April 9, 2012

Creepy Girl-Stalking App Girls Around Me Has Been Yanked From The App Store

Creepy Girl Stalking App Girls Around Me Has Been Yanked From The App Store

Notorious girl stalking app Girls Around Me has been pulled from the App Store.

Girls Around Me — the creepy geo-location app that allowed you to stalk and find personal information about girls in your neighborhood without their knowledge — has been pulled from the iOS App Store.

It’s unknown at this point whether Apple yanked the controversial app in direct response to the controversy sparked by our original report on the app, or whether the developers pulled it because Foursquare had revoked Girls Around Me’s API access — again in response to our report — effectively making the app useless.

As of writing, Apple has not commented on the fate of Girls Around me. However, Foursquare came out against the app in a public statement, saying that the app had violated the terms of its API policies, and that they would no longer support it.

Facebook has also commented on the matter to Cult of Mac, reminding uses that adjusting their privacy settings accordingly will stop these apps from stalking you before they start.

We have reached out to Apple again for comment on why Girls Around Me was removed from the App Store, and what Apple intends to do to protect users from similar apps in the future. We have also reached out to Girls Around Me’s developer, Moscow-based app publisher i-Free. Stay tuned for updates.

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John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is news editor here at Cult of Mac, and has also written about a lot of things for a lot of different places, including Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Lifehacker, AMC, Geek and the Consumerist. He lives in Cambridge with his charming inamorata and a tiny budgerigar punningly christened after Nabokov’s most famous pervert. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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Cult of Mac

Judge affirms vital Apple touchscreen patent in case against Motorola

By Josh Ong

Published: 08:30 PM EST (05:30 PM PST)
Judge Richard Posner has issued an order upholding some of Apple’s patent claims against Motorola Mobility that one analysis believes will likely result in a finding of infringement on Motorola’s part.

Patent expert Florian Mueller of Foss Patents reported on Saturday that the order is for a touchscreen heuristics patent (’949), one of the “killer patents” that Apple is leveraging in an attempt to get a legal “hole in one” against its competitors.

Thus far, Apple has won a handful of legal victories on minor patents, but the ’949 patent has “the best prospects of singlehandedly securing victory for Apple,” according to Mueller. Both Motorola and Samsung will offer their defenses against it at trials in June.

The patent in question outlines Apple’s work on interpreting human touchscreen input by accounting for inherent imprecision. For instance, since users don’t draw perfectly straight lines, touchscreen devices need a level of tolerance to understand the input accurately.

Judge Posner responded on Thursday to supplemental claim construction briefs related to the patent from both Apple and Motorola. Mueller interpreted the order to be “a clear win for Apple over Motorola (and Android in general).” Though he did note that jury trials come with “considerable uncertainty,” he viewed Posner’s conclusions as making it “realistically” unavoidable for Motorola to avoid a finding of infringement.

“Motorola…will have to come up with some really good invalidity arguments if it wants to avoid a disaster,” Mueller wrote, adding that the company will at least have an opportunity to appeal any decision to the Federal Circuit.

The report went on to examine which gestures Posner had found valid. The judge sided with Apple on its methods for interpreting vertical and diagonal or horizontal and diagonal swipes. He found that the patent hadn’t clearly described the difference between horizontal scrolling and swiping, while upholding a claim to tapping on the margin of a screen as a gesture to move to the next item. Posner also upheld Apple’s claims for scrolling within a section of a display using additional fingers, but he did not affirm a second claim to a distinction on whether the gesture occurred within the region.

Mueller viewed Posner as having “expressed some annoyance” at one of Motorola’s arguments. The handset maker had argued that an example of a 27-degree angle in Apple’s patent meant that the patent was only limited to that angle. After reading the patent, Mueller himself believes that the 27-degree angle is “clearly identified” as just an example.

“I reject Motorola’s argument (this is the third time they’ve made it and the third time I reject it) that the structure must be limited to the 27-degree angle used as an example by the specification,” Posner wrote.

Apple and Motorola have been locked in a complex legal dispute over their respective intellectual property rights since 2010. Both companies have recently won small victories in the form of injunctions (1, 2) against each other in Germany. Earlier this month, the ITC cleared Motorola of allegations that it had infringed on three of Apple’s patents.

