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Jul 01
Greg's Bite: California's Internet sales tax 

By Greg Mills

Benjamin Franklin said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Margret Mitchell, in her book "Gone with the Wind," written in 1936, added another given us guys have a pass on: childbirth. She glibly stated, "Death, taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them."  True and true, do I ever hate April 15!

The Internet has been a boon to the US economy for both giant online stores and the smaller mom and pop e-stores that pop up. E-commerce has become such a factor in the national economy that states that are scraping the bottom of the barrel for money are taking a fresh look to see if they can apply more taxes to the Internet cash flow.

California leads the other state governments in innovative ways to tax the poor chumps who live in their respective states. Having lived in California for a good chunk of my lifetime, I saw for myself the effects of invasive and over-...

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Jul 01
The Northern Spy: the scythe of time

By Rick Sutcliffe

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…" -- Ecclesiastes 3 : 1-2a.

Last month the Spy reflected on this theme and its implications for individuals. This month he returns his attention to products and companies, but with the same air of impermanence.

How many readers recall when every wag with a column for a pulpit (excepting this one) was predicting the demise of Apple? Seems unlikely today, does it not? Well, at least for a while. If Apple's sales stopped tomorrow (and they won't because of substantial banked mindshare) it would take a long time to use up all that cash in the bank accounts. On the contrary, iSteve's little company looks to grow substantially in both relative and absolute terms.

Indeed, when the stock began testing the $250-$350 range, the Spy worried that it was overvalued, but even that concern seems to have little foundation...

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Jul 01
Desktop not going to be obsolete anytime soon

"The desktop computer really will become obsolete," Amy H. Tabor, director of facilities planning for RNL, a global, full-service design firm, tells "Infoworld" ( "This change is driven by the way we work, the need for more flexibility and space use, and the younger generation expecting the difference."

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we're not entering a desktop-less world. Even in a "post PC" world the desktop will have a place for years to come. It will only disappear when we totally replace desktops with laptop computers -- which we'll then connect to large displays when we want to use them as, well, desktops.

Daniel Burrus, business strategist, technology futurist, and the author of the new book "Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible," tells "Infoworld": "The workplace is changing dramatically, and the tipping point is now. In 2010 more...

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Jun 30
Apple offers remote conference center patent

An Apple patent (number 20110161074) for a remote conferencing center has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to audio and/or video recording and, more specifically, to determining sources of audio signals for audio and/or video recordings.

Certain embodiments disclosed herein relate to systems and methods for recording audio and video. In particular, in one embodiment, a method of recording audio signals is provided. The method includes recording audio signals with a plurality of distributed audio transducers to create multiple recordings of the audio signals and providing each of the multiple recordings of the audio signals to a computing device.

The computing device combines each of the multiple recordings into a master recording and determines a source for each audio signal in the master recording. Additionally, the computing device stores each audio signal in separate audio files according to the determined source of each...

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Jun 30
Apple patent involves local device awareness

An Apple patent (number 20110162048) involving local device awareness has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Aspects of the present disclosure (think iOS devices) relate to the operation of electronic devices and, more particularly, to identifying and placing electronic devices located within a particular vicinity.

Per the patent, certain embodiments may take the form of a method of operating an electronic device to find and determine an identity of other local devices. The method includes transmitting electromagnetic signals from a first electronic device to find devices within a prescribed distance of the first device and receiving electromagnetic response signals from a second electronic device within the prescribed distance from the first electronic device.

The method also includes identifying the second electronic device using information received in the electromagnetic response signals. Additionally, the method includes determining if the second...

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Jun 30
Apple patent is for location-based 'smart'...

An Apple patent (number 20110162035) for a location-based dock for a computing device has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Designed for Apple laptops, the dock would dynamically change the interface and settings of a portable device for different activities like working or driving a car.

One particular implementation conforming to aspects of the present disclosure takes the form of docking station for a computing device that maintains an indication of a docking station location. The location of the docking station may be utilized by the docking station and/or the computing device coupled to the docking station to configure the functionality and other aspects of the computing device.

For example, the functionality of the computing device may be altered in response to the location of the docking station.
Additionally, security features, display configurations and the availability of software applications may also be configured in response to the...

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Jun 30
Greg's Bite: HP's New 'Me Too' Pad

By Greg Mills

Remember all the breathless "iPad killers" announced a year ago? Seems like it was over 100 different prototypes shown. Well, Apple's iPad is still over a year ahead of the strongest competitor and gaining traction in the market place. The problem for competitors is that the hardware of iPad is pretty awesome, and Apple has bought up so much of the touch screen production even finding parts to build competitive pads is hard.  

When you build a device you want uniformity in the parts to prevent problems in quality control and parts compatibility nightmares. When Apple buys up touch screens with cash a year in advance, manufacturers would be foolish to not play ball with them.  

