Intel licensing/certification restrictions holding up Thunderbolt adoption rate

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Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 07:15
Category: Hardware, News

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If you wondered why Lightning and Thunderbolt accessories were being adopted at a slow rate, there might just be an answer.

Per Ars Technica, a number of factors have played a part in the small selection of available Thunderbolt accessories, but the most significant may be Intel’s lengthy licensing and certification process.

A rundown on the state of Thunderbolt was published on Tuesday which acknowledged that accessories designed for the high-speed port remain a “niche.” It noted that more Thunderbolt-compatible devices are coming, but the initial selection has been limited thanks, in part, to Intel’s licensing requirements.

A number of vendors who spoke with author Chris Foresman claimed that Intel has been “cherry picking which vendors it worked with.” The chipmaker has apparently opted to work closely with a select number of vendors to ensure products would meet its stringent certification requirements.

Intel has denied that characterization, but did reportedly admit that it has had limited resources to approve new products. But Jason Ziller, director of Thunderbolt marketing and planning with Intel, also suggested licensing will expand to a greater number of vendors this year.

Another sign of potential improvement in Thunderbolt availability came last week, when Apple quietly released a shorter cable measuring half a meter in length, and also shaved US$10 off the price of the original 2-meter cable that debuted in 2011. Corning also showed off new Thunderbolt optical cables at CES that can transfer data over hundreds of feet.

Thunderbolt was developed in cooperation between Apple and Intel, and first launched on Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup in March of 2011. Since then, Thunderbolt ports have also begun to appear in some Windows-based PCs, though the number of available accessories has not yet taken off.

Thunderbolt pairs the high-speed PCI Express serial interface with the Apple-developed Mini DisplayPort to provide both data and video through a single port with I/O performance of up to 10Gbps. Originally codenamed ‘Light Peak,’ Intel had planned to use optical cabling but switched to copper wire because of cost constraints.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel shows off fourth-gen Core processor lineup at CES

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Date: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013, 08:48
Category: Hardware, Intel, News, Processors

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The cool stuff’s en route for this year.

Per AppleInsider, Intel on Monday demoed a number of upcoming processors set to hit market later this year, including low power versions of the company’s “Haswell” fourth-generation Core series CPUs slated to roll out in Apple’s inevitable 2013 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air refreshes.

While Apple wasn’t specifically mentioned in Intel’s keynote, which focused mainly on the chip maker’s push into smartphones and Ultrabooks, the processors outlined on Monday will likely be powering the MacBook lineup later this year.

According to the head of Intel’s PC client group, Kirk Skaugen, the fourth-gen Core family of processors are the first to be designed specifically for the Ultrabook initiative. The new silicon is said to bring the most significant battery life improvement in Intel history, with laptops using the CPUs boasting 9 to 13 hours of continuous on-the-go use.

“The 4th generation Core processors are the first Intel chips built from the ground up with the Ultrabook in mind,” Skaugen said. “We expect the tremendous advancements in lower-power Core processors, and the significant ramp of touch-based systems will lead to a significant new wave of convertible Ultrabooks and tablets that are thinner, lighter and, at the same time, have the performance required for more human-like interaction such as touch, voice and gesture controls.”

Intel is making a strong push for touch capabilities in this year’s thin-and-light lineup, requiring OEMs to include the functionality in return for “Ultrabook” branding. The company is also mandating that Ultrabook manufacturers incorporate Intel Wireless Display technology into 2013 machines, allowing users to view digital content on an HDTV.

As Apple does not participate in the Ultrabook initiative, a category believed to be a response to the MacBook Air, the Cupertino, Calif., company is not required to incorporate touchscreen tech into its laptop products. There have been no reports pointing toward multitouch capable MacBooks and industry sources claim Apple will merely debut refreshed units in June with existing designs.

Stay tuned for additional details

Workaround discovered for poor graphics performance/frame rates on 15-inch MacBook Pro

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Date: Friday, January 4th, 2013, 08:54
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

In as much as you love your 15-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro notebook, there are times where things aren’t always perfect. Per CNET, some Mac users are finding that some of the latest MacBook systems from Apple are sometimes showing drastic drops in graphics performance, which are particularly notable when playing graphically intensive applications like video games.

The issue seems to be that while at first launching the game will show the expected smooth performance, it may suddenly drop to a very low frame rate and be essentially unplayable. Usually when systems drop to low frame rates it suggests they are being overworked for some reason and are struggling to make the computations necessary for smooth gameplay, and as a result will usually be relatively hot as the graphics card is taxed; however, in these systems this is not the case and in testing some users have noticed that various monitoring tools show the system at a relatively idle state, suggesting the system is not being taxed much and instead is just not performing the computations at hand.

