Wireless interference from an iPhone has been blamed for disrupting the compasses on a regional airliner and sending pilots several miles off course. The incident happened on a 2011 flight as it climbed past 9,000 feet, but the issue was resolved when a flight attendant asked a passenger to turn their iPhone off.
“The timing of the cellphone being turned off coincided with the moment where our heading problem was solved,” the unidentified co-pilot told NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System.
Many have called for the FAA to relax restrictions on electronic devices — such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops — during flights. Several public figures, including U.S. Senator Clair McCaskill, believe existing rules are excessive and ”ridiculous.”
This has led to the FAA appointing an advisory committee from the airline and technology industries to make recommendations on how it could broaden the use of electronics during flights. Those recommendations are expected this July.
But pilot reports and scientific studies suggest that today’s restrictions may be necessary, after all. Bloomberg reports “government and airline reporting systems have logged dozens of cases in which passenger electronics were suspected of interfering with navigation, radios and other aviation equipment.”
Laboratory tests have shown that some devices broadcast radio waves powerful enough to interfere with airline equipment, according to NASA, Boeing, and the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Furthermore, the FAA believes the risk of interference from personal electronics is increasing as the U.S. aviation industry adopts satellite-based navigation to improve efficiency and allow planes to fly closer together using GPS.
Airlines have been divided on the subject. Delta, which reported 27 suspected incidents of electronic interference causing aircraft malfunctions between 2010 to 2012, welcomes relaxed restrictions because it’s what passengers want.
Four in ten passengers surveyed last December said that they want to be able to use electronics at anytime throughout flights.
United said that it would prefer no change because new rules could be difficult for flight attendants to enforce.
CTIA, an international non-profit trade association representing the wireless communications industry, and Amazon have urged the FAA to relax existing rules, and they insist that personal electronics don’t cause interference.
Existing rules prohibit the use of most personal electronics while a plane is below 10,000 feet. Above that altitude, devices can be used as long as they are in “airplane mode” and wireless radios are switched off — though they can still connect to in-flight Wi-Fi networks.
A handful of recently discovered job listings suggest a possible next-generation iWork software suite may soon see release, with the latest postings asking for specialists in quality assurance, one of the final steps in software building.
While some of the listings date back to the end of March, the most recent ad for "SW QA iWork" (via AppleBitch) hit Apple's job portal only two days ago.
As of this writing, there are eight iWork-related positions on the "Jobs at Apple" webpage, three of which deal with quality assurance or software verification. One listing, posted on May 11, is looking for a software quality assurance specialist, a sign that Apple could be readying deployment some time soon.
From the job listing:
The iWork team is looking for a software QA engineer to work on the next generation of Desktop, Mobile and Web application/services. This position requires a self-motivated individual with strong problem solving skills who can contribute in a dynamic team environment.
Bug reporting and isolation
Planning, designing, and executing test cases
Ensure the successful delivery of a quality product by performing ad hoc and structured tests on a daily basis
In another interesting post from May 7, a "HiDP Image Specialist" is sought, with the ideal candidate to be tasked with aiding the iWork visual design team in translating graphics to Retina-toting devices. At the very least, the job ad reveals Apple is looking add high-resolution screen support to its productivity suite.
While there has yet to be any official word on a next-gen iWork product, the number of job listings and information therein strongly suggest such a product is in the offing, and could be released in the near future. The current iWork '09, which includes Pages, Numbers and Keynote, was released in 2009, and is seen by some to be long overdue for an upgrade.
Apple on Tuesday was granted a utility patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office covering the glass-on-metal trackpad seen across the company's laptop lineup, with the award coming almost four months after the design rights were garnered for the same invention.
Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,441,450 for a "Movable track pad with added functionality" is actually a wide-ranging property covering a number of design variations from the trackpad MacBook Pro and Air user have come to know. In January, Apple won a design patent for the glass-on-metal trackpad as used in the first unibody MacBook.
The idea itself is simple: to dispose a trackpad onto a surface with a hinged fixed at one end, allowing the unit to move from a neutral position, to an active position, and back. In essence, the entire trackpad becomes a large cantilevered button.
More importantly, the patent calls for, in one embodiment, a capacitive track pad with an etched glass surface. Because of its unique properties, and its non-conductive nature, glass allows for high levels of control during the manufacturing process.
The patent language describes a multi-touch enabled trackpad with one end attached to via a hinge mechanism to a laptop chassis. When a sufficient amount of force is applied to the unit, it moves to register an input signal through an integrated circuit board. Once the force is removed, the flexure hinge returns the trackpad to its resting position.
Apple points out that such a design could not be implemented prior to modern miniaturization techniques as the required springs and integrated circuitry would be too large to fit into the small space required by a thin laptop.
As for the choice of glass as the dielectric layer, or the non-conductive material which sits atop the capacitive touch panel, the material proves to be both structurally stable and highly customizable.
For example, traditional glass has a surface with a high friction coefficient, meaning it resists slippage, making it a less than suitable candidate for trackpad use. However, glass can be made to have a low friction coefficient by etching, sand-blasting, honing, or other methods. This makes the surface smooth and easy to navigate with a finger.
