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May 29
Greg's Bite: new Cyber Nuke discovered

By Greg Mills

The Stuxnet Worm discovered a year ago appears to be the tip of the iceberg in the covert cyber war against Iran, as a newly discovered bit of malware called "Flame" is being uncovered. Some experts think it could be even older than the Stuxnet worm, but the new worm was so so selective, it may have not been detected until now.

The new worm is even more sophisticated than Stuxnet, which infected thousands of computers and then erased itself if it couldn't find a specifically targeted Siemens industrial controller to take over. Flame is much more selective in choosing a host. Experts think less than 400 computers worldwide have been infected and half of them mysteriously are located in Iran. Iran seems to be very unlucky when it comes to computer malware.

Taking the key logger sort of hidden macro to new sophistication, Flame really amounts to a hidden remote terminal sort of access program. Everything that happens on the infected...

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May 29
Apple wins patent for iTunes user interface

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8188357) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for the graphical user interface and methods of use thereof in a multimedia player. Think iTunes.

In a portable multimedia device, a method, apparatus, and system for providing user supplied configuration data are described. In one embodiment, a hierarchically ordered graphical user interface is provided. A first order, or home, interface provides a highest order of user selectable items each of which, when selected, results in an automatic transition to a lower order user interface associated with the selected item. In one of the described embodiments, the lower order interface includes other user selectable items associated with the previously selected item from the higher order user interface. The inventors are Jeffrey L. Robbin, Steve Jobs, Timothy Wasko, Greg Christie and Imran Chaudhri.

Several other Apple patents also popped up today at the U.S. Patent & Trademark...

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May 29
Consumers slow to embrace cloud services for digital...

I use iCloud, but I'm still not ready to trust all my back-up data to the "cloud." Apparently, I'm not alone.

International research firm Parks Associates (http://www.parkassociates.com) reports that 22% of U.S. broadband households currently would refuse to buy a "cloud copy" of digital media, while almost 30% would require a physical copy in addition to a cloud copy

"Roughly one-quarter of U.S. broadband households are interested in the 'cloud copy' concept, but for now, consumers in general are unwilling to pay a premium for cloud offerings, indicating a market still in its early stages," says Brett Sappington, director, Research, Parks Associates. "Many companies are experimenting with business models around the personal cloud to find the path to profitability."

-- Dennis Sellers

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May 29
Apple patent is for disk drive with state-information...

An Apple patent (number 8189283) for a disk drive with state-information data buffer has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. A hard-disk drive (HDD) is described.

Per the patent, during operation of the HDD, measured internal temperatures in the HDD may be stored in a first table, and state information specifying operational states of the HDD associated with ranges of internal temperatures may be stored in a second table. Note that a given operational state in the second table may be associated with a corresponding internal temperature in the first table.

What's more, during operation of the HDD, the first table and/or the second table may be stored on: a rotatable medium in the HDD, a semiconductor memory in the HDD, or both. This stored table information may facilitate error detection and diagnosis.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "During operation, a hard-disk drive (HDD) can generate a significant amount of thermal energy. If...

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May 28
Mobile data consumption to grow tenfold over the next...

Mobile phone users will, in 2016, on average consume 6.5 times as much video, over eight times as much music and social media, and nearly 10 times as much games as in 2011 according to the latest forecasts from Informa Telecoms & Media (http://www.informatandm.com/content).

There will be a big upsurge in traffic for most mobile data services over the next five years, largely driven by the spread of smartphones and a 23% increase in the number of mobile users. And you can be sure that much of this growth will be driven by the iPhone and, to a lesser degree, the iPad.

In 2016, the average mobile user will be browsing six times as many web pages and downloading 14 times as many megabytes of applications on their handset as in 2011.Text (SMS) and picture (MMS) messaging traffic will continue to grow, but at a much slower pace than most other mobile data services. On average...

