Apple patent application for dock concept discusses location-based profiles

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Date: Friday, July 1st, 2011, 03:24
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent applications that make life interesting.

That or love.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has shown interest in a new location-based docking system that would dynamically change the interface and settings of a portable device for different activities like working or driving a car.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Location-Based Dock for a Computing Device.” The proposed invention notes that while docking stations are typically passive devices, these described docks would take on a more active role.

“It is often left to the user to configure the computing device for use at different locations by accessing or selecting the proper software applications and security measures for the computing device…” the application reads. “However, such configuration of the device may be both time-consuming and confusing to a non-sophisticated user.”

Apple’s idea could apply to any portable device, whether it be a MacBook, an iPhone or an iPad. Each docking station would, when coupled with the appropriate portable computing device, recognize its location and allow the user to operate the device accordingly.

For example, an iPhone plugged into a moving car could automatically become optimized for use through voice control, as a user driving would not be able to operate the touchscreen.

For someone who uses the same hardware both at home and at the office, a system could automatically be reconfigured to offer the best of both worlds. For example, while at work, a docked system would access work-related e-mails and calendar entries, while at home the device would switch to personal e-mail and calendars.

Apple’s concept also extends to other docking ideas, including one meant to be used while watching television, or another that would have a device act as a digital picture frame while docked.

The location-based element could allow the settings to change based on the physical location of the hardware. In this method, if a user were to have only one docking station, they could use it both at work and at home and the appropriate settings would be implemented

And while location could play an important role in each docking station, Apple’s concept also notes that settings could be tied to a particular dock regardless of its location. For example, a user could have two or more docking stations at a single location, allowing them to use them for different computing configurations.

The patent application is credited to Nicholas Vincent King, Aleksandar Pance and Brett Bilbrey. It was first filed on New Years Eve in 2009.

iFixIt performs teardown of Apple’s Thunderbolt cable, discovers receiver/transceiver system inside

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Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 04:25
Category: Hardware, News

When in doubt about a new piece of hardware, take it apart and study it.

Once again, the guys at iFixIt performed a full teardown of a new Apple item, this time dissecting Apple’s just-released $49 Thunderbolt cable to reveal an “active cable” with transceiver chips on each end.

iFixit took apart the new cable on Wednesday and discovered two Gennum GN2033 Thunderbolt Cable Transceiver chips, other much smaller chips and “tons of little resistors” tucked into the metal connector.

The teardown experts were prompted by a tip from ArsTechnica, who had been told by a support technician for storage maker Promise that Apple’s Thunderbolt cable is a “smart cable” with internal firmware.

Apple released the Thunderbolt cable on Tuesday, alongside the first compatible peripherals–external RAID systems from Promise, which range in price from US$999 to US$1,999. Early tests of the Promise systems have revealed blazing fast write speeds of up to 700MB/s, as much as 21 times faster than FireWire and USB 2.0.

The Gennum web site describes the cable’s transceiver chips as a requirement for the cables due to “the unprecedented speed of the new Thunderbolt technology places unique demands on the physical transmission media. The GN2033 provides the sophisticated signal boosting and detection functions required to transfer high-speed data without errors across inexpensive Thunderbolt copper cables.”

Sources within the telecom industry told ArsTechnica that active cables are usually used at data rates in excess of 5Gbps. Chips at either end are calibrated to the attenuation and dispersion properties of the wire in order to “greatly [improve] the signal-to-noise ratio.”

Intel has also reportedly chosen to use active cabling for “future optical-based iterations of Thunderbolt,” the report’s source added. Though passive optical cabling is more common, active optical cables could allow fiber optics to be coupled with electrical cabling for power transmission. Additionally, “current electrical ports can be forward compatible with future optical cables” if active cabling is used, said the source.

On the more consumer end, LaCie has promised a Thunderbolt solid-state drive is coming this summer. A recent demo of the drive reached read speeds of 827.2MB/s.

Intel and Apple worked together to develop the specification, with Intel providing its “Light Peak” technology and Apple offering its Mini DisplayPort standard. Thunderbolt drives two separate 10Gbps links, one for displays and one for PCI-Express devices, and could reach speeds of up to 100Gbps when the cables transition from copper to optical.



