Recently published Apple patents show possible road to improved pedometer accuracy, possible health accessory

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 07:04
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent filings that show the useful stuff coming down the road.

Per AppleInsider, three filings published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday reveal Apple is working to improve the accuracy of pedometer readings when implemented in mobile devices, hinting that the company may be planning an entrance into the health accessory industry.

While Apple’s patents (1, 2, 3), each titled “Techniques for improved pedometer readings,” don’t specifically mention a wearable accessory, the technology detailed can easily be applied to such a device. Perhaps most interesting is that Apple filed three separate patent applications describing three different pedometer logging techniques, yet the company has yet to implement a first-party solution or product that leverages such technology.

Each filing looks to solve the same problem: pedometer accuracy. Current devices, even those specifically made to track a user’s steps, are not completely accurate due to hardware and software limitations. Apple’s invention hopes to rectify the situation through intelligent data collection and processing.

The patent applications start out by describing a pedometer, which is a device having motion sensing capabilities, such as a built-in accelerometer or gyroscope, that provides step count, running step count, distance traveled and other metrics. It is pointed out that the device described in some embodiments is not limited to one suitable for step detection, meaning the tech can be applied to smartphones and the like.

Conventional techniques detects steps using acceleration swing over a fixed threshold, but Apple’s invention uses adaptive threshold and frequency filtering to garner more accurate results. Frequency analysis can include fast Fourier transform (FFT) or other algorithms, while distance calibration can apply least squares simple regression, least squares multiple regression, or K-factor.

However, by using fixed threshold techniques, some steps may not be detected due to offsets or shifts in the accelerometer. For example, when a user of the device is running, the average acceleration of the device may be higher due to the greater acceleration of each footstep and the overall faster forward motion. Due to the higher offset of average acceleration during running measurements, some negative slope 88 to positive slope 86 threshold crossings may not be detected. For example, the negative slope 88 to positive slope 86 transition at point 94 in the graphed modulus 52 does not cross the 1 g threshold between peaks 92a and 90a. As a result, while peaks 92a and 90a may actually correspond to two steps (e.g., a left step and a right step), conventional threshold filtering techniques may detect only one step due to the lack of a negative to positive transition (e.g., point 94) crossing below the fixed 1 g threshold.

These methods allow for a finer set of data due that can conform more readily to changes in stride and a user’s personal physical attributes. On that point, a GUI is also implemented into which weight, height and other user specifics can be entered for processing with the given algorithms.

By using these advanced methods, a more accurate assessment of user motion can be tracked, consequently generating more accurate pedometer data.

The language goes on to detail the various algorithms and implementations of adaptive threshold and frequency filtering.

Third-party app makers have indeed created pedometer software that uses data from the iPhone’s built-in sensors to track steps taken and estimated distance traveled, but Apple itself has yet to launch such an asset. Furthermore, the invention seeks to improve upon existing techniques, suggesting the company is planning to implement the tech in a pedometer app, or possibly a wearable device like the much-rumored “iWatch.”

All three applications were filed for in September of 2011 and credit Yash Rohit Modi, Vinay Bethgiri Ganesh Dixit and Saurabh Gupta as their inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: T-Mobile USA to announce iPhone today

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Date: Tuesday, March 26th, 2013, 07:12
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The T-Mobile/iPhone news you’ve been hankering for could arrive today.

Per CNET, T-Mobile has an event scheduled for later today called “Uncarrier” and is expected to announce its carrying of the iPhone under new no-contract, no-subsidy rules, where a customer pays a small fee upfront and pays a monthly charge on top of the service plan to cover the phone costs.

T-Mobile previously deployed their faster 3G/HSPA data speeds on what’s known as AWS, a range of frequencies different than those of AT&T, and not supported by Apple and the iPhone. T-Mobile has been adding non-AWS HSPA support in many markets over the last couple of years. T-Mobile has also been trailing the other networks when it comes to 4G/LTE data speeds, with support for that only beginning this year.

The iPhone’s popularity means Apple can charge the carriers a premium price for it, making it a potentially lucrative but an immediately expensive proposition for carriers. The original iPhone launched on AT&T in June 2007. The iPhone 4 launched on Verizon in January 2011. The iPhone 4S launched on Sprint in October 2011.

If this rumor pans out, the iPhone 5 will launch on T-Mobile USA sometime in the spring of 2013.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft to begin automatically pushing Windows 7 Service Pack 1 update starting today

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Date: Tuesday, March 19th, 2013, 06:03
Category: News, Software

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If your Windows 7 partition seems to be updating itself after you’ve booted into it, there’s a reason why.

