Recently published patent shows Apple’s interest in adding camera, games to iPod nano

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Date: Friday, May 13th, 2011, 04:12
Category: iPod Nano, Patents

A newly released patent application shows that Apple has interest in improving its multi-touch iPod nano with a camera and support for new software such as games.

Per AppleInsider, potential features of a future touchscreen iPod nano were revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Environment Sensitive Display Tags.” The document describes adding new sensors to the iPod nano, including a camera, to add new functionality.

The application concentrates on software features like screen savers, allowing information or content to be displayed on the device. Apple’s proposed invention would use sensors that would display unique content, or change the manner in which it is displayed.

But even more interesting are the illustrations shown in the application that include references to a camera and games. Currently, the sixth-generation iPod nano does not feature a camera, and cannot run software outside of what is preinstalled on the device.

In addition to a camera, the application also makes mention of the inclusion of a motion sensor, temperature gauge, and a microphone. Each of these sensors could be used to dynamically alter the way a screensaver would be played on an iPod nano.

While the application itself makes no mention of the iPod nano model in its text, the images show a small device with no physical buttons with an appearance similar to the multi-touch model Apple released last September.

The mention of a camera in the patent filing comes just days after a new photo claimed to show a seventh-generation iPod nano with a rear-facing camera, and without the built-in clip featured on the sixth-generation model. Another picture, also suggesting Apple could add a camera to its tiny media player surfaced in early April.

A camera was previously featured on the iPod nano in its larger fifth-generation model, released in 2009 and featuring the classic-style click wheel for input. Previous version of the device also supported iPod Click Wheel Games, but no games are available for the touchscreen sixth-generation iPod nano.

While the iPod nano operating system is designed to look and feel like iOS, which powers the iPod touch and iPhone, it is actually a different, unique operating system. In December, hackers managed to crack the software, but have not yet released any useful hacks aside from removing icons.

Apple’s patent application was first filed in November of 2009. It is credited to Duncan Kerr, Nicholas King, and Michael B. Victor.

Hard drive replacement in Thunderbolt-equipped iMac restricted by unique connector, temperature control system

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Date: Friday, May 13th, 2011, 04:48
Category: iMac, News

If you want to upgrade the hard drive on your new Thunderbolt-equipped iMac, you may be in for some additional challenges.

Per Other World Computing, Apple iMac desktop line features a new custom 7-pin serial ATA connector and proprietary temperature control system that will make hard drive upgrades difficult for end users.

The article’s authors found that the main 3.5″ SATA hard drive bay in the new 2011 Thunderbolt-equipped iMacs has been modified significantly. Instead of a standard 4-pin power configuration, the drives in the new all-in-one desktop use a custom 7-pin configuration.

In addition, hard drive temperature control is reportedly detected through a combination of the new cable and proprietary firmware that Apple has on the hard drive itself.

“From our testing, we’ve found that removing this drive from the system, or even from the bay itself, causes the machine’s hard drive fans to spin at maximum speed,” the report said,” and replacing the drive with any non-Apple original drive will result in the iMac failing the Apple Hardware Test.”

The site tried a number of methods to circumvent the changes Apple has implemented in the new iMac, including swapping the main drive out with the same model drive, as well as a different solid-state drive. All testing so far has found that the Apple-branded hard drive not be removed or replaced.

In addition, though the iMac EFI Update 1.6 released earlier this month allows 6Gb/s speeds on two internal ports, the standard 7,200rpm drive that ships with the new iMacs cannot take advantage of those fast throughput speeds.

The site sells a “Turnkey Upgrade Program” that allows for hard drive upgrades on Mac hardware. While the service will not allow upgrades to the main drive, it can take advantage of an external eSATA port or allow additional, secondary hard drives to be added.

Apple’s new quad-core Sandy Bridge iMacs with Thunderbolt ports debuted earlier this month. Users can configure the desktop to include both a standard spinning hard drive as well as a 256GB solid-state second drive, on which Mac OS X and all applications will come preinstalled.

The new iMacs were the first hardware to ship with Intel’s new Z68 chipset, which allows for faster solid-state drive caching performance with hybrid drives or a combination of SSD and traditional drives. However, Apple’s new iMacs do not take advantage of the new caching feature offered by the Z68 chipset.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent describes keyboards with sensors, tactile feedback

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Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011, 20:47
Category: Patents

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This could be nifty.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has shown interest in creating an advanced keyboard that could provide tactile feedback to users through the inclusion of numerous proximity sensors and air vents on individual keys.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing, entitled “Input Devices and Methods of Operation,” notes that as physical keyboards get smaller and more compact, they may not offer the same typing experience users prefer.

A smaller keyboard might limit the tactile feedback a user feels on their fingertips while typing. This is as a result of keys that do not travel as far when pressed on, say, a much thinner keyboard.

Apple proposes addressing this issue by placing proximity sensors in each key on a keyboard. These sensors could be used to detect when user input on a key is imminent.

The patent filing describes a system that would “flow air from the input device,” perhaps through openings in the surface of an individual key on a keyboard. This would provide tactile feedback to the user before they make physical contact with the key surface.

