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Oct 08
Greg's Bite: Desktop 3D printing

By Greg Mills

As I have previously speculated in this column, I consider the desktop 3D plastic part printing revolution fertile ground for being one of Apple's next big things. I think Apple is uniquely situated to do for 3D printing what they did for desktop printing on paper 20 years ago.

3D printing is using a computer to create physical objects from software files utilizing a special 3D "printer." Star Trek's "replicators" were sophisticated voice-controlled, computer operated 3D printing devices, able to reproduce just about anything.  Replicator devices were as common aboard the starship Enterprise as microwave ovens are to us. Imagine the forerunner of such a futuristic device sitting on your desk and hooked up to your Mac or iPad.

References to cool new things in the R&D labs at Apple seldom give us enough information to do anything more than make our imaginations soar.  In the absence of actual tips on what is going on behind the...

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Oct 08
Americans: online stores more appealing for holiday...

SOASTA, which specializes in cloud and mobile testing, says, according to its "2012 Holiday and the Economy" survey of 2,346 American adults aged 18 and older, conducted online on its behalf by Harris Interactive, a majority (51%) of Americans will be shopping online this year because of the bad economy. 

This sentiment rang strongest with those 18-44 (55%), especially with women in that age group (64% for women 18-34; 57% for women 34-44).  Economic pessimism is so pronounced that only 2% of Americans don’t believe the economy is bad.
 
"The results of our Holiday and the Economy Survey have shown that more Americans will be relying on retailers’ online mobile and web presence for holiday shopping due to the bad economy than not," says Tom Lounibos, SOASTA CEO.  "With millions of Americans planning on using these websites, it’s more important than ever that they are fully optimized to make sure shoppers get the best experience possible.  SOASTA’s CloudTest...

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Oct 05
Could Apple be planning its own Mac chips? Given...

Apple has considered moving its Mac line-up to its own in-house developed chips, though such a change isn't in the immediate future, reports "Bloomberg Businessweek" (http://macte.ch/HaMlS). Makes sense to me -- over a period of time, at least.

Consider the A6 chip. A variety of reports say the processor has some Apple designed custom variants on a chip fabbed by Samsung. It's not hard to imagine the A7 chip being having an even bigger Apple influence. After all Apple bought PA Semi, a boutique microprocessor design company, in 2008, and Intrinsity, a specialist chip design company, in 2010.

On one hand, it's hard to see Apple deciding to use its own chips inside its Mac line-up rather than Intel processors. That would entail a major transition and lots of work on ensuring software compatibility. On the other hand, who believed the rumors that Apple would move from PowerPC chips to Intel processors...

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Oct 04
Apple wants it make it easier to use iOS devices in...

An Apple patent (number 20120249312) for tactile feedback in an electronic device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It's designed for using iOS devices in dark environments -- and to help users of such devices who have poor vision.

Per the patent, the electronic device may provide tactile feedback using any suitable approach, including for example vibration, heat, electrical, visual, or any other type of feedback. The electronic device may provide tactile feedback in response to detecting any particular status of the electronic device, receiving any particular input, or detecting any suitable communication received by the electronic device.

For example, the electronic device may provide tactile feedback in response to identifying the current network of the device, the status of a particular electronic device component, or any other electronic device status. As another example, the electronic device may provide tactile feedback in response to...

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Oct 04
Apple works on image capture using display device as...

An Apple patent (number 20120249855) for image capture using the display device as a light source has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, a digital image capture system and method uses a display device to illuminate a target with light for improved image capture under poor lighting conditions. Various characteristics of the flash (e.g., brightness, color, duration, etc.) can be adjusted to improve image capture. Users are provided with feedback (e.g., live video feed, audio and/or visual countdowns, etc.) to assist them in preparing for image capture. The captured images are seamlessly integrated with existing applications (e.g., video conferencing, instant text messaging, etc.).

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Videoconferencing is one of the fastest growing segments of the computer industry. This growth is based in part on affordable digital video cameras. Digital video cameras (e.g., 'WebCams') can be...

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Oct 04
Apple patent involves adaptive mobile device...

An Apple patent (number 20120253665) for adaptive mobile device navigation has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Maybe it will help improve iOS 6 Maps. Per the patent, adaptive mobile device navigation system, methods, and apparatus provide location information for a mobile device performing location estimation using dead reckoning.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The role of traditional printed maps is being supplanted by modern devices capable of rendering dynamic map displays. Devices that include mapping or navigation applications provide information regarding an area selected by a user by recalling map data from local memory or networked services.

"Mapping devices often include the ability to provide directions from a point of origin to a destination. When coupled with any of a number of positioning technologies, a mapping device can display a current position on a map as well as deliver navigation instructions based...

