Revised DMCA allows for unlocking of handsets, other exemptions

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Date: Friday, October 26th, 2012, 07:20
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, Legal, News, Software

There’s exceptions to every rule and some of them get pretty interesting.

Per the cool cats at Ars Technica, the Digital Millennium Copyright makes it illegal to “circumvent” digital rights management schemes. But when Congress passed the DMCA in 1998, it gave the Librarian of Congress the power to grant exemptions. The latest batch of exemptions, which will be in force for three years, were announced on Thursday.

Between now and late 2015, there will be five categories of circumvention that will be allowed under the Librarian’s rules, one fewer than the current batch of exemptions, which was announced in July 2010. The new exemptions take effect October 28.

The new batch of exemptions illustrate the fundamentally arbitrary nature of the DMCA’s exemption process. For the next three years, you’ll be allowed to jailbreak smartphones but not tablet computers. You’ll be able to unlock phones purchased before January 2013 but not phones purchased after that. It will be legal to rip DVDs to use an excerpt in a documentary, but not to play it on your iPad.

The first exemption applies to “literary works, distributed electronically, that are protected by technological measures which either prevent the enabling of read-aloud functionality or interfere with screen readers or other applications or assistive technologies.” The work must have been purchased legitimately through “customary channels,” such that “the rights owner is remunerated.”

A similar version of the exemption was offered in 2010, but that one allowed circumvention only if “all existing e-book editions of the work contain access controls” that inhibit disabled access. Disability groups urged the Librarian to drop this restriction, arguing that “despite the rapid growth of the e-book market, most e-book titles remain inaccessible due to fragmentation within the industry and differing technical standards and accessibility capabilities across platforms.” That meant that the rule effectively required disabled users to own multiple devices—a Kindle, a Nook, and an iPad, for example—in order to gain access to a full range of e-books. The Librarian accepted this argument and allowed circumvention by disabled users even if a work is available in an open format on another platform.

The new rules allow circumvention of “computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset.” In other words, jailbreaking is permitted for “telephone handsets,” as it was under the 2010 rules.

Unfortunately, the Librarian “found significant merit to the opposition’s concerns that this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined, as a wide range of devices might be considered ‘tablets,’ notwithstanding the significant distinctions among them in terms of the way they operate, their intended purposes, and the nature of the applications they can accommodate. For example, an e-book reading device might be considered a ‘tablet,’ as might a handheld video game device or a laptop computer.”

The Librarian ruled that “the record lacked a sufficient basis to develop an appropriate definition for the ‘tablet’ category of devices, a necessary predicate to extending the exemption beyond smartphones.”

In 2006 and 2010, the Librarian of Congress had permitted users to unlock their phones to take them to a new carrier. Now that’s coming to an end. While the new rules do contain a provision allowing phone unlocking, it comes with a crippling caveat: the phone must have been “originally acquired from the operator of a wireless telecommunications network or retailer no later than ninety days after the effective date of this exemption.”

In other words, phones you already have, as well as those purchased between now and next January, can be unlocked. But phones purchased after January 2013 can only be unlocked with the carrier’s permission.

Why the change? The Librarian cited two key factors. One is a 2010 ruling that held that when you purchase software, you don’t actually own it. Rather, you merely license it according to the terms of the End User License Agreement. The Librarian argued that this undermined the claim that unlocking your own phone was fair use.

Also, the Librarian found that there are more unlocked phones on the market than there were three years ago, and that most wireless carriers have liberal policies for unlocking their handsets. As a result, the Librarian of Congress decided that it should no longer be legal to unlock your cell phone without the carrier’s permission.

The most complicated exemption focuses on DVDs. Between now and 2015, it will be legal to rip a DVD “in order to make use of short portions of the motion pictures for the purpose of criticism or comment in the following instances: (i) in noncommercial videos; (ii) in documentary films; (iii) in nonfiction multimedia e-books offering film analysis; and (iv) for educational purposes in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts, by college and university faculty, college and university students, and kindergarten through twelfth grade educators.” A similar exemption applies for “online distribution services.”

The Librarian also allowed DVDs to be decrypted to facilitate disability access. Specifically, it’s now legal “to access the playhead and/or related time code information embedded in copies of such works and solely for the purpose of conducting research and development for the purpose of creating players capable of rendering visual representations of the audible portions of such works and/or audible representations or descriptions of the visual portions of such works to enable an individual who is blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing, and who has lawfully obtained a copy of such a work, to perceive the work.”

