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Dec 10
What are your favorite Apple-related products of 2010?

Apple has placed three products -- the iPad, the iPhone 4, the 11-inch MacBook Air and the Apple TV -- in TIME's "Best of 2010" list. So what do you think are the best Apple-related products of the year?

I'll be running a list of my favorite hardware and software in this daily blog on Thursday, Dec. 30. And I'd like to know what you, "MacNews" and "MacTech" readers, think are the best of the best. Send me your favorites at dsellers@applecentral.com .

-- Dennis Sellers

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Dec 09
Apple patents reflect upcoming Mac App Store

Three Apple patents have popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office regarding the upcoming Mac App Store.

Craig Federighi, vice president of engineering for OS X, demoed Lion at the Back to the Mac event in October. The Mac App Store brings the Apple App Store experience to Mac OS X, making discovering, installing and updating Mac apps easier than ever, he said. Like on the iPad, you purchase apps using your iTunes account and they download and install in just one step. The Mac App Store will be available for Mac OS X 10.6, and will be built into next year's Mac OS X Lion.

Patent number 20100312966 involves secure software installation. Embodiments of the present disclosure provide methods and systems for securely installing software on a computing device, such as a mobile device. In one embodiment, the device executes an installer that securely installs the software. In order to perform installations securely, the installer configures one or...

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Dec 09
Apple patents involve Lion's Launchpad, further...

Two Apple patents (20100313156 and 20100313165) regarding an user interface for multiple regions have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. They involve the Launchpad feature in the upcoming Mac OS X Lion -- and perhaps future tweaks to the Expose feature in Mac OS X.

Launchpad is designed to make it easier than ever to find and launch any app. Similar to the Home screen on iPad, you can see all the apps on your Mac displayed just by clicking the Launchpad icon in the dock. Apps can be organized in any order or grouped into folders, and you can swipe through multiple pages of apps to find the one you want.

User interfaces for multiple display regions are described. One embodiment provides an array of non-overlapping windows that are created from a set of overlapping windows, and a user can select one of the non-overlapping windows to obtain an enlarged view of that selected window while keeping the other windows in their non-overlapping state.

In...

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Dec 09
Apple looking to improve interaction between iOS...

Two new Apple patents (number 20100312932 and 20100312931) at the US Patent & Trademark Office show that Apple is working to make it easier to connect iOS devices to peripherals. The patents relate to connector interfaces and more particularly to a connector interface system that's utilized in conjunction with media players and their accessories.

The patent are for an interface and protocol to allow a media player to communicate with external accessories over a transport link. The protocol includes a core protocol functionality and a number of accessory lingoes. Examples of accessory lingoes include a microphone lingo, a simple remote lingo, a display remote lingo, an RF transmitter lingo, and an extended interface lingo.

The inventors on both patents are Emily C. Schubert, Wang Chun Leung, Gregory T. Lydon, Scott Krueger, Paul Holden, John Archibald, Lawrence G. Bolton, Donald J. Novotney, John B. Filson and David Tupman.

A media player stores media...

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Dec 09
Apple may beef up speech recognition on future iPhones

Apple is considering beefing up contextual voice commands and speech recognition on future iPhones. A patent (number 20100312547) at the US Patent & Trademark Office is for contextual voice commands and involves speech recognition.

Among other things, techniques and systems are disclosed for implementing contextual voice commands. On a device, a data item in a first context is displayed. On the device, a physical input selecting the displayed data item in the first context is received. On the device, a voice input that relates the selected data item to an operation in a second context is received. The operation is performed on the selected data item in the second context. The inventors are Marcel Van Os, Gregory Novick and Scott Herz.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Speech recognition can be used to convert spoken words to machine-readable input, such as key presses, using the binary code for a string of character codes. Typical speech...

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Dec 09
Apple: don't even think of abusing that device

Apple plans on making sure you pay if you abuse your Apple product -- then want a refund. A new patent (number 20100312920) at the US Patent & Trademark Office is for a consumer abuse detection system and method.

Embodiments disclosed in the patent provide systems, devices, and methods for detecting the occurrence of consumer abuse events in electronic devices. In one embodiment, a system includes one or more sensors coupled to an abuse detection sub-system for detecting the occurrence of an abuse event, wherein upon detecting an abuse event, a record of the abuse event is stored by the abuse detection sub-system.

The system further provides a communication interface configured to provide a first mode of diagnostic communication and a second mode of non-diagnostic communication through a common input/output port. When using a diagnostic device, the diagnostic mode of communication may be enabled, thus allowing the diagnostic device to access consumer abuse event...

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Dec 09
Apple patents range from geography detection to...