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Oct 04
More folks willing to pay for streaming music

There are rumors that Apple is working on a streaming music service. While that doesn't interest me personally, a new study says that more people have access to a music streaming service, more listen to music through streaming, more are willing to pay and an increasing amount believe that streaming will be the dominant way to play music in 2-4 years. At least in certain countries.

The youngest generation, those under 30 lead the way. The new numbers are from a survey conducted in June for music streaming service WiMP (www.wimp.de), which runs the survey twice a year in its current markets -- this time Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

According to the survey results, Norwegians are the most likely to have access to a streaming service: 61% say they do, against 56% in Sweden, 35% in Denmark and 16% in Germany. Numbers have increased in all Scandinavian countries.

While the highest amount of Norwegians...

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Oct 04
Apple working on hybrid wireless headphones

A new Apple patent (number 20120250914) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on hybrid wireless headphones designed with athletes and very active folks in mind.

The described embodiments relate to a listening device that allows an end user to comfortably listen to an audio output of a portable media player. In particular, the listening device can be easily worn without inconveniencing the end user during physical activity.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "In one embodiment, a media apparatus is described. The media apparatus includes at least one listening device, a corded portion in communication with a host device arranged to provide an audio signal, and a detachable connector having a first part and a second part. In the described embodiment, the detachable connector is arranged to detachably couple the at least one listening device at the first part to the corded portion at the second part.

"When the listening...

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Oct 03
When will we be able to merge Apple iDs?

As noted by "TUAW" (www.tuaw.com) we're still not able to merge Apple IDs. Is it really that hard forApple to make this happen?

"TUAW" reader Glenn Thorpe nailed the problem when he wrote: ""My Apple ID account which I use to download apps cannot be used for FaceTime nor Messages. I had to create new AppleIDs for both of these applications. The frustrating issue is that I now have three AppleIDs to manage and I am not sure of what impact this will have when I buy apps or try to perform other transactions."

There were rumors last year that Apple was working on a solution. However, Apple's official word (http://support.apple.com/kb/HE37?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US) is still: "Apple IDs cannot be merged. You should use your preferred Apple ID from now on,...

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Oct 02
Apple working on streaming with compressed playlists

There are rumors that Apple is working on its own Internet radio/streaming music service. A new Apple patent (number 8280863) may add some weight to the rumor.

The patent is for real-time or near real-time streaming with compressed playlists. It involves methods and apparatuses that provide real-time or near real-time streaming of content using transfer protocols such as an HTTP compliant protocol. In one embodiment, a method includes providing a request for a playlist file (e.g. an updated playlist) and specifying a compression protocol with or for the request; the request can come from a client device which is requesting the playlist from a web server. The web server can provide the playlist in a compressed format.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Streaming of content generally refers to multimedia content that is constantly transmitted from a server device and received by a client device. The content is usually presented to an end-user while...

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Oct 02
Apple patent involves user interface for media...

Apple has filed a patent (number 8281244) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for an user interface for media playback. It seems to involve potential changes to the iTunes interface.

The patent is for graphical user interface made up of icons representing individual files and collectively forming the shape of a spiral is described along with methods of using and creating the graphical user interface. The spiral interface is useful to display detailed information about many of the items in a list and facilitates manipulation of list order and selection of the active file in the list. The interface further permits the use of a representative icon associated with the list as a whole.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Even as computer processors are becoming faster and programs more capable, space on computer displays continues to be limited. As programs become more complex there is a need to display more information in the same limited space.

...

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Oct 02
Some feature ideas for iOS Maps

Apple's much-maligned iOS Maps obviously needs work. Lots of it. Always glad to be of assistance to Apple, following is a list (thanks, in a great deal, to my pal, J. Scott Anderson) of improvements that could be made:

° A Mac App Store version for Mac OS X. It would let you make editing and correction suggestions right from your desktop/laptop.

° A "Map New Road" function. This is a mode you could turn on when driving so that you can map a road not currently on the Maps application.

° Social integration features How about live traffic reports and road hazard reports? Perhaps Maps could use Twitter/Facebook for the transport mechanism.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Oct 02
Apple awarded patent for wireless adapter

Apple has been awarded a patent (number 8280465) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a wireless adapter for interfacing between an accessory and a device. It seems to involve an adapter for the Lightning port on the iPhone 5.

The invention involves circuits, methods, and apparatus that provide compatibility among incompatible accessories and portable media players. One example provides an adapter having a connector receptacle to mate with an accessory's connector insert and a connector insert to mate with a portable media player's connector receptacle.

