Catcher unibody plant remains closed, odors being examined

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Date: Thursday, December 8th, 2011, 08:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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If they could just get the odors under control, things would be set.

Following up on our previous coverage of assorted odors closing down the Catcher unibody plant, Chinese authorities continue to inspect a factory that produces aluminum casings for Apple’s MacBook laptops, following residents’ complaints of unbearable odors coming from the facility.

Per Macworld, Apple’s MacBook inventories, however, appear so far to be unaffected by the factory’s temporary shutdown, according to one analyst.

In mid-October, Taiwan-based Catcher Technology announced that it had stopped production at its factory in Suzhou, China. Authorities have since been inspecting the factory to ensure its manufacturing processes will not emit any strong odors that will affect nearby residents.

Catcher could not be reached for comment. The company said in a Taiwan Stock Exchange filing on Wednesday that authorities are still inspecting the factory. In an earlier filing, the company said that its October sales revenue would be down by 20 percent, and November sales by 40 percent, if the factory could not be restarted in time.

Local Chinese authorities have been working to improve and test the factory’s waste-gas treatment systems, according to Yee Fang, a spokeswoman with the Suzhou Industrial Park Administrative Committee. The authorities have nothing new to report at this time, she added.

Helen Chiang, an analyst with research firm IDC, said Apple appears to have mitigated the effect of the factory’s outage as it shifted production to its other supplier. “It’s been controllable at this point,” she said. Apple’s MacBook demand for the fourth quarter is also forecast to be less than the third quarter, Chiang added.

Apple declined to comment.

Stay tuned for additional smell-o-riffic details as they become available.

Apple specifies discounts for 2011 Black Friday sales

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Date: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011, 03:01
Category: iPad, iPod, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, retail

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As mentioned yesterday, Apple will be planning assorted discounts for this year’s Black Friday shopping holiday.

Per 9to5Mac, the discounts are in-line with last year’s prices with only modest discounts on their products. Price drops for their core products are as follows:

iPad 2: US$41 to US$61 Off

iPod nano: US$11 off

iPod Touch: US$21 to US$41 off

MacBook Air: US$101 off

MacBook Pro: US$101 off

iMac: US$101 off

Meanwhile, 3rd party accessories are also seeing some small discounts ranging from US$11-US$101.95 in savings for accessories such as iPad Smart Covers, iPhone battery packs and external hard drives.

These prices should be available for both online and local retail Apple store locations. For those who were planning to purchase from Apple retail anyway, it makes sense to wait until Friday. For those looking for more savings, other online retailers frequently their own Black Friday sales on Apple products as well. Depending on your location, those other online retailers may provide the added advantage of not charge sales tax on online orders. Apple’s online store does charge local sales tax on all orders due to its local presence in every state.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts Black Friday savings teaser, leaves iPhone out of potential deals to be had

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Date: Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011, 08:16
Category: iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro, News, retail

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Come Friday, there shall be savings.

And probably shoving to get to those savings.

So, look, try to be polite and don’t shove other people for the savings, all right?

Per MacStories, Apple has placed a teaser on its web site, saying that it will be holding a “special one-day Apple shopping event” on Friday. Apple plans to offer discounts on iPad, iPod, and Mac lines. It made no mention of iPhone deals.

The teaser appears to show Apple offering the deals worldwide. As of this writing, the Black Friday deal teaser is being displayed on Apple’s Australia, Italy, and U.K. online stores.

However, there are a few caveats you should keep in mind. For one, Apple says that the deals will be available on its “Online Store,” seeming to indicate it might not offer the same discounts in its retail outlets. The company is also waiting until Friday to unveil the deals it will offer customers that day.

Apple has been holding special Black Friday events for years. But its offers haven’t always been so exciting. In 2009, for example, it took just US$101 off its MacBook Pro models and US$31 off its iPod Touch.

