

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Oct 19
Tablets have reinvented American's relationship...

I'm not yet ready to get all my books at Apple's iBookstore or Amazon (too hard to share 'em), but I've pretty much gone all digital when it comes to newspapers, preferring to read 'em on my iPad. Evidently, I'm not alone.

ComScore (www.comscore.com), a company that "measures the digital world," recently released a study of tablet newspaper and magazine readership based on data from its comScore TabLens service. The study found that nearly two in five U.S. tablet owners read newspapers and/or magazines on their device in August, with one in 10 reading publications almost daily.

"Tablets are fundamentally redefining how people consume news and information, with the format more conducive to reading longer form content than PCs or smartphones," says Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president of Mobile. "In the case of online newspapers, tablets are now driving 7 percent of total page views, an impressive...

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Oct 18
Apple patent is for dock with movable connector for...

An Apple patent (number 20120264329) for a dock with a movable connector for a display device has popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

For example, when a portable electronic device, coupled with the connector, is pushed forward, the connector is designed to move (e.g. rotate), thereby reducing an impact of strain resulting from such a push. The rotatable connector may be biased to keep the portable electronic device in an upright position such that the electronic device is supported by a rear reference surface of the docking station, thereby preventing undue strain on the rotatable connector in the upright position and inhibiting movement forward.

The rotatable connector may be partly below an outer shell of the docking station, and pivot at the outer shell, thereby reducing possible damage to parts below the outer shell. The rotatable connector may also retract when rotated, thereby removing a force that can break the connector at a position of...

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Oct 18
Apple eyeing ways to beef up Siri's '...

A new Apple patent (number 20120265528) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on ways to beef up Sir. The patent is for using context information to facilitate processing of commands in a virtual assistant.

Per the patent, a virtual assistant uses context information to supplement natural language or gestural input from a user. Context helps to clarify the user's intent and to reduce the number of candidate interpretations of the user's input, and reduces the need for the user to provide excessive clarification input.

Context can include any available information that is usable by the assistant to supplement explicit user input to constrain an information-processing problem and/or to personalize results. Context can be used to constrain solutions during various phases of processing, including, for example, speech recognition, natural language processing, task flow processing, and dialog generation.

Here's Apple's background on...

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Oct 18
A couple of iOS Maps questions ...

Why doesn't Apple have a web-based Map service like Google Maps? Makes you wonder.

You also have to wonder why Apple isn't using its own maps for everything internal (see the graphic). I'm just sayin'.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Oct 18
Apple looking to spice up text-to-speech voices

A new Apple patent (number20120265533) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for "voice assignment for text-to-speech output" shows that Apple is looking to add more variety and flavor to text-to-speech voices.

Per the patent, text can be obtained at a device from various forms of communication such as e-mails or text messages. Metadata can be obtained directly from the communication or from a secondary source identified by the directly obtained metadata.

The metadata can be used to create a speaker profile. The speaker profile can be used to select voice data. The selected voice data can be used by a text-to-speech (TTS) engine to produce speech output having voice characteristics that best match the speaker profile.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Many modern computing devices (e.g., personal computers, smart phones, electronic tablets, television systems) run applications that convert text to speech. This conversion allows a...

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Oct 17
How have iOS devices impacted the portable gaming...

The influx of innovative and advanced features on smartphones and tablets, such as high resolution graphics capabilities, has created a common perception that portable gaming consoles will vanish in the near future.

However, ARCchart (www.arcchart.com) sees a healthy PGC market continuing to exist and expects that the overall market -- including both game titles and console sales -- will be worth US$24 billion by 2016. That's not to say that the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and similar devices aren't affecting the PGC market.

In July Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told the UK newspaper , "The Independent," that competition from the iPad and iPhone hasn't had a major effect on the success of Nintendo's portable devices.

"I don't think this is a central factor, I think it's much more about our lack of ability to release software in a timely matter that will motivate people to go out and buy our gaming...

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Oct 16
Apple patents involve wireless headsets, audio...

Several Apple patents involving audio have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, including one (patent number 8290545) for systems and methods for accelerometer usage in a wireless headset.

Per the patent, an accelerometer can be used to determine the location of a wireless headset. The determined location can be used to control and improve a noise cancellation system. In some embodiments, the determined location can be used in controlling the functions of buttons of the wireless headset. In some embodiments, the accelerometer can further be used to determine when the system is in use. If the system has not been in use for a predetermined amount of time, at least a portion of the wireless headset can be turned off to save power. Jeffrey J. Terlizzi is the inventor.

Patent number 8290537 is for sideteone adjustment based on headset or earphone type. Per the patent portable telephony device has a mobile phone housing. Integrated in the housing are memory...

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Oct 16
Apple working on ways to ID unauthorized device users

An Apple patent (number 8289130) for systems and methods for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device show has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. In particular, this relates to systems and methods for detecting an unauthorized user, gathering information related to the electronic device, the unauthorized user, or both, and transmitting an alert notification to a responsible party for the electronic device.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "People often possess and carry around a variety of electronic devices, such as, for example, cellular phones, PDA's, personal e-mail or messaging devices (e.g., a Blackberry), and handheld media players (e.g., an iPod). Many of these electronic devices are used frequently by their owners, and the electronic devices may contain personal or sensitive information stored within them.

