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Oct 13
Greg's bite: It's an app world out there

By Greg Mills

My daughter loaded We Rule, the iOS game in which you manage a small kingdom including houses for the people, stores of all kinds, collect taxes, rents and grow crops to buy more infrastructure. The iPad was soon also loaded and I set up my own "kingdom" and have enjoyed planning my own community, as well.

The games are free but they try to sell you mojo to speed up the development and crops of your kingdom for those without patience. They sell mojo for real dollars on the iTune store. They also give you five mojo units if you download and open apps.

We Rule is cute and engaging, but little did I expect the NGMOCO company, that has my little kingdom on its servers, would be sold for US$400,000,000. Yep, I counted the zeros right twice. They sold out for $300 million cash boom and get another $100 million if the cash flow is according to expectations. Not bad for a company formed just a few years ago.

Apps are a growth...

| Read more »
Oct 13
The next iLife app: FaceTime iChat?

The online scuttlebutt says iLife 2011 is coming very soon, dropping iDVD and adding a new app. I think that's about right, and I think that new app may be a hybrid of FaceTime and iChat. (FaceChat? iTime? Naw, Apple will probably just call it FaceTime.)

In case you're not familiar with it, FaceTime is video calling that uses Wi-Fi. Apple says that using FaceTime is as easy as making a regular voice call, with no set-up required. On the iPhone 4 and fourth gen iPod touch, you can instantly switch to the rear camera to show others what you are seeing with just a tap.

FaceTime works right out of the box. You don't have to up a special account or screen name.If you want to start a video call with your best friend, find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if...

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Oct 12
Apple patents involve touch screens, iOS devices, more

Apple has been granted several patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Four involve touch screens and iOS devices, while three others are design wins.

Patent number 7,812,826 is for a portable electronic device with multi-touch input. Per the patent a portable communication device with multi-touch input detects one or more multi-touch contacts and motions and performs one or more operations on an object based on the one or more multi-touch contacts and/or motions. The object has a resolution that is less than a pre-determined threshold when the operation is performed on the object, and the object has a resolution that is greater than the pre-determined threshold at other times. The inventors are Bas Ording, Scott Forstall, Greg Christie, Stephen O. Lemay and Imran Chaudhri.

Patent number 7,812,827 is for a simultaneous sensing arrangement. Multi-touch touch-sensing devices and methods are described. The touch sensing devices...

| Read more »
Oct 12
Greg's Bite: Microsoft's greatest dud?

By Greg Mills

When one considers the potential for Microsoft to elbow their way into the smartphone market with their "late to the party" Mobile Vista 7, there are distinct categories of customers that have to buy it in significant numbers for the product to succeed. If we examine the smartphone market that exists today from the basis of a customer category analysis, the prospects are quite grim for Microsoft. Who is going to buy it?

While throwing half a billion dollars at advertising can sell Miss, Piggy as a ravishing beauty queen -- and that will work for a while -- but there is no amount of lipstick that can make her not a pig. She still stinks and oinks. and I think Mobile Vista 7 will oink like the Microsoft pig that it is. Developers and hardware companies alike might bank on the tons of short term money Microsoft is willing to risk to buy their way into the smartphone market they advocated to Apple and Google, but it might well be a major...

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Oct 12
Mobile malware exploits or Android/Symbian/Windows...

Two mobile security experts say that smartphone exploits are coming, as cybercriminals start to figure out how to make money by hacking mobile devices. But I think they're a bit off track.

Tim Armstrong, a malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based cyber security vendor, says security vendors have seen a huge increase in mobile attacks since late last year. Kaspersky Lab identified more than 1,550 mobile malware signatures in September, reports "InfoWorld" (http://www.infoworld.com/d/mobilize/mobile-malware-exploits-the-way-expe...).

Right now, Nokia's Symbian operating system, popular outside the United States, is the major target for mobile exploits, but Apple's iPhone and Android phones are likely to be growing targets,...

