VirtualBox updated to 4.0.4

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 18th, 2011, 04:44
Category: News, Software

virtualbox.png

VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.0.4. The new version, a 80.6 megabyte download, sports a list of fixes and changes that can be found here.

VirtualBox 4.0.4 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

Apple patent suggests combined MagSafe power connector/data connector technology

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

applelogo_silver

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

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

el17.jpg

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.

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

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

el17.jpg

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.

Rumor: Apple looking to place Sandy Bridge processor in MacBook Air line this June

Posted by:
Date: Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 06:22
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

If you’re hankering for an upgraded processor in your MacBook Air, just wait a bit.

Per CNET, Apple is looking to replace the Core 2 Duo chip found in the current MacBook Air, a processor that is two generations behind Intel’s recently released Sandy Bridge processors. The MacBook Air was updated with a new, thinner design, flash memory drive, and an 11.6-inch model was added to the mix in an update released last fall.

In December, CNET claimed that future MacBooks from Apple with Sandy Bridge processor would not use Nvidia graphics processors in at least some models 13 inches and under. It is rumored that the smaller models will switch to Sandy Bridge-only integrated graphics, while Apple’s larger, higher-end MacBooks with screen sizes of 15 and 17 inches will allegedly rely on GPUs from AMD.

Intel began its roll-out of the Sandy Bridge next-generation processors in January, but the company quickly discovered an error in the chipset that accompanies the processor. That forced Intel to halt production of Sandy Bridge processors while it works on a fix for the 6 Series chipset code-named Cougar Point.

The error affected both desktop and mobile chips, leading to concerns that the issue could have an impact on Apple’s anticipated MacBook Pro refresh. Apple last updated its MacBook Pro notebooks in April of 2010, meaning an update for those products is likely to precede the alleged June refresh for the MacBook Air.

Intel announced this week that it has resumed shipment of chipsets for systems not affected by the Cougar Point design issue, which can lead to poor performance of devices connected to certain SATA ports. The chipmaker also said that it will meet its deadline to begin shipping dual-core Sandy Bridge hips on their previously announced launch date of February 20th.

Source claims that Apple MacBook Pro delay from Intel chip bug probably minimal

Posted by:
Date: Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 05:10
Category: MacBook Pro, News

el17.jpg

Following up on a widely publicized chip design error on Intel’s part has disrupted Apple’s plans for its next-generation MacBook Pro models, but the impact will be largely immaterial to both the company’s bottom line and its customers according to a source.

Per AppleInsider, Intel said late last month that a design flaw in all of its 6 Series Cougar Point chipsets — due to support new Sandy Bridge Core processors bound for mainstream notebooks and desktops like Apple’s MacBook Pro and iMacs — would delay volume launches of those chips due to a lapse in production while it corrected the glitch.

The impact on Apple due to the setback hasn’t been immediately clear. However, one source has stated that some of the company’s upcoming MacBook Pros were affected by the situation. According to the source, Apple elected to make minor tweaks to the logic boards of those models, but that those changes would translate to a delay of less than two weeks.

Reading between the lines can only lead to speculation that Apple was an early recipient of some of those Cougar Point chipsets from Intel, and that the changes it’s making involve tweaks to SATA ports that those MacBook Pros will utilize.

Those chipsets offer support for a total of six SATA ports, but Intel acknowledged the only problem with the chips was the potential for four of those ports — 2 through 5 — to “degrade over time, potentially impacting the performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD-drives.”

However, an Intel spokesperson confirmed that that the problem does not affect SATA ports 0 or 1, so any system builders that received those parts would be clear to ship those chips in systems that utilize only ports 0 or 1. For its part, Apple makes use of only two SATA ports in its current MacBook Pros, according to iFixit teardown specialist Kyle Wiens, and has no reason to require more going forward.

“There are two connections on the board — one for optical drive, and one for HDD,” he said. “The other internal devices (trackpad, keyboard, SD card reader, etc.) use USB.”

