Saturday, February 28, 2015

Three Tips to Get You Started With Workflow 1.1

Workflow Update with New Features & Actions

The most popular iOS automation app has a large update with new added features and actions and Workflow is an app which is used first on startingan iOS device. The latest update to Workflow has the addition of new features and actions which has enhanced the app in the most amazing way. With over fifty new actions, improvement are being made to the earlier existing action though missing out from the app’s offer is the capabilities toback up and sync action utilising iCloud.

Favorite an Action

At the time of building workflows, one tends to access the same action often and the search bar provides an easy and quick option to locate an action and with the latest updates, one can have favorite action to access with ease. On tapping on an action in the editor it will indicate its description together with a button to favorite it and after adding an action to the favorites, one could tap on the Favorites option in the editor for the purpose of easy access.

Run Workflow from Main Grid

Earlier version of the Workflow needed to launch the app, by tapping on the workflow and then tap on the play button in order to run a workflow in the app. The process of running a workflow from the main grid is a simple asdouble tap on a workflow’s icon in the latest update.

Duplicate Workflows

According to some, one of the favorite things about Workflow is the community of users who tend to share a variety of workflows together with ideas though not every workflow which is created and shared could fit the exact needs. For instance, customizing a workflow could mean tampering with a copy of the workflow which works. On tapping and holding on any workflow in the main screen till it is highlighted where in the top right corner of the screen a duplication icon will appear. This will enable the user to make changes to any workflow without any cause for worry about ruining on the work already available on the workflow.

New Features 

These tips are just scratching the surface to what has been added to Workflow 1.1 though they seem to be more than enough for getting started with this new feature. The new feature includes –quickly running workflows from My Workflow by double tapping on them, use of selected text from Safari as input to action extension workflow, actions to filter and obtain details of all the content on the device, duplicate workflow to make own versions, create custom home screen icon for workflow utilising photos from one’s library, access for VoiceOver users, added apps section for easy discovery of action which interacts with other apps, added ability to mark actions as favourite to use them quickly later on, improved Workflow URL scheme and improved overall responsiveness, launch time and speed.

Bug Fixes

Noteworthy bug fixes include - decimal numbers can correctly be handled in international locales, issue can be fixed where action extensions that cause a workflow to be emptied of its action, issue can be fixed where action could disappear while scrolling through long workflows, when importing workflows, prevailing workflows with same name are not overwritten, keyboards provide `Done’ buttons for easy dismissal, special characters in workflow names are not handled properly, imported workflows ask for user permission prior to running for the first time, app badge is removed to reduce confusion, issue is fixed where output of a workflow would not be displayed and much more.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Apple Patent Outlines Mobile App Data Sharing and Collaboration Over Facetime

Apple’s U.S. Patent for `Interactive Application Sharing’

Though screen sharing for collaboration is a popular function on desktops, it is yet to make its way to mobile devices and as assigned by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple’s U.S. Patent for `Interactive application sharing’, comprises of provisions which enables multiple users in sharing as well as collaborating on project in app such as Google’s Web based productivity services.

Apple is making headway in video conferencing capabilities though making it a more personal collaboration tool. Apple’s patent indicates that the company is working towards a new screen and data sharing method for iPad and iPhones. The patent outlines a method wherein several users could share their screens as well as app data while working on iOS devices.

It was acknowledged by Apple that the users of iPhone and iPads have been sharing data and states that the existing solution like sharing of documents by email would not be efficient and the company has come up with a system which enables users to share document data in a common app in real time on several iOS devices in some cases with media and screen sharing or live video as well.

Interactive Application Sharing 

As per Apple’s invention, the user initiates a collaboration session with at least another device which accepts the wireless connection and the initiating device could host the session with screen as well as data updates to the second device across a suitable wireless communication The system enables interactive application sharing that transfers specific app data to and fro across an established wireless bridge where a standard user interface is not described.

 The Patent indicates app data can be overlaid over a FaceTime image and vice versa. The video feed in some instances could serve as a background for the iOS Spring-Board before the selection of a common app for sharing. An illustration indicates what appears to be a mother reading `Winnie the Pooh’ to their child from what is presumed to be a remote location, though no mention is made in the document text and the scene is a reminder of Apple’s fire FaceTime TV commercials which attempted the ability to connect remotely to family from a distant.

Security – Set Privacy Designators – Private/Public

Users could opt to share data in some embodiments, only when another option of communication takes place between two devices such as a host device could opt to limit data sharing to FaceTime calls, a protocol which needs adequate bandwidth capacity. For the purpose of security, users could set privacy designators to indicate data as private or public.

