USB 3.0 Promoter Group announces updated spec, anticipated 10Gb/s speeds for 2014

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Date: Monday, January 7th, 2013, 07:32
Category: Hardware, News

This could lead to something nifty.

Per CNET and the mighty Jim Tanous of The Mac Observer, an updated USB 3.0 specification that promises to double theoretical maximum bandwidth is scheduled to arrive in mid–2013, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced Sunday. The improvements, thanks to revised hardware and more efficient data transfer methods, will double USB 3.0’s speed from 5 gigabits per second to 10 gigabits per second, rivaling the single-channel performance of Thunderbolt.

The news of faster USB speeds will be welcomed by those relying on external solid state or multi-disk hard drives, as some current high-end drives already saturate USB 3.0’s 5 Gb/s limit (equivalent to about 640 MB/s). For those not yet interested in faster speeds, the new technology will still be backwards-compatible with older USB 3.0 and 2.0 devices and ports.

The new specification is expected to be finalized by mid-year, but devices taking advantage of it won’t hit the market until early 2014 at the earliest, with “much broader availability of products in 2015.”

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which announced the new specification, is comprised of member companies in the technology field, including HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Texas Instruments, among others. Apple, which belatedly introduced USB 3.0 on its 2012 line of Macs, is not a member, although it pioneered Thunderbolt, an alternative high-speed interface.

Thunderbolt also offers maximum bandwidth of 10 Gb/s (about 1,280 MB/s) but is dual channel, allowing two transfers up to that speed to occur simultaneously between attached devices. However, the limited number of Thunderbolt-enabled computers and the complicated nature of Thunderbolt chipsets and cables have made the technology significantly more expensive than most other interface options. As a result, it is far less ubiquitous than the backwards-compatible and cheaper USB 3.0 standard.

Users interested in the new USB 3.0 specification will need both updated computers and external devices to support it. New USB 3.0 devices will still work in the absence of both of these conditions, but they will operate at much slower USB 3.0 or 2.0 speeds depending on the exact configuration.

Cables, on the other hand, are another matter. Due to changes in the efficiency of the new specification, existing USB 3.0 cables may not work. “Existing SuperSpeed USB cables are not certified to operate at 10 Gbps; it is possible that some existing SuperSpeed USB cables may be capable of operating at 10 Gbps,” the group said.

Now that Apple has introduced USB 3.0 support, it is likely that the company will move to incorporate the faster USB specification once it is available, especially if Thunderbolt adoption continues to progress at a glacial pace.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple adds Fusion Drive as build-to-order option for 21.5-inch iMac

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Date: Monday, January 7th, 2013, 06:29
Category: Hardware, News

The cool thing you want is now available for the base model iMac.

Per MacGeneration and AppleInsider, Apple is now offering the Fusion Drive as a build-to-order option when ordering the most affordable 2.7GHz 21.5-inch iMac model, a change in availability from October when the system was limited to high-end versions and the 27-inch iMac.

The revision to the Online Apple Store’s build-to-order options, first spotted by MacGeneration, adds Apple’s hybrid Fusion Drive as a US$250 upgrade to the base model 21.5-inch iMac.

Introduced in October 2012 alongside the redesigned iMac, Apple’s Fusion Drive is a hardware and software solution that promises the performance of a solid state drive with the storage capacity of a hard drive. Initial tests showed the hybrid drive to cut startup times in half while increasing read and write speeds significantly when compared to a traditional 5400-rpm hard drive.

The software driving the technology is built into OS X Mountain Lion and join a 128-gigabyte SSD with either a 1-terabyte or 3-terabyte HDD to form a single addressable volume. Integral applications and the operating system itself are permanently stored on the flash memory while other files are store on the slower spinning drive. The system monitors a user’s operations and swaps frequently accessed files, folders or programs between the two to optimize performance. Transfers take place seamlessly in the background and require no user input.

Previously, the hardware that works in tandem with the Fusion Drive software was only available on the more expensive 2.9GHz 21.5-inch iMac model.

Workaround discovered for poor graphics performance/frame rates on 15-inch MacBook Pro

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Date: Friday, January 4th, 2013, 08:54
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

In as much as you love your 15-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro notebook, there are times where things aren’t always perfect. Per CNET, some Mac users are finding that some of the latest MacBook systems from Apple are sometimes showing drastic drops in graphics performance, which are particularly notable when playing graphically intensive applications like video games.

