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

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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 Releases Developer Builds of Mac OS X 10.6.3 Update

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Date: Thursday, January 7th, 2010, 06:31
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple began shipping out a new build of its upcoming Mac OS X 10.6.3 operating system. The new build, labeled “10D522″, weighs in at 665.7 megabyte and, according to AppleInsider, includes a total of 221 code corrections to 92 distinct system components.

Among those components receiving the most attention are AppKit, CoreMedia, Desktop Services, FileSync, Fonts, HIToolbox, iCal, Mail, MobileMe, and QuickTime Player X, those same people say.

Other focus areas automatic spell correction, and fixes for crashes while printing and using AppKit, the Dock, iCal, Mail, Photo Booth, Rosetta, Spotlight, Screen Sharing, and Software Updater.

In total, nearly 60 individual pieces of crash-prone code have reportedly been addressed as of build 10D522.

Apple also reportedly noted four known issues with Wednesday’s beta, including hangs in iTunes, and potential anomalies while updating applications, viewing Display preferences, and navigating the ColorSync Utility Filters tab.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T Cites 3G Network Upgrade Completion, Describes Future Upgrades En Route

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Date: Wednesday, January 6th, 2010, 06:04
Category: iPhone, News

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Even in the wake of rumors that Apple is in negotiations with wireless carrier Verizon, AT&T has reported the successful completion of a nationwide software upgrade program that will enable the company to deliver High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 Mbit technology across its 3G cell sites.

Per AppleInsider, the upgrade is the first of several initiatives to be completed as part of AT&T’s overall network enhancement strategy.

Apple’s iPhone 3GS, which shipped last summer, is already equipped to take advantage of the faster tier of 3G service. At the same time, the company’s network is being criticized by customers for its spotty coverage limitations, particularly in specific areas.

AT&T has stated that the upgrade increases the company’s network efficiency and will help in “generally improving consistency in accessing data sessions” for its customers. Additional work now underway and continuing through the next two years will, the company said, “dramatically increase the number of high-speed backhaul connections to cell sites, primarily with fiber-optic connections, adding capacity from cell sites to the AT&T backbone network.”

The initial deployment of backhaul improvements is already underway in the Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Miami markets. “We anticipate that the majority of our mobile data traffic will be carried over the expanded fiber-based, HSPA 7.2-capable backhaul by the end of this year, with deployment continuing to expand in 2011,” the company said in a statement.

The company said it is designing its new backhaul deployments to accommodate both faster 3G and future “4G” LTE deployments. “AT&T currently plans to begin trials of LTE technology this year, and to begin LTE deployment in 2011, matching industry time lines for widespread availability of compelling devices and supporting network equipment.”

Apple Media Event Moved to Jan. 27th, Could Feature iPhone OS 4.0 Release

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 5th, 2010, 06:10
Category: News

Apple’s long-awaited media event at the Yerba Buena Arts Center is still set to take place.

You’ll just have to wait an extra day.

Citing anonymous sources close to the story, Digital Daily has reported that Apple’s event will occur on Wednesday, January 27th as opposed to the 26th. During the event, Apple is expected to unveil a touchscreen tablet device.

Weeks ago, the Financial Times reported that Apple had rented the stage in San Francisco for “several days,” starting with Jan. 26. Apple often uses the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for special media events.

Last week, that report was bolstered by yet another claim that Apple would have a product unveiling in late January.

Some developers have reportedly been asked to prepare full-screen demos of their iPhone applications for an event in late January. Select developers were told to make their apps run at a resolution beyond the fixed 320×480 pixel size of the iPhone and iPod touch screen. It was said that applications that can support the new larger screen size will run “just fine” on the new hardware.

In other news, French Apple site Mac4Ever claimed yesterday that a new iPhone 4.0 beta SDK includes a “simulator” that aims to make it easy for developers to adapt to different screen resolutions. Some developers are allegedly already working with the beta SDK.