Apple is either first or second in total electronic parts purchases around the world and approaching US$70 billion cash in the bank, so they call the shots on whatver they want to buy. They even loan money to touch screen manufacturers to build new plants to...

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Jun 30
U.S. CEOs like Apple products

Seems America's chief executive officers (CEOs) prefer Apple products when it comes to mobile and computing products. Among the various mobile communication and computing products/services surveyed in new research from Research and Markets (, 99% of U.S. CEOs use/own laptops/notebooks.

Almost half of CEOs have one or more tablet computers, although very few have more than two.The 10% of CEOs who own two or more tablet computers most frequently cite family needs as the reason for owning more than one. About 40% of CEOs have e-readers, or use tablets as e-readers.

Of these, almost all use them during resting time, but rather few use them while commuting. Compared to 2010, in 2011 the U.S. CEOs respondents perceive the smart phones as more of personal purpose phones and the standard feature phones, that are still owned/used, are perceived more as...

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Jun 29
Greg's Bite: The Final Cut Flap

By Greg Mills

Apple does so much right, it really takes a black eye when perceived to have screwed up. The new Final Cut software has been completely re-written and has some great new features, but lost some legacy features that avid video editing people miss.  

Note that the new Final Cut stands alone and isn't a replacement for the old Final Cut. When software titles are completely rewritten from the ground up, there may be changes in the basic architecture that make previous features obsolete or hard to reproduce right away.

I recall being flummoxed by iMovie 11 that, like the new Final Cut, abandoned familiar features and the look and feel of what was familiar in iMove. I ranted and criticized Apple roundly at the time. I left the new version on my hard drive and some months later found that a new USB Sony Camcorder worked with the newer version of iMovie when it didn't work with the old familiar version. I grumbled but learned the new...

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Jun 29
Final Cut Pro X -- meet The Cube, Mobile Me and Ping

On June 1 Apple announced Final Cut Pro X (, a new version of the company's professional video editing software. Based on the early reactions, it seems to have joined the Cube, Ping and MobileMe in a handful of company products that have been soundly blasted.

It seems that most video pros aren't happy with the software -- or at least how Apple has handled the whole product introduction. Apple blew it on this one, and needs to take steps to correct the situation. Pronto.

There's an online petition stating that, "Final Cut Pro X is not a professional application" ( As I wrote this, there were over 3,000 signatures.

First of all, Final Cut Pro X is a MAJOR change from its predecessors. That scares some people. But what really scares them is that Apple cancelled Final Cut Studio and pulled it...

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Jun 28
Apple patents involve iPhones, keyboards, more

Apple has been granted several patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Design patent D640,695 is for a keyboard -- more specifically, Apple's keyboard with a numeric pad. The inventors are Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Richard Howarth, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Calvin Seid, Vincent Keane, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent number 7,969,453 is for partial display updates in a windowing system using a programmable graphics processing unit. Techniques to generate partial display updates in a buffered window system in which arbitrary visual effects are permitted to any one or more windows (e.g., application-specific window buffers) are described. Once a display output region is identified for updating, the buffered window system is interrogated to determine which regions within each...

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Jun 27
An Apple version of Touch-to-Share would be sweet

I have to admit that I'm jealous of HP's Touch-to-Share technology. With it you can, for example,"bump" a paired Pre 3 into an HP TouchPad slate, and the data beams over the air. In other words, Touch-to-Share offers the capability for sharing web addresses between HP TouchPad and compatible webOS phones.

It's a feature I'd love to have on OS X and iOS. I'd love to be able to "grab" a contact or iMessage event on my iMac, drag it to an iOS device and have it show up there.

Combine this with a Citrix Receiver capability and you could have a huge AutoCAD simulation on your main computer. You could drag it to your iPad and have the full thing show up there complete with the ability to continue editing the simulation and/or watch it run even though it requires a lot more CPU power than the iPad (or any tablet) would have.

This would work because using the Citrix Receiver, the actual horsepower would come from the desktop. The iPad would just provide the user...

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Jun 27
Greg's Bite: revolutionary light field...

By Greg Mills

Photography has come a long way since the pioneer days of silver emulsion on glass plates. First came those antique box cameras and the flash powder photography where exposures were so long you could just about go to sleep before the picture was completely exposed. Don't blink!

Then photographic film came along, and chemicals were improved offering faster exposures for black-and-white pictures and increasingly fine detail. Then color film processing came on the scene. Kodak famously introduced the point-and-shoot camera and "snapshots" became the rage.  

Kodak got rich, and the film industry matured and was lulled to sleep until digital photography came on the scene a decade ago. Now, even cell phones have 8 to 10 
megapixel camera sensors with incredible color capable chips -- and they even record video.

