DDR3 DRAM prices drop to all-time low

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:59
Category: Hardware, News

If you were looking to upgrade your RAM, there’s literally never been a better time for it.

Per Macworld, prices of DDR3 DRAM memory used in notebooks and desktops have dipped to an all-time low of around US$1, and will continue to fall, which could help PC makers pack more memory into computers, analysts said.

Average prices for predominant 2Gb (gigabit) DDR3 DRAM die hit the US$1 mark during the first quarter, which is a massive drop from the average price of roughly US$2.25 for the same memory in the first quarter last year, according to research firm iSuppli. A 4GB (gigabyte) DRAM module was priced between US$18 and US$20 at the end of 2011, a precipitous drop from $40 at the end of 2010.

The price of a 2Gb DRAM chip was between 82 cents and 95 cents on Wednesday, according to DRAMExchange, a website that tracks daily memory pricing.

The drop in memory prices is a continuation of a trend from last year, analysts said. A shortfall in PC demand hurt memory pricing last year, but memory makers are still moving excess inventory into the market rapidly, which has contributed to the continued price drop.

“We’re at a historical all-time low, yes,” said Mike Howard, senior principal analyst at IHS iSuppli. “It costs Dell and Hewlett-Packard less now than a year ago to put the same amount of memory in the PC.”

Instead of packing more memory, some PC makers have opted to load the same amount of memory in PCs to cover the rising cost of other components. Dell earlier this week said it was using the favorable memory and LCD pricing environment to offset the rising prices of hard drives, which were in short supply due to the floods in Thailand last year.

The DRAM industry fundamentals are weak, but memory makers are taking corrective action to balance supply and demand, iSuppli’s Howard said. Some of the existing manufacturing capacity is coming offline to reduce output, but the prices could continue to fall as long as the cost of making memory drops.

The pricing will continue to fall through the second quarter, said Shane Rau, research director at IDC.

“The issue is huge oversupply in the first and second quarter of 2012 and the resulting pricing competition among suppliers,” Rau said.

The DRAM market initially fell apart at the end of 2008 after the economic downturn prompted DRAM makers to reduce memory output. However, production went up the following year as PC demand recovered with the active refresh cycle and the release of the 64-bit version of Windows 7 in 2009, which allowed for a higher memory ceiling.

But PC shipments slowed down again in the second half of 2010 with growing demand for tablets and smartphones, which rely on different memory types such as low-power DDR and nonvolatile NAND flash memory. Some chip makers have now changed business models and are increasing focus on memory for tablets and smartphones.

Stay tuned for additional details.

In other news, I recently upgraded my 2011 MacBook Pro’s RAM to 16 gigabytes…and the ladies still haven’t really noticed.

Apple patent shows effort to develop thinner keyboards

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:51
Category: News, Patents


Remember your Apple keyboard?

It might just be about to go through a training montage and get thinner in the process.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple may be looking to make its notebook computers and keyboard accessories even thinner and lighter with a brand new take on the classic input method.

Apple’s interest in reinventing the keyboard was revealed in a new patent application entitled “Single Support Lever Keyboard Mechanism,” it describes a handful of ways that a keyboard could be shrunk in size without affecting its performance.

In the filing, Apple notes that the size of existing keyboards presents a challenge for the company as it attempts to design thinner, lighter and more attractive devices.

“It would be beneficial to provide a keyboard for a portable computing device that is aesthetically pleasing, yet still provides the stability for each key that users desire,” the application reads. “It would also be beneficial to provide methods for manufacturing the keyboard having an especially aesthetic design as well as functionality for the portable computing device.”

One of the most common keyboard types is the “dome switch,” in which the key pushes down on a rubber dome located beneath the key. Other types of keyboards include capacitive, mechanical switch, Hall-effect, membrane, and roll-up, and each offer their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of two important categories: response (positive feedback that the key has been pressed) and travel (the distance needed to push the key).

Apple’s solution is a single support lever keyboard mechanism, which the proposed invention says would allow the keyboard cap to be formed of almost any material, but would also provide stability to each key.

