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Sep 03
Why iTunes Ping stinks... but has potential

While 1 million people have already enabled Ping in iTunes 10, plenty of picky early adopters have found it lacking.

On Wednesday, following a keynote address from Steve Jobs, Apple released iTunes 10, the latest version of the popular media management software. One of its major features is "Ping," a new music social network from Apple.

According to an Apple press release, over 1 million people have already enabled Ping in iTunes 10, making it a pretty successful launch by most standards. Nevertheless, plenty of Ping's pickier early adopters have found it to be lacking in a number of ways, citing major perceived failures and sundry minor annoyances, including the following.

1) No way to "like" or "post" podcasts on your profile. This is a major FAIL for anyone who...

| Read more »
Sep 03
The looming battle for the TV OS

Andrew Eisner, Retrevo.com's director of Community and Content, predicts the next platform for apps will be connected TVs. Retrevo sees a living room where TV viewers click on a weather app or sports app instead of watching the local news.

A home where families play a board game together on the TV using the Monopoly app, or stay in touch with their friends with a FaceBook app, all from the comfort of the living room couch. Following are some of Eisner's thoughts on the looming battler for the TV OS.

"Microsoft unlikely to win this battle

"Unlike the battle for the desktop OS it doesn't look like Microsoft has much of a chance of winning this battle for the TV OS. Competition over who will provide a TV OS is heating up with Google TV getting set to take on all comers for control of the living room. Meanwhile Apple may soon lob a salvo with an updated version of their Apple TV that will plant Apple iPhone/iPad apps firmly in the living room TV...

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Sep 02
Apple patent involves rearranging idevice apps on your...

An Apple patent (number 20100223563) for remotely defining an user interface for a handheld device has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves using your Mac to arrange the icons on an idevice and also thinks at an Apple watch, though I'm not holding my breath on this.

In some embodiments, a host computer can be used by a user to arrange icons among a plurality of home screens or views. For example, a representation of each of the home screens available at a handheld device can be displayed on a host computer along with a representation of the available icons usable at the handheld device. A user can select representation of icons at the host computer and arrange the icons among the representations of the home screens. Icons and/or home screens can be added and/or removed. The arrangement created by the user at the host computer display can be sent to the handheld device when completed. James Green is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and...

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Sep 02
Apple patent relates to GarageBand features

An Apple patent (number 20100223400) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office regarding features -- both present and future -- of Apple's GarageBand app. The app is for correlating changes in audio.

Exemplary embodiments of methods and apparatuses to correlate changes in one audio signal to another audio signal are described. A first audio signal is outputted. A second audio signal is received. The second audio signal may be stored in a memory buffer. The first audio signal is correlated to conform to the second audio signal. The first audio signal may be dynamically correlated to match with the second audio signal while the second audio signal is received. At least in some embodiments, a size of a musical time unit of the second audio signal is determined to correlate the first audio signal. At least in some embodiments, the adjusted first audio signal is stored in another memory buffer. Chris Moulios is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and summary...

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Sep 02
Patents relate to Apple TV updates -- and perhaps its...

Three Apple patent applications at the US Patent & Trademark Office tie in with Wednesday's Apple TV announcements and may point to future developments. They describe methods to improve the experience of over-the-air syncing, and browsing of Internet-based content.

Patent number 20080301260 is for a method and user interface for accessing groups of media assets. Improved systems and methods to navigate, browse, search and/or playback digital media assets (e.g., media items) hosted on a media server are disclosed. One embodiment of the invention pertains to a user interface arrangement, such as a hierarchical menu system, that facilitates navigation, browsing and playing of media items remotely stored on a media server.

The user interface arrangement enables user scrolling or browsing with respect to a list or set of information pertaining to media items, where the list or set can be expanded to include information for additional media items that are subsequently...

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Sep 02
Some musings on yesterday's Apple announcements

Now that I'd had a few hours to think about all the announcements from Apple at yesterday's special event, here are some random musings about them.