Apple product discounts don’t come along too often and those who want to save a few bucks might want to head back over to the Apple online store later this week to see what’s offered.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to return to Nvidia GPUs for 2012 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011, 05:05
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Sometimes you’ve got to play the field and see which GPU works best for you.

Per SemiAccurate, a new rumor claims that next-generation MacBook models will once again feature Nvidia graphics processors.

Nvidia’s return to Apple’s Mac lineup is expected to begin next spring, when new hardware featuring Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors is anticipated. Rumors have suggested that Apple’s new MacBook Pro models, arriving in 2012, will feature a redesigned chassis that will take some design cues from the popular thin-and-light MacBook Air lineup.

The last MacBook Pro models to feature Nvidia graphics arrived in 2010 alongside a new proprietary graphics switching technology developed by Apple. But the higher end 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros launched early this year completed the switch to AMD graphics, while the entry-level 13-inch model relies on integrated Intel graphics.

In mid-2009, rumors began to crop up that Nvidia and Apple were at odds with each other, though there was no hard evidence to support a rift. But over the next few years, Apple gradually began to feature only ATI graphics across its entire Mac lineup, including desktop machines.

The same site to report the AMD GPU rumor also claimed last week that Apple had secretly built an AMD-powered MacBook Air model last spring, but scrapped the device at the last minute because of production issues. It said Apple had originally hoped to release a thin-and-light notebook powered by AMD’s Llano processor.

SemiAccurate also claimed in May that Apple plans to transition its future portable Macs to ARM processors, away from Intel CPUs. Low-cost, low-power ARM processors are currently found in Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices, but the report claimed Apple hopes to have ARM specifications also power its Macs by the end of 2012 or by early 2013, when 64-bit variations are expected to become available.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple apparently exploring further updates to resolve MacBook Pro battery/Lion issues

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Date: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, 15:11
Category: battery, MacBook Pro, News, Software

Sometimes the firmware update doesn’t fix everything…

Per AppleInsider, as some users continue to report battery life issues running Mac OS X 10.7 Lion on older MacBooks, Apple continues to look into the problem in hopes of finding a solution.

One user reported receiving a phone call from an Apple technician last week. The representative was said to be following up on both an AppleCare call and Genius Bar appointment involving the customer in July, just after Mac OS X Lion was released as an upgrade on the Mac App Store for US$29.99.

“My (MacBook Pro) battery life dropped precipitously after the install, and the Apple support team was clueless,” this person wrote. “It kind of ended there, until the phone call last week.”

The user was given the impression that Apple is still working on addressing the bug, as they were asked to send an e-mail back to the Apple technician sharing data from a number of tests. These tests included running commands in the terminal window of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

“I was told to expect a software update addressing the issue eventually,” they wrote.

Other users continue to detail their own problems with battery life after upgrading to Lion on Apple’s official Support Communities website. One thread has ballooned to more than 1,200 posts and 130,000 views, with more being added every day.

“After a full charge on my 17 inch (MacBook Pro), I booted up this morning and it took 5% of the battery to boot up,” user “DucatiMonster” wrote on Apple’s forums on Monday. “It said 2:52 minutes left, and now 20 minutes later it says 1:33 left. I will be lucky to get a full hour out of this battery that got 8 hours a couple days ago.”

The person later posted that their MacBook Pro, after upgrading to Lion, managed 2 hours and 24 minutes of uptime, most of it with the screen off. Another user, “Nickofari,” said they went through two calls to AppleCare and two Genius Bar visits to troubleshoot the problem, but no solutions have been provided.

“At the last Genius Bar appointment, they said I need to check-in my computer so they could diagnose the problem more deeply,” they wrote. “It’s a reasonable approach, but not for me. If I had an extra machine, I would do this, but as my (MacBook Pro) is my primary work computer and I can’t live without it. Even with AppleCare, Apple suggested that I buy into the US$499 Business Joint Venture Program so they might provide a loaner. Disappointing to be sure.”