The application notes that the material chosen for the key caps is very important, not only for the appearance of the keyboard but also how it feels on users’ fingers. The application includes a number of potential off-the-wall materials that could be used, like glass, wood, stone, and even “polished meteorite.”

Regardless of the material, Apple’s keyboard key caps would be held in place by a rigid support lever. With its design, the keys could have a total travel range of as little as 0.2 millimeters.

In another method, Apple describes a support lever holding the key cap that would be made of a flexible material. This support lever could be made of spring steel that could allow good tactile feedback to the user when they are typing.

The key cap and support lever would have an “elastomeric spacer” between them and a metal dome positioned below. The spacer would be made of a material such as rubber or silicone that would “provide a desirable and distinctive feel to the user when pressed,” in addition to reducing rattling on the keyboard.

“The advantages of the invention are numerous,” the filing states, adding: “One advantage of the invention is that a low-travel keyboard may be provided for a thin-profile computing device without compromising the tactile feel of the keyboard.”

The filing, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed by Apple in August of 2010. It is credited to Patrick Kessier, Bradley Hamel, and James J. Niu.

Cool stuff if it happens and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Tipsters reveal hints as to why AMD “Llano” processor never came to MacBook Air notebook

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:34
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Processors

If you wondered as to where the next-gen AMD processors might be on your MacBook Air, there’s a reason for that too.

According to Forbes, former AMD employees revealed that Apple gave its “Llano” chip a “close look” for a new MacBook Air model last year, but ultimately decided not to go with the processor because too many of its parts were faulty.

AMD has been through several reinventions in recent years in a quest to find a niche to call its own. The company was an early competitor to chip giant Intel, but it has struggled to keep up pace with its rival as of late.

Brian Caulfield reports that new “fusion” processors from AMD had a shot at upstaging Intel by making their way into Apple’s popular MacBook Air notebook for last year’s refresh. People familiar with the matter indicated that Apple had given the “Llano” processor, which combined the CPU and GPU into one part, serious consideration for use in its thin-and-light portable.

However, a former employee indicated that AMD was unable to get early working samples of the chip to Apple on time, though tipsters disagreed on exactly how close the company was to delivering the chip, with one claiming that AMD “had it.” According to the report, too many of the parts ended up being faulty and AMD lost the deal.

Sources also said AMD had proposed a low-power processor named “Brazos” for a revamp of the Apple TV box, but Apple declined to go with the option. “Brazos” went on to make inroads in the netbook industry and reportedly kept the company afloat.

“If Brazos had been killed, AMD wouldn’t be in business,” one former employee said.

A separate report from late last year also claimed that Apple had considered the AMD “Llano” option “plan A” for its MacBook Air, but AMD was said to have “dropped the ball” at the last minute.

Apple released the Thunderbolt MacBook Air last July with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors powering the notebooks. The machines became an instant success and reportedly jumped to 28 percent of the company’s notebook shipments just months after they were released.

SanDisk claims world’s smallest 128-gigabit flash chip

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Date: Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012, 08:37
Category: Hardware, News

It may not change the world today, but it could lead to some pretty cool stuff.

Per Electronista, electronics maker SanDisk set a record today after the company claimed to have the world’s smallest 128-gigabit (16GB) memory chip. The 19 nanometer, three-bit-per-cell storage has a footprint of about 170mm square (0.26in square), or less than that of a penny. It’s also relatively quick for its capacity and size at 144Mbps (18MB) per second.

Chips built on the newer storage were considered ideal for smartphones, tablets, and solid-state drives for computers. Many such chips can be stacked on top of each other or side-by-side and give more reasonable capacities without having a physically larger device than they do now.

