Apple patent towards HDTV design with additional backlighting features

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Date: Thursday, January 5th, 2012, 08:51
Category: News, Patents

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This could turn into something pretty cool.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple is looking into building displays with dynamic backlight adaptation for better picture quality, particularly when watching letterboxed widescreen movies on a high-definition screen.

The concept was revealed this week in a new Apple patent application discovered by AppleInsider. The filing, entitled “Dynamic Backlight Adaptation for Black Bars with Subtitles,” focuses on improving picture quality when watching letterboxed content, like Hollywood movies, on an LCD display.

The application was filed just months ago, in September of 2011, and comes as rumors of a full-fledged Apple television set continue to build. One report this week claimed that Apple design chief Jonathan Ive has a 50-inch prototype set located in his secure work studio at the company’s corporate headquarters.

A common problem with LCD displays is the ability to show “true” black colors on the screen. This becomes amplified when black bars are included in a video, such as when watching a letterboxed film. The difficulty of adjusting the backlight properly when the black bars are present can result in poorer quality of the remainder of the video.

Even though modern television sets are built with widescreen 16-by-9 aspect ratios, Blu-ray and DVD films, as well as those sold on iTunes, often show movies in an even wider format, leaving black bars at the top and bottom. For example, many movies are shot in Panavision’s 2.35:1 ratio.

“Many video images are encoded with black bars, e.g., non-picture portions of the video images,” the filing reads. “These non-picture portions complicate the analysis of the brightness of the video images, and therefore can create problems when determining the trade-off between the brightness of the video signals and the intensity setting of the light source. Moreover, these non-picture portions can also produce visual artifacts, which can degrade the overall user experience.”

Further complicating picture quality and brightness is the fact that users can often view subtitles in the black bars located at the top and bottom of a widescreen film. This makes it even more difficult for the system to dynamically adjust and ensure the highest level of quality.

Apple’s solution is a complex processing system that could “spatially vary visual information” on a display. This would dynamically adjust the backlight source on a screen, like a high-definition television set, in a way that would improve the picture quality.

The display would have multiple brightness settings for its backlight based on the processing of the image. For example, the “picture portion” of the screen would be illuminated by LED backlighting to an appropriate level, whereas the “non-picture portion,” which would include the black bars, would have a different backlight setting.

The application describes an “extraction circuit” included in the display, which would calculate a brightness metric associated with the video signal. Then an “analysis circuit” would analyze and identify specific subsets of a video, like black bars that are shown when watching a movie.

The display would also include an “intensity circuit” that would determine the ideal intensity of the light source that illuminates the LCD display. The system could also employ a mapping function to determine optimum quality by using features like a “distortion metric” to limit image distortion.

Apple’s system could also process the video signal in advance and synchronize the intensity of the light source based on the image currently being displayed.

“The system determines the intensity setting of the light source on an image-by-image basis for the sequence of video images, where the intensity of the given video image is based on the brightness setting and/or brightness information contained in the video signals associated with the given image,” the filing reads. “Then, the system synchronizes the intensity of the setting of the light source with the current video image to be displayed.”

The filing, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is credited to inventors Ulrich T. Barnhoefer, Wei H. Yao, Wei Chen, Barry J. Corlett, and Jean-didier Allegrucci.

Though rumors of a full-fledged Apple television set have persisted for years, they picked up once again late last year, when it was revealed that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told his biographer that he had “cracked’ the secret to building an integrated, easy-to-use television set.

“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine,” Jobs said, prompting speculation that an Apple-branded television would use Siri, Apple’s voice control software featured on the iPhone 4S, as its primary input method.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intego warns of new, detailed phishing scam aimed at Apple’s user base

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Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 05:02
Category: News, security

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There’s a few things you can count on: death, taxes and various groups of wanders trying to get personal information from you via scams and phishing efforts.

Per AppleInsider, security firms have issued warnings regarding a new “well-crafted” phishing scam that attempts to fool customers into providing their AppleID billing information.

Intego posted an alert on the scam earlier this week, noting that the first emails appeared to have gone out on or around Christmas day. The phishing email purports to come from “appleid@id.apple.com” and informs recipients that their billing information records are “out of date.”

Customers are directed to click on a link to http://store.apple.com, but they are instead redirected to a “realistic-looking sign-in page,” according to the security firm’s report.

Though phishing scams targeting Apple customers are by no means new, this particular scam has attracted attention because it is unusually detailed in its efforts to deceive. The email makes use of the Apple logo and shading and employs better formatting than similar frauds in the past.

As a precautionary measure, users should remember not to click directly on links from email messages and instead navigate to the website in question on their own.

In August, scammers set out to trick Apple’s MobileMe subscribers into upgrading to the then-forthcoming iCloud service. Around the Thanksgiving holiday, another scam cropped up falsely advertising an iTunes gift certificate that was actually malware meant to pilfer passwords and other personal information.

