Apple files patent applications for curved battery technology, could lead to unique new devices

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 08:44
Category: News, Patents

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If nothing else, the patent applications tell you what’s coming down the pipe.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a pair of patent applications (1, 2) filed by Apple reveal the company is working on unorthodox battery designs with curved cells and irregular shapes, suggesting slimmer, more shapely iOS devices could be on the horizon.

The patents filings for “Curved battery cells for portable electronic devices” and “Non-rectangular batteries for portable electronic devices,” both describe methods in which a battery can be designed and manufactured for incorporation into slim, new device chassis.

Both filed for on Oct. 28, 2011, the applications call for battery cells to be manipulated during the manufacturing phase in order to facilitate easy installation into curved and non-rectangular device designs.

For example, the invention regarding curved batteries uses industry standard production techniques, which include a set of layers, a cathode, an anode, a separator and active coatings, before manipulating the unit to a given specification. Like some batteries already on the market, Apple’s proposed design uses a flexible pouch to enclose the cell layers created by the separator.

The pouch is then exposed to pressure of “at least 0.13 kilogram-force (kgf) per square millimeter” and heat of about 85 degrees Celsius in a set of curved plates in order to set the shape. As noted, this process may take as long as four hours.

In some embodiments, the curve is held by employing a binder coating within the battery cell, which is activated during the curing process to laminate the layers together. The resulting structure would be solid and take the shape of curved plates.

From the filing’s summary:
“In some embodiments, the curve is formed to facilitate efficient use of space inside a portable electronic device. For example, the curve may be formed at one or more ends of the battery cell to allow the battery cell to occupy a curved and/or rounded space within the enclosure of a laptop computer, tablet computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), digital camera, portable media player, and/or other type of battery-powered electronic device.”

In the second application a similar method is employed, but where the former uses pressure and heat to set the shape, the “non-rectangular” property removes material from the battery before stacking the cell layers. An example is given of how a non-rectangular shape can be achieved by removing material from one or more sides of the anode and cathode to form a rounded corner. By utilizing this method, varying thicknesses can be achieved, such as those seen in the fourth-generation iPad.

Both techniques aim to shape a battery that fits snugly into a device’s housing, thereby reducing wasted internal space. While merely speculation, the battery designs could be used in an upcoming version of the iPhone or iPad, both of which are becoming increasingly slim as consumers demand thin, lightweight portables.

Also a possibility is the use of such battery design in an iPhone with a “wrap-around” display, the patent of which passed through the USPTO in late March. While it is unlikely that such a device will make it to market in the near future, if ever, the recent patent filings show Apple is continuously looking for innovative ways to save space in its iOS device lineup.

Both patent applications credit Ramesh C. Bhardwaj, John Raff, Stephen R. McClure, Erik L. Wang and Taisup Hwang as their inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Flip4Mac updated to 3.2.0.16

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 07:42
Category: News, Software

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A worthwhile software update never hurt anyone.

Or kicked your puppy when you weren’t looking.

On Thursday, software developer Telestream has released version 3.2.0.16 of Flip4Mac, its QuickTime components package which allows for Windows Media files to be viewed, imported and converted under Mac OS X. The new release, an 85.8 megabyte download, includes the following fixes and changes:

New Features:
- New in-app stores purchasing.

Fixes and Enhancements:
- Dramatically improved the loading time for ASF files (.wmv, .wma, .wm, .wmp, .asf, etc.).

Flip4Mac 3.2.0.16 is available for free but can go as high as US$179 depending on the version purchased. The new version requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7 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.

Apple adds 256, 512 GB Flash drive options as build-to-order options for iMac

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 07:40
Category: hard drive, Hardware, iMac, News

It’s pricey, but it’s a useful option.

Per MacRumors, Apple has added new storage options to its iMac lineup, allowing users to choose either a 256 GB or 512 GB flash storage drive as part of the order customization process. The new options are available as US$300 and US$600 surcharges respectively to replace the 1 TB traditional hard drive that is standard across all iMac models.

Previously, the 21.5-inch iMac had not been available with dedicated flash storage options, only offering the standard 1 TB traditional hard drive and a US$250 Fusion Drive option. Apple’s Fusion Drive marries a 128 GB flash drive with a 1 TB traditional hard drive to seamlessly provide fast access to most-used files while also offering relatively cheap mass storage for the remainder of the user’s storage needs. Those options remain available, but for those looking for an all-flash storage solution, Apple is now offering that in 256 and 512 GB capacities.

For the 27-inch iMac, Apple did previously offer an all-flash storage solution, but only as a 768 GB drive carrying a US$900 upgrade fee. The 27-inch iMac is also available with 1 TB and 3 TB traditional hard drive options, with each of those also available in a Fusion Drive configuration. But with the addition of 256 GB and 512 GB flash options, Apple is now offering users who do not need massive amounts of storage the ability to maximize speed on their machines.