Even as the lawsuits between the two companies continue, Google is making plans to finalize its $ 12.5 billion purchase of Motorola. The European Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have both approved the acquisition.


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How Apple Makes the World a Better Place

How Apple Makes the World a Better Place

What the world needs now isn’t love, sweet love. It needs more companies like Apple.

Critics slam Apple for not giving more to charity. It’s a reasonable complaint. Apple should be more philanthropic. Under Tim Cook they probably will be.

However, Apple helps the world in a far more profound way than some annual contribution to United Way.

Apple represents an approach to business that “lifts all boats,” to quote a well known cliche.

Apple is the global economy’s single most powerful economic force opposing a great death spiral in which margins are squeezed, goods get shoddier, people make less money and our lives just get cheaper in every way.

Here’s how Apple does it. 

Huge discount stores like Walmart are at the forefront of a global cheapening. As Walmart bulldozes mom-and-pop retail stores and erect massive new super stores, that company gains control over how manufacturing companies do business. They squeeze every drop out of the companies that make products of every description, forcing them to cut corners, lay off or offshore workers and seek out lower quality materials. Because everyone is either unemployed or making less money, they can’t afford to shop anywhere except stores like Walmart. This is the opposite of Henry Ford’s strategy, which was to pay workers so much they could afford to buy his cars.

The self-reinforcing economic death spiral continues until society resembles The Hunger Games, where the majority live as virtual serfs in District 12 shantytowns and a minority live in obscene luxury and leisure in gleeming, high-tech cities.

Internet powerhouses like Google do the electronic equivalent. Instead of paying a company like Microsoft for an office suite, Google wants you to use Google Docs free, or at a very, very low price. Instead of paying a fair price for a newspaper subscription, which employs reporters, editors, ad sales people, truck drivers, press operators, ink makers, lumberjacks and others, Google has us reading news free online. Journalists are forced to become conflict-of-interest entrepreneurs or homeless alcoholics, while the journalism is done by unpaid or underpaid semi-amateur bloggers.

It’s unfair of me to single out Walmart and Google. There are thousands of companies aggressively pursuing the cheapening of everything. And companies are merely responding to the public’s impulse to want more stuff rather than better stuff, more food rather than better food, more content rather than better content. People think they want cheap stuff. But nobody wants to live in the world that results from cheapness as the driving economic force for change.

And yet Apple stands in stark contrast to this trend. Apple sells super high-quality products and services at reasonable but profitable prices. More importantly, they don’t make their money by forcing other people to make less, contrary to reputation. In fact, people and companies who participate in the whole Apple iCosystem tend to make much better livings than people contributing to alternative platforms.

Apple is holding back the tide of cheapification, and represents an alternative future in which the following might happen:

Book authors, editors and publishers can make a living

The current leader in eBooks is Amazon.com, which uses what’s called a “wholesale model” for selling books. That means Amazon is in control of the price it charges for books, not publishers. Amazon often sells eBooks for less than the wholesale price it paid for them, losing money on the deal. By undercutting other sellers, Amazon has made itself the top seller of eBooks, which enables Amazon to force publishers to lower their wholesale price. It also forces competitors to slash prices, too.

As a result, it has become almost impossible to make a living writing eBooks. There’s just no money in it — unless you have a TV show like Bill O’Reilly or Snooki. Because great authors tend not to have TV shows, they have to find other ways to make a living.

Everyone in the book industry suffers. Agents have to find other work. Editors get laid off (and books don’t get edited well). The whole process of discovering new writing talent is broken. Nobody is making any money and the quality of books is suffering.

Apple, on the other hand, is actually being sued by the Department of Justice (DoJ)for using what’s called the agency model. Under Apple’s system, publishers can charge whatever they like for books, as long as Apple (the “agent”) gets its percentage. The DoJ is concerned because, in order for the agency model to work, Apple requires that publishers sell at the same price or more when selling the same titles through other “agents.”

The government calls this “price fixing.” Publishers call this “saving the publishing industry.” Under Apple’s model, but not Amazon’s, publishers can afford to pay writers and editors.

Apple’s model represents a future where books are well written and well edited, a future where professionals can make a living.

Factory workers live better lives

It’s fashionable to diss Apple for abusing Chinese factory workers. And recently, Apple has instituted a series of “reforms” that pay workers more and gives them better working and living conditions.

