O'Grady's PowerPage » MacBook

Notebook Users Report Battery Errors Under Snow Leopard, Workarounds/Fixes Suggested

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 7th, 2010, 06:43
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

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Since installing it, I have to admit that I like Snow Leopard and it has yet to kick my pets or burn my apartment to the very ground.

These are good things.

Even so, per CNET, a large number of MacBook and MacBook Pro owners have noticed a problem with the computer frequently displaying a “Service Battery” warning in the battery system menu. This also seems to be coupled with relatively short battery life, either with the battery discharging rapidly or with the computer going to sleep but still reporting high percentage of charge left in the battery. As of the Mac OS 10.6.2 update, affected users are still experiencing the problem.

This problem appears to be an issue with Snow Leopard’s handling of the battery hardware, where the services that are supposed to detect battery problems are incorrectly reporting the battery status, and subsequently triggering the system to go into a precautionary sleep mode or claiming the battery is draining. This theory is backed up by the fact that affected people who have downgraded back to Leopard either by reinstalling, restoring from backup, or even booting off the 10.5 Leopard DVD have not had the problem occur on the same hardware.

A recent TUAW article suggests this behavior stems from Snow Leopard being fine-tuned to reveal existing battery problems that Leopard was not aware of. While this may be the case for some people, the sheer number of people reporting the problem indicates there may be errors in the software. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to discern those with pre-existing battery problems from those with healthy batteries.

In order to address the issue, the article offers the following tips to help sort things out via the mighty Apple Knowledge Base:

Calibrating the battery

Resetting the PRAM

Resetting the SMC

Strangely, the battery issues have cleared for a few users who have just shut down and restarted their systems on a regular basis. While keeping the power supply plugged in to prevent any issued with the battery, they’ve turned off the machine and rebooted to see the battery being normally recognized. This suggests the problem may be with a setting more than a specific bug, that hopefully can be reset by a full restart. MacBook owners may tend to sleep their systems instead of restarting them, which will keep various settings from being refreshed.

Further supporting the claim of software issues in Snow Leopard is that some users have cleared the problem by booting into 64-bit mode. If you do not have any software that requires a 32-bit kernel and system extensions, try booting into 64-bit mode by restarting and holding down the “6” and “4” keys simultaneously. For some the problem has returned when booted back into 32-bit mode, but for others the switch to 64-bit mode has fixed it even when booted into 32-bit mode.

Another suggestion to address this problem is to remove the power management system preferences, which contains parameters that determine how the system will behave when running on either AC power, battery, or a UPS. This file is called “com.apple.PowerManagement.plist” and is located in the /Macintosh HD/Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/ folder, and can be removed without harming anything. This isn’t a fix, however, and those who have done this have found it only seems to temporarily remove the warning in the battery system menu, and does not address the underlying issue.

Lastly, the issue may lie with the upgrade process itself, where settings for Leopard are not working with Snow Leopard. The temporary successes with removal of the Power Management property list suggests this may be a possibility. As a result, try booting off a clean OS installation of Snow Leopard to test the hardware.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end of have found a fix or workaround of your own, please let us know.

Apple Offers Additional Education Store Discount, Brings MacBook Prices to Below $800 in Some Cases

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 30th, 2009, 05:09
Category: MacBook, retail

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Sometimes there’s a decent deal to be had if you look for it.

According to MacNN, Apple has offered an educational discount on the current MacBook, dropping the price below US$899. Apple recently dropped the standard educational price by $50, on top of a previous price below the $999 retail cost via its educational store. At at least one school-specific Apple storefront however, the cost has been lowered to US$728. Shipping remains free.

The impetus for the price cuts remains unclear, though it seems likely that Apple just wants to clear out its holiday stock. Apple also sells to most of its educational customers in the run up to September, when many schools begin classes.

The company’s usual “Back to School” promotion offers money towards an iPod when buying a new Mac.

Etsy: Now Selling MacBook, MacBook Pro Vinyl Decals for Cheap

Posted by:
Date: Monday, December 28th, 2009, 08:12
Category: Fun, MacBook, MacBook Pro

You love your MacBook or MacBook Pro, but sometimes there’s the feeling that it could be a little cooler looking. The guys at The Unofficial Apple Weblog have completed a quick roundup of custom vinyl decals for your road machine.

The cool cats contributing to Etsy seem to have their work cut out for them, the company making a wide assortment of decals for as little as US$10 before shipping and handling.

