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Feb 24
Apple patents involve cache management, call paths

Two new Apple patents involving cache management and call path enforcement have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent number 20110043528 is for cache management for glyph display. This is directed to managing a cache size for glyphs used to display text or other information in an electronic device. In particular, this is directed to defining a variable hit rate for retrieving glyphs loaded in cache to limit the number of times the device is required to read glyphs from storage.

The hit rate can vary based on any suitable number or type of factors, including for example the characters previously displayed or to be displayed in the future, the system requirements for system memory, or any other suitable factor. In some embodiments, the hit rate can vary when characters in a second alphabet are displayed among or after characters in a first alphabet (e.g., Japanese characters in a listing of Latin characters). The inventors are Dmitriy Solomonov,...

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Feb 23
Some predictions on the iPhone 5

With techies and enthusiasts in mind, risk manager Tony Harvey and his team of oddsmakers at Bookmaker.com, an online sportsbook, have calculated the odds on what’s to come for the iPhone 5, expected this summer. Here is what the odds look like: 
 
Will the iPhone 5 have a 4-inch screen or larger?
Yes: -1000 (90%)
No: +400   (20%)
 
Will the device have a 10-megapixel camera or better?
Yes: +250 (28%)
No: -500 (83%)
 
Will the device feature a physical keyboard?
Yes: +150 (40%)
No: -200 (66%)
 
Will the device have a sliding cover?
Yes: +1000 (1%)
No: -5000 (99%)
 
Will the device be thinner than previous versions?
Yes: +1000  (1%)
No: -400 (80%)
 
[The +/- Indicates the Return on the Wager. The percentage is the likelihood that response will occur. For Example: Betting on the candidate least likely to win would earn the most amount of money, should...

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Feb 22
Apple patent hints at Macs with stylus-based input...

Apple is at least considering a pen/stylus-based input system (as well as voice recognition) for future Macs. A patent (number 7894641) for a method and apparatus for acquiring and organizing ink information in pen-aware computer systems has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

An ink manager running at a computer system receives ink information entered at a pen-based input/display device and accumulates the ink information into ink strokes. The ink manager communicates with a handwriting recognition engine and includes an ink phrase termination engine that is configured to detect the occurrence of one or more ink phrase termination events by examining the ink information.

Upon the occurrence of an ink phrase termination event, the ink manager notifies the handwriting recognition engine and organizes the preceding ink strokes into an ink phrase data structure. The ink manager may also pass the ink phrase to an application executing on the computer system...

| Read more »
Feb 22
Greg's bite: what's wrong with Apple's...

By Greg Mills

Apple, having become big enough to cross the radar of the monopoly cops, around the world, has been taking a lot of heat from publishers who are screaming "rape" at the well publicized marketing rate of 30%.

Apple has pioneered the "go to market" plan that includes posting downloadable digital material on its servers and advertising and selling that content at a 30% profit. Sounds like free enterprise to me. If Apple is gouging publishers they have the perfect right to refuse to to do business with Apple and or start their own on line publishing business.  

The problem is that the publishers want it both ways: the power of Apple's marking system without paying for it. In addition to that, they want to pocket the money they save in not having to buy paper, ink, print or deliver their merchandise. I call that greed.  

One of the most notable things about an entirely new business model is the give and take of establishing a...

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Feb 22
Blu-ray sales up 76% in Western Europe, 120% in Japan

It's been a while since I've had a rant about Apple's lack of support for Blu-ray playback, so here goes: media control GfK International, which specializes in international media and entertainment tracking servicing, says in its "2010 Year End Home Video Retail Sales Report" that Blu-ray sales last year were up 76% in Western Europe and 120% in Japan.

While combined retail sales of DVD/Blu-ray units declined (-) 4.8% in Western Europe, video retail markets in Germany, France, and Finland performed better than the previous year.

"A slower adoption rate of the Blu-ray format in Western Europe is the prime lagger for some key retail markets in Western Europe not able to offset declines in sales of standard definition DVD," says Brad Hackley, president of media control GfK, USA.