Moreover the user could also choose to share available times with another user while leaving event specifics, concealed. Rest of the patent provides detail pertaining to the proposed system’s user interface, communication backend and operating workflow, besides other details.

FaceTime collaboration Patent of Apple was filed first in January 2012 and credits go to Brandon Joseph Kieft and Catherine Rose Grevet as its inventors. It is unclear whether Apple has intentions of bringing the version of present day’s invention to market though competitors such as Google are already striving on similar technology of real time collaboration.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Apple Adds Two-Step Authentication to iMessage and FaceTime

Security of FaceTime & iMessage App

Apple,it is said has made improvement in the security of FaceTime and iMessage, its voice/video together with multimedia chat communication tools and has announced that that it will be adding a two-step authentication to iMessage and FaceTime applications in order to protect the users from hackers of its iPhone, iPad and Mac computers.

This is a security feature which means that a person’s identity is verified in two ways that includes something which the user knows for instance, a password and something which the user is in possession of, a mobile device. If someone intends to use their Apple ID email and password to enable iMessage or FaceTime on a new device, they would have to use a PIN from a reliable device in order to gain access to these services.

The two step authentication had been added to Apple’s iTunes as well as iCloud accounts in March 2013 and the company is presently focusing on extending the security features to FaceTime as well as iMessage. This means that when users use any of these applications, they would have to register a `trusted device’ and when attempts are made to log in FaceTime or iMessage, the user would receive a four digit verification code through SMS or Apple’s Find my iPhone app.

14 Character Recovery Key

The code received needs to be entered along with their password in order to access the application without which i.e. the password and verification code, access will be denied to the said account. According to Apple as mentioned on its support page, the user need not create or remember any security question with the two step verification and the user’s identity is verified by using password (and) verification codes send to trusted devices.

Moreover, the user will also be provided with a 14 character Recovery Key in order to print and keep the same in safe custody should they lose access to their trusted devices or tend to forget their password. This issue came up due to the iCloud accounts of celebrities which were breached by hackers last year, together with nude photos which were leaked online.

Apple was targeted at that time since it had offered the option of two factor authentication for iCloud accounts and this feature is not enabled by default hence several people do not use it.

Added Level of Protection – Difficult to Obtain Private Images

The added level of protection applicable to these service helps to ensure that people would have difficult time in obtaining private images from an iMessage history or pretend to be the user through online communication systems. The two-step is useful when individuals log out of an account on their device and try to log back in which means that the user would have to get the trusted device out if one temporarily tends to disable an account on the device or if one runs a system update or tends to switch SIMs.

Vice President of Security Research at Trend Micro, Rik Ferguson, states that `it is great to see Apple extending its two step authentication to cover more services particularly person-to-person communication services like these which have been widely abused in the past – Facebook, Skype etc.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Apple Gears Up to Challenge Tesla in Electric Cars

Creation of Apple Branded Electric Vehicle

The Cupertino California Company has revolutionized phones and music and is now focusing at bigger target – the automobiles, as reported by Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mike Ramsey for the Wall Street Journal. The giant tech company has hundreds of employees who are secretly working in the creation of an Apple branded electric vehicle as indicated by people who are familiar with this issue. The said project code-named `Titan’, is initially working on the design of the vehicle which resembles a minivan.

It is said that Apple often investigates technologies as well as potential product and going for building multiple prototypes for something which it will not sell and any car would take many years for completion as well as to obtain safety certifications. Moreover the size of the project team as well as the senior people involved, state that the company is serious as reported by some source. Apple executive had flown to Austria in order to meet with the contract manufacturers for high end cars which included the Magna Steyr unit of Canadian auto supplier Magna International Inc.

Stamp on Electric Vehicle Market

The industrial team of Apple comprised of several people with experience at European auto makers and Marc Newson was hired by Apple last year, who is a famous industrial designer as well as a close colleague of the company’s designer John Ive. Newson, in the past had created a concept car for Ford Motor Company. As reported by Wakabayashi and Ramsey they state that `Apple hopes to put its stamp on the electric vehicle market in the same way it did the smartphone with its iPhone, indicated by a person familiar with its work’.

The car project was approved by Mr Cook almost a year ago and had assigned veteran product design Vice President, Steve Zadesky in leading the group related by the people who were familiar with the matter. Zadesky is the former Ford engineer who had helped in leading Apple team with the creation of iPod and iPhone according to Wakabayashi and Ramsey. Apple had also hired Johann Jungwirth in September, who had been the president as well as the chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America having operation in Sunnyvale, California in the vicinity of Apple’s campus as per his LinkedIn profile.

