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Nov 27
Apple working on better portable device-sports...

A new Apple patent (number 8317658) shows that the company is working on even better ways of interfacing portable media devices and sports equipment. The patent involves circuits, methods, and apparatus that allow sports or other equipment, such as gym or other cardio equipment, to write data to a media player.

Examples further provide the uploading of this data to a computer and third-party website. To monitor progress, the third-party website can be used to track workout data over time. The third party-website can also collect data from other users, which is particularly useful for providing a competitive environment. This data can then be graphically displayed in various ways to provide encouragement.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Portable media players have become very popular the past few years and their market penetration shows no signs of abating. People use them when walking, driving, and commuting by bus or train. They are also particularly...

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Nov 27
Apple wins patents for desktop widgets, more

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,321,801) for desktop widgets for presentation in a layer has popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The invention relates generally to graphical user interfaces, and more particularly to a user-activatable, configurable, unified layer containing items of interest to a user.

Per the patent, an user-activatable dashboard (also referred to as a unified interest layer) contains any number of user interface elements -- or "widgets" -- for quick access by a user. In response to a command from a user, the dashboard is invoked and the widgets are shown on the screen. The user can activate the dashboard at any time, causing the dashboard to temporarily replace the existing user interface display on the user's screen.

Once the dashboard has been activated, the user can interact with any or all of the widgets, and can configure the dashboard by adding, deleting, moving, or configuring individual widgets as desired. When...

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Nov 27
Apple, show us love, we'll love you in return

Supposedly, one of the reasons John Browett was dismissed as Apple's head of retail operations was because he spearheaded a new staffing formula for its retail stores, leading some employees to see their hourly shifts cut and retail locations to be understaffed.

True or not, the last thing Apple needs to do is make its customers feel under-appreciated. The more love you show, us, Apple, the more love we show you.

In fact, according to a survey by the polling firm IBOPE/Zogby International for rbb Public Relations, companies have to show consumers the love in order to attract -- and keep them -- in today’s dynamic marketplace. Of the 2,000 adults surveyed, 83% are willing to spend more on a product or service if they feel a personal connection to the company. One fifth of respondents said they would pay 50% or more if they felt the company put the customer first.

The survey found that to stay competitive, companies are adopting marketing strategies that align...

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Nov 26
IEEE says 'supercomputers' may save us all

Members of the IEEE Computer Society (http://www.ieee.org.) -- the world's largest technical professional organization "dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity" -- think that "supercomputing" is a key technology driving future innovations including the development of perfect weather forecasting, limitless clean energy and smartphones that are 20 times faster than those used today. 

These potential advancements, and others, including advancements in medicine and deep space exploration, are part of IEEE's ideas on what "Civilization 2040" will look like. As supercomputing reaches new levels of advancement, it will play an increasingly critical role in driving innovation and impacting the well-being of society over the next 20 years, according to IEEE.

For example, supercomputing is at the heart of intensive research that will allow for near perfect weather forecasts. With such a...

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Nov 23
Apple working on ways to control reflections in LDC...

An Apple patent (number 201202987378 for controlling reflection reflection LCD devices has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Systems and methods are provided for controlling the light reflected from a display panel.

In one embodiment, a prism mirror and a diffuse reflector are positioned between the bottom polarizer and the liquid crystal layer of a pixel to control the polarization of reflected light transmitted through the display panel. The diffuse reflector diffuses light towards the prism mirror, and the prism mirror affects the polarization of the light. When the pixel is on, the liquid crystals of the liquid crystal layer may shift the polarization of the reflected light such that it can be transmitted through the top polarizer.

When the pixel is off, the liquid crystals may not substantially shift the polarization of the reflected light, and the reflected light may be polarized to be absorbed by the top polarizer. Accordingly, reflected...

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Nov 23
Apple files 'custom stores' patent

An Apple patent (number 20120296744) for "custom stores" has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Per the patent a custom store web page uses an external administrator to provide configuration data for a custom store web page. The configuration data can include virtual bundles of products for sale.

Here's The present invention relates to electronic commerce sites, especially electronic commerce sites designed for the use of members of a group.

"Recently, with the expansion of the Internet, electronic commerce sites have become a powerful new way to buy and sell products. Typically, a consumer goes to a vender's web site, selects a desired product, and purchases it using a credit card. The credit card information is usually encrypted in its transfer across the Internet to provide security. Upon verifying the credit-card information, the product(s) selected by the consumer are mailed from the vendor's warehouse to the consumer.

"Typically,...