Per ZDNet, as Microsoft marches toward its early April 2013 end of free support deadline for Windows 7, the company is planning to update automatically some of those who still have yet to install the first (and seemingly only) Service Pack for the operating system.

As announced on March 18 via its “Blogging Windows” blog, Microsoft plans to begin rolling out Windows 7 SP1 automatically, via Windows Update to Windows 7 users who still are running the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version without SP1 installed. This process will begin on March 19.

From the blog post:

“Starting tomorrow, the installation will be fully automatic with no user action required for those who already have Automatic Update enabled. SP1 will be released gradually over the coming weeks to all customers on the RTM version of Windows 7. The service pack will take slightly longer to install compared to other updates. To ensure Service Pack 1 is installed without issue, customers should check for sufficient free disk space and that AC power is present on a laptop. If additional space needs to be created, we recommend using the Disk Cleanup tool to delete some files so that the service pack will install. If the service pack installation is interrupted, it will reattempt to install automatically after the next restart.”

This automatic update will be applied only to Windows 7 consumer PCs that are not managed via other Microsoft management tools like System Center Configuration Manager or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), the post noted. Some admins have chosen to temporarily block their users from getting SP1 until they’ve tested it to their satisfaction. Those in that category won’t be getting SP1 pushed to them starting tomorrow.

Windows 7 RTM, with no service pack installed, will no longer be supported as of April 9, 2013, according to a February 14 post on the Microsoft Springboard Series blog. Support for specific Windows releases ends 24 months after the release of a new Service Pack, and Windows 7 SP1 was released in February 2011.

Windows 7 SP1 mainstream (free) support continues until January 13, 2015. Extended (paid) support for Windows 7 SP1 is available until January 14, 2020. (Microsoft continues to provide security updates for free during the Extended support phase of a product.)

Microsoft made available last week a Windows 7 hotfix rollup that includes 90 previously released hotfixes.

So, if you’ve been lax with the “Windows Update” feature on your Windows 7 partition, it might just do it for you.

Rumor: Apple’s next-gen “budget” iPhone to feature same 4-inch display as current iPhone 5

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Date: Friday, March 15th, 2013, 07:09
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Just because you’re buying the economy model doesn’t mean you have to settle for a smaller screen.

Per AppleInsider, contrary to some rumors suggesting Apple’s low-cost iPhone will have a larger 4.5-inch display, the company’s new entry-level handset will have a 4-inch display, matching the size of the iPhone 5.

The details on Apple’s so-called “budget” iPhone were revealed on Friday by Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, who has a reliable track record in predicting Apple’s future product plans. According to Kuo, the specs for Apple’s low-cost iPhone were decided in 2011, and the company is “unlikely to abruptly change” due to a market shift toward larger screens in the 5-inch range.

The new, less expensive iPhone model is said to have a “super-thin plastic casing mixed with glass fiber.” The material will make it stronger, thinner and lighter than typical smartphone plastic casings, Kuo said.

He expects the thickness to be between 0.4 and 0.6 millimeters, which is thinner than the average plastic casing at between 0.7 and 1 millimeter.

The phone will also reportedly come in a range of colors, much like Apple’s iPod lineup. According to Kuo, there will be between four and six options, expanding from the black and white choices currently available on existing iPhone models.

Apple is said to have contracted with Foxconn as well as Green Point of the Jabil group for its strong and thin iPhone plastic casings. Hon Hai will both build casings and assemble the phones, while Jabil is expected to provide its casings to Pegatron, which will assemble the remaining iPhones. The analyst reported earlier this week that Apple was likely to diversify manufacturers for both its low-cost and legacy iPhones.

Kuo’s latest report issued on Friday was specifically issued to dispel claims made in the rumor mill that claimed Foxconn would be losing orders for Apple’s low-cost iPhone. The report erroneously indicated that the device would have a larger display than 4 inches.

The latest information from Kuo corroborates other rumored details present within the tech industry. That report claimed the “budget” iPhone will feature a 5-inch display like the iPhone 5, but will also borrow some design elements from the latest iPod touch and even the legacy iPod classic, with a flat back made of plastic.

