Updated Mac OS X 10.7.3 user interface notes could point towards Retina displays for future Macs

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Date: Tuesday, February 7th, 2012, 07:26
Category: Hardware, News

Analyze the new Mac OS X update’s source code and you find some interesting stuff.

Per Daring Fireball, a series of newly-upgraded high-DPI UI elements in Mac OS X 10.7.3 has led to some speculation that Apple is continuing to lay the groundwork for high-resolution Mac displays that approach the pixel density of its Retina Displays.

The article pointed to a series of Twitter posts (1, 2) outing UI resources that scale to larger sizes in the latest release of Mac OS X Lion, which arrived last week.

The new elements include the pointing-finger cursor in Safari, the “grabby hand” in Mail, and the camera cursor for taking screenshots and a few others. One straightforward reason for the change could be that Apple wanted to improve the look of the Universal Access zoom feature. But, reports from some Mac Mini users outputting to HDTVs over HDMI that upgrading to 10.7.3 caused their system to reboot into HiDPI mode have added to the mounting evidence that Apple is planning for high-definition Mac displays.

Apple added HiDPI modes to Mac OS X Lion last year, but they were previously only accessible by installing Xcode. HiDPI is modeled after the UI resolution doubling that takes place on Retina Display iPhones.

Gruber went on to wonder “whether we may be on the cusp of Apple releasing HiDPI Mac displays and/or HiDPI MacBooks. I.e.: retina display Macs.” He did, however, add that he has been anticipating “super-high-resolution Mac displays” for over five years, so his speculation should be taken with “a grain of wishful-thinking salt.”

Late last year, a rumor emerged that Apple was preparing new versions of its MacBook Pro lineup with double the resolution. The resulting display for a 15-inch MacBook Pro would be 2,880 by 1,800 pixels and is expected to set off “a new round of competition for panel specifications.”

Chipmaker Intel has indicated that its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will support resolutions up to 4K, or 4,096 by 4,096 pixels per monitor. Multiple reports have suggested that the company will launch its Ivy Bridge Processors in the second quarter of 2012, and Apple is expected to begin adding Ivy Bridge chips to its Macs in soon after. Wallpapers as large as 3,200 by 2,000 pixels were also discovered in a developer preview of Mac OS X Lion last year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

MSI demoes external Thunderbolt-based GPU for Apple notebooks at CES

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Date: Wednesday, January 11th, 2012, 05:49
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

Ok, this is interesting.

Over at CES this week, MSI is showing off a new external graphics solution that can connect to a Mac through a high-speed Thunderbolt port. Per AnandTech, the MSI GUS IIrelies on the high bandwidth capacity of the 10Gbps Thunderbolt port found on the latest Mac models, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

“The external chassis features a Thunderbolt interface and an internal PCIe slot,” Anand Lai Shimpi noted. “Despite running on a MacBook Pro there is currently no OS X support for the solution, but it does work under Windows. Presumably if there’s OS X support for the GPU inside the enclosure it would work under OS X as well.”

No timeframe for launch or price for the external GPU were given, but the product could be a solution for users who want more graphics processing power for their MacBook when it’s in use at home. The GPU featured in the MSI GUS II must be powered by PCIe alone, as there are no auxiliary power connectors inside the device.

Thunderbolt-based external drives have also been prevalent at CES this year. Seagate plans to ship by the middle of this month adapters that will allow existing Seagate GoFlex drives to fit into a Thunderbolt slot, while Western Digital plans to release new Thunderbolt drives by the middle of 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Claims deadline approaches for MagSafe power adapter owners

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Date: Thursday, January 5th, 2012, 08:02
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

If you have a MagSafe power connector for your MacBook or MacBook Pro, there’s only so much time left to make your claim under the class action settlement relating to problems with the adapter. The lawsuit was settled by Apple in November 2011.

Per The Apple Core, he problem with the early MagSafe was a week sleeve. Of course, the cable bent and the wires inside the plastic sleeve could become frayed and pull out. This posed a fire hazard and many customers replaced the units. Apple settled, but of course, “the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing.”

Owners of MacBooks and MacBook Pros can receive various cash payments covering the purchase of replacements adapters within the first three years following the initial purchase of the computer. The amount of the cash payments vary depending on when the replacement adapter was purchased.

The FAQ page for the settlement is here and the timeline page is here. The date to object to the suit and to exclude oneself from the suit just passed. The site says that March 21, 2012 is the due date for the sending of claim forms, which can be downloaded from the site.

If you have two cents to throw in or your own MagSafe power adapter story, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: Intel Ivy Bridge-equipped Mac notebooks to launch April 8th, 2012, sport ample new features

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Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 13:52
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Processors, Rumor

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It’s kind of neat when the rumors point towards a specific date.

Per DigiTimes, Intel is rumored to release a total of 25 new 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge processors on April 8, 2012, signaling a potential launch window for Apple’s next generation of Macs.

Intel will release 17 desktop CPUs and 8 notebook Ivy Bridge processors in early April according to the article. The initial chips are said to include models 3820QM and 3720QM, priced at US$568 and US$378, respectively, which could be candidates for Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup.

The notebook Ivy Bridge processors will feature the new Intel HD Graphics 4000 architecture. Intel’s M-Series lineup is expected to have nominal thermal design power of between 35 watts and 55 watts.

Set for a “later” launch, according to sources, are the Core i7-3667U and Core i5-3427U processors, intended for Intel’s Ultrabook lineup. Those processors would also be possible candidates for Apple’s own thin-and-light notebook, the MacBook Air.