Despite rumors of the iPod shuffle's demise, it lives on. For now. I still think that its days are numbered, now that the nano has gotten so small. Eventually, I think we'll see a 2GB nano replacing the shuffle entirely.

Hmmm, the new nano trades its camera for a touchscreen. Is that a good swap?

The iPod classic is still around, but received no update. As soon as the iPod touch reaches 128GB of capacity (it's only half that right now) you can bid adieu to the classic, which Apple seems to regard as the ugly ducking in the iPod line-up.

The new iPod touch sounds great, but I was hoping for a 128GB version now. And if the teeny nano can have an FM radio feature, why not the touch? Yes, that's right, I want it all and I want it now!

As for the Apple TV update, overall, I think it's a great step forward....

| Read more »
Sep 02
Editorial: The looming battle for the TV OS

By Andrew Eisner
Retrevo.com's director of Community and Content

Everyone loves apps! A library of 225,000 iPhone/iPad apps and five billion downloads are impressive numbers for such a young platform and confirm the fast growing interest in apps-based computing.

Not only can apps run on smartphones, tablets and laptops but we predict the next platform for apps will be connected TVs. We see a living room where TV viewers click on a weather app or sports app instead of watching the local news. A home where families play a board game together on the TV using the Monopoly app, or stay in touch with their friends with a FaceBook app, all from the comfort of the living room couch.

Microsoft unlikely to win this battle

Unlike the battle for the desktop OS it doesn't look like Microsoft has much of a chance of winning this battle for the TV OS. Competition over who will provide a TV OS is heating up with Google TV getting...

| Read more »
Sep 01
The Northern Spy: iOS 4, iBooks, Apple's special...

iOS4

iOS4 has recently been released to the iPod, providing the new features to a larger number of existing Apple customers. Of most importance to the Spy were multitasking and folders, the former in operational terms, the latter in organizational.

He wasted no time in reorganizing his five home pages down to two, with most applications in folders. To do this, hold a touch until the wiggle effect starts, then drop one app on top of another. A folder with both will be created, which can then readily be renamed to suit, and additional apps can be dragged into it. Most people will wonder how they got along without application folders.

Double clicking the bottom application switching button is now supposed to produce the multitasking bar, providing quick access to currently running processes. However, within individual applications the implementation of this feature is inconsistent. Even within the same application, sometimes a single press...

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Sep 01
What I'm expecting at today's Apple event

Apple will hold a special event today at 1 pm (Pacific) and speculation has been rampant about what will be announced. I've read pretty much all the predictions, mulled 'em over and decided this is what we'll see -- and won't see.

We will see:

° A new iPod touch with a front-facing camera, higher rez display and support for FaceTime;

° A revamped iPod nano that lacks a click wheel;

° A web-based version of the iTunes Store that will -- as "All Things D" put it -- "sync up easily with the rest of the Internet and make it much easier for customers to share their musical tastes (but not songs) with friends." It could offer easier integration for services like Twitter and Facebook, allowing users to link to the store and share playlists, songs and albums.

°An Apple TV in a sleeker case with more storage, cheaper TV show rentals, running iOS with Apple TV specific apps available.

We won't see:

° iLife '11 or iWork '11 (but look for these...

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Aug 31
Apple patents range from image rendering to icons

Apple has been granted eight patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.
Patent number 7,788,656 is for a system for reducing the number of programs necessary to render an image. Disclosed is a system for reducing memory and computational requirements of graphics operations. The system provides techniques for combining otherwise individual operations to apply filters to images. The combined filter emerging from the combination spares the processor time and the creation of an entire intermediary image. The system further provides for application of these techniques in many contexts including where the operations are fragment programs in for a programmable GPU. John Harper is the inventor.

Patent number 7,788,582 involves techniques and graphical user interfaces for improved media item searching. Improved techniques and graphical user interfaces that assist users in searching through a group of media...

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Aug 31
Sandy Bridge chips could bring Blu-ray playback, USB 3...

