Apple quietly releases updated MacBook Pro notebook models

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Date: Monday, October 24th, 2011, 08:37
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Well, this one came by surprise.

Per AppleInsider, with no mention of the update, Apple on Monday improved its MacBook Pro lineup with slightly faster Intel processors, as well as new graphics processors and larger hard drives in some models.

The new entry-level MacBook Pro now sports a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU. It also features a larger 500GB 5400-rpm hard drive at the same cost of US$1,199.

The faster 13-inch MacBook Pro now boasts a 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7, and its hard drive has also been upgraded to 750GB. It sells for US$1,499.

For the 15-inch models, both feature quad-core Intel Core i7 processors. The low-end 15-inch has a clock speed of 2.2GHz and a 500GB hard drive, plus a faster AMD Radeon HD 6750M discrete graphics card with 512MB of GDDR5. The faster 15-inch runs at 2.4GHz with a 750GB hard drive and features the AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB of GDDR5.

And the updated 17-inch MacBook Pro features a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with a 750GB hard drive, along with the AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB of GDDR5. All MacBook Pro models come with 4GB of RAM clocked at 1333MHz standard.

Apple’s top-of-the-line build-to-order 17-inch MacBook Pro offers a 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 for an additional US$250, while the RAM can be upgraded to 8GB for another US$200. All MacBook Pro models can also have their hard drives upgraded to solid state capacities up to 512GB for as much as US$1,200.

All of the new MacBook Pros are listed as in stock, and come with free shipping. Monday’s upgrade was done silently by Apple, as the company didn’t even list the updated notebooks as being “new” to the store. As of Monday morning, the iPhone 4S was still listed as Apple’s newest product.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve ordered a new MacBook Pro and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Catcher to invest $2-3 million to reopen Chinese MacBook unibody case plant within November time frame

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:05
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

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After local officials ordered the suspension of operations at a Suzhou, China factory that supplies Apple with chassis for its laptops, Taiwanese manufacturer Catcher Technology will invest US$2-3 million with the goal of getting its facility back online in November.

Per DigiTimes, details emerged that Catcher had temporarily closed a plant that provides 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air product lines, as well as the iMac all-in-one desktop. The company is reportedly spending to “modify equipment and manufacturing processes” to resolve complaints from nearby residents regarding “odorous gas emissions.”

“Catcher aims to resume operations at the plant in November,” the publication noted. The manufacturer’s president, Allen Horng, had previously said that total shipments would fall 20 percent in October and could drop by as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refuses to allow the plant to resume production.

“Shipments to our customers will inevitably be affected,” he said in a press conference Monday. “We already asked them to make adjustments to their (casings) procurement.”

According to the report, Catcher is now considering increasing its investment in Taiwan in order to diversify operations and reduce its operating risk. The manufacturer recently ratcheted up production at a plant in southern Taiwan and purchased a new lot for further expansion in the area.

Catcher’s production woes could restrict an already limited supply chain for metal chassis. In August, it was reported that laptop makers looking to build machines to Intel’s “Ultrabook” specifications were having trouble securing production capacity for unibody magnesium-aluminum chassis. Foxconn and Catcher reportedly have a combined total of 10,000 CNC lathes required for the process, with most of their supply going to Apple.

During Apple’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said that the company is “investigating and assessing” the potential shortage of Mac unibody casings. In the most recent September quarter, Apple had its best quarter ever for Mac sales, selling 4.89 million during the period. Portables now represent 74 percent of the company’s sales.

In 2008, Apple detailed the new unibody manufacturing process, calling the design “in many ways more beautiful internally than externally.”

Apple is expected to release a modest update to its MacBook Pro line later this month. The laptops will likely receive a speed bump to tide them over until Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge chips are ready next year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.7.2 update

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Date: Wednesday, October 12th, 2011, 12:06
Category: News, Software

On Wednesday, Apple released Mac OS X 10.7.2, the update to its recently-released Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” operating system. The update, a several hundred megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:

- Allows reordering of desktop spaces and full screen apps in Mission Control.

- Enables dragging files between desktop spaces and full screen apps.

- Addresses an issue that causes the menu bar to not appear in full screen apps.

- Improves the compatibility of Google contact syncing in Address Book.

- Addresses an issue that causes Keynote to become temporarily unresponsive.

- Improves VoiceOver compatibility with Launchpad.

- Addresses an issue that causes a delay in accessing the network after waking from sleep.

- Enables booting in to Lion Recovery from a locally attached Time Machine backup drive.

- Resolves an issue that causes screen zoom to stop working.

- Improves Active Directory integration.

