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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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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....

| Read more »
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,...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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,...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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 (...

| Read more »
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,...

| Read more »
 
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