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Jan 06
Five innovations that will change our lives: saving...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Here's the third part of our look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

While you may not be a physicist, you are a walking sensor. In five years, sensors in your phone, your car, your wallet and even your tweets will collect data that will give scientists a real-time picture of your environment, according to IBM. You'll be able to contribute this data to fight global warming, save endangered species or track invasive plants or animals that threaten ecosystems around the world.

In the next five years, a whole class of "citizen scientists" will emerge, using simple sensors that already exist to...

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Jan 05
Greg's bite: no smart phone privacy in California...

By Greg Mills

In a stunning setback for Constitutional privacy rights regarding the contents of smart phones, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that if you are arrested on any charge and happen to have your smart phone on you, the police have the right to see and copy everything on it.  

Further, the contents of your phone may be used against you in a court of law, even if unrelated to the original charge they bust you on. All this without a warrant or probable cause. Business information, normally held secret, is also affected at this time.

While I believe in the necessity of the police being able to search a person they arrest to make sure they don't have a weapon on them, the notion that the incredible amount of personal data found on a modern cell phone suddenly and automatically belongs to the State, without probable cause and without a warrant, is counter to the Constitutional notion of a warrant being required...

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Jan 05
Five innovations that will change our lives, part two...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Here's the second part of our look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Ever wish you could make your laptop battery last all day without needing a charge? Or what about a cell phone that powers up by being carried in your pocket? In the next five years, scientific advances in transistors and battery technology will allow your devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today. Can you image an iPhone, iPod touch and iPad with that sort of potential?

Better yet, in some cases, batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices. Instead of the heavy lithium-ion batteries used today,...

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Jan 04
Patent hints at 'cable/satellite' box...

An Apple patent (number 7865927) at the US Patent & Trademark Office for enhancing media system metadata hints at what could be the future of the Apple TV -- or perhaps an Apple TV successor -- that involves implementing "cable/satellite box" features.

Systems and methods for providing enhanced metadata to a user. Systems and methods can include extraction of data from metadata and searching for related metadata based upon the the extracted data. The inventors are Rainer Brodersen, Rachel Claire Goldeen, Mihnea Calin Pacurariu and Jeffrey Ma.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Historically, video content for television was free broadcast video content. The revenue model for content providers was to sell advertising during the free broadcast content. The advent of cable television systems has significantly changed the business mode for content providers in many instances. For example, content providers such as Home Box Office (HBO), available...

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Jan 04
Apple granted iChat patents

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office for its iChat audio and video conferencing app. Patent number 7,864,209 is for audio processing in a multi-participant conference.

Some embodiments provide an architecture for establishing multi-participant audio conferences over a computer network. This architecture has a central distributor that receives audio signals from one or more participants. The central distributor mixes the received signals and transmits them back to participants. In some embodiments, the central distributor eliminates echo by removing each participant's audio signal from the mixed signal that the central distributor sends to the particular participant. Hyeonkuk Jeong and Ryan Salsbury are the inventors.

Patent number 7,865,834 involves a multi-way video conference user interface. A videoconferencing application includes a user interface that provides multiple participant panels, each of which is displayed with...

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Jan 04
Apple wins patent for Cinema Display design

Apple has won a patent for the design of its Cinema Display and for displaying structured electronic documents by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The Cinema Display is, of course, Apple's standalone monitor, now available only in a 27-inch size. The inventors on its design patent are listed as Bartley K. Andre, Daniel J. Coster, Daniele De Iluiis, Evans Hankey, Richard P. Howarth, Jonathan P. Ive, Duncan Robert Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Douglas B. Satzger, Christopher J. Stringer, Eugene Antony Whange and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent number 7864163 is for a portable electronic device (namely, the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad), method and graphical user interface for displaying structured electronic documents. It involves acomputer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable electronic device with a touch screen display, comprises displaying at least a portion of a structured electronic document on the touch screen display, wherein...

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Jan 04
Greg's bite: CES, iPhone EKG, MalcrosoftTV?

By Greg Mills

While I took an EMT-1 course, some years ago, I have never worked a single day as a paramedic. I thought it would be cool to be able to deliver babies or restart someone's heart if the emergency situation ever came up.  

My wife, being a nurse, and I talk a bit about medical care issues around here. My wife was blown away when I told her about a new iPhone app that converts an iPhone into an EKG device with an added $100 attachment mounted on the back of the iPhone. The iPhone is held against the chest and run an electro cardiogram test on the person's heart. The iPhone can then email the EKG trace to your doctor, who can look at it on his iPhone, iPad or computer.  See http://alivecor.com/ .

What a neat solution for people with heart issues that need monitoring. The phrase, "there's an app for that" never ceases to amaze. The wisdom of setting up...