Mac users were also the target of an elaborate hoax involving fake anti-virus software, usually dubbed MacDefender, earlier this year. The application would automatically download itself onto users’ computers in an attempt to obtain their credit card information. Russian police later found evidence tying the scam to online payment service Chronopay.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iTunes 10.5.2 update

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Date: Monday, December 12th, 2011, 17:55
Category: News, Software

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On Monday, Apple released iTunes 10.5.2, the latest version of its multimedia/jukebox application for Mac OS X. The new version, a 102 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

– Several improvements for iTunes Match and fixes an audio distortion problem when playing or importing certain CDs.

iTunes 10.5.2 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

Delicious Library updated to 2.7.5

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Date: Thursday, December 8th, 2011, 05:51
Category: News, Software

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On Wednesday, software company Delicious Monster released version 2.7.5 of the shareware favorite, Delicious Library. Delicious Monster allows Macs with webcams to scan the bar codes of any book, movie, music CD or video game, then creates an archive based on background information from the Internet. Additional features help keep the library organized and reseller’s tools allow for items to be quickly posted for sale online.

The update, a 16.4 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

– Easily see which shelves contain your items!

– Use the new “Shelves” column in list view.

– Control-click an item for the new “Show on Shelf” menu.

– Include the set of shelves containing each item when exporting.

– Recognize a larger variety of iTunes audiobook formats.

– Those with old iTunes libraries should, in iTunes, choose File > Library> Organize Library‚Ķ, selecting to “Reorganize files”.

– Improved display of Nintendo 3DS game boxes.

– French translation improvements, thanks to Fabrice Deville.

– Export directly to Numbers.

– Excel exporter now uses CSV format instead of the ancient SYLK format, providing better support for long values and values in more languages.

– Cover drawing fixes on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion (fixed blurry covers, incorrectdrawing after changing dimensions, and more).

– Many fixes to the importer.

– Accept USB scanners that send EAN-5 along with the EAN-13 barcode.

– We’re aware that some customers have issues using their USB barcode scannerswith Delicious Library. We’d like to address this as soon as possible. Ifyou have a USB scanner (working or not), please email support@delicious-monster.comwith the make and model, and whether or not scans are recognized.

– Work around Amazon returning strange item dimensions (manifesting as coversbeing tiny)

– Better handling of large cover images.

– Strip ColorSync profiles from images when publishing for smaller file sizes.

– Fixed a cause of large memory usage when publishing.

– Add a work-around for an Apple bug in 10.7 that produces invalid HTML when publishing
Enable “Refresh Details from Internet” for items with an EAN or ISBN, butwithout an ASIN.

– Fixed a crash when selecting “Enable Bluetooth Scanning” and Bluetooth isdisabled (Apple’s bug).

Delicious Library 2.7.5 retails for US$40 and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Apple TV updated to 4.4.3

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Date: Friday, November 18th, 2011, 04:24
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

Apple on Thursday released a software update identified as version 4.4.3 for its Apple TV set-top box, though what changes it includes are unknown.

Per AppleInsider, the new Apple TV update is labeled build 9A4051, and can now be downloaded directly from the device. The version number would suggest that it is a minor update, fixing issues in the Apple TV version 4.4 software update that accompanied the launch of iOS 5 in October.

Version 4.4.3 marks the third update to have arrived since the release of 4.4, a more significant update that added AirPlay Mirroring support, Wall Street Journal Live, National Hockey League Content, Photo Stream, and iTunes Trailers. Details for Apple TV Software Update 4.4.3 have not yet been revealed by Apple.

The last Apple TV update arrived in late October with Software Update 4.4.2. It addressed an issue that required a small number of Apple TV units to be connected to iTunes in order to complete an update.

Apple also quietly added support for iTunes Match to the Apple TV early this month, without the need for a software update on the device. The $24.99-per-year iTunes Match service, which lets users re-download their entire music library on a range of devices, launched this week with the release of iTunes 10.5.1.

If you’ve tried the new Apple TV update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments and feedback.

Apple releases iTunes 10.5.1 update, includes long-anticipated iTunes Match feature

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Date: Monday, November 14th, 2011, 11:15
Category: News, Software

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On Monday, Apple released iTunes 10.5.1, the latest version of its multimedia/jukebox application for Mac OS X. The new version, a 102 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

– Introducing iTunes Match. Store your entire music library in iCloud, including music you’ve imported from CDs, and enjoy your collection anywhere, anytime, on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, computer, or Apple TV.

iTunes 10.5.1 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

Apple releases third iTunes 10.5.1 beta, focuses on iTunes Match feature

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Date: Monday, November 14th, 2011, 07:23
Category: iTunes, News, Software

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After erasing developers’ iTunes Match accounts, Apple has supplied its developers with a third beta of iTunes 10.5.1 to test the new US$24.99-per-year service.

Per AppleInsider, the third beta of iTunes 10.5.1 is now available to members of Apple’s developer program. The company said it includes “a number of important stability and performance improvements for iTunes Match.”

All who are testing the iTunes Match service, which also remains in beta, must update to the latest iTunes 10.5.1 beta in order to continue using the subscription service. The last beta was supplied earlier this month, and brought iTunes Match testing to the Apple TV.

The first beta of iTunes 10.5.1 was supplied to developers in October, soon after the public release of iTunes 10.5. Apple originally promised that iTunes Match would become publicly available by the end of October, but that deadline came and went without comment from the company.

