Recently published Apple patents describe steps towards driverless printing for Mac OS X, iOS devices

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 03:27
Category: Patents, Rumor, Software

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In a pair of recent filings, Apple proposed methods that would eliminate the necessity of printer drivers in order to streamline the printing process for users of its Mac OS X and iOS devices.

The first of the two patent applications, entitled “Walk-Up Printing Without Drivers,” reveals methods of circumventing the printer driver requirement when such a driver is absent from Apple mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as Macs.

According to ConceivablyTech, Apple describes a new printing process for such mobile computing devices that would allow them to wirelessly detect a printer and determine whether a printer driver is installed.

The user would then be able to continue the printing job even without a driver by employing a series of APIs based on a discovery protocol such as Bonjour, an Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) and the PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file, which is used to detect the printer.

In the event that the device still fails to pair up with the printer, the user would have a third way of completing the print job — by sending the documents to the cloud and using cloud-specific printing technology to communicate with the printer.

The second patent, filed on the same day as the first one, September 14, 2010 according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and entitled “Data Formats to Support Driverless Printing,” shows a different driverless and wireless printing concept also explored by Apple.

The company suggests a new way for mobile devices to bypass the printer driver requirement by storing a specific data structure that would be able to specify the following printing characteristics when detecting a printer: “resolutions, color spaces, bit depths, input slots, face-up/face-down input orientation, output bins, face-up/face-down output orientation, duplex printing support, media types, copy support, supported finishings, and print quality.”

A new “URF-supported key,” part of discovery and transport protocols, is also mentioned by the second patent. Its purpose would be to offer a “standardized set of capabilities that are supported by a printer” that would let the user “generate printer data for any type of printer” without actually storing any printer-specific details on the computing device in question.

The new wireless and driverless technologies described by these two new patents would complement Apple’s existing AirPrint capabilities for iOS devices and could lead to a future driver-free printing experience for most Mac OS X computers.

Apple has high hopes for AirPrint, but has run into a few snags in the transition to driverless printing. Late last year, one rumor suggested that Apple had run into intellectual property issues with the AirPrint architecture, a problem that could potentially be alleviated should the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office grant the above patents to Apple.

Meanwhile, printer makers such as HP and EFI have been steadily adding support for the feature to their printer offerings.

If you have any thoughts on this, let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: Apple testing 4G-capable LTE iPhone with carrier partners

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 03:53
Category: iPhone, Rumor

A new rumor claims that carriers who support Apple’s iPhone are testing a new prototype handset that is capable of connecting to high-speed 4G long-term evolution data networks.

Per Boy Genius Report, Apple’s carrier partners are testing an iPhone prototype with LTE. The rumor is evidence that Apple is pursuing support of the high-speed 4G network standard.

The report includes images said to be code from the firmware of an internal iOS test build issued to “one of Apple’s major carrier partners.” The references to LTE support are included in a property list, or .plist, file.

Specifically, a “key” tag allegedly discovered in the testing code references “Connected mode LTE Intra-frequency Measurement.” It offers no indication of what iPhone model might include 4G support.

In the U.S., Verizon’s LTE network launched in late 2010 in major markets across the country, while AT&T plans to have a full-fledged 4G network in 15 markets available to 70 million customers by the end of 2011.

Reports have suggested that an LTE-capable iPhone is likely more than a year away, as one recent report claimed that appropriate chips from Qualcomm are not ready for the iPhone’s required production levels. Also a concern is battery life with devices running power-hungry 4G antennas.

Commenting on LTE networks in April, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said his company has been extremely happy with the performance of its 3G handsets, including the iPhone 4, leaving him in no rush to produce an LTE-capable smartphone.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

2007 MacBook Pro prototype with 3G modem, SIM card, surfaces on eBay

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Date: Monday, August 15th, 2011, 06:59
Category: 3G Wireless, MacBook Pro, News

It’s a bit odd but it could be something.

Per MacRumors, a 15-inch MacBook Pro from the 2007 Santa Rosa processor era has recently appeared on eBay, originally purchased from Craigslist for parts. The unit, strangely enough, surfaced “with a 3G antenna, 3G hardware and SIM card slot built in.”