Advantage – Persuaded Employees to Stay on 

Another benefit of the project according to a source was that it persuaded several Apple employees who had intentions of leaving the company, to stay and work on an exciting new endeavour minus the pressure of churning new product every year. Other Silicon Valley giants are also looking at autos and Google Inc. has also been working on a self-driving car for years.

Google’s head autonomous vehicle project stated that last year the company had their focus to forge a partnership with auto makers in order to build a self-driving car within the next few years. As informed by a source familiar with the project it was stated that a self-driving car was not part of Apple/s current plan. Chief Executive Tim Cook had informed interviewer Charlie Rose in September that `there were products that they were working on and that no one knows about it and nothing has yet been rumoured about it’.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Apple's Strikes Biggest Solar Power Deal

Apple In Partnership with Arizona Based – First Solar Inc. 

Apple – the Computer giant has recently signed a 25 year power purchase agreement for 130 MW in partnership with Arizona based, First Solar’s 280MW California flats solar project. As part of the deal, Apple would be getting electricity from the farm at a fixed rate for twenty five years. It is said that the green energy will be purchased from First Solar Inc. through an $848 million deal which seems to be the largest agreement in the industry to provide clean energy to commercial end user, till date.

Apple’s landmark solar power deal seems to be a long term sustainable energy solution which would be generating enough power that will be necessary for all of the company’s California operation which includes the upcoming `spaceship’ Campus 2, by the end of 2016, as announced by CEO Tim Cook recently.California flats of 2900 acre will cover 3% of property owned by Hearst Corporation in Cholame, Monterey County and the construction of the same is expected to begin mid-year, to be completed by 2016 end. The rest of the 150MW of the project would be sold to Pacific Gas & electric with a separate long term PPA and the project is subscribed fully between Apple and PG&E PPAs.

Apple Leading the Way …

Joe Kishkill, First Solar chief commercial officer informed that `Apple is leading the way in addressing climate change by showing how large companies can serve their operations with 100% clean, renewable energy’. He added further saying that `Apple’s commitment was instrumental in making this project possible and will significantly increase the supply of solar power in California. Over a period of time, the renewable energy from California flats will provide cost savings over alternative sources of energy as well as substantially lower environmental impact’.

The California Flats were unanimously approved by the Monterey County Planning Commission in January who sent the project to the Monterey County Board of supervisors who will consider the final approval shortly. At the time of the announcement it was mistakenly stated by Cook that Apple would be building the facility but he quickly corrected it and called it a partnership and that it is First Solar and not Apple that will build the new plant. The solar plant in total will output 280MW of electricity, 130MW of which will be bought by Apple.

Financially Sound – Significant Savings

Cook had stated that Apple would be buying sufficient electricity to power almost 60,000 California homes which would be enough to offset the electricity used by Apple’s forthcoming Campus 2 together with all fifty two Apple retail stores in the Golden State with its data centre in Newark.He has also been transparent that the climate change was a serious issue for him and the company which is the reason for taking the lead on renewable as well as sustainable energy. He also brought it to the notice of the investor that the agreement will be financially sound since the $848 million deal would be the outcome of `very significant savings’ on the cost of energy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Corning Unveils 'Project Phire' Super Scratch-Resistant Glass

Project Phire
Project Phire – Ultra-Scratch Resistance 

According to recent CNET report, Corning has unveiled a new material that it had been working on, which combines the strength of its prevailing Gorilla glass with ultra-scratch resistance and the material named `Project Phire’, was shown during an investor meeting by James Clappin, President of Corning Glass.

Corning, whose Gorilla Glass display covers the front of Apple’s iPhone as well as Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones, has been creating new material which would combine the toughness of Gorilla with a scratch-resistance like that of sapphire.Clappin states that company intends to begin selling the material later this year but provided few other details.

He informed the gathering that `they had told them last year that sapphire was great for scratch performance but did not fare well when dropped. Hence they created a product which offers the same superior damage resistance and drop performance of Gorilla Glass 4 with scratch resistance which is like sapphire’.

Corning gets its revenue from glass TV displays and fibre-optics, though Gorilla Glass is an important growth for the company. The material is the main item presently in hardened glass for mobile devices for about three billion electronics, which includes Apple’s new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge and Galaxy Note 4.

Gorilla Glass Superior to Sapphire 

Sapphire was used for some time in high-end watches due to its scratch resistance and luxurious quality and Apple intends using sapphire covers for some versions of Apple Watch which would be coming out this April. The existing Gorilla Glass of Corning is being used in various smartphones and tablet displays, from Samsung’s Galaxy line to Apple’s iOS line-up.

