OWC releases Slim ExpressCard/34 peripheral for MacBook notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, July 21st, 2010, 04:54
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Pro

Peripherals maker OWC has released a new eSATA ExpressCard adapter for MacBooks. The card, which is rated for 3GB/s, is hot swappable and ACHI compliant, requiring no drivers for any Mac notebook running Mac OS X 10.5 or higher.

Per MacNN, the card is said to be capable of 170MB/s read speeds and 120MB/s write speeds using external SSD-based eSATA drives and supports up to five disk drives on a JMicron JMB360 chipset. The ExpressCard is bootable for MacBooks with any Core 2 Duo chips, which cover all but the first generation.



The new eSATA ExpressCard requires Mac OS X 10.4 to install and run, with Mac OS X 10.5 or later required for hot-swapping. It also supports Windows 2000 and higher, including Windows 7. The card retails for US$40 but is currently on sale for US$33.

Apple shows signs of implementing TRIM features in latest 13″ MacBook Pro notebook

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Date: Monday, June 14th, 2010, 04:12
Category: hard drive, MacBook Pro, News

This is sort of unexpected but interesting.

Per AnandTech, the current-run 13″ MacBook Pro notebook may be showing that Apple is implementing TRIM support for solid-state drives in Mac OS X. Attaching an SSD to the 2010 system will show an entry for “TRIM support” that doesn’t exist on the Core i5 or i7 MacBook Pros or earlier models. The support appears very rough and incorrectly flags TRIM-capable drives as lacking support.

TRIM is considered important to the future of SSDs, as it will keep them running at peak speed for most of their useful lifespan. Older SSDs often slow down over time as more of the drive space is used and the system has to erase more and more junk data, such as deleted but not missing files, before it can write new information. TRIM aggressively erases these areas so that they’re truly empty in advance of when new content needs to be written.

Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 operating systems currently support TRIM, but Apple so far hasn’t had native support and has seen less benefit from faster SSDs as a result. Adding the feature would let Macs use the full features of modern SSDs and could lead to significant storage updates for the for any Mac offering SSDs as a build-to-order option.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

How-To: Work around Apple notebook blank screens

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Date: Friday, June 4th, 2010, 09:59
Category: How-To, MacBook, MacBook Pro

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As trusty and reliable as your MacBook or MacBook Pro may be, there are times where it will hate you and its screen will go blank. Sometimes this will take place as you’re working, other times after a restart or when waking up from sleep. The cool cats at CNET have assembled the following useful guide as to what may be the underlying concern and how to fix it:

Software issues:
The display going out could be a matter of a software configuration problem, either with the display drivers or with one of the active processes that interacts with them, such as the window server. There are a few ways you can overcome this. The first is to change the display configuration by either plugging in or unplugging an external monitor. This will cause the drivers to refresh the display output and desktop configuration; hopefully, this will reset the error. The second way is to try sleeping the system again by closing the lid and opening it. When you close the lid, you should see the battery and sleep indicator lights (green and white, respectively) turn on.

You can also use a key sequence to force the display to sleep and reset, which, hopefully, will force the display to reset properly and turn on. To do this, press and hold the Control and Shift keys, followed by the Eject key.

Lastly, if the display will not work even after rebooting, try loading into Safe Mode, especially if the display turns off after properly showing an initial gray screen. If safe mode works, you will need to troubleshoot the software setup by first uninstalling any recently installed drivers or utilities, and then by creating a new user account for testing purposes, since sometimes display problems can happen from an account-specific configuration problem. This will tell you if the problem is account-related or has to do with more global resources. If the problem persists in a new account, the next best step would be to boot off your Mac OS X installation DVD to see if the display works under a completely bare and fresh installation.

If the installation DVD works, then you will need to reinstall your OS by first reapplying the latest “Combo” update for your version of OS X (this is best applied when in Safe Mode), and then by run the installer from your OS X DVD and ensure that you have “Archive and Install” selected with the option to save user accounts and data (this is done by default in Snow Leopard).

If the display problems occur when booting from the installation DVD, it is likely you are suffering from a hardware malfunction and will need to troubleshoot the hardware setup.

Hardware issues:
Hardware issues that can affect the display output include firmware settings as well as the display hardware and controllers themselves. Many people have tried to reset the PRAM when they have issues such as the screen being blank when the computer is woken from sleep; however, many display settings are stored in the System Management Controller. Therefore, in addition to resetting the PRAM you may benefit from resetting the SMC on your machine. On most MacBooks you can do this by removing the power and battery, and pressing the power button for 15 seconds, but some models vary so look up how to do this for your particular machine.

Beyond firmware settings, you may have a problem with the display inverter or LED driver board, which is what runs the backlight on LDC displays. When this happens, the display should still be working, but will not be easily visible because of the lack of lighting. You can test this by shining a flashlight on the display at different angles, or preferably through the Apple logo on the back of the display. If you see graphics showing on the display, then your backlight is not working. If a restart or SMC/PRAM reset do not help, you will need to take the computer in for servicing.