“Upon removing the top case it was immediately clear this was no normal Macbook Pro: the circuit boards inside were bright red as opposed to the normal blue!” writes the eBay seller, whose prototype is currently up to more than US$11,000.

“Further inspection found multiple differences from the stock version, most notably a feature never seen in a Macbook laptop of any kind: what appears to be a fully integrated cellular modem and SIM slot. There is an extendable cellular antenna located at the right top side of the display assembly (The antenna is marked with ‘Tyco Proto / #006’ when slid out), and a standard size SIM card slot located underneath the memory cover on the bottom of the machine. The SIM card board is connected to the logic board via a connector not found on production machines. The solder footprint for it is still present on the production boards and not populated, which is interesting.”

“This would seem to suggest that it was a last minute decision to remove the cellular functionality before going into mass production,” the seller concludes. “The optical drive is marked as a ‘Sample for Evaluation.’ Rather than a normal EMC Number the specifications lapel simply says ‘XXXX,’ and the serial number does not show up in Apple’s online database.”

The good news is that the seller was able to repair the machine to working condition, although the 3G modem “is not presently functional,” despite being seen by the operating system. The inclusion of a SIM card means the 3G would have been GSM-bound, “allowing for use on AT&T and many other international networks.”

Cool stuff from a generation of hardware ago…

The auction ends on August 20th, so be sure to get your bids in now if you want a shot at the unit.

Apple begins manufacturing trial run of A6 processor, looks for 2012 launch date

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Date: Friday, August 12th, 2011, 09:59
Category: iPad, News, Processors

It’s pretty simple: If another person has another rumor story about the iPhone 5 being released in either September or October, they’ll be justly pummeled about the head and shoulders with a frozen badger.

That seems fair.

In other news, Taiwan Economic News, which cited sources close to the story, reported Friday that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has started trial production of the A6 in cooperation with Apple. Production design is scheduled to be finalized in the first quarter of 2012, while the chip will be publicly unveiled, likely in a third-generation iPad, no earlier than the second quarter of 2012.

If accurate, the report could quash persistent speculation that Apple plans to launch a third-generation iPad later this year, assuming such a device would run the next-generation A6 processor.

The ARM-based A6 is said to incorporate TSMC’s 28-nanometer process and 3D stacking technology. The chipmaker’s “silicon interposer” and “bump on trace” methods are also said to be utilized in the next-generation chip.

Trial manufacturing of the A6 processor was originally claimed by industry sources to have begun in July, when it was also indicated the chips would make their way into devices in 2012. Both reports have pegged TSMC as the manufacturer, lending credence to rumors that Apple is looking to move away from Samsung, which has built its A4 and A5 processors.

Samsung and Apple are currently engaged in a fierce legal battle that recently led sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to be banned in both Europe and Australia. Apple has accused Samsung of copying the look and feel of its popular iPhone and iPad products, while Samsung has responded in kind with its own patent infringement lawsuit.

Friday’s report said sources indicated TSMC has been capable of producing processors for Apple, but the manufacturer was held back by limited production lines. TSMC is also a customer of Nvidia and Qualcomm.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to hold iPod media event on September 7

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Date: Friday, August 12th, 2011, 03:17
Category: iPod, Rumor

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An unverified report claims Apple will hold its annual iPod media event on September 7th and could possibly announce the iPhone 5 later that month September or in early October.

Per Japanese Mac site Kodawarisan, Apple will release a new line of iPods at the event. The rumor also claimed the fifth-generation iPhone is “likely to be announced” in late September or Early October. Though the publication has been an accurate source for Apple predictions in the past, Friday’s report remains unconfirmed.

Last year, the iPod maker held the event on September 1st, releasing a new iPod touch, new multi-touch iPod nano, iPod shuffle and the US$99 cloud-centric update to the Apple TV.

In May, photos of a part allegedly for the seventh-generation iPod nano have fueled rumors that Apple may add a 1.3-megapixel camera to the device. The supposed leak came on the heels of a separate unverified photo purportedly of an iPod nano frame that emerged in April.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple switches away from LG displays for iPad 2, opts for Samsung, CMI in the near term

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Date: Thursday, August 11th, 2011, 05:19
Category: iPad, News

As neat as the iPad 2 is, sometimes thar be hiccups with the suppliers…

Per DigiTimes, LG Display has reportedly lost its status as the leading iPad 2 display maker after recent LCD shipments were said to have been plagued by quality issues, prompting Apple to turn instead to Samsung.