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May 25
SSDs won't replace hard drives anytime soon

Solid state drives are one of the hot technologies of the day. However, "hotness" and "the cloud" aside, look for hard drives to maintain their importance for months to come. No, make that years to come.

Maximum areal densities in hard disk drives (HDD) are expected to more than double during the five-year period from 2011 to 2016, spurring continued growth for HDDs in storage-intensive applications such as video and audio systems, according to the iHS iSuppli (http://www.isuppli.com) research group.

HDD areal densities measuring data-storage capacities are projected to climb to a maximum 1,800 Gigabits (Gb) per square inch per platter by 2016, up from 744 Gb per square inch in 2011. This means that from 2011 to 2016, the five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for HDD areal densities will be equivalent to 19%. For this year, HDD areal densities are estimated to reach 780 Gb per square inch per...

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May 24
Apple eyes ways to improve speakers on portable...

Apple is working on ways to improve its speakers, especially on its small, mobile devices such as the iPhone. An Apple patent (number 20120128190) for a gas filled speaker volume has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, a speaker enclosure includes a gas cavity and an air cavity separated by a flexible membrane. A diaphragm is located roughly in an opening of the enclosure surrounding the gas cavity and attached to the enclosure by an outer suspension member. The enclosure, the flexible membrane, the diaphragm, and the outer suspension member are gas and air impermeable. The enclosure surrounding the air cavity has a vent hole to allow air to travel into and out of the air cavity for barometric pressure equalization of the gas cavity.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "n most speaker systems, a vibrating diaphragm is mounted at an opening of a speaker enclosure. A common type of speaker enclosure is a sealed...

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May 24
Apple continues work on resolution independent user...

An Apple patent (number 2012013147) for a resolution independent user interface design has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to graphical user interface design and more particularly to a means for specifying a graphical user interface object in a procedural and largely display resolution independent manner.

Per the patent, graphical user interface material map objects are specified by a collection of attribute-value pairs, the collection of which comprises a complete description of the material map and may be used by a rendering engine to create a visual representation of the material map at any resolution.

That is, material map representations in accordance with the invention are resolution independent. Another benefit of representing material maps in accordance with the invention is that they may be encrypted to prevent unauthorized inspection or use.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "n one embodiment, the...

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May 24
Apple patent involves 3D effects on the OS X desktop

Apple has applied for two patents at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office involving windows in Mac OS X. They involve 3D-ish effects on the desktop.

Patent number 20120131496 is for methods, systems and computer-readable media for managing open windows in a desktop graphical user interface (GUI) are disclosed. In various implementations, open windows displayed within a 2D desktop plane can be organized into one or more 3D browsable stacks in a 3D desktop space, where each stack includes open windows associated with a common value for a grouping property. A graphical representation indicating the respective value of the grouping property associated with each 3D browsable stack can be displayed in proximity to the 3D browsable stack.

As the user browses through the open windows in the browsable stack, one window is displayed in a frontal view at a time while the other windows are displayed in a side view. When the user selects an open window from the stack, the 3D...

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May 24
Mountain Lion: why I'm looking forward to AirPlay...

I expect Mountain Lion, the next major rev of Mac OS X, to be prowling by the end of July (hopefully even sooner and on some Retina display MacBooks Pros and iMacs). One of the features I'm most looking forward to is AirPlay.

AirPlay is, currently, a feature for streaming music, video and photos wirelessly from 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.

With Mountain Lion, AirPlay will come to the Mac, at last, allowing users to wirelessly mirror the screen of their Macs onto their televisions using an Apple TV.  There are several advantages to this.

I've ripped my entire collection of (legally purchased) DVDs to an external hard drive attached to my Mac, so I can watch a film any time without having to go get the DVD. Once Mountain Lion arrives I can start watching a "ripped" movie on my Mac, then move to...

