O'Grady's PowerPage » MacBook

Philadelphia school district avoids spying charges in 2009 MacBook case

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Date: Wednesday, August 18th, 2010, 05:05
Category: MacBook, News


Per the Associated Press, a Philadelphia school district has avoided charges from federal prosecutors following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the MacBook spying case. US Attorney David Memeger claims investigators could not find any evidence of criminal intent by school employees.

Following up on a controversy from last year, the school district admitted to retaining thousands of screenshots from MacBook webcams provided to students. The images were reportedly used to help recover missing laptops, although several employees referred to the pictures as a “soap opera.” The tracking system was also said to have been activated on a number of occasions after the computers were recovered.

Although prosecutors declined to file charges, the school district was sued by a student and his family over invasion of privacy. The lawsuit has yet to be settled outside of court.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Magic Trackpad and Multi-Touch Trackpad Update 1.0, adds gesture support to some additional notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, July 28th, 2010, 06:48
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software


Apple on Tuesday issued an update to a number of recent notebooks, including the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air, bringing inertial scrolling and three-finger drag gesture support to some trackpads.

Per AppleInsider, the Magic Trackpad and Multi-Touch Trackpad Update 1.0 was released Tuesday afternoon by Apple. The file is a 75.09MB update that requires Mac OS X 10.6.4 to install and run. In addition to adding inertial scrolling and three-finger drag in recent MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks, it also adds support for Apple’s newly released US$69 Magic Trackpad.

Per Apple, the following MacBook and MacBook Pro models now have both inertial scrolling and three-finger drag gesture:

MacBook (13-inch, Early 2009)
MacBook (13-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook (13-inch, Late 2009)
MacBook (13-inch, Aluminum, Late 2008)

MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2010)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2.53 GHz, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2009)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Late 2008)

Inertial scrolling, but not the three-finger gesture, is offered in four additional models:

MacBook Air
MacBook Air (Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2008)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2008)

The new three-finger gesture was first discovered earlier Tuesday with hands-on tests of the Magic Trackpad. The capability allows users to quickly drag windows around. At the time, the feature was exclusive to the new hardware.

If you’ve tried the file and can offer any feedback, please let us know

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.

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


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.

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.

Refreshed MacBook dissected, 10-hour battery could be transplanted into older MacBooks

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Date: Thursday, May 20th, 2010, 04:27
Category: MacBook, News


You’ve got to love iFixit.

That being said, the firm has performed a complete teardown of Apple’s newest low-end MacBook and noticed that only the central processing unit, the graphical processing unit and the battery have changed since the last hardware iteration.

iFixit has stated that the battery itself is of special interest given that the battery is exactly the same shape as its former and all you have to do to get an extra 350 mAh for your existing plastic MacBook is to drop in a refreshed battery.

While the new cells weigh more and it’s likely the new silicon that’s actually responsible for 10 hours of battery life, but should your Li-ion pack fail under warranty, your older MacBook might be returned with more juice than you’d bargained for.

Kind of a cool thing if you ever dreamt of your older MacBook using a 10 hour battery…

New MacBook sends both audio, video data through VESA-compliant adapters

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Date: Wednesday, May 19th, 2010, 05:14
Category: MacBook, News


This seems useful:

Apple’s newest MacBook, per this support document from Apple, send both audio and video data out through HDMI as long as you’ve got a VESA compliant adapter (which most DisplayPort adapters are).

Take a gander and if you get your hands on Apple’s newest MacBook, please let us know what you make of it, for better or for worse.

Apple quietly releases updated 13″ MacBook

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Date: Tuesday, May 18th, 2010, 03:35
Category: MacBook, News


Confirming yesterday’s post, Apple quietly released a refreshed MacBook notebook, the new model incorporating a new faster 2.4GHz processor, and NVIDIA GeForce 320m graphics processor.

These changes bring it into line with recently released MacBook Pro model.

Apple is claiming that the new MacBook provides 80% faster performance, largely due to the the improved graphics NVIDIA GeForce 320m graphics processor.

Like the NVIDIA 9400m graphics chip it replaces, the 320m shares its memory (256MB) from the main system RAM, rather than possessing the discrete graphics memory found on the NVIDIA 330m (used by the MacBook Pro).

Per Macworld UK, the NVIDIA 320m is 40% more efficient than the 9400m chip it replaces. Apple is also claiming a fairly hefty 10 hours of wireless productivity from the new MacBook.

Another new feature (albeit a small one) is that the DVI socket now supports the DVI to HDMI adaptor, enabling users to connect the older monitors to the laptop.

The 2.4 GHz MacBook retails for US$999 and is immediately available.

Rumor: Apple to release updated 13″ MacBook notebook

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Date: Monday, May 17th, 2010, 07:08
Category: MacBook, Rumor


It’s the leaks that keep life interesting.

Per Vietnamese web site Tinte, Apple will soon release an updated MacBook with a 2.4 GHz processor, NVIDIA 320M mobile graphics chip and an LED backlit display.

The new MacBook was obtained by the same website that also got their hands on a prototype of Apple’s next-generation iPhone this week. The new MacBook (identified as model MacBook7,1) uses a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, up from the existing 2.26GHz model.

