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Jun 13
WWDC musings: I want iBooks on my Mac

It annoys me that I can't read my iBooks on my OS X devices. But unless I missed something in the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 6, that still won't be possible with Mac OS X Lion.

During the keynote, Apple bragged about the number of books that have been downloaded since the the iBookstore opened: about 130 million. iBooks, along with other digital content, will be able to be stored online via the upcoming iCloud service.

iCloud will let you download your iBooks to any device, but you can only read them via the iBooks app. And there's no Mac OS X version of the app.

Apple needs to change this. They may prefer that we read our ebooks and e-magazines on our iPads, but some of us want to be able to read e-publications on our Macs. In fact, a recent Forrester survey found that laptops are still the most-used device for doing so.

So, c'mon, Apple show the Mac some iBook love.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jun 13
Greg's Bite: the difference in opt-ing in and opt...

By Greg Mills

Personally, I don't do FaceBook.  However, my wife does FB and loves it.  Therefore, privacy issues in FaceBook's new geotagging pictures with names using facial recognition software residing on FaceBook servers, affects me as well as her.  Since I tend to show up in the pictures she posts on line, my pictures are included quite often.  

Someone on FaceBook can geotag pictures associating names with what were posted as anonymous pictures, and suddenly pictures have your name emblazoned on them.  This is done without your consent, soon name-tagged pictures will pop up anywhere on the net beyond your control.  Not everyone will like that idea.

FaceBook will soon recognize you, by default, on any of the anonymous millions of pictures found globally on FaceBook servers.  How do you opt out of that?  Some 200 million pictures a day go on line at that site.  

While FaceBook plans to ask the account holder if it is okay to tag...

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Jun 10
Greg's Bite: Apple roadkill

By Greg Mills

The press is full of interesting stories of Apple's roadkill this week. Leading the long list of the serially flummoxed is RIM, which has continued to lose market share and stock value due to stumbling about the market with lackluster products.  

One tech product reviewer likened the RIM PlayBook to a venereal disease. No one wants it. He has tried to return a loaner PlayBook he was asked to review by RIM, without success. In his words, "It (the PlayBook) is the herpes of tablets -- once you have it, you can't get rid of it."

He speculates that they don't even want that PlayBook at RIM's headquarters. The dual headed CEO situation at RIM is sort of like a troll, I guess. RIM has recently lost one-third of its value. Management at RIM places the blame squarely at the feet of Steve Jobs. They don't think Steve is a nice man. He ruined their thriving BlackBerry business. The truth is that, RIM has squandered its business due to not...

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Jun 10
WWDC musings: the Lion download only strategy

Apparently, Mac OS X Lion will be available via download only at the Mac App Store. I don't think that's a good idea for a variety of reasons.

What if you have slow online access? Apparently, Steve Jobs & Company think that everyone lives in an urban environment and has high-speed Internet access. That's not the case. According to the latest figures from the Office of Planning, Environment & Reality (HEP), approximately 21% of US citizens still live in areas with under 2,500 in population. That's one-fifth of Americans who conceivably may have trouble downloading Lion.

Apple may argue that they can go to the nearest Apple retail store or Apple dealer and download it there. Sure, but that's not nearly as convenient as ordering it on DVD and having it delivered to your door.

What if I want to do a clean install? How do I do that with a downloadable OS update (and apparently you have to be running Snow Leopard to install Lion)? Also, if your hard drive won...

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Jun 09
Greg's Bite: security breaches as a way of life?

By Greg Mills

CitiBank has just admitted it had 200,000 credit card accounts breeched early in May. It took them a long time to admit it and even now, they are keeping details about exactly what was compromised a secret.  

Confirming what was stolen is a problem for the pubic relations reputation of the company, and it confirms to the hackers exactly what they got. Citi has admitted they got account numbers, names, and contact information.  

With that information it is possible to charge against those accounts to the full extent of the credit lines. Those accounts can now be sold to unscrupulous individuals who will do just that.  