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Nov 23
Apple patent is for dynamic, location-based signage

An Apple patent (number 2012029677) for location-based signage has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, dynamic signage systems are provided for a sales environment. A dynamic signage device (e.g., a tablet computer) is associated with a product, e.g., based on a location of the device and/or the product, and can present information about the product to a customer in an interactive manner. The device can automatically check for updated product information and modify its display based on the updated product information.

Management of multiple dynamic signage devices can be coordinated within and across stores, and an interactive floor-map creation system incorporating dynamic signage devices can facilitate changing the associations between products and dynamic signage devices.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Retail customers sometimes find it hard to obtain the information they want about products they are...

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Nov 21
Reasons to be thankful

I've got many reasons to be thankful -- to many to list here.

So let me just say I'm thankful for the readers and advertisers of MacTech and MacNews. Your support of our two sites is much appreciated.

I'm also thankful that I'll be joining family for a Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. Which means, of course, that MacTech.com and MacNews.com will be closed for the holiday.

So have a great Thanksgiving. And we'll see you back here on Friday.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Nov 20
Greg's Bite: Windows 8 -- ugly under the Surface?

By Greg Mills

While I try wax eloquent in my occasional digs at Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and all things Windows, it takes an actual PC fan boy to roast 'em right. Jakob Nielsen, described as a "user interface guru," slammed Windows 8 so hard the glass broke.I try to inject a little humor in my criticism, but Nielsen chops em up like stew meat on a butcher block. Nothing funny about it.

Calling Microsoft's business survival critical incremental release of Windows 8 a "monster and a tortured soul" goes beyond my normal bite out of Ballmer's hide.  Since I wouldn't even touch a PC without wearing rubber gloves, my information is pretty much second hand. You can see the Nielsen article at www.useit.com/alertbox/windows-8.html .

When you read the entire article, what jumps out is that Microsoft's attempt to merge what in the Mac world would be...

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Nov 20
Apple patent is for using a portable media player as a...

An Apple patent (number 8315746) for using a portable media player as a remote control has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, a portable multimedia player is used to wirelessly access and control a media server that is streaming digital media by way of a wireless interface to a media unit such as a stereo/speakers in the case of streaming digital audio. In one embodiment, the portable multimedia player is wirelessly synchronized to a selected one(s) of a number of digital media files stored on the media server in such a way that digital media file metadata (song title, author, etc.) associated with the selected digital media file(s) only is transferred from the media server to be stored in the portable media player.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Due to the increasing capacity and capability of personal computers, it has become popular to use a personal computer as a repository for multimedia content, such as songs,...

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Nov 20
Apple picked the right time to support USB 3.0

Guess Apple released Macs with USB 3.0 support just in time. The global market for USB 3.0 devices will grow more than 500% through 2016, according to the Global Information Inc. (www.giiresearch.com) research group.

Since its introduction in 1996, USB has displaced a host of wired connectivity standards including FireWire, PS/2 and serial ports that were once used to connect everything from mice to printers to external hard drives. Although initial adoption of USB 3.0 was fairly weak (which may be one reason Apple delayed support), device shipments and the installed base will grow significantly by 2016, according to GIS.

Currently, USB 1.1 devices are still shipping low-end applications such as mice. Shipments of USB 2.0 devices will peak in 2012. As some 2.0 devices continue to grow, others, including notebooks will fall to virtually zero by the end of the forecast period.

However, I still...

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Nov 20
Apple granted patent for the iPad Smart Cover

Apple has been granted a patent (number D671,114) for a portable display device with cover -- the iPad and its Smart Cover, in other words.

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

Apple has also been granted the following patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office are:

° Patent number 8316321 for an user interface that includes elements whose appearance dynamically changes in dependence upon functions associated with the elements;

° Patent number 83163147 for techniques for synchronizing multiple time-based data streams with independent clocks wherein relationships between clock rates of timing devices associated with the time-based data...

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Nov 19
Of course Apple will continue to increase display...

With the launch of the iPhone and iPad, as well as the new MacBook, Apple has continued on its path of increasing its display resolution. And it will continue doing so.

Apple created the term "Retina display" not just as a marketing phrase, but to educate end users about high resolution. The company has been leading the trend in displays with high pixels per inch (ppi, the measurement of resolution), especially with the launch of iPhone 4, the first smart phone with a resolution of more than 300 ppi, and the new iPad, the first tablet PC with over 200 ppi.

However, other smart device makers, including Samsung, HTC, Google, Amazon, Sony, Lenovo, and ASUS are closely following Apple, and in some cases have introduced products with higher resolutions, such as Google’s Nexus 10 tablet PC, with a 10.1-inch 2560×1600 display at 298 ppi, and coming smart phones using 5-inch 1920×1080 displays at 490 ppi.

