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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...

| Read more »
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 (http://macte.ch/CM8j6). 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...

| Read more »
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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Jun 20
Do you care about live video streaming on your iOS...

Do you watch live TV on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad? One research group is dubious that many of us do.

Eager to fend off the threats of non-traditional distribution platforms such as Hulu and Netflix and remain relevant, US pay TV providers have recently begun launching their own iPad apps -- allowing subscribers to access their recorded and video-on-demand content from a tablet device.

This move hasn't exactly been welcomed by content creators, and the well-publicized battle between Time Warner Cable and Viacom appears likely to be decided in the courts. However, a recent report by Strategy Analytics (http://www.strategyanalytics.com) indicates that the debate might be nothing more than a distraction.

Central to the current dispute is the live video streaming feature, enabling subscribers to view live real-time content on a mobile device -- just as if they were...

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Jun 17
Could iMessage be a Growl substitute?

iOS 5, when it arrives this fall, will sport iMessages. Could it also be a Growl replacement of sorts?

As described by Apple, iMessage is a new messaging service for iOS 5 users. You'll purportedly be able to send unlimited text messages via Wi-Fi or 3G from your iOS device to anyone with an iDevice.

iMessage is built into the Messages app, so you can send text, photos, videos, locations and contacts. You can do group messaging. You can track your messages with delivery receipts and optional read receipts, see when someone's typing and encrypt text messages.

Obviously, iMessages is set to take on Blackberry's BBM. But what about Growl? It's a notification system for Mac OS X that allows applications that support Growl to send you notifications.

Growl is something that has filled a hole in notifications on the Mac for a long time. Will the aforementioned mentioned features be flexible enough to allow developers to replace Growl with them? After all, iOS...

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Jun 16
Apple working on new social networking app

An Apple patent (number 20110142016) at the US Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on a new social app. The patent is for methods, program products, and systems for ad hoc networking based on content and location are described.

A user of a mobile device can identify another user using another mobile device who is close by, if both users have requested to participate in networking. Common interests and experiences of two or more users located close to each other can be identified from content, including automatically created usage data of the mobile devices. Usage data of a mobile device can be created based on activities performed on the mobile device (e.g., songs downloaded), a trajectory of the mobile device (e.g., places traveled), or other public data available from the mobile device (e.g., pictures shared).

Each of the users can be notified that another user having the common interests and experiences is close by. A means of initiating...

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Jun 16
Apple wants to use face detection to stabilize chat...

According to a new Apple patent (number 20110141219) at the US Patent & Trademark Office the company is working on a way to use face detection as a metric to stabilize video during a video chat session.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Many handheld wireless communication devices that are in use today provide video capturing capabilities. An example of such a handheld wireless communication device ("device") is a mobile phone that includes a digital camera for capturing still images and videos. With such a device, a user can record a video or conduct a live video chat session with a far-end user.

"During a video chat session, the image of the user (typically, the face of the user) is captured by the camera of a near-end device, and then transmitted over the wireless network to a far-end device. The far-end device then displays the image on its screen. At the same time, the image of the far-end user (typically, the face of the far-end user...

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Jun 16
Comic books and the iPad could be match made in heaven

Recently, DC Comics announced that on Aug. 31 it will launch a "historic renumbering" of the entire DC Universe line of comic books with 52 first issues -- and that digital versions will appear alongside print versions.

The roll-out will start with release of "Justice League" by writer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee. The publication of "Justice League" #1 will launch day-and-date digital publishing for all these ongoing titles, making DC Comics the first of the two major American publishers to release all of its superhero comic book titles digitally the same day as in print.

I have to think that DC is eyeing the iPad as the main focus of its digital publishing effort. Other devices will also figure into the equation, but the Apple tablet and comic books could be a match made in heaven.

I grew up reading comic books. Since I was a kid who worked (summers mainly at my Dad's sawmill), I had...

