Apple looking to create outdoor, sunglasses-friendly LCD screens

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 02:35
Category: News, Patents

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It’s Friday, additional Apple patent applications have emerged and Apple has apparently shown interest in creating an improved LCD display for devices like the iPhone and iPad that is not distorted when viewed by a user wearing polarized sunglasses outdoors.

Per AppleInsider, the proposed new technology was revealed in a new patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. Entitled “Display that Emits Circularly-Polarized Light,” the proposed invention describes a liquid-crystal display that reduces perceived distortion when viewed through linearly polarizing filters, such as sunglasses.

In the application, Apple notes that current LCDs are based on polarization optics, and typically utilize linear polarizers on their front surfaces. The problem is that the light from LCDs typically has an electric field that only vibrates in one direction, while polarized sunglasses only allow through light with an electric field that vibrates in the vertical direction.

“Hence a user looking at the LCD display of a portable device… may see a distorted image in the display when viewed through polarized sunglasses, due to the polarized filters in the sunglasses blocking the light when the display is viewed at some angles,” the application reads.

When an LCD display is seen through polarized sunglasses, at certain angles the screen may be completely dark or somewhat obscured. The issue can be made even worse when a lens cover is placed in front of a display for protection or industrial design, as these plastics can compound the issue with color and gray artifacts.

Apple’s solution is a display that emits circularly polarized light by placing a layer in the path of linearly polarized light.

“The layer receives the linearly-polarized light on one surface, converts the linearly-polarized light to circularly-polarized light, and then emits the circularly-polarized light from another surface,” the application reads. “By emitting circularly-polarized light, the display reduces the perceived distortion found at some angles when the display is viewed through a linearly-polarizing filter.”

The invention would allow for superior outdoor viewing of displays, like iPhone or iPad screens, by reducing perceived distortion created when a user wears sunglasses.

Apple’s adoption of glass screen covers and glossy displays has been a point of criticism against the company, as some have complained they make viewing of devices in sunlight near impossible. The company has even brought back antiglare matte screens to some of its MacBook Pro options as an optional US$150 upgrade.

By creating a screen that could accommodate sunglasses, Apple would craft a new LCD that would allow a reduced amount of light to reach a user’s eye without distorting the screen. This could improve the ability to use devices like an iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro outdoors on a sunny day.

Apple first filed for the proposed invention in January of this year. It is credited to John Z. Zhong, Wei Chen, Cheng Chen, Victor H.E. Yin, and Shawn R. Gettemy.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.8 builds to developer community

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Date: Monday, May 16th, 2011, 04:03
Category: News, Software

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There may not be a ton of details about it, but it’s on its way.

Per MacRumors, Apple has released a new build of Snow Leopard to developers, the first since 10.6.7 in March, and potentially the last before the delivery of Mac OS X Lion this summer.

The new build, identified as 10K521, reportedly comes without any detail of changes.

That update was delivered in two flavors, one specifically for Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pros identified as build 10J3250, and a general release for other models 10J869.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is anticipated to be released at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference during the first week of June.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Newer Technology announces NuPower 52 Watt-Hour High Capacity Battery for 2008/2009 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 11:36
Category: Accessory, battery, MacBook Pro, News

If you’re saving up for a 2011 MacBook Pro and need to keep your older gear going for a while, you’ll appreciate that.

On Tuesday, Woodstock, Illinois-based Newer Technology announced today the NuPower 52 Watt-Hour High Capacity Replacement Battery for Late 2008/Early 2009 15″ Apple MacBook Pro ‘Unibody’ notebook computers that offers up to 4% greater capacity over the factory original battery for longer runtimes.

The unit retails for US$99.00 MSRP and reportedly offers a 23% lower cost than the replacement battery available from Apple.

The battery includes Newer’s one year warrant and is RoHS-compliant.

Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) to support up to 450 mbps Wi-Fi speeds on newer Mac models

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 03:09
Category: News, Software

Although it’s unknown as to exactly when Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) will be released, its feature list is looking interesting.

Among these features is a new protocol that will unlock the latent capacity of recently released Thunderbolt MacBook Pro and iMac systems to use faster 450 Mbps 802.11n wireless networking, thanks to triple send and receive antennas capable of supporting three spacial streams of wireless traffic.

Per AppleInsider, the 802.11n WiFi standard supports faster networking speeds through a number of technologies, including the use of multiple antennas (aka “MIMO” or multiple-input multiple-output).

Devices and wireless base stations supporting 802.11n can use multiple antennas (up to four each for send and receive) to spatially multiplex multiple independent data streams within one spectral channel of bandwidth enabling faster data throughput, a major factor of why the relatively new 802.11n is faster than previous 802.11 a/b/g wireless networks.

The 802.11n standard also supports the less-utilized (but higher frequency and therefore weaker wall penetrating) 5GHz frequency band, which was previously only tapped by 802.11a devices in corporate networks; 802.11b/g standards both only use the (often heavily saturated) 2.4GHz frequency band, potentially suffering from interference with neighboring wireless networks or Bluetooth devices.