Similar to Apple’s experience with its in-house developed FireWire standard, the company has a fine line to walk in making Thunderbolt a unique value-add for Macs while still driving widespread adoption of the standard to ensure a large enough market for a range of third-party peripherals. Currently, the Mac maker is the only supplier of Thunderbolt cables.

Earlier this week, Sony announced a new VAIO Z laptop that implements a proprietary version of Thunderbolt. The electronics giant pulled a similar maneuver with its custom version of FireWire, called i.Link.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Initial tests show promising Thunderbolt speeds, ability to boot off new port

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Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 04:26
Category: Hardware, News

A newly published series of test results from the cool cats at AnandTech shows Apple’s newly adopted Thunderbolt technology blows FireWire 800 out of the water with data transfer speeds to an external RAID system at 700MB/s.

After the release of Apple’s Thunderbolt cable on Tuesday, early impressions have begun to surface on the Web. The AnandTech staff got their hands on both the US$49 cable and the US$1,999 Promise Pegasus R6 system and have subsequently stated that they are able to write to the 12TB RAID array at nearly 700MB/s while on a notebook. The speed obliterated that of the commonplace USB 2.0, as well as FireWire 800.

In his testing, Anand Shimpi also revealed via Twitter that external drives can be booted from via Thunderbolt. This makes it possible to have a full install of OS X, which includes all your files and apps, stored on a Thunderbolt external drive. This in turn would allow you to take your computer everywhere you go, and run it on another Thunderbolt-equipped Mac.

Per Macworld’s test of the new cable with the same RAID system, their detailed results show Thunderbolt is between 4 and 21 times faster than FireWire & USB 2.0. When compared to both on a 2.2GHz Core i5 Macbook Pro, Thunderbolt could write a 2GB file at 210.5 MBps.

On the other hand, USB 2.0 could only stretch to 29.7 MBps, a result that is 7.09 times slower. FireWire 400 could write the file at 30.2MBps, 6.97 times slower & FireWire 800 wrote the file at 47MBps, or 4.47 times slower.

Also Tuesday, Apple issued a series of 10 questions and answers related to Thunderbolt. Most of the information presented was already announced, like the fact that the cable offers two independent channels of 10GBit/s.

One new bit of information from the series of answers is a possible drawback for high-end Macbook Pro users: A PCI Express Card in the Express Card slot cannot be operated if the system is connected to a Thunderbolt device. Apple recommends disconnecting the device if you are going to use the Express Slot.

The full list of info is included below:

1. What is the maximum bandwidth supported by Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m)?

Thunderbolt utilizes two separate 10Gbps links—one for displays and one for PCI-E device trafffic—for throughput of up to 10 Gbps between Thunderbolt capable devices and your Mac. Some devices not made by Apple may support different bandwidth rates; consult any documentation that came with your Thunderbolt-enabled device for information specific to your device. Choose the Disk Activity tab in Activity Monitor to read current disk activity statistics, which may be helpful to determine disk activity with storage devices using Thunderbolt. Some storage devices may have a maximum transfer rate lower than the bandwidth potential of Thunderbolt.

2. What is the proper way to insert a Thunderbolt cable into my Thunderbolt-capable device or Mac?

The Thunderbolt symbol should be on the top of the connector. You can plug either end of the cable into a device or Mac; the connectors on each end are the same. Do not force the Thunderbolt cable into your Thunderbolt-capable device or Mac computer’s Thunderbolt port.

3. How do I confirm a Thunderbolt-enabled device is connected to a Mac?

Open System Profiler and examine the Thunderbolt tab for a list of any connected Thunderbolt devices.

4. Can I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect a Promise, La Cie, or other third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?

Yes. You can use a Thunderbolt cable to connect any Thunderbolt-enabled device or Mac.

5. Is there a maximum supported length for using Thunderbolt cables with Apple products?

Thunderbolt cables should not exceed two meters for maximum performance. Apple Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) is two meters in length. Some Thunderbolt devices include an extra port you can use to connect other Thunderbolt devices downstream with additional Thunderbolt cables.