At a recent developer conference, Intel said its next-generation laptop chips based on the Sandy Bridge architecture will be able to play Blu-ray 3D movies while preserving battery life. Could this mean Blu-ray playback might finally arrive on the Mac? Probably, not but I'll keep hoping.

You won’t need to buy a separate graphics processor to specifically view 3D content. Sandy Bridge chips are slated to go into production later this year, and computers with 'em could arrive in the first half of next year.

Intel’s current laptop chips are capable of 1080p video, and improvements in Sandy Bridge chips could bring a noticeable graphics improvement to computers, according to "PC World" (http://macosg.me/2/so).

Sandy Bridge will be the first mainstream Intel chip to integrate the graphics processing unit (GPU) onto the same piece of silicon as the main processor, or CPU. This is possible thanks to...

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Aug 30
Computers haven't overtaken TVs for video viewing...

More U.S. households are watching online video and on a wider variety of devices now than two years ago, but we're not sacrificing our TV viewing to do so, according to international research firm Parks Associates (http://www.parkassociates.com). At least not just yet.

The firm's "Digital Media Evolution II" study found 40% of all U.S. broadband homes now regularly watch long-form video on a computer. However, service providers can allay their fears of cord cutting for now as high use of computer video doesn't yet correlate with decreased TV viewing. "Yet" may be the key word here.

"People are using online video to fill in the gaps," says Kurt Scherf, vice president, principal analyst, Parks Associates. "When it comes to watching TV shows and movies, nobody's first choice is the computer. People will watch this content on a computer when it is not convenient or feasible to watch on a TV...

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Aug 27
Greg's bite: publishing iBooks update

By Greg Mills

I have gotten a lot of feedback on my article regarding publishing iBooks. One conclusion I made was spot on: that Pages would soon offer an Export option in the ePub format required to publish books on-line.

An update of iWork 9 that went on line last night does just that. This makes it a snap to write books in Pages and simply choose ePub as the output format. One just creates an ePub format file directly from Pages and uploads to Apple's servers. I don't know if the process of uploading the ePub file has been streamlined or not. That would be cool and typical of Apple thoughtfulness.  

Two interesting issues came up from my readers that I have not been able to answer.  How does a non-US citizen publish iBooks since they don't have a Social Security number or US Tax Number required to open an iTunes account used for iBook publishers? Once an iBook is published and an ISBN number is assigned, can the book be modified or have...

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Aug 27
Perhaps Apple will skip USB 3.0 entirely and go with...

I still haven't bitten the bullet and upgraded to a new iMac for a few reasons. One is that I was certain that USB 3.0 would be included, but wasn't. At first I felt that another iMac revision might be coming sooner than expected (early 2011?) with USB 3.0 support, but now I'm not so certain.

The more I think about it, Apple likes to push the envelope, and it's possible the company will forego USB 3.0 entirely and make the quantum leap to LightSpeed sooner than anyone expects.

Developed by Intel, Light Peak paves the way for a new generation of extreme computer input and output (I/O) performance, delivering 10Gb/s of bandwidth, with the potential ability to scale to 100Gbs over the next decade, according to David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager, Intel Architecture Group. At 10Gb/second, a user could purportedly transfer a full-length Blu-Ray movie in less than 30 seconds (of course, Steve Jobs doesn't' like Blu-ray, but still....). Intel says...

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Aug 26
Apple wants to shrink the size of a system's...

An Apple patent (number 20100213958) systems and methods for providing a system-on-substrate has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Offices. It involves shrinking the size of a system's circuitry by providing all of the components of the system on the same microchip -- such as the A4 processor used in the iPad.

The patent relates to systems and methods for providing a system-on-a-substrate. In some embodiments, the necessary components for an entire system (e.g., a processor, memory, accelerometers, I/O circuitry, or any other suitable components) can be fabricated on a single microchip in “bare die” form. The die can, for example, be coupled to suitable flash memory through a substrate and flexible printed circuit board (“flex”). In some embodiments, the flex can extend past the substrate, die, or both, to allow additional, relatively large components to be coupled to the flex.

In some embodiments, the die can be coupled to the flash memory through the flex...

