Mid-2013 Haswell-based MacBook Air owners cite volume fluctuation issue

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Date: Monday, July 15th, 2013, 08:51
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Software

This is why they invented firmware updates…

Per Macworld UK, a number of MacBook Air owners have taken to Apple’s Support Community forums to express concern over unexpected, and unwanted, changes in volume when viewing video content.

According to numerous posts, the issue presents itself in both first-party and third-party applications, such as QuickTime and Google’s Chrome. It is unclear whether the issue extends into other areas of OS X, though many of the replies to the thread started on June 21 pertain to watching videos.

A trigger or cause has yet to be discovered, though some users have found third-party volume control and enhancement apps like Boom can serve as a temporary fix while Apple works to resolve the problem.

Apple recently refreshed its MacBook Air lineup in June, concentrating on a significant boost to battery life instead of focusing on performance. With the new Airs, Apple also introduced the first Macs to boast 802.11ac “Gigabit Wi-Fi,” a next-generation wireless protocol that promises speeds up to 1300Mbps with the also new AirPort Express.

Previous to Friday’s news, both MacBook Air models were found to be running 802.11ac at speeds far less than advertised. It is thought that OS X is to blame for the artificial speed cap, but Apple has yet to acknowledge the issue and it remains unresolved.

If you’ve seen this issue with your own mid-2013 MacBook Air, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases Mavericks Developer Preview 3 to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, July 9th, 2013, 08:38
Category: News, Software

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Mavericks is coming…

Per MacNN, Apple has posted OS X 10.9 Mavericks Developer Preview 3 on Monday. While it is too soon to notice any significant changes or improvements, the beta is focused on compatibility and performance issues, as well as integrating the forthcoming “iCloud Keychain” feature. The update is still dealing with assorted known issues, including some that render it incompatible with even the last Mavericks and iOS 7 betas. Installation on production machines remains strongly discouraged.

The update, which is just over 1GB in size, doesn’t support virtual machines made by VMWare Fusion, nor does Adobe’s After Effects CS6 work properly. A number of functions in DP3 are not backwards-compatible with previous versions — such as new Fusion Drive volumes, screen recordings, Recovery Partition reinstalls and iCloud Keychain. The latter, an expansion of the ability to sync keychains between devices, still has a number of serious known issues.

The iCloud Keychain proposes to move the centralized storage of secure passwords, website usernames and other important data to iCloud, with entries encrypted using 256-bit AES. This enables users to take more advantage of the built-in Password Generator that creates unmemorable complex passwords for online accounts, since users don’t have to remember the password itself, just the one master password that unlocks the keychain and can be used across any devices the user has.

The release notes refer to issues with QuickTime Player, Aperture, Photoshop, Maps and others. The new update does include a newer version of OpenSSH, 6.2p2, but also lists a number of odd bugs such as “the headphone port on the new 2013 MacBook Air will not operate unless headphones are present at boot” and “on some machines, frequently sleeping and waking may result in the machines restarting,” indicating that the latest release is still far from being ready for public consumption. Migration from Windows is still not supported, and network migration from earlier versions of OS X requires a Migration Update (for Snow Leopard and later) that is only available from the Mac Dev Center.

The forthcoming Mavericks promises users long-requested features such as Finder Tabs and better multi-monitor support, extensive efficiency routines that should prolong battery life, improved Maps, a faster Safari, iBooks for the Mac and many other new and improved features. It is expected sometime in the early fall, although no exact release date has been released.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Geekbench entry hints at next-gen 15-inch, Haswell-based MacBook Pro

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Date: Tuesday, July 9th, 2013, 07:14
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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This could point to something cool down the road.

Per MacRumors, a new entry that surfaced last month in the results database for popular benchmarking tool Geekbench 2 appeared to reveal Apple’s next-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro. Many observers had expected the update to come at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference last month, but Apple has yet to release the new machines.

The post appears to reveal Apple’s next-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro, carrying a code name of “AAPLJ45,1″. As with the 13-inch model, it is not clear whether this machine is a Retina or non-Retina model, although Apple has been rumored to be leaving the non-Retina models without any further updates as it seeks to phase out the line in favor of an all-Retina lineup.

The benchmarked 15-inch MacBook Pro, which carries one of Intel’s new Haswell processors and 16 GB of RAM, received a Geekbench score of 12497, roughly in line with the current generation of the machine. But as was seen with the MacBook Air released last month, Haswell’s biggest benefit comes in efficiency, with Apple being able to boost the battery life on those machines to up to 12 hours.