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

Patent number 20100312519 is for automatically identifying geographic direction. Automatically identifying a geographic direction (e.g., a heading relative to true north) is disclosed. Responsive to a correction trigger event, geographic position data that identifies a geographic position of the device can be obtained. A magnetic declination based on the geographic position data can be obtained. A magnetic heading of the device can be obtained. A geographic direction based on the magnetic heading and the magnetic declination can be identified without user intervention. The inventors are Ronald Keryuan Huang and Patrick Piemonte.

Patent number 20100312510 involves dynamic compass calibration in a portable device. Per the patent, the magnitude of a sensed, raw magnetic field in a portable device is monitored over a given time...

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Dec 09
Time for a free MobileMe

It's time for Apple to offer its MobileMe suite of Internet services for free -- and, along the way, make the experience of using it better.

In fact, offering a free version of MobileMe -- which is now $99 per year -- may be part of what's coming when Apple opens its ginormous new data center in North Carolina. Apple excels in many ways, but have a way to go to match other cloud services.

I'm not sure how many folks subscribe to MobileMe, but I doubt that Apple's making a bundle off the Internet suite. But offering it for free would be a nice enticement in luring more users to the Mac experience. After all, one big advantage is that you can use MobileMe to automatically syncs your email, contacts, and calendars over the air across all your devices. Heck, if Apple made it possible to sync iWork docs in the same way, that would also be a boon for iWork sales on the Mac OS X and iOS platforms.

There's no evidence that MobileMe has been a big success. If Apple made...

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Dec 09
Greg's bite: the evolving face of computing

By Greg Mills
I found an interesting illustration on an Australian news web site that says a lot. While the story was about Chrome, the unreleased beta of the new web-based Google OS, it foreshadows a three-way platform race that Microsoft has baldly bungled. Apple has eaten away at the numbers and Chrome threatens to do more of the the same, as Microsoft repeatedly strikes out when trying to expand beyond the Windows PC OS monopoly.  

When you have absolute monopoly numbers -- north of 90% in computers worldwide -- that run your OS by default, it is hard work to screw up so badly competitors beat you at every turn.   Steve Ballmer has been able to do it. Ballmer, as the face of Microsoft, has certainly been a distraction at a minimum -- and has overseen a disaster, financially. Microsoft has lost half its market cap since January 2000 when Bill Gates retired to spend his money. Had Ballmer also hung up his "gone fishing" sign in 2000, would things...

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Dec 08
Greg's bite: WiKileaks, Googlization, Android...

By Greg Mills

WiKileaks. Sometimes I go awhile between hearing from readers, then hit a nerve, and get email either agreeing or disagreeing with what I have written. As could be anticipated, WiKileaks got some reader feedback. It was thoughtful and well written, but I am still of the opinion that for government to work it needs some ability to have a dialogue with various points of view not anticipating ideas or comments floated to be the fodder of headlines in the newspapers of the world.

The notion of the right of the people to know everything is wrong, in my opinion. Our national security requires the ability of the government to maintain secrets. The asses at WiKileaks are not qualified to know what unanticipated consequences might be the result of the massive amount of information leaked. Actually, the issues are not so much liberal vs conservative but anarchy vs cohesive government. Do I think the government can be fully trusted...

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Dec 08
Should the iPad count as a mobile computer? Yes!

Recently, "ZDNet" asked, "Should the iPad count as a mobile PC? And I say "certainly."

After all, DisplaySearch rightfully put the Apple tablet in the computerC category with its Monday release of the "Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report "(http://www.displaysearch.com/cps/rde/xchg/displaysearch/hs.xsl/101206_ip...). Do so and Apple is the number one personal computer maker in the U.S. and number three globally.

“A lack of competitive tablet PC products from other brands continues to drive Apple’s market share in the mobile PC segment," says Chris Connery, vice president of Large Format Displays at DisplaySearch.

Why shouldn't the iPad be...

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Dec 07
Apple looks at ways to improve air cooling on Macs

Apple is eyeing ways to improve air cooling techniques for its computers, including the Mac Pro. An Apple patent (number 7849302) for an apparatus for air cooling has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

An apparatus for air-cooling an electronic device is disclosed in the patent. A contoured panel channels a flow of air within the housing of an electronic device so as to channel the flow of air more directly over heat producing elements such as the microprocessor and peripheral cards. A sensor can also be employed to determine whether the panel is present and properly placed. If not, measures can be taken to reduce the heat generated by the heat producing elements. For example, a warning can be displayed, or the microprocessor can be instructed to enter sleep mode. Steven Holmes and Douglas L. Heirich are the inventors.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "As electronic devices increase in processing power and speed, their processors...