Tech site Engadget has also written that sources “very familiar with the situation” have been given information on a tablet device set to debut this month. The device will have a new screen size and resolution different from the one currently found on the iPhone and iPod touch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Initial Intel Arrandale Processor Benchmarks Released, Chips En Route to MacBook Pro Near You

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Date: Monday, January 4th, 2010, 07:31
Category: News, Processors

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With Macworld Expo and CES only days away, Intel’s Arrandale dual-core processor line is also set to debut this month with some of the processors finding their way into Apple’s MacBook Pro notebooks.

Responding to this, the cool cats at PC Magazine have posted benchmark tests pitting Intel’s new 2.53GHz Intel Core i5-540M from ASUS against a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P9500, as well as a 2GHz Intel Core i7-920XM.

“We’ve seen incremental bumps in speeds (percentages in the teens) when Intel launches new processors for the same platform, but when you swap out an entire motherboard and everything that goes with it, the change can be quite significant,” they said. “Cinebench R10 is a multi-threaded benchmark test that took full advantage of the Core i5-540M’s HyperThreading technology, beating the T400s’s similarly clocked Core 2 Duo P9500 CPU by a 62% margin.”

The Arrandale mobile processors were released alongside their Clarksdale counterparts and the two chips share the same architecture, which features a 32nm Westmere core paired with a 45nm chipset. The new 32nm chips offer improved speed, better graphics performance and lower power consumption. They will also allow motherboards to become smaller.

An article over at Tom’s Hardware found that the new processors strike a good balance between speed found on desktop machines, with power consumption low enough to support a mobile device. These gains, in early tests, come without the inclusion of a discrete graphics card.

In a test of ripping CDs to the AAC format within iTunes, the new Arrandale mobile processor performed the task 10 seconds better than its Penryn predecessor, clocking in at 1:36 on the task.

The review found that the 35W Core i5-540M uses more power under load, but uses quite a bit less power than the Core 2 Duo P8700 processor during downtime. Average power consumption was said to be 32.9W for the Arrandale and 31.7W for Penryn.

The new processors are set to improve upon the previous line of Intel’s Core 2 Duo chips, which have been utilized in versions of Apple’s new MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iMac. Apple uses the mobile variants of Intel’s desktop chips for those systems, meaning machines with chips based on the Arrandale architecture could arrive soon.

Unlike the Core 2 Duo CPUs, the Arrandale processors will have the major northbridge chipset memory controller components built in. Currently, Apple uses Nvidia chipsets with its Mac lineup. The architectural changes found in the Arrandale line, along with an ongoing lawsuit that has forced Nvidia to halt the development of future chipsets, would likely make it difficult for Apple to continue with Nvidia.

Apple last updated its MacBook Pro line in June at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Those systems included Core 2 Duo processors and Nvidia graphics, along with cheaper prices, better displays and built-in batteries. Intel intends to release 17 new CPUs in early 2010, which will be highlighted at this week’s CES event.

How-To: Work Around Magic Mouse Disconnecting From Bluetooth

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 31st, 2009, 09:27
Category: News

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Recently, a few users have noticed how Apple’s new multitouch “Magic Mouse” will disconnect at seemingly random times. Although the the mouse will connect just fine upon boot and is usable for a while, it’s been known to become unresponsive and the “Connection Lost” icon will float at the bottom of the screen.

Per CNET, some users have claimed that just clicking the mice will get them to connect again while others have mentioned tapping it on the case of their desktop computers was how they get it to connect.

This problem appears to be with the mice losing power when movements jar the batteries slightly. In some cases people have been able to cause the mouse to disconnect by holding it up from the trackpad and firmly tapping on the top side of the mouse. This suggests that slight battery movement may cause the mice to lose power, and as such there are a couple of remedies available:

Re-seat the batteries:
If a small misalignment is causing the batteries to easily disconnect, try taking them out and putting them back in. This will exercise the spring mechanisms that hold the batteries in place, and perhaps cause them to apply a better hold on the batteries.

Wedge paper under the batteries:
Some people have had success in rolling up a small wad of paper and placing it between the batteries before closing the cover. This will put some additional pressure on the batteries to help secure them in place. If you do this, be sure you do not put so much paper that you warp the battery door.

