Apple releases fifth Mac OS X 10.6.7 beta to developer community, directs focus to Safari

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Date: Friday, February 18th, 2011, 05:08
Category: News, Software

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This week, Apple issued the fifth beta of Mac OS X 10.6.7 on Thursday, directing developers to focus on Safari.

Per AppleInsider, build 10J858 was released as a 1008.8MB combo update and a 434.4MB delta update. According to people familiar with the beta, the update was released with no known issues as usual, though the Safari web browser has been added to the list of Focus Areas.

In addition to Safari, Apple has asked developers to look into the Mac App Store, Airport, Bonjour, SMB and Graphics Drivers.

Apple seeded the first beta of Mac OS X 10.6.7 on Jan. 20, just weeks after releasing Mac OS X 10.6.6 and the Mac App Store. The most recent build came a week ago on Feb. 10.

Mac OS X 10.6.7 is expected to have only minor fixes and few new features, as Apple plans to release a major operating system upgrade, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, this summer. Lion will incorporate features such as a home screen and full-screen applications from the Apple’s iOS back to the Mac.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on the new beta or have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

VirtualBox updated to 4.0.4

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Date: Friday, February 18th, 2011, 04:44
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.0.4. The new version, a 80.6 megabyte download, sports a list of fixes and changes that can be found here.

VirtualBox 4.0.4 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

Apple exploring technique for dense lithium battery cell creation

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 10:27
Category: battery, News, Patents

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It’s a good day for patent stuff and that counts for something.

According to AppleInsider, Apple is investigating techniques to increase the energy capacity of rechargeable lithium battery cells without increasing the size of the battery, allowing longer battery life in future devices.

The proposed invention is detailed in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. The filing, titled “Increasing Energy Density in Rechargeable Lithium Battery Cells,” describes charging a battery using a “multi-step constant-current constant-voltage (CC-CV) charging technique.”

The CC-CV charging technique would allow the thickness of the anode active material inside a battery cell to be increased in both “volumetric and gravimetric energy density.” But while the density of the power capacity would be increased, the size of the battery, as well as its maximum charging time and minimum life cycle, would remain unchanged.

Apple’s application notes that the conventional method for increasing the battery capacity, or ampere-hour (mAh), of a lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery involves increasing the lengths of the anode and cathode current collectors, as well as their coating materials But increasing the area of current collectors results in lower volumetric energy density, and results in a larger battery.

“What is needed is a technique for increasing the energy capacity of a rechargeable lithium battery without increasing the size of the battery sell,” the filing states.

Apple’s application notes that the company intends to make battery cells smaller, allowing the “limited space available in portable electronic devices to be used more efficiently.” The company noted it could use the space savings to add more features, or more battery capacity.

But one issue with employing the multi-step CC-CV charging technique is battery life can be significantly decreased depending on temperature. For example, using the same current-charge density at 10 degrees celsius will lower the cycle life “substantially” when compared to a higher temperature such as 45 degrees.

In addition, current-charge densities further reduce the battery’s cycle life if it is at a higher state of charge, between 70 percent and 100 percent.

Apple’s solution would reduce the charge currents for a mobile device when its battery is at a higher state of charge, or a lower temperature. This would avoid degradation in the cycle life of the battery, and potentially even increase it, without any required change in battery chemistry.

The multi-step charging technique would be compatible with the new battery design and would increase battery life by dynamically adjusting the rate of charge when the battery is at different states of charge, or different temperatures.

The patent application was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Aug. 22, 2009. It is credited to Ramesh C. Bhardwaj and Taisup Hwang.

Apple patent suggests combined MagSafe power connector/data connector technology

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 06:08
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Patents

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Ok, this could be useful.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week published a new patent application from Apple named “Magnetic Connector with Optical Signal Path.” Discovered by AppleInsider, the document describes a single cable that would provide both power and data to a mobile device, like a MacBook Pro, using a single cable.