Apple’s 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro systems ship with two graphics cards (a discrete Nvidia Geforce GT 650M for graphics intensive operations and an on-board Intel HD 4000 GPU for standard everyday tasks), which it switches between dynamically to get optimal energy savings and increase battery life. However, it appears that the problem at hand is with how the system is handling this switching behavior, where it will switch back to using the lower power Intel graphics and therefore not be able to manage the demands of fancier games.

The mighty Topher Kessler has listed how to reset the SMC and thus regain some of your graphics frame rate via the following steps:

- Shut down the computer.

- Plug in the MagSafe power adapter to a power source, connecting it to the Mac if its not already connected.

- On the built-in keyboard, press the (left side) Shift-Control-Option keys and the power button at the same time.

- Release all the keys and the power button at the same time.

- Press the power button to turn on the computer.

After these steps have been performed, the system should perform as expected with graphics-intensive applications.

If you’ve tried this fix with your 15-inch MacBook Pro and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to update notebooks in June, retain same design with new models

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Date: Friday, December 28th, 2012, 06:08
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

Rumor: Apple to update notebooks in June, retain same design with new models

Sometimes you just don’t muck with a good design.

Per DigiTimes, Apple will reportedly update the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air product lines in June 2013 with upgraded innards, but no major design changes are expected for either laptop range.

According to the article, Taiwanese supply chain sources said Apple recently issued requests for quotations (RFQs) for a number of notebooks, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, with the new models slated to reach consumers in June 2013.

Little information was offered regarding the revised MacBook Pro as the publication focused its report on the effect Apple’s MacBook Air will have on so-called Ultrabook makers next year. For 2013, Apple’s thin-and-light is said to be switching to a new processor platform, most likely Intel’s next-generation Haswell architecture.

As for design, sources say no major changes are planned for either product line. While the MacBook Pro line was the recipient of a design overhaul with the Retina display model, non-Retina versions still sport a unibody chassis largely unaltered since its debut in 2008. The MacBook Air’s enclosure was revamped in 2010, taking on a more angular look as Apple applied design cues learned from its development of the iPad.

DigiTimes also suggests Apple may cut MacBook Air prices ahead of the June launch, but such a move is unlikely considering the company has no recent history of discounting products prior to a newer version’s release. The publication made similar claims in May when it incorrectly predicted that Apple would introduce a US$799 version of the notebook in the third quarter of 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patents point to effort to reduce noise on MacBook Pro fan modules

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Date: Thursday, December 20th, 2012, 09:02
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News, Patents

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You know the fans on your MacBook Pro?

They’re about to get quieter.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a trio of patent applications discovered on Thursday reveal how the asymmetric fan blade spacing used in the newest MacBook Pro with Retina display models quiet the spinning impeller without sacrificing performance.

The three patent applications, all titled “Centrifugal blower with asymmetric blade spacing” and numbered sequentially (1, 2, 3) cover separate fan designs that feature asymmetrically aligned fan blades, two with 31 blades and one with 61 blades.

Apple first introduced its asymmetric fan design in June with the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display and a subsequent teardown revealed that the laptop uses a 31-blade unit.

Typical fans incorporate a prime number of blades that are spaced at angles equidistant to each other, an industry standard aimed at reducing unwanted sound. At issue is the blade pass frequency (BPF) which produces harmonics from the pressure wave formed at the tip of each blade. The most noticeable source of noise is the pole pass frequency (PPF) tone, or the “vibration and resulting pressure waves created by the poles in the motor of the fan.”

Apple’s design calls for variably-angled blades that controls the spectral distribution of tones created by the fan. First-hand tests have found the new design to not necessarily quiet fan noise as much as create a less grating sound.

From the patent:
“Dispersing the energy of a tone over a number of discrete frequencies can make the tone seem less noisy to the listener by reducing the perception on the tonal BPF [blade pass frequency]. Spacing fan blades unevenly, while maintaining impeller balance, is one method of controlling pure-tone effects.”

According to the invention, the rearrangement of the fan blade angles cancels some of the noise usually heard in conventional portable computers but allows for the unit to still be balanced as the center of mass is located at the shaft of the impeller. The modified design also allows for the fan system to be smaller, thus permitting a thinner laptop as seen with the Retina MacBook Pros.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Pro Retina EFI Update 1.1 firmware for late-2012 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, December 18th, 2012, 08:28
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

You might want to snag this.

Late Monday, Apple released its MacBook Pro Retina EFI Update 1.1 firmware update for the late-2012 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro notebook. The update, a 5 megabyte download, improves sleep performance, enhances Thunderbolt router support, fixes an HDMI display issue, and improves compatibility when using the 5GHz band in Wi-Fi.

The update can be located, snagged and installed via OS X’s Software Update features and requires a late-2012 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro running OS X 10.8.2 or later to install and run.

