O'Grady's PowerPage » MacBook

Apple awarded carbon fiber manufacturing patent, could make future MacBooks lighter, more shock resistant

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, September 4th, 2012, 07:06
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Patents

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The way your new MacBook notebook is manufactured is about to change.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent for a carbon fiber molding process that could one day be used to produce parts made from the lightweight material, like laptop casings or mobile device chassis.

The patent, number 8,257,075, for a “Carbon composite mold design” describes the systems and methods needed to manufacture “aesthetically pleasing” parts from carbon fiber and other resin based composites.

While the applications of carbon fiber composite materials are many, Apple specifically notes that the invention can be used to “form outer housings for a laptop computer or other similar device.” The patent may prove useful as an increasing consumer demand has pushed the industry toward slim and sleek portables with relatively heavy large screens. For example, the weight of the much-rumored next-generation iPhone’s expected 4-inch screen could be offset by a carbon fiber monocoque.

It seems that the invention is aimed at larger devices like Apple’s MacBook line, however, much like Sony’s carbon fiber Vaio Z thin-and-light series.

The patent is described as follows:
“As but one example, it would be particularly helpful if portable electronic device housings and components could be stronger and more durable than what is now typically provided in plastic parts that are formed via ordinary plastic injection molding processes. In particular, it would be beneficial if laptops, notebook computers, and other relatively large and heavy portable computing devices could have outer housings that are better able to protect the entire device from drops and other mechanical shocks.”

The patent notes that traditional resin-based composites are made by layering resin-impregnated sheets of into or over a mold, which then cures under increased heat and pressure. Removal of the part can prove a hassle as the resins stick to the mold surfaces, which often requires manual prying and peeling from an operator. As a result, surface blemishes and other defects often occur.

Apple’s proposed method looks to enable the mass-production of carbon fiber parts that have a consistent visual appearance by streamlining the manufacturing process.

The invention calls for a two-part mold, one a cavity and another portion “adapted to mate with the first,” allowing composite parts to be formed in between. After curing, ejector pins located on one or both of the mold portions are used to separate the material from the mold body.

In another embodiment, a mold can have one or more internal fluid lines to help with cooling, a permanent release coating, and guide pins to accurately align the fiber sheets. Either a fluid or gas-actuated ejection system can also be employed for easy removal of the cured parts.

While Apple has shown no signs of using the advanced carbon fiber molding techniques in any future devices, the company may very well choose to do so in its push toward lighter and stronger products.

So, if nothing else, your future MacBook could become lighter, stronger and perhaps shoot lasers at those who oppose you.

Which is never a bad thing.

Users complain of shorter battery life after Mountain Lion install, Apple reportedly launching investigation of issue

Posted by:
Date: Friday, August 3rd, 2012, 12:15
Category: battery, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

This is either the end of the world or a firmware update that may need to happen.

Per AppleInsider, a number of MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners who updated to the recently-released OS X Mountain Lion are complaining of battery performance issues, with some reporting their batteries only last half as long as when OS X 10.7 Lion was installed.

Since the first complaints surfaced in an Apple Support Communities thread started on July 25, the day Mountain Lion launched, the number of reportedly affected MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners has grown to the point where Apple has supposedly initiated an investigation. As of this writing the thread, titled “Battery life dropped considerably on Mountain Lion” now stands at 15 pages.

While most users are seeing battery life drops of about one to two hours, some cases claim performance has fallen to less than 50 percent as their machines are only capable of staying on for a little over two hours.

Community members have been trying a variety of methods to remedy the issue, from re-installing the software to turning off some of Mountain Lion’s new features like Power Nap, but the attempts have yet to produce a fool-proof solution. Some members have seen limited success in resetting the machine’s system management controller (SMC), though the battery issue crops up again after continued use.

Many users are reporting heightened CPU temperatures even when the machine is at idle, possibly pointing to a backend program management problem, while others are seeing battery drain when the system is sleeping.

Apple has taken notice of the complaints and, according to one community member, sent out a questionnaire on Friday in an attempt to pinpoint the problem.