Apple had intentions of moving out from Corning’s Gorilla Glass with its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus turning to sapphire produced by GT Advanced though was unable to use the material due to some issues on production which later on, dissolved the partnership between the two companies. As per Corning, Gorilla Glass seems to be superiorto sapphire since sapphire is brittle and has the tendency to shatter when dropped. On several occasions, Corning has pitted Gorilla Glass against sapphire, highlighting its benefits of lighter weight, greater strength with lower prices.

Affordable, Easier to Obtain Replacement for Sapphire

Corning’s most recent product, Gorilla Glass 4, is more resistant to shatter when dropped on hard or rough surfaces than the previous version of Gorilla Glass though it is not capable to match the scratch resistant properties of sapphire crystal. Sapphire is next to diamond with regards to hardness and Apple has been using this material already in order to protect the iPhone’s rear camera as well as Touch ID fingerprint sensor, from scratches.

Apple’s plan to produce iPhone display with higher scratch resistance, could make Corning’s `Project Phire’ material very appealing to the company for the next generation devices since it could serve as a more affordable, easier to obtain replacement for sapphire. At the investor presentation recently, Corning executives also discussed the company’s Iris glass first unveiled at the Consumer’s Electronics Show, last month. He claims that Iris could help the manufacturers in building new TVs which will be thin as smartphones and would need minimal edges round the sides.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Apple is finally killing iPhoto

Apple‘s Discontinuation of iPhoto

Apple had announced last year that it would be ending development on its consumer photo library iPhoto, its professional photo editing suite – Aperture and in its place, the company is said to develop an all-new product closely connected to the cloud.

Apple’s discontinuation of the software along with Aperture which is aimed at pro photographers is bringing about the tools; most people have on their iPhones and iPad to the Mac and have built it having Apple’s iCloud in mind.

 The product would be an improvement for most users of iPhoto but users of Aperture’s powerful editing as well as organizational features would find it most essential. Photos for OS X, which is the modern photo library that Apple had built from the ground level up for Mac computers, is on its way in making its debut.

The company has informed that the developer seed version of the same is being distributed to developers which will be followed by a public Photo beta with the final Photos product delivered to users of Mac as a part of a free software update this spring. Expectations from Photos are a clean reasonably intuitive library for pictures combined with an easy cloud backup solution together with useful editing tools.

Photos to iCloud Photo Library 

Photos are tied to iCloud Photo Library – Apple’s photo backup product, that is in beta stage. iCloud Photo Library tends to store the first 5GB of pictures for free and thereafter the user needs to pay for the same while My Photo Stream – Apple’s confusing free service for storing and synchronizing the last 1,000 photos would continue to remain independently of Photos.

Moreover the app has the same flat look of the photos app from iOS which would be simple to navigate for those who are acquainted with an iPhone. Migrating the photo libraries to the new app would be easy as opening photos and one can keep both iPhoto as well as Aperture on the system if one desires the same.

The app is said to contain four main tabs and photos contain all pictures in a chronological order. Shared is said to contain pictures received from shared photo streams together with activity feed for likes as well as comments in those streams while albums contain those which the user could have created. With regards to storing slideshows, projects are essentially a storefront for Apple’s printed photo products, books, calendars, cards and much more.

Awareness – Using Photos for OS X

Users using Photos for OS X should be aware that:

  • One should use the iCloud Photo Library feature that syncs with all photos across all the devices though one would need to buy more iCloud Drive storage to benefit from the same. 
  • Whatever is shot from the iPhone or imported in the new Photos app, is backed up to the iCloud Drive and seamlessly shared across the device. 
  • If the users have no desire to use iCloud Photo Library, they could keep using the new Photos app as an iPhoto replacement though they could get stuck with the old My Photo Stream feature for syncing photos across the device.
Photos for OS X are fast and tightly integrated with other devices and are a big step forward taken by Apple.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Apple Testing Mysterious Camera-Equipped Vehicles in the Bay Area

Apple’s New Project – Update Map Application

It has been recently reported by Mike Beasley for 9to5Mac, that Apple is preparing a big update to its Maps application for iOS and OS X. San Francisco’s KPIX reported earlier that a Dodge Caravan with an impressive array of cameras has been observed in the area. Beasley reports that the `California DMV confirmed that the vehicle was leased to Apple and that the company is planning to take on Google’s Street View with the same offering in its own Maps software.