In total, Intel said it shipped roughly 8 million of the Cougar Point chipsets to system manufacturers before it discovered the error but that “relatively few consumers” were impacted by this issue because the only systems that actually made it into end consumers hands’ were those based on its new Sandy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 quad core processors for desktop systems. The rest of the chips — presumably some of which went to Apple — hadn’t yet been built into systems available to consumers.

As such, the launch window for Apple’s new MacBook Pros, which have been rumored to “feature a slight change in chassis design” and speculated to employ the Sandy Bridge Core processors listed in the chart below, remains hazy. Still, evidence from those familiar with the matter and checks within the company’s supply chain suggest a period sooner than later — likely between late February and early April for volume shipments.

Apple as early as last month began drawing down inventories of its lower volume MacBook Pros, namely the 17-inch model, in anticipation of the transition. For instance, some of the company’s largest resellers including Amazon direct, MacMall and J&R Computer World (1,2,3) have long run dry of this model. And just this week, MacConnection and MacMall appear to have run into trouble securing more of the two high-end 15-inch models (1,2,3,4), which are now both out of stock.

People familiar with the buy side of operations for big box retailers like Amazon and Best Buy say Apple initially offered restocking dates of late January for those MacBook Pros but then missed those dates and pushed them out a week late. This trend has continued for the past two weeks, where a restocking date is supplied, only to be missed and rescheduled.

According to those same people, such anomalies in Apple’s Mac supply chain only manifest in the face of a significant production problem or on the cusp of major product line refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Adobe Reader updated to 10.0.1

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 9th, 2011, 10:14
Category: News, Software

On Wednesday, Adobe released version 10.0.1 of its Adobe Reader application. The update, which can also be snagged through the Adobe Update Utility, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Numerous security fixes as well as improvements to Protected Mode, QTP support, Flash, and support for SCCM via newly released SCUP catalogs.

Acrobat Reader 10.0.1 and Acrobat Pro requires an Intel-based processor and Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new versions and noticed any differences, please let us know what you think.

Apple citing delays of 4-6 weeks for replacement MacBook Pro units, refresh seems more likely

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 9th, 2011, 05:16
Category: MacBook Pro, News

el17.jpg

This came more or less from the horse’s mouth.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has told some customers who need replacement machines they may need to wait four to six weeks for new hardware due to limited supply.

A number of customers who have purchased special build-to-order machines online are reporting very long wait times for replacement hardware. Those who have a faulty custom-configured notebook are apparently being warned that replacement machines could take as long as eight weeks to arrive.

Representatives for Apple are said to be informing those customers that the average lead time for a replacement machine is between four and six weeks. One person said a company representative apologized and asked if the customer wished to be refunded.

Customers with faulty build-to-order MacBook Pros have also been given the option to make a purchase from a retail store, or buy a standard-configuration machine, of which Apple still has inventory available. One customer said that even solid state drive-based machines had a similar lead time to their traditional hard disk drive-equipped counterparts.

Apple’s current line of MacBook Pro notebooks is due for an update. The most recent major upgrade arrived last April, when the high-end notebooks were equipped with what was then Intel’s latest Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Those chips have since been replaced by Intel’s latest processors, code-named Sandy Bridge.

After Intel recently announced a design error in the chipset for its new Sandy Bridge Core processors, there became concern that the anticipated MacBook Pro refresh could be delayed. But this week Intel revealed that it has resumed shipping of processors intended for computer configurations not impacted by the design flaw.

In addition, Intel has stated it will begin shipping a new, fixed version of its support chip, known as Cougar Point, in mid-February. Those chipsets will reportedly address a flaw that could cause degraded performance over time on some, but not all, serial-ATA ports for hard drives and DVD drives.

Intel also said that it will meet its deadline to begin shipping dual-core Sandy Bridge chips on the previously-announced launch date of February 20th. The Core i5 and Core i7 microprocessors, intended for notebooks like Apple’s line of MacBook Pro systems, draw between 17 watts and 35 watts of power, and run at speeds between 1.4GHz and 2.7GHz.

