Catcher to invest $2-3 million to reopen Chinese MacBook unibody case plant within November time frame

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:05
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

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After local officials ordered the suspension of operations at a Suzhou, China factory that supplies Apple with chassis for its laptops, Taiwanese manufacturer Catcher Technology will invest US$2-3 million with the goal of getting its facility back online in November.

Per DigiTimes, details emerged that Catcher had temporarily closed a plant that provides 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air product lines, as well as the iMac all-in-one desktop. The company is reportedly spending to “modify equipment and manufacturing processes” to resolve complaints from nearby residents regarding “odorous gas emissions.”

“Catcher aims to resume operations at the plant in November,” the publication noted. The manufacturer’s president, Allen Horng, had previously said that total shipments would fall 20 percent in October and could drop by as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refuses to allow the plant to resume production.

“Shipments to our customers will inevitably be affected,” he said in a press conference Monday. “We already asked them to make adjustments to their (casings) procurement.”

According to the report, Catcher is now considering increasing its investment in Taiwan in order to diversify operations and reduce its operating risk. The manufacturer recently ratcheted up production at a plant in southern Taiwan and purchased a new lot for further expansion in the area.

Catcher’s production woes could restrict an already limited supply chain for metal chassis. In August, it was reported that laptop makers looking to build machines to Intel’s “Ultrabook” specifications were having trouble securing production capacity for unibody magnesium-aluminum chassis. Foxconn and Catcher reportedly have a combined total of 10,000 CNC lathes required for the process, with most of their supply going to Apple.

During Apple’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said that the company is “investigating and assessing” the potential shortage of Mac unibody casings. In the most recent September quarter, Apple had its best quarter ever for Mac sales, selling 4.89 million during the period. Portables now represent 74 percent of the company’s sales.

In 2008, Apple detailed the new unibody manufacturing process, calling the design “in many ways more beautiful internally than externally.”

Apple is expected to release a modest update to its MacBook Pro line later this month. The laptops will likely receive a speed bump to tide them over until Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge chips are ready next year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

“Strange odor” at manufacturing plant could lead to reduced Mac notebook shipments in November

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Date: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, 04:32
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

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Come to think of it, metal housings ARE sort of important on your Mac notebook…

According to the Financial Times, a Chinese factory responsible for manufacturing the metal housings for Apple’s uni-body laptop lineup has been shutdown due to “strange odors” emanating from the plant, potentially causing a 40% decrease in shipments for November.

Catcher Technology, a Taiwanese company with factories in Eastern China, was ordered on Sunday to shutdown a factory that produces 60% of Apple’s uni-body enclosures for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines. The plant also produces casings for Apple’s iMac and products for other notebook makers such as Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Sony.

The president of Catcher Technology, Allen Horng, reported that total shipments would fall 20% in October, adding that November could see a 40% drop if the local government doesn’t clear the plant for operation by the end of the month.

“Shipments to our customers will inevitably be affected,” Horng said in a press conference Monday. “We already asked them to make adjustments to their (casings) procurement.”

It is unclear whether the plant shutdown will affect shipments of a rumored MacBook Pro refresh, expected to be announced later this month. Notebooks accounted for a majority of Apple’s Mac sales in the quarter ending in June.

Analysts expect another record breaking quarter, bolstered by strengthened MacBook Air sales, when the company announces its quarterly earnings on Tuesday.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mint Digital Foundry Team converts MacBook Pro parts into portrait of Steve Jobs

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Date: Friday, October 7th, 2011, 06:24
Category: MacBook Pro, Pictures

This is weird.

But also kind of beautiful.

Per Gizmodo, the Foundry Team over at Mint Digital disassembled a MacBook Pro and converted it into a portrait of Steve Jobs (full size image available here).

This may not be the way Steve Jobs thought he’d be memorialized, but it is amazing.



Take a gander and if you have any cool Steve Jobs stories of your own that you’d like to share, please send us an e-mail and we’ll have the best ones up on Monday.

Apple releases firmware updates for early 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks, 2011 Mac mini desktops

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Date: Thursday, September 15th, 2011, 05:10
Category: Mac mini, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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On Wednesday, Apple released firmware updates for the latest Mac mini and MacBook Pro models to address issues with Lion Internet Recovery and Thunderbolt connectivity.