Yet, even with modern self-focusing digital cameras, some legacy photographic boo-boos still occur. How many times...

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Jun 27
The 'Net evolves from online directories to...

Although the Internet entered the mainstream 15 years ago, life without it today is nearly incomprehensible, And our use of the web has rapidly changed as well, as shown by new data from the Flurry research group ( 

Flurry says that, in simple terms, the Internet has evolved from online directories (Yahoo!) to search engines (Google) and now to social media (Facebook).  Built on the desktop and notebook computer platform, the web’s popularity is significant.

Today, however, a new platform shift is taking place.  In 2011, for the first time, smartphone and tablet shipments exceed those of desktop and notebook shipments, says Flurry. This move means a new generation of consumers expects their smartphones and tablets to come with instant broadband connectively so they, too, can connect to the Internet.

In a new report, Flurry compared how daily interactive consumption has...

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Jun 24
iPhones, parenting and social media

By Andrew Eisner

A parent's job is never finished, especially when it comes to keeping up with the technology that children so easily seem to understand. If you're a parent today, chances are, you're well aware that your job has grown far beyond making sure homework is completed and everyone gets to school on time.

Today's parents have Facebook, Twitter and a whole new world of social tools to consider when it comes to raising their children and even getting some well-deserved socializing in for themselves, and leading the way in most digital activities are iPhone owning parents, or "iParents" as we affectionately call them.

In an effort to help parents understand what other parents are doing (and not doing) in the social space, Retrevo, a consumer electronics shopping and review site commissioned a Gadgetology study to look at the changing role of parents in this new age of technology.

iPhone parents collect more Facebook...

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Jun 24
Android more likely than the iPhone to develop...

In a big "oops" for the Android platform, a year-long study by WDS ( of more than 600,000 technical support calls has found that Android devices are more likely to develop a hardware fault than many of their smartphone competitors.

Fourteen percent of all technical support calls for Android devices related to hardware faults in contrast to just 3.7% for RIM BlackBerry, 8% for iPhones (iOS) and 9% for Windows Phone 7 devices, according to the wireless industry's provider of specialist managed services. The greater propensity for hardware faults is, says WDS, a symptom of the platform's fragmentation across a broad range of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Both Apple and RIM control their hardware ecosystems and Microsoft mandates minimum hardware specifications for Windows Phone deployments. In contrast, Android is widely deployed by more than 35 OEMs globally under an open source...

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Jun 23
Apple eyeing ways to tie media items with geographical...

Apple is working on even more ways to associate media content items with geographical data, per a new patent (number 20110148936) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to presenting digital media, for example, digital photographs, digital video, and the like.

Systems and techniques are disclosed for associating and presenting media content items with locations on a geographical track path. For example, the frames of a video segment can be associated with locations on a track path. The track path can be based on position data, including position coordinates and a corresponding time coordinates, obtained while the video frames were captured.

Locations for the video frames can be determined based on a start time of the video segment, a frame rate of the video segment, and the position data. The video segment can be displayed with user controls that enable a user to manipulate the frame of the video segment being displayed including a time indicator and a...

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Jun 23
Apple patent is for audio interface for iOS devices

An Apple patent (number 20110153044) for a directional audio interface for a portable media device has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves controlling iOS devices through an audio interface.

Methods and apparatus for a user to interact with and control a portable media device through an audio user interface are discolsed. The audio user interface includes one or more audible control nodes perceived by the user to be spatially located at different points about the user of the portable media device.

A sensor in the portable media device senses a movement of the portable media device by the user toward one or more of the audible control nodes. The operation of the portable device is modified in accordance with the sensed movement of the portable media device. Aram Lindahl and Richard Powell are the inventors.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The increased density and lower cost per Mbyte of storage media,...

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Jun 23
Apple patent hints at future Apple TV features

A new Apple patent (number 201110154200) for "enhancing media content with content-aware resources" has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It shows what Apple is considering for future versions of the Apple TV (or perhaps an Apple-branded television set, if you buy the latest rumors).

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "In the realm of computer software operating systems and application programs, light-weight, single-purpose applications referred to as 'widgets' or 'gadgets' have gained some prominence as useful resources with which users can interact to obtain information (e.g., weather, stock ticker values), perform a particular function (e.g., desktop calculator, web search interface) or interact with others (e.g., send messages back and forth among friends on a social networking website).

"Apple Inc., for example, provides an environment known as 'Dashboard' that enables users to choose from among a wide assortment of widgets,...

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Jun 23
An Apple-branded TV set? It might happen

Apple is reportedly teaming up with a "major" OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to make Apple-branded television sets, reports "DailyTech" (, quoting an unnamed "former Apple executive."

According to source Apple plans to "blow Netflix and all those other guys away" by bundling Apple TV + iTunes inside physical television sets. "You'll go into an Apple retail store and be able to walk out with a TV," the unnamed source reportedly told "DailyTech." "It's perfect."

