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May 12
Apple planning nicer media-rich invitations on mobile...

An Apple patent (number 20110113089) for delivering media rich invitation content on mobile devices has popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves the provisioning of invitational content, and more specifically to providing media-rich-invitational content -- including advertisements, on mobile devices from within mobile applications.

Per the patent, the technology relates to providing invitational content having enhanced content and capabilities to make the invitational content more engaging and useful for users. Specifically, the invitational content can be configured to call on and utilize core operating system functions, additional web content, and other mobile device applications. The inventors are Eswar Priyadarshan and Ravikiran Chittari.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The use of mobile phones in the United States and around the world has increased dramatically. It is projected that soon the number of mobile phone...

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May 12
Apple eyeing more adjustments presets for digital...

An Apple patent (number 201101113361) involving adjustment presets for digital images at the US Patent & Trademark Office indicates that Apple plans to beef up (even more) the digital editing features in apps like iPhoto, Aperture ad perhaps iMovie. It relates to previewing and applying adjustment presets to digital images.

Per the patent, processes and systems are presented, for previewing and applying adjustment presets to digital images. The disclosed processes enable a user to preview selected adjustment presets before applying the previewed adjustment presets to the digital image. One or more preview image frames to display the effect of corresponding one or more adjustment presets applied to the digital image can be presented to the user simultaneously with the original (i.e., un-adjusted) digital image. The inventors are Nikhil Bhatt, Mark Lee Kawano and Blake Seely.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Image processing applications...

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May 12
Apple patent is for advanced keyboard with air-based...

An Apple patent (number 20110107958) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office for a keyboard with advanced sensors, an air-based feedback and tactile feedback features.

The patent describes input devices for processor-based systems, including computing systems, to provide enhanced user experience. The described systems provide tactile sensations providing feedback to a user. In some systems, feedback is provided before actual contact with the key expelling air from the input device proximate the key when user selection is imminent. In other examples, the tactile sensation results from automatic movement of the key in response to detected user selection of the key. The inventors are Aleksandar Pance, Michael Sinclair and Brett Bilbrey.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present disclosure generally relates to input devices and methods of their operation, and more particularly, to input devices for computing systems, and methods...

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May 12
Greg's Bite: controlling your own hardware

By Greg Mills

When you buy a TV set, you expect to be able to tune it in to any channel you want to view. Certainly, that right to view content is based upon either getting your signal over the air (which is really a declining market) or by cable. You wouldn't expect the manufacturer of the TV to electronically reach out and disable some feature of your TV set. Most TVs don't require system updates and all the capacities of the device are hardwired in.  

When you buy a computer, smartphone or tablet computer the arm of the manufacturer is much longer. System updates allow features to be added and killed when you accept the updated operating system. Changes can be minor, such as the software fix allowing iPad to use the slider switch to either lock the screen into landscape or portrait format or mute the sound. One expects changes in the device when you choose to update the OS.

Some Internet TV sets are beginning to bridge the gap and are...

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May 12
Sounds like Apple may beef up its audio offering

In recent weeks, rumor has it that Apple has hired Tomlinson Holman to run the company's audio initiatives. Apple hasn't confirmed it, but that makes sense. It could tie into the company's speech recognition plans (see yesterday's op-ed), improve iTunes files, or result in better speakers on Apple products.

Holman is an American film theorist, audio engineer, and inventor of film technologies, notably the Lucasfilm THX sound system. He developed the world's first 10.2 sound system. Earlier, Holman developed what was known as the Holman Preamplifier, for the Apt Corporation. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Holman is currently a professor at the University of Southern California; he holds an Academy Award for technical achievement and an IEEE Masaru Ibuka Award. Holman is also the holder of 7 U.S. patents, and 16 patents in other countries, as well as the author of several books on audio.

He certainly sounds...

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May 12
Apple patent involves adjusting time metadata of...

An Apple patent (number 20110109769) for adjusting the time metadata of digital media items has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The invention involves editing digital media items, for example, based on the metadata associated with the digital media items.

The patent is for methods, apparatuses, and systems for adjusting time metadata of digital media items. A digital image captured at a location is associated with a time of capture and a location of capture. It is determined that a time of capture of the digital image is in a preset time zone that is different from a time zone of the location.

In response to the determining, multiple locations are provided, each being associated with a respective time zone including a time zone of the location. A selection of a location is received and the time of capture is adjusted based on a time zone associated with the selected location. The inventors are Nikhil Bhatt and Alexander David Wallace.

Here'...

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May 12
Greg's Bite: the FEMA 'PLAN,'...

By Greg Mills

Heros of our privacy in the USA, like Senator Al Franken, put Apple and Google on the hot spot for surreptitiously tracking smart phones.