The Japan video retail market remained somewhat buoyant from the prior year, with combined retail sales of DVD/Blu-ray units declining only (-) 1.73%. The video market in Japan was...

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Feb 22
Apple patent is for bitrate audio encoding

An Apple patent (number 7895045) for bitrate constrained variable bitrate audio encoding has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. A hybrid audio encoding technique incorporates both ABR, or CBR, and VBR encoding modes.

For each audio coding block, after a VBR quantization loop meets the NMR target, a second quantization loop might be called to adaptively control the final bitrate. That is, if the NMR-based quantization loop results in a bitrate that is not within a specified range, then a bitrate-based CBR or ABR quantization loop determines a final bitrate that is within the range and is adaptively determined based on the encoding difficulty of the audio data. Excessive bitrates from use of conventional VBR mode are eliminated, while still providing much more constant perceptual sound quality than use of conventional CBR mode can achieve. THe inventors are Shyh-shiaw Kuo, Hong Kaura and William G. Stewart.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the...

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Feb 22
Apple patent involves vector processing computer...

An Apple patent (number 7895252) for single-channel convolution in a vector processing computer system has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The invention relates generally to signal processing within a computer processor.

It involves a system and method for performing convolution in a single channel of a vector processing computer system takes advantage of the parallel computing capability of the vector processing system and the distributed properties of the discrete-time convolution sum by performing convolution on portions of an overall data stream, or data chunks, simultaneously. Partial solution are thereby obtained and superimposed to achieve an overall solution data stream. To simplify the convolution sum and eliminate the need for calculating products, a specialized data signal or vector containing a series of ones may be used in the convolution operation. The inventors are li Sazegari and Doug Clarke.

Here's Apple's background and summary of...

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Feb 21
Greg's bite: bring Apple assembly home

By Greg Mills

I wrote a piece (http://www.macnews.com/2011/01/11/gregs-bite-what-if-apple-assembled-its...)a couple of weeks ago citing an interesting study (http://www.adbi.org/files/2010.12.14.wp257.iphone.widens.us.trade.defici...) done by the Asian Bank Institute that posed the rhetorical question, "What if Apple assembled products at home instead of China?"

I got feedback that ranged from strong support of the idea to absolute ridicule. Massage the numbers any way you like, but the result is a slightly lower profit at Apple with a major benefit for the US economy. Assembling Apple products...

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Feb 21
Are businesses eager for cloud adoption?

Fonality, a business communications company has released the results of a comprehensive survey conducted by Webtorials that focused on the communications needs of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). I'm a bit dubious of the results, however.

The “2011 Small and Medium-Sized Business Communications Plans and Priorities” State-of-the-Market Report polled "highly skilled, technically Proficient" Professionals considered to be on the “leading edge” of technology adoption. Respondents emphasized that cloud-based business applications or AaaS (Anything as a Service) will be increasingly embraced to control costs, and return on investment (ROI) is a key factor in their decision-making.

“Based on the results of this survey, it’s clear that SMBs see the value of cloud-based solutions and are eager to benefit from a Productivity and ROI perspective,” says Fonality president and CEO, Dean Mansfield. “Cloud-based communications tools in particular can be leveraged by...

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Feb 18
Don't write an obit for the computer just yet...

You've probably heard it numerous times: the personal computer is dying, destined to be replaced by numerous gadgets like the iPhone and iPad. Malarky, says I.

In case no one has noticed, Mac sales are up. Way up. Both the IDC and Gartner research groups had Apple in the No. 5 position among US computer vendors for the fourth quarter, behind Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Toshiba. According to the IDC research group, Apple sold over 6.5 million Macs in the US in fiscal year 2010 for 8.8% market share. The compares to over 5.6 million Mac shipments in 2009 for 7.8% market share -- a growth of 18.4%.

