Intel looking into bug in SSD 320 drive, offering replacement units

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Date: Monday, July 18th, 2011, 06:48
Category: hard drive, News

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Nothing’s perfect all the time.

Per Macworld, Intel is investigating a potential bug that may be causing SSD 320 solid-state drives to fail. The company is offering replacement drives to affected customers until the issue is resolved, a customer service representative said.

Over in Intel’s forums, users are complaining about SSD 320 drives crashing due to power issues, causing data loss. In some instances the storage capacity on the drive is being reported as only 8MB after the crash.

“We are investigating the issue,” Intel spokesman Daniel Snyder said via email. “Any customer with concerns should call Intel customer support.”

An Intel technical support representative said that until the issue is resolved, affected customers will be sent a replacement drive. Intel’s customer support contacts are listed on its website. The company also offers live chat support.

The SSD 320 was released in March and is being used in both Macs and PCs computers. The drive, which has received positive reviews, is offered with capacities ranging from 40GB to 600GB.

Intel has had issues with SSDs crashing in the past. In 2009 it pulled a firmware upgrade for its X25-M consumer SSDs the day after users complained about the software crashing drives.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know.

Rumor: Additional sources point towards next-gen MacBook Air launch next week

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Date: Friday, July 15th, 2011, 04:46
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

Ya know, if the next-gen MacBook Air came out today and killed all this anticipation, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Per All Things D, a new report Thursday corroborates that Apple is expected to launch new MacBook Airs next week, featuring backlit keyboards and minimum 128GB solid-state hard drives.

Updated: The report from All Things D corroborates numerous details that have been published elsewhere online over the last several days. It cites “several” anonymous sources as having indicated the notebooks will go on sale late next week.

“So look for an announcement Thursday or Friday, with the new hardware spec’ing out pretty much the way rumors in AppleInsider have described: New Sandy Bridge processors from Intel, support for Apple’s new high-speed Thunderbolt port, backlit keyboards and a winnowing down of configuration options to 128GB and 256GB of flash,” the revised report said.

In addition, it was first reported here on Thursday that the new notebooks could do away with the entry-level 64GB solid-state flash hard drive and offer 128GB as the lowest capacity. Those details were provided in a communication with Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who also indicated the devices are expected come with 4GB of RAM as the standard.

In addition to the more recent rumors in the past week, reports have indicated for months that the new MacBook Air models will feature Intel’s latest generation Sandy Bridge processors, which first hit the market earlier this year. The new notebooks will also sport the high-speed Thunderbolt port that already appeared in Apple’s MacBook Pro and iMac lineups earlier this year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mozilla releases Firefox 5.0.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, July 13th, 2011, 02:59
Category: News, Software

elfirefox

Late Tuesday, Mozilla.org released version 5.0.1 of its Firefox web browser. The new version stands as an 27.8 megabyte download offered the following fixes and changes:

- Worked around an issue in Mac OS X 10.7 that could cause Firefox to crash.

- Worked around an issue caused by Apple’s “Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 5″ where the Java plugin would not be loaded.

Firefox 5.0.1 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.

Rumor: Next-gen MacBook Air notebook to once again include backlit keyboards

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Date: Tuesday, July 12th, 2011, 06:29
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

The new MacBook Air: It might just feature the shiny coolness that is a backlit keyboard.

With the release of new models later this month, Apple is set to reinstate a feature to its MacBook Airs that went missing when the company overhauled the ultra-thin notebooks into more cost-affordable products late last year.

Per AppleInsider, according to sources close to the story, backlit keyboards will join the string of hardware enhancements planned for the new 11.6- and 13.3-inch notebooks, which are also expected to adopt high-speed Thunderbolt ports, an upgrade to Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture, and possibly high-speed 400MBps flash memory.

The omission late last year of keyboard backlights — which help illuminate the keys on a keyboard in dim lighting scenarios — from Apple’s current lineup of MacBook Airs was particularly glaring given that all three iterations of the first-generation of MacBook Airs (Early 2008 to Mid-2009) included them as standard features.

Given Apple’s energy saving controls, software expertise, and the nominal cost associated with including keyboard backlights, it was never particularly clear why Apple opted to leave out the feature when it redesigned the MacBook Air line last October. One industry watcher even went as far as to call it “planned obsolescence” on Apple’s part.