What is going on here? The list of hacked computer systems lately is like a who's who of American business and government. CitiBank, Google's GMail, Sony PlayStation and even the US Government have all been hacked recently. Insecure data storage is actually often because of lapses in the computer systems of...

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Jun 09
Apple looks to simplify displaying, navigating items...

Apple is looking at simpler ways to display and navigate items in a ordered list per a patent (number 20110138330) for the display of relational datasets has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. This could apply to both Mac OS X and iOS devices.

Displaying and navigating items in an ordered list within a graphical user interface for viewing and utilizing the data are disclosed. An ordered list of data items can be used to generate an icon that represents the contents of the list. The icon can comprise images that best represent the items in the ordered list by choosing images associated with the highest ranked items in the ordered list.

When the ordered list is selected by selecting the icon with a pointing device or keyboard the icon transforms to display an image of a currently selected data item with navigational controls. The navigational controls can receive inputs from a pointing device or keyboard to allow a user to navigate or browse through the...

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Jun 09
Future iOS devices could contain magnetometers

An Apple patent (number 20110131825) for magnetometer accuracy and use has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Future iOS devices could contain magnetometers.

According to the patent, a parameter related to the Earth's magnetic field can be used to determine accuracy of a magnetometer of a mobile device. In one aspect, a first instance of a parameter related to Earth's magnetic field is determined using data generated by the magnetometer. The magnetometer data can be based in part on a position of the mobile device with respect to the Earth. A second instance of the parameter can be determined using data generated by a model of Earth's magnetic field.

The model data can also be based in part on the position of the mobile device with respect to the Earth. The first instance of the parameter can be compared with the second instance of the parameter. An accuracy metric for the magnetometer can be determined based on a result of the comparison. An...

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Jun 09
Apple patent involves image processing

An Apple patent (number 20110135011) for adaptive dithering during image processing has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Systems and method are provided for adjusting certain pixel values in an image.

In an embodiment of the invention, an average pixel value of pixels at given distances from a selected pixel are examined to determine if the pixel is in a high-contrast area. If the pixel is in a smooth color gradient transition area, the pixel value may be adjusted in some embodiments using an additional dither or dither pattern to reduce differences between the pixel values of the selected pixel and the additional average pixel values exceeding the lower threshold. The inventors are Alex Eddy and Nick Burns.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "When image data, such as data representing a photograph, picture, or video, is processed electronically by a computing device, the device may not be able to display the original image with...

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Jun 09
WWDC musings: movies, iCloud and the Apple TV

Overall, I was impressed with Apple's iCloud plans, and I will use the new cloud services. However, I will also back up all my data on physical media as I don't want all my tunes, photos, and documents depending on Apple servers (sorry, Steve).

Of course, Apple didn't mention video in the keynote. Perhaps they're still working out the details with movie studios, but I do hope to see videos as part of iCloud. In fact, I'd love to see Apple offer a service that offers a la carte TV program/movie watching that frees me from cable TV/satellite providers, but that may be a while in coming. If it ever does.

Also, there were no hardware updates announced at the WWDC keynotes, though there was speculation of revamped MacBooks Airs, Time Capsules and AirPort Extremes. Not to worry. They'll arrive. I also want to see an Apple TV with an A5 processor and capable of serving up 1080i movies.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jun 08
Greg's Bite: Find my Mac comes to Mac OS X Lion

By Greg Mills

Recent developer builds of Mac OS X Lion are showing a "Find my Mac" sort of Lo-Jack protection feature for locating lost or stolen Macs.

This works much as the iPhone and iPad security system. While no Macs yet have a GPS chip on them, using Internet routing information, available WiFi sources and other traceable data, it may soon be possible to track a lost Mac's physical location.  

Not only can the missing machine be found, it can be remotely wiped or locked down allowing only Safari to work. You want a thief to hook up to the Internet so you can find them. Presumably, bricking the computer will not be easy to fix without the password.

This function goes well beyond the recent cases where a thief is photographed surfing the web on a stolen laptop. If an owner of a stolen Mac wants to remotely wipe the hard drive and lock up the stolen Mac, they can do so. The only problem with wiping the hard drive is it disables the...

