Apple releases fifth Mac OS X 10.6.7 beta to developer community, directs focus to Safari

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Date: Friday, February 18th, 2011, 05:08
Category: News, Software

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This week, Apple issued the fifth beta of Mac OS X 10.6.7 on Thursday, directing developers to focus on Safari.

Per AppleInsider, build 10J858 was released as a 1008.8MB combo update and a 434.4MB delta update. According to people familiar with the beta, the update was released with no known issues as usual, though the Safari web browser has been added to the list of Focus Areas.

In addition to Safari, Apple has asked developers to look into the Mac App Store, Airport, Bonjour, SMB and Graphics Drivers.

Apple seeded the first beta of Mac OS X 10.6.7 on Jan. 20, just weeks after releasing Mac OS X 10.6.6 and the Mac App Store. The most recent build came a week ago on Feb. 10.

Mac OS X 10.6.7 is expected to have only minor fixes and few new features, as Apple plans to release a major operating system upgrade, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, this summer. Lion will incorporate features such as a home screen and full-screen applications from the Apple’s iOS back to the Mac.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on the new beta or have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

Apple exploring technique for dense lithium battery cell creation

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 10:27
Category: battery, News, Patents

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It’s a good day for patent stuff and that counts for something.

According to AppleInsider, Apple is investigating techniques to increase the energy capacity of rechargeable lithium battery cells without increasing the size of the battery, allowing longer battery life in future devices.

The proposed invention is detailed in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. The filing, titled “Increasing Energy Density in Rechargeable Lithium Battery Cells,” describes charging a battery using a “multi-step constant-current constant-voltage (CC-CV) charging technique.”

The CC-CV charging technique would allow the thickness of the anode active material inside a battery cell to be increased in both “volumetric and gravimetric energy density.” But while the density of the power capacity would be increased, the size of the battery, as well as its maximum charging time and minimum life cycle, would remain unchanged.

Apple’s application notes that the conventional method for increasing the battery capacity, or ampere-hour (mAh), of a lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery involves increasing the lengths of the anode and cathode current collectors, as well as their coating materials But increasing the area of current collectors results in lower volumetric energy density, and results in a larger battery.

“What is needed is a technique for increasing the energy capacity of a rechargeable lithium battery without increasing the size of the battery sell,” the filing states.

Apple’s application notes that the company intends to make battery cells smaller, allowing the “limited space available in portable electronic devices to be used more efficiently.” The company noted it could use the space savings to add more features, or more battery capacity.

But one issue with employing the multi-step CC-CV charging technique is battery life can be significantly decreased depending on temperature. For example, using the same current-charge density at 10 degrees celsius will lower the cycle life “substantially” when compared to a higher temperature such as 45 degrees.

In addition, current-charge densities further reduce the battery’s cycle life if it is at a higher state of charge, between 70 percent and 100 percent.

Apple’s solution would reduce the charge currents for a mobile device when its battery is at a higher state of charge, or a lower temperature. This would avoid degradation in the cycle life of the battery, and potentially even increase it, without any required change in battery chemistry.

The multi-step charging technique would be compatible with the new battery design and would increase battery life by dynamically adjusting the rate of charge when the battery is at different states of charge, or different temperatures.

The patent application was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Aug. 22, 2009. It is credited to Ramesh C. Bhardwaj and Taisup Hwang.

Apple patent suggests combined MagSafe power connector/data connector technology

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 06:08
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Patents

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Ok, this could be useful.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week published a new patent application from Apple named “Magnetic Connector with Optical Signal Path.” Discovered by AppleInsider, the document describes a single cable that would provide both power and data to a mobile device, like a MacBook Pro, using a single cable.

Like Apple’s existing, patented MagSafe adapters, the new cable would allow for “easy disengagement” due to the use of magnets to attach and properly secure the cable.

The application notes that there are two major needs the portable computers must satisfy if the notebook is to serve as a proper desktop replacement. The first is the need for a power source, since modern batteries often cannot get through an entire workday, while the second is the ability to transfer data over a physical connection.

“Presently, satisfying these two requires at least two connections to the mobile device; one for power and one for data transmission,” the application reads. “But including two (or more) connectors increases cost and consume space, typically along the side of the mobile device. It also requires the user to make two separate connections, thus limiting the usefulness and desirability of the mobile computing format.”

Apple’s filing also notes that the use of two cables can clutter a user’s workspace and degrade the mobile computing experience. More cables also increase the likelihood of a user tripping over one and potentially damaging their computer.

“Thus, what is needed are circuits, apparatus, and methods that provide a power and data transfer system that can supply both power and data to a laptop or other mobile computing device,” the application states.

The application suggests the presence of a fiber optic line inside a connector that looks much like the existing MagSafe power connector found on its line of MacBooks. But it would include additional “pins” inside the connector to allow data transfer for multiple types of inputs.

Potential input methods listed by Apple include USB, fiber-optic, local area networking (LAN) cables, DVI video, and DisplayPort. Corresponding connectors for these devices would be included on the power and data adapter.