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May 24
Apple patent is for location-based tracking

An Apple patent (number 20120131510) for location-based tracking has appeared at the U.S Patent & Trademark Office. According to Apple, location information is used to build a database of locations having associated audio, video, image or text data.

In some implementations, a device includes a touch-sensitive display and collects data associated with a geographic location of interest. The geographic location of interest can be displayed on a map using an indicator. A touch selection of the indicator provides access to the data through an interface displayed on the touch-sensitive display. One or more locations of interest can be displayed and grouped together by an attribute.

The inventors are Scott Forstall, Gregory N. Christy, Robert E. Borchers and Imran A. Chaudhri.

Along the same lines are patents 20120129548 and . The former is for locatioin estimation wherein a current location of a mobile system in a wireless network can be determined by using...

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May 23
Greg's Bite: why should Apple buy Sprint?

By Greg Mills

For the better part of a year now, I have been advocating that Sprint is prime takeover bait for the likes of Apple. The landscape in the smartphone -- or, for that matter, the mobile computing business, including tablets -- is evolving very quickly and Apple has to "think different" to stay on top.  

Vertical development in the mobile computing market must include an Apple Mobile business segment, in some form, for Apple to stay the leader of the industry. A number of other tech writers and industry analysts have recently come out confirming buying Sprint has merit. You have to know Apple has people thinking about such acquisitions.

Tony Fadell, formerly the head of the iPod division at Apple, came up with a scenario, a couple of years ago, where Apple could buy unused bandwidth from the various cellular providers, repackage those minutes for sale to consumers and managed the "virtual network" over the Internet. The Apple server...

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May 23
OLED, 3D and iTVs

In a recent blog (http://macte.ch/5I7Yx), NPD DisplaySearch Analyst Paul Gray asks, “Will OLED Revitalize the TV Industry?” It dives into the question of whether OLED is the solution to the woes of the industry. It also begs the question of whether Apple might one day release an OLED "iTV" -- assuming, of course, that Apple has any plans to release its own HDTV at all.

An OLED TV screen uses a new display technology called OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes). Proponents say that OLED televisions are brighter, more efficient, thinner and feature better refresh rates and contrast than either LCD or Plasma. However, Gray raises some topical points, such as while OLED has the potential to offer images with high contrast and superb colors in a very thin package, much of this can already be done with LCD technology. 

In addition, he points on that the industry may do well to learn its lesson from the 3D TV...

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May 22
Apple working on user controllable switch

Future iOS devices may have a user controllable switch, per an Apple patent (number 8185149) that's popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The invention is for devices which, in at least certain embodiments, may include at least one mechanical switch for user to select a user profile interface setting and at least one processor for causing the device to respond to the mechanical switch.

The mechanical switch may be dedicated for the purpose of switching profiles and may allow for a selection of a plurality of profiles. Further, in conjunction with an optional shift key, the user may select preferences programmed within a profile.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Portable devices, such as cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and in general, devices with wireless communication capabilities are becoming increasingly common. These portable devices have grown more complex over time, incorporating many features including,...

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May 22
Apple patent is for wireless headset featuring...

An Apple patent (number 8185084) for a wireless headset featuring adaptive powering has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

A system that includes a bus, a battery, core processing circuitry, radio frequency (RF) processing circuitry, first power regulating circuitry, second power regulating circuitry, and control circuitry is provided. The bus can be coupled to receive power from a source external to the system. The core processing circuitry and RF processing circuitry can be selectively coupled to each other via a switch. The switch can be operative to turn ON and OFF based on a signal level received on the bus.

The first power regulating circuitry can be electrically coupled to the bus, the core processing circuitry, and the switch. The second power regulating circuitry can be electrically coupled to the battery, the RF processing circuitry, and the switch. The control circuitry can be operative to selectively turn ON and OFF the first power...

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May 22
Nearly half of iPhone users likely to buy the '...

Apple hasn't announced -- or even hinted at -- plans for a branded HDTV (the widely rumored "iTV"), but a recent survey shows it could be a hit if it does indeed arrive.