Like Apple’s existing, patented MagSafe adapters, the new cable would allow for “easy disengagement” due to the use of magnets to attach and properly secure the cable.

The application notes that there are two major needs the portable computers must satisfy if the notebook is to serve as a proper desktop replacement. The first is the need for a power source, since modern batteries often cannot get through an entire workday, while the second is the ability to transfer data over a physical connection.

“Presently, satisfying these two requires at least two connections to the mobile device; one for power and one for data transmission,” the application reads. “But including two (or more) connectors increases cost and consume space, typically along the side of the mobile device. It also requires the user to make two separate connections, thus limiting the usefulness and desirability of the mobile computing format.”

Apple’s filing also notes that the use of two cables can clutter a user’s workspace and degrade the mobile computing experience. More cables also increase the likelihood of a user tripping over one and potentially damaging their computer.

“Thus, what is needed are circuits, apparatus, and methods that provide a power and data transfer system that can supply both power and data to a laptop or other mobile computing device,” the application states.

The application suggests the presence of a fiber optic line inside a connector that looks much like the existing MagSafe power connector found on its line of MacBooks. But it would include additional “pins” inside the connector to allow data transfer for multiple types of inputs.

Potential input methods listed by Apple include USB, fiber-optic, local area networking (LAN) cables, DVI video, and DisplayPort. Corresponding connectors for these devices would be included on the power and data adapter.

In addition, Apple’s proposed invention would allow separate external devices to communicate with one another via the power and data adapter. For example, two or more USB devices could communicate with each other and transfer data between one another over the adapter.

Like a similar patent awarded to Apple last fall, the application revealed this week could offer a glimpse into the company’s potential plans with Intel’s high-speed Light Peak optical cable technology. Intel aims to offer mobile devices bandwidth of 10Gbps, scaling up to 100GBps over the next decade, with its next-generation cable.

Apple has shown great interest in Light Peak and has been “pushing” the chipmaker to bring it to market. Light Peak would allow Apple to roll networking, display, and peripheral cables all into one master cable, much like is described in the latest patent application.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.6, adds support for new camera formats

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 05:53
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple posted its Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.6, an update designed to extend RAW image compatibility for the Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’09 applications.

The update, a 6.4 megabyte download, adds support for the following cameras:
- Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D / Kiss X50

- Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D / Kiss X5

- Olympus E-5

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100

- Pentax K-r

- Pentax K-5

It also addresses processing issues for the following cameras:
- Nikon D7000

- Nikon COOLPIX P7000

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

The update requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and is also available via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new Digital Camera update and noticed any changes, please let us know how it went.

Apple apparently unaffected by Sandy Bridge chipset bug, boosts notebook component orders

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Date: Wednesday, February 16th, 2011, 06:59
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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In spite of much hubbub surrounding the error in Intel’s Sandy Bridge chipset, emerging evidence suggests that Apple has been largely unaffected by the gaffe.

Per DigiTimes, Apple’s notebook shipments are expected to “remain strong” in the first quarter of 2011. It noted that retail channel vendors indicated a widely publicized design flaw in the chipset accompanying Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors “did not impact” Apple, and the company is expected to increase orders.

Apple was reportedly aided by the fact that it is slower in upgrading its products to the latest platform. The report said that Apple is still using Intel’s Calpella chips for “most” of its current models, allowing it to “completely” avoid the impact.

“The sources pointed out that because Apple’s products have high (average selling prices), even if the company is slow in upgrading its products to the latest platform, it will not see a significant impact on its pricing or gross margins,” the report said.

“However, for Hewlett-Packard (HP), Acer and Dell, which heavily depend on their economic scale, the new platform will help raise their ASPs and therefore, these makers will try to launch notebooks with new platforms as early as possible.”

Intel disclosed earlier this month that it discovered an error in its series 6 chipsets, dubbed Cougar Point, which causes the performance of serial ATA ports numbered 2 through 5 to degrade over time in extreme conditions. The issue applies to both mobile and desktop processors, and does not affect SATA ports 0 and 1.