New 802.11n networks can also speed up data transfers by using wide, 40MHz bandwidth channels to double the amount of radio spectrum used. Apple’s Airport base stations only support wide channels when configured to work as “802.11n only (5GHz)” networks. The option is hidden behind the “Wireless Network Options” button.

MCS is reported by Mac OS X clients in the AirPort menu when holding down the Option key. This index number can scale down depending on signal strength and interference, but its top limit is bound by the features of the hardware on the client and the network’s base station.

For example, iPhone 4 is 802.11n but lacks support for 5GHz and wide channels, limiting it to 802.11n networks configured to use 2.4GHz. The iPad, in contrast, can see and connect to “802.11n only (5GHz)” wireless networks. However, the iPad can still only support one spatial stream using a 20MHz channel because, like the iPhone, it lacks multiple “MIMO” antennas (due to battery life, cost and complexity constraints, as each antenna also requires radio support as well).

This limits Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad to an MCS index of 7, with a top throughput rate of 65 Mbps. Earlier 802.11b/g devices (including older iPhones) can only support a maximum data rate of 54 Mbps. The iPad, unlike iPhone 4, can also make use of 5GHz networks, which may enable for less interference from neighboring wireless traffic but does not raise its MCS index.

All Macs supporting 802.11n have multiple antennas and can therefore support two spacial streams, allowing them to achieve an MCS of 15 and a top data rate of 130 Mbps on 2.4GHz networks. Unlike iOS devices, Macs can also handle wide 40MHz channels in the 5GHz band, enabling a doubled data throughput of 300 Mbps when connecting to a “802.11n only (5GHz)” network configured to support wide channels.

This year, Apple began incorporating three send and receive antennas in its Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro and iMacs, enabling them to achieve an MCS of 23 and a top data rate of 450 Mbps on 5GHz networks with wide channels. This new capability goes beyond the baseline certification of 802.11n as defined by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which maxes out at 300 Mbps

While not currently supported by Mac OS X Snow Leopard, a developer has reported that the developer preview of Lion does indicate support for the new hardware when used with modern base stations such as Airport Extreme or Time Capsule.

The developer tested a MacBook Pro using a 2.3GHz Core i5, and reported an MCS of 23 with a transmit rate of 450 using a 5GHz network hosted by Airport Extreme. Previous machines are only able to achieve MCS 15.

If you’ve gotten your hands on an early build of Mac OS X 10.7, let us know how it went and we’ll have additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Pro Software Update 1.4 for Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro notebooks

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2011, 02:44
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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You snagged a 2011 MacBook Pro.

And, well, there were a few issues to sort out.

Fortunately, Apple’s recently-released MacBook Pro Software Update 1.4 might resolve some of these.

Per Engadget, the firmware update (a 132.69 megabyte download) should offer fixes for the following bugs:

- Problems encountered problems when outputting video through the Thunderbolt port to a Cinema Displays.

- Improve overall stability under heavy processing loads.

- Improvement graphics stability and 3D performance.

The update requires Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later to install and run and can also be snagged via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the firmware update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to redesign case for next-gen MacBook Pro

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 26th, 2011, 05:09
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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While the latest refresh of MacBook Pros are just two months old, rumors of the next update have already begun, with a new report claiming that the next model will feature a newly redesigned case construction.

Per MacRumors, an article citing “reliable confirmation” reported Monday on an alleged plans for a new case design in the next MacBook Pro update. However, the report offers no details on what changes Apple could make to the unibody construction of the current aluminum MacBook Pros.

The article cites a rumor from February which stated that the newly redesigned MacBook Pro notebooks would arrive next year. The rumored all-new design was said to already be in development at Quanta in Taiwan.

The last major update to the look of the MacBook Pro line came in 2008, when Apple updated the line with unibody construction. The unibody MacBook Pros are machined from a single block of aluminum, allowing Apple to create a strong, single-piece shell.

Apple refreshed its MacBook Pro line of products earlier this year, adding Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors, as well as the new high-speed Thunderbolt data connection port. But the external design of the new notebooks was largely unchanged from their predecessors.

Additional rumors surfaced in February that Apple plans to transition its notebooks in the next 12 to 18 months and add features from its hot-selling thin-and-light MacBook Air notebooks. Major changes to the MacBook Air including instant-on, standard flash solid-state drives, slimmer enclosures, and the omission of optical drives are expected to become more prevalent in the design of many Mac notebooks planned for introduction in the future.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

2011 MacBook Pro notebooks booting to gray screen, freezing, workarounds suggested

Posted by:
Date: Monday, April 11th, 2011, 04:25
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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As nifty and drool-worthy as the 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks may be, there still may be issues to sort out.

Per MacFixIt, a number of owners have noted an issue wherein the machine will start up to the gray Apple logo screen without a progress indicator and freeze. Apple has also noted the issue, releasing a knowledge base article to help with the situation.