But the Librarian did not allow circumvention for space-shifting purposes. While public interest groups had argued that consumers should be allowed to rip a DVD in order to watch it on an iPad that lacks a built-in DVD drive, the Librarian concluded that no court has found that such “space shifting” is a fair use under copyright law.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and, well, enjoy unlocking your handsets.

iFixit completes seventh-gen iPod nano teardowns, finds additional NAND Flash memory, Bluetooth, assorted mystery chips

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Date: Tuesday, October 16th, 2012, 08:57
Category: Hardware, iPod, iPod Nano, News

It’s the teardowns that make things interesting.

Per iFixit, the teardown of the seventh-gen iPod nano revealed the following interesting components:

- The Toshiba THGBX2G7D2JLA01, which includes 16 gigabytes of NAND flash. The Broadcom BCM2078KUBG also includes both the Bluetooth and FM radios.

- A touchscreen controller from Texas Instruments identified as 343S0538.

- A chip from NXP Semiconductors labeled “1609A1″.

The device also contained the following mystery chips which have yet to be identified:
- 75203 23017

- 75292 98820

- 339S0193

- Apple 338S1099

- Apple 338S1146

iFixit also found that the battery in the new iPod nano is soldered directly to the logic board and adhered to the back of the display. They did find a plastic pull tab presumed to be in place for removing the battery, however they found the adhesive holding the battery in place was too strong.

The new 3.7V, 0.8Wh, 220 mAh battery is more than twice that of the 0.39 Wh rating of the sixth-generation iPod nano. The solutions provider also found that the LCD and digitizer glass are not fused together, which means each component could be replaced separately.

The same could not be said for the battery, Lightning connector, or volume controls, all of which are soldered to the logic board. Pulling out the logic board also removes the battery, button cable, Lightning connector, and headphone jack.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve snagged a new seventh-generation iPod nano and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know in the comments.

Earbuds for 2012 iPod touch, iPod nano arrive sans remote control, built-in mic

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Date: Tuesday, October 9th, 2012, 07:15
Category: iPod, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, News

If you were irked that your previous iPod touch or iPod nano’s headphones lacked a remote and mic, this probably won’t help your mood.

Per the Macotakara iPod touch and iPod nano entries, Apple’s newly released fifth-generation iPod touch and seventh-generation iPod nano ship with a special set of headphones that lack integrated controls and do not have a built-in microphone.

The web site posted hands-on videos with both the new iPod nano and the new iPod touch. Apple began shipping both devices to customers on Tuesday.

Previously, the iPod touch and iPod nano also shipped with Apple Earphones that lacked the microphone and controls. However, Apple recently redesigned its headphones in the form of the new EarPods, and the unboxing videos posted on Tuesday were the first indication that Apple would make special EarPods for its new iPod lineup.

The new, tweaked EarPods come in a slightly different packaging than is found in the iPhone 5. EarPods that include the remote and microphone come in a reusable plastic case with a cover, while the lesser EarPods included with the new iPods come in more of a temporary packaging without a lid.

In his video demonstration, author “danbo” did show that the integrated microphone found on the full-featured EarPods does work with the iPod nano for recording voice memos. In addition, the volume controls included on the headphones are also compatible with both media players.

On its website, Apple notes in the “Tech Specs” sections for each product that the iPhone 5 ships with “Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic” as well as “storage and travel case,” while the iPod touch and iPod nano ship only with “Apple EarPods.” In contrast, the iPod shuffle and iPod classic ship with Apple’s legacy Earphones.

In addition to the EarPod headphones, the iPod touch ships with the new wrist strap accessory in a color that matches the device itself. It also includes a new Lightning cable for syncing and charging.

The iPod nano does not have a wrist strap accessory, but it does include the basic, button-less EarPods as well as a Lightning cable.

Apple’s redesigned EarPod headphones were unveiled by the company last month along with the iPhone 5 and new iPods. The company has said its new headphones have been redesigned for greater comfort and sound quality.

The new EarPods are also available for purchase separately. The US$29 EarPods sold by Apple include the remote and mic functionality.