Just a week after the error was revealed, Intel announced that it had resumed shipment of chipsets for Sandy Bridge-powered PC system configurations not impacted by the design flaw. The company also said the new, fixed version of its support chip would begin shipping for systems that relied on SATA ports 2 through 5 in mid-February. In addition, the company confirmed it will meet its deadline to begin shipping dual-core Sandy Bridge chips on Feb. 20.

Hopefully this’ll lead to something nifty in the next revision of Apple’s notebooks and we’ll keep you informed as details emerge.

Apple releases iWeb 3.0.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, February 16th, 2011, 05:27
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Apple released iWeb 3.0.3, the latest update to its WYSIWYG web content generation tool and part of iLife ’09.

The update, a 177 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Addresses an issue when using the iSight Movie widget on certain Macs.

- Addresses an issue publishing iWeb sites using FTP .

- Improves compatibility with Mac OS X.

iWeb 3.0.3 requires a Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new update (as opposed to the previous crashtastic version) and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Rare Apple customer survey sparks hopes for 3G in next-gen MacBook Air

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Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 05:06
Category: MacBook Air, News

This could be interesting.

Apple, which typically relies on its own in-house research as opposed to customer feedback, began reaching out to select MacBook Air owners this week in a new survey that could help define future versions of the diminutive notebook, posing questions on 3G, data syncing, I/O usage, and the desire for models with more capable computing power.

Per AppleInsider, the wide-ranging survey touches on a number of issues, including the use of USB ports and external disc drives, Web-based file storage and syncing, and use of certain function keys on the keyboard. It also includes a number of queries related to wireless 3G data connectivity, suggesting Apple could be exploring integrated cellular radios in future notebooks.

Official Apple customer surveys on products are not unheard of, though they are rare. The last survey AppleInsider can recall was conducted back in February 2009 to help shape the future of the Apple TV, and that was related to the company’s self-proclaimed “hobby” that was a work-in-progress.

In addition to future MacBook Air models, the new survey could offer a glimpse into Apple’s plans for the MacBook Pro line of notebooks. When the new MacBook Air was released last October, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said the thin-and-light computer is “the first of a new generation of notebooks.”

Interestingly, the survey asks users whether they have connected their MacBook Air to a 3G network, how often they do so, where they connect to 3G, what type of device they use to connect to a 3G network (MiFi, USB device, or tethering with a cell phone).

Though the redesigned MacBook Air launched in late 2010, rumors of its successor have already begun to surface. Last week, it was said that Apple allegedly plans to upgrade its line of thin-and-light notebooks to Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors this June. No claims were made about 3G connectivity.

Rumors of a 3G-capable Mac have persisted for years, but the company does not yet sell a notebook with an integrated cellular data radio. Apple even sought to hire a 3G expert for its Mac team in 2009, fueling those rumors that the functionality would be added to a future MacBook.

So, it’s hard to say how much attention to pay to this, but it is sort of interesting and could lead to something cool. If you’ve seen this survey on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Samsung may supply advanced display for iPad 2 tablet

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Date: Monday, February 14th, 2011, 05:41
Category: iPad, News

The iPad 2, it could smack of the niftiness.

Per the Korea Times, the second-generation ipad could trade its “In-Plane Switching” (IPS) display for a new “Super Plane to Line Switching” (PLS) display for improved viewing angles.

Citing industry sources, the report from The Korea Times claims that Samsung Mobile Display will supply LCD panels for Apple’s anticipated “iPad 2.” Apple currently buys LCD panels from a number of companies, including LG Display and others, but that is “expected to change because of the LCD panel’s unit price,” the report said.

Last November, Samsung first unveiled its new “Super PLS” displays, and the panels have reportedly gained the attention of Apple. The report said that Apple has shown interest in Super PLS LCDs, which are geared toward smartphones and tablets, and allow for even more improved viewing angles than the IPS display found in the first-generation iPad.

