Hack: 2013 11-inch MacBook Air owner deciphers means of using adapters to access external graphics card, improve performance sevenfold

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Date: Wednesday, July 31st, 2013, 06:34
Category: Hacks, Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Software

It ain’t pretty, but it apparently works really well.

Per MacRumors and Mac|Life, TechInferno contributor Larry Gadea was able to hook up a powerful graphics processor to his 11-inch MacBook Air with the help of several adapters.

Gadea first used a Thunderbolt to Express Card adapter which was then connected an Express Card to PCI-Express adapter. Once that was done, he plugged the whole thing into a Windows-compatible video card–specifically, a GeForce GTX 570.

In his words, “It has become very clear that gaming is not only high-performance, but super practical on an 11″ Macbook Air. There’s so much going against it: this hodgepodge of adapters, it has a low voltage CPU, disaster of wiring and exposed sensitive parts, crazy boot-time chainloading software, Intel killing companies producing adapters and products left right and center via legal threats, etc. but somehow, with the right parts and some patience, it works spectacularly. And is quite cheap too!”

The TechInferno forum link can be found here, but Gadea’s unique solution to the limitations of Mac gaming has proven so popular that it’s apparently crashed the TechInferno forums. The post includes important specifics about the setup, including the understandable limitation that Boot Camp needs to be installed on your Mac in order to run many of the games themselves due to Windows-only restrictions. Gadea has stated that his graphics performance has improved roughly sevenfold since installing the hack.

The current rundown of Gadea’s setup includes the following:
- An 11-inch Macbook Air (2013 model

- A copy of Windows 7

- A Sonnet Echo ExpressCard

- A BPlus PE4L ExpressCard to PCI-Express adapter

- A copy of DIY eGPU Setup 1.X

- A 4GB USB thumb drive (to install Windows)

- A 400w PC power supply

- A video card of your choosing.

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, check out Gadea’s rig (which retails for about $250) in action as it tears through Borderlands 2 in resolutions you’d otherwise never see on an 11-inch MacBook Air:



If you’ve come up with a killer hack/rig of your own like this, please let us know in the comments.

Assorted mid-2013 MacBook Air owners cite “blackout bug”, point out screen flicker issue

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Date: Tuesday, July 30th, 2013, 08:46
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

This is what they created firmware updates for…

Per CNET, Apple’s mid-2013 MacBook Air appears to be suffering from a bug that results in intermittent loss of video output. When using an affected system, the screen may randomly blink to black for a brief second, or go to sleep and require a button be pressed for the system to wake again.

There is no indication on how widespread this bug is, but a number of affected users have noted the problem in a lengthy and growing Apple support discussion thread.

When the screen flashes intermittently, the system does not appear to shut down or sleep, since audio and other activity may continue; however, this does not occur at the times where the systems do go to sleep. This bug appears to affect both the 11-inch and 13-inch models, though the problem seems to happen more with the 13-inch MacBook Air. Additionally, it appears to happen more when on battery power than when plugged into its AC adapter; however, some have reported it happening on AC power as well.

The random nature of the problem suggests it is likely not software-based, so it may revolve around a physical sensor such as a magnetic switch in the lid or chassis, that could be contributing to the problem. Recently, the following YouTube video of the issue surfaced, showing an extreme condition of the bug, and its apparent tie to physical movement of the systems:



If you are experiencing this problem with your MacBook Air, then you can try some hardware resets to see if they can help the situation. The first is to perform a PRAM reset, by rebooting the system and immediately holding the Option-Command-P-R keys all at once. Continue to hold them until the system automatically resets and sounds the boot chimes again, and then release the keys to allow the system to boot normally.
The next reset you can do is for the system management controller (SMC), which governs how power and sensors are handled in the system. To reset this controller on the MacBook Air, first shut down the system and plug it into the AC adapter. Then press and hold the Shift-Control-Option keys on the left-hand side of the keyboard, followed by depressing the power button. Release all keys at the same time, and then press the power button to start the computer again.

If these reset routines do not fix the issue, then the next step would be to contact Apple and have the system replaced or serviced, especially since at this time the systems should still be under warranty. Since this issue came to light, Apple has swapped out a number of these for affected customers, likely with the intent of investigating the problem.

Depending on what Apple’s engineers find, we may see a firmware or software update to address the problem in the near future. Apple recently issued a software update for the Mid 2013 MacBook Air; however, this was to address a flickering display problem specific with use of Adobe software, and does not appear to address the issue at hand. Meanwhile, even though the issue may still happen, consider using the systems with the AC adapter attached, to at least reduce its prevalence.