If you’ve seen these concerns on your end, please let us know.

Apple releases MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 (Snow Leopard) firmware update for 15-inch MacBook Pro units running Mac OS X 10.6

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Date: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, 05:12
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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It’s not the meatiest firmware update in the world, but it could still prove helpful in a pinch.

Per The Mac Observer, Apple has released its MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 (Snow Leopard) firmware update, a fix for Snow Leopard users experiencing the “Intermittent black screen or loss of video” issue. The company released a fix for Lion users in October, and this release brings Snow Leopard users up to date on the problem, too.

Apple’s patch notes simply say, “This update addresses an issue where MacBook Pro (15-inch Mid 2010) computers may intermittently freeze or stop displaying video.”

The update, a 51.45 megabyte download, can also be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature provided you have a qualifying MacBook Pro and Mac OS X 10.6.8 installed.

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

Rumor: Apple prepping ultra-thin 15-inch MacBook Pro notebook for Q2 2012

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Date: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, 04:31
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The nice thing with rumors: there’s generally a kernel of truth in there somewhere.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is rumored to have ordered a “small volume” of components for a 15-inch ultra-thin notebook that could appear as early as the second quarter of 2012.

Upstream suppliers are said to have begun shipping the components this month, though it remains unclear whether the final version of the 15-inch laptop will be marketed as a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro. Based on the timing of the order, sources believe that mass shipments of the device will begin in March of next year.

However, it should be noted that the publication has, as of late, had spotty reliability when it comes to Apple product predictions, though it claims to be well-connected in the Asian supply chain.

Late last month, it was reported that Apple was finishing up a “test phase” for a new thin-and-light 15-inch MacBook. The Mac maker is also rumored to be developing a 17-inch ultraportable MacBook, though such a machine was not mentioned in Tuesday’s report.

According to sources close to the story, Apple appears poised to move its MacBook Pro lines more toward the MacBook Air next year. The company is believed to be interested in bringing features, including instant-on, standard SSD drives, slimmer enclosures and the omission of optical drives, to the MacBook Pro in future designs.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs seemed to telegraph such a move last year when he said that the MacBook Air, which had been redesigned to incorporate standout features from the iPad, represented the “future of the MacBook.”

The MacBook Air’s portion of Apple’s total Mac sales saw a significant jump in July after the company released an upgrade with Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge processors and back-lit keyboards. According to a recent analysis, the thin-and-light notebook now makes up 28 percent of Apple’s notebook shipments, up from 8 percent in May and June.

As of the September quarter, portables represented 74 percent of the company’s Mac sales, despite seeing record desktop sales in the same period. Meanwhile, total Mac sales last quarter were the highest ever at 4.85 million units.

Analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray believes the latest NPD domestic sales data point to Apple selling 5.3 million Macs over the holiday quarter. Wall Street consensus for the quarter stands at 5.2 million.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.5 for unspecified MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Friday, November 11th, 2011, 05:37
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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In addition to the AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule firmware updates, Apple on Friday also released MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.5, which reportedly “resolves an issue where a MacBook Pro being used with a power adapter may unexpectedly shut down under heavy workload if the battery charge level is near empty.”

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, it’s not entirely clear which models of MacBook Pro are covered by this firmware update.

The update can be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature and requires a MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later on the Mac OS X 10.6 end and Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later for the Mac OS X 10.7 end to install and run.

This one’s still sort of up in the air, so if you’ve tried the firmware update and noticed any major changes, please let us know in the comments.

64-bit MacBook Pro notebooks may take up to 16GB of RAM

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 06:12
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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In a somewhat surprising discovery, the cool cats at CNET, have discovered that despite the specified amount of RAM your MacBook Pro can max out at, the machine will still recognize and use more RAM if it’s available. With that in mind, the article recommends using the System Profile utility.