Another example provides an adapter having a direct connection between pins on the connector insert and pins on the connector receptacle that are used for compatible signals. Another example provides an adapter including a DC-to-DC converter that receives a first power supply from an accessory and provides a second power supply to a portable media player. Another translates signals using different signaling...

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Oct 02
Apple wins patent for the Mighty Mouse

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8279175) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a mouse with embedded touch sensors -- in other words, the Mighty Mouse.

Per the patent, the mouse is configured with touch sensing areas capable of generating input signals. The touch sensing areas may for example be used to differentiate between left and right clicks in a single button mouse. The mouse may further be configured with force sensing areas capable of generating input signals.

The force sensing areas may for example be positioned on the sides of the mouse so that squeezing the mouse generates input signals. The mouse may further be configured with a jog ball capable of generating input signals. The mouse may additionally be configured with a speaker for providing audio feedback when the various input devices are activated by a user.

The inventors are Christoph Horst Krah, Jeffrey B. Doar, Sean Corbin, Shin Nishibori and Wing Kong Low.

Apple has...

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Oct 01
The Northern Spy: The Pros and the Cats

By Rick Sutcliffe

More on the 15-inch Retina display MacBook Pro

The Spy has had this machine a month now, and experience confirms his first impressions. The machine is computationally fast, though not spectacularly so. Having an SSD for a drive makes more of a difference than any internal changes. The display is crisp, better than anything he's had in a portable before, and the glossy finish not nearly as annoying as such once were, but the improvements are not as revolutionary as some have gushed.

Having no Firewire or ethernet connection and being required to use Thunderbolt adapters for both is a major annoyance, and the Spy regards this as a bad decision. A little extra thickness at the back to allow both would not have sacrificed much by way of design, and would have been far more user friendly. The adapters do work, but being tied to Apple for cable purchases is a second annoyance. Competition would be better, and Apple...

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Oct 01
Regarding privacy, U.S. consumers reveal surprising...

Research findings from LoyaltyOne show that when it comes to privacy, U.S. consumers are still protecting some of their personal information as much as they do their Social Security number.

Of the 1,000 U.S. consumers responding to an online survey, 50% said they’d be willing to give a trusted company their religious affiliation, 49% their political affiliation, 49% their sexual orientation, 36% health information, 26% mental health information, 24% browsing history and 15% for both smart phone location and number of sexual partners. Last on the list is their Social Security number at 11%.

Toronto-based LoyaltyOne, a global provider of coalition loyalty, customer analytics and loyalty services, completed online surveys in July 2012 with 1,000 American respondents. The research is designed to test consumer attitudes about personal data collection and use by marketers.

Several of the 2012 questions followed up on a 2011 survey and were structured to measure...

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Sep 29
AirPlay Mirroring a killer feature in Mountain Lion

Instead of the ill-fated "Mac Genius" ads that debuted during the Olympics, then vanished into the void, perhaps Apple should do a TV spot promoting AirPlay Mirroring in Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. It could be a very attractive feature for a lot of folks.

According to a study by Parks Associates (www.parksassociates.com) 26% of all U.S. broadband households still connect a computer to their TV to enjoy locally stored or online content that's only accessible through their desktop or laptop. Mountain Lion makes this a breeze to do.

Its AirPlay Mirroring feature lets you send what’s on your Mac screen to an HDTV wirelessly with an Apple TV. Mirroring is great for classrooms, conference rooms, and your living room. For example, I have almost all my DVD collection ripped to a 4TB external hard drive. If I want to start a movie on my Mac, I can, then zap it over to the large screen HD in the...

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Sep 28
Greg's Bite: is Apple a patent bully?

By Greg Mills

Recent interviews with Google executives have pandered to the notion that Apple is doing something inherently evil asserting patent rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Without the ability to gain an advantage over competitors in making a profit from new ideas, innovation will not be sustainable.  

Rather than being a "patent bully," Apple has led the flock in the electronics segment for so long, somehow the followers have come to think stealing Apple's best ideas are in the public interest. That is nuts. It is in the interest of the companies that waste billions of dollars on R&D or have management that can't see the future when they hold it in their hands.  

Samsung struck a similar note when they said that Apple wanted to limit innovation. The opposite is actually true. Innovation costs money -- lots of money -- and there are ideas that copycats like Samsung don't have the right to steal. 

Research and...

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Sep 28
AirPlay Mirroring a killer feature in Mountain Lion

Instead of the ill-fated "Mac Genius" ads that debuted during the Olympics, then vanished into the void, perhaps Apple should do a TV spot promoting AirPlay Mirroring in Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. It could be a very attractive feature for a lot of folks.

