Apple receives patent for “microslot antennas”, could see improvements in wireless functionality in coming years

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:01
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, wireless

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Your notebook and iOS device’s wireless system could be getting that much niftier.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday won the patent rights to “microslot antenna” technology that allows micron-wide antenna assets to be integrated into the housing of a portable device, such as an iPhone, making them nearly invisible to the human eye.

As portable electronics become thinner and more compact with each successive generation, internal space is quickly becoming a limiting factor to device designers. Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610 for “Microslot antennas for electronic devices,” granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, could drastically cut down on the size of at least one component needed to create products like the iPhone.

While the patent refers to implementations in a laptop computer, the antenna tech can be used in other portable electronics like smartphones and tablets.

With Apple’s current technology as seen in the iPhone 5, two internal radio antennas dynamically switch between multiple frequency bands, including those carrying fast LTE data. In order to fit the units within the handset’s slim body, Apple had to design a window for radio waves, while keeping the unit small enough to leave room for other important structures like the logic board and battery.

Tuesday’s patent focuses on so-called “microslot antenna” technology, or “dielectric-filled microslots that are formed in a ground plane element.” According to the invention, the ground plane can be a device’s housing as long as it is conductive, meaning the slots would be integrated on the outer hull of a product. The system can also support multiple communications bands, meaning functionality would not be compromised for size enhancements.

As for the size of the microslots, the patent language states that the widths of the slots are usually significantly less than their lengths. For example, widths can range from microns to hundreds of microns, while a microslot’s length can be on the order of millimeters or centimeters.

Filling the slots is a dielectric such as epoxy, plastic, air or other suitable substance that prevents foreign matter from entering. Antenna feeds can be located at or between the functional microslots, and operate on common communication bands that support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G cellular, among others.

The ’601 property was first filed for in December 2007, less than six months after the original iPhone debuted, and credits Bing Chiang, Gregory Allen Springer, Douglas B. Kough, Enrique Ayala and Matthew Ian McDonald as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule Firmware Update 7.6.3

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 08:42
Category: News, Software, wireless

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You can’t knock a decent networking update.

On Friday, Apple released its AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.6.3 firmware updates. The updates, which are available for all 802.11n AirPort Express, 802.11n AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models, include the following fixes and changes:

- Extend the Guest Wi-Fi network for a network configured with multiple AirPort Base Stations.

- Ability to add a WPS capable Wi-Fi printer.

- Support for additional countries.

It is recommended that AirPort Utility 5.6 or later be installed before updating to Firmware version 7.6.3.

The updates can be located and installed via AirPort Utility’s update feature and require an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

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

Wireless handset unlocking becomes illegal in U.S. without carrier permission

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Date: Monday, January 28th, 2013, 08:45
Category: iPhone, Legal, wireless

Well, here’s the thing that’ll drive you nuts today.

Per Electronista and TechCrunch, phone unlocking without carrier permission is now illegal in the United States. A 90-day transition period, permitting the practice after an exemption added to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was reversed in October, has now run out. The expiration of the exemption now forces customers to either ask and potentially pay carriers for unlocking services, or to buy phones that have been unlocked beforehand.

The exemption was put in place after a campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2010. Three exemptions were applied for, including making jailbreaking legal and the renewal of an existing exemption that permitted phone unlocking. In October, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress reviewed and then overturned the unlocking exemption, citing the relative ease for consumers to either get an unlocked handset or to unlock a phone through a carrier. A 90-day transition period was then put in place, which has since ran out.

Penalties for unlocking, as outlined by CTIA, range from the carrier’s “actual damages and any additional profits of the violator”, to a court-awarded statutory damages of between US$200 and US$2500 per individual unlock, on the Civil Penalties side. Criminal penalties would see violators fined at most US$500,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, or both, for a first offense, with the values doubled for subsequent offenses.

In light of the unlocking exemption’s closure, a “We The People” petition asking for the Librarian of Congress to rescind the decision or to make unlocking permanently legal, has gathered over 25,000 signatures.

Jailbreaking and rooting of smartphones continues to be legal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts job openings for 802.11ac engineers

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Date: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013, 08:37
Category: Hardware, News, wireless

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Apple’s looking to bring the 802.11ac protocol to the Mac this year.

Now it just needs the people to do it.

Per AppleBitch, a new job listing by the company advertises a position for engineers experienced with Gigabit Wi-Fi.