The Strategy Analytics Connected Home Devices (CHD) advisory service (http://www.strategyanalytics.com) shows that nearly half of existing iPhone users would be very or somewhat likely to buy an Apple iTV soon after its launch. The report, "Apple's Smart TV: Assessing Purchase Intention and Willingness to Pay," provides results from the latest Strategy Analytics ConsumerMetrix survey of 6000 consumers across the US, France, Germany, Italy and the UK, fielded in March 2012.

"Although the details of a possible Apple smart TV are still unknown, existing Apple customers clearly demonstrate strong interest," says Jia Wu, director and report author. "Meanwhile, consumers are still sensitive to price, even if Apple does...

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May 22
Apple patents involves iMovie, iPods, more

A plethora of Apple patents has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 8185823 involves zoom indication for stabilizing unstable video clips in apps such as iMovie and Final Cut Pro X. Randy Ubillos is the inventor.

Patent number 8182638 is for a media player with a machine windowed undercut and transparent wall disposed therein. Think the iPod classic and iPod nano. The inventors are Douglas Joseph Webere, Pinida Jan Moolsintong and Stephen P. Zadesky.

Patent number 8184943 involves a method of scanning content comprises receiving an input signal indicating that content being displayed is to be scanned, sensing a duration of the received input signal, and scanning the content at a rate based at least in part on the sensed duration of the received input. The inventors are Rainer Brodersen, Jeffrey Robbin, Thomas Michael Madden, Rachel Claire Goldeen...

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May 21
Streaming TV, Internet TV to see substantial growth

A new report from Juniper Research (http://www.juniperresearch.com) finds that the number of streamed mobile TV users on smartphones will increase to 240 million by 2014. This increase will be driven by a rise in smartphone penetration and a growth in the usage of internet TV and IPTV services.

Not only does this bode well for mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad, increased use of Internet TV could also benefit the rumored "iMac TV" and the "iTV" -- assuming, of course, either really exists or will exist.

The report found that the substantial growth in streamed mobile TV users would arise from a combination of both increased smartphone penetration and, critically, an increasing usage of live and on-demand services both on TVs and computers. These catch-up and live Internet TV services are already allowing users to become their own program schedulers. Mobile allows consumers to...

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May 21
Greg's Bite: the crazy politics of solar energy

By Greg Mills (gregmills@mac.com)

May 18, 2012: the US Department of Commerce places high tariffs on imported Chinese photovoltaic cells. In one of the most stunning, counter-intuitive, anti-green, anti-free enterprise moves the Obama administration has ever made (is that saying something or what?), the US has just placed tariffs of up to 249% on imported Chinese photovoltaic cells. Cheap photocells are bad for the US market? 

Three US photocell manufacturers whined to the Department of Commerce that Chinese photovoltaic cell manufacturing is being "subsidized" by the Chinese government, which allows them to "dump" cheap photovoltaic cells on the market.  What a terrible thing: dumping cheap photocells and cheap solar panels! The choice between dumped cheap Chinese photocells that produce "free" electricity for 20 years or more vs. expensive oil (which will only go up astronomically in cost over time) makes the...

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May 18
Apple sued for 'deceptive' practices...

Another day, another lawsuit. A complaint was filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by plaintiff Danyelle Comer accusing Apple of participating in "unfair, unlawful, deceptive, and misleading practices" in promoting the simplicity and reliability of its iCloud service, reports "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com).

The lawsuit claims that Apple "misrepresented" its iCloud service in advertising it to customers. Specifically, it argues that paying MobileMe customers experienced "devastating consequences," and that Apple should have been better prepared for the transition, notes "AppleInsider."

The lawsuit blasts iCloud occasional downtime, which means users can get their e-mail and other services. It accuses Apple of indicating that iCloud and MobileMe e-mail accounts are online and operational, when in fact users are unable to send or receive...

