Rumor: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion resource files hint at possible next-gen iMac, Mac Pro models without optical drives

Posted by:
Date: Friday, August 10th, 2012, 07:28
Category: Hardware, iMac, Mac Pro, Rumor

It’s the internal files that hint at the upcoming cool stuff.

Per AppleInsider, internal configuration files in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion make apparent references to yet-unreleased new generations of Apple’s iMac (iMac13,0) and Mac Pro (MacPro6,0), both in the context of USB booting options that indicate the new Mac desktops could, for the first time in nearly 20 years, lack built-in optical drives.

The discovery, made by a source close to the story, appears in a configuration plist file used by Boot Camp Assistant to designate the Mac model versions capable of supporting either a optical boot disc, or alternatively, a USB flash drive volume capable of installing Windows to a Boot Camp partition.

While all modern Macs can boot OS X from a USB drive, Apple’s Boot Camp Assistant references the plist to display a listing of newer Mac models with EFI-level support for booting a legacy operating system from a USB flash drive. The primary advantage to using a USB flash drive to create a bootable Windows 7 volume from an ISO (disc image file) is if you lack an optical drive burner.

The file lists a series of Mac models that support USB flash drive booting, referring to each model by its initials and its internal architectural version number. While it includes MacBook and MacBook Pro models with optical drives, most of the Macs in the supported list are optical free.

The list of models (below) include the “MM50″ (the Mac mini 5,x series, also known as the “Mid 2011 Mac mini”, which is the first non-Server version of the Mac mini to lack an optical drive), along with other optical-free models including the MacBook Air.

Two of the models in the USB-boot support listing refer to Macs that haven’t been released yet: the MP60 (the six generation Mac Pro, or MacPro6,x) and IM130 (pointing to the 13th generation iMac, or iMac13,x).

The current Mac Pro, updated only slightly in June during Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, hasn’t changed enough over the previous model for Apple to assign it a new architecture designation; it is still internally referred to as the “Mac Pro 5,1″ just like the Mac Pros that originally shipped back in August 2010.

Apple’s conspicuous lack of timely updates for the Mac Pro (and its relatively small and shrinking proportion of Apple’s Mac sales mix) has created the expectation that the company might eventually discontinue its full sized desktop the same way it terminated its rack mounted Xserve, an idea Apple reportedly evaluated as an option.

However, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook confirmed in June that Apple would not be killing the Mac Pro, stating instead in an email to a concerned customer, “Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn’t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today’s [WWDC] event, don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.”

Cook’s choice of the words “working on something really great,” indicates Apple plans to significantly update its Mac Pro model, which has carried forward the same basic aluminum box design introduced for the 2005 PowerMac G5.

While removing its optical drive would do much less to save space and thickness compared to Apple’s notebook designs, it’s likely that an all new Apple desktop aimed at professionals would rethink its use of slow, bulky and essentially obsolete optical drive devices and perhaps instead incorporate high performance SSD RAID options for a reduced profile.

Apple’s current iMac (referred to internally as the iMac 12) was last refreshed in May 2011, indicating that it’s overdue for a refresh. A new 13th generation iMac generation identified as “iMac 13,2″ has already appeared in Geekbench benchmarks.

Similarly, patent filings reveal Apple has also been working to once again slim down the peripherals that ship with its industry-leading all-in-one desktop, with the designs referenced in those filings having the potential to accompany the next iMac update.

The appearance of new Mac Pro and iMac models in the USB booting support list doesn’t definitively mean the models won’t have optical drives, as it also lists MacBook and MacBook Pro models that do incorporate an optical drive.

At the same time, Apple has clearly indicated in the newest Mac mini and Retina Display MacBook Pro that it plans to get rid of optical disc drives as soon as possible across the board, providing an external USB drive as an option for users who need one.

Users increasingly have fewer opportunities to use optical drives, as the bulk of third party software is now available as a digital download either directly from the vendor or through Apple’s App Store. Apple also sees digital distribution as the future of music and movies, as exemplified in Apple TV, which has never included an optical drive.

The company has never supported any new HD optical disc formats on its products, including Microsoft’s ill fated HD-DVD or Sony’s Blu-ray format, despite initially being involved in the Blu-ray standardization process. Instead, Apple has put its resources behind developing increasingly higher definition audio and video formats that it can distribute electronically through its own iTunes Store.