The issue seems to be that while at first launching the game will show the expected smooth performance, it may suddenly drop to a very low frame rate and be essentially unplayable. Usually when systems drop to low frame rates it suggests they are being overworked for some reason and are struggling to make the computations necessary for smooth gameplay, and as a result will usually be relatively hot as the graphics card is taxed; however, in these systems this is not the case and in testing some users have noticed that various monitoring tools show the system at a relatively idle state, suggesting the system is not being taxed much and instead is just not performing the computations at hand.

Apple’s 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro systems ship with two graphics cards (a discrete Nvidia Geforce GT 650M for graphics intensive operations and an on-board Intel HD 4000 GPU for standard everyday tasks), which it switches between dynamically to get optimal energy savings and increase battery life. However, it appears that the problem at hand is with how the system is handling this switching behavior, where it will switch back to using the lower power Intel graphics and therefore not be able to manage the demands of fancier games.

The mighty Topher Kessler has listed how to reset the SMC and thus regain some of your graphics frame rate via the following steps:

– Shut down the computer.

– Plug in the MagSafe power adapter to a power source, connecting it to the Mac if its not already connected.

– On the built-in keyboard, press the (left side) Shift-Control-Option keys and the power button at the same time.

– Release all the keys and the power button at the same time.

– Press the power button to turn on the computer.

After these steps have been performed, the system should perform as expected with graphics-intensive applications.

If you’ve tried this fix with your 15-inch MacBook Pro and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple acquisition of Waze reportedly “not happening” according to multiple sources

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Date: Friday, January 4th, 2013, 07:07
Category: iOS, News, Software

It was an interesting rumor while it lasted.

Per TechCrunch, multiple sources have indicated that Apple will not buy Waze. Author MG Siegler was reportedly told by multiple sources that “there is no deal happening… now or anytime soon.”

He suggested that the companies could have talked about a potential acquisition, but noted that larger companies talk with smaller companies about possible deals “on a daily basis.”

Initially, Mike Butcher reported on Wednesday that Apple was “sniffing around Waze.” A similar rumor also appeared on an Israeli website.

Waze is a popular iOS application that the company says has more than 30 million users. It allows users to share real-time information on traffic congestion, gas prices, accidents, speed traps, checkpoints and more.

The Waze application for iOS was highlighted by Apple in September as an alternative mapping option on the App Store. Apple began promoting competing applications after users complained that its new Maps application in iOS 6, which replaced Google Maps data with its own proprietary service, was substandard.

The poor perception of the new iOS Maps was originally believed to be a driving force behind Apple’s supposed interest in Waze, but with Thursday’s report it’s now said that such a deal will not be happening.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple in negotiations to purchase Waze map service

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Date: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013, 10:16
Category: iOS, Rumor, Software

When in doubt about your own technologies, maybe it’s time to go shopping.

Per TechCrunch and The Mac Observer, Apple is apparently deep in negotiations to buy the online map service Waze. Sources say the Mac, iPhone and iPad maker is willing to pay upwards of US$500 million for the company, although Waze is said to be holding out for US$750 million.

Waze’s twist on the online map and navigation market is social networking. The company gathers map data through users as they drive, and is seen as generally more accurate than some other online map services since users are contributing information daily. In contrast, Google’s Maps relies primarily on its own cars to gather data and street view photos.

Apple found itself with a marketing black eye after the release of iOS 6 in fall 2012 when it replaced Google’s Maps for its own service — a service that suffered from accuracy issues and missing location data. Apple responded with a public apology and a promise to “throw its weight” behind improving its Maps service.

The company also recently approved Google’s own mapping app for the iPhone, which brought back features missing from Apple’s own app such as public transportation information. With Google Maps available, competition in the navigation space ramped up a little, although Waze is apparently the only navigation app that gained serious traction after Apple released its own Maps app.

Apple also already has a working relationship with Waze since the company is providing some of the location data iOS 6 users rely on.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to hold Q1 2013 earnings conference call on Wednesday, January 23rd

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Date: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013, 07:39
Category: Finance, News

applelogo_silver

It’s nice to get the numbers back and see how you’re doing.