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Dec 07
Apple granted patents for iPod dock, MacBook Air, more

Apple has been granted several patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office, including design patents for the iPad dock, MacBook Air and multi-touch technology. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 7848527 is for dynamic power management in a portable media delivery system. Per the patent, a consumer electronic product (e.g., a portable media player ported to a media delivery accessory) is powered by a limited capacity DC power source (such as a battery or mini-fuel cell). The consumer electronic product limits the maximum allowable sound pressure level (SPL) that can be produced by the speakers. In one embodiment, the maximum allowable SPL is based upon an amount of stored energy available in the limited capacity DC power source. The inventors are Jesse L. Dorogusker, Donald J. Novotney, Scott Krueger, Robert Michelet and Jeffrey Allan Hammerstrom.

Patent number 7849141 involves training a computer storage system for...

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Dec 07
Expect to see Sandy Bridge Macs by spring

I'll be very surprised if we don't see a Sandy Bridge-based Mac by spring. I suspect it will be iMac -- with MacBook Pro and Mac Pro versions to follow. The question is: what new features will Apple introduce with the processor, which offers some intriguing possibilities?

Intel purportedly plans to introduced its next-generation processors during a Jan. 5 keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show. According to an invitation sent to the press, Intel PC Client Group general manager Mooly Eden will show off the new processors, which will include the "world's fastest processor." The new processors are expected to replace the Nehalem line of chips currently used in Apple's Core i5 and i7-equipped iMacs and MacBook Pros. Six and eight-core chips will also follow later in 2011.

Desktop chips will reported range from dual 2.5GHz Core i3s to quad 3.4GHz Core i7s. Regular notebook should be able to get dual 2.5GHz to 2.7GHz Core i5 and i7 chips in the first batch of processors,...

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Dec 07
Greg's bite: WiKiLeaks threaten us all

By Greg Mills

The recent leak of a considerable cache of secret diplomatic cables underlines a significant issue that will have a profound effect upon us all.

To add insult to injury, the criminal mastermind behind all this has threatened to unleash even more secret information that is already downloaded but sealed with 256-bit encryption. That massive file only needs a key posted on the internet for thousands of copies of this new, and according to him, damaging information to also be released.  

The Googlistic notion that everything written ought to be posted on line certainly has limits even in a democratic society. There are certainly embarrassing things every government does that might need to see the light of day but the ass behind Wikileaks is not qualified to make that determination. The liberal slant that makes it wrong to go to war over any justification leads to movements like Hitler led in WW2. As the English philosopher Edmund...

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Dec 06
Greg's bite: Motorola's Android Droid 2...

By Greg Mills

A Texas man claims his Android phone exploded in his ear. The guy claims he was just talking on the phone -- and boom! Some smart phone models are duds, and some brands bomb out in the market place, but this is a first.   

Incredibly, the phone still works, which leads to the question what part blew up? Normally, when an electronic device explodes, it is a battery that overheats due to a dead short and the gasses expand the metal case of the battery until it explodes or just oozes lithium paste out. The explosion of an electronic device is not the sort of giant fire bomb where a car is thrown up into the air with a flash of billowing flame and smoke, like you see on TV, but you don't want to have it happen in your ear. Aron Embry of Cedar Hill, Texas. says there was a loud pop on his Android phone, and he discovered later his ear was bleeding. He went to the ER and got patched up.  Motorola is investigating, but hadn't...

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Dec 06
Study: US pay-TV subscribers want universal access

TelcoTV 2010, a video conference and expo focused on the US service provider market, has published a study titled "Telco TV Customers: How Keen on Multiscreen?," which explores US pay-TV subscribers' attitudes and usage of mobile and online video, and revealed important conclusions about multiplatform TV services. And it makes you wonder if there aren't some great opportunities for the Apple TV and Apple's upcoming data center in North Carolina.

"The survey found that a number of pay-TV subscribers were interested in accessing TV shows from anywhere in the world via a computer or mobile device, even if they had to pay a monthly fee of $10 per month for this capability," says TelecoTV in the study. "The survey also found that out-of-home access to TV services was an important criterion for some subscribers when selecting their pay-TV provider."

The annual study of US pay-TV subscribers was conducted by Heavy Reading (...

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Dec 03
Companies that Apple might buy (but probably won'...

Apple has over $50 billion in cash. CEO Steve Jobs has said the dough is available should Apple decide to make any "strategic purchases." So what companies might be a good "strategy purpose" for our favorite tech company? Yesterday we looked at Netflix; today we'll consider AMD.

There are some good reasons why Apple might consider scooping up AMD. Analyst Rob Enderle says Apple could want the company for its Fusion technology, which will be the first blended high performance GPU/CPU part. Enderle notes that Jobs already values the graphics side of his platform more than the number crunching side and this would give him exclusive access to the only blended part in the market -- and one that particularly favors Apple’s graphics intensive platforms.

"While Apple has never been a fan of AMD, they actually liked and used ATI a great deal and the idea of getting out from under Intel is likely appealing to them as well," says Enderle. "Apple likes its suppliers to jump to...