Take a gander and if I can’t sell you on them, maybe Yoshi can:

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Airport Security Destroys Woman’s MacBook, Offers to Make Amends

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, December 15th, 2009, 06:03
Category: MacBook

If I ever thought the TSA people were knuckleheads, they’ve just been put to shame.

Engadget has the story of overzealous Israeli airport security officers stopping American attorney Lily Sussman, asking her a volley of questions, taking issue with her answers and placing six bullets into her MacBook before allowing her into the country. The full course of the event is described over on her blog and the young lady has been offered compensation, though this leads to one central point: back up your data.

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If you have any similar airport security horror stories of your own, please let us know.

Apple Releases SuperDrive 3.0 Firmware Update

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 9th, 2009, 08:20
Category: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook, Software

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Amid its slew of updates, Apple also released its SuperDrive 3.0 firmware update. The update, an 18.4 megabyte download, helps eliminate the noise made by the optical disk drive during system startup and wake from sleep on your Mac. The update applies to some MacBooks, the iMac and the Mac Mini and requires Mac OS X 10.5.7 to install and run.

The SuperDrive 3.0 update can be located and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires Mac OS X 10.5.7 or later to install and run.

Apple Releases Firmware Updates for MacBook, MacBook Pro

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 9th, 2009, 07:36
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, Software

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Late Tuesday, Apple released its MacBook EFI Firmware Update 1.4 for its MacBook notebook. The update, a 3.1 megabyte download, eliminates the noise made by the optical disk drive during system startup and wake from sleep on MacBook computers.

The company also released its MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.8 for some MacBook Pro models. The update, a 3.4 megabyte download, also eliminates the noise made by the optical drive during startup and emerging from sleep.

Both updates can be snagged via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.5.7 or later to install and run.

Apple Posts Tips for Sudden Motion Sensor, Trackpad Use on Recent MacBooks

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, December 1st, 2009, 05:04
Category: MacBook

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Apple has recently updated a couple of its knowledge base articles which may prove useful for MacBook notebook owners. Per CNET, the articles cover how to enable and disable the built-in sudden motion sensor in MacBook and PowerBook computers, and also how to use the glass multi-touch track pad.

Advanced tips for Sudden Motion Sensor:
Apple included sudden motion sensor technology in PowerBook and MacBook computers to protect components such as hard drives when the computer is moved. Additionally, there are some third-party security programs that interface with the sensors, which will alarm when enabled if the computer is moved. Despite the conveniences, there are situations where the sensor may be inadvertently activated, causing the hard drive to repeatedly pause while it parks the drive heads. This KB article covers how to disable it in various MacBook and PowerBook models in various versions of OS X.

Using the Multi-Touch trackpad (Video).

Tips for using the Multi-Touch trackpad:
The multi-touch trackpads in Apple’s MacBooks are built to be intuitive; however, some new users inconvenience themselves by not using the trackpads properly by clicking with all fingers, or developing awkward two-hand methods for doing routine tasks. These articles cover the details on the trackpads, and how to best position your fingers when using them.

It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it should be useful and if you or if a friend or family member snags a new MacBook this holiday season, give the links a gander.

Some MacBook, MacBook Pro Users Report Overheating Under Snow Leopard

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, November 4th, 2009, 04:30
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro

A number of MacBook and MacBook Pro users are reporting that their systems running inordinately hot after upgrading to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, causing their fans to work exceptionally loud. According to CNET, users in this thread on the Apple Support Discussions forums focus the issue primarily on MacBook Pros, though some scattered entries from MacBook owners suggest the issues may be noticed in many of Apple’s notebooks.

Users’ machines tend to run extremely hot, causing the fans to cycle at a high rate and deplete battery power at an accelerated clip. ASD forum user “Ryan83” reports:

“Fans running constantly at 6000 RPM without any program running – – just letting it idle or running solely iTunes. iPhoto 09 unusable – – when you edit in full screen – – the screen shows colored artifacts all over. Internet has been very spotty and misbehaves.”

Similar symptoms are reported by many of the thread contributors. Typically, CPU usage will spike when users do media-heavy actions with their systems, such as editing photos with Photoshop, cutting movies with Final Cut Pro, or watching media online at sites like YouTube or Hulu. Some users suggest that it could be a hardware issue with the actual fans, though this is unlikely (at least at first). Because most users report the problem after their upgrade to Snow Leopard, chances are it is a software issue. If left unattended, the problem could eventually lead to the fans, logic board, or other hardware becoming corrupt.

