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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...

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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...

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Aug 24
Greg's bite: Apple's Bumping corrections

By Greg Mills

My Bump and pay by phone article that run on Monday had some factual errors that I must correct. I got an email from a nice Lady from Bump Technologies with interesting insight into the "Bump" App I briefly described (http://itunes.apple.com/app/bump/id305479724?mt=8) , as well as interesting information she had regarding pay by smart phone that I must pass this on to you, my readers.  

My assumption that the contact information traded between iPhones is done locally turns out to be wrong. It happens in the cloud! My assumption was that iPhones or Androids used Bluetooth to trade contacts. Here is the information Sadie Bascom sent me: 

I did however want to offer a correction in a couple of places regarding the Bump app. Firstly, regarding this quote "Then comes Apple with a new Bump to Pay concept." PayPal is responsible for...

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Aug 24
Could the next rev of the Apple TV move me away from...

I'm a Comcast subscriber. I have their "Triple Play" bundle, but the cable company's creep up every month (and, in fact, leapt up instead of creeping last month), so I'm considering making a change. Perhaps the future Apple TV would be my impetus to switch.

Silicon Alley Insider (http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-itv-metered-broadband-2010-8?utm_so...) says the rumored rev of the Apple TV (which some think will be redubbed iTV should at least make a lot of people excited about the idea of using their TVs as living-room computers, especially...

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Aug 23
Greg's bite: Apple's Bump to Pay?

By Greg Mills

We know Apple and other companies have been working on ePay systems using smart phones and some sort of electronic "radio bridge" to make it possible to pay for small things or even a tank of gas, by using your cell phone to pay.  

RFID chips already make short range radio information reading devices possible for electronic checkout of a whole cart of goods, for example, simply by walking past an electronic check out point. Each item in the cart has an RFID chip on it that transmits an identification code containing a lot of information when it is hit by strong radio waves of a certain frequency.  Bluetooth is another way to do the trick. Sounds cool, but the whole thing has sort of a "big brother," heavy handed feel to it. Can this be the Mark of the Beast or the next big bunko target, stealing you blind while you walk the streets unaware you have been just been financially mugged?

Bank of America and Visa are soon offering a new...

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Aug 23
Computer, videogame degree programs on the rise

If you like video and computer games, the years ahead could be good ones for you as there'll be more and more folks working on 'em.

Approximately 300 American colleges, universities, art and trade schools will offer degrees in video game design, development, programming and art during the 2010-11 academic year, according to new research from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). The degrees offered at 300 institutions represent an almost 20% increase over 2009-10.  

The growing number of educational programs comes as no surprise to Rich Taylor, senior vice president for communications and industry affairs at the ESA (http://www.theESA.com), which represents computer and video game publishers.

"The steady increase in higher education programs is an important indicator about the expanding role computer and video games play in today's world," he says. "While computer and video games have...

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Aug 20
Greg's bite: affordable digital magazines

By Greg Mills

As I have mused in previous articles, digital download content must have reasonable economic market value to flourish. The old concept of "everything on the Internet needs to be free" has slowly evolved into a mixture of both free and paid content.  

Apple was really the first to create a "go to market" scheme that worked, selling digital music on line for a dollar a song. It was due to a combination of a serious intellectual property protection system, a neat iTunes interface for both Macs and the PC, iPods that just worked and (Steve Jobs, who was personality able to hammer the music industry into accepting his pricing structure). While there is still some bitching and moaning, Apple's iTunes store is just too big a market for serious music labels to not participate in.

Now, the same sort of pricing issues are being worked out in the publishing industry.  Magazines that are currently printed on downed trees are struggling to...

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Aug 20
Waiting for Mac OS X to TRIM down (or up)

I haven't bought one of the new iMacs yet. The SSD options are tempting, though solid state drives are still way overpriced. Plus, I'm waiting for Apple to add support for TRIM technology to Mac OS X.

A TRIM command allows an operating system to inform an SSD which data blocks, such as those belonging to a deleted file or affected by a format command, are no longer being used so can be wiped internally. That's important because the low-level operation of SSDs differs from traditional hard disk drives in the way operating systems handle operations like deleting and formatting. TRIM enables the SSD to handle garbage collection overhead which would otherwise significantly slow down future write operations to the involved blocks, in advance. In other words, it helps maintain optimal performance and extend the life of your SSD.

Or, as Bit-Tech (...

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Aug 19
Apple granted patent for widget manager, more

Apple has been granted a patent (number 20100211886) by the US Patent & Trademark Office for management of user interface elements in a display environment.

A widget manager facilitates management of widgets in a dashboard layer. Management functions can include enablement, preview, importation, exportation, organization, installation, deletion, acquisition, etc. The inventors are Scott Forstall, Imran A. Chaudhri, John O. Louch and Eric Steven Peyton.

Several other Apple patents have also appeared. Here's a summary of each.

Patent number 20100211700 involves methods and systems to dynamically manage performance states in a data processing system. It involves data processing systems that operate in different modes, including a mode which supports providing an output of images through a port on the systems. In one embodiment, a data processing system includes a processing system, a cellular telephone transceiver, and a port which is...