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

Rumor: Next-gen iPad mini to include higher resolution display

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Date: Friday, December 14th, 2012, 08:44
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, Rumor

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

Per DigiTimes, Apple is rumored to be focusing on upgrading the resolution of its recently released iPad mini to Retina display specifications, with the changes said to be arriving in the next generation of the small form factor tablet’s next generation.

The Taiwanese publication cited sources from the backlighting industry as saying Apple’s next-gen iPad mini will boast a higher resolution display. It is not yet clear if the 7.9-inch tablet will feature a screen on-par with current Retina offerings, but “market observers” said a HiDPI display is likely the next step for the mini.

If the rumors are true, the next-generation tablet will move to a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels, which would yield a higher pixel density than the full-size iPad’s 264 ppi due to the discrepancy in screen size.

Sources also said Apple will be modifying the 9.7-inch iPad’s existing LED backlighting system, going from dual light bars to one in an effort to cut weight and slim down the tablet’s profile.

Although DigiTimes has a spotty record when it comes to forecasting upcoming Apple products, the publication’s sources in the display industry are a bit more reliable. In October, it correctly noted that AU Optronics would be tapped as a suppler of the current generation of iPad mini displays, while a second report said weak yields were delaying the release of the iPad mini, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display and the new iMac.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Adobe releases Retina Display updates for Illustrator CS6 13.0.3, Photoshop CS6 13.0.2

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Date: Tuesday, December 11th, 2012, 07:38
Category: News, Software

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You’ve been hankering for it since the Retina Display came on the market and now it’s arriving.

Per AppleInsider, in conjunction with its Create NOW event, Adobe on Monday released an update to all users of Creative Suite 6 that brings support to HiDPI screens like the Retina displays found in Apple’s top-of-the-line MacBook Pros.

It was first speculated that Adobe woud be releasing HiDPI versions of its professional image editing software in November when the company posted a video that showed a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display running Photoshop CS6 in a native high-resolution mode.

With the new capabilities, Adobe made good on a promise in August to bring Retina support for both Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6 by the end of the year. Adobe introduced a release candidate of Lightroom 4.3 earlier in November with support for both the 13-inch and 15-inch Retina display MacBook Pro models.

The updates can be downloaded and installed via Adobe Creative Suite 6′s updater application (pull down the “Help” menu, click “Updates…”) and this will open.

Along with Photoshop and Illustrator, Adobe plans to offer Retina display support for its entire suite of software, including Dreamweaver, Prelude and Premiere Pro, among others. No launch timeline has been announced, but updates are expected soon.

Adobe’s Create NOW Live event is scheduled to start on Tuesday with a keynote from Vice President of Products Jeffrey Veen, which will be followed by discussions ranging from new Creative Cloud features to design talks from industry professionals.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve tried the new versions, please let us know what you make of them in the comments.

How-to: How to get around “Black Screen of Death” on dual-GPU MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, 10:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

Ok, this could be useful.

Per the mighty Topher Kessler of CNET, a workaround has been found for MacBook users who noticed a pretty annoying black-screen bug on their systems, in which the computer would appear to be running but would not show any output on the display. To get around this issue, people were forced to restart their systems, losing any unsaved data.

The primary workaround for this problem was to use the third-party GPU manager utility gfxCardStatus to force the system to use only one of its available GPUs, to avoid the automatic switching between the graphics cards that was leading to the problem. While the increased use of the more powerful dedicated GPU drained the battery a little more, it did avoid the problem for many.

Take a gander here for the full article and if this has been driving you nuts, rest assured that it drove other MacBook Pro users up the wall as well.

Rumor: Video lends support to Retina Display-ready version of Photoshop to be released on December 11th

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Date: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, 09:35
Category: News, Software

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This could lead to something useful.

Per Mac Otakara, an announcement on Adobe’s website regarding the company’s upcoming “Create Now Live” contains a video> that appears to show a Retina Display MacBook Pro running Photoshop CS6, suggesting the photo editing software will finally be getting native high-resolution screen support.

The embedded video shows a MacBook Pro with Retina display running Photoshop CS6 in what looks to be the laptop’s native Hi-DPI screen resolution.

The most telling evidence is the screenshot above, which clearly shows incredibly smooth font and mouse cursor reproduction indicative of the MacBook’s Retina display.

In August, Adobe announced that it would be bringing support for both Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6 by the end of the year. Adobe released Lightroom 4.3 earlier in November with support for both the 13-inch and 15-inch Retina-toting MacBook Pro models.

Adobe is slated to kick off “Create Now Live” on Dec. 11, with a keynote from Vice President of Products Jeffrey Veen. Among the topics of discussion will be new Creative Cloud features and design talks from industry professionals.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available. And hey, a Retina Display version of Photoshop…how can that possibly NOT rock?