6. Why is there a black screen when I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect to an Intel-based iMac that supports Target Display Mode?

Although a Thunderbolt cable will fit into Mini DisplayPort connections, only Mini DisplayPort cables can be used to in Target Display Mode with an iMac (Late 2009) or iMac (Mid 2010) connected to a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac; iMac models produced before 2011 do not support Thunderbolt cables or devices. If you have an iMac (Late 2009), make sure you have the 27-inch SMC iMac Firmware Update 1.0 installed to avoid issues waking from sleep in Target Display Mode.

7. What do I do if my Mac doesn’t have a Thunderbolt option in System Profiler and no connected devices seem to be recognized?

For Mac computers with Thunderbolt, run Software Update to install any available updates to use Thunderbolt devices with your Mac.

8. I’ve installed all available updates, but no Thunderbolt devices are recognized when I connect them with Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m).

Try using a different a Thunderbolt cable, using a Mini DisplayPort cable, or—in the case of a storage device—try using another supported connection method, such as USB or FireWire.

9. Can I use Target Disk Mode with a Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) and a third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?

Yes. The Thunderbolt logo should appear with the FireWire logo when you start up a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac and have a Thunderbolt storage device connected. If you have both a Thunderbolt and a FireWire storage device connected and enter Target Disk Mode, the Thunderbolt-enabled device will be the default. If you disconnect either a Thunderbolt or FireWire storage device after successfully entering Target Disk Mode, the corresponding icon should disappear from the display.

10. Can I use Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) with supported versions of Microsoft Windows on a Thunderbolt-capable Mac with Boot Camp?

Yes. Learn more about using Thunderbolt with your Mac running Windows with Boot Camp.

If you’ve played with the new Thunderbolt port or have any comments, please let us know.

Apple releases Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 10, Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 5

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Date: Wednesday, June 29th, 2011, 03:14
Category: News, Software

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Late Tuesday, Apple released a pair of Java updates for its Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 operating systems. The updates (Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 10 and Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 5) make the same changes and per Macworld, offer “improved compatibility, security, and reliability.” The specifics on how the updates do this are unclear, however, as the release notes for both the 10.6 and 10.5 updates are a little light on the details.

Both updates are available via direct download from their respective web sites or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

The updates require Mac OS X 10.5.8 and Mac OS X 10.6.4 to install and run, respectively.

If you’ve tried the updates and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

Final Cut Pro X customer receives refund from Apple, others pressing for their own

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Date: Tuesday, June 28th, 2011, 09:05
Category: News, Software

You can’t win ‘em all.

Facing backlash from customers who are unhappy with the revamped Final Cut Pro X, Apple has issued at least some refunds for the US$299 Mac App Store purchase.

Per AppleInsider, carious claims of refunds have surfaced and at least one person who asked a refund from Apple had their request granted.

This person sent an e-mail to Apple in which they said they believe the new Final Cut Pro X is not a “functional application” meeting the standards of Final Cut Pro 7. “It has zero professional features that I can use in my post facility,” they wrote.

In their response, an Apple advisor admitted Final Cut Pro X “does not contain properties that were highly regarded in the last version.” They also acknowledged that it is “frustrating” to pay “good money” for a product that “doesn’t work as expected.”

The customer was promised a credit for the US$299.99 purchase made on the Mac App Store. It was said that the funds should be posted to the credit card on the receipt for the purchase within five to seven business days.

“Again, I want to apologize for the inadequacy of this version of Final Cut Pro,” the advisor wrote. “Please be assured that we are always looking for ways to improve your experience with the iTunes Store and Apple.”

The candid nature of Apple’s response and apology was surprising to the person who received the refund. “I’ve never seen an Apple employee apologetic over the ‘inadequacies’ of their software before,” they wrote.

The prospect of refunds for other Final Cut Pro X purchases is the latest public relations strategy from Apple in attempting to quell unhappiness with the latest version of Final Cut Pro. As of Tuesday afternoon, the software on the Mac App Store has an average user rating of two-and-a-half stars out of a possible five, and of the 1,275 ratings collected, 563 are for just one star.