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Aug 19
Apple patent is for 'sticky functionality'...

An Apple patent (20100211910) for sticky functionality has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. And it shows that Apple still has plans for the mouse in upcoming Macs.

The patent relates to graphical user interfaces for computer systems, and more particularly to a user interface which allows easier manipulation of elements of the user interface via a cursor control device such as a mouse. Manipulation of elements in a graphical user interface is aided by allowing the graphical user interface to treat certain mouse button actuation and releases as holding the mouse button in an actuated state.

When predetermined conditions are satisfied, the graphical user interface will treat a mouse button actuation and release as if the mouse button were held in an actuated state. A user can then manipulate elements in the graphical user interface as if the user held the mouse button in an actuated state. The types of manipulation can include the moving of a window,...

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Aug 19
Future idevices could received 'pushed' info...

Future iPhones and iPods may be able to receive "pushed" info to you based on what location you're at. Unfortunately, the pushed info could include ads.

An Apple patent (number 20100207782) for a system and method for situational location relevant invocable speed reference has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves a system for pushing situational location dependent content to data processing system devices traveling to locations for, or in directions of, that place which delivery content is designated as deliverable.

Situational location dependent information is transmitted from a server data processing system to a receiving data processing system. The server data processing system communicates with the receiving data processing system in a manner by pushing content when appropriate. A candidate delivery event associated with a current positional attribute of the receiving data processing system is recognized and a situational location of the...

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Aug 19
Future iPhones, iPads could ID unauthorized users

Upcoming iPhones and iPads could recognize individual users and adjust accordingly, per a new patent (number 20100207721) for systems and methods for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent is generally directed to identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device. In some embodiments, an unauthorized user of the electronic device can be detected by identifying particular activities that may indicate suspicious behavior. In some embodiments, an unauthorized user can be detected by comparing the identity of the current user to the identity of the owner of the electronic device. When an unauthorized user is detected, various safety measures can be taken.

For example, information related to the identity of the unauthorized user, the unauthorized user's operation of the electronic device, or the current location of the electronic device can be gathered. As another example, functions of the...

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Aug 19
We need more connectivity for our iPads

Despite the talk that we'll see a 7-inch iPad in time for the holidays, I'm dubious we'll see any new incarnation of the Apple tablet before early 2011 Even then I'm not holding my breath for an "iPad mini." However, I would be willing to hold my breath for more connectivity.

Right now you can only use one wired peripheral at a time with an iPad and very few wireless ones. I hope the iPad 2 will support wireless syncing and file exchanges with Macs. Currently, shuffling Pages documents -- among other things -- between the two, is a major pain. And wouldn't the ability to send files to a networked printer be nifty-keeno?

Even though the iPad can't replace my Mac (desktop OR laptop), I'd love to see a hub that lets you connect multiple devices for simultaneous use by the Apple tablet. Sort of like the Camera Connection Kit on steroids. Perhaps said dock could support: a wired keyboard (for those who want to use one; my Apple Wireless Keyboard works just fine with the...

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Aug 18
Greg's bite: MSNBC touts Window Mobile 7 

By Greg Mills

Sometimes the tech media runs the most hysterical articles, ones that are so transparently sponsored by big money. Case in point: an MSNBC article (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38741936/ns/technology_and_science-wireless/) touting the unreleased vaporware that is the Mobile Windows 7 platform that Microsoft is busy working on.  

Posting a review of vaporware is an exercise in foolishness, especially given Microsoft's lousy track record. They raise expectations to counter innovative products Apple actually releases. The failed Vista, Kin and Zune employees are hard at work putting their vast innovation skills into this coming Mobile OS, which is really Microsoft's "too late, last chance" to even be relevant in the modern smartphone market.

To understand how such...

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Aug 18
Next Apple TV (iTV?) should support 1080 HD

The rumor mill is buzzing that the next rev of the Apple TV -- which some say will be renamed the iTV -- will bring the device out of the "hobby" category and into the serious hardware category. But if, as has been rumored, the Apple TV/iTV doesn't support 1080i or 1080 p HD, there will be those who won't take it seriously. To an extent, I wouldn't blame them.

Of course, Apple has said nothing, nada, nil, naught about any future version of the device, so we may take all Apple TV talk with a grain or two of salt. That said, many reports claim the next gen Apple TV won't output in full HD, but will continue maxing out at 720p -- the same as the current iteration.

If that's the case, connect the Apple device to your HDTV and it will have to upscale the images if it's a 1080p device. That's not necessarily a deal breaker for most folks, but it would be disappointing, to say the least, for some of us.

After all,1080p resolution -- which equates to 1,920x1080...

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Aug 17
Greg's bite: apps are intellectual property

By Greg Mills

Remember the recent flap over Apple using a patent drawing based upon the app of a developer?  It turns out if you read the fine print Apple is within its rights to use anything submitted to them.  Certainly the understanding is that Apple will play fair. See the contract for submission to Apple's iTunes Store at http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html .

Apple does try to protect trademarks and copyrights, but you do need to have a copyright to see Apple enforce it (see http://www.apple.com/legal/trademark/claimsofcopyright.html)/

Apps developed for the the iOS platform are intellectual property and the authors do have rights that need to be protected by dong the right things to secure those rights. Since apps are basically written code, they are protectable by electronic copyright...