Apple even developed an alternative iTunes Extras web based multimedia format to deliver the same kind of interactive menus supported on DVDs, with a parallel solution for albums it called iTunes LP.

In addition, Apple introduced technologies intended to wean its Mac platform from optical disc dependance with the MacBook Air, which was designed to remotely share disc drives available on the local network (even remotely install OS X) via Remote Disc and handle Migration Assistant tasks over a wireless network connection.

Modern Mac models can now apply system updates, such as OS X Mountain Lion, entirely via digital downloads, while Apple’s newest Mac models can boot legacy operating systems from USB flash drives.

By ditching the need for a built in optical drive, Apple can not only make new Macs smaller, thinner and more energy efficient, but will also increase their overall reliability, as optical drives become one of the last complex physical mechanisms inside computers.

Apple has similarly helped to pioneer the mainstream adoption of Solid State Drives as an alternative to the more fragile mechanical design inherent in conventional Hard Disk Drives. Its most popular general computing device, the iPad, makes no use of either optical drives or HDD mechanisms.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iFixit repair guide posits $500 estimate to replace Retina Display MacBook Pro battery

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012, 13:22
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

If you want to replace the battery on your brand new 2012 Retina Display MacBook Pro, it’s going to get pricey.

Per MacNN, the newly-published iFixit repair guide for the Retina MacBook Pro breaks tasks down by component, such as the logic board, left and right fans, or the SSD. Of special interest though is the battery, which iFixit estimates could cost US$500 to replace “if technicians follow the safer Apple-suggested procedure and replace the entire upper case assembly along with the battery.”

In an earlier teardown, iFixit called the Retina Pro the “least repairable laptop” it had ever taken apart. This is mostly because Apple has gone to extreme measures to keep the computer thin. The battery, for instance, is glued into the case instead of using screws, and the different parts of the display assembly have been merged together, dropping a glass protection layer. Even opening the chassis can be a problem, since Apple uses an unusual pentalobe screw type to hold the lower case together.

So, yes, the Retina Display MacBook Pro can be repaired by the user, even if iFixit does feel that some trepidation is warranted…

iFixit posts DIY repair guides for Retina Display MacBook Pro notebooks, advises caution during process

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012, 08:00
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

The MacBook Pro with the Retina display is a beautiful thing, but iFixit has been hesitant about repairing the unit.

Per Engadget, iFixit has posted a total of 16 new guides to show users how to disassemble or remove those parts that stand a realistic chance of leaving the system unscathed.

While that does include some key components, iFixit continues to fly some caution flags: getting to one part often requires taking apart others, and removing the battery carries the very real possibility of permanent damage. If you’d still prefer to upgrade the SSD yourself (when an option) than pay Apple more for a custom order, there’s now a helping hand for your thriftiness.

So, yeah, be careful if you’re taking apart your nifty new MacBook Pro with the Retina display, take it slow and iFixit is there to lend you a hand.

Apple releases Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter to online storefront

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 1st, 2012, 06:44
Category: Hardware, News

applelogo_silver

Hey…adapters are always useful.

Late Tuesday, Apple added its new Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter for newer Thunderbolt-equipped Macs at a US$29 price on the Apple online store.

The new adapter is estimated to ship in one to three business days. It allows users to connect their Thunderbolt-equipped Mac to a FireWire device with the small and compact cable.



The connector provides a FireWire 800 port that supplies up to 7 watts for bus-powered peripherals like hard drives and audio devices and can utiize two separate 10Gbps links — one for displays and one for PCI-Express device traffic — for throughput of up to 10Gbps between Thunderbolt-capable devices and a compatible Mac.

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

Crucial unveils solid-state drives for older Mac notebooks

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 31st, 2012, 14:34
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

You should add more solid-state drives to more things, as they are awesome.

Per Macworld, accessory provider Crucial today announced a new solid-state drive (SSD) targeted at users who want to upgrade older computer systems with a flash drive that boasts a price well under US$1 per gigabyte of capacity.

Crucial’s new v4 SSD, which is being manufactured by partner Micron, may not sport top flash-drive speeds. But it outpaces any consumer hard drive by more than twice the performance. The new 128GB SSD sells for US$100; a 256GB model can be had for US$190.