OS X Mountain Lion launched last week, bringing with it over 200 new features including tighter iCloud integration, the Messages app, Notification Center, Facebook integration, Dictation, AirPlay Mirroring and Game Center.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

And, as always, if you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Matrox releases DS1, allows Thunderbolt-equipped Macs and PC notebooks desktop range of ports

Posted by:
Date: Monday, June 4th, 2012, 05:17
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Peripheral

You can’t knock a good peripheral device.

Per AppleInsider, Matrox on Sunday unveiled its new DS1 Thunderbolt docking station, which allows users to add multiple peripherals like an HDMI display, a full-size keyboard and a mouse to a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac or PC and will be available this September for US$249.

The DS1 also includes a gigabit Ethernet port that provides connectivity to wired corporate networks at data transfers 18 times faster than Wi-Fi. In addition, it has a high-speed USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, a microphone input, and a speaker/headphone output, all of which can connect to a Thunderbolt MacBook or Ultrabook with just one cable.



The Matrox DS1 will be showcased at the Computex Taipei 2012 event at Intel’s official booth, located at M0410 in the NanGang Exhibition Hall.

Also set to arrive in September is Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock, which was announced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show. It will also turn a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac into a full-fledged desktop workstation with an HDMI port, FireWire 800 port, three USB 2.0 ports, a 3.5-millimeter audio port, one gigabit Ethernet port, and two Thunderbolt ports for daisy-chaining to another Thunderbolt device.

Apple also offers the Thunderbolt Display, which lets users plug in one 10Gbps Thunderbolt cable to drive a monitor, three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Production effort towards 2012 MacBooks creating labor shortage in/around China

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 29th, 2012, 06:34
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The good news is that Apple’s 2012 notebooks seem to be under construction.

The bad news is that this doesn’t really help the regional labor markets.

Per DigiTimes, anticipated demand for Apple’s redesigned line of 2012 MacBooks is reportedly so strong that the company’s Far Eastern component suppliers are facing a labor shortage as they race to produce enough parts to supply the Mac maker’s production lines.

The publication added that the shortages come in the face of preemptive efforts by some of the suppliers to outsource production of their component orders in order to be able to meet the “strong orders from Apple” for the new notebooks, due “in the near future.”

“Component manufacturing plants in eastern China have been suffering from labor shortages for a long time, and although May and June are the IT industry’s traditional slow season when shortage issues are usually not as significant, the strong orders from Apple’s new MacBook are leaving many upstream makers unable to satisfy demand.”

Some of these part suppliers began delivering their first wave of components for the company’s new MacBooks as early as April, with shipments for the notebooks’ new chassis reportedly increasing this month. The supply chain is expected to ramp even faster next month ahead of a ‘possible launch’ of the computers by Apple in July.

In total, DigiTimes said suppliers expect Apple’s total MacBook orders in 2012 to jump from 12.79 million in 2011 to between 16.24 and 19.2 million in 2012 — a run rate that would see Apple sell an average of over 4 million notebook systems each quarter. By comparison, Apple sold an average of 3.2 million notebook systems per quarter in 2011.

The report did not mention anything regarding an updated MacBook Air notebook or a completely redesigned line of MacBook Pros that have long been reported to adopt similar enclosures and design traits.

However, a quick analysis of the production figures outline in the article suggests the sources are referring to combined production of both new MacBook families, as Apple in January reported total sales of 12.87 million notebook systems during calendar year 2011, which roughly coincides with the 12.79 million production figure.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

CCTV battery, third-party car charger hacked into do-it-yourself external MacBook battery

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012, 08:13
Category: battery, Hack, Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro

This falls into the “If You’re Feeling Brave” category, but it could work nicely.

Per The Verge, MacBook Pro user Evan Rodgers took a CCTV battery, a third party MacBook car charger, and some soldering tools to create a do-it-yourself external MacBook battery.