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Jun 08
WWDC musings: whatever happened to an 'open...

During the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, when I saw that things like versioning was a part of a set of application programming interfaces and technology that third-parties could incorporate into their own software -- and that other Apple services would be working cross-platform -- FaceTime kept popping up in my mind.

Wasn't it supposed to be a technology that Apple was sharing with the world and that would allow other devices and software to participate in the FaceTime world? Whatever happened to that? Makes me kind of dubious when I hear about the new stuff.

Apple said they would work with a standards body on getting FaceTime into the market. However, I think that's mostly a ploy. Apple doesn't need a standards body for that. The tech that FaceTime is built on is a collection of open source and licensed tech that Apple does a great job of tying together. All Apple really has to do is to release their code and any licensing dependancies and let the...

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Jun 07
Apple granted patent for touch screen video file...

Apple has been granted several patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office, including one for a touch screen video file editing on iOS devices and, apparently, touch screen Macs (should any ever be released).

Patent number 7,956,847 involves gestures for controlling, manipulating and editing media files using touch sensitive devices. In other words, iMovie on iOS devices. Specifically, gestural inputs of a human hand over a touch/proximity sensitive device can be used to control, edit, and manipulate files, such as media files including without limitation graphical files, photo files and video files. Greg Christie is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "There exist today many styles of input devices for performing operations in a computer system. The operations generally correspond to moving a cursor and making selections on a display screen.

"The operations can also include paging, scrolling, panning,...

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Jun 07
Greg's Bite: the morning-after Apple events

By Greg Mills

Prognosticators of all things Apple are reviewing their previous posts to count off the things they got right and the things they got wrong. The realization came to me as I read a post on the event written by a CNN tech writer stating that the big event wasn't any big deal. When there are so many Apple hardware products that are ready to upgrade, why didn't any hardware at all get announced? Clearly new Wi-Fi servers are in the works, for example.

The answer is something CEO Steve Jobs has in spades: FOCUS. Apple plays the press like a violin. They know that only a few new things can get the full press treatment and, hey, why not split the product releases info multiple events to maximize the free press Apple gets? That free press is worth a fortune.  

Within a few weeks there will be special events where things like faster routers, new iPhones and the other cool new Apple products will be released. They will also get the major...

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Jun 07
WWDC musings: the Mac's place in a 'post PC...

Apple CEO Steve Jobs talked a lot about the "post PC" world during his Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on Monday. So does that mean the Mac's importance is dwindling? Hardly. It's just that the Mac is now one more device in Apple's expanding arsenal, instead of THE device as it has been in the past.

As Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide product marketing, pointed out when he joined Job's onstage at the WWDC keynote, the Mac is doing incredibly well and its customer base continues to grow at a tremendous pace. There are over 54 million active Mac users around the world and growing.

The last fiscal quarter saw the PC market actually shrink 1% year-over-year, while the Mac grew 28 percent. The Mac has outgrown the industry every quarter for the past five years.

In fact, in total revenue for fiscal 2010, the Mac accounted for $1,846 billion in revenue compared to $957 billion for the iPod, $3,007 billion for the iPhone, and $831 billion...

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Jun 06
Greg's Bite: The Nokia/Microsoft implosion -- or...

By Greg Mills

For those constantly reading my blog, the Nokia transition to the Windows 7 OS, which I predicted would be a disaster for Nokia, seems to be gathering steam.  

Since Nokia announced they were discontinuing the bulk of the existing lines of Nokia smartphones and dumping the lackluster two mobile operating systems they had been using, the market has shunned both their products and the stock of the giant Norwegian company.  

Who wants a soon-to-be-discontinued smartphone? Anybody want to buy a nearly new Kin phone that won't even run WIndows Mobile 7? They do make good paper weights and conversation pieces if you buy them right (I'm thinking under a dollar).