SanDisk has just recently started making 128Gb flash in large quantities on a basic level, although it has yet to say how quickly it expects the shrunken-down design to reach the market. Other companies have 128Gb chips in development, but these have been larger and usually haven’t reached into mainstream devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Hitachi announces 500GB, 7mm, 7,200 RPM Z7K500 notebook hard drive

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Date: Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012, 07:22
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

On Wednesday, Hitachi announced the release of its 500GB Travelstar Z7K500. Per Electronista, the drive is the first to hit a half-terabyte at the slimmer 7mm height while keeping a full 7,200RPM spin speed and just one drive platter. Along with being the first to have both a 6Gbps SATA3 connection and a 32MB buffer, it’s billed as being not just faster than other 7mm drives but faster than many regular 9mm drives as well.

The disk is intended both for thin regular notebooks as well as for ultrabooks. Although not fast enough by itself to match a solid-state drive, including an SSD as a cache theoretically offers a best-of-both-worlds design where the responsiveness of an SSD and the lower prices of a rotating hard drive are combined. It consumes more power, but at 1.8W peak and 0.8W idle is relatively efficient.

Hitachi has had test versions of its newer Z7K500 drives since January and is already expecting mass production for March, with 250GB and 320GB editions already available. It hasn’t named the customers that will be using it, although it conspicuously mentioned that “all major PC OEMs” had already qualified the pre-500GB drives and implied that Apple, Dell, HP, and others were either using or planning to use the new Travelstars.

Final pricing details for the Z7K500 drives also have yet to be announced.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.

Camino updated to 2.1.1

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Date: Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012, 07:19
Category: News, Software


Late Wednesday, the Camino Project released version 2.1.1 of Camino, its free, open source web browser.

The new version, an 18.5 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

– Upgraded to version of the Mozilla Gecko rendering engine, which includes several critical security and stability fixes.

– Blocked versions of Adobe Flash Player 10 older than and Flash Player 11 older than on Intel Macs due to severe security issues.

– Tweaked the autocomplete algorithm to reduce the weight of visit count.
Added a hidden preference to allow turning off autocomplete’s use of page titles in matches.

– The location sheet once again shows an autocomplete window.

– It is now possible to clear the “Recently Closed Pages” menu with the “Clear History…” menu item even when history is disabled.

– Improved the appearance of the bookmark toolbar in background windows on Mac OS X 10.7.

– On Mac OS X 10.7, Camino now appears in the “Productivity” category when sorting Finder windows by category.

– Camino now correctly checks for the presence of a Java plug-in on Mac OS X 10.7.

– The “open location” AppleScript command now supports optional “referrer” and “loading in background” parameters.

– Camino will now display an error message when the “open location” command’s direct parameter is empty or missing.

– A new “reload” command allows AppleScripts to reload browser windows and tabs.

– The status of Camino’s offline mode is now available to AppleScript, and scripts can toggle offline mode on and off using the application object’s “online” property.

– The AppleScript “visit count” bookmark property once again works correctly.

– Pressing Escape will now cancel Tab Overview.

– “Fill Form” no longer fills disabled hidden form controls.

– The “Block Flash animations” checkbox is no longer enabled if Flash is not installed.

– Camino now correctly resolves Bonjour services that do not include an initial forward slash in their “path” information.

Camino 2.1.1 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to run.

If you’ve tried the new version of Camino and have any kind of feedback about it, let us know.

China Telecom announces iPhone 4S launch date of March 9th

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Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 08:02
Category: iPhone, News

If you’re overseas and have been waiting for the iPhone 4S, it’s almost here.

After months of ads, China Telecom has announced that it will begin sales of the newest iPhone on March 9, 2012. The company will begin taking reservations for the iPhone 4S on March 2 in anticipation of the rollout a week later according to MacStories.

China Telecom is the second largest carrier in China, and uses a CDMA network as opposed to the GSM network run by market leader China Unicom (which has been selling the iPhone 4S since January). The iPhone 4S is the first iPhone that can run on both networks without requiring separate models.

As part of China Telecom’s rollout, the carrier will be offering the 16 GB iPhone 4S for free with a 2 year contract. According to a tweet from Asymco analyst Horace Dediu, China Unicom currently has 37 million 3G customers, with China Telecom adding another 33 million 3G users. That’s a huge potential iPhone 4S market for Apple, and one that the company is eager to tap.