The price of consumer-class SSDs had been expected to drop to US$1 per gigabyte this year. SSD prices further slipped precipitously because of market oversupply. For example, NAND flash memory maker Toshiba recently slashed its production by 30 percent in order to deal with oversupply issues.

Crucial’s new v4 SSD uses the more widely used but older SATA-2, which has the 3 Gbps interface that most pre-2011 computer systems sport for internal drive connectivity. SATA-3 offers 6 Gbps, but only the latest systems (such as the new MacBook Pro) come with it.

Crucial said its v4 SSD has sequential read/write speeds of 230 MBps and 190 MBps, respectively. To put that in perspective, a top-of-the-line hard disk drive, such as Western Digital’s 7200-rpm Scorpio Black, has maximum read/write speeds of around 104 MBps and 101 MBps.

By comparison, an Intel top-of-the-line 520 Series SSD boasts peak read/write speeds of 550 MBps and 520 MBps, respectively. So the new Crucial SSD rests nicely in the middle.

The v4 SSDs are available in 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities with suggested retail prices of US$50, US$70, US$100, and US$190, respectively. The SSDs can be purchased now through global channel partners, or direct through Crucial’s website.

The Crucial v4 SSD comes with a three-year limited warranty, and is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X systems.

Apple buys fingerprint recognition company AuthenTec for $356 million

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 27th, 2012, 14:22
Category: Hardware, News

applelogo_silver

This could turn into something interesting.

Per Reuters, Apple has signed a deal to buy a Florida-based company, AuthenTec, at a price of US$8 per share or about US$356 million. That’s a premium of 58 percent over AuthenTec’s Thursday closing value. While largely unknown to the public, the firm makes fingerprint sensor chips used in computers, and various other forms of security software and chips for cellphones; some of the company’s clients include Dell, Fujitsu, Lenovo, and Samsung. Notably, the company also produces chips involved in near-field communication (NFC) technologies.

For a long time rumors have suggested that Apple is working on adding NFC support to the iPhone, and talk has revived for the sixth-generation model. NFC could have several uses; while the main one would likely be e-wallet/ticketing transactions, it might also be used to enable device-to-device file transfers, or carrying settings between multiple computers.

According to Bezinga, AuthenTec’s board unanimously approved the takeover earlier this week. The deal still isn’t fully complete, however, because it requires majority shareholder approval, as well as a few other steps.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple hires chip former AMD engineer John Bruno, looks to be expanding mobile devices

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 20th, 2012, 05:29
Category: Hardware, News

applelogo_silver

Give the man a chance and he’ll probably invent something truly cool.

Per SemiAccurate, former AMD chip architect John Bruno, known for his contribution to the chip maker’s Trinity Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), now lists himself as a “System Architect at Apple” via his LinkedIn profile.

While Bruno’s new position has not been officially announced, the profile change is thought to reflect Apple’s ongoing efforts to design high-performance, energy-sipping mobile processors for use in its iDevice line of products.

Bruno’s management of AMD’s second-generation APU project, dubbed Trinity, is well known and it is speculated that he may take a similar role at Apple. As a side note, Apple was rumored to be using the original AMD Fusion APU in its Apple TV in 2010, but the final product ended leveraged the proprietary ARM-based A4 processor.

Originally an employee of ATI, Bruno joined AMD in 2006 when the company acquired the graphics card manufacturer in 2006. He was ultimately axed amid wide-ranging job cuts last year that saw the departure of other high-level SoC engineers. Since being let go, Bruno has been “off the radar” and wasn’t reported to be attached to any major tech companies until Wednesday’s report.

Apple has long been rumored to be looking into moving its entire portable product line, including laptops, to the ARM platform but Apple leadership remains mum on the prospect. The tech giant was reported to be testing an ARM-based MacBook Air model in 2011, though the machine has yet to materialize. Apple CEO Tim Cook mentioned in February that the need for ARM-based thin-and-lights was not part of the company’s “post-PC” strategy and said the niche would soon be filled by the iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone to incorporate thinner screen, in-cell technology

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 17th, 2012, 08:33
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

That screen on your current iPhone 4S? It might just get a bit thinner.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s next iPhone “currently being manufactured by Asian component makers” will arrive this fall with a thinner screen than ever before, thanks to the combined might of Sharp, LG Display and Japan Display Inc.