The chip included in the benchmarked machine is a Core i7-4950HQ running at 2.4 GHz and offering Intel’s new high-end Iris Pro 5200 integrated graphics. Intel’s promotional materials for Iris previously showed graphics performance gains of 2-2.5x for this i7-4950Q with Iris 5200 compared to the i7-3840QM with HD Graphics 4000 found in the current stock high-end Retina MacBook Pro.

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro has, however, historically also included a dedicated graphics chip for improved performance, although it is unclear exactly what Apple’s plans are in this regard for future generations. With Intel’s integrated graphics seeing significant increases in performance, it is possible that Apple could, at least on some models, forego a dedicated graphics chip in order to push battery life even higher.

As with the 13-inch model benchmarked earlier, this 15-inch model is running a custom build of OS X Mavericks, in this case 13A2052. The machine is also running a Boot ROM dated June 24.

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro currently offers 7 hours of battery life, and while Apple may not be able to duplicate the 80% increase in battery life seen with the MacBook Air’s switch to Haswell due to other power-hungry components such as the MacBook Pro’s Retina display, the company may still be able to offer substantial battery life improvements in its new machines.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Fifth-gen iPad could arrive in September, second-gen iPad mini not long after

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Date: Monday, July 8th, 2013, 06:22
Category: Hardware, iPad mini, Rumor

The next-gen iPad you’re hoping for could hit in September, the mini version not long after.

Per DigiTimes, a new 9.7-inch iPad is planned to debut in September with a slimmer bezel, as has been rumored.

In addition, the report said the number of LED tubes to backlight the Retina display has been reduced from two to one, and battery life of the device has also been improved.

Pilot production of the device is allegedly already able to satisfy demand for the initial launch. As such, suppliers reportedly indicated they expect Apple to give shipment estimates as soon as the end of this month.

While the full-size iPad is rumored to see a refresh in September, the iPad mini may have to wait a little longer for its second-generation model to launch. Sources have stated that Apple is “still considering whether to adopt a Retina display for the device.”

If Apple does opt for a high-resolution display in its 7.9-inch tablet, the release of the product could be delayed until the fourth quarter of calendar 2013, the report said. It also added that Apple is pushing component suppliers to further shrink the iPad mini bezel, and that the company is pushing for a largely bezel-less design.

Apple launched both the first iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad at the same event last October. The updated full-size iPad was a moderate surprise, as the third-generation model with Retina display had debuted only six months prior.

The fifth-generation iPad is expected to adopt a design similar to that of the iPad mini, including more rounded edges and a thinner bezel. Leaked schematics have suggested the new iPad will also be thinner than its predecessor, while well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has said the device will be 25 percent lighter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Study finds mid-2013 MacBook Air’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi speeds throttled by bug in OS X

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Date: Tuesday, June 25th, 2013, 07:51
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software, wireless

Even in the event that the Wi-Fi connectivity issues on the mid-2013 MacBook Air notebooks are hardware-based, the underlying operating system software is apparently throttling potential data speeds on the new networking protocol.

Per AnandTech and CNET, a series of tests by AnandTech confirms that much of the Wi-Fi speed throttling is software-based. The new MacBook Air was announced by Apple at the recent Worldwide Developers Conference, and in addition to extended battery life, the new systems include support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking, which supports up to three times faster data rates in comparison with 802.11n.

In testing, AnandTech noticed that the link speeds of the systems are very high, at an average of about 533Mbps, but when transferring files over standard networking protocols, the speed drops to about 169Mbps at its maximum. This is over three times less than the expected speeds.

In investigating the issue, AnandTech discovered that an apparent bug in OS X limits the TCP window size (the maximum data that can be sent at a time) to a maximum of 64KB, which is far less than the 256KB needed to meet the speed capabilities of the 802.11ac connection.

As a result of this finding, AnandTech shows that in its current state, while the 2013 MacBook Air will still give fast file transfers, these will be limited to about 21MBps, instead of the more than 50MBps expected. Luckily, this limitation being in software means the fix should be easy, and it may be only a matter of a quick update for these systems to realize their full potential.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Best Buy recalls select third party MacBook Pro batteries after reports of fires

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Date: Thursday, June 20th, 2013, 07:37
Category: battery, Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

best-buy-logo

The MacBook Pro battery fire issue has reared its ugly head yet again…

Per Macworld, Best Buy has recalled about 5100 replacement batteries for Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops, after 13 reports that the battery caught fire, a U.S. consumer safety agency said.