Several minivans with camera equipment with a LiDar sensor mounted to the roof seems to be around California which could be part of Apple’s new project since at least one of the vehicles is registered to the iPhone maker. Beasley reports that `if Apple is preparing a Street View feature for Maps, then there is a possibility of seeing an upgrade in the iOS 9 which would debut later this year, should the company maintain its annual upgrade cycle.

 The feature would only support few major cities at launch for instance New York and San Francisco, the locations where the vans were spotted. He adds that the feature may not be included until a later version of iOS, based on the time taken by Apple in collecting data prior to the launch.

LiDar Sensor – Laser Based Technology

Beasley further adds that the Maps application was buggy at the time of launch and Apple has not been at the top of its software game of late and hence is taking a little more time in polishing this new feature. It was observed that the minivans had an X shaped frame which was mounted to the luggage racks having dark recesses which probably housed cameras at each corner.

It was confirmed to San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that a blue Dodge Caravan was spotted with the equipment that was leased to Apple and together with the cameras, a pair of spinning cylindrical devices was fitted to the front and rear that seemed to be LiDar sensors which is a laser based technology used in making high resolution maps.

 This forms an integral part of the sensing systems on self-driving vehicles which includes those that have been developed by Google. According to analyst Rob Enderle, he informed KPIX that he is of the opinion that the vehicles are self-driving cars though it is an unlikely possibility that Apple has not been issued a testing permit for the same and is probably preparing to start a mapping program in line with Google’s Street View data collection initiative.

Technology Similar to Street View Car

Moreover, two small disc shaped antennas have also been fitted to the roof, together with a sensor which hangs over the rear wheel that could be used to measure accurately the movement indicated by the rotation of the wheel.

A similar white van with California license plates were also spotted in Brooklyn last September. It was observed by Enderle that the cameras on the minivan appeared to be around 12 which he considers to be a high number for a mapping vehicle though Google’s latest Street View cars used a ring of 15 5-megapixel CMOS sensors. The equipment on Apple registered van, besides the physical configuration, seems to be somewhat similar to the technology which has been fitted to a Street View car.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Apple's Stylus Receiver Concept Would Improve the Precision

Apple Stylus to Improve Larger iPad Model 

Recent reports reveal that Apple would be offering a simple stylus to improve a larger iPad model wherein the latest patent applications indicate a kind of improved pen based input technology which the company had been working on for some time.

In a recent filing published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, discovered by AppleInsider, disclosure of Apple’s investigation into stylus support for touchscreen devices was revealed. Entitled, `Superheterodyne Pen Stimulus Signal Receiver’, this proposed invention, indicates a device which could have unique frequency for stylus based input, which would be less than a traditional fingertip touch signal. Apple has noted in the filing, that several conventional styluses tend to have bulky tip which are made of material with a potential of interacting with touch sensitive devices where these devices are meant to match a user’s finger for compatibility with the modern touch screen.

 These are meant to be controlled with fingertips. However, Apple states that these conventional styluses, lack the precision as well as control of traditional writing instruments like a pen and paper, based on their nature. The method of Apple’s `superheterodyne receiver’ could be used which is capable of taking an input signal and converting it into another frequency.

Convert Stylus Touch Input Signals – Intermediate Frequency Signals

The technology in reality dates back to the origins of radio transmission which was developed during World War I by a U.S. soldier. All modern radio receivers, virtually utilise `superhet’ technology for the purpose of superior selectivity as well as sensitivity though in Apple’s more modern use, hardware demodulator in the device such as an iPad could convert stylus touch input signals in an intermediate frequency signal, which would be less than a traditional fingertip touch signal.

Apple would be featuring a touch sensor with potential of detecting the difference between a fingertip touch and a stylus touch thus offering more precise input. The latest patent application following a recent rumour, indicate that Apple would be launching a simple stylus together with an anticipated 12.9 inch `iPad Pro’, later this year. According to Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, he indicates that a stylus could be more precise than a person’s fingertip0s wherein it could be a more convenient method of input than a keyboard as well as a mouse in some cases.

Featuring Basic Technology 

He further states that Apple would probably launch the stylus accessory as an optional add-on instead of including it along with the larger iPad and believes that the stylus would feature basic technology in its first execution, wherein future models could contribute more advanced features such as 3D handwriting. Apple though had publicly panned pen based input for some time, the company’s interest in stylus based input, is nothing new and the filing is just the latest of stylus concepts which the company has been manipulating behind the scenes.

The superhet stylus signal receiver concept of Apple which was published recently was first filed in October 2013, with USPTO by Apple and the credits of the proposed invention goes to Shahrooz Shahparnia who is a touch ASIC as well as a sensor architect at Apple.