USB 3.0 Promoter Group announces updated spec, anticipated 10Gb/s speeds for 2014

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Date: Monday, January 7th, 2013, 07:32
Category: Hardware, News

This could lead to something nifty.

Per CNET and the mighty Jim Tanous of The Mac Observer, an updated USB 3.0 specification that promises to double theoretical maximum bandwidth is scheduled to arrive in mid–2013, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced Sunday. The improvements, thanks to revised hardware and more efficient data transfer methods, will double USB 3.0’s speed from 5 gigabits per second to 10 gigabits per second, rivaling the single-channel performance of Thunderbolt.

The news of faster USB speeds will be welcomed by those relying on external solid state or multi-disk hard drives, as some current high-end drives already saturate USB 3.0’s 5 Gb/s limit (equivalent to about 640 MB/s). For those not yet interested in faster speeds, the new technology will still be backwards-compatible with older USB 3.0 and 2.0 devices and ports.

The new specification is expected to be finalized by mid-year, but devices taking advantage of it won’t hit the market until early 2014 at the earliest, with “much broader availability of products in 2015.”

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which announced the new specification, is comprised of member companies in the technology field, including HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Texas Instruments, among others. Apple, which belatedly introduced USB 3.0 on its 2012 line of Macs, is not a member, although it pioneered Thunderbolt, an alternative high-speed interface.

Thunderbolt also offers maximum bandwidth of 10 Gb/s (about 1,280 MB/s) but is dual channel, allowing two transfers up to that speed to occur simultaneously between attached devices. However, the limited number of Thunderbolt-enabled computers and the complicated nature of Thunderbolt chipsets and cables have made the technology significantly more expensive than most other interface options. As a result, it is far less ubiquitous than the backwards-compatible and cheaper USB 3.0 standard.

Users interested in the new USB 3.0 specification will need both updated computers and external devices to support it. New USB 3.0 devices will still work in the absence of both of these conditions, but they will operate at much slower USB 3.0 or 2.0 speeds depending on the exact configuration.

Cables, on the other hand, are another matter. Due to changes in the efficiency of the new specification, existing USB 3.0 cables may not work. “Existing SuperSpeed USB cables are not certified to operate at 10 Gbps; it is possible that some existing SuperSpeed USB cables may be capable of operating at 10 Gbps,” the group said.

Now that Apple has introduced USB 3.0 support, it is likely that the company will move to incorporate the faster USB specification once it is available, especially if Thunderbolt adoption continues to progress at a glacial pace.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple adds Fusion Drive as build-to-order option for 21.5-inch iMac

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Date: Monday, January 7th, 2013, 06:29
Category: Hardware, News

The cool thing you want is now available for the base model iMac.

Per MacGeneration and AppleInsider, Apple is now offering the Fusion Drive as a build-to-order option when ordering the most affordable 2.7GHz 21.5-inch iMac model, a change in availability from October when the system was limited to high-end versions and the 27-inch iMac.

The revision to the Online Apple Store’s build-to-order options, first spotted by MacGeneration, adds Apple’s hybrid Fusion Drive as a US$250 upgrade to the base model 21.5-inch iMac.

Introduced in October 2012 alongside the redesigned iMac, Apple’s Fusion Drive is a hardware and software solution that promises the performance of a solid state drive with the storage capacity of a hard drive. Initial tests showed the hybrid drive to cut startup times in half while increasing read and write speeds significantly when compared to a traditional 5400-rpm hard drive.

The software driving the technology is built into OS X Mountain Lion and join a 128-gigabyte SSD with either a 1-terabyte or 3-terabyte HDD to form a single addressable volume. Integral applications and the operating system itself are permanently stored on the flash memory while other files are store on the slower spinning drive. The system monitors a user’s operations and swaps frequently accessed files, folders or programs between the two to optimize performance. Transfers take place seamlessly in the background and require no user input.

Previously, the hardware that works in tandem with the Fusion Drive software was only available on the more expensive 2.9GHz 21.5-inch iMac model.

Google releases Picasa 3.9.13.29 update

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Date: Monday, January 7th, 2013, 06:26
Category: News, Software

On Wednesday, software giant Google released Picasa 3.9.13.29, the latest version of its photo organization program for the Mac. Once installed, Picasa imports (without moving or copying) photos from the iPhoto library as well as other folders and external hard drives on your Mac. The program also includes assorted editing tools for straightening, text generation, red eye removal, collage creation and Photoshop-like effects and adjustments. The new version, a 34 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

Share to your Google+ circles: If you’ve joined Google+, you can use Picasa 3.9 to share directly to the circles you’ve created in Google+. They’ll see your photos and videos in their Google+ stream. People that don’t use Google+ aren’t left out. They’ll get an email to view your album in Google+, and they don’t have to join to do so.

Picasa name tags on Google+: If you’ve joined Google+, you may have noticed that name tags have become more social. With the release of Picasa 3.9, you can now upload and share your name tags on Google+. Note that if you choose not to join Google+, name tags won’t change at all.

New photo editing effects: We’ve added a plethora of new editing effects like Vignette, Duo-tone, Borders and more.

Side by side editing: Compare two different photos side by side. Or compare the original and edited versions versions of the same photo simultaneously as you apply edits in Picasa. Learn how to edit side by side.

Picasa 3.9.13.29 requires an Intel-based Mac running 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.