With this secret assault upon our location privacy still simmering in the news,  FEMA has pushed the FCC to add a "special" chip to all smart phones, to enable the US government to alert us with text like messages. The alerts are local and all the big cell phone networks are on board. Adding another set of initials to our vocabulary, "PLAN" is short for Personal Localized Alerting Network.

The chip is mandatory on cell phones coming out next year and hooks up with GPS. It is unknown at this time what security issues are involved and how this is all going to shake out.  The cell phone emergency notification PLAN is expected to have Presidential level alerts that are not to be user disabled. Local emergency alerts and Amber alerts may be turned off as the PLAN exists now. The alerts will produce a...

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May 11
Listen up, Apple is eyeing the future of voice...

"TechCrunch" (http://macte.ch/UNEAw) is reporting that Apple is hammering out a deal with Nuance, which specializes in speech software and voice recognition technology, to either license its technology or (less likely) buy the company outright. It's a match that makes sense.

After all, Apple introduced voice control on the iPhone with iOS 3.0. The company is likely planning on extending this functionality -- and perhaps bringing voice recognition to the Mac in ways beyond what's been accomplished before.

According to "The Next Web" (http://macte.ch/Dfd7f), Siri uses Nuance to do the "heavy lifting" of processing speech into data. It then interprets and uses that data in interesting ways -- like firing up an app, writing a text message or checking email.

"TechCrunch" says Apple will announce the Nuance partnership at next month's...

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May 11
Greg's Bite: Ballmer the great deal maker

By Greg Mills

Someone needs to explain the concepts behind selling things at a profit and buying things competitively to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. The conversation ought to be in one syllable words, quit simple, so he can understand.    

One might imagine selling the rights for to use a fresh mobile OS to the biggest cell phone company on the planet (for the time being) would net you a chunk of change enough to retire on. The great dealmaker Ballmer actually agreed to pay one billion dollars to Nokia for them switching to Windows Mobile 7.  

Nokia had already publicly indicated they were throwing in the towel on their own mobile OS efforts, so Ballmer had them over a barrel. Smelling blood in the water, like a great white shark, Ballmer circled his prey and then viciously bit his own foot off.  

Now, anxious to outdo his Nokia deal making blunder, rumors are that Microsoft has agreed to pay US$4.5 billion more than...

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May 10
Greg's Bite: The Skype deal

By Greg Mills

When Thomas Edison invented the telephone, he and his associates just strung wire between the phones, no matter how far apart they were. Each city had one or more switching stations so wires between cities could be hooked up between users and the long distance lines on each end.  

Remember long distance phone bills? I can remember not that long ago playing musical phone companies to get the lowest prices for long distance. In those days long distance was often more than your local service each month.

What changed all that was the simple notion that the owners of long distance lines ought to be forced to share that capacity with competing services. The FCC made it competitive for companies that got into the long-distance business since they all had access to what had been a monopoly owned by AT&T. That was the giant AT&T of 20 years ago. The AT&T of today is a radically different animal.

The same notion of...

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May 10
Don't hold your breath for ARM-based Macs anytime...

The SemiAccurate (http://macte.ch/LUHV) web site generated a lot of discussion over the weekend when it said that Apple was planning to dump Intel from its laptop lines within 2-3 years. That's an interesting idea, and perhaps it's on target, but I don't think that's going to happen.

But first, some background. Here's part of SemiAccurate's report: "The short story is that Apple is moving the laptop line, and presumably desktops too, to ARM based chips as soon as possible. With A15/Eagle allowing more than 32-bit memory access, things look up, but it seems silly to do so before the full 64 bit cores come in the following generation. Nvidia is directly telling certain favored analysts that they will have Denver out in Q4 of 2012, maybe Q1/2013, and that uses the full on 64-bit ARM instruction set. It won’t be out by then, but that gives you a good estimation of when that ISA will break cover from one vendor or...

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May 10
Apple patents involve compression/encoding,...

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent number 7940843 is for a method of implementing improved rate control for a multimedia compression and encoding system. The rate controller in a digital video encoding system is responsible for allocating a bit budget for video frames to be encoded. The rate controller considers many different factors when determining the frame bit budget. One of the factors considered is the complexity of the frames being compressed. Occasionally there will be a very complex frame that is not representative of the overall video frame sequence. Such a rare complex frame may cause a disproportionate affect on the bit budget allocation.

The system of the present invention limits the amount that a very complex frame can change the bit budget allocation. The rate controller of the present invention also includes a relaxation factor. The relaxation factor allows a user to determine if the...

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May 09
Greg's Bite: Speech -- the next user interface?

By Greg Mills

"Star Trek" has a rosy view of the future where hunger and want are historic, and computers listen to users to input information. To access a computer you say "computer," and then give your command or search information. You dictate text and it just appears on the screen. That is a cool concept and it has been hinted at for years on PCs of both stripes.