Per Macworld, like Monday’s MacBook Air update, EFI Firmware Update 1.3 (for mid-2011 Mac mini models) offers stability enhancements for Lion Internet Recovery and fixes an issue with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibiltity as well as performance in Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode.

The patch for the MacBook Pro, EFI Firmware Update 2.2, provides similar Thunderbolt fixes, though unlike its newer cousins, the MacBook Pro does not ship with Internet Recovery; as such, this update actually enables the use of Internet Recovery on a MacBook Pro. Internet Recovery allows you to, in the event of a hard drive crash, reinstall Lion over the internet, without a physical Lion Recovery partition.

To update your Mac mini or MacBook Pro, you can snag the update via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature or from Apple’s Support website. From there, you’ll want to have your computer connected to power (or, in the case of your laptop, a working power adapter). Your computer will reboot to a gray screen to install the firmware; you’ll be able to track the progress using a status bar at the bottom of the screen.

If you’ve tried the firmware updates and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple may unveil updated MacBook Pro notebooks before end of 2011

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Date: Tuesday, September 13th, 2011, 17:15
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Just when you’d recently bought a 2011, Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro and were feeling somewhat cool.

Per AppleInsider, Apple may be preparing a refresh of its professional notebook line ahead of the holiday shopping season to better bridge the gap.

According to sources close to the story, the late-2011 MacBook Pro refresh will deliver marginal speed bumps to the notebooks’ Core i-Series of Sandy Bridge processors but will otherwise introduce no material changes over the existing models.

While precise timing for the update may change, those same people say the Mac maker currently anticipates an introduction of the refreshed line before the end of the month, possible following the close of the company’s Back-to-School promotion, which ends on September 20th.

Word of the new models comes just one week after Intel quietly refreshed its Sandy Bridge lineup of processors, adding four new Core i7 chips suited for adoption by the MacBook Pro in addition to slashing prices on some other chips, while phasing out a handful of others.

In particular, Intel introduced new 2.4GHz, 2.5GHz and 2.7GHz quad-core Core i7 processors that could replace the 2.0GHz, 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz versions offered in the current 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros, in addition to a 2.8GHz dual-core Core i7 that could serve as an upgrade path for the current 2.7GHz 13-inch MacBook Pro.

As for the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, Intel continues to list a couple of Core i5 chips at speeds of 2.5GHz to 2.6GHz that Apple could elect to use to bump 2.3GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro for little to no cost increase.

In addition to these chips, Apple may have discounted access to a handful of older Core i5 and Core i7 chips that were introduced early this year, such as the 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 models.

Although the new models may come as somewhat of a surprise for industry watchers given that there has been no indication that Apple is drawing down inventories of existing models, the refresh is likely geared towards assuring the Mac maker’s top-selling notebook family remains competitive in the market until Intel releases its next-generation Ivy Bridge platform at some point in 2012.

The Ivy Bridge architecture was originally slated to debut in late 2011, but leaked documents from Intel surfaced in May and revealed that the next-generation processors are slated to arrive at some point in the first half of 2012. The Ivy Bridge chips are now scheduled to become available at some point in March or April of next year.

The MacBook Pro remains the bread and butter of Apple’s mostly mobile Mac business, even as the newer, thin-and-light MacBook Air gains in sales. Apple’s MacBook Pros are the only notebooks offered by the company that still offer discrete graphics, making them the only option for video professionals and power users on the go.

In addition, the MacBook Pro remains the only Apple notebook with screen sizes larger than 13-inches. While the MacBook Air (and now defunct white MacBook) max out at 13-inches, the MacBook Pro still comes in 15- and 17-inch screen sizes, with faster CPUs and graphics to accompany the greater screen real estate.

Apple last updated its MacBook Pro lineup in February, giving its entry-level 13-inch models dual-core Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7 chips at speeds of 2.3GHz and 2.7Ghz. The higher-end 15- and 17-inch models gained quad-core Sandy Bridge Core i7 chips at speeds of up to 2.3Ghz.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple in talks to have 3G MacBook prototype returned to company

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Date: Wednesday, August 31st, 2011, 05:41
Category: MacBook Pro, News

Remember that 3G MacBook prototype that went on eBay recently?