It is rumored that Nvidia’s graphics processors will not be included in at least some MacBook models 13 inches and under, as those low-end notebooks will rely only on Sandy Bridge integrated graphics from Intel. Apple’s larger, high-end MacBook Pros, with screen sizes of 15 and 17 inches, will allegedly rely on graphics processors from AMD.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel to ship dual-core Sandy Bridge processor for notebooks on February 20th, MacBook Pro version may not be far behind

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011, 06:47
Category: Processors, Rumor

intellogo.jpg

The bad news: Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor was delayed, the announcement coming in last week.

The good news: Intel’s dual-core Sandy Bridge processor, which is widely expected to power the next MacBook Pro line is finally shipping this month.

MacRumors is reporting that Intel will begin shipping its dual-core Sandy Bridge CPU chips for notebooks on February 20th. The processor is specced as using between 17 watts and 35 watts of power while running at speeds between 1.4GHz and 2.7GHz. The Dual-Core chips follow on the heels of a quad-core version launched last month.

“The first Sandy Bridge processors to ship were quad-core chips, mainly for high-end laptops,” PC World writes. “The dual-core chips will likely go into end-user and ultraportable laptops, many of which were shown at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show. Fujitsu said it plans to use dual-core Core i7 chips in its high-end ultraportable laptops.”

The dual-core chips are also likely candidates for upgrades to the existing MacBook Pro lineup, with rumors swirling about updates in the near future, the chips offering a better integrated graphics performance as well as better power usage.

One question that remains is how Intel has addressed complaints of a design flaw in early versions of the Sandy Bridge controller. MacRumors notes “the issue didn’t directly affect the CPUs, but affected SATA-II connectors found on the chipsets,” which manufacturers (including Apple) use to connect the CPU to the rest of the system. Intel previously announced they would begin shipping corrected controllers in mid-February.

Intel confirms SATA controller chip flaw, may delay MacBook Pro refresh

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011, 05:30
Category: MacBook Pro, News

intellogo.jpg

If Apple’s notebook refresh is taking a bit longer than you’d like, it might just be Intel’s fault.

Earlier Monday, Intel acknowledged that a supporting chipset for the next-generation Core processors contained a flaw in the Serial-ATA (SATA) controller. The bug can cause poor hard drive performance or even make the drive invisible to the system.

Per Computerworld, Intel said it has stopped shipments of the flawed chipsets and retooled the chipset. It will begin shipping the fixed version late next month, and said that it “expects full volume recovery in April.”

The design gaffe could effect Apple’s next MacBook Pro refresh if the notebook line is to get new processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture, as many speculated last month.

According to Kevin Krewell, a senior analyst with the Linley Group (the publishers of Microprocessor Report) the mobile version of the supporting chipset may have been flawed.

In an e-mail reply to Macworld UK’s questions, Krewell pointed out a pair of Intel documents that note the mobile versions of the chipset use the same 6Gbps and 3Gbps ports as those used in the desktop versions.

According to Anandtech.com, the flaw affects only the 3Gbps ports — the chipsets’ SATA controller also offers faster-speed 6Gbps ports — making the likelihood of an impact on notebook makers even higher.

While the signs point to a problem for Apple, analysts split today on whether a MacBook Pro refresh would be delayed.

“It could mean a delay of two to three weeks,” said Martin Reynolds, a vice president with Gartner, assuming Apple intended to launch new MacBook Pros in March or even April.

Dan Olds, a senior analyst with Portland, Ore.-based Gabriel Consulting Group, disagreed.

“I don’t think Intel has shipped any [Sandy Bridge] chipsets for mobile yet,” Olds said. “I haven’t heard any chatter from the major players [about upcoming notebooks that use the chipsets], like Dell, for example.”

The unknown, of course, is when Apple was planning to launch revamped MacBook Pro models that rely on the Sandy Bridge architecture, and thus, the flawed chipsets.

Most close Apple watchers have been expecting an imminent refresh. Although Apple doesn’t hew to a set schedule for upgrades, the last time it boosted the MacBook Pro was in April 2010, nearly 300 days ago.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.