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iFixIt performs teardown of Apple’s Thunderbolt cable, discovers receiver/transceiver system inside

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Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 04:25
Category: Hardware, News

When in doubt about a new piece of hardware, take it apart and study it.

Once again, the guys at iFixIt performed a full teardown of a new Apple item, this time dissecting Apple’s just-released $49 Thunderbolt cable to reveal an “active cable” with transceiver chips on each end.

iFixit took apart the new cable on Wednesday and discovered two Gennum GN2033 Thunderbolt Cable Transceiver chips, other much smaller chips and “tons of little resistors” tucked into the metal connector.

The teardown experts were prompted by a tip from ArsTechnica, who had been told by a support technician for storage maker Promise that Apple’s Thunderbolt cable is a “smart cable” with internal firmware.

Apple released the Thunderbolt cable on Tuesday, alongside the first compatible peripherals–external RAID systems from Promise, which range in price from US$999 to US$1,999. Early tests of the Promise systems have revealed blazing fast write speeds of up to 700MB/s, as much as 21 times faster than FireWire and USB 2.0.

The Gennum web site describes the cable’s transceiver chips as a requirement for the cables due to “the unprecedented speed of the new Thunderbolt technology places unique demands on the physical transmission media. The GN2033 provides the sophisticated signal boosting and detection functions required to transfer high-speed data without errors across inexpensive Thunderbolt copper cables.”

Sources within the telecom industry told ArsTechnica that active cables are usually used at data rates in excess of 5Gbps. Chips at either end are calibrated to the attenuation and dispersion properties of the wire in order to “greatly [improve] the signal-to-noise ratio.”

Intel has also reportedly chosen to use active cabling for “future optical-based iterations of Thunderbolt,” the report’s source added. Though passive optical cabling is more common, active optical cables could allow fiber optics to be coupled with electrical cabling for power transmission. Additionally, “current electrical ports can be forward compatible with future optical cables” if active cabling is used, said the source.

On the more consumer end, LaCie has promised a Thunderbolt solid-state drive is coming this summer. A recent demo of the drive reached read speeds of 827.2MB/s.

Intel and Apple worked together to develop the specification, with Intel providing its “Light Peak” technology and Apple offering its Mini DisplayPort standard. Thunderbolt drives two separate 10Gbps links, one for displays and one for PCI-Express devices, and could reach speeds of up to 100Gbps when the cables transition from copper to optical.

Similar to Apple’s experience with its in-house developed FireWire standard, the company has a fine line to walk in making Thunderbolt a unique value-add for Macs while still driving widespread adoption of the standard to ensure a large enough market for a range of third-party peripherals. Currently, the Mac maker is the only supplier of Thunderbolt cables.

Earlier this week, Sony announced a new VAIO Z laptop that implements a proprietary version of Thunderbolt. The electronics giant pulled a similar maneuver with its custom version of FireWire, called i.Link.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Initial tests show promising Thunderbolt speeds, ability to boot off new port

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Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 04:26
Category: Hardware, News

A newly published series of test results from the cool cats at AnandTech shows Apple’s newly adopted Thunderbolt technology blows FireWire 800 out of the water with data transfer speeds to an external RAID system at 700MB/s.

After the release of Apple’s Thunderbolt cable on Tuesday, early impressions have begun to surface on the Web. The AnandTech staff got their hands on both the US$49 cable and the US$1,999 Promise Pegasus R6 system and have subsequently stated that they are able to write to the 12TB RAID array at nearly 700MB/s while on a notebook. The speed obliterated that of the commonplace USB 2.0, as well as FireWire 800.

In his testing, Anand Shimpi also revealed via Twitter that external drives can be booted from via Thunderbolt. This makes it possible to have a full install of OS X, which includes all your files and apps, stored on a Thunderbolt external drive. This in turn would allow you to take your computer everywhere you go, and run it on another Thunderbolt-equipped Mac.

Per Macworld’s test of the new cable with the same RAID system, their detailed results show Thunderbolt is between 4 and 21 times faster than FireWire & USB 2.0. When compared to both on a 2.2GHz Core i5 Macbook Pro, Thunderbolt could write a 2GB file at 210.5 MBps.

On the other hand, USB 2.0 could only stretch to 29.7 MBps, a result that is 7.09 times slower. FireWire 400 could write the file at 30.2MBps, 6.97 times slower & FireWire 800 wrote the file at 47MBps, or 4.47 times slower.