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Jun 16
Future Apple products could incorporate flame...

An Apple patent (number 20110144244) for halogen-free, flame retardant material has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that shows what future Mac and iOS products could be made of -- at least in part.

The disclosure describes halogen free flame retardant resin compositions comprising at least one thermoplastic polymer; an inorganic filler; and a flame retardant additive, wherein the flame retardant additive is an alkali metal nitrite; an alkaline earth metal nitrite; an alkali metal nitride; an alkaline earth metal nitride; an alkali metal borate; an alkaline earth metal borate; an alkali metal silicide; an alkaline earth metal silicide; an alkali metal silicate; or an alkaline earth metal silicate. Also described are computing systems having components formed of such a halogen free, flame retardant resin. Jean L. Lee is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background of the invention: "It has been estimated that about 10% of fires are caused by electrical...

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Jun 16
Apple eyeing ways to beef up wireless communication...

Apple is looking into ways of improving the robustness of a wireless communication link, according to a new patent (number 20110143805) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The patent is for a method and apparatus to improve the robustness of a wireless communication link between a base station and a mobile communication device.

The method increases power selectively on portions of an uplink communication signal transmitted from the mobile communication device to the base station. The method monitors a quality metric value at the mobile communication device and sets the transmit power level of the first portion of an uplink communication signal to the first power level, if the monitored quality metric value is in a first range of quality values, or sets the transmit power level of the first portion of the uplink communication signal to a second power level, if the monitored quality metric value is in a second range of quality values.

The first portion of the...

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Jun 15
Add Faces and Places features to OS X Address Book

Have you ever wondered why the OS X Address Book doesn't have a Faces and/or Places feature like iPhone? Also, why isn't it linked to iPhoto?

Wouldn't it be great to see the current group on a map with pins to show where people in your Address Book reside? Or to be able to click on a link in Address Book and have it take you to iPhoto to show that person's photos?

Finally, where is iWork '11? I thought it would have debuted by now. Perhaps Apple will release it along with Mac OS X Lion next month. Or perhaps I should say "them" instead of "it," as I suspect Pages, Keynote and Numbers will sold as separate items from now on -- and will available only on the Mac App Store.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jun 14
Apple patent is for custom content gift cards

An Apple patent (number 7,959,065) for custom content gift cards has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It's for a customized gift card and methods for customizing the gift card with buyer-selected downloadable content.

Per the patent, a buyer may associate pre-purchased downloadable content with a gift card such that the card is “preloaded” for a recipient. The recipient may then redeem the customized gift card and download or access the pre-purchased content. The customized gift card may also include a buyer-selected image and/or personalized message on the face of the card. Alternatively, the customized gift card may have a generic design.

Various methods are provided for producing the cards and selecting the downloadable content, including purchasing the card online and having it delivered; buying a generic card and associating content with it online; and purchasing and preloading the card at a dispenser, or kiosk. The inventors are Michael...

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Jun 14
iWork and iCloud could be best buddies

I know of a few folks that hope that iWork will go the way of MobileMe and simply become part of Apple's upcoming iCloud service. I wouldn't mind an iCloud tie-in, but I don't want iWork apps to be "just" cloud-based apps; I still want copies of the software and the documents I produce on all my hardware.

That said, it would be great if iWork gets a real on-line collaborative component (or equivalent) that will make it a real small business and student targeted competitor to Google Docs. Perhaps a finalized, mature, iCloud-integrated version of the iWork.com service that's been in beta for about 100 years. Combined with free e-mail (.me and .mac), that would be a sweet public response to Google's Android.

Sure, the iAd thing was a shot at Google, but the general public doesn't really care about that. Public perception will be impacted more with real alternatives to things they see as useful to them -- e-mail, documents, calendars, etc.