This issue follows a similar, though unrelated, bug seen in the Mid-2010 MacBook Pro, where a faulty series of graphics cards has plagued those systems with regular crashes and black screens. In that case, Apple addressed the issue with a software update, though subsequent OS updates and upgrades have brought the issue back or exacerbated it for some systems.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this issue on your end with a mid-2013 MacBook Air, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases MacBook Air Mid 2013 Software Update 1.0, homes in on reported bugs

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Date: Friday, July 19th, 2013, 05:28
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

If you bought a mid-2013 MacBook Air, the firmware update you’ve been waiting for has arrived.

Apple on Thursday released an update to its recently released MacBook Air models, addressing issues affecting Wi-Fi connectivity, screen flickering when using Adobe Photoshop and volume fluctuation during video playback.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s “MacBook Air (Mid 2013) Software Update 1.0″ is the first for the company’s thin-and-light lineup that was in June, and fixes a number of bugs users have complained about over the past few weeks.

Among the initial problems cited by users was intermittent loss of Wi-Fi signals, a problem Apple partially addressed in a separate AirPort Utility software update earlier this month.

Another problem cropped up last week when MacBook Air owners complained of uncontrollable volume fluctuations while playing video content in both first-party and third-party applications. This too has reportedly been solved with the latest Software Update 1.0.

Finally, the release fixes an issue that would occasionally cause screen flickering when using Adobe Photoshop.

The MacBook Air (Mid 2013) Software Update is available as a 3.55 megabyte download and can also be retrieved via the OS X Software Update feature on qualifying MacBook Air notebooks.

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

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.

OS X 10.8.5 update in development to reportedly fix Photoshop/flickering issue on Haswell-based MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Thursday, July 11th, 2013, 06:49
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

As nifty as the new Haswell-based MacBook Air units are, there may be another bug to contend with.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog and MacRumors, it seems that the MBAs with Haswell processors have issues with Adobe’s flagship software. In particular, many MacBook Air owners noticed severe screen flickering while using brush tools in Photoshop. When news of the flickering first surfaced, an Adobe representative said he believed a GPU issue or a driver bug was causing it.

It’s been suggested that that the flickering is a result of a software glitch. Apple has released a new build of OS X 10.8.5 to developers and the Photoshop flickering issue appears to be resolved, as reported by MacRumors:

“Today, MacRumors tipster Todd Davis tells us the flickering issue has been fixed in the OS X 10.8.5 beta released to developers today. The bug made Photoshop nearly unusable for a number of MacBook Air users. Some users have previously suggested that upgrading to the developer release of OS X Mavericks solved the problem, so the fix may be a matter of Apple pushing upgraded code sooner than it planned.”

There’s no word on when users can expect to see OS X 10.8.5 released to the general public. If the latest build does indeed fix the MacBook Air/Photoshop flickering issue, chances are good that Apple will push it out sooner rather than later, since it doesn’t want their newest Haswell laptop to present problems with such popular software.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple considering switch to IGZO displays to boost next-gen MacBook Pro battery life

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Date: Wednesday, July 10th, 2013, 15:54
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

The next-gen MacBook notebooks could possess even longer lasting batteries.

Per Korea IT News, Apple is once again rumored to be considering indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) LCDs, this time for inclusion in not only upcoming versions of its iPad, but also in its forthcoming MacBook Pros. A recent report has the Cupertino company talking with Sharp and LG Display in preparation for wider manufacture.

The new MacBooks would reportedly be scheduled for release some time early in 2014, though the report gives no word on when IGZO-packing iPads would be set for release. The latest speculation surrounding the iPad does make mention of reduced backlighting and improved battery life, both of which could be outgrowths of IGZO technology.

An oxide semiconductor, IGZO is about 10 times faster in electron mobility than an amorphous silicon semiconductor. This allows the technology to consume far less power in operation. IGZO also requires smaller wiring, which also contributes to its lower power consumption.

The panels are significantly more expensive than traditional LCDs, though, so that could represent an obstacle for Apple in bringing them to market in the MacBook Pro line. Some estimates have Apple paying 1.5 to two times as much for the same panel sizes seen in current models.

A switch to IGZO could be in keeping with Apple’s already established goals for this generation of MacBooks. When introducing the 2013 MacBook Air, Apple made sure to note that the inclusion of Intel’s new Haswell processors had boosted overall battery life to 12 hours for the 13-inch model. The inclusion of less power-intensive displays could push the next generation of MacBook Pros to even greater heights.

