Rumor: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion resource files hint at possible next-gen iMac, Mac Pro models without optical drives

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Date: Friday, August 10th, 2012, 07:28
Category: Hardware, iMac, Mac Pro, Rumor

It’s the internal files that hint at the upcoming cool stuff.

Per AppleInsider, internal configuration files in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion make apparent references to yet-unreleased new generations of Apple’s iMac (iMac13,0) and Mac Pro (MacPro6,0), both in the context of USB booting options that indicate the new Mac desktops could, for the first time in nearly 20 years, lack built-in optical drives.

The discovery, made by a source close to the story, appears in a configuration plist file used by Boot Camp Assistant to designate the Mac model versions capable of supporting either a optical boot disc, or alternatively, a USB flash drive volume capable of installing Windows to a Boot Camp partition.

While all modern Macs can boot OS X from a USB drive, Apple’s Boot Camp Assistant references the plist to display a listing of newer Mac models with EFI-level support for booting a legacy operating system from a USB flash drive. The primary advantage to using a USB flash drive to create a bootable Windows 7 volume from an ISO (disc image file) is if you lack an optical drive burner.

The file lists a series of Mac models that support USB flash drive booting, referring to each model by its initials and its internal architectural version number. While it includes MacBook and MacBook Pro models with optical drives, most of the Macs in the supported list are optical free.

The list of models (below) include the “MM50″ (the Mac mini 5,x series, also known as the “Mid 2011 Mac mini”, which is the first non-Server version of the Mac mini to lack an optical drive), along with other optical-free models including the MacBook Air.

Two of the models in the USB-boot support listing refer to Macs that haven’t been released yet: the MP60 (the six generation Mac Pro, or MacPro6,x) and IM130 (pointing to the 13th generation iMac, or iMac13,x).

The current Mac Pro, updated only slightly in June during Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, hasn’t changed enough over the previous model for Apple to assign it a new architecture designation; it is still internally referred to as the “Mac Pro 5,1″ just like the Mac Pros that originally shipped back in August 2010.

Apple’s conspicuous lack of timely updates for the Mac Pro (and its relatively small and shrinking proportion of Apple’s Mac sales mix) has created the expectation that the company might eventually discontinue its full sized desktop the same way it terminated its rack mounted Xserve, an idea Apple reportedly evaluated as an option.

However, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook confirmed in June that Apple would not be killing the Mac Pro, stating instead in an email to a concerned customer, “Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn’t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today’s [WWDC] event, don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.”

Cook’s choice of the words “working on something really great,” indicates Apple plans to significantly update its Mac Pro model, which has carried forward the same basic aluminum box design introduced for the 2005 PowerMac G5.

While removing its optical drive would do much less to save space and thickness compared to Apple’s notebook designs, it’s likely that an all new Apple desktop aimed at professionals would rethink its use of slow, bulky and essentially obsolete optical drive devices and perhaps instead incorporate high performance SSD RAID options for a reduced profile.

Apple’s current iMac (referred to internally as the iMac 12) was last refreshed in May 2011, indicating that it’s overdue for a refresh. A new 13th generation iMac generation identified as “iMac 13,2″ has already appeared in Geekbench benchmarks.

Similarly, patent filings reveal Apple has also been working to once again slim down the peripherals that ship with its industry-leading all-in-one desktop, with the designs referenced in those filings having the potential to accompany the next iMac update.

The appearance of new Mac Pro and iMac models in the USB booting support list doesn’t definitively mean the models won’t have optical drives, as it also lists MacBook and MacBook Pro models that do incorporate an optical drive.

At the same time, Apple has clearly indicated in the newest Mac mini and Retina Display MacBook Pro that it plans to get rid of optical disc drives as soon as possible across the board, providing an external USB drive as an option for users who need one.

Users increasingly have fewer opportunities to use optical drives, as the bulk of third party software is now available as a digital download either directly from the vendor or through Apple’s App Store. Apple also sees digital distribution as the future of music and movies, as exemplified in Apple TV, which has never included an optical drive.

The company has never supported any new HD optical disc formats on its products, including Microsoft’s ill fated HD-DVD or Sony’s Blu-ray format, despite initially being involved in the Blu-ray standardization process. Instead, Apple has put its resources behind developing increasingly higher definition audio and video formats that it can distribute electronically through its own iTunes Store.

Apple even developed an alternative iTunes Extras web based multimedia format to deliver the same kind of interactive menus supported on DVDs, with a parallel solution for albums it called iTunes LP.

In addition, Apple introduced technologies intended to wean its Mac platform from optical disc dependance with the MacBook Air, which was designed to remotely share disc drives available on the local network (even remotely install OS X) via Remote Disc and handle Migration Assistant tasks over a wireless network connection.

Modern Mac models can now apply system updates, such as OS X Mountain Lion, entirely via digital downloads, while Apple’s newest Mac models can boot legacy operating systems from USB flash drives.