During last week’s Goldman Sachs technology conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook made repeated references to the vast Chinese market and how the company is making that market a key target for its growth strategy in the future.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

“Working prototype” version of Office for iPad pictured, slated for submission to App Store soon

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Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 07:45
Category: iPad, News, Software

You’ve been hankering for a version of Microsoft Office for the iPad since, well, the release of the iPad.

And it could hit very soon.

Matt Hickey of The Daily was offered the first glimpse at a “working prototype” of Office for iPad on Tuesday.

“Word, Excel and PowerPoint files can be created and edited locally and online,” he said. “But it’s unclear if Microsoft will support other Office apps at launch or at all.”

The design side of the project is said to have already wrapped up, but an exact launch date remains unknown. It was said that the project “could be released in the coming weeks.”

Citing anonymous sources, the report added that Microsoft Office for iPad will “soon be submitted to Apple for approval.” No pricing or other details were provided.

The Daily first indicated last November that Microsoft was preparing a new version of its Office suite for Apple’s iPad. In addition, an updated version of Office for OS X Lion users was also revealed, and is expected to become available on Apple’s Mac App Store.

Apple currently offers its competing iWork productivity suite on the iPad as three standalone applications. Pages, Keynote and Numbers for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch are each available for US$9.99 on the App Store.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mozilla releases Firefox 10.0.2 update

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Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 06:44
Category: News, Software


Late Friday, Mozilla.org released version 10.0.2 of its Firefox web browser. The new version stands as a 31.4 megabyte download and adds the following fixes and changes:

– Fixed: Java applets sometimes caused text input to become unresponsive (bug 718939).

– NEW: Most add-ons are now compatible with new versions of Firefox by default.

– NEW: The forward button is now hidden until you navigate back.

– NEW: Anti-Aliasing for WebGL is now implemented (see bug 615976)

– NEW: CSS3 3D-Transforms are now supported (see bug 505115)

– HTML5: New element for bi-directional text isolation, along with supporting CSS properties (see bugs 613149 and 662288)

– HTML5: Full Screen APIs allow you to build a web application that runs full screen (see the feature page).

– DEVELOPER: We’ve added IndexedDB APIs to more closely match the specification.

– DEVELOPER: Inspect tool with content highlighting, includes new CSS Style Inspector.

– FIXED: Mac OS X only – after installing the latest Java release from Apple, Firefox may crash when closing a tab with a Java applet installed (700835).

– FIXED: Some users may experience a crash when moving bookmarks (681795).

– FIXED: Silverlight video may not play on some Macintosh hardware (715396).

Firefox 10.0.2 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple TV units disappear from Best Buy web site, speculation as to next-gen units ensues

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Date: Friday, February 17th, 2012, 05:39
Category: Apple TV, News

When an item disappears from a web site, things get interesting.

Per AppleInsider, retail chain Best Buy is no longer selling the Apple TV on its website, prompting speculation that a new model from Apple is soon to arrive.

Though BestBuy.com carried Apple’s set-top box as recently as the 2011 holiday season, the device was nowhere to be found on the retailer’s website as of early Friday.

When contacted for comment, a Best Buy salesperson was unable to say when exactly the device had been removed from the website’s listings. “I don’t recall seeing them for a while,” he said.

“At this point in time, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting [the Apple TV] back,” the representative said after performing an inventory check.

An user reported having a similar experience on Thursday, noting that a Best Buy employee checked inventory in all stores and found that they were all out of stock. Apple does, however, continue to list the Apple TV as “In Stock” on its website.

The disappearance of the Apple TV from Best Buy’s inventory comes as a surprise because the big-box retailer was one of the first to carry the device when it first arrived in 2007. The original Apple TV got off to a promising start, but the product has yet to become more than a “hobby” for Apple.

Many have speculated that Apple’s plans for expanding its Apple TV platform involve a full-fledged television set. Multiple reports have suggested that the company has begun building prototypes for a connected TV, with one even claiming that Canadian telecoms Rogers and BCE are testing the set in their labs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.