Watch the video, see what you make of it and if you have the parts on hand, you can avoid a fairly costly trip to the Apple Store for a replacement MacBook Pro battery and add about two to three hours of on-the-fly usage:



Apple pulls plug on white MacBook notebook, product reaches “End of Life” status

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 9th, 2012, 07:20
Category: Hardware, MacBook, News

You had to like the white MacBook.

If nothing else, it was plucky and it looked pretty good when you were working on one in a coffee shop.

Unfortunately, Apple has reportedly notified resellers that the white polycarbonate MacBook is now officially classified as “End of Life” and has been discontinued.

Per MacRumors, Apple has stopped selling the white notebook to even its educational markets and notified resellers that the MacBook is now classified as “End of Life.”

The MacBook was Apple’s entry-level notebook for years, but it faced internal competition in 2010 with the release of the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, which also started at US$999 and was an instant hit.

Apple introduced the MacBook in May 2006 during the transition from PowerPC to Intel processors. In 2008, it temporarily received an aluminum makeover, but that machine was later rebranded as the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple released a unibody polycarbonate design in 2009 that remained until the product was discontinued last year.

MSI demoes external Thunderbolt-based GPU for Apple notebooks at CES

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 11th, 2012, 05:49
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

Ok, this is interesting.

Over at CES this week, MSI is showing off a new external graphics solution that can connect to a Mac through a high-speed Thunderbolt port. Per AnandTech, the MSI GUS IIrelies on the high bandwidth capacity of the 10Gbps Thunderbolt port found on the latest Mac models, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

“The external chassis features a Thunderbolt interface and an internal PCIe slot,” Anand Lai Shimpi noted. “Despite running on a MacBook Pro there is currently no OS X support for the solution, but it does work under Windows. Presumably if there’s OS X support for the GPU inside the enclosure it would work under OS X as well.”

No timeframe for launch or price for the external GPU were given, but the product could be a solution for users who want more graphics processing power for their MacBook when it’s in use at home. The GPU featured in the MSI GUS II must be powered by PCIe alone, as there are no auxiliary power connectors inside the device.

Thunderbolt-based external drives have also been prevalent at CES this year. Seagate plans to ship by the middle of this month adapters that will allow existing Seagate GoFlex drives to fit into a Thunderbolt slot, while Western Digital plans to release new Thunderbolt drives by the middle of 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Claims deadline approaches for MagSafe power adapter owners

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 5th, 2012, 08:02
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

If you have a MagSafe power connector for your MacBook or MacBook Pro, there’s only so much time left to make your claim under the class action settlement relating to problems with the adapter. The lawsuit was settled by Apple in November 2011.

Per The Apple Core, he problem with the early MagSafe was a week sleeve. Of course, the cable bent and the wires inside the plastic sleeve could become frayed and pull out. This posed a fire hazard and many customers replaced the units. Apple settled, but of course, “the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing.”

Owners of MacBooks and MacBook Pros can receive various cash payments covering the purchase of replacements adapters within the first three years following the initial purchase of the computer. The amount of the cash payments vary depending on when the replacement adapter was purchased.

The FAQ page for the settlement is here and the timeline page is here. The date to object to the suit and to exclude oneself from the suit just passed. The site says that March 21, 2012 is the due date for the sending of claim forms, which can be downloaded from the site.

If you have two cents to throw in or your own MagSafe power adapter story, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: Intel Ivy Bridge-equipped Mac notebooks to launch April 8th, 2012, sport ample new features

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 13:52
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Processors, Rumor

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It’s kind of neat when the rumors point towards a specific date.

Per DigiTimes, Intel is rumored to release a total of 25 new 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge processors on April 8, 2012, signaling a potential launch window for Apple’s next generation of Macs.

Intel will release 17 desktop CPUs and 8 notebook Ivy Bridge processors in early April according to the article. The initial chips are said to include models 3820QM and 3720QM, priced at US$568 and US$378, respectively, which could be candidates for Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup.