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Oct 11
Greg's bite: Vista Mobile 7, Microsoft dud

By Greg Mills

In the extremely high stakes competition in smart phone operating systems, Microsoft's new Mobile OS appears to be a stone loser. This is for a number of indisputable reasons.  

The expensive advertising program (rumored to be half a billion dollars) which will be launched soon, and the efforts of various hardware companies and cell phone carriers rallied to support Vista 7 are likely to be a doomed and completely wasted effort. This will certainly end Microsoft's presence in the mobile market, which includes both smart phones and slate computers.  

The future of computers is the smartphone and slate market, and everyone knows it. I think Microsoft is toast. Goldman Sachs already downgraded Microsoft stock to neutral, saying "the company needed to show some progress on mobile devices such as the smartphone and a device to compete with the iPad." Goldman analyst Sarah Friar wrote in her report, "The company needs an immediately...

| Read more »
Oct 11
People unhappy with TV services; Apple, here's...

If Apple wants to pull out its big guns and make a serious move with the Apple TV for the living room, here's their chance. Residential television service customers are notably less satisfied with the cost of service, compared with 2009, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Residential Television Service Satisfaction Study (http://www.JDPower.com).

Customer satisfaction with the cost of television service averages 541 on a 1,000-point scale in 2010, down 14 points from 555 in 2009. Customers of traditional cable providers are particularly dissatisfied with their cost of service. Satisfaction with fairness of prices paid among cable customers is 22% lower than among customers of telephone company providers (such as AT&T and Verizon) and 18% lower than among customers of satellite providers (such as DIRECTV and DISH).

"Despite this decline in satisfaction with cost of service, DVR...

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Oct 08
Greg's bite: iPad sales soar

By Greg Mills

Apple's iPad has seen faster acceptance in the main stream of electronic devices than anything else so to date, including regular DVD players made by a lot of companies. So much for the predictions iPad wouldn't sell -- as made by other well known tech company CEOs.  

The problem for the competition is that as far advanced as the iPad is, we are half way through the development cycle for the next version. If the iPad takes the same virtual yearly model cycle we have seen with other major Apple products, sometime in the spring Apple will announce the next iPad with a lot of the features most in demand, such as cameras. FaceTime is likely to be a feature, as well as a mini USB port. The iPad has the potential to be a phone with the FaceTime feature using an earphone with mic arrangement.

I am of the opinion the Hobby App creator program is coming very soon from Apple. We know Google is in beta on an Android App Inventor program soon...

| Read more »
Oct 08
Might Intel develop a tool to let iOS run on Macs?

Intel is developing a tool that will make it easier for developers to port iPhone applications to Intel-based smartphones, tablets and other devices, a company executive said Tuesday, reports the IDG News Service (http://www.macworld.com/article/154632/2010/10/intel_mobile_apps.html). Which makes me wonder: if Intel is doing this, could it and Apple also team up to run the iOS apps on the Intel chips used in Macs?

Most smartphones and tablets today run on Arm-based processors. The new Intel tool will identify changes that need to be made in an iPhone application, making it easier to convert the application to run on Intel-based hardware, says Doug Fisher, vice president of Intel’s Software and Services group and general manager of its Systems Software division, in an interview with IDG.

If Intel could do this...

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Oct 07
Apple patents range from offline storage to...

Five new patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Here's a summary of each.

Patent number 20100257215 is for configurable offline storage. A method and apparatus for a configurable offline data store are described. In one embodiment, the method includes receiving a request for a first set of one or more records from a client application, wherein the first set is remotely stored. The method further includes determining a second set of one or more records that is associated with the first set, wherein the second set is remotely stored. The method further includes fetching over a network the first set and the second set from a server data store unit; storing the first set and the second set in a client data store unit and providing access to the first set and the second set when the network is not operational. Bruce Gaya is the inventor.

Patent number 20100257179 involves methods and systems for managing data....

| Read more »
Oct 07
Another Apple patent hints at upcoming touchscreen...

An Apple patent (number 20100253638) -- which first appeared in 2009 -- underscores the fact that the company is working on touchscreen Macs. The patent, "Integrated Touch Sensitive Display Gate Driver," describes a circuit that would switch between display and touch modes, enabling and disabling an integrated touch sensitive display when necessary.