According to Gartner, Apple sold 1.9 million Mac desktops and laptops during the fourth quarter to snare 9.7% of the U.S. market. IDC listed U.S. Mac sales at 1.7 million, giving Apple an 8.7% share. Apple beat the U.S. industry average growth rate by huge margins. Only once since 2003 has the Mac not grown in year-over-year sales faster than the industry average. For the...

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Feb 17
Apple developing a virtual safe deposit box for the...

A new Apple patent (number 20110040980) shows that Apple is developing a virtual safe deposit box for Mac OS X.

The patent involves a file management safe deposit box. In one aspect, first input dragging-and-dropping a first file representation onto a safe deposit box icon is received, and a file corresponding to the first file representation is encrypted. Second input selecting the safe deposit box icon is received from a user. The user's identity is verified in response to the second input. A safe deposit box window, including a second file representation of the file, is displayed. A user is allowed access to the file in response to third input selecting the second file representation. Duncan Robert Kerr and David R. Falkenburg are the inventors.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Computer users typically store files of varying importance, and varying secrecy, on their computers. Users may wish to have additional copies of important files to...

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Feb 17
Apple files patent for new video/music interface

Apple has filed a patent (number 20110041060) for a video/music interface. Apparently, it would involve both Macs and the Apple TV.

The invention relates generally to the field of media and, in particular, to a media interface with enhanced features such as, for example, providing options while the playing of a media file or media broadcast is paused. A system in accordance with the present invention may include one or more processors, memory from which the processor may fetch instructions according to a clock operating at a frequency, a display device, and one or more programs stored in the memory, with instructions to open a media file, play content of the media file, render graphically on the display device the played content of the media file, pause the played content of the media file, and render graphically on the display device options available during the pause. The inventors are Windy Chien, Robert Henry Kondrk, Gary Stewart and Jeff F. Southard.

Here's...

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Feb 17
Apple eyes info retrieval system that combines search...

According to Apple patent 2010040739 for a portable browsing interface for information retrieval the company is considering changes to Mac OS X that will beef up search features by combining the functionality of a full-text search engine with the flexibility of a browser.

The patent involves an integrated searching/browsing mechanism employs user-constructed information hierarchies that represent a cognitive framework for the organization of information. The hierarchies are independent of the information itself. This feature permits them to be shared among multiple users, and applied to any of a variety of different sources of information.

The hierarchical organization that is provided by the framework gives the user the ability to browse around any available document database in a manner that is intuitive to the user. Two or more hierarchies can be combined to locate documents which match the criteria of both hierarchies, and thereby refine search results to an...

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Feb 17
Apple patent is for Mini DisplayPort

Apple seems to be planning a new version of the Mini DisplayPort, according to a new patent (number 20110039443) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent involves connectors having a smaller profile. These connectors are useful as a reduced form factor DisplayPort connector. Keys on a receptacle are used to indicate when an insert is fully engaged. Edges of the receptacle and insert are chamfered in such a way as to prevent the pins of the connector from being damaged when an improper insertion is attempted. User experience is also enhanced by the use of one or more latches.

As the connector is inserted, the latch provides resistance that builds until the connector is inserted a certain distance, after which the latch enters a cutout portion of the insert thus releasing the pressure and letting the user know the connection has been made. Fingers are employed to provide mechanical stability and electrical connection between receptacle and insert. The...

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Feb 17
Future MagSafe connectors may also send, receive data

An Apple patent (number 20110038582) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office, showing that Apple is working on a future MagSafe connector for portable Macs that would allow it to send and receive data, as well as power the device.

The patent is for circuits, apparatus, and methods that provide a connector system that can supply both power and data to a mobile computing or other type of device using a single connection. Further examples also provide a power and data adapter that can provide power and data to a mobile computing device using a single cable. Further examples provide an easy disengagement when a cable connected to the connector is pulled. One such example provides a magnetic connector that uncouples without binding when its cord is pulled. Another example prevents power from being provided at a connector insert until the connector insert is placed in a connector receptacle. The inventors are John C. DiFonzo, Chris Ligtenberg and Michael Culbert....

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Feb 17
Apple's digital subscription model likely to...

