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.

Kingston announces Wi-Drive external storage unit for iOS devices

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Date: Monday, August 15th, 2011, 05:57
Category: Accessory, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

This could be nifty.

Per Macworld UK, accessory maker Kingston has announced the Wi-Drive, a portable storage and file-management device for iOS.

The flash memory-based drive is aimed specifically at the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and offers additional storage space and file-management features to owners of iOS devices.



Users can transfer files onto the Wi-Drive from your Mac or Windows PC via USB and communicate with the drive with the free Wi-Drive app from the App Store. Once installed, you’ll be able to connect your iOS device to the Wi-Drive over Wi-Fi.

The unit comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage space and up to three users can then wirelessly access the content stored on the Wi-Drive.

The 16GB version is available from Cancom for £89 and the 32GB version costs £119 from the same supplier. It is also available through solutions inc., Square Group, Farpoint, Western Computer, MCC Group, Micro Anvika stores and online at Ebuyer.

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.

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.

Google releases Google+ app with native iPhone/iPod touch support, non-native iPad support

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 11:55
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

Google has updated its Google+ social networking app, adding native iPod touch and non-native iPad compatibility along with several other minor improvements according to iLounge.

Released last month and similar to Facebook, Google+ provides access to Google’s new social network allowing users to share information with people in their Google+ Circles and keep up to date on what their Google+ friends are doing. The initial version of the app was specifically designed to run only on the iPhone, leaving iPod touch and iPad users unable to load the app on their devices at all; this latest update resolves that issue by adding compatibility with the iPod touch and iPad in 2X mode—native iPad support is not provided.

Additional improvements include customizable Huddle settings, aggregated add notifications for Circles and performance and stability improvements. Google+ is available via the App Store as a free download.

If you’ve tried the app and have any feedback, let us know in the comments.

Apple begins hunting down, closing device slots of users running unauthorized iOS 5 beta versions

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Date: Monday, August 8th, 2011, 04:13
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News

If you’re using an unauthorized iOS 5 beta, Apple probably wants you to stop.

Per Karthikk.net, Apple has reportedly begun closing the accounts of some developers who have inappropriately sold their account device slots, allowing them to profit from the installation iOS 5 on unauthorized non-developer iPhones and iPads.

Some developers who sold their slots for UDIDs, the unique identification numbers associated with every iOS device, have been tracked down by Apple according to the report. Apple has reportedly sent e-mail warnings to developers, notifying them that their illicit activities have been discovered.

In addition, Apple is said to have begun closing developer accounts for some who have been identified as selling their device slots. Apple has also reportedly flagged UDIDs associated with a developer account found in violation, making the device running iOS 5 “unusable.”

“Once Apple locks your iOS device, the phone will enter the initial setup mode asking you to connect to a WiFi network,” the report said. “And nothing happens more than that.”

Because it is not final, public software, iOS 5 is currently meant only for testing purposes, and is restricted to authorized members of Apple’s official iOS Developer Program. Selling device slots and allowing non-developers to test and run the latest beta build of iOS 5 is a direct violation of the iOS Developer Program rules.

But some developers have ignored these binding terms and have chosen to register another person’s iPhone or iPad UDID in exchange for a fee. Those who pay the developer can receive early access to iOS 5 and test out its new feature base.

iOS 5 is currently available to developers in its fourth beta, released last month. The latest version was issued via the operating system’s new over-the-air update feature, allowing for a much smaller-than-usual 133MB delta update over Wi-Fi.

Members of the general public will not be able to utilize iOS 5 until this fall, when Apple will release the software. The new operating system is expected to become available alongside a new fifth-generation iPhone.

In addition to wireless updates, iOS 5 will also allow for wireless syncing through iCloud. It will also offer an all-new Notification Center for prompting users, a Newsstand application for newspapers and magazines, and system-wide integration with the social networking service Twitter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Iomega Mac Companion hard drive boasts iOS device charging port, 2 and 3TB capacities

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Date: Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011, 04:52
Category: Accessory, hard drive, News

Apple’s recent Mac OS X Lion release shows how the Mac and iOS platforms are increasingly overlapping. And third-parties are beginning to follow Apple’s platform-blurring lead: On Tuesday, Iomega rolled out an external hard drive that also features a charging port designed for Apple’s mobile devices.

Per Macworld, the Iomega Mac Companion Hard Drive, which arrives in 2TB and 3TB capacities and sports 7200-rpm hard drives, feature a USB charging port for Apple’s iOS devices. Users will be able to plug their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into the Mac Companion Drive to recharge the batteries on those mobile devices whenever they’re back at their desktop.

In all, the Mac Companion Hard Drive offers two FireWire 800 ports, a USB 2.0 port, and a two-port integrated USB 2.0 hub. That latter connection means that users can connect printers, other external hard drives, or other devices to Iomega’s new offering. The Mac Companion Hard Drive ships with three cables—one for FireWire 800, another for USB 2.0, and a FireWire 400-to-800 conversion cable.