However, the report stopped short of stating that Apple is interested in using a Super PLS display in its second-generation touchscreen tablet. It only said that Apple has shown interest in the new technology.

The second-generation iPad display, widely expected to be released in the coming months, has been the subject of a great deal of discussions as rumors about the still-unannounced device grow. In January it was suggested that Apple could quadruple the pixels from the current iPad to a 2,048-by-1,536 display, giving the device a “Retina Display” like the iPhone 4.

But other reports have cast doubt on those rumors, suggesting that the power required to run a display at that high of a resolution would result in too poor a battery life for the device. It has been suggested that the next-generation iPad will instead retain its 1,024-by-768-pixel resolution.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Source claims that Apple MacBook Pro delay from Intel chip bug probably minimal

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Date: Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 05:10
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Following up on a widely publicized chip design error on Intel’s part has disrupted Apple’s plans for its next-generation MacBook Pro models, but the impact will be largely immaterial to both the company’s bottom line and its customers according to a source.

Per AppleInsider, Intel said late last month that a design flaw in all of its 6 Series Cougar Point chipsets — due to support new Sandy Bridge Core processors bound for mainstream notebooks and desktops like Apple’s MacBook Pro and iMacs — would delay volume launches of those chips due to a lapse in production while it corrected the glitch.

The impact on Apple due to the setback hasn’t been immediately clear. However, one source has stated that some of the company’s upcoming MacBook Pros were affected by the situation. According to the source, Apple elected to make minor tweaks to the logic boards of those models, but that those changes would translate to a delay of less than two weeks.

Reading between the lines can only lead to speculation that Apple was an early recipient of some of those Cougar Point chipsets from Intel, and that the changes it’s making involve tweaks to SATA ports that those MacBook Pros will utilize.

Those chipsets offer support for a total of six SATA ports, but Intel acknowledged the only problem with the chips was the potential for four of those ports — 2 through 5 — to “degrade over time, potentially impacting the performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD-drives.”

However, an Intel spokesperson confirmed that that the problem does not affect SATA ports 0 or 1, so any system builders that received those parts would be clear to ship those chips in systems that utilize only ports 0 or 1. For its part, Apple makes use of only two SATA ports in its current MacBook Pros, according to iFixit teardown specialist Kyle Wiens, and has no reason to require more going forward.

“There are two connections on the board — one for optical drive, and one for HDD,” he said. “The other internal devices (trackpad, keyboard, SD card reader, etc.) use USB.”

In total, Intel said it shipped roughly 8 million of the Cougar Point chipsets to system manufacturers before it discovered the error but that “relatively few consumers” were impacted by this issue because the only systems that actually made it into end consumers hands’ were those based on its new Sandy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 quad core processors for desktop systems. The rest of the chips — presumably some of which went to Apple — hadn’t yet been built into systems available to consumers.

As such, the launch window for Apple’s new MacBook Pros, which have been rumored to “feature a slight change in chassis design” and speculated to employ the Sandy Bridge Core processors listed in the chart below, remains hazy. Still, evidence from those familiar with the matter and checks within the company’s supply chain suggest a period sooner than later — likely between late February and early April for volume shipments.

Apple as early as last month began drawing down inventories of its lower volume MacBook Pros, namely the 17-inch model, in anticipation of the transition. For instance, some of the company’s largest resellers including Amazon direct, MacMall and J&R Computer World (1,2,3) have long run dry of this model. And just this week, MacConnection and MacMall appear to have run into trouble securing more of the two high-end 15-inch models (1,2,3,4), which are now both out of stock.

People familiar with the buy side of operations for big box retailers like Amazon and Best Buy say Apple initially offered restocking dates of late January for those MacBook Pros but then missed those dates and pushed them out a week late. This trend has continued for the past two weeks, where a restocking date is supplied, only to be missed and rescheduled.

According to those same people, such anomalies in Apple’s Mac supply chain only manifest in the face of a significant production problem or on the cusp of major product line refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.