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, take a gander at the two unboxing videos below:





Apple begins shipping 2012 iPod touch, iPod nano units

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Date: Tuesday, October 9th, 2012, 07:47
Category: iPod, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, News

If you ordered a fifth-generation iPod touch or a seventh-generation iPod nano, you should be getting it soon.

Per AppleInsider, customers on Tuesday began receiving word that their order for the new fifth-generation iPod touch and seventh-generation iPod nano has shipped and should arrive in the next week.

Readers who received shipping notifications shared with AppleInsider on Tuesday that their orders for the new iPod touch have now shipped from China and are en route to the U.S. Estimated deliveries for standard shipping are before next Monday, Oct. 15.

One user who provided detailed information on their shipment revealed that the package has been shipped via FedEx from one of the shipper’s origin facilities in Kunshan, China. That order was placed on Sept. 14.

Users also began sending word Tuesday morning that their iPod nano orders have also begun to ship from China. Those units are also scheduled to arrive by next Monday.

The shipments come as Apple has also posted the official user’s guide for the new iPod touch on its iBookstore. The fifth-generation media player features a taller 4-inch display, just like the new iPhone 5.

The first shipments being sent out on Tuesday confirms a rumor from last week that claimed the iPod touch would officially go on sale this week. Apple has been taking orders for the new iPod touch since last month, but the company has only promised a shipping timeframe of October.

Supply of the new iPods is said to be limited at launch. The iPod touch and iPhone 5 share the same 4-inch Retina display, and supply of the iPhone 5 has been constrained since it debuted in September.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

And if you’ve received your spiffy new iPod nano or iPod touch, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Apple files patent for inductive charging pad that could also offer device syncing features

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Date: Thursday, September 27th, 2012, 06:02
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, Patents

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It’s not the newest peripheral idea in the world, but it’s still sort of nifty.

Per FreePatentsOnline.com, Apple has shown interest in building an inductive charging mat that would allow users to dock, charge and sync their portable devices by simply placing them on top of the accessory.

Apple’s filing, entitled “Device Orientation Based Docking Functions,” describes a “docking device” that would allow devices to be placed on top of it.

The mat would accomplish docking functions such as charging, data transfer, syncing, diagnostic checking, or any other potential use based on the physical orientation of the user device on the surface.

The filing notes that smartphones, like the iPhone, as well as digital cameras and media players like iPods can all be built to utilize inductive charging surfaces. Circuitry in these devices would respond to a magnetic field provided by the charging surface that would also allow data to be transferred while the device is docked.

While inductive charging surfaces are not new technology, Apple’s application brings a new twist to the concept with the idea of interpreting the device’s orientation for specific purposes. For example, a future iPhone with inductive charging capabilities could be placed face down on the mat for charging only, while placing the handset face-up on the mat could initiate syncing with a computer or iCloud as well as charging.

Once a device is placed on the mat, its current docking mode may be indicated to the user by either a sound, a graphic displayed on the device’s screen, an electronic message notification, or a vibration of the device.

Beyond a local computer for syncing, the inductive charging mat could also be connected to a host of devices throughout a person’s home. In one example, the mat is connected to speakers for audio output when docked.

Apple’s proposed invention was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March of 2011. It is credited to Jorge S. Fino.

When the iPhone 5 was announced earlier this month, Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller was asked why the new handset does not include inductive charging capabilities. He said the perceived convenience of such technology is questionable, as charging mats must still be plugged into an outlet.

“Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated,” he explained.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Analyst: Apple’s new Lightning connector should have product lifespan of 5-10 years

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Date: Friday, September 21st, 2012, 06:01
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, News

If you’re irked about having to buy a new Lightning adapter for your iPhone 5 or updated iPod, at least it’ll be around for a while.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s new Lightning connector, introduced alongside the iPhone 5 last week, is thought to be a key longterm investment for the company, and will possibly have a lifetime of ten years.

In a research note shared with clients, well-connected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo broke down the cost of components used in the iPhone 5, and found the Lightning’s ASP (average sales price) to have risen the most compared to parts in the iPhone 4S.

Kuo notes the new Lightning connector’s cost of US$3.50 represents a huge 775 percent rise in ASP compared to the legacy 30-pin dock connector’s last price of US$0.40. Concurrently, the Lightning cable’s US$6.00 ASP is a 233 percent jump from the previous standard’s US$1.80 model.