The mention of 802.11ac comes from a new job posting listed by the company on Sunday, first highlighted by AppleBitch. The role of “System Test Engineer” will be based at Apple’s corporate Campus in Cupertino, Calif., and focuses on Wi-Fi connectivity.

In the job listing, Apple notes that the position requires “technical knowledge” of the Wi-Fi standard in all forms, including the next-generation 802.11ac. The ideal candidate will include “experience on consumer-facing hardware/software products.”

The new job posting comes only days after a rumor surfaced claiming that Apple plans to add Gigabit Wi-Fi to its 2013 Mac lineup. The so-called “5G Wi-Fi” standard offers up to 1.3Gbps data transfers with a three-antenna design.

Current Macs and other Apple devices feature 802.11n networking, the current industry standard for Wi-Fi. That allows transfers of up to 450Mbps with three antennas — a feat that 802.11ac can accomplish with just one antenna.

Apple is rumored to have struck a deal with Broadcom to potentially debut 802.11ac in this year’s Macs. The Broadcom chips reportedly remain in development and are not yet available to use.

Apple has a history of being on the cutting edge with Wi-Fi — it was among the first to bring Wi-Fi to the masses in 1999, while Apple secretly included support for the “Draft-N” specification in some of its devices in 2006 before the 802.11n standard was officially ratified.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple inks deal with Broadcom, will bring 802.11ac functionality to 2013 Macs

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Date: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013, 09:30
Category: Hardware, Rumor, wireless

This could lead to something nifty.

Per The Next Web, Apple has reportedly struck a deal with Broadcom that will place superfast 802.11ac Wi-Fi chips in its 2013 Mac lineup.

Sources familiar with the deal indicated that the forthcoming industry standard for Wi-Fi will appear in Apple’s lineup this year. The so-called “5G Wi-Fi” offers up to 1.3Gbps data with a three-antenna design.

Apple has reportedly shown interest in the past of being an early adopter of 801.11ac technology, but the “Gigabit Wi-Fi” technology has yet to appear in any Macs. The new standard achieves much faster wireless networking speeds than 802.11n, which featured in current Macs, by using more frequency bandwidth, more efficient data transfers, and more antennas.

Apple’s current Macs use up to three antennas to achieve 802.11n speeds of up to 450Mbps. But the 802.11ac standard starts at 450Mbps with just one antenna, while a triple-antenna design boosts wireless speeds to 1.3Gbps.

While Apple has reportedly struck a deal with Broadcom, the chips the company will use are not yet available and remain in development.

“We have been told that if work goes according to schedule, they should be part of the new line of Mac computers,” author Matt Brian wrote on Wednesday. “There is no word on whether Apple will introduce similar chipsets in the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Time Capsule or other products.”

Presumably Apple’s networking products would receive the necessary upgrade to provide 802.11ac connectivity to the rumored 2013 Macs. That would include the AirPort Extreme Base Station router and AirPort Express portable Wi-Fi base station and AirPlay streaming device.

Apple was among the first companies to bring Wi-Fi to the masses in 1999 when company co-founder Steve Jobs debuted a wireless iBook notebook onstage as his trademark “one more thing” at the July Macworld Expo.

The company also snuck in support for the 802.11n wireless standard in some of its devices in 2006. Support for the “draft n” specification was later added to devices through an available software update. The 802.11n standard was formally ratified in October of 2009 — nearly three years after Apple began rolling it out.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

RIM Co-CEOs step down, take lower positions on board

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Date: Monday, January 23rd, 2012, 06:08
Category: News, wireless

Sometimes you just need to make a chance.

In a surprise step, RIM confirmed late Sunday that its two CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis would resign from their top positions. Per the Wall Street Journal, the two would stay on as board members and shareholders for the BlackBerry designer, but would hand over direct leadership to one person, current COO Thorsten Heins. Board member Barbara Stymiest would be promoted to an independent board chairman.

There would be “continuity” from the earlier strategy, Heins said, but it was “not going to be a standstill” that preserves the existing order. He was confident that BlackBerry 10 would lure customers and developers to RIM, but hinted that licensing the OS on a “case-by-case basis” might be an option if the software is successful.

A new board member, Fairfax Financial Holdings CEO Prem Watsa, was coming in to further shake up the board.

Balsillie and Lazaridis cast their partial exits as voluntary, but also in the wake of an imminent panel decision that suggested the board changes. Balsillie claimed that the jump would have good timing now that BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 and the first BlackBerry 10 phone were both on schedule.