A gate driver circuit for switching gate line voltage supplies between display and touch modes is disclosed. The circuit can include one or more switches configured to switch one or more gate lines of an integrated touch sensitive display between a display mode and a touch mode. During touch mode, the circuit can be configured to switch the gate lines to connect to a more stable voltage supply. The circuit can also be configured to reduce or eliminate interference from the display circuitry to the touch circuitry that could affect touch sensing. During display mode, the circuit can be configured to switch the gate lines to...

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Oct 07
Greg's bite: assorted Apple news

By Greg Mills

Apple generally, has excellent customer service. I went to the local Apple store Wednesday morning and pulled out my 3GS iPhone that had been dropping a lot of calls. It is easy to blame AT&T, but I noticed my iPad regularly gets more bars than my iPhone in the same location.

The Genius I saw hooked up my iPhone to a MacBook Pro and ran a diagnostic program that had access to a log showing the dropped calls on a calendar. He offered to replace my iPhone, so I agreed gratefully. He synced it up with iTunes on his laptop and assigned it my phone number and faster than you can say "Windows sucks," I was up and running.  

I took the new iPhone home and used iTunes to load my photos, music and contacts to the new phone. I had two minor problems with the phone part of the device transfer as all my favorite phone numbers were lost so I had to redo that by  going through my entire contact list and reselect phone numbers to be on the...

| Read more »
Oct 07
Should Apple buy FLO TV?


Qualcomm (http://www.qualcomm.com) has stopped sales of all FLO TV (http://www.flotv.com) products with service to the devices being halted in spring of next year. Why? The company is reportedly holding talks with various other parties for use of the technology and services. So maybe Apple should buy FLO TV for use with its iOS devices and perhaps even the Mac.

The FLO TV service allows users to tune into mobile broadcasts while on the go. The service touts many of the largest networks including ABC, Fox, MTV, ESPN, NBC, TLC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, and many others. And that's a lot of channels not currently included on the Apple TV's offerings.

The MediaFLO services platform in the FLO TV enables the broadcast delivery of mobile entertainment and information to the mass market. In addition to live mobile TV, the MediaFLO platform supports...

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Oct 06
Greg's bite: Apple tech, new or not

By Greg Mills

The press is reporting a monstrous patent case in Federal Court in the state of Texas that went against Apple for the "Cover Flow" way of rolling images across the display, as seem in the album art display in iTunes and elsewhere in the Mac OS.  

While the judgement likely means at the end of it all, Apple may well have to pay some amount of money, the current US$600,000,000 judgement will not likely stand. Frankly, so many patents on computer graphical interfaces have been written it staggers the mind to thing much could really be novel anymore.  

As an inventor with about 10 issued patents to my name, I am very familiar with the flawed US Patent system. You love it and hate it at the same time. Ironically, yesterday the patent office issued a new patent to Apple for some aspects of Cover Flow. I have not read the patents involved so this article is more related  to the issues of tech innovation in general that that case in...

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Oct 06
Apple files patent for ambidextrous mouse

An Apple patent (number 7,808,479) for an ambidextrous mouse has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The ambidextrous mouse is configured for both left and right handed use.

The mouse may include right handed buttons on the front side of the mouse and left handed buttons on the back side of the mouse. The user may change the handedness of the mouse by rotating the mouse about a vertical axis of the mouse such that the left hand can use the left hand buttons and the right hand can use the right hand buttons.

The mouse may include a handedness selection system for configuring the mouse for right handed or left handed use even though the mouse has the capability for both right and left hands. The inventors are Steve Hotelling and Brian Huppi.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Most computer systems, as for example general purpose computers such as portable computers and desktop computers, receive input from a user via an input...

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Oct 06
Don't count out the Mac as part of Apple's...

This week Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities issued an in-depth 85-page note on Apple, saying the company will continue to grow, grow, grow -- and don't count out the Mac as part of that growth.