It gets interesting from there:

“These days all of Apple’s Macs are 64-bit machines, which means that theoretically they can access terabytes upon terabytes of memory; however, despite this there is a physical hardware limit on the amount of RAM a system can contain. This is true both in terms of physical capability but also in a built-in limit in the system’s memory controllers on how much RAM it can recognize. As a result, despite having 64-bit capability, many systems are built with limitations that allow them to hold a maximum of 4 or 8GB of RAM.

Even though they are 64-bit capable, Apple’s MacBook Pro systems have been offered with 8GB RAM as the maximum configuration. More recent models, including those released in 2011, have been built with a higher RAM limit, so even though Apple only offers 8GB RAM and mentions this as the maximum amount of RAM the systems can hold, in reality they can recognize up to 16GB if you add it.

These systems are the ones with the model number series of MacBookPro8,x or later, which include the following:
- MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5

- MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5

- MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 17-inch 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 17-inch 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 17-inch 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

- MacBook Pro 17-inch 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

If you have one of these systems, then you should be able to install up to 16GB of RAM if needed, which can be purchased from vendors such as Crucial or Other World Computing.”

While this upgrade is possible, do keep in mind that it will not be cheap. Even though memory prices are very low these days because low PC demand has resulted in a surplus of components, the low prices are only for relatively common RAM modules, which include the 4GB and 8GB modules. The 16GB upgrades are not as common for laptop systems, so expect to pay around US$600 if you want 16GB of RAM in a laptop system.

If you’ve tried this on your MacBook Pro, please let us know how it went and how much you paid for the RAM. Beyond that, have fun and let us know what your notebook’s true maxed out RAM capacity is.

Apple cites iPhone 4S, MacBook Air and Mac mini products as “Bluetooth Smart Ready”

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 11:32
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Mac mini, MacBook Air, News

No one ever said wireless communication with devices was a bad thing.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s latest products, including the iPhone 4S and updated Mac mini and MacBook Air, are among a group of low-power Bluetooth devices now branded as “Bluetooth Smart Ready.”

Bluetooth Smart is a new brand extension given by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group to devices that implement Bluetooth 4.0. Compatible devices include phones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

“Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready devices will revolutionize the way we collect, share and use information,” said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “In order to ensure consumers know what these extraordinary devices have to offer, we created the Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready marks. These new logos will help consumers manage compatibility, and encourage manufacturers to build their best Bluetooth devices yet.”

Bluetooth Smart devices are sensor-type devices like heart-rate monitors or pedometers. They run on button-cell batteries and were created to collect only a specific piece of information.

Bluetooth Smart Ready devices can connect to traditional Bluetooth devices, as well as new Bluetooth Smart devices that are just starting to enter the market. But Bluetooth Smart devices, because of their lower power consumption, will only connect with products labeled as Bluetooth Smart Ready.

Packages will now carry three potential logos created by the Bluetooth SIG to help consumers identify what their device offers, whether it be traditional Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, or Bluetooth Smart Ready.

“Consumers can look at new Bluetooth Smart Ready devices the same way they would a 3D ready TV — having the TV is just the first part of the puzzle, you need glasses and content in order to really experience 3D,” said Suke Jawanda, CMO of the Bluetooth SIG. “Once consumers have a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, like the new iPhone 4S, they can continue connecting to existing Bluetooth devices and are also ready to experience the new world of Bluetooth Smart peripheral devices that will carry the Bluetooth Smart logo.”

Bluetooth 4.0 support first appeared in Apple’s products in July, when the MacBook Air lineup and Mac mini were refreshed. Other Macs released this year — new iMacs and MacBook Pros — only support Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), but Bluetooth 4.0 also came to the new iPhone 4S released earlier this month.

Apple joined the Bluetooth SIG board of directors in June, and now takes part in overseeing the development of standards and licensing for the short-range wireless technology. When Apple joined, the special interest group said the iPhone maker would provide insight on platform development, as the company understands that technology is now driven by “hub devices” that capture data, utilize data at the application layer, and even upload it to the cloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.