-- Dennis Sellers

| Read more »
Jun 14
Apple patents involve antennas, camera flashes, more

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

Patent number 7,961,151 is for antennas for compact portable wireless devices and involves the technology behind the Nike + iPod program that includes a special transceiver that embedded in a running shoe. Shu-Li Wang, Juan Zavala, and Christopher Prest are the inventors.

Per the patent, the compact portable wireless device may be part of a piece of sports equipment. A compact portable wireless device may include a transceiver module that is used in communicating with equipment such as a handheld electronic device. An antenna for a compact portable wireless device can have a relatively small size while exhibiting high efficiency. A planar ground structure for the antenna may be formed from a circuit board on which integrated circuits have been mounted. A curved inverted-F resonating element may be attached to the ground structure. A battery...

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Jun 13
Greg's Bite: Apple obsoletes entire market...

By Greg Mills

I read an interesting story about the most damaged industrial sectors in the US economy. While Apple's name wasn't mentioned, several sectors in decline are either directly falling victim to decline because of Apple's business -- or Apple represents the possible salvation of those businesses.

The market research company IBISWorld did a study of the 200 market sectors in the US that had seen the most decline in the past 10 years, and then compiled a worst of the worst preforming sectors. Among the 10 greatest economic disaster zones are: record retailers, wired communications carriers, newspaper publishers, DVD game and video store rentals, video post-production companies and photo finishers.

Thus, 60% of the worst preforming market sectors are directly related to Apple.  While these sector companies are failing across the United States, Apple is thriving. What is going on here?

Record companies are going under since they...

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Jun 13
WWDC musings: I want iBooks on my Mac

It annoys me that I can't read my iBooks on my OS X devices. But unless I missed something in the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 6, that still won't be possible with Mac OS X Lion.

During the keynote, Apple bragged about the number of books that have been downloaded since the the iBookstore opened: about 130 million. iBooks, along with other digital content, will be able to be stored online via the upcoming iCloud service.

iCloud will let you download your iBooks to any device, but you can only read them via the iBooks app. And there's no Mac OS X version of the app.

Apple needs to change this. They may prefer that we read our ebooks and e-magazines on our iPads, but some of us want to be able to read e-publications on our Macs. In fact, a recent Forrester survey found that laptops are still the most-used device for doing so.

So, c'mon, Apple show the Mac some iBook love.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jun 13
Greg's Bite: the difference in opt-ing in and opt...

By Greg Mills

Personally, I don't do FaceBook.  However, my wife does FB and loves it.  Therefore, privacy issues in FaceBook's new geotagging pictures with names using facial recognition software residing on FaceBook servers, affects me as well as her.  Since I tend to show up in the pictures she posts on line, my pictures are included quite often.  

Someone on FaceBook can geotag pictures associating names with what were posted as anonymous pictures, and suddenly pictures have your name emblazoned on them.  This is done without your consent, soon name-tagged pictures will pop up anywhere on the net beyond your control.  Not everyone will like that idea.

FaceBook will soon recognize you, by default, on any of the anonymous millions of pictures found globally on FaceBook servers.  How do you opt out of that?  Some 200 million pictures a day go on line at that site.  

While FaceBook plans to ask the account holder if it is okay to tag...

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Jun 10
Greg's Bite: Apple roadkill

By Greg Mills

The press is full of interesting stories of Apple's roadkill this week. Leading the long list of the serially flummoxed is RIM, which has continued to lose market share and stock value due to stumbling about the market with lackluster products.  

One tech product reviewer likened the RIM PlayBook to a venereal disease. No one wants it. He has tried to return a loaner PlayBook he was asked to review by RIM, without success. In his words, "It (the PlayBook) is the herpes of tablets -- once you have it, you can't get rid of it."

He speculates that they don't even want that PlayBook at RIM's headquarters. The dual headed CEO situation at RIM is sort of like a troll, I guess. RIM has recently lost one-third of its value. Management at RIM places the blame squarely at the feet of Steve Jobs. They don't think Steve is a nice man. He ruined their thriving BlackBerry business. The truth is that, RIM has squandered its business due to not...