Citing industry sources, DigiTimes reported Wednesday that LG, the largest panel supplier for the iPad 2, recently had production of its LCD displays with in-plane switching disrupted by issues. As a result, Apple has allegedly been forced to suspend new orders from LG, turning instead to competitors Samsung and CMI.

“LGD’s 9.7-inch panels for the iPad 2 reportedly failed to pass drop tests, during which their backlight units (BLUs) failed, the sources said, adding the panels’ yield rates were unable to meet Apple’s requirement,” the report said.

LG is said to have shipped between 2.5 million and 2.6 million 9.7-inch panels in July, falling short of its goal of 4 million units per month. While LG has struggled, Samsung is said to have doubled its production goals, creating 2 million iPad 2 panels in July.

Oddly enough, Samsung is a primary competitor of Apple, with the two companies currently involved in a bitter legal battle, which sources said make the company a less-than-ideal choice for Apple. In addition, while CMI’s affiliate status with manufacturer Foxconn makes it a favorable choice for Apple, its monthly goal of 9.7-inch iPad 2 displays is just 1 million.

In its last quarter, Apple shipped a record 9.25 million iPads, as the company apparently resolved supply constraints that hampered iPad 2 availability immediately after launch. In the previous quarter, the company sold 4.65 million iPads, as the company was plagued by what Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook called “the mother of all backlogs.”

Given supply constraints faced by Apple in the past, the company may be eager to embrace LG once again if the apparent LCD quality issues can be addressed. Sources told DigiTimes that LG could regain its position as the leading panel supplier for the iPad 2, but only if problems with its displays can be fixed quickly.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Walmart to close online MP3 store later this month

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Date: Wednesday, August 10th, 2011, 04:11
Category: News, retail, Software

Retail giant Walmart revealed on Tuesday that it will close its MP3 store later this month, even as Apple’s iTunes continues to dominate the digital music industry.

The company declined to provide further details regarding the move, saying only that it was a “business decision,” as noted by the Associated Press. Walmart will close the store on August 29, though customers who have already purchased music through the site will still be able to access their music there.

Walmart opened its MP3 store in 2003 in direct competition with Apple’s iTunes. The digital storefront failed to gain much traction, however, with music sales on iTunes eventually passing Walmart’s combined physical and digital sales in 2008. Apple held 26.7% of all music sales by 2009, more than double Walmart’s 12.54% share.

As of late last year, Apple continued to dominate the digital music market with a 66% share, while second-place Amazon had climbed to 13.3%. Walmart’s share stood at less than 1% at the time.

NPD analyst Marshall Cohen characterized the retail industry as being in flux, noting that Walmart may be better off focusing on what it does best, rather than continuing to deliver a sub-par experience to consumers.

“It is very easy to become antiquated very quickly in the entertainment industry,” he said. “If you are losing ground, and they probably were losing ground more rapidly year after year, it’s probably better to regroup and retool.”

Walmart’s failure with its digital music store has been partially attributed to its choice of format. The company bet on Windows Media Audio, but eventually found itself competing with Microsoft’s own Zune Marketplace while being blocked from Apple’s iPod.

Apple expands buyback/recycling program for old iPhones, iPads and Macs

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Date: Wednesday, August 10th, 2011, 04:03
Category: Hardware, News

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If you have elderly Mac stuff, you can still get something for it.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has enhanced its recycling program to add a new “reuse” option that pays owners of existing iPhones, iPads, Mac or PC desktop or notebook computers a fair market value for their old equipment, paid via an Apple Gift Card.

The company continues to offer a variety of recycling programs: a place to dump unwanted electronics of any kind at its Cupertino, California head quarters (which it has operated since 2002); free recycling of Mac batteries at any of its retail stores; and free pickup and disposal of any brand of computer or display contracted through WeRecycle!, which user can obtain a free prepaid shipping label from at www.werecycle.com.