Lastly, if you have recently had the computer serviced (especially if done by yourself), some of the display-related circuits may have been improperly connected or insulated upon assembly. Apple has foam and plastic insulation around circuits and connectors that can be shorted out by touching other components, so if you forget to put these back on when assembling the system, you can easily cause a component like the inverter to fail. Luckily this usually can be fixed by replacing the insulation, but you will need to have it serviced again to fix.

Work-arounds:
If you are unable to get your display working, you can still control your system in an attempt to save your work and safely shut it down. One way is to use Screen Sharing, which you may have enabled in the Sharing system preferences. You can then use Remote Desktop or Apple’s built-in Screen Sharing service to connect to and control your Mac.

Alternatively, if you have Remote Login enabled (SSH), you can use an SSH client on any other networked computer to log in and issue the “shutdown -h now” command to close down and turn off the computer. This will take familiarity with the Terminal, as well as knowing its IP address (unless you are on a Mac).

Here’s the basic procedure:
Launch the Terminal application with SSH support

Type the following command:
ssh USERNAME@Computer-Name.local

In this command, the username is the short account name on the system, and if you are using a Mac “Computer-Name.local” is the computer’s network name, such as Tophers-Desktop.local; however, it can also be the computer’s IP address.

Confirm connecting and supply your password (it will not be shown)
Issue the shutdown command by typing the following:
sudo shutdown -h now

This process will turn off the system, but will force applications to quit so you will lose unsaved data. However, it still is a better option than pressing and holding the power button to turn off the system.

If you’ve found any fixes or workarounds of your own, please let us know.

Strange Knowledge Base article points to potential Boot Camp update for mid-April MacBook Pro

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Date: Friday, May 21st, 2010, 04:48
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

This is interesting.

Per CNET, Apple has released a knowledge base article outlining a Boot Camp update for the 2010 13″ MacBook Pro notebook. The update is for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of windows, and addresses a problem where the Boot Camp Control Panel would display warnings when changing the display brightness, as well as problems with no audio for headphones.

The 2010 MacBook Pro models were released in mid-April, and since then there have not been any Boot Camp updates so this is the first mention of one for these machines and perhaps a sign of fixes to come.

The update should be available through Apple’s software update utility in Windows, and is currently unavailable as a standalone download. When you install the update it should show the Boot Camp build number as 2354 when you select “About Boot Camp” when clicking the Boot Camp tool in the Windows task bar.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

gfxCardStatus utility allows dynamic switching between MacBook Pro graphics cards

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Date: Tuesday, May 11th, 2010, 06:33
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Although Apple’s current MacBook Pro notebooks allow you to switch between graphics processing units in order to optimize performance and battery life, Apple doesn’t really provide an easy way to manage the different GPUs on the system, and if you like to tinker you may find the utility gfxCardStatus useful, both for newer and older machines.

Per CNET, Cody Krieger’s gfxCardStatus is a small shareware application that displays which graphics card is the active one. When the system’s computing demands change and the GPU is switched, the utility shows the switches in real-time, either by displaying an “n” (GeForce 330M) or a “i” (Intel HD) in the menu. If you have the Growl notification system installed, gfxCardStatus will inform you in real-time whenever the graphics processor is changed.

In addition to notifications and alerts, gfxCardStatus will list any processes that are using the current graphics processor, and allow you to manually switch the active GPUs on the system.

Despite this, the program does offer a unique advantage to users of the older MacBook Pro models, in that the GPU switching feature does allow for you to switch GPUs without logging out and closing down your applications. The screen will go blue and then black, but will then reappear and the secondary GPU will be used. This may be convenient for some users; however, it is still an experimental feature so try or use it with caution.

gfxCardStatus 1.6.1 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

Core i7-based MacBook Pro boasts speedy SATA benchmarks

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Date: Wednesday, April 28th, 2010, 09:01
Category: MacBook Pro, News

In as much as the new Core i7-based MacBook Pro has been described as being toasty, an article over on DIGILLOYD offers benchmarks citing strong SATA write performance on the new model.

Per the article, the April 2010 MacBook Pro has top-flight performance on both internal SATA ports via the following benchmarks:

DIGLLOYD tracked these benchmarks courtesy of its diglloydTools 2.0 package, which is currently available for US$40.

If you’ve snagged the new Core i7 MacBook Pro and have any feedback to offer on it, let us know.

Benchmark test finds Core i7-based MacBook Pro reaches over 100 degrees celcius

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Date: Monday, April 26th, 2010, 05:57
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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As nifty as the new Intel Core i7-based MacBook Pro notebook is, the days of the toasty lap may have returned. According to a series of tests run by PC Authority, Apple’s new notebook was found to climb over 100 degrees Celsius when running the Cinebench application.

In the tests, the notebook’s metal shell proved ineffective at dissipating the heat as well as the similarly-equipped Fujitsu Lifebook SH760, which finished the same test at 81 degrees, and actually required PC Authority to run the MacBook Pro on its side to complete certain tests. The site thinks that Apple’s cooling solution may be inadequate for a Core i7.