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Jan 04
Five innovations that will change our lives, part one...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Let's look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Innovation one: you'll beam up your friends in 3D. In the next five years, 3D interfaces -- like those in the movies -- will let you interact with 3D holograms of your friends in real time. Movies and TVs are already moving to 3D, and as 3D and holographic cameras get more sophisticated and miniaturized to fit into cell phones, you will be able to interact with photos, browse the web and chat with your friends in entirely new ways.

Scientists are working to improve video chat to become holography chat -- or "3D telepresence." The technique uses light...

| Read more »
Jan 03
Greg's bite: CES, iPad killers galore? Not!

By Greg Mills

The annual CES event begins this week in Las Vegas and, by some counts, as many as 40 to 80 iPad want to be devices are slated to be shown off.  Many of them are just concept prototypes, not even close to products ready to ship.  

The usual knockoff artists are showing the predictable "me too" products. Microsoft, will again show off slate format PCs that just don't get it as to what an iPad sort of device ought to be.  Running any flavor of Windows is a battery killer and results in a sluggish device due to a lousy user interface not really designed for touch screens.

Even Visio is launching a slate type computer running the Android OS. They hope to ship actual products this summer. Due to catching the entire PC industry sleeping at the switch, as they try to catch up with iPad 1, Apple is busy behind the scenes ramping up production of iPad 2. The entire year of not having any competition in the hottest product...

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Jan 03
Online gaming will be a $20 billion business in 2012

Driven by North American, European and Asia Pacific markets, online gaming continues its steady growth and the latest study from ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com) forecasts revenues of slightly more than $20 billion in 2012. Technology developments will mean new opportunities for connected devices beyond the computer.

The Asia-Pac region, especially China, will be the engine behind much of this growth. However, in China, due to generally lower levels of personal computer ownership, the business models are evolving a little differently. According to industry analyst Michael Inouye, “World of Warcraft, for instance, generates significant revenue for Activision in Europe and North America on a subscription basis. But in China, despite a large ‘subscriber’ base, the revenues are far smaller: it's more of a pay-as-you-go model (prepaid game cards). This also creates a greater reliance on ‘cloud’...

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Dec 30
Crystal ball gazing: my 2010 predictions

Once again I'm gazing into my crystal ball to foresee what I see coming from Apple in the year ahead. Just remember: this is all for fun and I have no insider info, so these predictions are based on nothing but my experience and gut feelings.

Prediction one: The iPhone will come to Verizon at long last. Yes, it will actually happen by March.

Prediction 2: The second gen iPad will appear before the end of March. It will have a camera for FaceTiming, but NOT a second camera for taking photos; as svelte as it is, the iPad is too bulky to use as a camera. Speaking of size, there'll be no 7-inch iPad. The 9.7-inch version will sport a slightly tweaked form factor and a micro-USB slot. There may be a 128GB version (at least I'm hoping so).

Prediction 3: The iPod line-up will be overhauled in the second or third quarter. At long last the classic will disappear from the line-up. I also think the shuffle will vanish...

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Dec 30
Apple patent is for portable power source

Apple may be considering making its own portable power supplies. An company patent (number 20100327664) for a portable power source to provide power to an electronic device via an interface has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to portable power sources and, in particular, relates to a portable power source operable to selectively provide power to a device connected to an interface of the portable power source.

The portable power source cooperates and communicates with the electronic device via a peripheral bus to which the electronic device is attachable. The portable power source includes circuitry to process a power request signal from the electronic device to determine whether a device connected to a bus interface of the portable power source is requesting power from the portable power source. The inventors are David John Tupman, Doug M. Farrar, Joseph R. Fisher Jr., Jesse L. Dorogusker and Donald J. Novotney.

Here's Apple's background...

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Dec 30
Apple's online stores to get Ping-y?

Ping on iTunes hasn't exactly set the world ablaze, but Apple seems to be considering a similar feature for its online stores. An Apple patent (number 20100332283) for social networking in shopping environments has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

This is directed to a system and method for providing social networking services using a portable electronic device. In some embodiments, a user may identify one or more articles of interest and transmit identifying information for the articles to mobile or other devices of the user's friends. The user's friends can review the identified articles, and provide comments for the user.

For example, the user's friends can give a thumbs up/down, a star rating, a comment (e.g., text, audio or video), or any other type of comment. In some embodiments, the user can request the assistance of a salesperson using the social networking application device, for example to request recommended articles based on a...

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Dec 30
Apple patents involve track file data, virtual...