The update can be located, downloaded and installed via the Software Update feature in Mac OS X.

Mac OS X 10.7.2 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.1 to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Parallels Desktop updated to 7.0.14924.699487

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Date: Friday, October 7th, 2011, 05:00
Category: News, Software

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On Thursday, Parallels released version 7.0.14924.699487 of its Parallels Desktop virtualization software. The new update, a 289 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Add support for Windows 8 Developer Preview (new Windows 8 installation is recommended after installing the update).

- Improve compatibility with Quicken 2011.

- Improve support for Autodesk 3ds Max 2012.

- Optimize CPU usage when Parallels Desktop is idle.

Parallels Desktop 7 retails for US$79.99 and requires a 64-bit Intel-based processor, Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later, 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended to run Windows 7), at least 700 MB of space available on the boot volume for Parallels Desktop installation and 15 GB of available disk space for Windows.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

Google Chrome updated to 14.0.835.202, resolves security, stability issues

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Date: Tuesday, October 4th, 2011, 12:26
Category: News, Software

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Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 14.0.835.202 for the Mac. The new version, a 40.5 megabyte download, offers the following changes:

- Contains Adobe Flash Player 11 plus stability and security fixes.

Google Chrome 14.0.835.202 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Mozilla releases Firefox 7.0.1 update

Posted by:
Date: Friday, September 30th, 2011, 05:43
Category: News, Software

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On Monday, Mozilla.org released version 7.0 of its Firefox web browser. The new version stands as an 28.2 megabyte download offered the following change:

- Fixed a rare issue where some users could find one or more of their add-ons hidden after a Firefox update.

Firefox 7.0.1 requires an Intel-based Mac and Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback, let us know.

VMWare releases Fusion 4.0.2 update

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Date: Thursday, September 29th, 2011, 04:46
Category: News, Software

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On Thursday, virtualization softare maker VMWare released version 4.0.2 of its Fusion software for the Mac.

Similar to other virtualization software packages, VMWare allows users to run alternate operating systems such as Windows and Linux distributions on Intel-based Macs at native speeds. Other features, such as Unity, allow users to run and minimize Windows applications from the Mac OS X Dock.

The new version, a 180 megabyte download via MacUpdate, can be found here, offers the following fix:

- Addresses an issue starting virtual machines running a forthcoming version of Mac OS X Lion.

Fusion 4.0.2 retails for US$49.99 and requires an Intel-based Mac, 2 GB of RAM, Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later (10.7 recommended) and a copy of Windows (if you’ll be installing Windows).

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

iFixit finishes teardown of Thunderbolt display, locates 2009 LG panel

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Date: Wednesday, September 28th, 2011, 08:37
Category: Hardware, News

When in doubt, count on someone geekier than you to dissect Apple’s newest hardware.

The cool cats at iFixit have completed a full teardown of the screen has found.

The new display, powered by Apple and Intel’s Thunderbolt technology, was disassembled this week by iFixit. They found that the LG display is model number “LM270WQ1,” matching the previous iMac as well as the screen found in Dell’s competing UltraSharp U2711 27-inch monitor.

However, Apple’s display uses LED backlights for better picture quality and lower power consumption, as opposed to the cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) found on Dell’s screen. In addition, the Dell display is matte, while Apple’s is glossy.

The solutions provider also noted that Apple’s screen has a 12 millisecond response time and 17.7 million colors, while Dell’s competing panel offers an advertised 6 millisecond response time and 1.07 billion colors.

iFixit found that the glass front of the new Thunderbolt Display can be removed with “heavy duty suction cups,” just like with Apple’s iMac lineup. The LCD screen sports a resolution of 2,560-by-1,440 pixels.

“The fan is easily removed by simply detaching a couple of connectors and unfastening a few screws,” they said. “Apple has, as usual, chosen to go with a large, brushless fan to keep the colossal Thunderbolt Display cool and quiet.”

Inside the display, iFixit found a plethora of chips, causing them to remark that “it’s hard to believe there’s no computer inside.” The screen includes a built-in FaceTime HD video camera, 2.1 speaker system, integrated MagSafe charger, three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

Some of the chips inside powering all of those features include:

- Pericom PI7C9X440SL PCIe-to-USB 2.0 host controller

- L129NB11 EFL, which looks to be the Thunderbolt port controller

- Analog Devices ADAV4601 audio processor

- NXP LPC2144 USB 2.0 microcontroller

- Delta LFE9249 10/100/1000 Base-T LAN filter

- SMSC USB2517-JZX USB 2.0 hub controller

- Maxim MAX9736B Mono/Stereo high-power Class D amplifier

- LSI L-FW643E-2 open host controller interface

- Broadcom BCM57761 Gigabit ethernet controller

- Supertex HV9982 3-channel switch-mode LED driver IC

The teardown also discovered that the speakers inside the Thunderbolt Display are 49 watts with a miniature subwoofer. In addition, the Flextronics power supply is said to provide 250 watts of maximum continuous power.