The ATG lithium-ion batteries can catch fire while charging, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said in a statement Wednesday.

The recall covers both black and white ATG lithium-ion replacement batteries for MacBook Pro laptops. “Model number ‘MC-MBOOK13B’ is on the label of the black battery and model number ‘MC-BOOK13W’ is on the label of the white battery,” CPSC said. The ATG logo is on both batteries.

Best Buy has received 13 reports that the battery caught fire, including one of a serious burn to a consumer’s leg, according to CPSC.

Consumers have been advised to immediately stop using the recalled battery, remove it from the computer and contact Best Buy for a replacement Apple brand battery or a US$50 Best Buy gift card as a full refund. Best Buy is contacting its customers directly, it said.

Best Buy and Apple could not be immediately reached for comment. The batteries were manufactured in China and imported by a company in Las Vegas, called BTI.

The batteries were sold through Bestbuy.com and Partstore.com, a Best Buy brand, or shipped to customers through the Geek Squad Protection fulfillment at Best Buy from September 2008 through June 2012. A Best Buy spokesman said that it may be one of other companies also selling the batteries, according to reports.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel-based MacBook Air batteries show best-ever test results according to Macworld Lab

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Date: Thursday, June 20th, 2013, 06:02
Category: battery, MacBook Air, News

The new MacBook Air batteries have been tested.

And you’ll probably like the results.

Per Macworld, the Macworld Lab has completed its run of tests on Apple’s new battery for its updated Haswell-based MacBook Air notebook. And while Macworld Lab didn’t experience the 12-hour battery life cited by Apple, the tests do show that the new MacBook Air lasts considerably longer than before. The results were better than anything seen before by the lab.

The tests were run with the brightness set to maximum and made sure that automatic brightness adjustment was off, backlit keyboards were off, and Screen Saver was set to never start.

In the first test, the lab looped a movie clip in full screen mode with Wi-Fi disabled. The new 11-inch MacBook Air lasted 6 hours and 6 minutes, compared to just 3 hours and 34 minutes for the 2012 model. The new 13-inch standard configuration MacBook Air lasted 8 hours and 18 minutes, 36 percent longer than the new 11-inch MacBook Air, and 65 percent longer than last year’s 13-inch MacBook Air. Compared to a 2013 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, the 13-inch MacBook Air lasted 75 percent longer.

The lab also ran the tests on “ultimate” configure-to-order (CTO) MacBook Air models from this year and from last year. There wasn’t too much of a battery life hit on the new CTO model compared to the standard configuration; the standard configuration model lasted just 11 minutes longer than the CTO unit that has a faster processor, more RAM, and twice the hard drive capacity. Comparing this year’s CTO “ultimate” to last year’s, they saw that the new model lasted 65 percent longer.

The second run of tests used Futuremark’s free Peacekeeper browser test, which has an option to run the online test repeatedly and report the time at which the system being tested stops responding. This test is much more taxing than the movie playback, using more of the system’s memory and processor. Hence, the lab found that the notebooks couldn’t last as long when running the Peacekeeper test, but did find that the performance still scaled as expected.

In the Peacekeeper tests, the new 13-inch standard configuration MacBook Air lasted the longest at 5 hours and 45 minutes, which was 2.5 hours less than in the movie test. The new 13-inch standard configuration model lasted 41 percent longer than the new 11-inch model and 25 percent longer than the new CTO MacBook Air. It should be pointed out, however, that the CTO Air outscored the new stock 13-inch MacBook Air by about 20 percent in the tasks that Peacekeeper repeatedly runs during its battery test. The new standard configuration 13-inch Air lasted 63 percent longer than last year’s 13-inch MacBook Air and 67 percent longer than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

The increased battery life is the result of two under-the-hood changes to the MacBook Air. First off, there is more battery capacity. iFixit’s teardown demonstrated that the new models using slightly higher capacity batteries. Second, the new MacBook Air has also switched from using Intel’s third generation Ivy Bridge Core processors to fourth generation Haswell processors. A key difference between the generations is decreased power consumption, which results in increased battery life on the portables it powers.