In addition to a low-cost iPhone based on the design of the iPhone 5, Kuo also expects Apple to release an updated premium “iPhone 5S” later this year. He has previously revealed that the next high-end iPhone is expected to include a fingerprint sensor under the home button that will eliminate the need to enter passwords and potentially add new functionality such as secure e-wallet transactions through Passbook.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft releases Office 2011 14.3.2, Microsoft Office 2008 12.3.6 updates for Mac

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Date: Tuesday, March 12th, 2013, 09:17
Category: News, Software

On Tuesday, Microsoft released its Microsoft Office 2011 14.3.2 update. The update, a 118 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

- This update fixes critical issues and also helps to improve security. It includes fixes for vulnerabilities that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer’s memory with malicious code.

Microsoft Office 2011 14.3.2 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

The company also released its Office 2008 12.3.6 update, a 219.9 megabyte download (via MacUpdate), which offers the following fixes and changes:

- This update fixes critical issues and also helps to improve security. It includes fixes for vulnerabilities that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer’s memory with malicious code.

Microsoft Office 2008 12.3.6 requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later to install and run.

Rumor: Intel, Apple in negotiations for Intel to start making processors for iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, March 7th, 2013, 06:26
Category: Hardware, News, Processors, Rumor

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Maybe a really good partnership CAN live forever…

Per the Chicago Tribune, an anonymous source has cited that executives have over the past year discussed a possible partnership in which Intel’s foundries would be used to manufacture Apple-designed chips. A deal has not yet been reached, the source said.

This is not the first time rumors of an Apple-Intel partnership have cropped up. A report from May 2011 suggested that Intel showed interest in building Apple’s A4 and A5 SoCs, though no action was taken and the idea was apparently shelved as the so-called Ultrabook initiative gained momentum.

Intel is supposedly looking to shift its strategy as PC sales continue to slump as mobile devices, led by tablets like Apple’s iPad, continue to gobble up marketshare. The firm has been looking to expand its foundry business, most recently agreeing to fabricate silicon based on technology from chip maker Altera.

While an agreement to start production of ARM SoCs would likely undercut adoption of Intel’s own Atom mobile processor, the move might be necessary to keep pace with a quickly changing market. The report also speculates that Intel’s replacement for CEO Paul Otellini, who plans to retire in May, may further diversify the company’s contract operations in a bid to keep manufacturing facilities working at full capacity.

As for Apple, a move to Intel is easier to imagine, as the Mac lineup already runs on x86 processors. It has also been rumored that the company wants to distance itself from current A-series SoC manufacturer Samsung, with which it is ensnarled in a worldwide patent struggle. The Korean electronics giant is also Apple’s biggest competition in the mobile marketplace, with a variety of Android-based devices going jockeying for position against iOS products like the iPhone and iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft quietly increases Office 2011 for Mac price by 10 to 17%

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Date: Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, 07:03
Category: News, Software

Well, this is mildly sadistic.

Per CNET, Microsoft has quietly increased the prices of its Office for Mac 2011 by as much as 17 percent, putting it on price par with Office 2013 for Windows.

The company has also quit selling multi-license packages, which allowed customers to purchase multiple copies of the application suite at a discounted rate.

The single-license Office for Mac Home & Student now retails for US$140, an increase of about 17 percent from the previous price of US$120. Meanwhile, Microsoft raised the price of Office for Mac Home & Business, which includes Outlook, to US$220, a 10 percent increase over the previous US$200 price.

Microsoft doesn’t seem to have publicized the price increase, so it’s not clear when it actually took effect. However, Computerworld, which first reported the increase, estimates it occurred around January 29, the same day that Microsoft Office 2013 and Office 365 were launched.

In addition to the price increase, Microsoft ceased sales of multi-license editions.

The multi-user packs are still for sale on Amazon (while supplies last) at a significant discount, but the listing notes that the software is an older edition.
The moves are apparently intended to redirect customers toward Office 365, which costs US$100 for an annual subscription. The new offering is part of effort by Microsoft to bring its suite of Office server tools and collaboration work flows into the cloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft releases Office 2011 14.3.0 update for Mac

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Date: Wednesday, January 30th, 2013, 07:27
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Microsoft released its Microsoft Office 2011 14.3.0 update. The update, a 106.8 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Meeting invitation times are displayed inaccurately in Outlook. Fixes an issue that causes meeting invitation times from non-Exchange calendar servers to be off by one hour during certain times of the year.

- Slides in collapsed sections cover other slides in Slide Sorter view in PowerPoint.

- Fixes a display issue that involves collapsed sections in Slide Sorter view.

- Hash tags (#) in hyperlinks aren’t saved correctly in PowerPoint. Fixes an issue in which hyperlinks that contain hash tags (#) aren’t saved correctly.

- Crash occurs when you use Paste Special with a partial table in PowerPoint. Fixes an issue that causes PowerPoint to crash when you use the Paste Special option to copy and paste part of a table.