"We believe Apple is still in the early stages of capitalizing on the trend toward a digital lifestyle, while transforming itself to seize large opportunities in the enterprise market, advertising (i.e. mobile, TV, etc.), "cloud computing and social networking," White wrote.

He mainly talks about the iPad, which is taking the world by storm. But the iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, etc., are actually offshoots of the personal computer and even run a variant of Mac OS X. But they still need a computer to anchor them -- and the best choice is the Mac, which will remain the center of Apple's digital lifestyle focus.

In 2008, Forrester Research predicted that Apple would become the hub of the digital home by 2013. The research firm said that Apple had completely remade itself...

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Oct 05
Apple wins patents for Time Machine, Cover Flow,...

Apple has won patents from the US Patent & Trademark Office for Time Machine, Cover Flow and the Mighty Mouse.

Patent number 7,809,688 is for managing backup of content (Time Machine). Systems and methods for generating incremental backups are provided. In one implementation a method is provided. The method includes receiving, while a current view is displayed in a user interface, a first user input requesting that a history view associated with the current view be displayed. The history view is displayed in response to the first user input, the history view including at least a first visual representation of an earlier version of the current view, the earlier version including a first element. A second user input is received while the history view is displayed. The second user input requests that the current view be modified according to the earlier version, at least with regard to the first element. The inventors are Pavel Cisler, Steve Ko, Kevin Tiene...

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Oct 05
Greg's bite: Windows 7 Mobile, LOL

By Greg Mills

Microsoft is at it again, breathlessly planning to underwhelm us with "me too" tooo late to be relevant software. They are planning to spend millions advertising their new smartphone software.  

If Windows Mobile was so darn good why did Microsoft "miss a generation" in the smartphone market as Ballmer put it? I can well remember three of four years ago turning down a nearly new "smartphone" my cousin offered me at a cut rate price, because he reluctantly admitted it was running Microsoft Mobile OS.  He is on his second or third generation of the iPhone now and never looked back. His old Microsoft infested smart phones are gathering dust, since he couldn't even give them away. 

Now the Redmond gang that can't shoot straight, the folks who launched Windows Vista, Ken, Zune and a slew of other much less than stellar products, wants another shot at "killing" the iPhone. Yeah, right. If I remember correctly, Microsoft killed their own...

| Read more »
Oct 05
Rumors say we'll be bidding goodbye to iDVD...

A new book listing on Amazon’s German web site appeared yesterday and offered some details off the next version of Apple’s iLife suite, which will reportedly arrive this month or next. And apparently iLife '11 will continue to show Apple's disdain of physical media by dropping iDVD.

Could it be that the giant server site that Apple is building in Maiden, North Carolina, will be the replacement for iDVD? Rather than burning DVDs Apple may want us to send movies to the cloud from which they can be accessed almost anywhere.

I still maintain that there's lots of us folks who would rather have physical media than our stuff stored in the cloud. Or at least in addition to cloud storage.

Also, per various reports, iLife ’11 will be 64-bit and will integrate iPhoto more closely with social networks. iWeb, Apple’s web site building app, will be “completely rewritten” and a new unnamed application will make its debut with the new version, according to reports.

| Read more »
Oct 04
Digital games continue to grow in popularity

In what has to be great news for Apple's iDevices (and, yes, also the Mac), PlayFirst, a publisher of interactive entertainment, and Frank N. Magid Associates, a market research and consulting firm, has released the results of the first comprehensive study of digital game play behavior across the three major platforms for casual gamers: social networks, mobile, and computer games.

The proprietary national study reveals that two thirds of American adults play some type of digital game, and one out of three regularly play casual games on social networks, smartphones, or computer platforms. Additionally, among game players, nearly 80% of those 18-34 play casual games regularly and fully 80% say they enjoy playing games more than watching movies, listening to music, and reading books, newspapers, or magazines.