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May 18
Why Apple Specialists remain so important

Apple recently reported that the Mac App Store has seen over 100 million downloads in 340 days. This makes Apple the biggest Mac software retailer. That may be bad, on one hand, for Apple Specialists, but let's face it: Specialists are needed more than ever.

When the Mac App Store opened for business, it offered 1,000 applications; now it hosts 10,000 apps. The Mac App Store is included with Mac OS X 10.7 and is available as a software update for any Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.

Basically, I like the Mac App Store; it's convenient to be able to load purchased software on a new Mac without digging out CDs and registration codes. However, some developers cringe at Apple's rigid control over the online store and the inchessandboxinginches of software titles. (A sandbox is a security mechanism for separating running programs. In Apple's case, it provides a tightly controlled set of resources for guest programs to run in. Network access, the ability to inspect the host...

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May 17
Apple working on ways to improve speakers in all its...

An Apple patent (number 20120121121) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company is working on a speaker having a horizontal former. In other words, the company plans to beef up the speakers in all its iOS and OS X devices.

Per the patent, the speaker includes a frame, a sound radiating surface, and a suspension that couples the sound radiating surface to the frame. A horizontal former is coupled to the radiating surface. The former extends substantially horizontally outward of a peripheral portion of the radiating surface, to a peripheral portion that is separate from the suspension. A coil is coupled to the peripheral portion of the horizontal former.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "In modern consumer electronics, audio capability is playing an increasingly larger role as improvements in digital audio signal processing and audio content delivery continue to happen. There is a range of consumer electronics devices that...

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May 17
Greg's Bite, The inevitable iOS app shakeout

As the iOS Platform matures, app categories are due to mature as users get more particular with what they download. One of those categories already in decline is the specialized news channel app.  

Most every local TV channel and newspaper has attempted to enter the fray with a specialized iOS app for accessing their content. The problem is that iOS users are becoming jaded with such narrowly focused apps.  

While this has been a bonanza for app developers, the bottom line is that browsing the Internet to check the news is good enough for most of us. The novelty of specialized single web site apps wears thin after a while. I typically access 20 to 30 news web sites a day. Do I really want to have 20 to 30 different news apps on my iPad? Launching and shutting down that many apps just to read the day's news isn't going to happen. When I moved to the new iPad I junked a bunch of apps that were just using up memory.

Since web browsers tattle on users when they...

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May 17
Businesses turn to iPads -- but not at the Mac's...

The future for the iPad in the business environment looks great. Better yet, it apparently won't be at the expense of the Mac.

Results from the latest CDW IT Monitor (http://www.cdwitmonitor.com) indicate that nearly six in 10 organizations use tablet computers. While more prevalent among medium and large-size businesses (62%), nearly half of small businesses reported tablet use (47%). A

mong government IT decision-makers, tablets were more commonly used at the state level (59%) than the federal level (48%). While the popularity of tablets has grown steadily, only 19% of IT decision-makers reported that tablets have replaced some of their organization’s personal computers. Among those not currently using tablets, 31% plan to do so in the next six months.

Nearly three-quarters of the IT decision-makers surveyed thought that the use of tablets and smartphones has led to an increase in...

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May 17
Apple eyes remote management of media devices

An Apple patent (number 2012012415) shows that Apple is working on ways to remotely configure a media device. Improved techniques for controlling operation of a portable electronic device are disclosed.

Portable electronic devices which interact with a host electronic device can have their operational settings (e.g., configurations or preferences) remotely controlled. As a result, a host electronic device can offer a more sophisticated user interface and portable electronic devices need less local user interface features because these operational settings can be remotely controlled. The remotely-controlled (i.e., host controlled) operational settings are transferred to the portable electronic devices, whereby the portable electronic devices can thereafter operate in accordance with such settings.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "Today, portable media devices, such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) or hand-held media players, are battery powered and...

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