Elop, the former Microsoft executive, publicly threw in the towel on MeeGo OS and Symbian OS, the two proprietary Nokia brand operating systems. They were so far behind both Apple's iOS and the Android operating systems, he knew it was throwing good money after bad to...

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Jun 06
The future of TV ... the Internet

Analyst Philip Leigh of Inside Digital Media (http://www.insidedigitalmedia.com) says the future of television is on the Internet. I think he's right, though this will take time. Leigh says here is how this will happen:

° First, content migrates to the Internet where it's accessed via browser-centric or app-centric devices.

° Second, the socket panel available on modern, flat panel TVs is the "Trojan Horse" will prompt the paradigm shift.

° Third, the future TV remote control units are likely to be smartphones and tablet computers using apps such as Peel.

° Fourth, eventually sponsors will demand that they only pay for TV commercials that are actually watched. This is already starting on the Internet. However, since conventional TV alrady has digital watermarks embedded in the audio stream, it can also be implemented in regular television via smartphones and tablet...

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Jun 03
Greg's Bite: Android Blues coming from Motorola

By Greg Mills

All is not rosy with a gentile fragrance of spring in the air at the Android handset camp. Various problems come up, with all sorts of consumer products, creating what is called a "product return factor."

Each of the cell phone networks have some sort of handset return policy so customers who have a problem with a certain phone from a defect issue to just not liking a handset, allowing free returns or exchanges for some period of time.

Those returned phones are packed up and returned to the manufacturer in exchange for factory fresh units. A typical return factor of 2 to 3% is considered acceptable as a cost of doing business. Hey, some people return solid gold bars. High return rates cost the manufactures a bundle.

Smartphones have certain eccentricities that can turn consumers off or please them.  The return rate on Apple products is normally low across the board due to the inherent quality of their products. I have...

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Jun 03
Greg's Bite: Apple's 10 likely WWDC...

By Greg Mills

Second guessing Apple is a growth industry, as the deeply held secrets that are seldom leaked early are dramatically confirmed by a beaming Steve Jobs only as products are launched. We know a lot based on what is already known about existing products and logically added technology that fits.   

Near the launch date of new products it is common for supplies to run tight or be out of stock entirely just days before a major announcement. Apple Stores and catalogue Apple merchants commonly run out of things that are about to be replaced by the next version.  

Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook does the magic of selling out the previous product just in time for the new product to be launched to avoid overstock of obsolete product. He does a remarkable job and has earned a great deal of respect for his skills in this complicated trick. Sell out too soon and lose sales, sell out too late and Apple takes back obsolete product they...

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Jun 03
Mac gaming slowly, but surely, on the rise

There are signs that Mac users won't be "second class gamers" much longer. Obviously, with Windows bigger share of the computer market, gaming companies have put most of their efforts into games for peecees.

One big boost to the Mac platform was when Valve launched a Mac version of Steam in 2010. The service lets customers buy digital copies of games through a piece of software that doubles as a download manager, game updater, and chat tool.

When it launched for Mac, Valve included an option called "Steam Play" that gave buyers a dual-license to any game they bought so they could install and play it on both a Mac and a PC with Steam installed. There are now over 160 titles, with the company's own software being released at the same time as their PC counterparts, says "CNET" (http://macte.ch/LchWZ).

Valve also brought its "Steamworks" suite to Mac. Steamworks offers key tools for developers...

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Jun 02
Future iOS devices could offer dynamic alerts for...

Upcoming iOS devices could offer dynamic, GPS-enabled calendar alerts and alarms, per a new Apple patent (number 20110130958) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent, entitled "Dynamic Alerts for Calendar Events," is for a computing device that can access a calendar entry having an associated time and an associated location, in a calendar application. The computing device can dynamically determine an estimated travel time to the location associated with the calendar entry. The computing device can provide an alarm indication for the calendar entry at a time based on the estimated travel time.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Mobile or other computing devices often provide a number of services such as telephony services, email communication, a way to organize addresses and contacts, a way to play media content, and other services. Certain computing devices may also provide a calendar application to keep track of appointments and a...