In addition, Apple’s proposed invention would allow separate external devices to communicate with one another via the power and data adapter. For example, two or more USB devices could communicate with each other and transfer data between one another over the adapter.

Like a similar patent awarded to Apple last fall, the application revealed this week could offer a glimpse into the company’s potential plans with Intel’s high-speed Light Peak optical cable technology. Intel aims to offer mobile devices bandwidth of 10Gbps, scaling up to 100GBps over the next decade, with its next-generation cable.

Apple has shown great interest in Light Peak and has been “pushing” the chipmaker to bring it to market. Light Peak would allow Apple to roll networking, display, and peripheral cables all into one master cable, much like is described in the latest patent application.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.6, adds support for new camera formats

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 05:53
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple posted its Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.6, an update designed to extend RAW image compatibility for the Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’09 applications.

The update, a 6.4 megabyte download, adds support for the following cameras:
- Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D / Kiss X50

- Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D / Kiss X5

- Olympus E-5

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100

- Pentax K-r

- Pentax K-5

It also addresses processing issues for the following cameras:
- Nikon D7000

- Nikon COOLPIX P7000

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

The update requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and is also available via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new Digital Camera update and noticed any changes, please let us know how it went.

Apple apparently unaffected by Sandy Bridge chipset bug, boosts notebook component orders

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Date: Wednesday, February 16th, 2011, 06:59
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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In spite of much hubbub surrounding the error in Intel’s Sandy Bridge chipset, emerging evidence suggests that Apple has been largely unaffected by the gaffe.

Per DigiTimes, Apple’s notebook shipments are expected to “remain strong” in the first quarter of 2011. It noted that retail channel vendors indicated a widely publicized design flaw in the chipset accompanying Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors “did not impact” Apple, and the company is expected to increase orders.

Apple was reportedly aided by the fact that it is slower in upgrading its products to the latest platform. The report said that Apple is still using Intel’s Calpella chips for “most” of its current models, allowing it to “completely” avoid the impact.

“The sources pointed out that because Apple’s products have high (average selling prices), even if the company is slow in upgrading its products to the latest platform, it will not see a significant impact on its pricing or gross margins,” the report said.

“However, for Hewlett-Packard (HP), Acer and Dell, which heavily depend on their economic scale, the new platform will help raise their ASPs and therefore, these makers will try to launch notebooks with new platforms as early as possible.”

Intel disclosed earlier this month that it discovered an error in its series 6 chipsets, dubbed Cougar Point, which causes the performance of serial ATA ports numbered 2 through 5 to degrade over time in extreme conditions. The issue applies to both mobile and desktop processors, and does not affect SATA ports 0 and 1.

Just a week after the error was revealed, Intel announced that it had resumed shipment of chipsets for Sandy Bridge-powered PC system configurations not impacted by the design flaw. The company also said the new, fixed version of its support chip would begin shipping for systems that relied on SATA ports 2 through 5 in mid-February. In addition, the company confirmed it will meet its deadline to begin shipping dual-core Sandy Bridge chips on Feb. 20.

Hopefully this’ll lead to something nifty in the next revision of Apple’s notebooks and we’ll keep you informed as details emerge.

Apple releases iWeb 3.0.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, February 16th, 2011, 05:27
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Apple released iWeb 3.0.3, the latest update to its WYSIWYG web content generation tool and part of iLife ’09.

The update, a 177 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Addresses an issue when using the iSight Movie widget on certain Macs.

- Addresses an issue publishing iWeb sites using FTP .

- Improves compatibility with Mac OS X.

iWeb 3.0.3 requires a Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new update (as opposed to the previous crashtastic version) and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Rare Apple customer survey sparks hopes for 3G in next-gen MacBook Air

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Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 05:06
Category: MacBook Air, News

This could be interesting.

Apple, which typically relies on its own in-house research as opposed to customer feedback, began reaching out to select MacBook Air owners this week in a new survey that could help define future versions of the diminutive notebook, posing questions on 3G, data syncing, I/O usage, and the desire for models with more capable computing power.

Per AppleInsider, the wide-ranging survey touches on a number of issues, including the use of USB ports and external disc drives, Web-based file storage and syncing, and use of certain function keys on the keyboard. It also includes a number of queries related to wireless 3G data connectivity, suggesting Apple could be exploring integrated cellular radios in future notebooks.

Official Apple customer surveys on products are not unheard of, though they are rare. The last survey AppleInsider can recall was conducted back in February 2009 to help shape the future of the Apple TV, and that was related to the company’s self-proclaimed “hobby” that was a work-in-progress.

In addition to future MacBook Air models, the new survey could offer a glimpse into Apple’s plans for the MacBook Pro line of notebooks. When the new MacBook Air was released last October, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said the thin-and-light computer is “the first of a new generation of notebooks.”

Interestingly, the survey asks users whether they have connected their MacBook Air to a 3G network, how often they do so, where they connect to 3G, what type of device they use to connect to a 3G network (MiFi, USB device, or tethering with a cell phone).