By ditching the need for a built in optical drive, Apple can not only make new Macs smaller, thinner and more energy efficient, but will also increase their overall reliability, as optical drives become one of the last complex physical mechanisms inside computers.

Apple has similarly helped to pioneer the mainstream adoption of Solid State Drives as an alternative to the more fragile mechanical design inherent in conventional Hard Disk Drives. Its most popular general computing device, the iPad, makes no use of either optical drives or HDD mechanisms.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to price match retailers’ discounts, offer $49 iPhone 4, $149 price points on iPhone 4S models

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Date: Thursday, August 9th, 2012, 14:23
Category: iPhone, News

You can’t knock a decent deal…

Per MacRumors, Apple has instructed its retail stores to match the iPhone discounts being offered by major retailers including AT&T, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Target, Sprint and Verizon when customers present competitive offers.

Apple’s publicly advertised prices for the iPhone 4 and 4S are US$49.01 higher than a variety of retailers and carriers are currently offering, as the entire retail channel prepares to sell off existing models to make way for the upcoming iPhone 5.

Now, Apple Retail stores are authorized to match prices when customers request the discount and indicate where they saw it.

Apart form the already “free with contract” iPhone 3GS, this makes the 8GB iPhone 4 just US$49.99 rather than US$99, and drops the iPhone 4S price range from US$199, US$299 and US$399 for the 16, 32 and 64GB models to US$149, US$249 and US$349.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to add “Wi-Fi Plus Cellular” feature in iOS 6

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Date: Thursday, August 9th, 2012, 11:38
Category: iOS, News, Software

This could be useful.

Per AppleInsider, a new feature that appears to be making its way to iOS 6 this fall aims to automatically detect these hiccups and toggle your iPhone back to cellular data until the Wi-Fi network clears up. This way, some of your most important data and applications will keep on syncing.

Dubbed ‘Wi-Fi Plus Cellular,’ the feature is listed under General->Cellular systems setting pane in the latest beta of iOS 6. If it makes it into the final release of the software, you’ll be able to tell your iPhone to automatically revert back to cellular data to keep your iCloud Documents, iTunes purchases, Passbook and Reading Lists up to date.

In much the same way, it will also attempt to keep your FaceTime video conferences from dropping on an iPhone 4S or greater (the FaceTime toggle does not show up on iPhone 4 or earlier). It’s not yet clear, however, how individual carriers will handle cellular data use for FaceTime, as an earlier finding from within the iOS 6 betas indicated that AT&T may charge for the capability, which is currently limited to WiFi in iOS 5.

Either way, the potential new feature underscores Apple’s drive to equip customers with the best possible user experience where things ‘just work.’ It’s joined by other additions in the latest iOS 6 beta that are similarly designed to keep users connected, including a Bluetooth Sharing feature and an option to be notified when someone subscribed to one of your shared calendars makes an update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases HP Printer Drivers 2.10 update for Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, 10.8 operating systems

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Date: Thursday, August 9th, 2012, 11:51
Category: News, Software

If your printer doesn’t work, you tend to notice it.

On Thursday, Apple released its HP Printers Drivers 2.10 package. The update, a 473.3 megabyte download, adds updated drivers for assorted HP printers, scanners and multifunction devices.

The update requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later and can also be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new printer drivers and have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

Ars Technica testing shows evidence of lowered battery life under Mountain Lion for some MacBook Pro users

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Date: Thursday, August 9th, 2012, 05:56
Category: battery, MacBook Pro, News, Software

Well, patches and updates DO tend to exist for a reason…

Per Ars Technica and a test conducted by the web site, there may be evidence that Apple’s new operating system is draining batteries significantly faster than the previous OS X Lion, as the publication’s test unit lost some 38 percent of runtime after having installed Mountain Lion.

In a series of unscientific tests, a MacBook Pro with Retina display was run on battery power both with and without Mountain Lion installed. Ars was able to hit just over eight hours of runtime with Lion and the integrated Intel HD4000 GPU, meaning the computer wasn’t leveraging the discrete and power-hungry NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M. With Mountain Lion installed and using the same settings, however, runtime dipped to around five hours.

The test was conducted a number of times, each using the same applications under what was described as a “daily workload.” Being used actively were Safari, Chrome, Twitter, iChat, TextEdit, Photoshop, Mail and Outlook, among others while Dropbox and gfxCardStatus ran in the background. As far as systems settings, Wi-Fi was activated while Bluetooth was turned off and screen brightness was set to half-strength.

Mountain Lion’s Activity Monitor was used to check CPU usage and, while there were occasional spikes when reading or writing files, loading web pages or other user-initiated operations, the processor was usually below five percent capacity. This is contrary to one account from an Apple Communities forum member who noted a heightened CPU temperature when the computer was idle.

A 49-page Apple Support Communities thread fist started on July 25, the day Mountain Lion was released, chronicles a number of battery issue complaints from users who recently installed Apple’s new OS.

A few forum members suggested the problem lies with one of Mountain Lion’s new features like Power Nap, while others have found limited success with resetting their machine’s system management controller, but a legitimate fix has yet to be discovered.