Per AppleInsider, Apple announced on Wednesday that it will reveal results for the first fiscal quarter of 2013 on Jan. 23, which will be followed by an earnings conference call expected to cover initial statistics for the holiday season as well as performance numbers for the iPad mini.

The announcement was posted to Apple’s Investor Relations web site and noted the conference call will start on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 2:00 p.m. Pacific/5:00 p.m. Eastern. A live audio stream of the call will be available at this link.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple saw a 25 percent boost in profits thanks to strong sales of 44 million iDevices, including 26.9 million iPhones, for the three month period. Revenue for fiscal 2012 reached over US$156 billion on sales of more than 200 million iOS devices, 18 million Macs, and 35 million iPods.

For the upcoming report, Apple forecast revenue of US$52 billion and diluted earnings per share of about US$11.75 for the quarter ending in December. The multitude of new product launches and product line refreshes, like the iPad mini, iPhone 5 and newly redesigned iMac line, are expected to drive down gross margins that could equate to a decline of 400 basis points for the three month period.

Stay tuned to the PowerPage for up to the minute coverage on the earnings come the 23rd.

iOS 6 New Year’s Eve “Do Not Disturb” bug to auto-correct itself on Jan. 7th according to Apple

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Date: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013, 07:24
Category: iOS, News, Software

This is sort of an awkward thing, but Apple says it should resolve itself in four days’ time.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has posted a support document, informing users that a bug with the “Do Not Disturb” feature in iOS 6 will automatically be resolved after Jan. 7.

The document, published on Wednesday, acknowledges the “symptom” of the problem, in which the Do Not Disturb mode stays on past its scheduled end time. The bug went into effect with the start of the new year on Tuesday.

“Do Not Disturb scheduling feature will resume normal functionality after January 7, 2013,” Apple’s document reads. “Before this date, you should manually turn the Do Not Disturb feature on or off.”

Users can manually switch the automatic feature of Do Not Disturb on or off by opening the iOS Settings application, choosing “Notifications,” then “Do Not Disturb,” and switching “Scheduled.” Until next Monday, Jan. 7, the feature will not auto-enable or disable as it has done since the launch of iOS 6 in September.

The iPhone has a history of New Year’s bugs, with another issue arising at the start of 2011 that prevented non-repeating alarms from ringing. When the bug became known, Apple suggested that users set recurring alarms until Jan. 3 of that year, when the alarms automatically began working again properly.

If you’ve seen this bug on your end, please let us know.

Rumor: Apple to feature next-gen iPhone models in different sizes, colors

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Date: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013, 09:53
Category: iPhone, Rumor

A rumor’s a rumor and perhaps there’s some truth within it…

Per AppleInsider, Apple is said to be planning to offer customers more choices with the launch of its next-generation iPhone, including multiple colors and sizes, with an earlier-than-expected debut in the May-June timeframe.

Analyst Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets said in a note to investors Wednesday that his checks within the industry have indicated the so-called “iPhone 5S” will come in a variety of colors beyond the current black and white. He expects that the next iPhone will be available in a total of eight colors: the pink, yellow, blue, green, purple, silver and slate shades currently found on the iPod nano, and a (Product)Red model with proceeds benefiting AIDS research.

Beyond the new colors, White also said his industry checks found that a new model could become available in multiple screen sizes. Apple currently sells the 4-inch iPhone 5 alongside the 3.5-inch iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, but the company has never offered multiple screen sizes for a single model.

“We believe this is about to change with the next iPhone offering different screen sizes that we believe will allow Apple to better bifurcate the market and expand its reach,” White said. “This eventually opens up the possibility for a lower-priced iPhone (i.e., iPhone mini) with a smaller screen size that could allow Apple to further penetrate markets such as China and open up opportunities in India.”

The possibility of different iPhone screen sizes also opens up the opportunity for Apple to build a handset with a larger display. Apple’s chief rival, Samsung, has found some success in the market with its Galaxy Note series, which features a 5.5-inch screen with its latest model.

The launch of the iPhone 5 in September marked the first time that Apple has changed the screen size of the iPhone. The new 4-inch screen is slightly taller than the previous 3.5-inch screen, but remains the same width, allowing the handset to be operated with one hand.