Users who own an iOS device or a computer from any manufacturer can obtain a credit for the fair market value of that device, calculated by PowerOn, a third party company Apple has contracted with to run the reuse program.

While recycling old products dismantles them and harvests valuable components such as metal, plastic and glass for recycled use in new products, reuse is an even greener option, as it extends the useful life of products that have value in the second hand market.

“If your product qualifies for reuse — meaning it has monetary value — you’ll receive an Apple Gift Card equivalent to its fair market value as determined by PowerON,” Apple states on its new recycling program website.

“You can use the gift card for eligible purchases at any U.S. Apple Retail Store or the U.S. Apple Online Store. If your product does not have monetary value, we’ll recycle it at no cost to you.”

Users can get a preliminary valuation for their old devices online, then arrange to ship them to PowerOn at no cost. The company will then contact the user if the apprised value is different than what was quoted online, a figure based on the user’s own description of the product’s condition.

If the user chooses not to accept the final value, it will be returned at no charge. Otherwise, PowerOn will arrange to credit the user via an Apple Gift Card within three weeks of receipt. The company also securely erases all data remaining on the devices while preparing them for resale.

PowerOn’s estimated value of a functional, first generation iPad in very good condition is US$165, for example. Users may likely be able to find their own second hand buyer for relatively new products in good condition, and fetch a higher price.

However, for older devices with some damage or dysfunctional features, the reuse option may provide an easier, more convenient option that still recoups some value they can then reinvest in new Apple gear.

RadioShack offering discounted iPhone 3GS, 4 handsets until August 20th

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 03:25
Category: iPhone, News, retail

This may not be the fire sale you’re hoping for, but it’s something.

Per CNET, from now through August 20, RadioShack is cutting US$30 off the price of Apple’s iPhone 4, as well as the iPhone 3GS. Deeper discounts can be had if buyers bring in their iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS and use the company’s Trade and Save program, which it’s had going since before the iPhone 4 went on sale.

RadioShack and Target unofficially lowered pricing on phones at the end of last month, with those prices going into effect on July 31. Today’s news puts an endmark on the deal, as well as adding the capability to stack those savings with the company’s trade-in service.

Apple is expected to bring out a next-generation iPhone between now and October, with recent rumors citing the company’s launch window for October, though a slew of reports from earlier this year said it would be sometime next month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and, hey, savings are never a bad thing.

Apple releases Lion Recovery Disk Assistant to function with external hard drives

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 03:11
Category: News, Software

If your Lion partition is being finicky, this might help.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday released Lion Recovery Disk Assistant software to enable users to create recovery partitions on external drives.

Lion Recovery Disk Assistant expands Apple’s Recovery features in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion to add support for creating a Recovery Disk on external drives. According to Apple’s release notes for the software, the resulting partition has all of the same capabilities as the built-in Lion Recovery: reinstall Lion, repair the disk using Disk Utility, restore from a Time Machine backup, or browse the web with Safari.

Creating an external Lion Recovery using the assistant requires that the Mac already have an existing Recovery HD. The external drive must also have at least 1GB of free space, while Lion Recovery Disk Assistant is a 1.07MB download.

The new partition will not be visible in the Finder or Disk Utility on Mac OS X, but can be accessed by rebooting the Mac while holding the Option key.

Users are warned that the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant will erase all data on the external hard drive. Apple recommends either backing up data or creating a new partition on the drive before running the assistant.

Apple also notes that if the Recovery HD is created for a Mac that shipped with Lion, the external recovery drive can only be used with that system. However, if the the assistant is run on a Mac that upgraded to Lion from Mac OS X Snow Leopard, then the external recovery drives can be used on other systems that upgraded from Snow Leopard.

Max OS X Lion contains a number of advanced Recovery tools, in part because the update is deployed over the Mac App Store, rather than via optical disk as with previous OS X versions. The latest Macs, which ship with Lion pre-installed, include a new Internet Recovery feature that allows users to start a Mac directly from Apple’s servers.

Lion arrived on July 20 and was downloaded more than 1 million times in the first 24 hours. The upgrade contains more than 250 new features, including AirDrop, Mission Control and full-screen apps.

Apple plans to release a US$69 USB thumb drive loaded with Lion on its online store later this month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.