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Dec 03
Companies that Apple might buy (but probably won'...

Apple has over $50 billion in cash. CEO Steve Jobs has said the dough is available should Apple decide to make any "strategic purchases." So what companies might be a good "strategy purpose" for our favorite tech company? Yesterday we looked at Netflix; today we'll consider AMD.

There are some good reasons why Apple might consider scooping up AMD. Analyst Rob Enderle says Apple could want the company for its Fusion technology, which will be the first blended high performance GPU/CPU part. Enderle notes that Jobs already values the graphics side of his platform more than the number crunching side and this would give him exclusive access to the only blended part in the market -- and one that particularly favors Apple’s graphics intensive platforms.

"While Apple has never been a fan of AMD, they actually liked and used ATI a great deal and the idea of getting out from under Intel is likely appealing to them as well," says Enderle. "Apple likes its suppliers to jump to...

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Dec 02
Apple working on phyics-based graphic user interface

Future Apple operating systems may be even more "animated," based on some work Apple is doing. An Apple patent (number 20100306680) for a framework for designing a physics-based graphic user interface has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

A graphics development framework for designing physics-based graphical user interfaces is described. According to one embodiment, visually linkable patches are displayed in a first window of a graphics development framework, where the patches represent a graphics composition which when rendered, animate a physical movement of a graphics object of the physics-based graphical user interface.

A feedback patch is displayed to visually provide a feedback from an output of the composition to an input of the composition, such that a subsequent physical movement of the graphics object is determined based on a previous physical movement of the graphics object, without requiring a user to program source code of the displayed...

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Dec 02
Future Mac keyboards may be illuminated, more colorful

Apple is eyeing ways to make its Mac keyboards more colorful and more informative. A company patent (number 20100306683) for user interface behaviors for an input device with individually controlled illuminated input elements has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Methods and apparatuses are disclosed that provide user interface behaviors for input devices with individually controlled illuminated input elements. Some embodiments may include receiving a request for input device lighting from a program, determining illumination information for light sources coupled to input elements of an input device based on the request, and dynamically controlling illumination of the light sources based on the illumination information.

The illumination information may include brightness, color, and/or duration. The input device may constitute a keyboard with individually controlled illuminated keys. In some embodiments, the illumination may present information...

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Dec 02
Apple wants you to iCruise with your iOS device

Apple wants you to iCruise with your iOS device. A patent (number 20100306075) for systems and methods for accessing cruise services using a portable device has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent is directed to systems and methods for accessing cruise services using a single, integrated application available to a portable electronic device. Through the integrated application, a user can access and control cruise services throughout all aspects of the cruise experience, including before booking a cruise, before boarding a cruise, while on the cruise ship, when a cruise ship is docked at a port, and after the cruise has finished.

In some embodiments, the integrated application can provide the user with notifications of available cruise activities. For example, unsold cruise activities for cruise activities that can be purchased can be identified. The user can then be provided with a notification of the unsold cruise activity, provided with an...

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Dec 02
Greg's bite: iPad Folder Bug, NetFlix, iPhone,...

By Greg Mills

iOS 4.2.1 folder bugApple is working on recreating the iOS 4.2.1 disappearing folder bug. The bug has been reported to me by six readers, so far.  

The steps that may or may not result in the folders disappearing are.  

° Load the new iPad iOS 4.2.1 on to your iPad.

° Sort apps into folders  

° Download app updates to some apps in folders over Wi-Fi before syncing iPad with iTunes.  

° All Folders disappear and apps are spread out randomly.  

I was contacted yesterday by Apple and can thus confirm they are now aware of the problem and hopefully will fix it with the iPad iOS release scheduled for mid-December. Apple does a great job of fixing issues like this that aren't dangerous but a nuisance. 

NetFlix has grown to the point it consumes 15% to 20% of the Internet bandwidth in many locations in the US. Those of us with unlimited data plans may find caps put on...

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Dec 02
Apple patent is for magnetic connector with optical...

Apple may revamp -- or perhaps replace -- its MagSafe connector for its laptop line. An Apple patent (number 7841776) for a magnetic connector with optical signal path has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

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 of the patent are John C. Difonzo, Chris Ligtenberg and Michael Culbert.

Here's Apple's...

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Dec 02
Apple patents range from image selection to card...

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

Patent number 20100306684 is for a graphical representation of out-of-bound image selection. The patent is directed to differentiating between portions of a selection area that are within the boundary of displayed information and portions of the selection area that are beyond the boundary of the displayed information. In some embodiments, the graphical representation of the selection area can change based on the position of the selection area relative to the boundary of the displayed information.

In particular, the representation of portions or regions of the selection area that are within the boundary of the displayed information can be different than the representation of the portions or regions of the selection area that extend beyond the boundary of the displayed information. For example, the electronic device can provide different fills...

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