Two new patents show how Apple would use iPhone, Bluetooth to interact with cars

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 07:29
Category: iOS, News, Patents

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One day, your iPhone WILL talk to and control your car.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office (1, 2) and AppleInsider, a pair of patent filings discovered on Thursday reveal Apple is actively investigating the possibilities afforded by the iOS mobile platform’s various wireless connectivity options, including the ability to interact with, and at times control, a Bluetooth-enabled automobile.

The two patents, describe Apple inventions for using an iOS device to find a parked car in a parking structure, getting guidance to said car, gathering parking fee information and, once near the automobile, activating vehicle functions like door locks, power windows and the engine starter.

First, Apple’s “Method for Locating a Vehicle” outlines a method in which a mobile device can pair with a vehicle via Bluetooth to determine whether it is in a parked state. If the condition is met, the handset then communicates with a wireless system within the parking structure to determine a parking location before moving away from the vehicle.

When returning to the parking structure, the mobile device can access the parking structure’s location system to request current positioning data. The received information is then compared to the vehicle location already stored on the device to determine a route back to the car.

In another embodiment, the automobile itself communicates with the parking structure’s location system, which logs the car’s position and stores the data for later access by a mobile device. This method also allows the parking system to handle guidance and routing directions, which are subsequently sent to a handset upon request.

Apple’s invention calls for the parking structure to hold an array of wireless sensors that are deployed in such a way as to determine the location of a car and a mobile device. An example would be one sensor per stall, or one per row. The system can use Bluetooth technology to transmit positioning data, as well as guidance data if necessary, to the mobile device.

Further, the parking system can also incorporate cameras, microphones and other sensors to determine whether a car is in a parked state. Such information would include an opened car door, active running lights or engine noise. In some embodiments, a user can manually inform the system that a car is parked by interacting with a digital interface either in the vehicle or on a mobile device.

Regarding guidance, a handset can receive a map over cellular or Wi-Fi, which can have an overlay of current positioning data much like a GPS navigation system. Indeed, in some examples, GPS can also be used in concert with the parking structure’s location data to determine a route back to the vehicle.

As a side note, Apple recently acquired “indoor GPS” firm WiFiSLAM, which developed technology to serve up location data within structures where GPS signals are usually absent. Such systems could be implemented effectively in the utility filing described above.

In Apple’s second car-related patent application, titled “Accessing a vehicle using portable devices,” a mobile handset pairs securely with a car over Bluetooth or other suitable method to control various onboard functions.

The invention is basically a more intelligent replacement for existing automobile personalization systems offered by some manufacturers. These methods usually rely on key fobs, which interact with the car via NFC or radio to open doors, roll down windows, start the engine, and so forth. Instead, Apple proposes a mobile device take the place of a fob to offer enhanced control of the vehicle through wireless protocols like Bluetooth.

As noted in the filing, the system can support a primary and a secondary mobile device. Both would use proven authentication methods to access the vehicle, thereby allowing said devices to act as a security point in lieu of a key fob. A user can set preferences to cause the system to act automatically, or have greater control by requiring a PIN or passwords before a device unlocks and interacts with the car.

Some embodiments allow restrictions to be placed on the second mobile device, such as authorization to start the engine only within a given time period, for example between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Further limitations can include speed, entertainment options, number of “uses” allotted and GPS-based fencing, among others.

Besides describing the variety of functions available for operation, much of the patent application focuses on authentication techniques and device-to-car security.

Apple is apparently looking to take advantage of popular “infotainment” systems a number of auto makers include in their vehicles, which usually carry some sort of wireless communications protocol such as Bluetooth. While it is unknown if and when the pair of patent applications will be used in a consumer product, a number of car manufacturers have already signed on to support Apple’s “eyes-free” initiative.

Both of the applications were filed in 2011 and credit Brian J. Tucker, Emily C. Schubert, Jess L. Dorogusker, Joakim Linde; Joakim and Stephen Chick as their inventors.

13-inch MacBook Pro determined as “best performing Windows laptop” according to PC services company Soluto

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 07:44
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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You’re gonna either love or hate this.