Apple Support Discussions forum user CoryCripita writes:
“So for the second time my Macbook Pro is stuck on the ****** gray screen and won’t boot. The first time this happened 2 days ago I HAD TO resort to Archive and install. The only thing that I can even think caused this was again the fact that I updated via Software Update then rebooted.”
One suggestion offered on the forum was to reset the PRAM. To do so, turn off your machine. While holding Command + Option + P + R, turn your Mac back on. Wait for the boot chime to ring three times and your machine will start normally.

Apple has released a knowledgebase article to address some causes of this problem. According to the article, the Mac booting to the gray logo screen “may happen if the computer starts up from the hard drive or from an external drive using the wrong version or build of the operating system.”

If this happens, reinstall the proper build of Mac OS X from your install DVDs that came with your Mac. Later versions of Mac OS X will also work, but the article notes that using a version of OS X that was released before the computer will likely cause this issue.

You can check and see which version of Mac OS X your machine is attempting to start from by booting your Mac in Verbose Mode. When starting up, hold Command + V. If a DOS-like white text on black screen pops up, you’ve done it correctly.

“If the computer has the wrong build of the OS installed, the startup process will stop. The following line of text will appear on the display: “Loading SystemLibraryCachescom.apple.kext.cachesstartupExtensions.mkext.””
Hold the power button to shut down and quit Verbose Mode. When you next power on your Mac it will start normally.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, let us know how it went.

2011 MacBook Pro-Specific Boot Camp 3.2 update appears to lead to brightness issues

Posted by:
Date: Monday, April 11th, 2011, 03:44
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

Here’s the thing with updates: they’re great and generally resolve problems and turn a disaster around.

Then there’s the other 10% for whom they make the sky fill with brimstone, the seas boil over and cause your cat to start waltzing across the living room floor with your terrier.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s small Boot Camp update for the new 2011 Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro models appears to be causing problems with adjusting screen brightness for some users.

While Apple said the update addresses issues that existed with system shutdowns and resolves problems with Japanese and korean keyboard, users on the official Apple Discussions page have reported that new issues were created with the update. Specifically, numerous Boot Camp users have reported since Thursday that the 3.2 update mistakenly disables the ability to control screen brightness in Windows.

“Clicking the brightness buttons (fn + F1) causes the little brightness icon to come up and move up or down, but the actual screen brightness won’t change and stays at 100%,” user pwhe23 wrote. “I don’t remember this happening before I upgraded.”

A number of other users chimed in on the thread, reporting similar results, even with a fresh install of Windows 7. User ckahn said they managed to address the problem by installing the 32-bit version of Windows 7, rather than the 64-bit operating system.

And user Polytonic found a “temporary workaround” by setting the brightness in Mac OS X, then rebooting to Windows. The Mac will apparently remember the brightness setting applied in Mac OS X and it will carry over to Windows upon the system reboot.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know.

Apple releases Boot Camp update for 2011 MacBook, MacBook Pro users

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Date: Friday, April 8th, 2011, 04:36
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

Per the cool cats at MacFixIt, Apple has released an update to the Boot Camp drivers for the latest MacBook Pro systems. This update addresses a couple of problems with Japanese and Korean keyboards in the system, and also fixes shutdown problems, according to the update’s download page. The update is specific for Windows 7, so if you are using an alternative version of Windows, this will not apply to you.

The update should be available for Boot Camp users via Apple’s Software Update utility, but it can also be downloaded and applied manually from the Boot Camp 3.2 Update web page. The update is 21.55MB in size.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments or feedback.

2011 MacBook Pro Turbo Boost problem may be larger issue than originally thought

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Date: Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011, 05:57
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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The good news is that the new 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks are out and they are generally considered speedy and awesome.

The bad news is that Apple may have been aware for some time of the problem of new MacBook Pros crashing under heavy loads. According PC Pro magazine, Apple appears to have deliberately turned off Turbo Boost for the top-end 13″ model (with a dual-core 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7-2620M processor) when running Windows under Boot Camp.

PC Pro originally thought that Turbo Boost had been disabled under OS X as well, but then tests performed by AnandTech showed that the feature was only disabled under Windows. “We first noticed a problem when the benchmarks finished five full runs and the results popped up on screen: the times taken to complete several of the most intensive tests were rising with each run” says PC Pro. “This would suggest an overheating problem, so we ran a temperature monitor to find out how hot this Sandy Bridge CPU was getting.”

In fact, the CPU was reaching around 93°C — almost 200°F. “93°C is not necessarily too high for a modern CPU, but it is the root cause of the bigger performance problem.” The magazine went on to state that it was sure the processor isn’t turning off Turbo Boost dynamically, since it didn’t work at all during their week of testing no matter what the CPU temperature was. Also, the cheaper model with the i5 processor did use Turbo Boost, as did the i7 model under OS X.

After measuring the underside temperature of the top-end model at 60°C — 140°F — they conclude that it might actually be a better deal to buy the cheaper 13-inch MacBook Pro. If Turbo Boost is disabled on the higher model, the lower-end version will actually run Windows faster than the more expensive MacBook Pro.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.