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Aug 26
Apple patent involves audio jack with included...

An Apple patent (number 200100216526) for an audio jack with included microphone has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Embodiments of the invention relate to the field of electrical connectors; and more specifically, to electrical connectors that include a microphone.

Described is a connector for receiving a cylindrical plug includes a body defining a plug aperture and a cavity for receiving the cylindrical plug. A plurality of electrical contacts in communication with the cavity make electrical connections with the cylindrical plug and retain the cylindrical plug. A microphone is coupled to the body such that the plug aperture and the cavity provide an acoustic path to the microphone. The microphone may be at an end of the connector opposite the plug aperture or on a side of the connector adjacent the plug aperture. The connector allows a microphone to be added to a device, such as a mobile telephone, without the need for an additional external aperture....

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Aug 26
Apple patent involves improved video quality for...

An Apple patent (number 200100214448) that involves video acquisition with processing based on ancillary data has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The company seems to be investigating ways to improve the features of its video editing titles.

The patent relates to processing video images, and more particularly to acquisition of video data with integrated processing using a graphics processing unit. Systems and techniques for processing sequences of video images involve receiving, on a computer, data corresponding to a sequence of video images detected by an image sensor. The received data is processed using a graphics processor to adjust one or more visual characteristics of the video images corresponding to the received data.
The received data can include video data defining pixel values and ancillary data relating to settings on the image sensor. The video data can be processed in accordance with ancillary data to adjust the visual characteristics,...

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Aug 26
I won't be ready to give up my Mac any time soon

One of my favorite columnists (and a friend) is Gene "The Tech Night Owl" Steinberg. Usually, I agree with the Owl, but in a recent column (http://macosg.me/2/rz) he predicted that, by 2015, most of us will rely on an iPad or its successor for most computing-related tasks. However, I just can't see it.

Gene says that only a small number of high-end content creators will continue to depend on the old fashioned personal computer and input devices like current Macs. "Certainly the stellar success of the iPad shows that a lot of people are ready to embrace different user interfaces," he writes. "... On the long haul, the natural evolution of the iPad and iOS are sure to cause a revolution in the personal computer universe."

As I've said before, I find the iPad to be a great, portable device for media and content consumption. For content creation, well, not so much. I do lots of writing/reporting/researching...

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Aug 25
Greg's bite: My dearest apologies to Mattel

By Greg Mills

In recent articles I attributed the embarrassingly flubbed Ken smartphone Microsoft  launched as being a product of Mattel, when actually  Sharp produced it. I was frankly deceived by the toy like quality of the Kin/Ken, thus never attributing the toy phone to a serious manufacturer like Sharp.  

Actually, I am joking at the expense of Mr. Ballmer and the copycat software firm responsible for the Ken's release. Those folks, instead of being fired, were put to work building the (too late to be relevant) Windows 7 Mobile OS. I can't wait to see what wonders they can perform.

Microsoft has lost half its market cap since Mr. Ballmer took over the company from the other Steve. To their credit, Mattel never sued me for defamation or some other legal theory for embarrassing them with my insinuation they had anything to do with the Ken Phone.  (I never seem to spell "Kin" the same way Microsoft did). The dilution of the "Barbie" brand...

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Aug 25
Regarding tiltable, touchscreen iMacs

The reports this week of an Apple patent for “transitioning between modes of input" underscores my conviction that we'll see touchscreen iMacs in the near future. I think Apple is preparing us for this with the release of its Magic TrackPad for Macs.

Some feel there's little demand for a touch screen computer. However, the growing popularity of iPhones, iPod touches, iPads and similar devices from Apple and other companies are making touch technology second nature to many people, especially young folks. It's just a matter of time before they want said technology on their computers.

Just as importantly (if not more so), Apple CEO Steve Jobs obviously LOVES touch technology, so it's inevitably going to find its way into all of Apple's line-up.

The patent mentioned previously provides a transition between input modes when the orientation of the display crosses a predetermined threshold. In other words, the display changes when the screen is tilted. Presumably,...