Per CNET, Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro is the “best performing” Windows laptop.

The MacBook Pro won out over established PC makers like Dell, Acer, and Lenovo, according to Soluto, which was quick to explain its finding.

A main factor in this machine’s metrics is the fact that every Windows installation on it is clean. With PC manufacturers loading so much crapware on new laptops, this is a bit of an unfair competition. But, on the other hand, PC makers should look at this data and aspire to ship PCs that perform just as well as a cleanly installed MacBook Pro.

The report went on to admit that it might be more fair to compare a cleanly installed MacBook Pro with a cleanly-installed PC from Acer or Dell.

The company’s metrics included crashes per week, hangs per week, Blue Screens (of Death) per week, and average boot time.

Soluto did list the disadvantages of running Windows on a Mac, including that it’s more work to set up Windows on a Mac and there may be driver issues.

Acer’s Aspire E1-571 came in second and Dell’s XPS 13 received the third-highest ranking.

Dropbox updated to 2.0.8

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 06:39
Category: News, Software

Don’t knock a useful update.

On Thursday, Dropbox released version 2.0.8 of its cloud-based storage client for Mac OS X. The new version, a 29.1 megabyte download (via MacUpdate), which adds the following fixes and changes:
- Fixed a bug where quitting Dropbox doesn’t dismiss the tray popup.

- Fixed a bug where Dropbox would steal focus on startup.

- Recently changed files now appear earlier when starting Dropbox.

- User-interface polish.

Dropbox 2.0.8 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new beta and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Delicious Library updated to 3.0

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 06:16
Category: News, Software

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On Thursday, software company Delicious Monster released version 3.0 of the shareware favorite, Delicious Library. Delicious Monster allows Macs with webcams to scan the bar codes of any book, movie, music CD or video game, then creates an archive based on background information from the Internet. Additional features help keep the library organized and reseller’s tools allow for items to be quickly posted for sale online.

The new version, an 81 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

Major New Features:
- Fully 3D cover view.

- All items are drawn in full 3D [industry first], with multiple light sources and normal, reflection, and environment maps.

- Books are rendered at actual thickness based on page count.

- Live lighting changes as items are selected.

- Shadows draw dynamically behind all items.

- Many gorgeous woods to choose from for shelves.

- New “Recommended” pane.

- Makes smart recommendations by considering everything the user owns and has ever rated.

- User can now rate items they don’t own to improve recommendations (using search widget).

- Recommended items that user’s friends own have badges so they can be easily borrowed.

- Add recommended items to the wishlist with a single click.

- New “Wishlist” pane.

- New Flexible Smart shelves.

- New global search.

- Displays results in a table/popover like iTunes 11.

- Searches through user’s collection, friends’ collections, and online.

- Can be used to find existing items or new ones.

- Can be used to rate items user doesn’t own but has opinions on.

- User can also search by speaking or selecting a cover color.

- New iOS barcode scanner app.

- New interactive charts mode.

Preferences
- Entire UI redesigned to be bookshelf-centric.

- Show covers, a table, or charts using buttons at upper left of the window.

- Switch between owned items, recommended items, and wishlist items at the upper center.

- Find existing or new items in search widget at the upper right.

- Switch between media types with buttons at the lower left.

- Change sorting at the bottom middle.

- Show and hide auxilliary right pane using button at the lower right.

- Source list is hidden by default but available for advanced users.

Medium-sized New Features:
- We’ve eliminated the “Preferences” panel–all options are set where they are actually used, instead of in a single global panel.

- iTunes books will be read into Delicious Library 3 when iTunes is launched.

- Two new Amazon stores are now accessible: Italy and Spain.

Popover Details:
- Dates entered manually remember their precision, so if the user specifies “Jan, 2000″ for a book’s release date, it won’t switch it to “Jan 1, 2000.” However, dates are still formatted according to the user’s localization settings in System Preferences.

- When editing multi-line fields, the “return” key goes to a new line as users expect (no need to figure out “option-return”).

Sorting:
- User’s favorite sorts are remembered and can be re-applied anywhere.

