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Tuesday, Apple Wants to Show You New Stuff

*update #2* – We won’t know until Apple actually tells us, but several outlets are reporting that the iPad Mini will come in as many as 16 different variations (black or white, internal storage and wifi/cellular) and could start as low as $250.

Sources also report that Apple is likely to show off updates of current products like iMac, Mac Mini, a new 13″ MacBook Pro w/ retina display and even an already updated iPad with the new Lightening connector introduced on the iPhone5.

*update* this event is now official.  Invites were received this week for the Oct 23rd date.

AllThingsD is reporting that the long rumored iPadMini will be revealed at an invite-only event on Oct 23rd.

The smaller tablet by all speculation will feature a 7.85″ display – whether or not it is a retina display has been divided.  Most speculate it will be the same resolution and not retina like the iPad2, just a smaller screen size.  A good argument has been made that this device could mirror the aspect ratio of the new iPhone5 which is a true 16:9.  It should be thinner and use the new Lightning connector.  There is a lot of discussion if this mini will have any sort of connectivity other than wi-fi and will likely have the A5 processor.

Pricing?  Considering the recent releases of new Kindle Fires and Nooks in the $200 range and the new iPod touch selling for $300 and the iPad2 at $400, it seems there is little room for a iPad Mini, but this may be the single most important element in how many of these things Apple sells.

If, in fact, this product actually does happen it will be a fantastic turnaround from what Steve Jobs publicly stated about the idea of the smaller tablet format.

These are among the reasons we think the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA, dead on arrival. Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the 7-inch bandwagon with an orphan product. Sounds like lots of fun ahead.

*update* – since first writing this I’ve been told there is a lot of evidence that Jobs would actually approve of this model because his complaints above are about a device that would upsize phone apps, rather than the expected Mini’s running of iPad apps by downsizing them.  Now, I’ve not been able to find any documentation proving this, but Rene Ritchie of iMore.com is rather insistent that Jobs would have approved.

iPhone5 Is Here. Hooray?

Its here, and because Apple has now gone from a company capable of keeping its stuff under Area51-like wraps to about as leaky as the sieve you use in your kitchen to drain pasta, what we got yesterday was a little underwhelming.

Not because it’s not cool, but because we already knew the ending.

We knew the iPhone5 was going to have a 4″ screen, LTE and be lighter, faster and all of that.  But we didn’t get any really cool new, “WOW” functionality that we didn’t already know about.  And that’s ok.

The iPhone5 is the best iPhone ever.

But “best iPhone doesn’t equal “best phone”.

Should you upgrade?  If you have any version older than a 4S, yes, especially if, God forbid, you are rocking a 3GS.  If you have a 4S the question is tougher.  Does your cell area have LTE available?  LTE is not anywhere near as widespread as 3G, and if you don’t have it, it probably isn’t worth the upgrade as, this is really the iPhone’s biggest advancement.  Yes, the bigger screen and form factor changes are nice, but $200+ is still a chuck of change for something that you will get 90% of the experience on your 4S.

If you’re not currently an iPhone users and want to be, getting the 4S at $100 is a major steal, but remember in 12 months it will become two generations old.  So think about that before you buy.  Plopping down an additional $100 ($199 for the 16g iPhone5) means that your phone will buy at least an additional 12 months of relevance.  You should also take the time to look at the slew of outstanding Android options, including the just announced Motorola Razr , and the best selling Galaxy S III.  I would also advise a look at any of the new upcoming Windows 8 phones.  Believe it or not, this new OS from Microsoft actually in many ways makes both iOS and Android look outdated.

The other big news from the event was the rollout of new Nano’s, and complete redesign of iTunes and maybe the coolest thing they debuted was a new iPod Touch.  the screen from the iPhone5, the power of the 4S, stupid thin, only weighing 88grams, and a work week’s worth of battery life (40 hours)… Five colors and $300.

below is a whole list of links of far more competent people’s opinions and some that have actually held the new iPhone.

 

 

 

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Why Did FBI Have This Data That Was Hacked?