One popular review posted on the Mac App Store refers to Final Cut Pro X as Windows Vista, referring to Microsoft’s much maligned operating system update. “I can’t believe what apple did with FCPX,” they wrote, “this is no longer a professional application… this is just an upgrade of iMovie!!”

Final Cut Pro X was released along with Motion 5 and Compressor on the Mac App Store a week ago. The software was quickly met with condemnation from a group of outspoken professionals who believe the new product is vastly inferior to its predecessor.

Apple made a quick transition to Final Cut Pro X, declaring Final Cut Studio, Express and Server — which included Final Cut Pro 7 — as “end of life” products as of June 21. AppleInsider first reported in May of 2010 that Apple planned to widen the appeal of Final Cut Pro with features geared toward “prosumers” and more advanced home users.

A growing chorus of complaints even prompted some Apple product managers to attempt to address concerns over Final Cut Pro X late last week. A number of product managers spoke with the press and revealed that features like multicamera editing and support for RED digital cameras will be added with future updates.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve demanded a refund for Final Cut Pro X

Analyst notes possible “iPhone 4S” in September, iPad 3 prototype for early 2012

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Date: Tuesday, June 28th, 2011, 04:28
Category: iPad, iPhone, Rumor

In non-software-update-esque news, a second investment research firm on Monday cited sources in Taiwan as indicating that Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone will hit the market early in the third quarter and also did its part to downplay rumors of an iPad 3 launch prior to next year and a low-cost iPhone in 2011.

Per AppleInsider, pointing to “recent Apple supply chain checks,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger said production of the company’s fifth-generation iPhone has come into view for component suppliers “like Broadcom, Qualcomm, and Omnivision,” each of which are indicating “a late September or early October” manufacturing ramp for the handset.

In a note to clients on the matter, Berger identified the new iPhone as going by the code name “N94″ and indicated that his sources have referred to the device under the presumed marketing name “iPhone 4S,” which would suggest the handset will arrive as an evolutionary upgrade to the existing iPhone 4 rather than a radical redesign like the ones that took place during the transition from the original iPhone to the iPhone 3G and from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4.

Berger, added that his sources “see no near-term plans for a low-end iPhone for emerging markets, or a new iPhone in a transparent case.”

Additionally, the analyst pointed to conversations with the same supply chain contacts in reporting that Apple has been “evaluating various touchscreen displays” for its third-generation iPad.

Thought he acknowledged conjecture and speculation over the possibility that such a device could launch later this year, he said his intelligence suggests that the company’s progress with display manufacturers indicates a prototype of the next iPad won’t be ready until early 2012, implying an announcement would again likely come in the spring.

“This should squarely put to rest any debate about a 2011 launch of the iPad 3 — after all, Apple is severely supply constrained on the iPad 2, and it is by far the best-performing and functioning tablet in the world,” the analyst wrote.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Thunderbolt Firmware Update 1.0

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Date: Tuesday, June 28th, 2011, 03:10
Category: News, Software

Late Monday, Apple released Thunderbolt Firmware Update 1.0, a 486 KB download focused on providing stability and performance fixes for Mac with the new Thunderbolt port. The update will restart your Mac with a gray screen a status bar to indicate the progress of the update.

While the update is taking place, do not disturb or shut off the power on your computer during this update.

The update is also available via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later to install and run.

Analyst predicts Apple to start assembling iPhone 5 in August

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Date: Monday, June 27th, 2011, 05:21
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Apple will begin production of fifth-generation iPhones in August ahead of a projected late third quarter launch, according to intelligence obtained by by one investment banker’s recent trip to Taiwan .

Per AppleInsider, after meetings with unnamed individuals in Taiwan last week where Apple’s supply chain and manufacturing facilities reside, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty issued a note to clients in which she confidently stated: “Apple’s next iPhone will begin production in mid to late August and ramp aggressively” into the calendar fourth quarter.

She added that, based on her intelligence, the new handset will launch and be available to consumers sometime near the end of the third calendar quarter of the year, which ends September.

As a result of the later than usual launch, Huberty shifted 2 million iPhone units from the firm’s third quarter estimates to its fourth quarter estimates, though the firm’s full year estimate of 72 million units remain unchanged. However, the analyst notes that if the next iPhone were to come out in early September, it would “drive upside” to Morgan Stanley’s lowered estimates.

