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 With all the hoopla surrounding the Apple TV, many Mac owners are unaware that an easy device for streaming iTunes media may already be sitting in their entertainment system. All three of the latest game consoles—PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii—are capable of streaming media from your Mac to your television over your existing network. 

 There are secrets. Secrets you are not supposed to know about. Suppressed 200mpg automobile engines. Faster-than-light-speed travel technology we scavenged at Roswell. The location of Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen body. The truth about the Masons. But none of these inspires as much discussion and theorizing as the one to which we turn our attention here: Apple’s next big product.  We unlocked the vault and scoured the USPTO’s database for a hint at what Steve’s next “one more thing” keynote reveal might be. Overall, we sifted through nearly 2,000 Apple patents, spanning 30 years of innovation. The paper cuts and bloodshot eyes paid off through a collection of the coolest, wildest, and weirdest inventions that Apple has ever come up with. Join us as we reveal the most tantalizing and, frankly, mind-boggling patents from the inner sanctum of Apple’s R&D lab, three of which we’ve taken from crude line drawing into the world of 3D mock-up, with our own photo-realistic designs.

QuickTake, Take 2

  Photographers dig Macs, so why doesn’t Apple sell a camera of its own? Well, it did. But you had to be fast if you wanted a QuickTake. Apple sold its own digital-camera brand between 1994 and 1997, axing it as part of the product genocide that occurred when Steve Jobs returned to the company’s helm. While they lasted, those digital cameras recorded a handful of pictures at a then-impressive 640x480 pixels. But with fans always ready to buy “one more thing,” is it time for Apple to redefine the camera experience? The company didn’t offer any comment to our inquiry, so we asked Apple industry veterans.

Solving the Leopard Puzzle

 The grumbling about Leopard started before its arrival. After all, it was, ahem, late. Apple had originally wanted to release it at 2007’s Worldwide Developers Conference in early June, but had to borrow some personnel from the Mac OS X team to help get the iPhone finished for its big coming-out party on June 29. Then when the cat was finally out of the bag on October 26, early reports of install problems, performance hits, bugs, and even the dreaded blue screens of death put a damper on all the great things about Leopard. We dig a lot about Leopard, but plenty of little touches (it’s always the little things, isn’t it?) in the interface have always seemed odd. While minor issues with the aesthetics and functionality of Leopard’s interface hardly represent major problems, they can still be incredibly frustrating.  And we here at Mac|Life were annoyed right along with you. But as the Beatles used to sing, it’s getting better all the time. The Mac OS is now up to version 10.5.2, and a lot of the little annoyances have been cured, either by Apple in its software updates, or by third-party apps, Terminal hacks, and other workarounds. One by one, all the pieces to customize Leopard to your exact liking are falling into place.

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School of Rock

 Still have dreams of being the next Jimi Hendrix or Elton John? But your guitar or piano/keyboard is now gathering dust in the corner because you don’t have the time or the money to spend taking lessons, right? Well, dust it off, because online lessons may be the answer to your dilemma.  Online lessons are much cheaper than in-person lessons, which typically cost $50 or more an hour; you can take a lesson at home whenever you want, or even on the go with a laptop and portable instrument; and with streaming video you can see exactly how your instructor plays the melodies and chords. Also, unlike package deals that send you DVDs and books, online material is not static—new lessons are continually added, and in some cases you can select from a variety of instructors. Online lesson forums also allow you to get feedback from your teachers and have them or other students answer your questions, listen to your music, and more.

Readers Reinvent Apple

 Analyzing patents is one thing. Coming up with entirely new product ideas is something else entirely. Back in January, as part of our “What Comes Next?” feature, we asked for your three-dimensional “fauxtotype” designs of Apple’s “Next Big Thing,” whatever that may be. Over 50 would-be 3D designers sent us their creations, ranging from the obvious (iPod alarm clocks galore) to the unexpected (Apple-branded prefab buildings) to the curiously oblique (an Apple-created photo ID card). After much debate, voting, and gnashing of teeth, we whittled down the selections to our five favorites, which we present to you here for the first time ever. Wondering what you might soon be wearing on your ring finger…or riding in when you take to the friendly skies?

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 Ever since 1914, when president Woodrow Wilson declared that the second Sunday in May would be a U.S. national holiday in honor of mothers, people have gone nuts trying to pick the perfect present for the moms in their lives. But fret no longer -- whether your mother is a hardcore techie, somewhat tech-savvy, or totally uninterested in the world of bits and bytes -- we’ve found a great gift for her.

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 In the May issue of Mac|Life, we interviewed Leander Kahney, managing editor of Wired News, contributer to the Cult of Mac blog, and author of the new book Inside Steve’s Brain (Portfolio, $23.95). The book, in bookstores now, is part management theory text, part history of Apple and technology, and part Steve Jobs biography—a lively, enthralling look into the people and processes behind the success of Apple, and a glimpse into the motivations and passions of the man who guides and controls the company like no other CEO in business today. We spoke with Kahney to peek inside his brain and find out what it was like to write about the biggest personality in the computer industry. Here’s the full transcript.

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 After dangling one of the world’s coolest gadgets in front of attendees at the 2007 San Francisco Mac Expo for the better part of two hours, Steve Jobs broke thousands of hearts by setting iPhone’s release date a few seasons down the road: “We’re announcing it today because with products like this we gotta go and get FCC approval, which takes a few months. We thought it would be better if we introduced this rather than ask the FCC to introduce it for us.”

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3G iPhone -- Why It Matters

 Like every shiny new piece of Apple hardware, it seems like from the very moment the first people in line got their paws on an iPhone, speculation began over when Apple would be releasing the second generation. Why? Well, for one, it provided a convenient out for anyone who didn’t want to drop $600 on a new phone (Yeah, yeah, that’s it—I’m waiting around for a better iPhone). But the truth is, the iPhone was released with features that many users felt could stand a little improvement. Where were the third-party apps? No Java? And isn’t this EDGE network a tad slow?