#ANTISEC

Those pesky internet devils, AntiSec, announced in a posting on a hacker’s site the following:

During the second week of March 2012, a Dell Vostro notebook, used by Supervisor Special Agent Christopher K. Stangl from FBI Regional Cyber Action Team and New York FBI Office Evidence Response Team was breached using the AtomicReferenceArray vulnerability on Java, during the shell session some files were downloaded from his Desktop folder one of them with the name of ”NCFTA_iOS_devices_intel.csv” turned to be a list of 12,367,232 Apple iOS devices including Unique Device Identifiers (UDID), user names, name of device, type of device, Apple Push Notification Service tokens, zipcodes, cellphone numbers, addresses, etc. the personal details fields referring to people appears many times empty leaving the whole list incompleted on many parts. no other file on the same folder makes mention about this list or its purpose.

Out of the 12 million, the group posted one million of the UDID’s.  There’s a whole bunch of things wrong with this.

#1:  UDID’s are Unique Device Identifier numbers, which for an iPhone, iPad or iTouch is a 40 character, device specific number that identify that Apple’s device within the iOS ecosystem.  UDID’s are used in all sorts of ways between developers, iTunes and you can find your device’s UDID via a few different apps that you can download for free.   UDID’s are mostly used for testing apps before they are made available in iTunes, but there are other uses that require being able to ID a specific device.  You can check to see if your device UDID was part of the posting via this site.

#2: The group stole these 12 million UDIDs from a laptop of a FBI agent, and also there are claims that there are associated personal info with each number like, name, cell number, addresses and notification tokens (i.e.: what you’ve allowed to push notify/send info to the front of your device’s screen).  Why’d they steal it?  Because of….

#3: Why exactly was a FBI agent walking around with a laptop with 12 million private citizen’s UDID’s and how did he get them?   What are they being used for?

NBC News is reporting that a source within the FBI is claiming that the whole thing is a hoax and lure to get people to go to the site where the  original posting is hosted with malware hidden within the page.  Several other sources are reporting they cannot find any such malware on the page. (this is why I haven’t copied that link within this story, cause I ain’t sure)

What does this mean to you?  Probably nothing.  You can find your UDID, put part of it in the search link mentioned above, and if it doesn’t appear you’re safe.  But even if it does appear there isn’t much anyone can do with it at this time.  But while it is frustrating that this kind of data can be stolen, from the FBI no less, the larger question of why the FBI even had the data is certainly the larger question at hand.

More to come as it develops.

Microsoft Makes Its Move, Debuts Surface

Microsoft remains a wealthy and powerful company.  It no longer is the king of computing hill but it still is a tremendous force to be reckoned with and I have thought for a while that it simply had too much money and resources to sit and allow Apple and Google to leave it behind.

So for the last several months Microsoft has been doing two things, continuously building up the successful user base of their XBOX360 console into more than just gamers, rather a total entertainment hub – and the previewing of Windows 8.  The new OS promises to be far more like the others and less like what you think when you consider a Windows OS.  It also holds the promise that what you get from the platform will be consistent from device to device.  Desktop to tablet to smartphone, Windows 8 wants to you know what to expect.

Yesterday Microsoft held what seemed to be a hastily organized conference in Los Angeles and the general prediction was that an e-reader was in the wings, some sort of relationship with Barnes and Noble. What I don’t think anyone expected was Microsoft’s attempt at the proverbial ‘left-hook’ squarely at the jaw of it competitors.

Microsoft’s Surface is their tablet, but it’s actually two different products in the same way the iPad is different from the MacBook Air.  Both hold the tablet form, but one has the guts and power of an ultra book.  Both have a 10.6 screen with proper 16:9 aspect ratio are really thin and reportedly have a “ruggedness” and “high quality feel” to them due to a magnesium case and a kickstand that pops out to hold it at the perfect 22 degrees needed of viewing and video chatting.  The display is called “Clear Type” and certainly shoots at Retina Display quality and falls just short of that in the pixel density department (264ppi v 208ppi).

The brand “Surface” had been attached to a large coffee table sized device topped with a piece of glass (now renamed PixelSense) that allowed for touch interaction and control that led many to think that was the direction Microsoft was headed with their OS and touchscreen.  But that has been recycled here with a non-Pro version that would run of the RT version of Windows 8 and has the same type of processing as other handheld devices (ARM), and then there is this Pro version that knocked everyone out with the news that it would run the full desktop version of Windows 8 and be powered by an Ivy Bridge Core i5, USB 3.0 and other specs that take the device from tablet to a new place of admiration in tech circles.  Here, Microsoft appears to actually built something really neat-o.  In other words, if Apple had released this device, Twitter would have crashed and Walt Mossberg may have had a heart attack from the excitement.