In the case of Apple's trackpad, a multi-step process of "seeding" the surface through mechanical or chemical etching, followed by a wet polishing with an acid solution is employed to achieve the proper finish.
Apple notes that the capacitive trackpad can be employed in a any number of devices, including standalone peripherals and smartphones. Such a "push screen" design was used by certain handset... [Read More]
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday issued Apple a patent for an audio-based input system in which various noises made on a laptop's chassis are translated into actions, basically turning the computer into one large input device.
Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,441,790 for an "Electronic device housing as acoustic input device" describes a system in which user input, such as taps, scratches or other noises, are picked up by acoustic transducers or microphones integrated into a device's chassis. These sounds are then processed, with corresponding actions resulting from comparison with predefined waveform data.
In one embodiment, the audio transducer or transducers "sense" a sound wave generated by user's interaction with an electronic device. When coupled with a microprocessor, the sound can be distinguished and interpreted to output the appropriate signal.
From the patent description:
The interpretation maybe based on the type of input, nature of the input, the location of the contact on the housing, the amplitude of input, as well as other various other factors. For example, a scratch may be interpreted differently from a tap, and so forth. Additionally, a tap on the housing near an output or input device may actuate the device whereas a tap on another surface of the housing may be interpreted as a keystroke.
A sound "vocabulary" is employed to distinguish patterns and locations of noise input. For example, three taps near a camera can turn said device on, while another tap can snap a picture. Other forms of interaction, such as scratching or moving a finger along the device surface, can also be interpreted.
As computers tend to have moving parts like a hard drive or cooling fans, the patent calls for acoustic isolation in the form of either physical barriers constructed around the noisy components. Another embodiment calls for a software-based solution that ignores the sound signature of a certain part, for example a DVD drive. Noise interference can also be dealt with by subtracting signal data from an external transducer, much as the iPhone cancels sound with its secondary microphone.
Apple notes that the invention can be used as a replacement for a physical keyboard, with the sound of tapping on a computer housing being enough to generate the appropriate onscreen information. For example, micro perforations backlit by LEDs or a solid surface can be used instead of a QWERTY keyboard. The system can also be configured for use as a trackpad.
When applied to a mobile phone, the patent can be used as a simple input gesture, such as stopping an call from ringing. One of the more interesting examples described is when a user drags their finger up or down on the back of a device, thereby increasing or decreasing volume output. Yet another embodiment allows a user to tap a device housing near a specific component like a camera or speaker to activate it.
Sharp, a key supplier of components that go into iPads and iPhones, lost $5.4 billion last year, prompting the Japanese display maker to increase its reliance on Apple's top rival, Samsung, in order to survive.
Sharp is entering a three-year rehabilitation program, hoping to reverse its fortunes after losing $5.4 billion in the last fiscal year, Reuters reported on Tuesday. As a part of that plan, the company will cooperate more closely with Samsung on the technologies used in the displays for mobile devices.
"For Sharp," said newly christened Sharp president Kozo Takahashi, "the way forward is to forge various alliances to generate new opportunities."
Last year saw Sharp taking big writeoffs due to excess display capacity after a failed attempt to boost its own TV business. In light of that, the company will focus more heavily on display panels produced for companies like Samsung and Apple.
The news of even closer ties to Samsung comes just two months after the South Korean giant took a $112 million share in Sharp in light of the company's continuing struggles. That deal will provide Samsung with "a long-term, stable and timely supply of LCD panels for large-size TVs and small- and medium-size LCD panels for mobile devices," according to a press release at the time.
The development also adds a layer of complexity to Apple's dealings with Sharp. Eager to distance itself from Samsung thanks to Samsung's willingness to mimic Apple's designs, Apple has been shifting its supply sourcing to Samsung's competitors, including Sharp and LG.
In order to shore up Samsung's supply chain competitor, Apple may have gone so far as to invest $2 billion in Sharp last year, according to one analysis.
The closer alignment with Samsung is driven in part by an apparent slowdown in demand for the displays Sharp makes for Apple's iPads and iPhones. Sharp cut back production of 9.7-inch iPad screens in January, though it is reportedly close to beginning production of displays for the next generation of iPhone.
Supposedly softening demand for Apple's devices has been a theme of late. Over the past few months, multiple suppliers have announced declining revenue, citing demand for Apple products as a reason.
Amazon today announced that it is launching a standalone desktop app for its Cloud Player cloud music service that was previously only available through a web app and mobile apps. The desktop app brings offline support and, like the service on other platforms, will offer its usual unlimited storage of songs purchased through Amazon plus 250 imported songs for free. Unfortunately, today’s roll out only includes an app for PC with Amazon promising Mac users “we’re working on a version just for you.”
Amazon just last week launched a new Cloud Drive Photos app for iPhone, while the company already has a Cloud Drive app for Mac and a Cloud Player iOS app for iPhone and iPad that earlier this month rolled out support for Ford’s SYNC AppLink platform.
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