Some things to check :
– Be sure all your programs are Snow Leopard compatible. Several users reported that updating the notification utility, Growl, to the Snow Leopard ready version, 1.2, solved their overheating issues. Users should open Activity Monitor (Applications > Utilities) and take a look at any background processes that may be running. If any of those programs are not Snow Leopard compatible, they could be causing the excessive CPU usage and heat production.

– When in doubt, especially if you are under AppleCare, taking your machine to an AppleCare Authorized Technician or an Apple Store is a good idea. You will want to avoid any future damage to your hardware as soon as possible. Keep in mind that a solution may involve reinstalling Snow Leopard. Be sure you have a stable and current backup of all your important data. As we have mentioned in recent articles, the 10.6.2 update for Snow Leopard is expected very soon and includes (based on information from beta releases) a myriad of fixes that may include a solution to the overheating issue. When the update is made available, drop by MacFixIt to get a rundown of all the included fixes.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end or found a workaround or fix of your own, please let us know in the comments.

Current Version of Boot Camp Will Lack Support for Windows 7 on Some 2006 Mac Models

Posted by:
Date: Friday, October 23rd, 2009, 03:24
Category: iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Software

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In a recent memo to retail partners, Apple has announced that it will deliver support for Windows 7 in Mac OS X Snow Leopard’s Boot Camp utility by the end of the year via a software update, but exclude support for some Macs sold in 2006. Per AppleInsider, the drivers provide native support for Mac-specific hardware under Windows, such as a backlit keyboard, built-in iSight camera, trackpad, Bluetooth, graphics, networking, audio, and so on. Snow Leopard’s Boot Camp 3.0 also installs read-only HFS+ support for viewing Mac volumes under Windows.

According to the announcement, a series of Mac models “will not be supported for use with Windows 7 using Boot Camp,” specifically:

– iMac (17″, Early 2006)

– iMac (17″, Late 2006)

– iMac (20″, Early 2006)

– iMac (20″, Late 2006)

– MacBook Pro (15″, Early 2006)

– MacBook Pro (17″, Late 2006)

– MacBook Pro (15″, Late 2006)

– MacBook Pro (17″, Early 2006)

– Mac Pro (Mid 2006, Intel Xeon Dual-core 2.66GHz or 3GHz)

The reason for not officially supporting these models has not yet been officially stated. Because of how Boot Camp works, the only reason specific Mac models would not be supported is because compatible drivers are not available. This would not prevent Windows 7 from being installed on these machines, but could result in certain devices not working as expected while running Windows.

Third party drivers for the unsupported devices (if they exist) could solve any issues, and Windows 7 may offer to install drivers for devices it recognizes but does not have built in support for; it may even identify and download the drivers automatically.

Of the unsupported machines in the supplied list, the Early 2006 iMacs and MacBook Pro models have 32-bit Core Duo CPUs, but the other models specified feature 64-bit Core 2 Duos or Xeon processors, and no other 32-bit Macs (MacBooks, mini) are excluded. Apple has yet to release any comments about providing support for the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 only, so the support issue does not appear to have anything to do with these models’ CPU or firmware.

The only other common thread between these machines is that they all originally shipped with either no or disabled support for 802.11n wireless networking. However, late 2006 MacBooks also shipped with disabled support for 802.11n, and no Mac minis supported 802.11n until 2009, so this does not appear to be a factor either.

Apple is expected to clarify the issue when it releases the Windows 7 driver update for Boot Camp users.

iFixIt Posts Teardown Gallery, Video for White Unibody MacBook

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, October 22nd, 2009, 05:17
Category: Hardware, MacBook

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On Tuesday, the ultimate nerds over at iFixIt published a full teardown gallery of Apple’s new white unibody MacBook laptop that is in turn replacing the low-end US$999 white polycarbonate MacBook notebook.

Some of the major changes include:

– Polycarbonate unibody construction.

– Display featuring LED backlighting.

– A multi-touch glass trackpad.

– Integrated battery.

– No more FireWire or IR port.

– No external battery indicator.

– No Mini-DVI port, replaced by a Mini DisplayPort.

iFixit has highlighted several interesting aspects of the new design:

-The new battery is only 5 more watt-hours than the previous version’s yet it adds two hours of run time, meaning the machine is markedly more efficient.

-The battery is actually lighter than the older model.

-Unlike the earlier model, AirPort and Bluetooth share the same board, and all three antenna cables route into the display, meaning a possible improvement in Bluetooth range.

-The MacBook has exactly the same GPU and CPU as the baseline 13″ MacBook Pro.

Since a picture’s worth quite a few words, take a gander at the video:



Head on over, take a gander and if you pick up a new unit for yourself, let us know what you think of it in the comments.