As for new colors, White expects that expanded options will also eventually come to the iPad lineup, though no timeframe was given. The iPad mini launched in late October with design cues borrowed from the redesigned iPhone 5 and iPod touch, including an anodized aluminum back, but the device lacks the array of color options found in the iPod touch lineup.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple inks deal with Broadcom, will bring 802.11ac functionality to 2013 Macs

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Date: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013, 09:30
Category: Hardware, Rumor, wireless

This could lead to something nifty.

Per The Next Web, Apple has reportedly struck a deal with Broadcom that will place superfast 802.11ac Wi-Fi chips in its 2013 Mac lineup.

Sources familiar with the deal indicated that the forthcoming industry standard for Wi-Fi will appear in Apple’s lineup this year. The so-called “5G Wi-Fi” offers up to 1.3Gbps data with a three-antenna design.

Apple has reportedly shown interest in the past of being an early adopter of 801.11ac technology, but the “Gigabit Wi-Fi” technology has yet to appear in any Macs. The new standard achieves much faster wireless networking speeds than 802.11n, which featured in current Macs, by using more frequency bandwidth, more efficient data transfers, and more antennas.

Apple’s current Macs use up to three antennas to achieve 802.11n speeds of up to 450Mbps. But the 802.11ac standard starts at 450Mbps with just one antenna, while a triple-antenna design boosts wireless speeds to 1.3Gbps.

While Apple has reportedly struck a deal with Broadcom, the chips the company will use are not yet available and remain in development.

“We have been told that if work goes according to schedule, they should be part of the new line of Mac computers,” author Matt Brian wrote on Wednesday. “There is no word on whether Apple will introduce similar chipsets in the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Time Capsule or other products.”

Presumably Apple’s networking products would receive the necessary upgrade to provide 802.11ac connectivity to the rumored 2013 Macs. That would include the AirPort Extreme Base Station router and AirPort Express portable Wi-Fi base station and AirPlay streaming device.

Apple was among the first companies to bring Wi-Fi to the masses in 1999 when company co-founder Steve Jobs debuted a wireless iBook notebook onstage as his trademark “one more thing” at the July Macworld Expo.

The company also snuck in support for the 802.11n wireless standard in some of its devices in 2006. Support for the “draft n” specification was later added to devices through an available software update. The 802.11n standard was formally ratified in October of 2009 — nearly three years after Apple began rolling it out.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, Samsung come to terms over Galaxy S III Mini, remove it from forthcoming patent infringement case claims

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Date: Monday, December 31st, 2012, 08:47
Category: Legal, News

Not that this is going to entirely alleviate the ongoing conflict between the Hatfields and the McCoys, but it’s a small step in the right direction.

Per AppleInsider, a court document filed on Friday revealed that Apple is dropping all claims against Samsung’s Galaxy S III Mini smartphone after the Korean company said it has no plans to formally import and sell the handset in the U.S.

In Apple’s filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, a reply in support of a November motion to amend its claims against Samsung, the company agreed to drop the Galaxy S III Mini from the suit in response to the Galaxy maker’s opposition of adding new products to the upcoming case.

Apple looked to broaden assertions with a proposed Nov. 23 motion which added the Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S III with Android 4.1, Galaxy S III Mini, Rugby Pro, Galaxy Tab 8.9 Wi-Fi and Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 to a suit scheduled to be heard in 2014.

Samsung countered by saying it is not “making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the Galaxy S III Mini in the United States,” and opposed the inclusion of the Galaxy Tab 8.9, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, and Galaxy Rugby Pro, because “Apple did not serve its claim charts for these products until November 30, after the November 23 date identified by the Court.”

According to Friday’s filing, Apple will not contest the partial opposition and claimed it misunderstood a Nov. 15 court order regarding a limitation on assertions, a stipulation Samsung pointed to in its retort. If the Court agrees with Samsung’s reading of the order, which concludes that all new contentions made after Nov. 23 are invalid, Apple “will of course voluntarily withdraw any infringement contentions” made after that date.

As for the Galaxy S III Mini, Apple noted that the handset can be purchased at retail outlets like Amazon.com’s U.S. storefront, but agreed to withdraw its claims as long as they can be reinstated if the device was to see official sale in America.

The case, which involves the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III flagship smartphones, is set to start hearings on Mar. 31, 2014.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.