Speech interpretation is problematic for a number of reasons. Background noise we instinctively tune out easily confuses speech recognition. Strong accents also tend to stumble speech recognition. Once the bugs are fixed, the potential is amazing. The form of speech software to come may be pretty interesting. The old system of speech recognition was for the local computer to do the work of interpreting the sounds into text. The next generation of speech-totext involved the cloud.  

I have a number of MP3 audio files I would really love to convert to text, to clean it up and publish...

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May 09
Greg's Bite: The Daily bleeds $10 million

By Greg Mills

Bleeding, as a medical therapy, is one of those historic absolutely backwards things that were done in Medieval ignorance. Someone who is already weak from an illness would be bled every day to get rid of the "bad blood."

There is no way of knowing how many people died from the bleeding treatment instead of what they were trying to be cured of. We know now there is no such thing as bad blood or good blood.

In business there is normally a period of time where new ventures require an investment to get to a break even point.  Sometimes the venture or new product proves to be so ill-founded the plug is pulled to stop the loss. Recent examples of failed product releases that bad include Microsoft's Kin phone and perhaps RIMs PlayBook. Sometimes the venture or new product turns around and begins to make money and the initial investment is finally paid back, handily.

"The Daily" digital newspaper was launched with great fanfare as...

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May 09
DVD, Blu-ray still dominate home video

While digital home-video options are gaining in popularity and Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls Blu-ray a "bag of hurt," more than three quarters of U.S. consumers continue to view movies on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Nearly 80 cents of every dollar spent on home video movies goes toward the purchase or rental of physical discs.

According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, consumers are still using DVDs and Blu-ray Disc (BD) to watch movies more than all digital-video options combined. Over the past three months, 77% of consumers reported watching a movie on a DVD or BD, which is unchanged from last year. Those who viewed movies from physical discs reported watching an average of four hours per week, which is also unchanged from the prior year. By comparison 68% watched a movie on a TV or cable network channel, 49%t at a theatre, and 21% used paid video on demand through their TVs.

According to data from NPD's "Entertainment Trends in America" report, when...

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May 06
Will Lion's Server features tempt enterprise...

When the next version of Lion prowls, it will certainly be an interesting critter. In some ways, it's designed to be the ultimate consumer-oriented operating system as it melds iOS and traditional Mac OS elements. In other ways -- or at least one -- it may well appeal to the enterprise.

Lion will include Lion Server at no extra charge. In other words, there'll no longer be separate Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server versions -- there'll just be one Mac OS X. You'll be able to provision any Mac with Lion as a server through a simple setup process.

As Ryan Faas, writing for "Computerworld" (http://macte.ch/PlNri), notes, this move by Apple is pretty surprising, especially if you're used to dealing with Microsoft's client and server products, which are clearly differentiated by features and pricing. Fass says he can't imagine Microsoft ever giving away Windows Server in any form for the price of a client...

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May 05
Rumors of the day: iOS updates, iPad 3, more

Apple will provide over-the-air updates for iOS 5, while the upcoming version of Mac OSX Lion will be delivered via the Mac App Store, according to two separate reports (http://macte.ch/RkI8A). Instead of having users chained to iTunes for their iOS updates, Apple may introduce wireless OS updates, removing the need for a computer in the process.

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty says the company sees product cycles as being driven by software rather than hardware and is expected to announce major software updates at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, according to "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com).

The follow-up to the iPad 2 will incorporate a glasses-free 3D screen. The claim comes from an alleged Hollywood insider who told RCR Wireless (...

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May 05
Apple patents involve FaceTime, digital images, more

A handful of Apple patents has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office, several of which relate to the company's iLife suite, FaceTime and Aperture software.

Patent number 20110102457 involves brushing tools for digital image adjustments. Among other things, methods, systems and computer program products are disclosed for applying an image adjustment to an image. A choice of image adjustments is presented to a user of a data processing device. A user selection is received from among the choice of image adjustments at least one image adjustment that a user desires to apply to an area of interest of the image.

The user selected image adjustment is applied to an entirety of an image. A preview of the user selected image adjustment applied to the entirety of the image is displayed. Also, user input comprising user selection of a brushing application is received. The user selected image adjustment is applied to the area of interest of the image...

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May 05
Greg's Bite: Microsoft buys RIM? LOL

By Greg Mills

Sometimes the synergy of two companies are so symmetrically fitting a merger or takeover is like a marriage made in heaven. Everything just fits like a glove.

Sometimes, such a business marriage is conceived in a far darker and hotter place. PC Magazine's Peter Pachal appears to be having hallucinations or the blue screen of death happened on his PC, once too often. The URL for the story is: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2384918,00.asp (this article is best read while eating corn flakes).