The drive also sports a capacity indicator gauge—basically a set of four LEDs—that will give users an idea of how much space they have left on the Mac Companion Hard Drive. Four white LEDs mean that less than 20 percent of the capacity is in use, for example, while a single red LED indicates that more than 80 percent of the storage space has been used up.

Iomega’s Mac Companion Hard Drive starts at US$195 for the 2TB model with the 3TB version retailing for US$295. The drive includes Iomega’s QuickProtect file-level backup software and 2GB of free online backup through Mozy. The drive is initially available through Apple’s online store and retail outlets, though Iomega plans to expand sales to other stores and sites later in August.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype releases native client for iPad

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Date: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, 08:37
Category: iPad, News, Software

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After over a year of anticipation, Voice Over Internet Protocol outfit Skype released an iPad-native version of its client on Tuesday. Per Macworld, the iPad app bears more than a passing resemblance to Skype 5 for Mac and uses a thumbnail grid of your Skype contacts; tap on any of them to bring up a look at their profile, along with options for voice calling, video calling, chat and SMS. Skype allows users to access their contacts via “Tags,” (think groups) but doesn’t allow them to actually assign contacts into those categories on the iPad app—you need to use the desktop program for that. You can also add new contacts, or even just dial any phone number you like via a standard keypad.

The app lets you make calls over Wi-Fi or 3G and you’ll need a Skype account as well as some credit if you want to make calls to actual phones. Video calls let you switch back and forth between the iPad 2′s front and rear cameras. If you’re using an original iPad, you’ll obviously only be able to receive video. And there’s support for instant messaging via Skype, including emoticons.

Skype for iPad is free and requires iOS 4.0 or later. It is not a universal app, meaning that if you already have the iPhone version on your iPad, you’ll need to download this one separately.

Forthcoming Microsoft Office 2011 update to add support for Mac OS X 10.7 feature base

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Date: Thursday, July 28th, 2011, 12:25
Category: News, Software

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The good news: Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) is out.

The bad news: Not all of Microsoft’s products support all of the Mac OS X 10.7 feature base.

Still, there may be hope on the horizon.

Per the Office for Mac blog, Microsoft has revealed that a forthcoming update for Office for Mac 2011 will add support for new features in Mac OS X 10.7, including versions, auto-save and full-screen.

Pat Fox of the Office for Mac team wrote on the company’s official blog this week that inquiries about those features have been the “most common question” for users of late. The Microsoft team is said to be “working hard with Apple” to enable the features.

“I know your next question will be ‘when?’, and unfortunately I can’t answer that — but it’s likely measured in months not days — just to set expectations,” the post reads.

The news came alongside the release of an update to Communicator for Mac, which addresses an issue related to crashing in Lion. The download is available through Microsoft AutoUpdate.

The company also reiterated that Office for Mac 2004 will not ever work on Lion, because the software was a PowerPC-based product, and Lion no longer includes Rosetta.

“Now would be a great time to upgrade to Office for Mac 2011 if you’re upgrading to Lion!” Fox said.

Office for Mac 2011, the industry’s most popular productivity suite, was released last October, delivering better compatibility with the Windows version of Office and corporate server products. It also features a revised user interface that’s similar to the “ribbon” interface used in Windows.

Those user interface elements are built on Cocoa, the development layer of Mac OS X. And the all-new version of Outlook that shipped with Office for Mac 2011 was also built from the ground-up with Cocoa for the Mac.

File versions, auto-save and full-screen are major features touted as part of the newly released Mac OS X 10.7 Lion operating system. With support for Lion, documents are automatically saved, and multiple versions of the file are stored allowing for Time Machine-like recovery of previous iterations of a file.

The new full-screen support in Lion will bring an iPad-like feel to the operating system, allowing users to concentrate on one task at a time and quickly swipe between full-screen applications with a multi-touch gesture.

Apple’s own competing productivity suite, iLife, was already updated for Lion earlier this month. iWork Update 6 adds support for full-screen mode, resume, auto-save and versions to Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 4.3.5 update

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Date: Tuesday, July 26th, 2011, 03:38
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, security, Software

On Friday, Apple released iOS 4.3.5, the latest incarnation of its iOS operating system for its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices. The updates fix a security vulnerability with certificate validation and arrive in two versions, thanks to the different flavors of the iPhone 4. iOS 4.3.5 applies to the iPad and iPad 2, the third- and fourth-generation iPod touch, the iPhone 3GS, and the iPhone 4 (GSM model); users of the CDMA model of the iPhone 4 instead get iOS 4.2.10.

These updates can be snagged by plugging in your respective iOS device and checking for updates in iTunes.

If you’ve tried the updates and noticed any differences, please let us know in the comments.