"For example, the electronic devices may contain information such as credit card numbers, passwords...

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Oct 16
Apple granted patent for 3D remote control

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8291346) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a 3D remote control system employing absolute and relative position detection.

The present invention can include three-dimensional remote control systems that can detect an absolute location to which a remote control is pointing in first and second orthogonal axes and an absolute position of the remote control in a third orthogonal axis. Remote control systems of the present invention can employ absolute position detection with relative position detection.

Absolute position detection can indicate an initial absolute position of the remote control and relative position detection can indicate changes in the position of the remote control. By combining absolute and relative position detection, remote control systems of the present invention can track remote controls more precisely than systems that only employ absolute position detection. The present invention also can...

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Oct 16
iMac rip-offs have some intriguing features

Vizio and HP announced what can only be described as iMac rip-offs -- Windows desktops that shamelessly borrow design elements from Apple's all-in-one. Well, if you're gonna rip off someone, might as well rip off the best -- and the iMac is the industry's best-selling all-in-one desktop.

Still, I have to admit that Vizio and HP's desktops have some intriguing features, especially when it comes to using the computers as entertainment systems. Since they've borrowed so freely from Apple for their desktop's design, I wish Apple would borrow at least one feature from Vizio's desktop and -- maybe -- another from HP's computer.

For example, the Vizio device (pictured) has a 2.1 surround sound system and comes with a subwoofer that doubles as a power supply to eliminate extra cords. I haven't had a chance to get up close and personal with the All-in-One Touch (and doubt I ever will), but I hear good things about its audio quality.

HP's new Spectre One desktop has a...

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Oct 15
Flexible displays? They're coming, just don'...

Sooner or later (well, okay, later) we'll see Macs with flexible displays. However, that groundbreaking achievement will come first with smaller devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

A flexible display is a thin, rollable display used in a variety of applications such as e-paper, digital signage, smartphones, TVs, and other consumer products. Flexible displays are on LCD, e-paper, LED or OLED. Out of these display technologies, flexible OLED display is the advanced type of display. These displays are looked upon as the future mainstream display for a number of consumer products.

There have been significant developments going on in the field of flexible electronics and printed displays. For the past few years, many industry participants and consumers have dreamed (and worked on) display technology that would break through the limitations of glass-based displays like weight, size, and ruggedness.

The advent of flexible display would overcome these limitations....

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Oct 12
Still more (unwarranted) death knells for the personal...

There were more death knells for the personal computer this week. They were unwarranted -- the personal computer will evolve, but isn't going away -- but make interesting reading.

Jim Van Meerlen, writing for "The Street" (http://macte.ch/ZVHXN) -- points out that almost every day the headlines read "The PC is Dead." He also wants to add "so is Dell."

"In the past nine months, Dell has had one bad earnings report after another and investors are leaving in droves," he writes. "... 'The Street' gives the stock a weak C rating. The company is trying to turn its battleship and change the product mix to be less PCs and more networking and server products but competition is high. The only bright spot is lower earnings will drop the company's tax rate."

Okay, so Dell may be dying (I imagine the company will survive, though in a much weaker form). Not personal computers. But back to that in a moment....

| Read more »
Oct 11
What if Apple spent even more on R&D?

When we think of Apple, we think of a company that spends a big hunk of its profits on research and development as it develops the Next Big Thing. Well, perhaps not so much.

In a recent "MacLife" column, Rik Myslewski pointed out that Apple has about USS$117 billion in the bank, and its R&D budget for the previous fiscal quarter was 0.75% of that amount. In contrast, IBM had $11.2 billion in cash and spent 14.6% of that on research and development.

And a recent "CNET" column -- see http://crave.cnet.co.uk/mobiles/apple-spends-more-on-patents-than-randd-... -- points out that Apple now spends more money on patenting stuff "than it does on coming up with new ideas."

Admittedly, the whole patent situation is out of control and needs...

| Read more »
Oct 11
Apple patent involves mobile device connection...

An Apple patent (number 20120258707) for multiple network mobile device connection management has popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It involves connection management for mobile wireless devices that support multiple wireless networks where each wireless network can use a different wireless communication technology.

Per the patent, a mobile wireless device maintains registration on two parallel wireless communication networks that each use different wireless communication protocols. In response to a first connection request received from a first wireless network, the mobile wireless device tunes a single receiver contained therein from the first wireless network to a second wireless network. Subsequently in response to a second connection request received from the second wireless network, the mobile wireless device connects to the second wireless network.

Here's Apple's background and summary on the invention: "Wireless networks continue to evolve...

| Read more »
Oct 11
Apple working to 'conceal' components of...

An Apple patent (number 20120258773) for providing access to an internal component has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Systems, methods, and devices are disclosed for concealing components of an electronic device.

In one embodiment, an electronic device may include a component that is disposed behind a window configured to selectively become transparent or opaque, such as a polymer-dispersed liquid crystal (PLDC) window. The component includes an image capture device, a strobe flash, a biometric sensor, a light sensor, a proximity sensor, or a solar panel, or a combination thereof.

Additionally, the electronic device includes data processing circuitry configured to determine when an event requesting that the component be exposed occurs. Furthermore, the electronic device includes a window controller that may control the window to become transparent, to expose the component upon the occurrence of the event requesting that the component be exposed...

| Read more »
 
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