According to a study by Parks Associates (www.parksassociates.com) 26% of all U.S. broadband households still connect a computer to their TV to enjoy locally stored or online content that's only accessible through their desktop or laptop. Mountain Lion makes this a breeze to do.

Its AirPlay Mirroring feature lets you send what’s on your Mac screen to an HDTV wirelessly with an Apple TV. Mirroring is great for classrooms, conference rooms, and your living room. For example, I have almost all my DVD collection ripped to a 4TB external hard drive. If I want to start a movie on my Mac, I can, then zap it over to the large screen HD in the...

| Read more »
Sep 27
Apple files patent for image capture, manipulation

An Apple patent (number 20120243748) has been filed for systems, methods and program products for image capture and manipulation, especially in regards to video chats and calls.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Many software applications now accept image data including animated icons such as head shots to identify, for example, the sender of an electronic mail message, an Internet chat buddy, or to identify a caller on a voice-over-IP communication link. Novice computer users may not know how to associate their picture with these applications.

"Furthermore, a user may wish to modify their picture before using it. While many software packages provide very sophisticated tools for image editing, novice users can find these packages too cumbersome, especially if the user wants to quickly experiment with different effects.

"In general, one aspect of the subject matter described in this specification can be embodied in a method that includes...

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Sep 27
Apple patent involves accessory dependent display...

Apple has filed a patent (number 20120242701) for "accessory dependent display orientation" with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Systems and methods are provided for orienting a display of a user device display screen.

A user device may be coupled to an accessory, and the display orientation of the user device may be managed. The display orientation may be determined based on a type of the accessory, accessory identification information, a supported communications protocol, output of an accelerometer, user information, or other information. Criteria may be stored, from which a criterion for orienting the display may be selected based on available information.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "A user device such as a smart phone or personal media player may be coupled to an accessory, which may allow for communication, charging, or both between the user device and the accessory. For example, a mobile phone may be charged by plugging a...

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Sep 27
Apple files patent for a 'device foot'

Apple has filed a patent (number 20120243153) for a "device foot" with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. A moveable device foot for an electronic device is described, such as that on the Magic Trackpad.

The device foot can include a rigid weight bearing member and a flexible sealing member that is integrally formed with the weight bearing member. The device foot can be formed using a double-shot injection molding process. The weight bearing member of the foot can be mounted to an interior portion of the electronic device such that it extends through an external casing of the electronic device.

The flexible sealing member can be mounted to the external casing to seal the interior of the electronic device. During operation of the electronic device, the device foot can be configured to move relative to the external casing, such as in response to an external force applied to the electronic device.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Most consumer...

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Sep 27
Apple eyeing electronic devices with flexible displays

An Apple patent (number 2012042592 for an electronic device with flexible displays has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. We may be looking at future iPhones and iPads -- perhaps even Macs -- with "bendable" screens and tactile keyboards.

Per the patent electronic devices may be provided that contain flexible displays and internal components. An internal component may be positioned under the flexible display. The internal component may be an output device such as a speaker that transmits sound through the flexible display or an actuator that deforms the display in a way that is sensed by a user.

The internal component may also be a microphone or pressure sensor that receives sound or pressure information through the flexible display. Structural components may be used to permanently or temporarily deform the flexible display to provide tactile feedback to a user of the device.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "This...

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Sep 27
HDTV market to surge more Than 10% in 2013

If Apple really is planning its own HDTV (the rumored "iTV") for late this year or early 2013, it's timing may be impeccable. The HDTV market will surge more than 10% next year, according to Global Information Inc. (www.giresearch.com).

During much of the first half of 2012, revenue from the LCD HD television segment -- the most widespread HDTV technology in the world -- remained poor. While some of this could be blamed on weaker than expected consumer demand and over-saturation, the primary problem for LCD manufacturers has been the rise of ultra-low cost production in places such as China, which has undercut already meager margins on LCD screens.

What's more, falling costs on alternate technologies including LED, OLED, and 3D TVs, is also leading some consumers away. In fact, with the exceptions of Samsung and LG, which benefit from a more competitive pricing model, every other supplier, including...

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Sep 27
Apple working on inductive charging mat

A new patent (number 2012024673) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on an inductive charging mat for its iOS devices. The patent is for device-orientation based docking functions.

Systems and method are provided for selecting one or more docking functions based on a physical orientation of a user device coupled to a docking device. The docking device may include a surface upon which the user device may be placed. Docking functions such as charging, data transfer, data synchronization, diagnostic checking, or other functions may be selected, performed, or both, based on the physical orientation of the user device on the surface.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "A user device such as a smart phone, digital camera, or personal media player may be docked to a docking device, which may allow for charging and data transmittal. Some docking devices may provide induction charging to charge a user device, when the...

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