I'm still dubious that Apple will make its own television sets -- but not as dubious as I once was. After all, Apple has conquered the smartphone, MP3 player and music fields. The Mac continues to grow in the computer industry. Apple is working on the ebook and e-magazine arenas. That leaves TV and console gaming as two markets left to take on. (The Apple TV has made some progress, but not enough.)

As "DailyTech...

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Jun 22
Let's add some premium audio to upcoming iMacs

This week Toshiba’s Digital Products Division (DPD) introduced the DX1215, the company’s first all-in-one PC. Forget some options I'm a bit jealous of (an HDMI port and optional TV tuner), there's one feature I REALLY wish Apple would add to the iMac: better speakers.

I haven't actually heard the DX1215's speakers, but they sound promising (pun intended). The Toshiba all-in-one has "a premium audio system with Onkyo stereo speakers professionally tuned by experts at Waves and featuring Waves MaxxAudio processors that provide users with unparalleled performance, delivering sound that is louder, clearer, fuller and more intelligible."

“We are honored to work with Toshiba to tune the audio system in its first All-in-One desktop for the U.S. market to create an impressive audio experience,” said Tomer Elbaz, general manager of Waves Semiconductor and Licensing Division. “Whether listening to music, watching a movie, playing a game or talking on Skype, users expect...

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Jun 21
Greg's Bite: RIM and Nokia death throes

By Greg Mills

All the major competitors to Apple's iOS platform are struggling right now, including Android. The almost laughable RIM PlayBook has been panned by just about every tech writer on the Internet and press.  

Stories of high return rates, furious customers and cell networks that won't even stock the darn thing are coming out every day. RIM stock prices are falling as the RIM market cap collapses to historic lows. Some have even speculated that Apple might buy RIM. I think Apple would be interested in RIM patents, once they fail, but would you buy a sinking ship? Why not just let it fail?  

I have read insider stories of RIM cramming stock down the supply chain to networks that can't sell PlayBook and aren't even satisfied with the technical issues of running the darn thing on their networks. One tech writer had RIM sample him a PlayBook on a loner basis, but then couldn't get RIM to tell him where to ship the darn thing back to them...

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Jun 21
Facebook could have a Ping killer in the works

Facebook, after consolidating its position in three major Internet sectors -- retailing, news and games -- is now getting serious about music and media, according to a "GigaOm" article ( And they could offer a "Ping" killer.

At The Cable Show held recently in Chicago, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts extolled the values of cloud-based services and explained why cloud-based guides and interfaces are going to be key to television’s future. He showed off a deep integration with Facebook that can make television more social with recommendations from your social graph, says "GigaOm." The article also expects FaceBook to offer more features for listening to music, sharing music and discussing music.

That sounds like Apple's Ping, doesn't it? In case you're not familiar with Ping, it was introduced with iTunes 10. It's a music-oriented social network for following your favorite artists and...

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Jun 21
Apple granted patents involving the iMac, iPhone,...

Apple has been granted several patents today by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 7,965,498 is for a cover glass to housing an interface system -- the iMac's edge-to-edge glass cover. Todd Gotham, Shin Nishibori, Christopher Stringer, Michael McBroom, Daniel McBroom, Brian Sudderth and John Ternus are the inventors.

Patent number 7,963,809 is for a MicroDVI connector which is probably the Mini DisplayPort. The inventors are Dave Hardell Glen Wheelock, Chris Ligtenberg, Steve Sfarzo, William Cornelius and Bartley Andre.

Patent number 7,966,578 is for a portable, multifunctional device, method and graphic user interface for translating displayed content. Think iPhone. Francisco Ryan Tolmasky, Richard Williamson, Chris Blumenberg, and Patrick Coffman are the inventors.

Patent number 7,966,577 is for a multimedia control center-- Front Row...

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Jun 20
iPhone Owners Ready For Mobile Wallet, Will Apple...

By Andrew Eisner

Despite the fact that Google was out in front of the pack with a mobile wallet announcement, a recent Pulse study from Retrevo, a shopping and review site specializing in consumer electronics, found that not only are iPhone owners more enthusiastic about a mobile wallet, but they want Apple to provide it.

What's NFC?

NFC, which stands for Near Field Communication, puts a chip in devices, like cell phones, that makes it possible to, not only use your phone to make purchases in a store, but ultimately replace a lot of other things you normally carry around in your wallet like a bus pass, library card, insurance cards, and lots of other things. The first major implementation of NFC in the U.S. will be primarily as a payment method when Google wallet roles out trials this summer in San Francisco and New York. The big question of whether or not Apple will put NFC in the rumored iPhone 4S remains unanswered and at...

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Facility 47 (Games)
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