Nevertheless, people familiar with the matter say Apple’s white 13.3-inch MacBook will once again be the only notebook from the company to lack keyboard backlights once the new Airs make their debut sometime during the week of July 21st.

According to sources, Apple has been holding off shipments of roughly 400,000 of these new MacBook Airs until it can image them with the finalized Golden Master build of Mac OS X Lion, which privately began making its way to developers last week.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iFixIt performs teardown of Apple’s Thunderbolt cable, discovers receiver/transceiver system inside

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Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 04:25
Category: Hardware, News

When in doubt about a new piece of hardware, take it apart and study it.

Once again, the guys at iFixIt performed a full teardown of a new Apple item, this time dissecting Apple’s just-released $49 Thunderbolt cable to reveal an “active cable” with transceiver chips on each end.

iFixit took apart the new cable on Wednesday and discovered two Gennum GN2033 Thunderbolt Cable Transceiver chips, other much smaller chips and “tons of little resistors” tucked into the metal connector.

The teardown experts were prompted by a tip from ArsTechnica, who had been told by a support technician for storage maker Promise that Apple’s Thunderbolt cable is a “smart cable” with internal firmware.

Apple released the Thunderbolt cable on Tuesday, alongside the first compatible peripherals–external RAID systems from Promise, which range in price from US$999 to US$1,999. Early tests of the Promise systems have revealed blazing fast write speeds of up to 700MB/s, as much as 21 times faster than FireWire and USB 2.0.

The Gennum web site describes the cable’s transceiver chips as a requirement for the cables due to “the unprecedented speed of the new Thunderbolt technology places unique demands on the physical transmission media. The GN2033 provides the sophisticated signal boosting and detection functions required to transfer high-speed data without errors across inexpensive Thunderbolt copper cables.”

Sources within the telecom industry told ArsTechnica that active cables are usually used at data rates in excess of 5Gbps. Chips at either end are calibrated to the attenuation and dispersion properties of the wire in order to “greatly [improve] the signal-to-noise ratio.”

Intel has also reportedly chosen to use active cabling for “future optical-based iterations of Thunderbolt,” the report’s source added. Though passive optical cabling is more common, active optical cables could allow fiber optics to be coupled with electrical cabling for power transmission. Additionally, “current electrical ports can be forward compatible with future optical cables” if active cabling is used, said the source.

On the more consumer end, LaCie has promised a Thunderbolt solid-state drive is coming this summer. A recent demo of the drive reached read speeds of 827.2MB/s.

Intel and Apple worked together to develop the specification, with Intel providing its “Light Peak” technology and Apple offering its Mini DisplayPort standard. Thunderbolt drives two separate 10Gbps links, one for displays and one for PCI-Express devices, and could reach speeds of up to 100Gbps when the cables transition from copper to optical.



Similar to Apple’s experience with its in-house developed FireWire standard, the company has a fine line to walk in making Thunderbolt a unique value-add for Macs while still driving widespread adoption of the standard to ensure a large enough market for a range of third-party peripherals. Currently, the Mac maker is the only supplier of Thunderbolt cables.

Earlier this week, Sony announced a new VAIO Z laptop that implements a proprietary version of Thunderbolt. The electronics giant pulled a similar maneuver with its custom version of FireWire, called i.Link.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Initial tests show promising Thunderbolt speeds, ability to boot off new port

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Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 04:26
Category: Hardware, News

A newly published series of test results from the cool cats at AnandTech shows Apple’s newly adopted Thunderbolt technology blows FireWire 800 out of the water with data transfer speeds to an external RAID system at 700MB/s.

After the release of Apple’s Thunderbolt cable on Tuesday, early impressions have begun to surface on the Web. The AnandTech staff got their hands on both the US$49 cable and the US$1,999 Promise Pegasus R6 system and have subsequently stated that they are able to write to the 12TB RAID array at nearly 700MB/s while on a notebook. The speed obliterated that of the commonplace USB 2.0, as well as FireWire 800.

In his testing, Anand Shimpi also revealed via Twitter that external drives can be booted from via Thunderbolt. This makes it possible to have a full install of OS X, which includes all your files and apps, stored on a Thunderbolt external drive. This in turn would allow you to take your computer everywhere you go, and run it on another Thunderbolt-equipped Mac.

Per Macworld’s test of the new cable with the same RAID system, their detailed results show Thunderbolt is between 4 and 21 times faster than FireWire & USB 2.0. When compared to both on a 2.2GHz Core i5 Macbook Pro, Thunderbolt could write a 2GB file at 210.5 MBps.