As Apple continues to attempt to work out kinks with iTunes Match, the company once again erased accounts Saturday morning. Developers were notified on Friday that their iTunes Match beta libraries would be erased as Apple continues to prepare for the forthcoming launch of the service.

When it is eventually publicly available, iTunes Match will support music collections of up to 25,000 songs for US$24.99 per year. The service will scan users’ personal music libraries, including songs obtained from ripped CDs or other locations, and match them up with tracks sold on the iTunes Store.

iTunes Match subscribers will be able to re-download any of their matched songs on other enabled devices, including iPhones and iPads. Those downloads will be 256Kbps AAC files, even if the original user-owned files are of lower quality.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Onyx 2.4.2 released

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Date: Tuesday, November 1st, 2011, 04:12
Category: News, Software

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Onyx, Titanium Software’s popular freeware multifunction utility for Mac OS X, has been updated to version 2.4.2. The new version, a 12.9 megabyte download adds the following fixes and changes:

– Show/hide QuickTime Player 7 Movie Inspector at launch.

– Force enabling AirDrop.

– Bugs corrected in the Parameters > iTunes panel.

– Bugs corrected in the Infos panel.

– Xcode isn’t required anymore to install the Network Link Conditioner Preferences Pane.

– If the Spotlight icon is hidden, it remains after repairing permissions from OnyX.

– New replacement icons.

– Help corrected, improved and reindexed.

– Localizations…

Onyx 2.4.2 requires Mac OS X 10.7 or later to install and run.

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

Rumor: Prior to passing, Steve Jobs left iTunes creator in charge of HDTV project

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 05:51
Category: Rumor, Software

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When Steve Jobs passed away, he put certain Apple employees in place to keep things going and make sure his final goals were realized.

It looks like another has been discovered.

According to Bloomberg, Jeff Robbin, an Apple vice president and engineer who helped create both iTunes and the iPod, is leading the company’s efforts to produce a connected TV with integrated search functionality.

Citing multiple sources familiar with the project, Bloomberg reported on Monday that Robbin is in charge of Cupertino, Calif., company’s secretive high-definition TV project. According to the sources, Apple is working to integrate seamless content search features into the device.

“For example, instead of having to separately check to see if a movie or show is available through Netflix or a cable service, all the material could be integrated,” the report noted.

Robbin worked as a system software engineer at Apple in the 1990s before leaving to work on his own software projects. While at software publisher Casady & Greene, he helped to develop the SoundJam MP MP3 player software. In late 2000, Apple purchased the rights for SoundJam from Casady & Greene, bringing Robbin back into the fold to head up the software’s transformation into iTunes.

Back at Apple, Robbin also played a crucial role in the development of the iPod, which just recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. He is listed among the inventors of several key iPod-related patent filings, though not all of the applications were successfully converted into legitimate patents.

His current role at Apple is vice president of consumer applications and lead software designer for iTunes.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs at one point considered Robbin to be of such high value to the company that he worked to keep Robbin’s role under wraps. According to the bestselling biography on Jobs, officially released on Monday, Jobs refused to allow a Time magazine reporter to use the engineer’s full name in an article because he feared Robbin would be poached by another company. The book also noted that Robbin was one of the Apple executives who successfully lobbied Jobs to allow a Windows version of iTunes.

Having persisted for years, rumors surrounding Apple’s connected television initiative have gained momentum after Jobs’ biography confirmed that he had been working on such a device. Author Walter Isaacson quoted Jobs in an interview as saying that he wanted to make television sets “simple and elegant,” just like he had done with computers, music players and phones.

“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine,” Jobs reportedly said of the project. “I finally cracked it.”

Multiple analysts claimed on Monday that Apple has been building prototype high-definition TVs, possibly in preparation for a 2012 launch. The rumored product would represent a strong opportunity for the company, as some have projected the LCD TV market to top US$100 billion next year.

Apple currently sells a US$99 Apple TV set-top box, but considers the device to be little more than a “hobby.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Apple TV 4.4.1 update, addresses iTunes library connection bugs

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Date: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, 09:19
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

It’s the smaller updates that make a difference.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has provided another minor update intended to fix bugs for its Apple TV set-top box.

Apple TV software update version 4.4.1 is now available for download on the device. It can be obtained by navigating to “General,” then “Settings,” and choosing Update Software.

According to Apple, the software update addresses an issue that required a small number of Apple TV units to be connected to iTunes in order to complete last week’s 4.4 update.

One of the major features added with last week’s iOS 5 update is AirPlay mirroring, which allows a user to send their iPad 2 display wirelessly to the Apple TV. It also allows console-style gaming via supported titles like Real Racing 2 HD.

Last week’s Apple TV update also added access to Apple’s new iCloud-powered Photo Stream feature, which automatically uploads pictures taken with an iPhone or iPad 2 and shares them among iOS devices. With the update, users can view Photo Stream pictures on their HDTV.

The update also added access to iTunes Trailers, Wall Street Journal Live, and the ability to watch live games through the National Hockey League’s GameCenter subscription service.

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