But even before these reforms, the factories contracted by Apple were among the best places to work in China. Much of the outrage about Apple’s factories requires an almost perfect ignorance of the conditions of factories nationwide in China. Foxconn is a worker’s paradise compared with the miserable sweatshop conditions under which the vast majority of Chinese factory workers labor.

The existing relative superiority of these factory conditions combined with the new reforms are so revolutionary that it may case a ripple effect of humane working conditions throughout China. Building Apple products in China will become so desirable that workers at other factories are expected to quit and try to work at Foxconn and the like. As a result, those other factories will have to pay more and improve conditions in order to compete in the labor market against Apple’s contracted factories.

Apple’s (new) contract manufacturing model represents a world in which highly profitable companies improve the lot of low-paid factory workers who make the products.

App developers get paid more

Software developers who made iOS apps have made more than $ 4 billion since the iPhone first supported apps. Android app developers have made less than half a billion.

Some 210,000 software development jobs in the United States exist, theoretically, because of the iOS platform and app store system Apple created. Many more programmer jobs have been created internationally.

Apple’s ecosystem represents a world in which software developers can make a real living selling mobile apps.

Retail areas thrive

Companies like Amazon.com and thousands of other online retailers provide a compelling alternative to brick-and-mortar retail shops. Which is great — unless you want to imagine towns and cities with boarded up shops, tumbleweeds and packs of wild dogs roaming a post-apocalyptic formerly retail landscape. Like Greece.

BestBuy, the latest retail casualty, recently announced that it’s closing 50 stores and laying off 400 workers, for example.

Yet Apple has developed a highly profitable retail-store system that attracts customers to downtown areas and malls, beautifies every neighborhood it’s in, restores historical venues like Grand Central Terminal in New York City and employs thousands.

The Apple ecosystem represents a future in which downtown areas are bustling gathering places of shopping, dining and entertainment, a cure for urban decay and blight.

Consumers and investors have more confidence

We live in a perception-based economy, where the beliefs and attitudes held by investors and consumers can make or break an economy.

Apple is so successful that it actually boosts confidence single-handedly.

One leading yardstick of how the economy is doing is the S&P 500, which is Standard & Poor’s report on the top 500 companies and how they’re doing with their collective stock performance.

The most recent report showed that earnings-per-share grew by 13% in the fourth quarter. Which is pretty good coming out of a recession, a real confidence booster.

But a whopping 3% of that growth was Apple alone. Without Apple, the report would have shown just 10% growth.

Apple represents a world of consumer and investor confidence in the economy.

These are just a few examples that show Apple’s whole business model, it’s general way of doing business is really good for the economy — and would be great for the economy if other companies follow Apple’s lead. And not just in small, superficial or temporary ways. But in the biggest of possible ways: What kind of world will we live in?

Will we live in the Walmart, Google and Amazon world of scorched-earth policies that make everything shoddy and everyone poor? Or will we live in the Apple world in which high quality prices command reasonably priced products that enable everyone involved to make a good living?

Yes, Apple should give more to charity. But nothing it can give will be as valuable as Apple’s powerful contributions to high-quality products, living wages, thriving retail spaces and a robust economy.

Cult of Mac

Lilipad iPad kiosk hits the mark on price, simplicity

lillitab.jpgHaving the iPad serve as a portable, simple display kiosk or showcase is terribly tempting. For one thing, now that the 16GB iPad 2 has dropped in price due to the new iPad launch, it’s more affordable than ever. For another, getting that touch interaction right in front of your customers or exhibit viewers is a great way to increase their engagement and focus.

Rule #1 of iPad kiosks is, of course, make sure we don’t lose the iPad. That’s among the strengths of lilitab’s lilipad kiosk line, which keeps device security top-of-mind throughout the design without giving up ground on ease of assembly, looks or price. I tested out the lilitab standard kiosk model, which comes in either white or black and retails for US$ 495.

In white, the lilitab looks a little bit like a section of a high-end shower assembly. The heavy steel baseplate keeps the unit steady and vertical once the iPad is installed (it can be bolted to the floor too, if desired), and the top section encloses the device easily and without fuss. The top enclosure comes with a set of security screws (and an Allen wrench to set them) so that nobody else can come along and abscond with your iPad. You have a choice of frontplates with or without a camera opening, and with or without a home button pinhole — you can lock in your chosen app with the fully closed frontplate and it won’t get changed inadvertently or purposefully.