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Aug 17
Apple wins iPhone, laptop, iMac patents

Apple has won patents from the US Patent & Trademark Office for the screen display on the iPhone and iPod touch, a portable computer, the current iMac incarnation, the latching mechanism on Apple laptops, an audio interface and a cable connector assembly.

Patent number D621,849 is for animated graphical user interfaces for a screen display or portion thereof. The inventors are Freddy Anzures, Bas Ording and Marcel Van Os. Patent D621,845 is for a graphical user interface for a display screen or portion thereof. The inventors are Freddy Anzures and Imran Chaudhri. Both involve the iPhone and iPod touch interface.

Patent number D621,825 is for the ornamental design of a portable computer (the MacBook Pro) Patent number D621,841 is for the ornamental design of a computer. The inventors listed on these patents are Andre K. Bartley, Daniel J. Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Richard P. Howarth, Jonathan P....

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Aug 17
There's talk once again of Apple moving into HDTV...

There's talk again that Apple will eventually come out with its own line of television sets. Or at least one model. I'm dubious -- but stranger things have happened.

In October 2008 Nate Lanxon of "CNET UK" started the buzz by reporting that Apple is working on a networked television. He says that these LCD HDTVs will be fully networked, with the ability to stream all your iTunes content from your Mac or PC. They would, he said, function like a standard TV with an Apple TV box, only without the need for the box. Lanxon said the TV's will be akin to Apple's 30-inch display for the Mac "only thinner, streaming iTunes movie rentals over 802.11n, controlled with the Remote app on an iPod touch or iPhone.”

Earlier this year Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research told "Computerworld" (http://macosg.me/2/pk) that he thinks Apple wants to be the first to successfully integrate the home office with the...

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Aug 16
Greg's bite: AT&T's 'no bars in...

By Greg Mills

I submitted my original slogan "No bars in more places" to AT&T some time ago and they never got back to me. If anyone notices them using my slogan without compensating me, I plan to sue ...

An article posted at "CNN" titled "AT&T is just bad for the wrong people in the wrong places" glosses over connection issues the rest of us have. Dan Frommer of "Business Insider" presents a scenario the folks at AT&T wish was the truth. Frommer thinks the network problems are mostly limited to shrilled "tech- and media-types limited to New York and San Francisco. While I dispute that rationalization, he does make a valid point that downtown metropolitan areas with tall buildings are a cell system nightmare. See the verbal flowery fluff painting AT&T nice at: http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/mobile/08/13/att.wireless.network/index.html?hpt=Sbin .

If the problem with the AT&T network was just in big cities due to skyscrapers...

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Aug 16
Ninety percent of cell phone drivers concerned about...

According to the latest study from the Consumer Electronics Association, most drivers who use cell phones consider safety their number one priority when in an automobile. It's just too bad that this sentence is modified by "most" instead of "a.."

Twenty-two percent of drivers with cell phones never use their cell phones while driving and other cell phone users will only use the following devices with their cell phones while driving: speakerphone built into cell phone (29%); wireless Bluetooth headset (22%); wired earphone or headset (10%); and wireless Bluetooth speakerphone accessory for your automobile (5%)

Distracted driving is a major issue our nation faces, and while we can all be distracted at times, in-car technology has made huge leaps and bounds to be safer and more-user friendly- incorporating voice activation and numerous other technologies to give us safety and comfort, while reducing the amount of distractions. Not only do Americans spend time nearly...

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Aug 13
Why no USB 3.0 on the latest iMacs, Mac Pros?

I'm still mulling over the possibility of selling my current 27-inch, "tricked out" iMac and buying one of the new models so I can see how the new memory, new graphics card and an SSD drive feels.

On the other hand, those features are nice, but my current iMac is plenty fast enough and Apple didn't include any "gotta have" features in the latest rev of the consumer/prosumer desktop. I was certain that Apple would include USB 3.0, but they didn't. Why? Who knows. I've written Apple about the exclusion, but -- no surprise -- I've received no answer.

Syncing an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch with USB 3.0 would be an improvement. Or Apple could bring back FireWire syncing. Remember how wonderful the syncing of the original iPod was with FireWire 400? But backing up and syncing with the current USB 2 is just painful. Getting back to very short syncs would be a blessing.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Aug 12
Apple wants to beef up graphic equalizers on idevices

An Apple patent (number 20100202630) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office for a method and system for approximating graphic equalizers using dynamic filter order reduction. It relates to media devices and, more particularly, to equalizer effects for media being presented on media devices.

Improved approaches to flexibly implementing graphic equalizers on media players are disclosed. These approaches provide dynamic order reduction of a multi-band graphic equalizer so that equalizer effects can be timely performed with only limited computational resources. In one embodiment, a media player receives a media item and associated equalizer settings for a multi-band graphic equalizer.

The media player can then automatically (i.e., without user action) approximate the multi-band graphic equalizer with the equalizer settings for the media item using a fewer number of filters. Fewer filters means order reduction, and thus reduction in computational...

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