This air pressure could be used to apply air pressure against a user’s fingertips, giving tactile feedback even though the key may not move as much as a key on a more traditional keyboard.

In another example, Apple describes a pneumatic system that would be used to “advance the selected key in a direction of actuation in response to detecting user selection.” Through this method, the key would be “pulled away from the user.”

Apple also proposes combining these two methods in a keyboard that would provide initial air resistance to movement of a user’s fingers, and then withdraw a key from the user’s touch.

The application, made public this week, was first filed in November of 2009. The proposed invention is credited to Aleksandar Pance, Michael Sinclair, and Brett Bilbrey.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV 4.2.2 update out the door

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Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011, 03:59
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

A new software update addresses a variety of minor issues for users of the second generation “black box” A4-powered Apple TV. You can install the update on your Apple TV by navigating to Settings -> General -> Update Software and following the directions there.

Per AppleInsider, the update, which is the second minor update to version 4.2, is named 4.2.2, but internally is described as iOS 4.3 build 8F305, addresses a half dozen minor issues:

- Audio: Addresses an issue in which audio is not output when playing some video content.

- Video playback: Addresses an issue in which video is not displayed when playing some content.

- Audio output setting: Adds an audio output setting for switching to 16-bit audio for compatibility with some TVs and AV receivers.

- Live FF/RW improvements: Improves the performance of fast-forwarding and rewinding live events.

- Movie description: Addresses an issue in which the description information is not displayed for some movies.

- YouTube video order: Addresses an issue in which YouTube subscription videos were not ordered by date.

Users of the original, Intel-based Apple TV are still stuck with software update 3.0.1, as that model is now discontinued.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

Apple releases iPhoto 9.1.3 update

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Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011, 02:56
Category: News, Software

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Apple on Tuesday released iPhoto 9.1.3, the latest version of its image organization and editing application. The update, a 112 megabyte download which can be be snagged via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature, offers the following major fix:

- Fixes a problem that could cause some events merged in iPhoto to be split back into multiple events on iOS devices after being synced.

iPhoto 9.1.3 retails for US$49 as part of iLife ’11 and requires Mac OS X 10.6.3 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know.

Leaked photo shows 7th-generation iPod nano with 1.3 megapixel camera, no attachment clip

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, May 11th, 2011, 07:39
Category: iPod, iPod Nano, Pictures

If it’s not the rumors that keep technology interesting, it’s the leaked product photos.

Per tw.apple.pro, additional evidence has surfaced showing that the seventh generation iPod nano will retain its same small form factor and multi-touch screen, but add a camera to the rear side of the diminutive device and strangely ditch the built-in clip.

A picture claimed to show the alleged seventh-generation iPod nano appeared on Monday on the website, the accompanying report claiming that the camera is a low-resolution 1.3 megapixel lens.

Crediting a source named “Ray” from California, the site suggests that the next iPod nano will not include a clip as the current model does. Placing a clip on the back of the device would cover the camera lens on the supposed device.

Tuesday’s picture is not the first report to suggest that Apple could add a camera to its multi-touch iPod nano. In early April, an unverified photo showed an alleged seventh-generation iPod nano frame with space in the back for a rear-facing camera.

The Taiwanese Apple blog has correctly leaked each of the previous six generations of the iPod nano. Last year, they leaked photos of a tiny touchscreen that went on to become the multi-touch display for the sixth-generation iPod nano, released in 2010.

The larger fifth-generation iPod nano, released in 2009, did have a camera, along with the classic-style iPod click wheel. But the camera was ditched in the 2010 model, allowing Apple to create an even smaller device driven by a multi-touch display.

Adding a camera to the iPod nano once again could appease some critics who were disappointed that the feature was removed last year. But removing a clip from the rear of the device would also be a detriment, as the small size and inclusion of an integrated Nike+ pedometer has made the sixth-generation iPod nano a strong choice for use at the gym.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google launches cloud-based music service, demos upcoming version of Android

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Date: Wednesday, May 11th, 2011, 03:48
Category: News

Google launched the invite-only beta of its new cloud music streaming service Tuesday, along with Android movie rentals, and Honeycomb 3.1 for tablets. It also previewed Ice Cream Sandwich, the next major Android release, and promised that devices will receive future Android updates for 18 months after they launch, through a new agreement with carriers and device makers.

Per AppleInsider, the company launched its new Music service, a streaming product that will remain free while in beta. Initially, the service is only available to those who are given an invite.

The license-free cloud product allows users to upload their library of music to Google’s servers, and stream those tracks to Android devices and computers, on both Windows and Mac. The Music Beta software allows users to upload all of the music within their iTunes library and access it on the go.

The search giant unveiled the new product as part of its I/O 2011 conference on Tuesday. It boasted that the music service, when synced to the cloud, means users will never have to sync with a cable again.

Music Beta by Google also lets users “pin” their music for offline use, allowing content to be accessed when a data connection may not be available. Music Beta can be used on Android devices running Froyo or Gingerbread.

Google also unveiled movie rentals for Android devices, with thousands of movies available to rent for US$1.99 A new movies application for Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom allows users to watch movies on the go as well.