Lower priced iPhones and an Apple-branded TV may also be in the works, Huberty noted. According to the analyst, Apple is forecasting a large iPhone unit increase in 2012 “on the back of new products and potentially lower price points.” Various major news outlets reported this spring that Apple is planning a cheaper iPhone model, which analysts believe would help the company make gains in emerging and prepaid mobile markets.

“We also believe Apple is in the early design stages for a TV, which could add US$19 billion and US$4.50 of annual revenue and EPS longer-term,” Huberty continued. In March, the analyst reported that checks in Asia suggested Apple was working on a “Smart TV prototype.” Earlier this week, an unverified report claimed to leak Apple’s plans for iOS-powered connected TVs, citing a “former Apple executive” as the source.

In addition to Apple’s ramping up of iPhone production, Morgan Stanley sees upward pressure on iPad shipments as post-Japan earthquake product constraints have subsided. Huberty also echoed reports that improved component supply has led Apple to negotiate price cuts with some of its suppliers. Those cuts could boost margins “modestly in the June quarter and more in September,” the note read.

A recent report out of Asia said Apple has demanded 10 percent price cuts from iPad suppliers as orders increase. The report specifically cited companies supplying printed circuit boards, optical components, battery modules and touch panels as being pressured to lower prices.

Huberty sees the recent dip in Apple’s share price as a buying opportunity for investors in light of the prospect of improved shipments of the iPhone and iPad. Morgan Stanley reiterated its Overweight rating of Apple, with a price target of US$428. The company’s stock has slide more than 6 percent to US$326.35 since the beginning of June.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Best Buy puts hold on MacBook Air orders, next-gen units expected soon

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Date: Monday, June 27th, 2011, 04:58
Category: MacBook Air, News

National retailer Best Buy has put a hold on online MacBook Air orders, providing further evidence that Apple plans to release an updated version of its diminutive laptop.

Per Electronista, Best Buy’s listings for the current-generation MacBook Air are now listed as “Not Available for Shipping.” Meanwhile, all MacBook Air models on Apple’s Online Store remain ready for shipping.

Best Buy continues to offer the portables in its brick-and-mortar retail stores, though some locations have reportedly run out of stock. In the U.K., the big-box retailer allows orders for a MacBook Air with 128GB of storage, but only with in-store pickup at certain locations.

Apple is expected to refresh the MacBook Air line with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors and the addition of the Thunderbolt port. However, sources close to the story have stated that Apple is waiting until it can load a Gold Master build of Mac OS X Lion onto the notebooks before releasing them.

Mac OS X Lion is due for release on the Mac App Store in July. As a major upgrade to Apple’s flagship desktop OS, Lion will include more than 250 new features such as full screen apps, additional multi-touch gestures and Mission Control.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Security Update 2011-004

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Date: Friday, June 24th, 2011, 08:23
Category: News, Software

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Along with yesterday’s Mac OS X 10.6.8 update, Apple also released Security Update 2011-004, which brings some of the same patches to Mac OS X 10.5 (“Leopard”), as well as fixing some Leopard-specific security bugs.

Per Macworld, the update patched 28 bugs in systems ranging from AirPort to MobileMe, QuickTime, and subversion. While many of the bugs fixed in Leopard have been addressed in previous updates to Snow Leopard, a handful affect both versions of the OS; Apple’s Knowledge Base document also addresses some Snow Leopard-specific bugs patched in Mac OS X 10.6.8.

The one thing Leopard doesn’t benefit from is Snow Leopard’s malware detection system, which was updated in 10.6.8 to catch more versions of the Mac Defender Trojan horse. Leopard users will instead have to rely on a combination of third-party antivirus software and common sense to defend themselves from the malware.

Security Update 2011-004 is recommended for all users of Mac OS X 10.5, and requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run. For users of the OS’s client version, a 256.4MB download is available via Software Update or the support section of Apple’s web site; Leopard Server users can download a 499.8MB update via Software Update or Apple’s site.

If you’ve tried the security update and have any feedback about it, let us know.