If you’ve snagged a new Thunderbolt display and have any feedback about it, please let us know in the comments.

Google Earth 6.1.0.4738 released

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Date: Thursday, September 22nd, 2011, 08:45
Category: Software

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On Thursday, software giant Google released version 6.1.0.4738 of its popular Google Earth program. The new version, a 23.8 megabyte download, adds the following new fixes and changes:

- Improved the robustness of network access by providing better support for Proxy and SSL certs. This will fix issues users have experienced of not being able to see balloon content or embedded browser content.

- Improved the resolution seen in elevation profiles for lines and tracks.

- Added the ability to sort “My Places,” and improved the user interface to be able find points across my places.

- There were several improvements to Street View in Google Earth. We added the ability to zoom into a Street View photo by using a zoom slider. Streetview in Earth feels more immersive now due to wider field of view. It is now faster and smoother to use. We made several small tweaks to the user interface including adding a way to navigate floors when you are indoors and there are multiple floors available in Street View.

- Fixed bugs related to missing road labels in cases where roads were curvy or zoomed into.

In Google Earth API for browser plugins:
- Added API for working with tours.

Fixed bugs or minor changes:
- Several performance improvements that would allow smoother experience in specific computer configurations.

- Fixed ‘Restrict to View’ functionality during a shapefile import in Google Earth Pro.

- Fixed an issue where Google Earth would sometimes save incorrect ordering of elements in KML.

- Added field of view recording to tours and ability to play back those changes.

- Fixed an issue where the icon heading did not work in Google Earth API.

- Changes to reduce occurrences of missing desktop icon and shortcut menu items on an update.

- Sped up overlay polygon rendering in OpenGL mode.

- Fixed loading of kmz files when the first file at the root level was image file.

- Upgraded GDAL support to 1.7.0 and fixed issues with importing .tab files in Google Earth Pro.

- Fixed the discrepancy caused in measurements due to multiple radii of Earth used inside Google Earth.

- Fixed an issue where placemarks created with UTM coordinates did not move when edited.

- Fixed an issue when screen overlays disappeared in a print-out.

Google Earth 6.1.0.4738 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

Intel quietly mentions 4K support, could introduce higher screen resolutions under upcoming Ivy Bridge architecture

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Date: Tuesday, September 20th, 2011, 06:48
Category: Hardware, News, Software

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The Retina Display: it’s never been a bad thing.

Per VR-Zone, Intel quietly revealed last week that its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will support the 4K display resolution, with up to 4096 x 4096 pixels per monitor, potentially paving the way for Apple to introduce high-resolution “Retina Display” Macs.

The company announced the news during a technical session at its Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco last week, as noted by VR-Zone. Ivy Bridge chips will rival competing discrete GPUs by including support for the 4K resolution when they arrive next year.

The company also highlighted a Multi Format Codec (MFX) engine that is capable of playing multiple 4K videos at once. The codec is also capable of handling video processing for 4K QuadHD video, a standard that YouTube began supporting last year.

A set of performance enhancements, with special attention to graphics, should give Ivy Bridge as much as a 60 percent performance boost over the current generation of Sandy Bridge chips, according to Intel.

Intel also revealed last week that Ivy Bridge chips will include support for Apple’s OpenCL standard, which should give a performance boost to next-generation MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro models when they arrive in 2012.

If Apple were to introduce a 4K resolution display with the 16:9 ratio currently used in its Thunderbolt Display, iMac and MacBook Air products, the resulting resolution would be 4096 x 2304. A 27-inch display with 4K resolution would sport a pixel density of 174 pixels per inch. Assuming a working distance of 24 inches and 20/20 vision for the calculations, a 4K 27-inch iMac or Thunderbolt display would count as a “Retina Display.”

Apple first began using the “Retina Display” marketing term with the iPhone 4 last year. Then CEO Steve Jobs touted the 326ppi display as being beyond the capabilities of the human retina when used at a distance of 12 or more inches from the eyes.

In September 2010, the company released a Retina Display iPod touch. Rumors have also swirled that Apple will follow suit with a high-resolution version of the third-generation iPad, doubling the resolution of the tablet to 2048 x 1536.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.