Down at the base, the main pipe stalk slides into a corresponding section welded to the baseplate. That’s also where the included iPad charging cable meets up with the user-supplied iPad AC adapter and Apple charger extension cord — you do have to bring your own on those. Getting the power adapter installed was really the only tricky bit of the assembly, as it requires you to feed the AC cord into the base at a sharp angle so that both pieces fit into the available space.

Once the power is plugged in, the next security step is the two-piece cowling that attaches around the pipe fitting. Another pair of security screws keep it firmly attached. The base also has a lock fitting for both Kensington-style and conventional 3/8″ steel cable attachments. With all items set up, the iPad can be fitted into the enclosure and mounted either in landscape or portrait mode. The enclosure itself includes foam supports that can be adjusted to house any model of iPad (current or future, as long as it’s the same screen size); there’s also no metal at all around the iPad’s RF antennas, so WiFi and 3G performance should be unimpaired.

You can get additional options and branding kits from lilitab, but even the spare and unadorned kiosk made a positive impression on everyone I showed it to. Aside from the tight tolerances on the power adapter in the base, there’s not much to criticize and a lot to admire about this product; if you’re looking for a good way to get your iPad kiosks to look professional and sleek, give them a call.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Last Chance To Grab The TuneUp Bundle [Deals]

Last Chance To Grab The TuneUp Bundle [Deals]

No one likes to spend an inordinate amount of time on their computers doing mundane tasks. And let’s face it…going through all of the duplicates, missing album art and mislabeled tracks in your iTunes Library are just those types of tasks.

That’s why this Cult of Mac Deals offer is ideal. Cleaning up your iTunes Library has never been more powerfully simple (or simply powerful) than with The TuneUp Bundle. TuneUp hooks up with iTunes to organize and categorize your music from top to bottom. And today’s your last chance to get it for just $ 30!

The TuneUp Bundle (Lifetime License) includes the following features:

  • Clean: Accurately fixes mislabeled or missing song information (like “Track 01” or “Unknown Artist”) using cutting-edge waveform recognition.
  • Cover Art: Scans your entire music collection in seconds and automagically™ fills in missing album artwork.
  • DeDuper: Intelligently finds and removes duplicate music files from your music library using waveform recognition.
  • Tuniverse: Delivers music videos, artist bios, concert alerts, social network integration and more.

Another bonus: TuneUp works with both Mac OS X (10.5+) and the Windows (XP SP2 +) operating systems. That means both Mac and Windows users can get the benefit of a cleaner, leaner and meaner iTunes Library.

This sale is for the TuneUp Bundle – which includes all four TuneUp products including cleaning up incorrect song information, adding missing cover art, removing duplicate songs, and integrating real-time information like upcoming concerts, links to music videos, and artists bios. But this latest Cult of Mac Deals offer won’t be around for long.

So pick up the TuneUp Bundle now while you can -– and listen to your music instead of sifting through it!

Cult of Mac

Fun Game: A Hidden Objects Adventure Game That’s Truly Scary!

Shiver Poltergeist Collector’s Edition

Every week Mac Games and More features a fun, casual game you can play over the weekend. This week’s selection is another collector’s edition Mac game that takes you to a private island to explore the spooky estate you just inherited. Download it now

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cate defrise

Cate Defrise is an earth and health-conscious American foodie who is developing indie mac games and apps in France. Her site is Mac Games And More. Follow Cate on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Cult of Mac

LG’s New Flexible E-ink Display Heads Into Mass Production

LG’s New Flexible E-ink Display Heads Into Mass Production

LG’s new flexible display heading into mass production.

Some might think that a flexible display is something out of a Sci-Fi film, however, they’re actually real. Samsung has already shown off its OLED flexible display, and today, we’ve gotten word that LG has now put its flexible e-ink display into mass production. Are these leading the way for a larger flexible display to land on the next iPad? 

LG’s new flexible display in its current state isn’t ideal for an iPad. It measures in at 6-inches, which is the same size as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. It’s silly to think Apple would put an e-ink display on any of its tablet, considering it’s no where comparable to the beautiful Retina-display that is included on the new iPad.

If companies like LG and Samsung can begin manufacturing flexible displays on the 7-inch or 10-inch level, with higher graphics, they’ll probably make it into the next iPad. But until they’re better than the Retina display, there may be some waiting.