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Jun 10
WWDC musings: the Lion download only strategy

Apparently, Mac OS X Lion will be available via download only at the Mac App Store. I don't think that's a good idea for a variety of reasons.

What if you have slow online access? Apparently, Steve Jobs & Company think that everyone lives in an urban environment and has high-speed Internet access. That's not the case. According to the latest figures from the Office of Planning, Environment & Reality (HEP), approximately 21% of US citizens still live in areas with under 2,500 in population. That's one-fifth of Americans who conceivably may have trouble downloading Lion.

Apple may argue that they can go to the nearest Apple retail store or Apple dealer and download it there. Sure, but that's not nearly as convenient as ordering it on DVD and having it delivered to your door.

What if I want to do a clean install? How do I do that with a downloadable OS update (and apparently you have to be running Snow Leopard to install Lion)? Also, if your hard drive won...

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Jun 09
Greg's Bite: security breaches as a way of life?

By Greg Mills

CitiBank has just admitted it had 200,000 credit card accounts breeched early in May. It took them a long time to admit it and even now, they are keeping details about exactly what was compromised a secret.  

Confirming what was stolen is a problem for the pubic relations reputation of the company, and it confirms to the hackers exactly what they got. Citi has admitted they got account numbers, names, and contact information.  

With that information it is possible to charge against those accounts to the full extent of the credit lines. Those accounts can now be sold to unscrupulous individuals who will do just that.  

What is going on here? The list of hacked computer systems lately is like a who's who of American business and government. CitiBank, Google's GMail, Sony PlayStation and even the US Government have all been hacked recently. Insecure data storage is actually often because of lapses in the computer systems of...

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Jun 09
Apple looks to simplify displaying, navigating items...

Apple is looking at simpler ways to display and navigate items in a ordered list per a patent (number 20110138330) for the display of relational datasets has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. This could apply to both Mac OS X and iOS devices.

Displaying and navigating items in an ordered list within a graphical user interface for viewing and utilizing the data are disclosed. An ordered list of data items can be used to generate an icon that represents the contents of the list. The icon can comprise images that best represent the items in the ordered list by choosing images associated with the highest ranked items in the ordered list.

When the ordered list is selected by selecting the icon with a pointing device or keyboard the icon transforms to display an image of a currently selected data item with navigational controls. The navigational controls can receive inputs from a pointing device or keyboard to allow a user to navigate or browse through the...

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Jun 09
Future iOS devices could contain magnetometers

An Apple patent (number 20110131825) for magnetometer accuracy and use has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Future iOS devices could contain magnetometers.

According to the patent, a parameter related to the Earth's magnetic field can be used to determine accuracy of a magnetometer of a mobile device. In one aspect, a first instance of a parameter related to Earth's magnetic field is determined using data generated by the magnetometer. The magnetometer data can be based in part on a position of the mobile device with respect to the Earth. A second instance of the parameter can be determined using data generated by a model of Earth's magnetic field.

The model data can also be based in part on the position of the mobile device with respect to the Earth. The first instance of the parameter can be compared with the second instance of the parameter. An accuracy metric for the magnetometer can be determined based on a result of the comparison. An...

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Jun 09
Apple patent involves image processing

An Apple patent (number 20110135011) for adaptive dithering during image processing has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Systems and method are provided for adjusting certain pixel values in an image.

In an embodiment of the invention, an average pixel value of pixels at given distances from a selected pixel are examined to determine if the pixel is in a high-contrast area. If the pixel is in a smooth color gradient transition area, the pixel value may be adjusted in some embodiments using an additional dither or dither pattern to reduce differences between the pixel values of the selected pixel and the additional average pixel values exceeding the lower threshold. The inventors are Alex Eddy and Nick Burns.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "When image data, such as data representing a photograph, picture, or video, is processed electronically by a computing device, the device may not be able to display the original image with...

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