Replace the batteries:
If your batteries are running low, the mouse may start behaving erratically and disconnecting. However, if this is the case the computer should report the battery level as being at critical levels, as long as you have installed the Magic Mouse driver software.

Apple has recently published a new Knowledge Base article that discusses Bluetooth issues, including those that have been occurring with the Magic Mouse. Albeit Bluetooth has proven reliable and spiffy, the article states that there are occurrences of random shut-odds and currently only recommends checking battery levels and hunting down sources of signal interference as possible solutions.

If you guys have seen this on your end or discovered a useful fix of your own, please let us know.

Former Google China President Reveals Apple Tablet Details in Microblog Post

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 31st, 2009, 05:58
Category: iPhone, News

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Ok, this is somewhat unexpected.

But definitely not unwelcome.

Per GadgetMix, Kaifu Lee, the ex-president of Google China has dropped several hints regarding Apple’s upcoming tablet device on his microblog.

“The Apple Tablet looks like a bigger iPhone that sports an awesome UI packed in a beautiful 10.1-inch screen. The tablet combines the functions of both netbook and kindle, an ebook reader. It has virtual keyboard for text entry and a webcam for video conferencing.”

These details fall in line with recently reported features on the tablet. Earlier in December, analyst Yair Reiner of Oppenheimer predicted that the device would have a 10.1″ multi-touch display using the same technology as the iPhone. He also stated that Apple has been reaching out to book publishers in order to strengthen the position of the tablet as an ebook platform.

All signs currently point to Apple holding an event focusing on the “mobility space” on January 26 at Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, where it is believed that the company will finally unveil the tablet to the world.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know what you think.

Apple Updates Knowledge Base Articles for iPhoto, iMovie and Wireless Input Devices

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Date: Wednesday, December 30th, 2009, 09:50
Category: News

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You’ve gotta love the Apple Knowledge Base, for it sometimes has the answers.

Per CNET, Apple has updated and released a few knowledgebase articles, covering issues with iPhoto and iMovie as well as offering troubleshooting tips for wireless keyboards and mice.

Without further ado, here we go:

iMovie ’09: Referenced videos from iPhoto Library not displayed in iMovie Event Library
This article outlines a problem where even though iPhoto can be set to import a movie and store it in locations other than the iPhoto library, if you do this movies that are kept in the iPhoto library will not show up for use in iMovie. This is because iMovie will reference the iPhoto library file for the movie contents, and if the movie is not directly in the library (even though iPhoto can reference it), iMovie will not be able to find it. To get around this problem, either follow the article’s advice and enable copying of imported items into the iPhoto library, or locate the movie file in the Finder and import it directly into iMovie.

Mac OS X v10.6: Character Viewer / Keyboard Viewer appears with authentication dialogs or Fast User Switching dialogs:
The keyboard and character viewers will open for use with individual applications, rather than being globally on or off. As such, if you have opened one of these viewers with an authentication dialogue box open, they will open every time the system prompts for authentication. To disable them, the next time the system prompts for authentication, choose “hide” for the respective viewer in the input menu (may look like a flag on some systems).

iPhoto, Aperture: Warning icon when ordering photo products:
This article discusses a problem with iPhoto and Aperture where if the resolution of an image is too low or if the caption text for an image is too large, then the program will display a warning symbol next to the picture or caption. There are a few minimum resolution requirements for iPhoto’s pictures, which are outlined in this article.

Troubleshooting wireless mouse and keyboard issues:
This article covers a number of problems people may have with bluetooth input devices, including the device not being recognized by the computer, specific keys or other functions of the input devices not working, or bizarre jumpy or slow input. It is specific for people who use the Apple bluetooth keyboard and Magic Mouse, but may also be useful for people running other models, be them either from Apple or from a third party.

If you’ve seen any major changes to the Knowledge Base or just found an article that helped you out of a jam, please let us know.

Additional Evidence of Forthcoming 8GB iPhone 3GS Discovered

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 30th, 2009, 05:51
Category: iPhone, News

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Additional evidence of an 8GB iPhone 3GS unit replacing the US$99 8GB iPhone 3G has emerged.