What is interesting here is the fact that the technology has begun to roll out, and will soon be making its way into devices. I suspect flexible display technology to first be featured in 6-inch e-readers, and that’s most likely what the flexible LG display is being made for. How about the next Kindle?

Despite what you might think, a flexible display is actually cheaper than a glass display. The plastic is cheaper to manufacture and is actually half the weight and 30% lighter than glass. Being plastic, it is also a bit more rugged than glass. Sounds perfect.

I think what we’re waiting for is a flexible OLED display to head into mass production. Check it out working on a concept handset:

What do you think of flexible displays?

[via Extreme Tech]

jakeosmithJake Smith serves as a writer at Cult of Mac and Cult of Android, where he covers the daily news and more. Jake is based in Kentucky, where he enjoys the great outdoors and hanging with his friends. Jake has a lot of experience covering consumer technology, having written for 9to5mac, iDownloadBlog, and Teens in Tech in the past couple of years. Follow Jake on Twitter @jakeosmith.

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Cult of Mac

You’re the Pundit: What’s up with Thunderbolt?

When it comes to discussing the next big thing, we turn to our secret weapon: the TUAW braintrust. We put the question to you and let you have your go at it. Today’s topic is Thunderbolt, Apple and Intel’s next-generation device interconnection standard.

Introduced with great fanfare, Thunderbolt devices are still thin on the ground. There are storage devices and ExpressCard cages, but the real promise of the speedy hybrid copper/optical interface has yet to show up on shelves. This despite the fact that Apple has integrated Thunderbolt support into its latest iMacs, MacBooks, and minis.

So what’s going on with Thunderbolt? Are we too early to the party, as Chris Foresman writes, or is Thunderbolt just a big name for what beloved TUAW blogger Rich Gaywood calls a “damp fart” of technology.

You tell us. Place your vote in this poll and then join in the comments with all your analysis.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple, others challenged to make digital textbooks a reality in five years

By AppleInsider Staff

Published: 11:57 PM EST (08:57 PM PST)
Apple. along with a number of tech industry leaders, took part in a discussion on Thursday to explore how a joint effort backed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Department of Education can implement digital textbooks in the nation’s K-12 public schools.

Hosted by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the meeting fleshed out to transition all U.S. K-12 schools to a fully digital interactive learning environment within the next five years.

Attendees included representatives from tech heavyweights Apple, Samsung, Intel and Kno; publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, News Corp. and Pearson; telecoms Sprint and T-Mobile; and governmental bodies the LEAD Commission and the Idaho Department of Education, among others.

Chairman Genachowski and Secreatary Duncan issued the group a challenge to develop a low-cost, high quality solution for interactive digital textbooks consisting of device, content, connectivity, and technical support for use in America’s classrooms.

According to an FCC-evaluated Project RED study, schools can save up to $ 250 per student per year if a digital ecosystem is implemented over the traditional textbook-and-paper used in classrooms today. Besides the initial cost savings, the prospect of upgrading to more current media in the future would be substantially less expensive than the current model which sees $ 7 billion spent in new textbooks each year. Digital textbooks would also enable a more uniform learning experience as new content can be pushed out nationwide at regular intervals.

A digital learning environment can reduce the amount of time it takes a student to learn a topic by up to 80 percent, said the Department of Education and a recent studies by the National Training and Simulation Association. A separate PBS study found that 93 percent of teachers believe that interactive whiteboards are positive learning tools, with 81 percent feeling the same about tablets.

While technology in the classroom has been found to be beneficial in the classroom, getting a new ecosystem up and running will take some time. To that end, the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission was established earlier in March to facilitate the rapid adoption of new media content in the education sector.

In January, the “Digital Textbook Playbook” was announced to help teachers bring technology to the classroom by taking down the “major barriers to the adoption of digital textbooks, including the challenge of connectivity, both at school, in the community, and at home; the challenge of device procurement; and the challenge of making the transition from paper to digital textbooks.”

Apple has always been active in the education market, going as far as releasing classroom-specific computer models like the eMac and offering student and teacher product discounts. The company’s latest education initiative, iBooks textbooks, was announced in January and could be a strong contender for the FCC and DOE plan. Of the major publishers at Thursday’s discussion, three already offer content to through the iBooks store.