The spike is to be expected as Lightning is a new technology, replacing the nearly decade old 30-pin dock connector first introduced with the third-generation iPod.

While Apple’s new plug is similar in size to the Micro USB standard, Kuo believes the Lightning’s specs are higher, making the connector more difficult to manufacture. Included in the new high-tech part is a unique design which the analyst says is likely to feature a pin-out with four contacts dedicated to data, two for accessories, one for power and a ground. Two of the data transmission pins may be reserved for future input/output technology like USB 3.0 or perhaps even Thunderbolt, though this is merely speculation.

As for Lightning’s expected lifespan, the format is estimated to be in use for the next five to ten years, almost identical to the now-defunct 30-pin standard.

While ASP may be high in the first one to two years following deployment, the cost is acceptable as Apple will likely make back its investment in royalties from accessory sales. Apple is thought to be using a Texas Instruments chip for accessory authorization, making it difficult for third party manufacturers to build and sell Lightning-compatible products without paying royalties.

Looking at other critical parts in the iPhone 5, Kuo notes Apple’s quest to make high-quality products has boosted the ASP of other components as well, including the sapphire camera lens cover, upgraded baseband system, the A6 processor and the 4-inch in-cell touch panel. The second-highest ASP rise comes from the iPhone 5′s all-aluminum back casing’s $17 price which represents a 240 percent increase from the US$5 “metal band” design seen in the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6 golden master to developer community

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 07:36
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

It’s six days from completion and the final, gold master version just went out the door.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has just seeded the mobile operating system’s golden master to developers, showing slight tweaks and performance enhancements to its first-party Maps app.

According to sources familiar with the progression of Maps in iOS 6, the recently-seeded GM has brought a number of changes to Apple’s first in-house mapping app including Flyover support for new cities like New York and Rome. The most recent version of Maps introduced Flyover data for a number of major international metropolitan cities, however New York was omitted for unknown reasons.

A major feature that sets Maps apart from rival products is its use of custom algorithms to fill in Flyover details like shrubbery and trees. The iOS 6 GM brings further improvements in this area, as zoomed images reveal smoother borders around foliage and advanced rendering that gives the appearance of “leaf-level” detail.

Unlike Google Maps’ StreetView, which blurs out license plates and faces, Apple looks to be employing an automated masking system that will leave only a “ghost image” of vehicles behind.

Finally, a small tweak to the UI comes in the “cityscape” icon, which takes the place of the “3D” asset when viewing areas that have Flyover data. The app also said to feel more sprightly than previous builds and more detail is apparent on certain rendered structures.

Apple’s Maps app will roll out as part of iOS 6 on Sept. 19.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve had a chance to play with the iOS 6 golden master, please let us know in the comments.

Apple posts video of iPhone 5/refreshed iPod models media event

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 07:48
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

applelogo_silver

It’s the day after, there’s a new iPhone and new iPod models en route and Apple just posted the video of yesterday’s press event here if you’re interested.

So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, take a gander and let us know what your hopes, dreams and expectations of the new stuff are in the comments section.

Apple releases iTunes 10.7 update

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 06:42
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Nano, iPod shuffle, iPod Touch, News, Software

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On Wednesday, Apple released version 10.7 of its iTunes multimedia/jukebox application. The new version, a 165 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Adds support for iOS 6 running on compatible iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch models.

- Also adds support for the latest iPod nano and iPod shuffle models.

iTunes 10.7 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.

Apple announces 7th-gen iPod nano, units to go on sale in October

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Date: Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, 11:41
Category: iPod, iPod Nano, News

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The new stuff is rolling in today.

Per 9to5Mac, in addition to announcing the iPhone 5 today, the company announced a completely refreshed 7th generation iPod nano sporting a larger display, Bluetooth, Home button, and Lightning connector. The new Nano is also the thinnest yet at just 5.4mm, includes play/pause, forward/back physical buttons in addition to an iPhone-style Home button. and comes in seven colors, and has the longest battery life of any Nano with up to 30 hours of music playback.

Other features include an FM tuner with live pause, built-in pedometer, and a 38% thinner frame over the previous generation.

The new nanos will be available for US$149 in October.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.