Apple would like it back.

Per CNET, Apple is in talks to arrange for the return of a MacBook Pro prototype with built-in wireless 3G functionality from a North Carolina resident who attempted to sell it on eBay.

Earlier this month, owner Carl Frega had a friend post the prototype on eBay, where it quickly garnered bids as high as US$70,000. Within a day, Apple was successful in having the listing pulled, citing infringement on copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property rights.



The device resembles a 2007 15-inch Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, but with the curious addition of an extendable cellular antenna along the top right side of the display and a SIM card slot. Red circuit boards and the lack of an EMC Number serve as evidence that the machine is a pre-production prototype.

Frega was contacted by Apple Tuesday afternoon to arrange for a representative to pick up the device.

Frega has been purchasing used machines for spare parts, moving up from a hobby to a full-time repair job. He purchased the machine from an alleged former Apple engineer off of Craigslist. Earlier this year, he posted photos of the prototype to the forums of a tech site, but failed to attract interest.

“Few people were really interested, and the thread turned into a discussion about tethering rates and wireless carriers,” Frega said. “(It’s) part of why I figured the machine wasn’t anything particularly special (except to a tech geek like me) and not worth the trouble of selling as a collector’s piece.”

He replaced the hard drive and sold the machine on Craigslist. But, the new buyer took the laptop to the Genius Bar at a local Apple Store and was denied service.

“Opened machine to observe that nearly every internal part was third party; main logic board, optical drive, display, hard drive, top case, and others. Machine serial number (W8707003Y53) is also not recognized as a valid number,” the Genius Bar repair sheet read.

The new owner took Frega to small claims court, accusing him of selling a fake MacBook Pro. The case even drew the attention of a syndicate court TV show, but he declined the offer. The small claims judge eventually ruled that Frega must pay the buyer US$740, receiving the notebook back in return.

For its part, Apple has not indicated whether it will compensate Frega for the amount he originally paid for the device.

Rumors that Apple was working on a 3G laptop solution swirled several years ago. The antenna solution in the MacBook Pro prototype has been viewed as not matching Apple’s design principles, possibly explaining why the prototype was never released as a full-fledged product.

OWC announces 8GB RAM modules for 2011 model MacBook Pro, Mac mini units

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Date: Thursday, August 18th, 2011, 07:43
Category: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro, News

Ok, if there’s one computer part you sort of have to splurge on, it’s RAM.

And there’s no real argument against that.

Per MacNN, Mac outfitter Other World Computing has announced its RAM kits for the 2011 model MacBook Pro and Mac minis with its DDR3 1333MHz 8GB modules. The modules will also work with the latest model iMacs, doubling their RAM capacity to 32GB.

The company offers kits including 12GB (one 8GB module with one 4GB module) for US$500, a 16GB kit (two 8GB modules) that will max out the 2011 MacBook Pro and 2011 Mac mini, both of which only have two slots, for US$929.

Because the 27-inch iMac i5 and i7 models have four slots that take the same model of RAM, OWC offers a 24GB kit (two 8GB, two 4GB) for $1,000, and a 32GB kit (four 8GB modules) for those machines for US$1,848. The kits all use OWC’s own MaxRAM brand.

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

2007 MacBook Pro prototype with 3G modem, SIM card, surfaces on eBay

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Date: Monday, August 15th, 2011, 06:59
Category: 3G Wireless, MacBook Pro, News

It’s a bit odd but it could be something.

Per MacRumors, a 15-inch MacBook Pro from the 2007 Santa Rosa processor era has recently appeared on eBay, originally purchased from Craigslist for parts. The unit, strangely enough, surfaced “with a 3G antenna, 3G hardware and SIM card slot built in.”



“Upon removing the top case it was immediately clear this was no normal Macbook Pro: the circuit boards inside were bright red as opposed to the normal blue!” writes the eBay seller, whose prototype is currently up to more than US$11,000.