The new notebook will receive the same Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM as the MacBook Pro. That’s an update from the existing GeForce 9400M of the “MacBook6,1” entry level white MacBook.

The updated model also snag the improved, streamlined MagSafe connector as the latest MacBook Pro models, which points the adapter cord backward rather than perpendicular from the body. It will retain the same 1280×800 pixel widescreen display, a 250GB 5400 RPM hard drive, and 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM from the previous MacBook update.

Apple last updated its entry level MacBook line in October of 2009, giving the US$999 machine a polycarbonate unibody design, LED-backlit display, multi-touch trackpad, and built-in battery with 7 hours of run time.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

MacBook owners report continued freezes with hard drives, workarounds offered

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Date: Tuesday, May 4th, 2010, 04:49
Category: hard drive, MacBook


For a while now, assorted MacBook owners have noticed an intermittent 30-second freeze on their notebooks. Per CNET, this has usually been accompanied by a small clicking sound, indicating a problem with the hard drive. Apple addressed this issue by releasing a hard drive firmware update, but it appears similar problems are persisting.

Over on the Apple Discussion Board, a number of users are still complaining of random freezing in their MacBooks. Unfortunately there does not seem to be much of a unifying theme to the freezes. Previously, the problem would happen for a 30-second interval and then unfreeze; however, currently some systems are not unfreezing, and others are showing more erratic pauses.

While another firmware fix may be in order, the following tips have been offered regarding the issue:

“Boot into Safe Mode:
Doing this will prevent any third-party extensions or applications (i.e., hardware or network monitoring utilities) from launching at bootup, which may be contributing to the problem, especially if they’re not fully compatible with the most recent OS update.

Troubleshoot applications and user settings:
Along with Safe Mode (especially if Safe Mode shows promising results), you can test your software setup by quitting or removing various applications you have installed. A number of people have had issues with various programs, including those that synchronize with network resources (i.e., Mail managing a corrupt RSS feed, or the third-party TextExpander tool having problems with MobileMe).

Application-specific problems may be from problems with your user account, so try creating a new one, logging in with it, and testing the various programs you use. If the problem continues then your account’s settings are not to blame, and it’s likely a reinstallation of the application will help. Specific applications to look for include those that run in the menu bar (called “Menu Extras”) and system or application add-ons such as Internet plug-ins, audio-units, and system “haxies”.

Run a SMART checker:
Apple’s Disk Utility will check the SMART status of internal drives (seen at the bottom of the window with the drive device selected); however, I recommend you use another utility as well. The SMART measurements that each utility reads can vary, so using another one may help. Ones that can at regularly or continuously check the SMART stats such as SMARTReporter or SMART Utility may be particularly beneficial for monitoring changes when the hangs occur.

Run general maintenance:
Clearing system caches and running maintenance scripts may help these situations, so try using a cleaning application such as OnyX, Yasu, Cocktail, or [Snow] Leopard Cache Cleaner (among others) to run these routines. Additionally, you may consider reapplying the latest “Combo” updater for your OS version, which can be searched for and downloaded from Apple’s support site. Run these maintenance routines and the combo installer after booting into Safe Mode to ensure minimal interference when they are running.

Along with clearing caches, perform both a PRAM reset and SMC reset to ensure hardware controllers are using proper settings.

Downgrade or reinstall:
Some users have had success either by downgrading to a previous version of OS X, or by reinstalling the system altogether. First make sure you have a full backup of your system (cloning, or with Time Machine), and then boot off the installation DVD. Try a standard installation to perform a default “Archive and Install”, and if that does not work, first run Disk Utility to fully partition and reformat the hard drive before running the installer. Then use Migration Assistant to restore your files and settings from the backup. With a fresh copy of OS X installed, run the latest “Combo” system updater for the desired version of OS X.

If these do not help either fix or indicate the root of the problem, you can further test your hardware setup in the following ways:

Remove all peripheral devices:
Either conflicts between devices, or the inability to power all devices connected to your system may be a reason for pauses and slow-downs. To troubleshoot, just disconnect them all (printers and USB hubs included) and reboot your system. If this shows improvement, try reconnecting them one at a time to test each, and then try alternate ways of connecting them to your system (use as little daisy-chaining as possible).

Boot off an external drive:
If you have an external hard drive handy, try installing your OS to it and booting off of it. It would be preferable to use a system cloning utility such as Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper and do a block-level clone since this will preserve your current OS installation and software setup as much as possible. Boot to the drive (hold the “Option” key at startup to get to the boot menu) and see if that shows similar pausing behaviors. When doing this, use Disk Utility to fully unmount the internal drive so the system does not interact with it. If the pauses do not persist, then your internal drive may be faulty, or there may be incompatibilities between it and the system’s firmware.

Change the internal drive:
Pending the results of testing your drive by booting off an external one, you may have to replace your internal drive. While Apple updated the hard drive firmware for the initial freezing problem with MacBook computers, there is no telling whether Apple will do this again. Your best bet in the event of a hardware malfunction or incompatibility would probably be to make a clone of your drive (make two for extra precaution) and then replace the drive and clone your data back.”

If you’ve seen this issue on your end or found your own fix or workaround, 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


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.