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

Patent number 20100332124 involves analyzing and consolidating track file data. Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on computer storage media, are disclosed for track simplification and correction. In one aspect, a track data set having track points defining a course can be accessed and inaccurate track points and incorrect track points can be identified, wherein identifying inaccurate track points includes comparing, for one or more of the track points, a dilution of precision (DOP) value associated with the track point to a DOP threshold, and identifying incorrect track points includes performing an error correction process.

Also, a corrected track can be generated by removing identified inaccurate track points and incorrect track points from the track data set. Further, identifying an inaccurate track point...

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Dec 30
Apple patent is for playback control using a touch...

You can already use your iOS devices as remote controls for certain gadgets. And a new Apple patent (number 20100328224) at the US Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple wants to beef up these functions even more.

The patent is directed to controlling media playback based on particular touch gestures detected by a touch-sensing interface. The electronic device can identify particular touch inputs, such as combinations of tapping and holding a touch sensitive surface, or circular motions. In response to detecting a particular touch gesture, the electronic device can perform a playback operation specifically associated with the detected touch gesture. To provide a consistent user interface with the device, some of the particular touch gestures can match other inputs provided using a button, for example a button integrated on a wired headset. In such an embodiment, the same combination of tapping and holding a touch input and pressing and holding a button can control...

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Dec 30
My 2010 predictions -- how I'd do?

A year ago I made my predictions for what Apple would do in 2010. So let's see how effective I was.

First prediction: By spring we'll see new versions of iLife and iWork, which will probably be dubbed iLife X and iWork X instead of iLife '10 and iWork '10.

The truth: iLife wasn't introduced until October -- and it was dubbed iLife '11, not iLife X. iWork '11/X never showed up.

Second prediction: iWork.com will come out of beta and Apple will promote it heavily along with iWork. iWork is a service Apple is developing to share iWork ’09 documents online. Using your Apple ID, just click the iWork.com icon in the Keynote, Pages or Numbers toolbar to upload your document and invite others to view it online. Viewers can provide comments and notes, and download a copy of your document in iWork, Microsoft Office or PDF formats. A consolidated online list of all your shared documents indicates when your viewers have posted comments...

| Read more »
Dec 29
Greg's bite: Apple TV vs NetFlix numbers

By Greg Mills

Apple TV numbers vs NetFlix: Gleacher & Co. analyst Brian Marshall estimated Apple is streaming magnitude of 500,000 TV shows and movies combined each day.  He estimates NetFlix streams 5.1 million programs a day.  

The difference is in the "go to market" plan which is charged per download with Apple and "all you can eat" with NetFlix. As I have mentioned in previous articles, the NetFlix plan makes a lot more sense than the Apple plan. Marshall extrapolates that Apple might see revenue of just over US$100 million per quarter, while NetFlix will see revenue of $550 million. The DVD in the mail from NetFlix is being phased out, so soon both companies will be strictly streaming content.  

Some have speculated that NetFlix's greatest asset is its smooth "DVD in the mail system" using the US Post Office. I can testify DVDs going both ways through the mail come as fast as the bills do. When NetFlix goes strictly...

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Dec 29
The Northern Spy: combatting spam

By Rick Sutcliffe

Spam is used either as a noun to refer to unsolicited bulk email, or as a verb to refer to the act of sending same. There are two categories of spam -- the difference depending on whether or not the mail has a commercial or monetary aspect;that is, the sender is attempting to obtain money from the recipients for a service, product, or cause.

There may or may not also be a fraudulent aspect to the spam -- generally one should expect that those who engage in one unethical activity would challenged where the truth is concerned as well. For instance, non-commercial spam is frequently sent to argue for or against some cause, and may be abusive of the recipient, or of some identifiable group or organization to which the recipient may be supposed to belong. Sometimes it's even a one-time friend or former fellow member of some organization who is now prosecuting a vendetta in semi-public fashion.

But no matter what the motivation for...

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Dec 29
Mac App Store a good idea -- but we don't need a...

I'm looking forward to the Mac App Store when it debuts next week. But I'm also hoping it doesn't become the only -- or even the main -- source of software for the Mac.

The Mac App Store will launch on Jan. 6 for Mac OS X 10.6 ("Snow Leopard") and will be built into next summer's Mac OS X Lion. By bringing the Apple App Store experience to Mac OS X, the Mac App Store makes discovering, installing and updating Mac apps easier than ever, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The Mac App Store will be available in 90 countries at launch and will feature paid and free apps in categories like Education, Games, Graphics & Design, Lifestyle, Productivity and Utilities.

Purchased apps can run on all of your personal Macs and updates are delivered directly through the Mac App Store. so it will be able to keep all of your apps up-to-date. For users who need consumer level apps and don't want to have to deal with DMG files, update notifications, etc., this will be a great thing...

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Dec 28
Apple patent is for 'touchless' touch...