The research group says that gaming is a cross-generational, cross-platform activity that’s ubiquitous, yet requires unique and targeted experiences to be...

| Read more »
Oct 04
Greg's bite: hands on with the Apple TV

By Greg Mills

FedEx delivered my Apple TV device Friday. It was such a small package it sort of surprised me.  When when the packaging came off it was even smaller than I had even first thought. Slickly packaged in the typical Apple retail box, the cord, remote controller and instructions were artfully packed.  

Note that this is the 187th remote control in this house. Due to controller command conflicts with my great but discontinued Apple HiFi sound system, I had to put some black electrical tape over the window air conditioner's RF eye. Remote controllers reproduce like rabbits around here.  Turning the sound system on and off with the remote used to also turn the window air conditioner on and off as well. Reminds me of a time in my youth when I installed a radio in my cousin's car and turning the radio on also opened the passenger window. Oops, I guess I drilled a hole into a hidden wiring harness.   

It was a snap to hook the Apple TV up...

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Oct 01
Greg's bite: Building a house upon the sand

By Greg Mills

The Stuxnet worm news continues to resonate around the world regarding the malware that hides in Microsoft Windows operating systems and is still infecting industrial control systems. As civilians, this seems a bit out of our area of concern, until we really understand the implications and solutions.  

Most of us can agree that the nuclear reactor and uranium enrichment facilities in Iran that is being targeted represents a serious threat to the free world. However, the "blowback" from this attack may be unexpected catastrophic manmade industrial disasters down the line. Most experts think the target of Stuxnet has already been hit, and we are now seeing the collateral damage. We do know there was some sort of "accident" that hit the uranium enrichment facility that the Iranians are not talking about.

We live in a world infrastructure operated by countless computer systems. These control systems operate the valves and switches...

| Read more »
Oct 01
Maybe next iMac will see updated speakers, tweaked...

While we're waiting for the next rev of the iMac -- which should be next spring or summer if Apple maintains its usual update schedule -- I'm happy to speculate about what features I'd like. And, no, I'm not going to reiterate my plea for Blu-ray playback (well, okay, just briefly -- please, Steve). Instead I'd like to call for improved speakers and an even better display.

The downward firing speakers in the all-in-one iMac are decent 2.1 speakers. However, Apple could do better. I don't really like comparing a Mac to a PC, but I think Acer may be onto something with the audio system in its new Aspire AZ3100-U3072 -- is that a boring moniker or what? -- which sports high-def 5.1 channel audio and a display with true 1080p resolution.

The Acer system is only US$599. Surely, those are features that Apple can add to a machine that costs more (but is certainly worth the moolah).

Or consider the The Wind Top AE2420 3D from MSi, which delivers 2.1 channel surround sound...

| Read more »
Sep 30
Apple patents involve camera flashes, backlights, more

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

Patent number 20100238344 is for an electronic device having a camera flash redirector. An electronic camera device has an imaging sensor to capture an image of a scene, a flash to illuminate the scene for capture by the sensor, and an evaluator to detect a condition in the scene. A redirector shifts the peak of a spatial energy profile of light from the flash. The peak is shifted from being aimed at one region in the scene to being aimed at another region in the scene, in response to the evaluator having detected the condition in the scene. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. The inventor is Richard Tsai.

Patent number 20100244701 involves temperature based, white point control in backlights. Systems, methods, and devices are provided for maintaining a target white point on a light emitting diode based backlight...

| Read more »
Sep 30
Apple wants to beef up audio system for the iPhone

An Apple patent (20100246855) for a dynamic audio parameter adjustment using touch sensing has appeared at the US Patent and Trademark Office for . It describes a new audio sensory system for iOS devices -- or at least the iPhone.

An audio communications device has a handset in which a touch sensing ear piece region is coupled to an acoustic leakage analyzer. The acoustic leakage analyzer is to analyze signals from the touch sensing ear piece region and on that basis adjust an audio processing parameter. The latter configures an audio processor which generates an audio receiver input signal for the device. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. The inventor is Shaohai Chen.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "People have long been accustomed to making telephone calls using a handset whose earpiece portion the user typically presses up against her ear (in order to better hear the voice of the other party.) As mobile phones became...

| Read more »
 
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