“The technology integrates touch sensors into the LCD, making it unnecessary to have a separate touch-screen layer,” explains DisplaySearch analyst Hiroshi Hayase on the new in-cell technology. “The absence of the layer, usually about half a millimeter thick, not only makes the whole screen thinner, but the quality of displayed images would improve.”

In-cell technology comes at a convenient time for Apple as rival Samsung is pushing “organic light-emitting displays” as a key feature of its latest Galaxy S III Android handset, which features a 4.8-inch OLED screen, yet is even thinner than the current iPhone 4S.

“A thinner screen in the next iPhone could make the whole device slimmer, or make extra room available for other components such as batteries,” the report reveals, which could be crucial if rumors that the handset will use 4G LTE data prove true.

“But in-cell touch screens are harder to manufacture than conventional LCD screens,” the report continues. “The people familiar with the situation said that LCD makers are finding the manufacturing process challenging and time-consuming as they scramble to achieve high yield rates.”

The next iPhone is widely expected to include a 4.0-inch display, which is made possible by elongating the vertical height of the handset.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

27-inch Thunderbolt display exhibiting noise issue with 2012 Retina Display MacBook Pro, MacBook Air

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 17th, 2012, 06:01
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

Firmware updates were invented for a reason…

Per Electronista, a number of MacBook Air owners are experiencing audio issues when they connect their laptops to Apple’s Thunderbolt display and complain of static, distortion and crackling emanating from the speakers built into the 27-inch screen’s chassis.

The problem usually presents itself intermittently after a few hours’ use when sound from Apple’s new 2012 MacBook Air, which was announced during WWDC in June, is routed through the Thunderbolt display’s speakers.

It should be noted that as of this writing a single report claiming the same issue was found on the new MacBook Pro with Retina display, though it seems to be an isolated case not associated with the MacBook Air matter.

An Apple Support Communities thread started on June 23 is now six pages long though the issue seems to be affecting only a small number of users. Owners of both the 11-inch and 13-inch versions of the MacBook Air have reported identical problems, though some experience the issue more frequently than others.

The exact cause of the problem remains unclear though it could be related to how the thin-and-light’s firmware handles audio output. Sound played directly through the MacBook Air’s internal speakers are unaffected by the supposed bug meaning the issue lies in the interconnect.

Forum members have speculated that the adaptor needed to connect Apple’s new MagSafe 2 power connector to the Thunderbolt display’s power cord is somehow related to the static. This seems unlikely, however, as owners have unsuccessfully attempted to switch adaptors and run the laptop without plugging in to the Thunderbolt display’s power connector.

Most users have found that a workaround involving the switching between audio outputs solves the issue for a short time while others note that terminating and restarting an offending application gives temporary relief. Unplugging and replugging all connections also seems to remedy the problem.

Apple is aware of the issue though no official response has been released.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to launch third-gen iPad in China on July 20

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 10th, 2012, 07:45
Category: Hardware, iPad, News

Apple on Tuesday announced that its new third-generation iPad will debut in mainland China next week, on Friday, July 20.

Per AppleInsider, the new iPad will be available in China through the Apple online store, select authorize resellers, and by reservation from Apple retail stores. Customers can make reservation requests beginning Thursday, July 19 for pickup the following day between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.

The new iPad Wi-Fi models will be available in black or white for a suggested retail price of US$499 for the 16GB model, US$599 for the 32GB model and US$699 for the 64GB model. The iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular models will be available for a suggested retail price of US$629 for the 16GB model, US$729 for the 32GB model and US$829 for the 64GB model.

In addition, Apple will also offer the iPad 2, its 2011 model, for US$399.

The July 20 launch date announced on Tuesday is a full week earlier than recent reports had suggested the new iPad will debut. Availability of the new iPad in China will come quickly after Apple reached a US$60 million settlement with Proview for the right to use the “iPad” brand name in China.

The Wi-Fi-only variant of the new iPad gained regulatory approval in China back in late March. Then a month later, in May, the 3G version was also certified for sale by the nation’s government.

It was speculated that the trademark dispute with Proview was the main reason the new iPad had not yet debuted in China. Last year, the iPad 2 launched in China on May 6, debuting a month and a half earlier than the new iPad will be introduced in 2012.

Apple’s new third-generation iPad initially launched in 10 places around the world on March 16, including Hong Kong, but not mainland China. Other launch territories in March were the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, and the U.K., as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.