- RTF text that’s saved in PowerPoint for Windows can’t be pasted into PowerPoint. Fixes an issue in which RTF text that’s saved in PowerPoint for Windows can’t be copied and pasted into PowerPoint for Mac.

Microsoft Office 2011 14.3.0 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and have anything to report back, let us know.

CrossOver updated to 12.1

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Date: Thursday, January 24th, 2013, 08:09
Category: News, Software

CrossOver, the popular virtualization program from CodeWeavers, has been updated to version 12.1. The new version, a 75.7 megabyte download, is available as a demo, offers the following fixes and changes:

WHAT’S NEW:
- We have fixed a bug where certain users who chose “Register for all users of this computer” during CrossOver’s registration would receive an error claiming their bottle had “expired” and could not be used, despite the user having a valid CrossOver license.

- We have added a preference setting allowing the user to control what CrossOver does with an unknown Windows .exe file when it is launched. Using this preference, the user can tell CrossOver either to treat the unknown .exe file as an application installer, or to simply run it.

- CrossOver will now auto-update CrossTie files if the user has permitted auto-updates of CrossOver itself via Sparkle.

- Fixed a bug where automatic updates via Sparkle would fail for some users on Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard.

- Fixed a bug which caused several games to fail when running in fullscreen mode.

- Games which should be improved include StarCraft, Fallout, and, we hope, many others.

- Fixed a bug which prevented some users from logging into World of Tanks servers.

- CrossOver no longer ships Wine-Mono, an open-source replacement for .Net, by default. We had started doing this for CrossOver 12 but the large increase in download size and disk space usage proved too much. CrossOver can still download and install Wine-Mono as-needed.

- We have fixed a bug which caused CrossOver to print unnecessary error messages when launching Windows applications, complaining that certain icon files could not be found.

- New translations for Polish & Chinese (China), and a partial translation for Italian.

Application Support:
- Fixed connection errors with Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 when connecting to hosted Exchange servers.

- Fixed a bug which caused adding a table of contents to a Microsoft Word document to fail.

- Fixed an issue where Quicken failed to download WebConnect and QFX files.

- Fixed an issue where Quicken crashed viewing investment details.

- Fixed an issue where Quicken crashed when expanding columns in reports.

- Fixed a bug which caused clicking on a promotional offer in Quicken to crash.

- Fixed some connection failures with Quicken 2011.

- Fixed an issue where rotated text was garbled in PowerPoint 2010.

- Fixed a bug selecting shapes in Visio 2010.

- Fixed a crash on launch in HCFA-1500.

CrossOver 12.1 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.

Intel licensing/certification restrictions holding up Thunderbolt adoption rate

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Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 07:15
Category: Hardware, News

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If you wondered why Lightning and Thunderbolt accessories were being adopted at a slow rate, there might just be an answer.

Per Ars Technica, a number of factors have played a part in the small selection of available Thunderbolt accessories, but the most significant may be Intel’s lengthy licensing and certification process.

A rundown on the state of Thunderbolt was published on Tuesday which acknowledged that accessories designed for the high-speed port remain a “niche.” It noted that more Thunderbolt-compatible devices are coming, but the initial selection has been limited thanks, in part, to Intel’s licensing requirements.

A number of vendors who spoke with author Chris Foresman claimed that Intel has been “cherry picking which vendors it worked with.” The chipmaker has apparently opted to work closely with a select number of vendors to ensure products would meet its stringent certification requirements.

Intel has denied that characterization, but did reportedly admit that it has had limited resources to approve new products. But Jason Ziller, director of Thunderbolt marketing and planning with Intel, also suggested licensing will expand to a greater number of vendors this year.

Another sign of potential improvement in Thunderbolt availability came last week, when Apple quietly released a shorter cable measuring half a meter in length, and also shaved US$10 off the price of the original 2-meter cable that debuted in 2011. Corning also showed off new Thunderbolt optical cables at CES that can transfer data over hundreds of feet.

Thunderbolt was developed in cooperation between Apple and Intel, and first launched on Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup in March of 2011. Since then, Thunderbolt ports have also begun to appear in some Windows-based PCs, though the number of available accessories has not yet taken off.

Thunderbolt pairs the high-speed PCI Express serial interface with the Apple-developed Mini DisplayPort to provide both data and video through a single port with I/O performance of up to 10Gbps. Originally codenamed ‘Light Peak,’ Intel had planned to use optical cabling but switched to copper wire because of cost constraints.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.