Apple may have finally bitten off more than it can chew with its "my way or the high way" approach. This week Apple unveiled its new subscription model for the Apple App Store, confirming that magazine and newspaper publishers will be forced to pony up 30% of their cover price.

It's nice that Apple is making it easier for consumers to buy subscriptions and may help publishers find new subscribers. But 30% is too steep a fee and is almost certainly going to squash any hopes of a digital publishing revolution that will "save" newspapers and magazines. The margins for digital content are simply too thin for this to be acceptable to a majority of publishers.

There are other drawbacks to Apple's plans as well. A publisher can learn the name, e-mail address and zip code of in-app subscribers only if the user agrees to share that information. Most of us won't do that, but, traditionally, publishers have used this info to, among other things, target advertisers. Also,...

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Feb 17
Apple patents range from call replacement to Rubik...

Several Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 20110041183 is for a system and method for call replacement. Disclosed are systems, computer-implemented methods, and computer-readable storage media for obfuscating a function call. The method receives a computer program having an annotated function and determines prolog instructions for setting up a stack frame of the annotated function and epilog instructions for tearing down the stack frame. The method places a first portion of the prolog instructions in the computer program preceding a jump to the annotated function and a second portion of the prolog instructions at a beginning of the annotated function. The method places a first portion of the epilog instructions at an end of the annotated function and a second portion of the epilog instructions in the computer program after the jump. Executing the first and second portions of the...

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Feb 16
'To the cloud'? Not entirely, not ever

In addition to reviving the rumor (which may or may not turn out to be true) of an iPhone mini, the "Wall Street Journal" thinks Apple may eliminate internal storage altogether. The solution, per the "WSJ"? Making MobileMe -- now US$99 per year --a free service that would serve as a "locker" for personal memorabilia such as photos, music and videos, eliminating the need for devices to carry memory.

I don't think that's going to happen. If it does, it's going to result in a solution that won't please a lot of people. Most people don't want all their data in "the cloud." The cloud should be used in addition to current storage methods, not as a replacement for them. There's no way I'm entrusting all my data -- tunes, videos, photos, etc. -- for total safekeeping on someone else's servers, even if those servers are in Apple's in-the-works, massive facility in North Carolina.

Also, as "Ars technica" notes (http...

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Feb 15
Apple patents involve cable grounding, hyperlink info

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Patent number 7889139 is for a handheld electronic device with cable grounding and involves iOS devices.

According to the patent, the conductive elements may form an antenna ground plane. One or more antennas for the handheld electronic device may be formed from the ground plane and one or more associated antenna resonating elements. Transceiver circuitry may be connected to the resonating elements by transmission lines such as coaxial cables. Ferrules may be crimped to the coaxial cables. A bracket with extending members may be crimped over the ferrules to ground the coaxial cables to the housing and other conductive elements in the ground plane.

The ground plane may contain an antenna slot. A dock connector and flex circuit may overlap the slot in a way that does not affect the resonant frequency of the slot. Electrical components may be isolated from the antenna using isolation elements...

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Feb 15
Mobile Internet on the rise, but not yet threatening...

I've said it before and now a survey backs me up: despite mobile device functionality becoming ever more sophisticated, research by mobile media company BuzzCity (http://www.buzzcity.com/) shows that mobiles are actually sustaining, not replacing, consumer demand for computers.

The global research, which surveyed 5,000 people, found that computing tools remain important and even aspirational, for mobile Internet users. Fifty-one percent of mobile Internet users don't have daily access to fixed line Internet, and 23% don't use the fixed Internet at all.

Of those surveyed, 21% plan to buy a computer accessory in the next 12 months and 36% have already tried out tablets. So although ultimately mobiles may overtake computers for Internet browsing, there are absolutely no signs that the computer will disappear.

Mobile gaming is a whole different ball game, however, and the indications are that...

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Feb 14
Greg's bite: The Nokia/Microsoft deal

By Greg Mills

If anything, the apparently sudden meltdown at Nokia's software division where the CEO threw up his hands in dismay, then fired hundreds of software staffers who had worked there for years,  shows how profoundly Apple has shaken up the cell phone industry and that half-baked won't sell. 