The notebook Ivy Bridge processors will feature the new Intel HD Graphics 4000 architecture. Intel’s M-Series lineup is expected to have nominal thermal design power of between 35 watts and 55 watts.

Set for a “later” launch, according to sources, are the Core i7-3667U and Core i5-3427U processors, intended for Intel’s Ultrabook lineup. Those processors would also be possible candidates for Apple’s own thin-and-light notebook, the MacBook Air.

Earlier reports have said the i7-3667U processor will be clocked at 2GHz, and can overclock to 3.2GHz in single-core mode, while the i5-3427U will run at 1.8GHz and overclock to 2.8GHz in single-core mode. Both models are said to feature a graphics processor clocked at 350MHz that can run as high as 1150MHz.

The rumored April 8 launch date for the first Ivy Bridge processors is slightly earlier than what a leaked roadmap from Intel showed earlier this month. Those documents showed a tentative launch date of May 2012 for the new chip platform.

Recent reports have pegged a MacBook Pro update from Apple to arrive in the second quarter of calendar 2012, a timeframe that would fit with the April debut of Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors. The new MacBook Pros are rumored to feature a redesigned look with new high-resolution 2,880-by-1,800 Retina Display screens.

Retina Display MacBook Pros would be possible with Ivy Bridge because the next-generation architecture will bring support for 4K resolution. That gives Apple and other PC makers the option to build a display that is 4,096 pixels across.

For high-end MacBook Pro models with dedicated graphics cards, one report from November claimed Apple will switch to Nvidia for its 2012 notebooks. The last MacBook Pro models to feature Nvidia graphics arrived in 2010.

As for the MacBook Air, Apple is expected to expand the lineup and add a 15-inch model. Currently, its ultraportable notebook is available with screen sizes of 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches.

Cool stuff if it’s true. Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Apple exploring fuel cell technologies for future notebook power sources

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 22nd, 2011, 12:52
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Patents

It’s the patents that make life interesting.

Per two articles (1, 2) at Free Patents Online, Apple is apparently exploring ways to power its notebooks via fuel cells.

“Our country’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels has forced our government to maintain complicated political and military relationships with unstable governments in the Middle East, and has also exposed our coastlines and our citizens to the associated hazards of offshore drilling,” the filings state. “These problems have led to an increasing awareness and desire on the part of consumers to promote and use renewable energy sources.”

Apple’s proposed invention notes that the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, has helped to increase consumer awareness of the environmental friendliness of electronic devices. In addition, Apple usually highlights the EPEAT ratings of products it introduces at highly publicized keynote events.

“As a consequence of increased consumer awareness, electronics manufacturers have become very interested in renewable energy sources for their products, and they have been exploring a number of promising renewable energy sources such as hydrogen fuel which is used in hydrogen fuel cells,” both documents state.

Apple then makes a case for using fuel cells to power portable electronic devices, noting that hydrogen and associated fuels could allow such devices to operate “for days or even weeks without refueling.” But the company also notes there are challenges in creating hydrogen fuel cell systems that are portable and cost-effective.

The solution presented by Apple describes a fuel cell system that can both provide power to and receive power from a rechargeable battery found in a device like a MacBook.

“This eliminates the need for a bulky and heavy battery within the fuel cell system, which can significantly reduce the size, weight and cost of the fuel cell system,” one filing reads. “This fuel cell system includes a fuel cell stack which converts fuel into electrical power. It also includes a controller which controls operation of the fuel cell system.”

“Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device” was first filed with the USPTO in August of 2010. It is credited to Bradley L. Spare, Vijay M. Iyer, Jean L. Lee, Gregory L. Tice, Michael D. Hillman and David I. Simon. “Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing device” is a continuation-in-part of a patent filed in 2010. It lists Iyer and Spare as its inventors.

Apple’s interest in fuel cell technology is not new and other patent applications have been found that showcase Apple as looking into lighter and more efficient hydrogen fuel cells. The company proposed accomplishing this by building multiple fuel cells connected in a parallel configuration by a power bus, along with a voltage-multiplying circuit to increase the voltage of the stack.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.