- Improved per-language article-stripping; e.g., ignoring “a, an, the” in English, “der, die, das” in German.

Publishing:
- Now remembers multiple places; e.g., set up publishing both to Dropbox and FTP site
Live preview the generated web pages.

- Privacy options moved to publishing shelves.

Printing:
- Added “Compact” template to minimize paper use.

- Added “Insurance” template to show fields insurance companies care about in the event of theft.

- Interface cleaned up so template selection is obvious.

Scanning history:
- User’s last 500 added items are shown above scanner window for easy rating or deleting.

- Provides context if a book isn’t found online so it can be entered manually.

- Import from another library.

- Import libraries from other machines without removing current items.

- Importing the same library twice applies the changes but doesn’t duplicate items.

- Can be used to easily sync libraries between computers.

- Multiple people can scan in items on multiple computers, then merge all the items into one collection.

- Importing is now undoable.

Friends:
- Loans now appear in friends’ sidebars instead of in main bookshelf view, to reduce confusion.

- Send loan reminder e-mails with a single click.

- Friends can be re-ordered in source list. If friends are dragged into a sorted order, they’ll stay in that order automatically.

Help:
- The “Search:” field in the main menu’s Help searches our online forums for relevant answers.

Tiny New Features:
- When user first launches the app, most panes explain why they are empty and what to do.

- All item types from Amazon are supported (user prompted for the type if item is from a store we don’t recognize).

- More descriptive titles for most menu items; e.g., “Delete 4 Books” or “Delete Shelf” instead of “Delete”.

- Added expand-on-hover, so if titles or authors are ever drawn truncated they can still be read.

- Cover view responds to some EMACS keybindings for selection movement.

- Items can be dragged from and to more places.

- Items can be dragged to the trash can to delete.

- User can copy media with command-C and paste into text areas or URL-taking places.

New Features from OS X:
- Scene Kit: for fast, gorgeous, interactive 3D graphics

- Sharing Services: tweet, iMessage, Facebook, or e-mail items to friends

- SQLite write-ahead logging: user’s database can no longer be corrupted if machine crashes

- Full-screen mode: added and optimized

- New drag architecture: multiple items can be dragged in or out at once

- Spotlight: Library items are written to Spotlight, can be found quickly in the global Spotlight search pane (command-space) with structured queries like “media:book color:blue” (standard Spotlight keys include: kMDItemAlbum, kMDItemComposer, kMDItemContentCreationDate, kMDItemDirector, kMDItemGenre, kMDItemMediaTypes, kMDItemPerformers, kMDItemRecordingDate, and kMDItemMediaTypes).

- QuickLook: Spotlight items (or media dragged onto the desktop) are viewable in QuickLook with full-color covers and complete descriptions.

- Retina graphics: high-resolution graphics used throughout.

- State restoration: Delicious Library opens up exactly as it was last closed.

- 64-bit: for unlimited memory, and because it’s faster.

- Obj-C 2 runtime: faster, future-proof.

- ARC: eliminates certain categories of crash bugs.

- Constraints-based layout: makes the layout of all buttons and text much more natural
NSSupportsSuddenTermination: quits instantly when it’s safe.

- If it’s not safe to quit, user can force quit if there’s a long operation in progress, or the app will auto-quit when long operation is over.

- Automatic termination: can automatically quit under memory pressure.

- Power assertions: the machine won’t idle-sleep during long operations (publishing, importing, etc.)

Some Bugs Fixed:
- Deleting thousands of items (and undoing that deletion) is now close to instant instead of taking minutes.

Friends:
- Friends’ libraries now download in the background, NOT blocking the program from running. Yay.

- Friends’ libraries aren’t re-downloaded every launch but only if the friend has changed something.

- Friends’ libraries are imported MUCH more quickly.

- If friends are removed from Contacts, the app doesn’t forget their names.

- Undoing the deletion of a friend restores items loaned to that friend.

- Adding a new friend doesn’t spam Google when automatically searching for the friend’s published library.

- Adding friends is undoable.

Delicious Library 3.0 retails for US$40 and requires OS X 10.8 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.