While portrayed as voluntary, the shift would come after what many consider RIM’s worst relative year of performance on record. The company bled market share for the core BlackBerry smartphone line virtually every quarter, and its belief that the BlackBerry PlayBook would take on Apple quickly fizzled as it had to ship fewer and fewer tablets and cut the price of the PlayBook by as much as 60 percent just clear stock. The company repeatedly gave overly optimistic guidance for most of 2011 and was regularly confident in imminent turnarounds that didn’t materialize.

The co-CEO structure was widely criticized, both for being very unusual in the industry but also for a self-reinforcing structure that made it harder to challenge their opinions. Their joint leadership of the board of directors also made it doubtful that other board members would significantly challenge their authority. Many credit the late responses to the iPhone and Android to a disbelief they could be outdesigned and a reluctance to respond directly.

Heins, meanwhile, came to RIM in 2007 from the CTO role at Siemens. While some of RIM’s troubles came under his watch, he has shown signs of improvement by cutting down the lag between announcement and shipping for BlackBerry phones from months to weeks.

Feel free to hurl your two cents in on this via the comments.

Apple working to adopt 802.11ac 5G Gigabit WiFi standard in 2012

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Date: Monday, January 23rd, 2012, 05:33
Category: News, wireless

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You know, 802.11n’s been speedy, but it’s also been around for a while.

It might be time to move on to something new.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is expected to rapidly deploy support for the new 802.11ac specification this year, adding so called “Gigabit WiFi” to new AirPort base stations, Time Capsule, Apple TV, notebooks and potentially its mobile devices.

The new 802.11ac standard achieves much faster wireless networking speeds than the existing 802.11n specification (in use on the latest Mac, AirPort and iOS devices) by using 2 to 4 times the frequency bandwidth (from 80 to 160MHz), more efficient data transfers through sophisticated modulation, and more antennas (up to 8; existing standards support up to 4, while Apple’s Macs currently use up to 3).

While not yet finalized as an official standard by the 802.11 Working Group, progress on the new 802.11.ac standard is occurring faster than previous efforts in wireless networking have.

Multiple suppliers have already issued chipsets supporting 802.11ac for consumer grade applications. Key Apple component maker Broadcom announced chips supporting the standard earlier this month at CES.

In addition to reaching networking speeds above 1 Gigabit (about three times as fast as 802.11n networks can manage), 802.11ac promises better networking range, improved reliability, and more power efficient chips, thanks to parallel advances in reducing chip size and enhancing power management.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel demonstrates Near-Field Communications on upcoming Ivy Bridge notebook architecture

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Date: Monday, January 9th, 2012, 10:49
Category: Accessory, Hardware, wireless

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This could prove spiffy.

Per Engadget and its CES coverage, Intel executive Mooly Eden has just confirmed that the company’s forthcoming Ivy Bridge chips will support Near-Field Communications (NFC), as demoed in a transaction involving a laptop and PayPass-enabled MasterCard.

NFC technology has yet to be truly demoed as incorporated into notebooks and it’ll be interesting to see which companies and developers pick up on this as well as whether this will find its way into upcoming Apple notebooks.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

How-To: Repair dropped Wi-Fi connections in Mac OS X

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Date: Thursday, December 1st, 2011, 11:04
Category: How-To, wireless

You’ve gotten used to your Wi-Fi signal.

You rely on it.

You sometimes ponder writing a love note to your wireless router if it’s been reliable this month.

And still, there are times where your Wi-Fi signal breaks down and goes through the floor. Fear not, for the mighty Topher Kessler has written a killer guide to repairing Wi-Fi signal problems both via the Mac OS X end as well as the router end over on CNET.

And you should take a gander.

Apple releases Bases Station, Time Capsule Firmware Update 7.6

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Date: Friday, November 11th, 2011, 05:07
Category: News, Software, Time Capsule, wireless

Early Friday, Apple released AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule Firmware Update 7.6 for its AirPort Express, 802.11n AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models.

The update, a 4.6 megabyte download, provides fixes for the following:
- An issue with performance on overlapping wireless networks.

- An issue with AirPlay audio streaming.

- An issue with configuring multiple entries for DNS servers.

To install the update, use the following steps:
- Open AirPort Utility (in your /Applications/Utilities folder). If there are no other important issues displayed, the base station in need of an update will be selected and the version information will be displayed).

- Click “Update Firmware”.

- Follow the prompts.

The update takes about two minutes to install and reboot the device from there and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

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