Also Tuesday, Apple issued a series of 10 questions and answers related to Thunderbolt. Most of the information presented was already announced, like the fact that the cable offers two independent channels of 10GBit/s.

One new bit of information from the series of answers is a possible drawback for high-end Macbook Pro users: A PCI Express Card in the Express Card slot cannot be operated if the system is connected to a Thunderbolt device. Apple recommends disconnecting the device if you are going to use the Express Slot.

The full list of info is included below:

1. What is the maximum bandwidth supported by Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m)?

Thunderbolt utilizes two separate 10Gbps links—one for displays and one for PCI-E device trafffic—for throughput of up to 10 Gbps between Thunderbolt capable devices and your Mac. Some devices not made by Apple may support different bandwidth rates; consult any documentation that came with your Thunderbolt-enabled device for information specific to your device. Choose the Disk Activity tab in Activity Monitor to read current disk activity statistics, which may be helpful to determine disk activity with storage devices using Thunderbolt. Some storage devices may have a maximum transfer rate lower than the bandwidth potential of Thunderbolt.

2. What is the proper way to insert a Thunderbolt cable into my Thunderbolt-capable device or Mac?

The Thunderbolt symbol should be on the top of the connector. You can plug either end of the cable into a device or Mac; the connectors on each end are the same. Do not force the Thunderbolt cable into your Thunderbolt-capable device or Mac computer’s Thunderbolt port.

3. How do I confirm a Thunderbolt-enabled device is connected to a Mac?

Open System Profiler and examine the Thunderbolt tab for a list of any connected Thunderbolt devices.

4. Can I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect a Promise, La Cie, or other third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?

Yes. You can use a Thunderbolt cable to connect any Thunderbolt-enabled device or Mac.

5. Is there a maximum supported length for using Thunderbolt cables with Apple products?

Thunderbolt cables should not exceed two meters for maximum performance. Apple Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) is two meters in length. Some Thunderbolt devices include an extra port you can use to connect other Thunderbolt devices downstream with additional Thunderbolt cables.

6. Why is there a black screen when I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect to an Intel-based iMac that supports Target Display Mode?

Although a Thunderbolt cable will fit into Mini DisplayPort connections, only Mini DisplayPort cables can be used to in Target Display Mode with an iMac (Late 2009) or iMac (Mid 2010) connected to a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac; iMac models produced before 2011 do not support Thunderbolt cables or devices. If you have an iMac (Late 2009), make sure you have the 27-inch SMC iMac Firmware Update 1.0 installed to avoid issues waking from sleep in Target Display Mode.

7. What do I do if my Mac doesn’t have a Thunderbolt option in System Profiler and no connected devices seem to be recognized?

For Mac computers with Thunderbolt, run Software Update to install any available updates to use Thunderbolt devices with your Mac.

8. I’ve installed all available updates, but no Thunderbolt devices are recognized when I connect them with Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m).

Try using a different a Thunderbolt cable, using a Mini DisplayPort cable, or—in the case of a storage device—try using another supported connection method, such as USB or FireWire.

9. Can I use Target Disk Mode with a Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) and a third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?

Yes. The Thunderbolt logo should appear with the FireWire logo when you start up a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac and have a Thunderbolt storage device connected. If you have both a Thunderbolt and a FireWire storage device connected and enter Target Disk Mode, the Thunderbolt-enabled device will be the default. If you disconnect either a Thunderbolt or FireWire storage device after successfully entering Target Disk Mode, the corresponding icon should disappear from the display.

10. Can I use Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) with supported versions of Microsoft Windows on a Thunderbolt-capable Mac with Boot Camp?

Yes. Learn more about using Thunderbolt with your Mac running Windows with Boot Camp.

If you’ve played with the new Thunderbolt port or have any comments, please let us know.

Parallels Desktop 6.0.12090.660720 released

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Date: Wednesday, June 29th, 2011, 14:02
Category: News, Software


Parallels Desktop, the popular virtualization application that allows users to run the Windows and Linux operating systems simultaneously alongside Mac OS X, reached version 6.0.12090.660720 on Wednesday. The new version, a 211 megabyte download, available here and includes the following major fixes and changes:

– Improves compatibility with Mac OS X 10.6.8.

– Resolves an issue with Finder and the Dock being unresponsive while working with icons larger than 128×128 px created by Parallels Desktop.

Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac retails for US$79.99 and requires Mac OS X 10.5.2 later to install and run.

Google announces early, publicly available build of Swiffy Flash-to-HTML5 converter tool

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Date: Wednesday, June 29th, 2011, 03:15
Category: News, Software


Google on Tuesday unveiled a new experimental tool for developers called Swiffy, which converts some .SWF Flash files into HTML5 code compatible with devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Per AppleInsider, Swiffy is available at Google Labs, where the search giant’s engineers create experimental applications that may not be ready for primetime or intended for the masses. Using the Swiffy website, anyone can upload an SWF file and convert it to HTML5.

Swiffy supports most of the Flash 5 ActionScript specification. The output file works in all browsers based on Apple’s open-source Webkit engine, which powers the Mobile Safari browser found on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Also available on the site are a gallery of videos and games that have been converted to HTML5 from Flash, as well as a list of frequently asked questions. Among those questions is a query about what Adobe, the creator of Flash, thinks of Swiffy.

Google has made moves to support HTML5 in the past, including conversion of videos on the popular Web video destination YouTube. But Google also still includes Adobe Flash Player embedded in its Google Chrome browser.

The company is also pushing its own video playback format dubbed WebM over the Apple-backed H.264 format. The search company believes that its own WebM format will “enable open innovation.”

If you’ve tried the Swiffy application and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

Apple releases Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 10, Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 5

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Date: Wednesday, June 29th, 2011, 03:14
Category: News, Software


Late Tuesday, Apple released a pair of Java updates for its Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 operating systems. The updates (Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 10 and Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 5) make the same changes and per Macworld, offer “improved compatibility, security, and reliability.” The specifics on how the updates do this are unclear, however, as the release notes for both the 10.6 and 10.5 updates are a little light on the details.

Both updates are available via direct download from their respective web sites or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

The updates require Mac OS X 10.5.8 and Mac OS X 10.6.4 to install and run, respectively.

If you’ve tried the updates and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

Final Cut Pro X customer receives refund from Apple, others pressing for their own

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Date: Tuesday, June 28th, 2011, 09:05
Category: News, Software

You can’t win ’em all.

Facing backlash from customers who are unhappy with the revamped Final Cut Pro X, Apple has issued at least some refunds for the US$299 Mac App Store purchase.

Per AppleInsider, carious claims of refunds have surfaced and at least one person who asked a refund from Apple had their request granted.

This person sent an e-mail to Apple in which they said they believe the new Final Cut Pro X is not a “functional application” meeting the standards of Final Cut Pro 7. “It has zero professional features that I can use in my post facility,” they wrote.

In their response, an Apple advisor admitted Final Cut Pro X “does not contain properties that were highly regarded in the last version.” They also acknowledged that it is “frustrating” to pay “good money” for a product that “doesn’t work as expected.”

The customer was promised a credit for the US$299.99 purchase made on the Mac App Store. It was said that the funds should be posted to the credit card on the receipt for the purchase within five to seven business days.

“Again, I want to apologize for the inadequacy of this version of Final Cut Pro,” the advisor wrote. “Please be assured that we are always looking for ways to improve your experience with the iTunes Store and Apple.”

The candid nature of Apple’s response and apology was surprising to the person who received the refund. “I’ve never seen an Apple employee apologetic over the ‘inadequacies’ of their software before,” they wrote.

The prospect of refunds for other Final Cut Pro X purchases is the latest public relations strategy from Apple in attempting to quell unhappiness with the latest version of Final Cut Pro. As of Tuesday afternoon, the software on the Mac App Store has an average user rating of two-and-a-half stars out of a possible five, and of the 1,275 ratings collected, 563 are for just one star.

One popular review posted on the Mac App Store refers to Final Cut Pro X as Windows Vista, referring to Microsoft’s much maligned operating system update. “I can’t believe what apple did with FCPX,” they wrote, “this is no longer a professional application… this is just an upgrade of iMovie!!”

Final Cut Pro X was released along with Motion 5 and Compressor on the Mac App Store a week ago. The software was quickly met with condemnation from a group of outspoken professionals who believe the new product is vastly inferior to its predecessor.

Apple made a quick transition to Final Cut Pro X, declaring Final Cut Studio, Express and Server — which included Final Cut Pro 7 — as “end of life” products as of June 21. AppleInsider first reported in May of 2010 that Apple planned to widen the appeal of Final Cut Pro with features geared toward “prosumers” and more advanced home users.