Topping off the cool new tricks is a cover, much like the one Apple added with the iPad2, that clicks onto the Surface, but when opened reveals a full keyboard and trackpad.  The versions shown to the press yesterday were not operable, so no one knows how it feels to work with, or how well it actually works… but it looks beautiful and awesome.

There is way better coverage to be read by people that have actually seen the devices and in some cases held one.

A couple of things to note:  We don’t know how much either of these will cost.  And that will be a giant consideration as the Pro version will probably come in at the $1000 mark which would give anyone pause to consider versus the options in that price range (Mac Book Air), and Windows 8 is going to have to be awesome to really make that deal work.  The RT (non-pro version) has the almost Herculean task of competing in the ring with the iPad – a device so completely in control of that market segment one wonders how anyone (Android or Microsoft) is ever going to best it.  Its price is going to have to be really competitive, below the $499 intro point for an iPad.  Microsoft’s biggest challenge here are the apps.  Apple has such a lead in the department that Android, already with several really nice tablets of their own, can’t grab a real number of developers to spend the time and money to make apps for them.  So, how Microsoft plans on successfully jumping that hurdle has yet to be seen.

It should be noted that Microsoft designed and is building these in-house.  No Dells, Lenovos or HPs.  This is Microsoft’s baby.  We also aren’t sure when these will arrive.  What we know is that the RT version will arrive along side Windows 8, and, confusingly, the version that actually runs on Windows 8 “90 days after that” – an early sign that Microsoft already has some better decision making to do.

Here’s the whole presentation via The Verge:

 

Apple Giveth & Taketh Away

This week Apple had a tremendously successful WWDC despite the fact there was no new iPhone, iPad or the mysterious ‘AppleTVBrainAbsorber’ that surely will be revealed sometime this year.

What in part made the presentation successful was the release of a new laptop so extreme in its design and specifications that even the most skeptical looked at it and at least raised an eyebrow of admiration.  Although it didn’t take more than 48 hours for someone to tear one apart and find out that Apple had basically welded the thing together so that not only can you not upgrade the new “Super” MBP, even self repairing the thing is about impossible.  This led to cries of conspiracy and finger pointing of evidence that Apple simply makes products that will only continue to make them more money – even after you’ve bought it.

Then there was the preview of iOS6, and what iPhones and iPads will be capable of in the coming Fall.  But not all.  iPhone4 and below won’t get it, and neither will the original iPad.  While the knee-jerk reaction is to call out Apple for device fragmentation and falling into the trap of what Android is so very guilty of, the reality is that what Apple really is doing is planned obsolescence – the phasing out of products as their capabilities fail to meet modern day demands. For better or worse, right or wrong it has powered Apple as a company for years.  Even from the start, desktop computing has dealt with for a very long time, it was just the variations of the x86 occurred over long periods of time, not the year or two we see in today’s handheld devices.

Today not only is the first two generations of iPhones not supported by the current iOS5, the 3rd gen – the 3Gs – will now find a similar fate.  The 5th anniversary of the original iPhone comes on the 29th of this month.  Yes, the oldest version of the iPhone is only five years old – and you will struggle to find anyone still using one.

If you look at Apple track of products, this is a repetitive thing, only accelerating with each new type of product.  It began with the single bodied desktops from the 512k to the SE, SE30 over the course of about five years.  The iMac has seen drastic iterations since its introduction in 1998 and even the more traditional tower, the Power Mac, has rolled out newer and newer models thru the years.  But even those changes never really felt like you were having to decide quickly to upgrade like you do with today’s handheld devices.  Buy an iPhone4s today, and it will likely be 18 months away from being two generations old – think about it.

This is something long time fans of Apple have known.  They joke about it, but as the products have become the mainstream less people find it funny, and more find it annoying.  iOS6 really kicks that into gear with outdating the original iPad, a device people still are using in mass quantities and consider ‘new, cool things’.  But the fact that its processing power and memory are mere fractions of its two newer siblings, meaning the two year old wonder-device is wandering into its “golden years”.  Even hard core Apple fans gulped when they heard that news.

Everyone’s heard of dog-years, one dog year is seven human years.  So maybe iPad-years are one for every 30 human?  ouch.