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Aug 25
Greg's bite: Android app store hacked again

By Greg Mills

As I mentioned in this column in the past, the biggest problem Android will face in its attempt to be the "iPhone killer" that actually cuts into Apple's pie is being open source. In the debate over closed vs open software platforms, the issue that comes to the top, in terms of business success, is security for developers.  

Android's app store is much smaller: 100,000 compared to Apple's 250,000 apps. What's more, while free apps in both stores are common, far and away the best paid apps are in the Apple App Store. There are a number of good reasons why this is -- and why it matters.

First of all, every app was written by someone called a developer. These people work hunched over a computer keyboard all day, consuming pizza and coffee in mass proportions. It is hard work, and there is a steep learning curve to writing apps that are professional in quality. These apps are more likely to be sold than given away.  

There are...

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Aug 24
Patent hints at upcoming 'iMac touch,'...

I've been predicting that we'll see a touchscreen Mac in the near future. And an European Apple patent (W)/2010/006210) -- first reported by the "Patently Apple" site (http://www.patentlyapple.com/) -- reinforces the idea that Apple has plans for a touch screen iMac, as well as a tablet style laptop.

The patent is for "transitioning between modes of input." Transitioning between a high-resolution input mode, such as a mouse-based interface, and a low-resolution input mode, such as a touch-based interface, is described. A change of orientation of a touch screen between a first orientation and a second orientation is detected. Transitioning between the two input modes and corresponding user interfaces (UIs) is based on the detected change of orientation.

A change of orientation can be detected with one or more sensors, such as an accelerometer, position sensors, etc. Transitioning from...

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Aug 24
Apple patents cover gradients, index processing,...

Apple has been granted patents for a variety of items, including the design of the original iPod and iPod touch. Summaries of each are below.

Patent number 7782337 involves multi-conic gradient generation. Disclosed is a technique for computing a complex gradient using multiple conics. In connection with a computer system having a graphics processing unit (GPU) in addition to the normal central processing unit (CPU), gradients can be computed in real time. The conics may be rendered and adjusted in a number of ways, providing a rich palette for creation of gradient graphics. The computational efficiency of the algorithms disclosed herein, when executed on typical GPU hardware, allows rendering frame rates high enough to provide animated gradient images. The inventors are Mark Zimmer and Ralph Brunner.

Patent number 7783589 is for inverted index processing. Systems and methods for improving indexing are described. In one exemplary...

| Read more »
Aug 24
Apple wants to simplify connecting media players,...

Apple wants to make it easier to connect media players to external devices, as evidenced by a patent (number 7783070) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It's for a cable adapter for a media player system.

One aspect of the media player system pertains to a docking station that allows a media player to communicate with other media devices. Another aspect of the media player system pertains to a wireless media player system that includes a hand held media player capable of transmitting information over a wireless connection and one or more media devices capable of receiving information over the wireless connection.

Another aspect of the media player system pertains to a method of wirelessly connecting the hand held media player to another device. The method includes selecting a media item on the hand held media player; selecting one or more remote recipients on the hand held media player; and transmitting the media item locally to the hand held media player, and...

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Aug 24
Greg's bite: Clear's new iSpot 4G Mac Wi-Fi...

By Greg Mills

Clear, the new 4G wireless Internet provider "Clear" (associated with Sprint), provided me with a test unit of their new portable WiFi router.  I tried it out in Kansas City, Kansas, and when I was able to actually hook up with their new 4G network, it worked fine and is fast. The problem is not with the cool looking 4G device, but with the limited radio coverage available at this time.

As AT&T users can testify to, the wireless device is only as good as the network that supports it.  Clear is still building out their 4G network; when it is built out, it will be state of the art.  There are a number of devices Clear offers that hook up to the faster 4G network cellular and then pump out a WiFi signal that will run up to eight iPhones, iPads or laptops at pretty much at full Wi-Fi speeds within Wi-Fi range. 

The device they loaned me is very cool, something Apple's design guru, Johnny Ives, might have created. It is slick, jet...

| Read more »
 
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