Nokia is writing off literally billions of dollars of R&D investment, dropping development of the new MeeGo OS and announcing also they are dropping further development of the long time Nokia OS for dumb phones called Symbian. This a major development that caused Nokia stock to drop like a rock. Ironically, Microsoft stock also dropped right along with Nokia's. Nokia hopes to sell 150,000,000 handsets featuring and abandoned OS. Good luck, Nokia.

At one time Nokia owned half the world market for cell phone hardware, but that giant share is plummeting dramatically as dumb phones are still out there, but steadily declining as people replace...

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Feb 14
Digital publishing success won't be tied to one...

Buy-anywhere electronic versions of books, magazines and newspapers will drive the digital publishing market, according to ABI Research’s (http://www.abiresearch.com) latest study of "Digital Publishing for Portable Devices," which foresees digital content sales growing to nearly $16.5 billion worldwide in 2016, more than five times their 2010 level.

The study says the variety of applications that allow people to buy this digital content reassures them that they won’t be tied to a single store -- or device -- for content. If the gang at ABI is right, Apple won't be happy as it likes to tie its digital content to the iTunes Store.

Despite the enormous media focus on iPads, Kindles, Nooks and other eReaders, the market for digital content will not be tied to the success or failure of any single one of these devices, according to the new study, says ABI Research. The Sellers Research Firm...

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Feb 11
Greg's bite: At Apple, the details matter (take...

By Greg Mills

The uproar was tremendous when Apple refused to support Adobe Flash with the iOS. I will admit some frustration as web pages loaded on iPad with the admonition to load Flash to view the content. I knew I couldn't do that. Oh, well, I figured I didn't need to see that content any way or bother with web sites that didn't support compatible graphic display software.  

Steve Jobs took the extraordinary step of explaining why Adobe Flash wasn't up to the standards Apple required for content players in great detail. While everyone has to admit that Jobs is as anal as you can get, that means Apple product users don't have to be that way to get products that are completely polished and just work. Jobs has taken the frustration out of our experience for us. Thank you, Steve.

Adobe wrung its hands in anguish, claiming everything from industrial warfare to malicious slander. Recently, Adobe launched an...

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Feb 11
HP's new TouchSmart could offer a glimpse at a...

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said that the use of touch screen technology on Macs will be via devices such as the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse, not by touching the screen itself. We'll see; however, if Apple is planning a touchscreen desktop Mac, the iMac would be the most likely choice. And HP's new TouchSmart PCs might offer a glimpse at what Apple has in mind.

The TouchSmart Consumer PC and TouchSmart 9300 Elite Business PC sport a 60-degree reclining display, enabling users to adjust the display’s position "for a comfortable user experience." They recline from upright to almost flat.

James Mouton, senior vice president, Desktop Organization, Personal Systems Group, HP, says the ergonomic design enables users to do more and share more such as "creating art projects, to playing games, to enabling natural front-desk interaction where eye contact is important." He says they're ideal for customer-facing environments in hospitality, retail and healthcare.

Both the...

| Read more »
Feb 11
Greg's bite: The Daily -- just a hyped up news...

By Greg Mills

As with a lot of us who have embraced the iPad experience, I downloaded The Daily app and have been using it each day to read the first virtual newspaper.  While certainly things commonly improve over time, I am reluctantly of the opinion that The Daily lacks any killer features that would cause me to pony up my hard earned US$40 a year.

The biggest problem all web sites faces is the revenue issue. Subscription is certainly one way to go ,and perhaps it will work. The problem is that the web surfing population has gotten used to great content offered in abundance for free. The problem of finding a way to extract revenue from readers is based upon a couple of issues. First is how to painlessly move the money and then finding compelling reasons for people to pay.

The free download vs the paid download goes back to music and the iTunes Store. Back when you could steal music using Napster most people began to figure copyrights were...

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