If you’ve picked up a new Haswell-based MacBook Air notebook and have any feedback about its battery life, please let us know about your experience in the comments.

iFixit completes Haswell-based MacBook Air teardown, finds changes in battery, SSD, other modules

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Date: Wednesday, June 12th, 2013, 06:21
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

The Haswell-based MacBook Air is out, and in their usual fine style, the ubergeeks at iFixit have completed a full teardown of the notebook. Per AppleInsider, the updated notebook features minor changes seen in battery size, the SSD module and integrated graphics, among others.

Most notable among the hardware revisions is an enlarged battery, which moves from a 7.3V 6700mAh pack to a 7.6V 7150mAh unit. The cells still dominate the Air’s innards.


13.06.12-MBA_Teardown

Apple touts the new 13-inch model will last 12 hours on a charge, but the battery is not thought to be the main contributor to that spec buff. Instead, the Air uses Intel’s Haswell ULT silicon, which offers huge decreases in power consumption while serving up snappier performance.

With Haswell, Intel moved to its next-generation integrated graphics solution, Intel HD Graphics 5000, which doesn’t require a separate board.

Adding to the updated component list is a new SSD module from Samsung, which is smaller than similar parts used in previous MacBook Air iterations. With the new size comes new technology, as the latest SSD unit uses a PCIe bus rather than SATA, a first for Mac. PCIe can achieve rates of up to 800MB/s, while SATA is limited to about 600MB/s.

The new Air is also the first to employ the fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi protocol, which required the computer’s wireless card to be updated. Apple launched redesigned AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models to take advantage of the new standard, and is planning on incorporating the technology into future Macs as they roll out.

The only change made to the MacBook Air’s chassis is a hole to accommodate the addition of a second internal microphone used for sound cancellation duties.

Other smaller tweaks include a redesigned heat sink clamp, repositioned speaker cabling and a revamped MagSafe 2 board that no longer holds a socket for the laptop’s iSight camera.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on the new MacBook Air and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases updated MacBook Air, cites 12-hour battery, Intel Haswell architecture

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Date: Monday, June 10th, 2013, 12:45
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

It’s the MacBook Air with the battery you always wanted.

Per The Mac Observer, Apple introduced updated MacBook Air models on Monday during its World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco. The new ultra-light models sport what Apple called “all day battery life” and also run Intel’s Haswell UTC processors.

The new 13-inch MacBook Air offers up to 12 hours battery life and over a month of standby time, and while it doesn’t gain a high resolution Retina Display, it does include 802.11ac wireless networking — a first for Apple’s product lineup. The new Wi-Fi spec means the MacBook Air can transfer data faster and network connections are more robust.

Like the previous model, the new Air includes Thunderbolt and USB connectors, a built-in camera and microphone, built-in speakers, Bluetooth, and more.

The updated MacBook Air is available now and is priced at US$999 for the 11-inch model, and the 13-inch model is US$100 less at US$1,099.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Developer finds Facebook apps may be draining batteries too quickly on iOS devices

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Date: Tuesday, June 4th, 2013, 07:40
Category: iOS, News, Software

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If your iPhone’s battery life seems to be going the way of the dodo, the Facebook app might be to blame.

Per Cult of Mac, the iOS developer behind Home Remind has published a blog post about the Facebook apps for iPhone, iPad and Facebook Messenger. He says that according to his testing, the Facebook apps consume way more CPU time than is strictly necessary. Excessive CPU time can lead to battery drain.

The developer used Apple’s own Mac-based app, Instruments, to look at what was running on his iPhone, and found that his Facebook app was activating, doing something for ten seconds, then going back to sleep. It did this all day long during his test. He tested the Messenger app and the Facebook iPad app, and found the same pattern.

If that’s the case, the Facebook app is never truly going to sleep and then terminating like a good app. As a result, it’s using up CPU time, and a lot of your battery.

According to the blog post, Facebook is able to do this because it meets the criteria for two types of apps that Apple allows to run in the background: audio apps and voice over IP apps. Facebook apps are operating under these two backgrounding apps privileges, and, as such, are actively chewing up your battery time.

The developer doesn’t say that Facebook is doing this on purpose, and it hoping to make the company aware of the problem, so that they could possibly fix it in an update. Until then, he says, there are only two options.

You can delete the Facebook apps from your iPhone or iPad, and then just use the web version of Facebook, or you can force-quit the app when you’re not using it by double clicking the home button, tapping and holding the Facebook icon in the multitasking bar, and then tapping the little red minus icon. That way, he says, Facebook apps will well and truly be terminated.

If you’ve seen this battery drain on your end or have two cents to throw in on the issue, please let us know in the comments.