Some folks thought that Apple would introduce the Retina display...

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Nov 16
The future looks bright for iOS Passbook

The Passbook feature introduced in iOS6 hasn't been widely acclaimed (though it's not been lambasted the way the Maps app has). However, the future holds potential for the feature/service.

In case you're not familiar with it, here's how Apple describes it: "Passbook keeps things like airline boarding passes, movie tickets, and gift cards all in one place. Everything’s there -- ready for scanning -- right from your iPhone. You’ll find Passbook-enabled apps on the App Store. And you can get gift cards and more from participating merchants.

"Passbook is time and location based. So your passes and tickets automatically appear on your Lock screen when and where you need them. Arrive at the airport and your boarding pass pops up. If you’re waiting to board the flight and your gate changes, Passbook tells you. And if you decide to grab a coffee on the way to your new gate, your gift card appears when you walk into the cafe."

Passbook has been criticized for the small...

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Nov 15
Consumers favor Apple products for the 2012 holiday...

More great news -- moneywise, at least -- for Apple: price comparison shopping site, PriceGrabber (www.pricegrabber.com) has leased the results of its third winter holiday shopping survey, revealing consumers' expected shopping habits within the tech category this holiday season.

When consumers were asked whether they would rather receive a tablet computer or a laptop as a holiday gift this year, 59%indicated that they would rather receive a tablet. Seventy-one percent of shoppers also indicated that they believe tablet computers will replace e-readers as gifts this year. Conducted from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1, the survey includes responses from 1,475 U.S. online shopping consumers.

iPad and iPad mini top-ranked overall tablets


The power of the Apple brand is likely to remain in full force again this holiday season, especially with the launch of the iPad 4 and iPad mini. When...

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Nov 15
An iPad that sizes visuals depending on how close your...

Would you like your iPhone or iPad to expand or shrink on-screen images depending on how close it is to you? That could eventually be possible. A new Apple patent (number 20120287163) is for mechanism for automatically scaling the size of a set of visual content based upon how close a user's face is to a display.

In one implementation, the mechanism initially causes a set of visual content on a display to be sized according to a first scaling factor when the user's face is at a first distance from the display. The mechanism then determines that the user's face has moved relative to the display such that the user's face is no longer at the first distance from the display. In response, the mechanism causes the set of visual content on the display to be sized according to a second and different scaling factor. By doing so, the mechanism effectively causes the display size of the visual content to automatically change as the distance between the user's face and the display...

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Nov 15
Apple eyes ways to improve battery life of iOS devices

A new patent (number 20120290792) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on further ways to extend battery life in iPhones, iPods and iPads . The patent is for a media device with intelligent cache utilization.

A portable media device and a method for operating a portable media device are disclosed. According to one aspect, a battery-powered portable media device can manage use of a mass storage device to efficiently utilize battery power.

By providing a cache memory and loading the cache memory so as to provide skip support, battery power for the portable media device can be conserved (i.e., efficiently consumed). According to another aspect, a portable media device can operate efficiently in a seek mode. The seek mode is an operational mode of the portable media device in which the portable media device automatically scans through media items to assist a user in selecting a desired one of the media items.

Here's Apple's...

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Nov 15
Apple working on 'sticky functionality' for...

An Apple patent (number 20120290961 for "sticky functionality" for its Mac line has popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, manipulation of elements in a graphical user interface is aided by allowing the graphical user interface to treat certain mouse button actuation and releases as holding the mouse button in an actuated state. When predetermined conditions are satisfied, the graphical user interface will treat a mouse button actuation and release as if the mouse button were held in an actuated state. A user can then manipulate elements in the graphical user interface as if the user held the mouse button in an actuated state.

The types of manipulation can include the moving of a window, the resizing of a window, moving an icon, and the scrolling through the visible portion of a window. Eric Schlegel is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "An important aspect of any computer system is the...

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Nov 15
Apple patent is for display with color control

Apple continues to work on methods of improving the screens of its Mac and iOS devices. A company patent (number 20120287605) for a display with color control has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Techniques are provided for controlling the colors of reflected light out of a display surface in a display device, such that display discoloration (e.g., green tinting) may be reduced, particularly when the display is operating in bright ambient environments. In one embodiment, a display device may include a color filter black mask layer having an arrangement of red, green, and blue color filter areas, where the red and/or blue color filter areas are substantially greater than the green color filter area.

In some embodiments, the display device may include red and blue color filter pigment resin areas which may be disposed over the reflective areas to increase the overall amount of red and blue light that will be generated by reflected light to result in...

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Nov 14
Could LaCie's File Access offer the 'iHome...