Per Electronista, a German customer who purchased a refurbished 8GB iPhone 3G found a label on the back that said “iPhone 3GS v2.2, 8GB.” The model number, A1241, and part number, MB490DN/A, are identical to the existing iPhone 3G, but other materials on the packaging reference an 8GB iPhone 3GS.

Apple currently offers its lowest capacity 16GB iPhone 3GS model for US$199 with a two-year AT&T contract. The unit sports a fast PowerVR SGX GPU core that supports Open GL ES 2.0, which the existing $99 iPhone 3G cannot do.

Recent reports have said Apple has scheduled a special media event for Jan. 26, 2010. New products are expected to be announced at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Calif.

During the company’s earnings report in October, Chief Operations Officer Tim Cook noted that the $99 iPhone 3G did not impact sales of the high-end iPhone 3GS. In fact, he said, that demand for the iPhone 3GS exceeded the company’s expectations. The average selling price of iPhones last quarter stood at over US$600, demonstrating gravitation towards the iPhone 3GS.

How To: Get Around an “Error 109″ Message With Time Machine and an Airport Extreme Base Station

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Date: Tuesday, December 29th, 2009, 06:00
Category: News

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If you’re experiencing “Error 109″ when backing up Time Machine to an Airport Extreme Base Station, this might be for you. Per CNET, the problem itself can be repaired by repairing the sparsebundle image file. Although the root of this issue may ultimately be compatibilities with the connection to the AEBS, by repairing the sparsebundle you should be able to continue your backups.

Interestingly, Apple doesn’t officially support Airport Extreme Base Station as a Time Machine destination, which may have to do with how the device handles external drives versus a more robust handling of the internal drives in Time Capsule devices. Even so, regardless of the specifics, once the sparsebundle is corrupted, the computer then will have trouble accessing and mounting it, resulting in the errors.

Recently, a number of Airport Extreme Base Station users have been looking for a solution in a growing discussion thread on the Apple boards regarding the issue. A user identified as “rsva” posted a method for solving the issue, which has worked for a couple of others. The idea is to avoid directly mounting the sparsebundle (which has failed for a number of people who tried) and instead use terminal commands to only attach the sparsebundle disk image to and correct format problems. This assigns a device ID to the bundle so it can be treated as a disk, without the system trying to read and interact with the contents of the disk.

If you’re feeling brave, here are the instructions:

“Quit all applications and turn off Time Machine.

Securely connect the backup hard drive to your Mac.

Open the “Terminal” and go to the hard drive mount point with the following command:
cd /Volumes/”BACKUP DRIVE”

In this command, “BACKUP DRIVE” is the name of your backup volume. Put it in quotes if you have spaces in the name.

Use the “hdiutil” command (disk image management utility) to attach the backup bundle (this may take a while if the image is corrupted):

hdiutil attach -nomount -readwrite -noautofsck -noverify BACKUPNAME.sparsebundle

The previous command should output some information about the attached drive, such as the following:
/dev/disk4 Apple_partition_scheme
/dev/disk4s1 Apple_partition_map
/dev/disk4s2 Apple_HFSX

The device may be a different number than the one listed here (ie, disk3, or disk5), depending on how many other disks you have in your system. Find the device identifier next to “Apple_HFSX” (it should contain “s2″ in the name).

Run the filesystem checking command “fsck” on the attached drive with the following command:
fsck_hfs -rfy /dev/disk4s2

This command will run a repair routine on the filesystem, and should output a number of errors if found and correct them. This may take a while, so be patient, and it may mention the drive cannot be repaired, but ignore this for now.

Open Disk Utility, and drag the sparsebundle into the window under where other drives and devices are listed (should be separated by a horizontal line). Then select it and in the “First Aid” tab click “Repair Disk”.

In Disk Utility, select the backup hard drive itself (above the sparsebundle) and run the “Repair Disk” routine on this drive as well to ensure the filesystem is intact.”

Once these steps have been run, users can eject the drive and plug it back into the Airport Extreme Base Station. From here, reactivate Time Machine on your Mac and run a test backup. This routine won’t fix the problem occurring in the first place, but should get the drive back up and running once corruption has occurred.

If you’ve tried this on your end, let us know how it went and what to expect.