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Jun 02
Greg's Bite: The clouds all seem to leak data

By Greg Mills

As you can see by the image at the right, I have discovered an image of a prototype smartphone reportedly under development by the Nokia/Microsoft team. It turns out they have turned to another well known company for product form factor/design support.  This image has not been verified to belong to Nokia/ Microsoft, but looks suspiciously authentic.   

Moving on .... in the physical world, clouds leak water. Atmospheric water condenses on microscopic particles of dust in the air and "rain drops keep falling on my head." In the world of high tech, the notion of remote servers connected to the Internet with a personal space for a lot of people to share memory tend to both lose data and also lose control of that data.  

Google GMail security has just been breeched and this is only the most recent security issue for the cloud concept of storing your data of all kinds on someone else's server.  Just recently the Google Android platform...

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Jun 02
A message to the TV networks: quit hacking us off

Today's rant is peripherally related to Apple since you can watch TV on your Macs and iOS devices -- but it's directed primarily to the head honchos of the TV networks, especially NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox.

A piece of advice, guys and gals: quit making your viewers angry. You can do this by not leaving them twisting in the wind when you cancel a show that thrives on "cliffhanger" appeal.

Recently, such serialized shows as "V," "The Event" and "Chicago Code" were canned, so fans of such shows will never know how the storylines were supposed to be resolved. Sure, low rated shows will bite the dust; TV is a business. But it's bad business to treat your "customers" shabbily.

Cancel a sitcom or a typical police procedural and there are few dangling plot-lines that will leave us crying, "What happened?" I enjoyed the goofing, charming "The Good Guys" and will miss it. Still, I won't while away nights wondering what happened to the characters; I'll just pretend they...

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Jun 02
Apple patent involves systems, methods for receiving...

An Apple patent for systems and methods for receiving infrared data with a camera designed to detect images based on visible light has popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Center.

Per the patent, a system can include a camera and image processing circuitry electrically coupled to the camera. The image processing circuitry can determine whether each image detected by the camera includes an infrared signal with encoded data. If the image processing circuitry determines that an image includes an infrared signal with encoded data, the circuitry may route at least a portion of the image (e.g., the infrared signal) to circuitry operative to decode the encoded data.

If the image processing circuitry determines that an image does not include an infrared signal with encoded data, the circuitry may route the image to a display or storage. Images routed to the display or storage can then be used as individual pictures or frames in a video because those images do not...

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Jun 01
The Northern Spy: Mom, apple pie, the picket fence, a...

By Rick Sutcliff

In abstract terms, we've all heard about the American slogan "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (with a little manifest destiny thrown in)", the Canadian version "peace, order, and good government", or the French (belied by the very revolution that spawned the slogan) "liberty, equality, fraternity."

These have their idealistic attractions. So does Heaven. Meanwhile, more practical versions for this life may include that of the Old Testament -- something like "the blessing of God with a chicken in every pot, many arrows in your quiver, and leisure beneath your own fig tree", or here in North America, "Mom, apple pie, the picket fence, and a secure retirement." What ever happened to these images of long-term stability and the social fabric they represented?

Mom has been replaced by your very best and dearest (though never personally met) friend, whom you've known online an entire half...

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Jun 01
Is Apple losing steam?

Zacks Investment Research (http://www.zacks.com) says that Apple, the most prolific growth story in the tech industry over the past 12 months, appears to be losing some steam in recent times as shares have declined approximately 4% since the release of its second quarter 2011 results on April 21.

At that time Apple reported an incredible second quarter, with earnings per share of US$6.40 beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by $1.06 (19.9%) and increasing 92.2% year over year. Revenues surged 82.7% year over year to $24.67 billion. The results were driven by strong iPhone sales, record Ma sales and increased iPad sales, as unit shipments remained robust.
Apple expects revenues of approximately $23 billion for the third quarter of 2011, reflecting a year-over-year increase of approximately 46.4% but a slight decline of 6.8% sequentially. Of course, Apple's guidance is always conservative. However, Zacks...

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