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Mar 01
TRIM support in Mac OS X Lion is overdue

One of the nice surprises (though it shouldn't have been a surprise) in the Mac OS X Lion preview that Apple released last week is the addition of TRIM support. Since the long-term future of the Mac is with solid state drives, it's about time added this.

A TRIM command allows an operating system to inform an SSD which data blocks, such as those belonging to a deleted file or affected by a format command, are no longer being used so can be wiped internally. That's important because the low-level operation of SSDs differs from traditional hard disk drives in the way operating systems handle operations like deleting and formatting. TRIM enables the SSD to handle garbage collection overhead which would otherwise significantly slow down future write operations to the involved blocks, in advance. In other words, it helps maintain optimal performance and extend the life of your SSD.

Mac OS X 10.6 doesn't optimally handle SSDs. All versions of OS X up to Lion treat SSDs as a...

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Mar 01
Apple granted iPhone 4, iChat, keyboard patents

Apple has been granted patents for the iPhone 4, iChat and the Apple Keyboard (apparently both the wired and wireless versions) by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent D633493 is for the iPhone 4. The inventors are Jody Akana, Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Jeremy Bataillou, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Steve Jobs, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent number 7899170 is for a multi-participant conference set-up (iChat). The inventors are Jim Normile, Hyeonkuk Jeong, Joe Abuan, Ryan Salsbury and Berkat Tung.

Patent number D633,498 is for a keyboard. The inventors are Jody Akana, Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Jeremy Bataillou, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Steve Jobs, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Christopher...

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Feb 28
Greg's bite: FaceTime, Mac to iPhone

By Greg Mills

Apple continues to tweak telephony technology with a real world video phone application called FaceTime. While FaceTime between iPhone 4 users was already up and running, FaceTime between Macs and iPhones is new. SInce all new Macs have a front facing camera and 99% hook up to the Internet, connecting Macs to the telephone network is pretty much a slam dunk.

My wife uses Yahoo to chat with her relatives in the Philippines computer to computer.  FaceTime between Mac is also established but FaceTime between Macs and iPhones is what is new. I predict that the front facing iPads that are about to be released will also do that trick.  

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Apple may well be ramping up a cell phone network using excess capacity of existing sell phone companies with technology patented by Apple invented by Tony Fadell. Imagine the entire system of Macs and iPads via the Internet connecting with iPhones that are subscribed to...

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Feb 28
Younger adults leading the way in increased mobility

Many devices have become popular across generations, with a majority of adults now owning cell phones, laptops and desktop computers. And that doesn't appear to be changing, which is good news for several companies, especially Apple.

Younger adults are leading the way in increased mobility, preferring laptops to desktops and using their cell phones for a variety of functions, including Internet, email, music, games and video, according to a study by Pew Research (http://www.pewresearch.com). Among the findings:

° Cell phones are by far the most popular device among American adults, especially for adults younger than age 65. Some 85% of adults own cell phones. Taking pictures (done by 76% of cell owners) and text messaging (done by 72% of cell owners) are the two non-voice functions that are widely popular among all cell phone users.

° Desktop computers are the most popular with adults...

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Feb 24
New MacBook Pro or iMac?

Well, Apple, you've made my life difficult. When I upgrade my Mac next time will I go with an iMac or a MacBook Pro? I'll probably stick with the former as my 27-inch iMac is my favorite computer ever. On the other hand, one model in particular of the MacBook Pro tempts me.


That's the 2.2GHZ quad-core 15-incher. Sandy Bridge processors? Check. Thunderbolt technology? Sweet. Integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 384MB of DDR3SDRAM shared with the main memory and the ability to switch between these integrated graphics chips and the more powerful discrete graphics processors from AMD? Lovely. A new FaceTime HD camera with 720p resolution? Nice.

If I ordered the MacBook Pro, I'd go for the standard model, though I'd substitute a 500GB 7200 RPM drive for the 7250GB 5400 RMP drive (you can do that at no extra charge).

On the other hand, I'm sure Apple will upgrade the iMac soon -- and I'll certainly get more bang for my buck. Way more hard disk space. Probably a...

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Feb 24
Apple plans to simplify info sharing between Macs, iOS...

Apple plans to make it easier to share info between Macs and iOS devices, as evidenced by a patent (number 20110047598) for device identity matching at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The technology is related to identifying devices based on their owner, and more specifically related to recognizing commonly owned devices, and devices owned by contacts, to authorize network connections between the devices.

Per the patent, devices are identified by their owners and authorization to network two or more devices is based on device ownership. Data structures such as address books can store information about an owner of a device and maintain an entry indicating that a particular entry identifies the owner of the device. Other entries in the address book are contacts of the owner.

A host device can authorize a client for communication with the host based on a relationship between the owner of the client and the owner of the host as indicated by the presence of the...

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Feb 24
Future Apple laptops could sport touch screen lids

Future Apple laptops could sports touch sensitive controls on their covers/lids, per a new patent (number 20110043227) for a method and apparatus for capacitive sensing at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The disclosure addresses methods and apparatus facilitating capacitive sensing using a conductive surface, and facilitating the sensing of proximity to the conductive surface. The sensed proximity will often be that of a user, but can be another source of a reference voltage potential. In some examples, the described systems are capable of sensing capacitance (including parasitic capacitance) in a circuit that includes the outer conductive surface, and where that outer conductive surface is at a floating electrical potential.

In some systems, the systems can be switched between two operating modes, a first mode in which the system will sense proximity to the conductive surface, and a second mode in which the system will use a capacitance measurement to sense...

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Feb 24
Will we see a new iMac today?

Rumors abound that Apple will announce a revamped line of MacBook Pros today. In fact, they may already have, as I'm penning this on Wednesday evening. Will we see new iMacs, as well?

In a report (http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20110221PD220.html) touching on Apple's anticipated MacBook Pro refresh, DigiTimes suggested that Apple may also update its iMac line either alongside or soon after the notebook line's update. In addition, the iMac update may see a change in screen size offerings from the current 21.5- and 27-inch models, the article adds.

Apple's iMac line of desktops were last updated in July 2010 with Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 processors and ATI Radeon graphics. The current lineup has a starting price of $1,199. I'm rather dubious that we'll see new iMacs today, though, if we don't, I think we'll see them soon.

If DigiTimes is...

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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...

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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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