This isn’t exclusive to Apple.  Today there’s a better, bigger TV each year.  A new king of the Android hill every few months.  Good grief, is Nike ever not going to make a “new-best-ever” running shoe that’s lighter and faster than the one you just bought?

Apple’s devices are premium priced.  There probably should be an expectation that when you pay $x for it, it should last for a very long time.  But that isn’t the reality of today’s gizmo world.  Every iPhone has far outsold its predecessor and that will continue  to happen as long as what Apple turns out each time lives up to its promises (something in certain areas has slipped of late).

But with all of that on the table, Apple still had a really fantastic show and tell of new stuff this week.  They continue to find ways to improve their products, sometimes off the backs of other existing products, and generate excitement.  There are tons of hints of what is to come with the iPhone5 in what was previewed with iOS6.  And the introduction of Retina Display into the laptop is really a big deal, especially as we now should expect that to find its way into iMacs, and probably whatever this Apple-display-TV thing we heard rumored about for so long.

Whatever it is just expect that something better will replace it in short order.

 

 

 

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Wave Your Hands In The Air…

Ever since Tom Cruise waved his tiny hands in the air controlling his holographic computer, geeks have wanted to also ditch their keyboard and mouse.  It seems that is closer than maybe imagined.

Later this year a new device called “Leap” will become available and from the demo video that was released last week, looks to make controlling all aspects of your computer about as easy as a wave of the hand, or a point of a finger.  The video shows off several different uses for the device, from typing, to cursor control, to more advance uses.  There is even a moment where it shows off the accuracy of the device by showing how you can actually clearly write inside a one centimeter box.  If you’ve ever used a note taking tablet app with a stylus, you know that isn’t as easy to pull off well as it would seem.

The Leap’s makers claim that the device is “200 times more accurate than any other device out on the market” and can recognize the smallest of movements down to 1/100 of a millimeter.  The device creates an interactive space of eight cubic feet in front of your computer.  Within that space the device can detect all sorts of gestures, the difference between a thumb and finger, and even if you pick up a pencil to write.  Interestingly the company is also reaching out to developers encouraging them to find different applications for the technology.  It also reportedly will work with several different operating systems.

And thinking back to Tom Cruise in Minority Report, the computer he interacted was a predictor of sorts. (Funny though, even in that movie he had to wear gloves that provided some sort of connection.  Today’s motion controllers don’t)  With XBOX Kinect, Playstation Move and other motion controllers on the market the idea that we will control devices with our hand and body movements seems more likely than ever.  But, do we really want to ditch our keyboard and mouse?  Just how difficult will it be to move away from the peripherals that are essentially native to us now?  With Apple’s OSX and Windows 8 all making a move to touch screen interfaces to closer mimic the mobile device experience it’s clear where technology is headed.

The most amazing part of Leap is the price.  $79.  They are taking pre-orders now, and they don’t say if this is the only the pre-order price only, or if it will stay at $79.  Either way, that’s very impressive for an intro price.

*edit* I just realized that the demo video never shows anyone using it for typing… interesting.

 

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Apple Gets Its Own Virus

More than a half a million OSX operated Mac computers very well may have a virus called “Flashback” lurking in their innards.  The virus works to try and gather information about your browsing activities allowing hackers to sell all that collected data.

A Russian anti-virus firm released this information last week and has been confirmed by other security firms in the following days.  The virus was first discovered in September 2011 disguised as an installer for Adobe Flash, but the current version is actually a self-installing virus using a weakness in previously un-patched Java vulnerability.  Users unknowingly got this version by visiting malicious websites and the virus would upload to the computer and didn’t even need the user’s admin password to install.

The Java hole was fixed a few months ago, but Apple took an oddly long time to do anything about it and has been criticized for their slow pace.  You can now get Apple’s security update that addresses the issue (just go to systempreferences/softwareupdate) which were released late last week.

You can also find out if you have the virus first by following the intimidating, but actually easy steps listed by F-Secure.

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Tablet, Smartphone or Both

One of the really interesting things to watch about the handheld segment of the electronics industry is the never ending battle to figure out what consumers want when it comes to screen size.  At one time there was a race to make the smallest, thinnest, lightest handheld devices possible.  That generally resulted in limited functionality and tiny, hard to read screens.