On the other hand, USB 2.0 could only stretch to 29.7 MBps, a result that is 7.09 times slower. FireWire 400 could write the file at 30.2MBps, 6.97 times slower & FireWire 800 wrote the file at 47MBps, or 4.47 times slower.

Also Tuesday, Apple issued a series of 10 questions and answers related to Thunderbolt. Most of the information presented was already announced, like the fact that the cable offers two independent channels of 10GBit/s.

One new bit of information from the series of answers is a possible drawback for high-end Macbook Pro users: A PCI Express Card in the Express Card slot cannot be operated if the system is connected to a Thunderbolt device. Apple recommends disconnecting the device if you are going to use the Express Slot.

The full list of info is included below:

1. What is the maximum bandwidth supported by Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m)?

Thunderbolt utilizes two separate 10Gbps links—one for displays and one for PCI-E device trafffic—for throughput of up to 10 Gbps between Thunderbolt capable devices and your Mac. Some devices not made by Apple may support different bandwidth rates; consult any documentation that came with your Thunderbolt-enabled device for information specific to your device. Choose the Disk Activity tab in Activity Monitor to read current disk activity statistics, which may be helpful to determine disk activity with storage devices using Thunderbolt. Some storage devices may have a maximum transfer rate lower than the bandwidth potential of Thunderbolt.

2. What is the proper way to insert a Thunderbolt cable into my Thunderbolt-capable device or Mac?

The Thunderbolt symbol should be on the top of the connector. You can plug either end of the cable into a device or Mac; the connectors on each end are the same. Do not force the Thunderbolt cable into your Thunderbolt-capable device or Mac computer’s Thunderbolt port.

3. How do I confirm a Thunderbolt-enabled device is connected to a Mac?

Open System Profiler and examine the Thunderbolt tab for a list of any connected Thunderbolt devices.

4. Can I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect a Promise, La Cie, or other third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?

Yes. You can use a Thunderbolt cable to connect any Thunderbolt-enabled device or Mac.

5. Is there a maximum supported length for using Thunderbolt cables with Apple products?

Thunderbolt cables should not exceed two meters for maximum performance. Apple Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) is two meters in length. Some Thunderbolt devices include an extra port you can use to connect other Thunderbolt devices downstream with additional Thunderbolt cables.

6. Why is there a black screen when I use a Thunderbolt cable to connect to an Intel-based iMac that supports Target Display Mode?

Although a Thunderbolt cable will fit into Mini DisplayPort connections, only Mini DisplayPort cables can be used to in Target Display Mode with an iMac (Late 2009) or iMac (Mid 2010) connected to a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac; iMac models produced before 2011 do not support Thunderbolt cables or devices. If you have an iMac (Late 2009), make sure you have the 27-inch SMC iMac Firmware Update 1.0 installed to avoid issues waking from sleep in Target Display Mode.

7. What do I do if my Mac doesn’t have a Thunderbolt option in System Profiler and no connected devices seem to be recognized?

For Mac computers with Thunderbolt, run Software Update to install any available updates to use Thunderbolt devices with your Mac.

8. I’ve installed all available updates, but no Thunderbolt devices are recognized when I connect them with Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m).

Try using a different a Thunderbolt cable, using a Mini DisplayPort cable, or—in the case of a storage device—try using another supported connection method, such as USB or FireWire.

9. Can I use Target Disk Mode with a Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) and a third-party storage device that uses Thunderbolt?

Yes. The Thunderbolt logo should appear with the FireWire logo when you start up a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac and have a Thunderbolt storage device connected. If you have both a Thunderbolt and a FireWire storage device connected and enter Target Disk Mode, the Thunderbolt-enabled device will be the default. If you disconnect either a Thunderbolt or FireWire storage device after successfully entering Target Disk Mode, the corresponding icon should disappear from the display.

10. Can I use Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) with supported versions of Microsoft Windows on a Thunderbolt-capable Mac with Boot Camp?

Yes. Learn more about using Thunderbolt with your Mac running Windows with Boot Camp.

If you’ve played with the new Thunderbolt port or have any comments, please let us know.

Rumor: Next-gen, Sandy Bridge, Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Air expected to ship in mid-July

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, June 29th, 2011, 08:39
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

It’s the rumors that keep life interesting.