If you have a Mac with a Fusion drive and want to throw in your two cents as to how its performance has been, please let us know in the comments.

Intel details specs for upcoming i7 “Haswell” processor

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 06:59
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

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The next-gen stuff always looks pretty sexy…

Per AppleInsider and Engadget, a document released on Wednesday sheds some light on Intel’s forthcoming Core i7 processors, which will boast new integrated graphics silicon that promises to double or even triple performance compared to existing models.

Alongside a new iteration of the “Intel HD Graphics” series, dubbed HD 5000, Intel is introducing the “Iris” and “Iris Pro” tiers to its graphics lineup with Haswell, effectively creating a three-tier system for its upcoming Core i7 offerings. Apple is expected to use products from the newest family of processors when the company refreshes its Mac lineup later this year.

As is the case with every new generation of CPUs, there will be an across the board performance boost with the fourth-generation Core i7 chips. However, while previous generational changes brought only slight gains to Intel’s respective Ultrabook, notebook and desktop class lineups, Iris and Iris Pro will enjoy huge gains, in some cases showing threefold improvements.

The options start out with HD 5000 for 15W TDP (Thermal Design Power) U-series chips, and move to the new Iris graphics with 28W U-series silicon. Iris Pro, which uses embedded DRAM instead of shared system memory, promises to double the speed of current 47-55W H-series laptop processors. Most intriguing is a tripling in 3D rendering speeds for 65-84W R-series desktop CPUs.

According to Intel’s documentation, Iris Pro will also be available on certain M-series laptop and K-series desktop chips.

The 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air currently uses two U-series chips — a 17W dual-core Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor in its standard configuration and an optional Core i7 version. Apple uses M-series Core i5 and i7 chips for its MacBook Pro and MacBook Pro with Retina Display products.

Intel also detailed the three tiers’ feature sets, which support DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4 and OpenCL 1.2. Display modes include “enhanced” 4K and 2K output and a 3-screen collage, which looks to eschew the need for a discrete graphics card for multi-panel setups.

Full specs, including those pertaining to non-graphics processing performance, are slated to be revealed , one day prior to the Computex Taipei trade show.

CrossOver updated to 12.2

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 06:36
Category: News, Software

A helpful update’s a helpful update.

CrossOver, the popular virtualization program from CodeWeavers, has been updated to version 12.2. The new version, a 79.8 megabyte download, is available as a demo, offers the following fixes and changes:

Application Support:
Quicken:
- Fixed a bug which caused Quicken to fail to register on Mac OS X.

- Fixed graphics distortions in some Quicken windows.

- Fixed a bug which prevented a double-click on a .QFX file in the Mac OS X Finder from importing the file into Quicken.

- Fixed a bug which caused Office 2007 applications to crash in some circumstances.

- Fixed a bug which caused Wizard101 to fail to recover after being re-sized.

- Fixed a bug which caused mailto: links to be broken in Outlook 2003.

- Fixed a bug which caused .Net 4.0 applications to fail to run.

Mac OS X:
- Drag and drop support in the Mac Driver.

- Gamma support in the Mac Driver.

- Reduced window flicker when using the Mac Driver.

Language Support:
- Fixed a bug which sometimes caused Traditional Chinese to be used even when a user’s preferences were set to Simplified Chinese.

CrossOver 12.2 retails for US$59.95 and requires Mac OS X 10.6 and or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

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

SpamSieve updated to 2.9.7

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 06:42
Category: News, Software

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No one ever slighted a useful update.

Michael Tsai’s must-have shareware program, SpamSieve, has just been updated to version 2.9.7. The new version, a 10.8 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- Improved compatibility with pre-release versions of Mac OS X.

- Made various changes to improve SpamSieve’s filtering accuracy.

- SpamSieve no longer links against AppleScriptKit. This removes some GUI scripting functionality (which is now largely available by other means) but works around an OS bug that could prevent SpamSieve from launching.

- Worked around a bug in Apple Mail’s iCloud rule syncing.

- SpamSieve is better at moving trained messages when Outlook has lost track of the special Junk E-mail folder.

- Fixed a problem where Apple Mail couldn’t communicate with SpamSieve when the file permissions were incorrect.

- Fixed a bug where SpamSieve couldn’t load any addresses from Outlook if it reported an error while getting the e-mail address of a contact.

- Fixed a bug editing counts in the Corpus window (due to suspected 64-bit OS bug).

- Added more checks that the folders SpamSieve relies upon have the proper permissions.

- Improved error reporting for Apple Mail, Growl, and more.

- Improved handling of file permissions errors.

- The Apple Mail drone script now sets the junk status.

- Wrote a script that allows SpamSieve to filter messages (in Apple Mail) that have been organized by SaneBox.

- Improved the Japanese localization.

- SpamSieve now requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

SpamSieve retails for US$30.00 and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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