Then tablets came back in vouge when Apple told the world it was ok to like them with the iPad and its 9.7″ screen.  Of course there was immediate talk of smaller screened iPads and other manufactures began making tablets with 7″ screens.

But with smartphones the size wars went back to trying to find that ideal dimension.  The iPhone’s 3.5″ screen was a standard, but now the most popular Android phones are hitting stores with screens about an inch larger.  Which is best?  That is for the consumer to decide individually, but now there is even a tweener segment beginning to emerge.

The Samsung Galaxy Note is now up for pre-order at AT&T for $300.  With that you get either a giant smartphone or tiny tablet with a 5.3″ screen, and now we’re even back to suppling a stylus with the device so you can write notes and draw stuff on the screen without your fingers.

The Note was shown off in a Super Bowl commercial that continues to poke fun at Apple fans, but I did find the line, “it comes with a pen?!?!” to be high on the irony scale as I thought we were trying to get away from the stylus a few years ago… Remember the Palm?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V40oo4kkzHg&feature=related

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Steve Jobs Action Figure is Creepy

Yeah, starting (maybe) in February you can buy a Steve Jobs action figure.  From these pics its oddly lifelike in the resemblance, and even comes with ‘real clothes’ and three different sets of adjustable hands (a total JJ Arms homage!).

It will cost you $99, but there is also a pretty good chance it will never go on sale as Apple and/or the Jobs estate is likely to block the sale since it’s unauthorized.  That happened once before when a company called, MIC Gadget, tried to sell a far less similar looking action figure of Jobs.  In fact, the companies website, “InIcons”, is down at the time I am typing this….

 

 

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iTunes Match: For You?

**UPDATE** PC Magazine has a complete walk-through and explanation of iTunes Match for your consumption

After a promised launch of “late October”, Apple today launched iTunes Match as part of a new download of iTunes (10.5.1).

For $25 a year, iTunes Match will scan your library, give you access to stream and load any of those songs from the 18 million song iTunes library.  If one of your songs is not in that library, iTunes Match will upload that song and absorb it.  Therefore pretty much any song in your personal library, obtained legally or not, can be accessed by you on any iPad, iPhone or computer with access to the ‘net.  All songs will be streamed to you at the passible 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality file size.  Even if the originating file was a lessor bit rate, what you get back is 256kbps.  But know that it won’t improve sound quality.   If you upload a shitty sounding file, it will stream back to you in all its shitty sounding glory.  There is some thought that if you have a song that isn’t properly tagged and identifiable via Gracenote, it won’t upload.

This is different that Spotify, Rdio or MOG in that this is your library, whereas those are essentially giant public libraries of music that you don’t own, but pay a fee to access them for a monthly basis.  iTunes Match is your library of stuff you own now, or buy in the future, but gives you wireless access to the entire thing via streaming without having to store it directly on the device.  If you stop paying the $25 a year, you still own the song and have them stored (assuming you didn’t erase/lose them while using Match) you just can’t stream them from the service any longer.

So, what does this mean for you, and why do you want to spend $25 a year?  If you have enough music to make you happy on your iPhone or other portable device, or an iPod with your whole library, iTunes Match is not a need for you.  But if you’ve wanted to find a way to have access to your giant collection without having to stuff only a part of it on a device – well, here is a system for you.  Considering that other services like Spotify cost you $10 a month to stream music that may or may not be on your library, iTunes Match is a reasonable cost to access your personal collection.  Go buy the cheapest iPhone4S with only 16gig and stream your library to it for $25 a year.  That’s something to consider.  This certainly is the future.

Imagine an iPod the size of a Shuffle today that can play you any song from your library?   What if you could in the future access iTunes Match via an “app” built into the head unit of your car?  It’s coming…

At the time of this writing word is Apple is overwhelmed with requests for the new service, so acceptance of new subscribers has been suspended.  I can only imagine the server and bandwidth needed to scan/upload all of the millions of songs from the thousands of personal music libraries around the globe.

My personal fascination is the part that all of these illegally obtained files will now somehow become legitimized.  There are a lot of people that have bootlegged thousands of MP3’s of their favorite bands and Apple is about to have a really good idea of just how pervasive that has been.  I guess ripping off the band-aid and getting over it will go a long way to creating an environment where it’s just easier to buy music than rip it off.  I just want to know how Apple got the record companies to sign off on that part.

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