And “Gossip Girl” still on the air (for better or for worse).

Per the cool cats at 9to5 Mac, a new series of rumors has narrowed down the expected ship date of the next-generation MacBook Air, complete with Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge architecture, to mid-July. The tip emphasized that the systems would be virtually identical in external design outside of the switch from Mini DisplayPort to Thunderbolt.

The systems are already known to be shipping with Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) and hint that Apple will be making the new OS available on or near the same day. Intel’s newly shipping low-voltage Core i5 and i7 chips are widely presumed to be coming along, although Apple may only use these for the 11-inch Air and reserve existing, faster 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz processors for the 13-inch system.

The new Air is expected to be a major leap in performance. Although the Intel integrated graphics will just be on par with the GeForce 320M they replace, the underlying processors will bring Apple’s systems from behind equivalents in performance to equivalent or sometimes ahead. An update is also an opportunity to close gaps in RAM or storage.

One rumor has the 11-inch Air dropping to US$899 to lure in more buyers. Apple’s typical pattern is more often to upgrade features for the same price, and it may consider this a top priority given just 64GB of storage in its starter model.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VirtualBox updated to 4.0.10

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Date: Tuesday, June 28th, 2011, 03:44
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.0.10. The new version, a 82.8 megabyte download, sports the following list of fixes and changes:

- GUI: fixed disappearing settings widgets on KDE hosts (bug #6809).

- Storage: fixed hang under rare circumstances with flat VMDK images.

- Storage: a saved VM could not be restored under certain circumstances after the host kernel was updated (bug #8983).

- Storage: refuse to create a medium with an invalid variant (for example Split2G with VDI; bug #7227).

- Snapshots: none of the hard disk attachments must be attached to another VM in normal mode when creating a snapshot.

- USB: fixed occasional VM hangs with SMP guests (bug #4580).

- USB: proper device detection on RHEL/OEL/CentOS 5 guests (partial fix for bug #8978).

- ACPI: force the ACPI timer to return monotonic values for improve behavior with SMP Linux guests (bug #8511 and others).

- RDP: fixed screen corruption under rare circumstances (bug #8977).

- rdesktop-vrdp: updated to version 1.7.0.

- OVF: under rare circumstances some data at the end of a VMDK file was not written during export.

- Lion fixes (bug #8903).

- GNOME 3 fix.

VirtualBox 4.0.10 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

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

Best Buy puts hold on MacBook Air orders, next-gen units expected soon

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Date: Monday, June 27th, 2011, 04:58
Category: MacBook Air, News

National retailer Best Buy has put a hold on online MacBook Air orders, providing further evidence that Apple plans to release an updated version of its diminutive laptop.

Per Electronista, Best Buy’s listings for the current-generation MacBook Air are now listed as “Not Available for Shipping.” Meanwhile, all MacBook Air models on Apple’s Online Store remain ready for shipping.

Best Buy continues to offer the portables in its brick-and-mortar retail stores, though some locations have reportedly run out of stock. In the U.K., the big-box retailer allows orders for a MacBook Air with 128GB of storage, but only with in-store pickup at certain locations.

Apple is expected to refresh the MacBook Air line with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors and the addition of the Thunderbolt port. However, sources close to the story have stated that Apple is waiting until it can load a Gold Master build of Mac OS X Lion onto the notebooks before releasing them.

Mac OS X Lion is due for release on the Mac App Store in July. As a major upgrade to Apple’s flagship desktop OS, Lion will include more than 250 new features such as full screen apps, additional multi-touch gestures and Mission Control.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mozilla releases Firefox 5.0 update

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Date: Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011, 03:48
Category: News, Software

elfirefox

Late Tuesday, Mozilla.org released version 5.0 of its Firefox web browser. The new version stands as an 27.8 megabyte download offered the following fixes and changes:

- Added support for CSS animations.

- The Do-Not-Track header preference has been moved to increase discoverability.

- Tuned HTTP idle connection logic for increased performance.

- Improved canvas, JavaScript, memory, and networking performance.

- Improved standards support for HTML5, XHR, MathML, SMIL, and canvas.

- Improved spell checking for some locales.

- Improved desktop environment integration for Linux users.

- WebGL content can no longer load cross-domain textures.

- Background tabs have setTimeout and setInterval clamped to 1000ms to improve performance.

- Fixed several stability issues.

- Fixed several security issues.

Firefox 5.0 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.