Peter Pachal has suggested that in some way Microsoft and RIM could merge and in combination break into Apple's monopoly in the smartphone and tablet markets. This is partly due to a surprise announcement yesterday that RIM will make Bing the default search engine for RIM devices. We don't know how much Microsoft is paying RIM for dumping Google. More on this development later.

If we examine the situation Pachal proposed, one has...

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May 05
Whatever happened to iWork.com?

In 2009, Apple launched its iWork.com site in beta -- and it's been there ever since. That seems likely plenty of time for Apple to work out the kinks, so perhaps a finished version will be part of "iCloud" or "Castle" or whatever Apple's rumored, upcoming cloud service will be dubbed.

iWork.com is designed as a service to share iWork documents online. Using your Apple ID, you 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.

The service is still there, and still in beta. Let's hope that one of these days it arrives in finished, polished form.

Let's also hope that iCloud makes it a no-brainer to share documents among multiple Macs and iOS devices. For example, if...

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May 04
Rumors of the day: new Apple hire, Lion, keyboards

According to "Gigaom" (http://macte.ch/yFDta), Apple has reportedly hired Tomlinson Holman as its new audio chief, according to a tweet by Leo Laporte Wednesday morning. Laporte said he had it “on good authority” that Holman “is joining Apple to run audio.” Holman is the brain behind Lucasfilm’s THX sound, and the world’s first 10.2 surround sound system.

According to "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com) with the release of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion this summer, Apple will make the switch to a new kind of digital distribution for its operating system upgrades by releasing the software first through its new Mac App Store. The Mac App Store, available to all users running the most recent version of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, will become the de facto method for obtaining the Lion upgrade, the article says, quoting "people familiar...

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May 04
New iMacs offer great bang for the buck

When it comes to bang for your buck, you really can't beat the new iMacs. The all-in-one's rev will certainly spur Apple's desktop sales, which have been slow compared to the company's laptop sales.

It's true that they're not revolutionary updates -- the design is still the same -- but they're substantial updates just the same. Here are some random thoughts on the new desktops.

I had hoped that the new iMacs might sport a "Retina Display," but I didn't really expect them to. Oh well, maybe next time.

A high-DPI mode for resolution independence has purportedly been in development at Apple for a long time and may be coming at long last with Mac OS X Lion. This hints that Apple may expect 200ppi+ laptop and desktop displays to become available during Lion’s lifetime. The system is reliant on pixel doubling and asset redesign, like the move from the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4, instead of using vector graphics or 3D rendering, meaning this is more about clarity than...

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May 03
Greg's bite: bin Laden iPhone tracked?

By Greg Mills

Sometimes  two elements of current events cross paths.  I just about died laughing at a cartoon I saw where it was implied bin Laden was taken down due to carrying an iPhone.  

The truth is, he didn't trust anything more electronic than a toaster and only toasters without an LED on them. The Australian press ran a story speculating that a million dollar villa that didn't have a telephone or Internet was part of what confirmed to our intelligence agencies that someone who lived there was hiding. The tracking of everything electronic by governments around the world is well known. The extent of that surveillance is not as well known.  

Unlike a lot of people who carry smart phones, the notion that your phone carried a virtual map with dated location points came as a shock to a lot of us. From what I hear, Apple will be removing the location cache held on the computer iOS devices sync with and reducing the maximum location files to...

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May 03
The Mac App Store changing the general perception of...

I'm not sure exactly how many apps are available at the Mac App Store, but there are enough that the perception that there's "no software" for the Mac will vanish -- if it hasn't already.

Also, it seems that the quality of the average app on the Mac App Store is higher than that for a typical iOS device on the Apple App Store. (By the way, don't you think the Apple App Store should be redubbed the iOS App Store? After all, the Mac App Store is as much an "Apple" store as the one for the iPhone, iPad and iPod.)

Joseph Beauliue, senior stock analyst with Morningstar (http://macte.ch/CjURB), an investing research group, also thinks the Mac App Store is going to help Macs in a bit way.

"We think the launch of the Mac Application Store (patterned after the iTunes Application Store) could help Apple maintain or accelerate its pace of market share gains," he writes. "Historically, one of the biggest...

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May 03
Apple patents involve image databases, display signals...

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

Patent number 7936946 is for migration of an old image database. Techniques are described for causing digital image data to be interpreted according to a particular technique of a plurality of techniques. According to an embodiment, digital sensor data is received, and user input is received that specifies which technique of a plurality of techniques to use to generate a display that depicts an unmodified image from the sensor data, wherein each technique of the plurality of techniques generates a display from the sensor data in a different manner than each other technique of the plurality of techniques. The inventors are Nikhil M. Bhatt and Curtis A. Bianchi.

Patent number 79372306 is for a display digital signal visualizations with increasing accuracy. Digital signal visualizations may be displayed with increasing...

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