In the past I've written about my wishes for a true Apple home server – not something intended for a business, but something that anyone could run. Apple may have waited too long, as LaCie has announced (http://macte.ch/ldbPD) an all-new network storage solution that connects the entire family to their music, movie and photo files.

As far as Apple is concerned, there's been progress. We eventually got a Mac mini with a server on it, though it's targeted to businesses. We may still need the "iHome Server" (though we'll have to come up with a new moniker as there's already a company called iHome) if the LaCie products fall short (look for our upcoming review).

With Automator, it should be easy to create an appliance that can be the center of our media lives and to our home automation. Combine this with Apple's app stores, and you have an idea of what I'm talking about -- and something that Microsoft is...

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Nov 13
Greg's Bite: Apple's problem with '...

By Greg Mills

The late Steve Jobs famously stated that he intended to make "thermonuclear war over Android" since it was a stolen product.

Since then, untold millions of dollars on both sides have been spent trying to hash out Apple's valid smartphone and touch screen tablet patent rights. As Apple has become painfully aware, enforcing patent rights around the world is a very costly and highly unpredictable process. Radioactive fallout blows both ways in nuclear war.

Apple's patent litigation has sparked a bidding war the last few years over any patent remotely related to cell phones and mobile computing. Apple has patented everything patentable they can in the US and many other countries. A lot of intellectual property comes out of its R&D efforts. As the old order of dumb cell phone manufacturing companies fail, the legacy patents they hold are often the greatest asset left over when the dust settles.

The prospects for RIM and...

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Nov 13
Apple patent involves skin tone aware color boost for...

An Apple patent (number 8311355) for skin tone aware color boost for cameras has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The company obviously wants to continually improve the cameras in its portable devices.

As the patent notes, increasing color saturation and contrast in images generally leads to more pleasing images; however, doing so uniformly to all colors in the image can make skin tones appear with an overly red tint. One embodiment of an improved method of skin tone aware color boosting identifies areas of the image which look like skin tones and areas that do not look like skin tones. A blurred "skin tone mask" can then be created over the image.

One large boost operation and one small boost operation can be applied to the image. A final version of the image may then be created, applying the pixel values resulting from the small boosting operation to the skin tone regions and applying the pixel values resulting from the large boosting operation...

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Nov 13
Wearable devices to be worth over $1.5 billion by 2014

Now that the latest rev of the iPad nano isn't suitable for wearing as a watch, perhaps Apple will release an iWatch. It might be profitable.

A new report from Juniper Research (www.juniperresearch.com) has valued the next-gen wearable devices market to be worth more than US$1.5 billion by 2014, up from $800 million this year. These revenues will be largely driven by consumer spending on fitness, multi-functional devices, and healthcare, according to the research group.

Classified as a "future form factor" for computing devices, next generation wearables, including smart glasses and other head-mounted displays, will provide a multitude of functions either independently or in conjunction with a third party platform. Influential players such as Apple and Google have already made key strategic moves in this sector, notes Juniper Research.

The use of wearable devices connected to the...

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Nov 13
Apple wins Time Machine, screen rotation patents

Apple has won several patents from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent number 8311988 is for consistent back-up of electronic information. In other words, it's for the Time Machine feature of Mac OS X.

Patent number 8312371 is for a device and method for screen rotation on a touch screen display. This, of course, includes the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Patent number 8312302 for circuits, methods, and apparatus that provide for the powering of active components in connector inserts at each end of a cable may in various ways. This may involve the Lightning connector technology on the latest iOS devices.

Patent number 83118384 for devices and methods for identifying a prompt corresponding to a voice input in a sequence of prompts. This most likely involves the Dictation feature of Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Patent number 8311657 for a method and...

| Read more »
Nov 12
Greg's Bite: Apple's hardware prices matter

By Greg Mills

I was idly wandered through the brand new Sam's Club here in Kansas City, Kansas, Friday afternoon. The store is just around the corner from my home. A neighbor, living just a few doors down the street, is the proud manager of the giant new store.

I was there at the grand opening a couple of weeks ago and actually ate the first "tomane torpedo" sold at the food court. Where else can you get a large Nathan's hot dog and giant soft drink for $1.50? 

As I was sampling the free bites of food they give away, I stumbled into the electronics department. The products on sale were all the Apple tablets, iPhones and iPods, as well as the brands X, Y and Z semi-equivalents. Features and prices varied wildly. 

The electronics guy reads my Greg's Bite articles. He commented as soon as he saw me, that as far as he was concerned, I had hit the nail right on the head in my recent article regarding Microsoft's constant marketing gaffs.  I...

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