Apple has long been rumored to have been looking at IGZO technology for future devices. Previous rumors have focused on the iPhone or iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Mavericks Developer Preview 3 to developer community

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

maverickslogo

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.

Apple to hold Q3 earnings conference call on Tuesday, July 23rd

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Date: Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013, 06:21
Category: Finance, News

applelogo_silver

The numbers tell the truth.

Per MacNN, Apple will hold its next quarterly earnings call with investors on Tuesday, July 23, where it will discuss its fiscal third-quarter results. According to its own estimates, it expects to report between US$33.5 billion and US$35.5 billion, a drop from the previous quarter but a realistic figure in light of no refreshed iPad or iPhone, the two primary drivers of Apple’s income. While the latest MacBook Air revision has garnered significant praise for its various improvements, it emerged at the very tail end of the quarter and thus didn’t influence sales.

Possibly affecting sales of other Apple products is the expected drop in sales that comes ahead of new iOS device models. Apple has already said that new products will be coming this fall, which is taken to mean the latest iPhone, iPad and possibly some entirely new devices — including a long-rumored Apple television or smartwatch. Another keenly-anticipated release is the acceptance of the new iOS 7, not to mention the long-overdue Mac Pro overhaul, which will test how professional users will adapt to the re-designed machine. Primarily, however, investors will be watching to see if Apple can continue its remarkable iOS platform US sales growth in the face of competition and a lack of any new product in the quarter.

In the previous quarter, Apple saw both good news and bad: revenues were up, as were iPad and iPhone sales (above analysts’ predictions), but Mac sales were basically flat and net profit was down slightly for the first time in a decade, a trend that is expected to have continued over the past three months. Analysts have reported that Apple has ordered fewer iPhones for the upcoming quarter, signalling that it expects further erosion of iPhone sales ahead of its eventual announcement of the next model.

Margins are expected to be around 36 percent, with operating expenses bubbling just under US$4 billion. The conference call is schedule to take place at 2PM Pacific/5PM Eastern on July 23.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple working on 802.11ac bug fix for mid-2013 MacBook Air users, sends out limited invitation to test update

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Date: Monday, July 1st, 2013, 06:16
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software, wireless

If you’re having trouble with the Wi-Fi on your new mid-2013 MacBook Air, a fix may be on the way.

Per AppleInsider, in a likely response to reports of 802.11ac Wi-Fi issues with its latest MacBook Air refresh, Apple late Friday began sending out invitations to select users, offering inclusion in the AppleSeed Program to test an upcoming Wi-Fi centric software update for the notebook.

Sources who received the email said that Apple will provide selected customers with a pre-release version of the “MacBook Air WiFi Update 1.0″ to install and use on their new machines, asking that they give feedback on any bugs found during the testing process.

While not explicitly stated in the AppleSeed invite, it is thought that the update relates to recent Wi-Fi connectivity issues some customers have experienced with Apple’s implementation of the fairly new 802.11ac wireless standard.

The recently-released 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs are the first Macs to implement the fast wireless protocol which, when combined with the new AirPort Extreme or AirPort Time Capsule, can reach theoretical speeds of up to 1300Mbps.

Although the technology has promise, a growing number of owners have complained of throughput limitations related to 11ac, with some reports speculating the wireless stack in OS X is at least partially to blame.

A thread on Apple’s Support Communities webpage appears to confirm the AppleSeed invitations, but offers little information on the software. Those who have already agreed to Apple’s terms said the company has yet to activate the invitation codes or send out the software.

In December 2012, Apple released a similar Wi-Fi compatibility update for Mac two months following the debut of the MacBook Pro with Retina display. At the time, owners of the then-new machine complained of problems recognizing 802.11n networks in the 5GHz band.

If you’ve received the notice or have experienced any Wi-Fi issues with a mid-2013 MacBook Air, please let us know in the comments.

Mid-2013 MacBook Air wake from sleep delay fix posted, simple Terminal command all that’s needed

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Date: Wednesday, June 26th, 2013, 09:33
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

The new MacBook Air is nifty.

But there are still some bugs to sort out.

And in the case of the notebook being slow to wake up from sleep, PowerPage head honcho Jason O’Grady has noted a cool Terminal command that can resolve the slow wake issue, which first manifested itself when the MacBook Pro with Retina Display was released in June 2012.

The fix was reported in by user Erv Walter and is covered, step by step, in detail over on The Apple Core.

Click the link, take a gander and with any luck, your spiffy new MacBook Air will be able to wake from sleep just as quickly as you’d like it to.

Let us know if the fix works in the comments and if you have any other cool fixes of your own, please let us know.