“Further inspection found multiple differences from the stock version, most notably a feature never seen in a Macbook laptop of any kind: what appears to be a fully integrated cellular modem and SIM slot. There is an extendable cellular antenna located at the right top side of the display assembly (The antenna is marked with ‘Tyco Proto / #006’ when slid out), and a standard size SIM card slot located underneath the memory cover on the bottom of the machine. The SIM card board is connected to the logic board via a connector not found on production machines. The solder footprint for it is still present on the production boards and not populated, which is interesting.”

“This would seem to suggest that it was a last minute decision to remove the cellular functionality before going into mass production,” the seller concludes. “The optical drive is marked as a ‘Sample for Evaluation.’ Rather than a normal EMC Number the specifications lapel simply says ‘XXXX,’ and the serial number does not show up in Apple’s online database.”

The good news is that the seller was able to repair the machine to working condition, although the 3G modem “is not presently functional,” despite being seen by the operating system. The inclusion of a SIM card means the 3G would have been GSM-bound, “allowing for use on AT&T and many other international networks.”

Cool stuff from a generation of hardware ago…

The auction ends on August 20th, so be sure to get your bids in now if you want a shot at the unit.

Rumor: Apple looking to slim down MacBook Pro, move towards lighter/thinner form factor

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Date: Thursday, July 28th, 2011, 02:54
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The notion of slimming a notebook down and having it sell well seems to be working for the MacBook Air and this may be where the MacBook Pro is headed.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple seems likely to completely redesign its MacBook Pro line in favor of a thinner and lighter form factor. A 15-inch Air-like MacBook Pro and a 17-inch model are in the works, sources say, and may be here in time for holiday gift giving.

To get to that leaner form factor, Apple will likely ditch the optical drive (perhaps ultimately signaling the death knell for discs) while integrated SSD storage is also expected. The MacBook Pros have been Apple’s laptop workhorses, so we can also expect the premium laptops to offer more ports, better graphics, and more storage than the MacBook Air–at a more premium price but with the slimmer design.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

OWC launches Data Doubler DIY Kit for Unibody MacBook, MacBook Pro systems

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Date: Wednesday, July 13th, 2011, 02:02
Category: Accessory, Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

On Tuesday Other World Computing announced the immediate availability of its OWC Data Doubler 1.0 DIY Kit for adding up to 2.0TB of internal storage capacity to Apple’s “Unibody” MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks.

The US$174.99 MSRP OWC Data Doubler 1.0TB DIY Kit is now available and features a Data Doubler optical bay converter bracket, a Samsung Spinpoint M8 1.0TB 9.5mm hard drive, a detailed step-by-step Mac notebook model specific installation guide, a five piece toolkit, free online ‘How To’ installation videos, and is fully compatible with the following Macintosh® notebook computers:

- MacBook 13″ “Late 2008” ‘Unibody’ and later models (All)

- MacBook 13″ “Late 2009” ‘White Unibody’ and later models (All)

- MacBook Pro 13″ “Mid 2009” ‘Unibody’ and later models (All)

- MacBook Pro 15″ “Late 2008” ‘Unibody’ and later models (All)

- MacBook Pro 17″ “Early 2009” ‘Unibody’ and later models (All)

The OWC Data Doubler gives “Unibody” MacBook and MacBook Pro owners the flexibility to uniquely configure their computer’s internal drive array. Any SATA 2.5″ hard drive or SSD of up to 9.5mm (Super Slim) height can be mounted onto the bracket with the entire assembly then user installable in a “Unibody” MacBook or MacBook Pro optical drive bay. 9.5mm SATA 2.5″ hard drives are fully “Plug and Play” recognized via the Apple Disk Utility program with standard configuration options just like any typical drive including, but not limited to:

- Creating an individual volume with its own desktop icon.

- Combining a new drive with the existing internal drive for one larger
volume (SPAN).

- Combining a new matching drive with existing internal for high-
performance RAID-0 Stripe volume.

- Configuring a new drive as a Time Machine™ backup drive.

- Formatting one drive for the Mac OS and the other dedicated for Windows.

- SuperSlim Enclosure Converts Optical Drive Into External Solution

The OWC Data Doubler is now available for immediate purchase.

If you have any feedback about OWC’s product lines, let us know in the comments.