An Apple patent (number 7,859,521) for an integrated touch screen has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. And it shows that Apple is at least considering "touchless" touch screen interfaces for some devices -- including Macs.

The patent relates generally to displays including display pixel stackups, and more particularly to touch sensing circuitry integrated into the display pixel stackup of a display. Per the patent, displays with touch sensing circuitry integrated into the display pixel stackup are provided.

Circuit elements, such as touch signal lines, such as drive lines and sense lines, grounding regions, in the display pixel stackups can be grouped together to form touch sensing circuitry that senses a touch on or near the display. An integrated touch screen can include multi-function circuit elements that can operate as circuitry of the display system to generate an image on the display, and can also form part of a touch sensing system that...

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Dec 28
Apple granted patents for Time Machine technology

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office involving its Time Machine backup and restoration technology in Mac OS X.

Patent number 7856424 is for an user interface for backup management. ystems and methods for providing a user interface including earlier versions of data are disclosed.

In one implementation, computer program product is provided. The computer program product generates a user interface. The user interface includes a view display area for presenting a current view and a history view display area for presenting a history view associated with the current view. The history view includes one or more first visual representations of corresponding earlier versions of the current view. The user interface also includes an input control for initiating a restoration of the current view according to at least a portion of an earlier version of the one or more earlier versions.

Here's Apple's background on the...

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Dec 28
Looking at the evolution of the digital home

Think the race for connected TV gadgets is crowded now? Think Blu-ray is doomed (as Apple CEO Steve Jobs seems to think). Perhaps you should think again.

In 2011, Facebook and other companies may join Apple, Google and Microsoft in the cloud TV arena. What's more, the Strategy Analytics research group (http://www.strategyanalytics.com) notes that Apple’s iTunes will enter its second decade with challenges ahead, and Nintendo will have to decide what to do about the decline of the Wii. Social networks will pass one billion users, $10 billion will be spent on Blu-ray discs, and more than 500 million connected TV devices will be in use. Revenues from tablets will exceed netbooks, but on the downside, only 20% of 3DTV owners will be watching 3D content.

“2011 promises to be another exciting year in the evolution of the digital home,” says David Mercer, principal analyst, Strategy...

| Read more »
Dec 28
Apple wins patent involving video sequence technology

Apple has won a patent (number 7,856,059) from the US Patent & Trademark Office involving determining the number of unidirectional and bidirectional motion compensated frames to be encoded for a video sequence and detecting scene cuts in the video sequence.

Methods for processing a set of successive video frames in two passes to determine the number of bidirectional (B) and unidirectional (P) motion compensated frames to be encoded in a video coding system. During the first pass, motion vectors and motion costs are computed for each frame and a derived cost value is computed based on the motion cost of at least one frame.

The derived cost value is used to determine the number (N.sub.B) of B-frames to be encoded in the set of successive frames. In the second pass, the set of successive frames are encoded where N.sub.B frames are encoded as B-frames and some or all motion vectors computed in the first pass are re-used in the second pass. A scene cut detection...

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Dec 27
Greg's bite: iPad cannibalism?

By Greg Mills

I am amused to read the ravings of clueless tech sorts like the court jester of high tech writers Dvorak, who are normally so very wrong about Apple and its products. A lot of PC minions are clamoring for news that iPad is cannibalizing Macs sales. That does not seem to be supported by the numbers. Mac, iPhones and iPads are all flying off the shelf.  

There is one sort of cannibalism I can relate to. Some of the time I would have spent on-line with my MacBook Pro I spend on my iPad these days. Since I have an iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro, sometimes there is a certain calculous in my mind as I reach for one of them sitting on my desk to browse or do a certain task. There is a lot of truth to the statement that the Mac is for creating content and the iPad is for consuming content. The iPhone is for web content and a phone that fits in your pocket.

There are people who can clearly get by with just an iPad who might have popped for a...

| Read more »
Dec 23
Upcoming iPhones could place antenna behind the Apple...

An upcoming iPhone could place the antenna behind the Apple logo, based on a new patent (number 20100321253) for a dielectric window antenna for electronic devices at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, logo antennas are provided for electronic devices such as portable computers. An electronic device may have a housing with conductive housing walls. A logo antenna may be formed from an antenna resonating element such as a patch antenna resonating element, a monopole antenna resonating element, or other antenna resonating element structure. A conductive cavity may be placed behind the antenna resonating element.

A dielectric antenna window that serves as a logo may be used to cover the antenna resonating element. The dielectric antenna window may be mounted in an opening in the conductive housing walls. A positive antenna feed terminal may be coupled to the antenna resonating element. A ground antenna feed terminal may be coupled to the cavity and...

| Read more »
 
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