Like with music, users can “pin” their movie and download it, even if it’s rented and streaming, for playback when a data connection may not be available, such as on a plane ride.

Movies are now available on the Android market, and the official Movies application is available as part of today’s Honeycomb 3.1 release, while smartphone users with Android 2.2 will receive the application in the next few weeks.

Google also announced that an update for Honeycomb, its tablet-centric mobile operating system, is available today for Verizon customers. Those who own a Motorola Xoom will be able to update to Android 3.1.

The new update adds the ability to make Android devices act as USB hosts. In one example, they showed an Xbox 360 wired controller being used with an Android tablet via USB.

With the update, users can also stretch widgets horizontally or vertically to make them fit their needs.

Android 3.1 will also come to Google TV this summer, and bring the Android Market with applications. Google also revealed that there are now more than 200,000 applications available on the Android Market.

Google’s philosophy with the next major release of Android, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, will be “one OS everywhere,” across a range of devices. That would mean that Android phones and tablets would be running the same operating system, unlike the current landscape where Honeycomb is restricted only to tablets.

Google said it would have an “advanced app framework” in the next release of Android, allowing developers to scale their software to different platforms. They also boasted that their mobile operating system will “all be open source.”

Ice Cream Sandwich is also said to include a new user interface, new widgets, and new applications. It said the next user interface would be “state of the art.”

In one demonstration, Google showed off 3D headtracking on a Motorola Xoom using the hardware’s forward facing camera.

Google also vowed to streamline the updating process for Android devices. Carriers and device makers have agreed to provide new updates for 18 months after devices are launched, provided the hardware can support the newer versions of Android.

The company also showed off a new standard called Android Open Accessory. Using this, external can be connected to Android handsets and be supported by third-party software.

The search giant provided a demonstration of Android Open Accessory by connecting an Android phone to a stationary bike. It also demonstrated home automation integration called Android @ Home, with Android-compatible lightbulbs from Lighting Science set to go on sale by the end of the year.

If you’ve received an invitation to Google’s new music service and had a chance to play with it, please let us know.

Drive Genius 3.1.1 update released

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Date: Wednesday, May 11th, 2011, 03:57
Category: News

drivegenius.jpg

Prosoft Engineering has released Drive Genius 3.1.1, an updated version of its drive repair and recovery program for Mac OS X.

The new version, a 16 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and features:

- Live defrag can now be canceled (on some machines this may require a wired keyboard).

- DrivePulse™ is now installed on a per-user basis instead of for all users.

- The Information tool now displays use-based statistics for drives in the Details tab.

- DrivePulse™will open a Finder window for mounted volumes with a click on the disk icon in the DrivePulse™menu.

- Initial support for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

- Bug Fix: Defrag and Repartition now work with native “large block” (4KB) drives.

- Bug Fix: Minor Duplicate issues with native “large block” (4KB) drives.

- Bug Fix: Stability improvements to DriveSlim™while searching for files.

- Bug Fix: Stability issue if a drive was removed from the system while a defrag was in progress.

- Bug Fix: The overview information for unmounted volumes was displaying free space as used space.

Drive Genius retails for US$99 and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.3 or later installed to install and run.

Newer Technology announces NuPower 52 Watt-Hour High Capacity Battery for 2008/2009 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 11:36
Category: Accessory, battery, MacBook Pro, News

If you’re saving up for a 2011 MacBook Pro and need to keep your older gear going for a while, you’ll appreciate that.

On Tuesday, Woodstock, Illinois-based Newer Technology announced today the NuPower 52 Watt-Hour High Capacity Replacement Battery for Late 2008/Early 2009 15″ Apple MacBook Pro ‘Unibody’ notebook computers that offers up to 4% greater capacity over the factory original battery for longer runtimes.

The unit retails for US$99.00 MSRP and reportedly offers a 23% lower cost than the replacement battery available from Apple.

The battery includes Newer’s one year warrant and is RoHS-compliant.

Microsoft purchases Skype for $8.5 billion

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 04:26
Category: News, Software

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You’ve got to admit, Skype does have its uses.

And companies tend to see this.

According to Fortune, Microsoft has agreed to buy the voice-over-Internet company for US$8.5 billion, including the assumption of debt.

There had been reports last week that Skype was in acquisition or partnership talks with both Microsoft and Facebook.

Skype will become a new business unit within Microsoft, to be run by current Skype CEO Tony Bates, who will report directly to Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer.

Luxembourg-based Skype began life as a VC-backed company, before being acquired by eBay (EBAY) for US$2.6 billion in 2005. The combination didn’t pan out as expected, and eBay gave public thought to either selling the unit outright or spinning it off into an independent public company. In November 2009, it agreed to sell a 65% stake in Skype for US$1.9 billion to an investor group that included Silver Lake Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Index Ventures (the 7th-largest leveraged buyout of 2009).

Skype then filed for a US$100 million IPO last August. The company reported a US$6.9 million net loss in 2010, on nearly US$860 million in revenue. It reported just US$686 million in long-term debt, and just over US$1 billion in liabilities.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.