If you’ve snagged the new MacBook Pro and have any feedback to offer on its operating temperatures (or heat dissipation tips), please let us know.

Users report mirrored display bug in Mac OS X 10.6.3

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Date: Friday, April 23rd, 2010, 03:21
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Mac OS X 10.6.3 has worked out fairly well and my living room carpet has yet to spontaneously catch fire as a result of installing it, but an ongoing issue with the operating system version seems to corrupt graphics on external displays when you present in full screen with “mirrored” displays. In routine situations, the display will work and show the mirrored desktop in the Finder, but when applications take over use the display to show full-screen presentations, media, or other purposes, the graphics will garble and can only be fixed with a restart.

Per CNET, this problem seems to happen on multiple machines, though MacBooks are more prominently affected. This is probably because they are used more for presentations. Users have tried SMC resets, PRAM resets, and numerous approaches to clearing caches, fixing permissions, running other maintenance routines with no luck.

Over on the Apple Discussion Board, chatter between a number of has indicated that the problem could be a bug in the latest OS release, which updated the drivers, OpenGL, and other graphics technologies.

If you are affected by this problem, you can use one of the following work-arounds to keep your display from corrupting:

Try a different video processor:
For MacBook Pro owners who have multiple GPUs in their systems, the problem may be avoidable by switching the graphics processor being used. To do this, go to the “Energy Saver” system preferences and change the option from “Higher Performance” to “Better Battery Life” or vice versa.

Use extended desktop:
Instead of using the mirroring mode in OS X, change the external display to be in extended desktop mode. Do this by going to the “Displays” system preferences and unchecking the box to “mirror displays.” Once this has been done, to use your presentation, just drag the window to the desired display and activate it (should work in PowerPoint and Keynote).

Make a presentation boot drive:
Make a presentation boot drive if you have an external drive. Install OS X to it and upgrade it to 10.6.2, and install your presentation software to it. Then when you are giving a presentation just copy your presentation to that drive, reboot to it, and run your presentation in mirrored display mode without the display problems.

Move back to 10.6.2:
The last step is to move your system back to OS 10.6.2, which can be done by restoring to a previous Time Machine backup. It can also be done by performing a reinstallation of OS X from the Snow Leopard DVD. The installer will create an “Archive and Install” of the system that should keep as many of your settings and application installations as intact as possible, but do be sure to back up beforehand as an extra precaution.

Rumor has it that Apple has started issuing developer releases of OS 10.6.4 already, so hopefully the update will address these issues.

If you’ve seen this issue from your end, please let us know about it.

iFixit tears into 15″ mid-2010 MacBook Pro

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Date: Friday, April 16th, 2010, 03:04
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Once again, the cool cats at iFixit have torn into an Apple device, this time shredding the new 15″ mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebook. Per Engadget, the teardown didn’t reveal anything too stunning and aside from the obvious processor upgrade, not much has changed since 2009 model except the odd antenna mounted on the optical drive frame and tri-wing screws in place of the Torx 5, but it appears that the AirPort/Bluetooth assembly now resembles that of the 13″ unibody MacBook.

Among the more interesting finds was the Intel BD82HM55 S LGZS Platform Controller Hub, which seems to function as an intermediary chip between the Intel and NVIDIA graphics cards.

Beyond this, it seems to be business as usual with the new notebook.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on a new mid-2010 MacBook Pro and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know.

Mid-2010 MacBook Pros selling well, 13″ model becoming harder to find

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Date: Thursday, April 15th, 2010, 05:41
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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The new MacBook Pro notebooks are out.

And if you can find a 13″ one, you’re in luck.

Per AppleInsider, demand for Apple’s newly upgraded line of MacBook Pro notebooks was strong on the first day, with scattered reports of the low-end 13″ model selling out in some retail locations.

Analyst Maynard Um with UBS Investment research said checks with various Apple stores indicated that the Mac maker is sold out of the new 13″ MacBook Pro model, introduced Tuesday. The Core 2 Duo-equipped machine has the Nvidia GeForce 320M, a graphics processor created especially for Apple’s new low-end MacBook Pro machine.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is available in two configurations: one with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 250GB hard drive priced at US$1,199; and one with a 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 320GB hard drive priced at US$1,499. It has graphics 80 percent faster than its predecessor, and offers an Apple-estimated 10 hours of battery life.

Customers ordering the new 13″ MacBook Pro from Apple’s online store have also reported that shipping times have lagged to between one and three business days, instead of a standard 24 hours according to MacNN. The 24-hour cap still applies to Apple’s more powerful and expensive 15- and 17-inch systems.

Um said he has also found that some stores are out of stock of iPads, supporting the announcement made earlier Wednesday by Apple, that a hardware shortage would delay the device’s international launch until late May. The analyst said this news means it is likely his estimate of 1.2 million iPads sold in the June quarter will likely prove conservative, depending on manufacturing constraints.