Interestingly, only certain machines are affected by the purported battery drain issue and some users are even reporting their battery life increased after installing the new operating system.

Apple has yet to release an official statement, but a number of forum members affected by the issue claim Apple representatives reached out to obtain system information in an attempt to remedy the problem.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iFixit repair guide posits $500 estimate to replace Retina Display MacBook Pro battery

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Date: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012, 13:22
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

If you want to replace the battery on your brand new 2012 Retina Display MacBook Pro, it’s going to get pricey.

Per MacNN, the newly-published iFixit repair guide for the Retina MacBook Pro breaks tasks down by component, such as the logic board, left and right fans, or the SSD. Of special interest though is the battery, which iFixit estimates could cost US$500 to replace “if technicians follow the safer Apple-suggested procedure and replace the entire upper case assembly along with the battery.”

In an earlier teardown, iFixit called the Retina Pro the “least repairable laptop” it had ever taken apart. This is mostly because Apple has gone to extreme measures to keep the computer thin. The battery, for instance, is glued into the case instead of using screws, and the different parts of the display assembly have been merged together, dropping a glass protection layer. Even opening the chassis can be a problem, since Apple uses an unusual pentalobe screw type to hold the lower case together.

So, yes, the Retina Display MacBook Pro can be repaired by the user, even if iFixit does feel that some trepidation is warranted…

Google Chrome updated to 21.0.1180.75

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Date: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012, 13:31
Category: News, Software

google-chrome-logo

Hey, updates are useful.

On Wednesday, Google released version 21.0.1180.75 of its Chrome web browser. The update, a 40.7 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Flash videos not longer remaining in fullscreen when clicking a secondary monitor while the video is playing (Issue: 140366).

- Flash video full screen displays on wrong monitor (Issue: 137523).

- REGRESSION: Rendering difference in Chrome 21 and 22 that affected on Persian Wikipedia (Issue: 139502).

- Some known crashes (Issues: 137498, 138552, 128652, 140140).

- Audio objects are not “switched” immediately (Issue: 140247).

- Print and Print Preview ignore paper size default in printer config (Issue: 135374).

- Candidate windows is shown in wrong place in Retina display (Issue: 139108)
more of the choppy and distorted audio issues (Issue: 136624).

- Japanese characters showing in Chinese font (Issue: 140432).

- Video playback issues with flash-based sites (Issue: 139953).

- Sync invalidation notification broken after restart (Issue: 139424).

Google Chrome 21.0.1180.75 requires an Intel-based Mac with Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run. If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple puts third-gen iPad on sale, offers $50 off for refurbished units

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Date: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012, 08:41
Category: iPad, News, retail

You can’t knock a discount and there’s some decent refurbished stuff out there…

Per MacNN, Apple has begun selling refurbished third-generation iPads for the first time, a check of the company’s online store shows. The discount is a flat US$50 for each model, regardless of capacity or 4G support; whereas a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad is knocked down to US$449 as a refurb, for instance, a 64GB 4G iPad only drops to US$779. Each unit includes a one-year warranty as well as a new battery and shell.

The availability of refurbished units tends to mark a later phase in an Apple product’s lifespan, since demand is no longer so intense that fresh units sell as quickly as they can be produced. Apple also tends to let a certain number of refurb units stockpile before putting them online, and often this stockpile can persist after a next-generation device is released. The first-generation iPad continued to be available as a refurb long after the iPad 2 debuted; currently Apple is still selling 32 and 64GB iPad 2s, even though only 16GB iPad 2s are being actively manufactured.

If you were waiting to snag a third-generation iPad, now might be the time and it’ll be interesting to see what’s around the corner.

iFixit posts DIY repair guides for Retina Display MacBook Pro notebooks, advises caution during process

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Date: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012, 08:00
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

The MacBook Pro with the Retina display is a beautiful thing, but iFixit has been hesitant about repairing the unit.

Per Engadget, iFixit has posted a total of 16 new guides to show users how to disassemble or remove those parts that stand a realistic chance of leaving the system unscathed.

While that does include some key components, iFixit continues to fly some caution flags: getting to one part often requires taking apart others, and removing the battery carries the very real possibility of permanent damage. If you’d still prefer to upgrade the SSD yourself (when an option) than pay Apple more for a custom order, there’s now a helping hand for your thriftiness.

So, yeah, be careful if you’re taking apart your nifty new MacBook Pro with the Retina display, take it slow and iFixit is there to lend you a hand.

Cocktail updated to 6.0.1

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Date: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012, 07:45
Category: News, Software

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On Thursday, shareware developer Maintain released version 6.0.1 of CocktailCocktail (Lion Edition), the popular shareware utility program that allows for additional Mac OS X system tests. The new version, a 2.2 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

- Addresses an issue in which Cocktail may fail to clear DNS cache.

- Fixed compatibility issues with Google Chrome 20.

Cocktail 6.0.1 retails for a US$19.00 shareware registration fee and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.8 or later to install and run.