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

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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

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

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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

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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

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

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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

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

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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

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

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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.

BBC iPlayer apps for iPhone, iPad close to release

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Date: Friday, January 28th, 2011, 04:45
Category: iPad, News, Software

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You’ve been hankering for it for a while.

And it’s almost here.

Per PaidContent, the BBC is close to launching its long-awaited iPlayer app for iOS, it has been claimed.

A recent story has suggested that the app will be launched as a farewell ‘present’ to future media and technology director Erik Huggers. Huggers is leaving the BBC for Intel and will take up his new role some time at the end of February.

A web-based beta version of iPlayer for the iPad was launched at the same time as the iPad launched in the UK, in May 2010. At the moment the service is accessible through the iPhone and iPad browser, but a dedicated app should lead to a much smoother experience.

The BBC’s intention to develop iPhone apps was greeted with protests from commercial rivals, with the Newspapers Publishers Association pressurising the BBC to put the plans on ice.

A planned BBC News app for iPhone did eventually launch, but a BBC Sport app, which the corporation had originally wanted to launch before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, has still not been released.

The BBC also announced plans in December to roll the iPlayer out to iPad users worldwide, on a subscription basis.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VirtualBox 4.0.2 released

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Date: Wednesday, January 19th, 2011, 04:21
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 3.2.2. The new version, a 70.9 megabyte download, sports a list of fixes and changes that can be found here.

VirtualBox 4.0.2 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

Intel exec cites Light Peak as ready for implementation

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Date: Monday, January 10th, 2011, 11:00
Category: Hardware, News

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It was on the horizon and now it’s here.

Per Macworld, an Intel executive on Friday said that its Light Peak interconnect technology, designed to link computers to devices like displays and external storage, is ready for implementation.

Light Peak, announced in 2009, was originally designed to use fiber optics to transmit data among systems and devices, but the initial builds will be based on copper, said David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s Architecture Group, in an interview with IDG News Service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought,” Perlmutter said. “Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive,” he added.

Perlmutter declined to comment on when Light Peak-enabled devices would reach store shelves, saying shipment depended on device makers. Intel has in the past said that devices with Light Peak technology would start shipping in late 2010 or early this year.

For the majority of user needs today, copper is good, Perlmutter said. But data transmission is much faster over fiber optics, which will increasingly be used by vendors in Light Peak implementations.

Intel has said Light Peak technology would use light to speed up data transmission between mobile devices and products including storage, networking and audio devices. It would transfer data at bandwidths starting at 10 gigabits per second over distances of up to 100 meters. But with copper wires, the speed and range of data transmission may not be as great.

Computers today are linked to external devices using connectors like USB, but Perlmutter refused to be drawn into a debate on whether Light Peak would ultimately replace those technologies.

“USB 3.0 already has a traction in the market. I don’t know if that will change,” Perlmutter said.

There could be co-existence, with USB, display and networking protocols running on top of Light Peak.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

HandBrake updated to 0.9.5, now Intel-only

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Date: Tuesday, January 4th, 2011, 05:14
Category: News, Software


Handbrake, Eric Petit’s incredibly useful open-source DVD ripping/conversion utility, has been updated to version 0.9.5 and gone Intel-only.

The new version, which can be found here, boasts the following fixes and changes:

Core Library:
- BluRay disc structure support (No decryption support)
- Updated Libraries (x264, ffmpeg)
- SSA Subtitle support (Including burn-in)
- MP3 audio now supported in MP4 files (Note: Limited Player compatibility)
- VOBSUB subtitle now supported in MP4 files (Note: Limited Player compatibility)
- Updated Presets for newer devices and better quality
- AC3 encoding support
- Many Bug Fixes and other small improvements
- Improved DVD Main Feature detection (when using dvdnav)
- Universal audio downmix support (all audio types can be downmixed)
- Poin-to-Point encoding (second or frame start and end times)
- Peak framerate option (Capped VFR)

All GUIs:
- Updated x264 Advanced Panel
- Video Quality Slider drops % value and only shows RF for x264
- Batch Scan (Scan Multiple files at once. N.B: Does not include multiple VIDEO_TS folders / Image files)
- Many Bug fixes
- Many Tweaks to improve usability
- Ability to edit queue jobs

Mac GUI:
- New Audio Panel supporting >4 Audio Tracks
- VLC detection in /Applications and ~/Applications
- Multiple instance support

Windows GUI:
- Encode Status in GUI. (CLI window is now always hidden)
- Improved Auto-Naming for Destination file name
- Drag / Drop Video onto Main Window to scan

Linux GUI:
- Multiple instance support (run multiple copies of ghb at once)
- Many Bug fixes and UI improvements

Handbrake 0.9.5 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.