A growing chorus of complaints even prompted some Apple product managers to attempt to address concerns over Final Cut Pro X late last week. A number of product managers spoke with the press and revealed that features like multicamera editing and support for RED digital cameras will be added with future updates.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve demanded a refund for Final Cut Pro X

Apple releases Thunderbolt Firmware Update 1.0

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Date: Tuesday, June 28th, 2011, 03:10
Category: News, Software

Late Monday, Apple released Thunderbolt Firmware Update 1.0, a 486 KB download focused on providing stability and performance fixes for Mac with the new Thunderbolt port. The update will restart your Mac with a gray screen a status bar to indicate the progress of the update.

While the update is taking place, do not disturb or shut off the power on your computer during this update.

The update is also available via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later to install and run.

VirtualBox updated to 4.0.10

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Date: Tuesday, June 28th, 2011, 03:44
Category: News, Software


VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.0.10. The new version, a 82.8 megabyte download, sports the following list of fixes and changes:

– GUI: fixed disappearing settings widgets on KDE hosts (bug #6809).

– Storage: fixed hang under rare circumstances with flat VMDK images.

– Storage: a saved VM could not be restored under certain circumstances after the host kernel was updated (bug #8983).

– Storage: refuse to create a medium with an invalid variant (for example Split2G with VDI; bug #7227).

– Snapshots: none of the hard disk attachments must be attached to another VM in normal mode when creating a snapshot.

– USB: fixed occasional VM hangs with SMP guests (bug #4580).

– USB: proper device detection on RHEL/OEL/CentOS 5 guests (partial fix for bug #8978).

– ACPI: force the ACPI timer to return monotonic values for improve behavior with SMP Linux guests (bug #8511 and others).

– RDP: fixed screen corruption under rare circumstances (bug #8977).

– rdesktop-vrdp: updated to version 1.7.0.

– OVF: under rare circumstances some data at the end of a VMDK file was not written during export.

– Lion fixes (bug #8903).

– GNOME 3 fix.

VirtualBox 4.0.10 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

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

Best Buy puts hold on MacBook Air orders, next-gen units expected soon

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Date: Monday, June 27th, 2011, 04:58
Category: MacBook Air, News

National retailer Best Buy has put a hold on online MacBook Air orders, providing further evidence that Apple plans to release an updated version of its diminutive laptop.

Per Electronista, Best Buy’s listings for the current-generation MacBook Air are now listed as “Not Available for Shipping.” Meanwhile, all MacBook Air models on Apple’s Online Store remain ready for shipping.

Best Buy continues to offer the portables in its brick-and-mortar retail stores, though some locations have reportedly run out of stock. In the U.K., the big-box retailer allows orders for a MacBook Air with 128GB of storage, but only with in-store pickup at certain locations.

Apple is expected to refresh the MacBook Air line with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors and the addition of the Thunderbolt port. However, sources close to the story have stated that Apple is waiting until it can load a Gold Master build of Mac OS X Lion onto the notebooks before releasing them.

Mac OS X Lion is due for release on the Mac App Store in July. As a major upgrade to Apple’s flagship desktop OS, Lion will include more than 250 new features such as full screen apps, additional multi-touch gestures and Mission Control.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Onyx 2.2.8 released

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Date: Monday, June 27th, 2011, 04:11
Category: News, Software


Onyx, Titanium Software’s popular freeware multifunction utility for Mac OS X, has been updated to version 2.2.8. The new version, a 17.8 megabyte download (courtesy of MacUpdate), adds the following fixes and changes:

– Deleting Caches improved.

– Deleting Browsers History improved.

– Deleting Cookies improved.

– Deleting Recent Items improved.

– Deleting Temporary Items improved.

– Deleting Diagnostic Reports improved.

– Maintenance and Automation panels improved.

– New Info > Memory panel.

– Purging the inactive memory.

– Enable/disable virtual memory swapping.

– New Utilities > Packages panel.

– Bug corrected while deleting OnyX’s diagnostic reports.

– Bug corrected at launch OnyX.

– Bug corrected in the Preferences.

– Bug corrected while deleting Webpage previews.

– Bugs corrected in the Info panel.

– Help corrected and reindexed.

– Some cosmetic changes.

Onyx 2.2.8 requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.