Though the redesigned MacBook Air launched in late 2010, rumors of its successor have already begun to surface. Last week, it was said that Apple allegedly plans to upgrade its line of thin-and-light notebooks to Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors this June. No claims were made about 3G connectivity.

Rumors of a 3G-capable Mac have persisted for years, but the company does not yet sell a notebook with an integrated cellular data radio. Apple even sought to hire a 3G expert for its Mac team in 2009, fueling those rumors that the functionality would be added to a future MacBook.

So, it’s hard to say how much attention to pay to this, but it is sort of interesting and could lead to something cool. If you’ve seen this survey on your end, please let us know in the comments.

iPhone 5 could feature 4″ screen, A5 processor

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Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 05:09
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The iPhone may be getting a bit bigger.

Per Taiwanese publication DigiTimes, upstream component suppliers report that Apple will expand the screen size of the fifth-generation iPhone to 4 inches in order to compete with a growing class of ‘super phones’ in the 4- to 7-inch range. By comparison, the iPhone 4 sports a 3.5-inch display with a resolution of 960 by 640 pixels.

The screen bump could also serve to push the iPhone toward the smaller end of the tablet market. “The component suppliers noted that the production lines for Apple’s next generation iPhone have begun testing, and Apple is interesting in expanding the screen size to 4-inches to support the tablet PC market as the vendor only has a 9.7-inch iPad in the market,” said the report.

If accurate, the report could dovetail with recent rumors of an “iPhone nano,” as Apple may be looking to differentiate its iPhone lineup with bigger and smaller displays. Though rumors of a smaller version of the iPhone have persisted for years, recent reports from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal of an upcoming cheaper, smaller iPhone have lent credence to the rumors.

A second report from DigiTimes claims that Apple is hoping to outsource the production of its A4 processor and the next-generation A5 processor, which will likely utilize the ARM Cortex A9 design, to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company due to concerns over increased competition between Samsung and Apple. At this week’s Mobile World Congress, Samsung has shown a number of new products, such as the Galaxy S II smartphone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, that will directly compete with Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

Though Apple’s A4 processor is currently exclusively produced by Samsung Electronics, Apple has tapped TSMC for help producing the A4 in the past when Samsung’s capacity was unable to meet demand for Apple’s devices. Sources indicated to DigiTimes that “the move at that time was perhaps to test TSMC’s capability.”

“According to Digitimes Research,” the report continued, “the iPad 2 will support an enhanced version of the A4 and the A5 will power the iPhone 5. TSMC will initially produce the improved A4, and could likely become the exclusive manufacturer of the A5.”

The report echoes rumors from January suggesting that the next iPhone will run atop “Apple’s new A5 CPU (a Cortex A9-based, multi-core chip).”

It’s speculation at this point but it’s still interesting.

If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: iPhone mini could drop internal storage, rely extensively on MobileMe streaming

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Date: Monday, February 14th, 2011, 10:50
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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It’s the rumors that keep technology interesting.

With that in mind, the iPhone mini is making the rounds with the cool cats at Cult of Mac stating that the smaller iPod smartphone combo may rely on the also rumored MobileMe cloud-based iTunes storage server for streaming content from user’s media libraries.

Access to music, video and photos on the iPhone mini “would be a mostly cloud-based iOS,” according to Cult of Mac’s anonymous sources.

The rumored changes to Apple’s MobileMe service include a new Internet-based iTunes library storage system for iPhone users. Since content would be pushed wirelessly to them, the need for large amounts of RAM for local data storage would go away.

The notion that users would be able to stream their entire iTunes library may not, however, go over well with cell service providers. Relying on 3G data connections instead of Wi-Fi networks at least some of the time would push up iPhone user’s wireless data usage dramatically, and carriers may not want to deal with the extra network traffic per the Mac Observer.

Streaming content libraries would also a problem in places where data connections aren’t available, such as many flights. Unless the iPhone mini includes at least some local storage for media, users won’t be able to listen to music or watch movies when they can’t get an Internet connection.

It’s been presumed that an iPhone mini would have at least some built-in storage so users could load apps and store their contacts and appointments on the device.

As of now, Apple has yet to offer any comment, leaving the rest of this up to speculation…

Rumor: Updated MacBook Pro units could arrive on March 1st

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Date: Monday, February 14th, 2011, 05:45
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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You’re eagerly waiting for the next MacBook Pro refresh.

And it could happen on March 1st.

A report from Danish blogger Kenneth Lund has claimed that Lund has had heard from retailers in the country that a limited supply of the new MacBook Pros will be available from March 1st.

Last week, it was reported that supplies of MacBook Pros were running low in Japan, following on from January’s news that U.S. stores were also facing dwindling stocks.

It was anticipated that problems with Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors could delay the MacBook Pro product line refresh, though if the reports about a March 1st launch are correct then it seems that any delays were minor.

Other rumors include the possibility that the new MacBook Pro notebooks could contain solid-state drives as opposed to conventional hard drives. This has yet to be confirmed and only time will tell.