Earlier reports have said the i7-3667U processor will be clocked at 2GHz, and can overclock to 3.2GHz in single-core mode, while the i5-3427U will run at 1.8GHz and overclock to 2.8GHz in single-core mode. Both models are said to feature a graphics processor clocked at 350MHz that can run as high as 1150MHz.

The rumored April 8 launch date for the first Ivy Bridge processors is slightly earlier than what a leaked roadmap from Intel showed earlier this month. Those documents showed a tentative launch date of May 2012 for the new chip platform.

Recent reports have pegged a MacBook Pro update from Apple to arrive in the second quarter of calendar 2012, a timeframe that would fit with the April debut of Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors. The new MacBook Pros are rumored to feature a redesigned look with new high-resolution 2,880-by-1,800 Retina Display screens.

Retina Display MacBook Pros would be possible with Ivy Bridge because the next-generation architecture will bring support for 4K resolution. That gives Apple and other PC makers the option to build a display that is 4,096 pixels across.

For high-end MacBook Pro models with dedicated graphics cards, one report from November claimed Apple will switch to Nvidia for its 2012 notebooks. The last MacBook Pro models to feature Nvidia graphics arrived in 2010.

As for the MacBook Air, Apple is expected to expand the lineup and add a 15-inch model. Currently, its ultraportable notebook is available with screen sizes of 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches.

Cool stuff if it’s true. Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Ivy Bridge roadmap leaked, new processors en route for April, May of 2012

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Date: Tuesday, December 6th, 2011, 10:33
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Processors

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Ivy Bridge for your Mac notebook…it’s en route.

Per a leaked roadmap over at VR-Zone, Intel’s next generation mobile processors, called Ivy Bridge, could open the door to quad-core processors in the 13-inch MacBook Pro and bring significantly faster graphics and new OpenCL capabilities to the MacBook Air. Ivy Bridge will also support ultra high resolution displays and Intel has committed to Thunderbolt support alongside USB 3.0 in the platform.



The roadmap, which offers the processors as arriving in April and May of 2012, includes a wide range of processors with Thermal Design Power (TDP) ranging from 17W to 55W. The TDP tends to be the limiting factor in the size of Apple’s notebook designs. Apple presently uses 17W processors in the MacBook Air designs and 35W-45W processors in the MacBook Pro. The new processors will include the improved Intel HD Graphics 4000 integrated graphics chipset.

The 35W-45W (MacBook Pro) processors range from Dual Core 2.6GHz to 2.9GHz with single core turbo speeds of up to 3.6GHz, while the 17W (MacBook Air) processors range from Dual Core 1.8GHz to 2.0GHz with single core turbo speeds of up to 2.8-3.2GHz.

Apple’s choice of processors may depend on how dramatically it redesigns the MacBook Pro next year. Rumors have persisted that Apple is working on ultra-thin models that may represent a complete overhaul of some of the MacBook Pro models, making them more Air-like in design. The article notes that the TDPs on these processors are programmable, so Apple may be able to reduce their TDPs at the expense of processor speed.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple looks into universal power adapter to charge MacBook, iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, November 17th, 2011, 07:58
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patents that make things interesting.

Per freepatentsonline, Apple has shown interest in building a new universal power adapter compatible with different DC voltage levels, allowing portable devices like a MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad to be charged at the same time with just one wall plug.

The proposed invention was revealed this week in a new Apple patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing, entitled “Multi-Output Power Supply,” notes that most commercially available adapters do not include multiple outputs for supplying different DC voltage levels.

“As such, users may often purchase a device-specific adapter for powering a device,” it states. “However, this requires that the user carry a separate adapter for each device, which can be cumbersome when a user is traveling, as many users forget to bring all of the associated adapters required for various devices.”

Those adapters can also be relatively bulky, Apple notes, making them less than ideal to carry while traveling. The company also said that it can be confusing to users when multiple adapters are at use in a stationary location, like a home or office.

Apple’s solution is a new universal power supply that would connect to multiple electronic devices. This would make it unnecessary for users to carry multiple power adapters while traveling with multiple portable devices.

The filing describes a single power adapter that includes a DC-to-DC converter, allowing it to meet the different voltage requirements of unique devices. The adapter could also intelligently control power supplied through its outlets to ensure that the correct voltage is sent out to appropriate devices.

In addition to iPods, iPhones and iPads, the application specifically notes that such a system could also be compatible with Apple’s patented MagSafe technology, used to supply power to the company’s MacBook line of notebooks.

The charging cable could include a power “brick” similar to the ones currently used with a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. That brick would include the necessary voltage converter, and could allow another portable device like an iPhone to be plugged in to charge.

The proposed invention was first filed by Apple in May of 2010, and was made public this week. It is credited to Aleksandar Pance, Nicholas Alan Rundle, and John Douglas Field.

The latest application is not the first time Apple has shown interest in redesigning its power adapters to allow charging of multiple devices. In September, another filing showed the company is interested in building a universal charger that would allow portable devices to not only recharge their batteries, but also sync data while plugged in to the same adapter.

Apple offers Apple TV price break through retailers in advance of Black Friday sales

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Date: Wednesday, November 16th, 2011, 04:04
Category: Apple TV, News, retail

It’s not a huge price drop, but it’s worth paying attention to.

Per AppleInsider, both Amazon and Best Buy are advertising a US$10 drop in price for the Apple TV. The latest version of Apple’s “hobby” originally came with a US$99.99 price tag when it was released last year.

The new pricing isn’t the lowest price ever for the set-top box. Last November, MacConnection ran an early Black Friday sale offering the device for just US$79.99.

The price drop does not, however, suggest an imminent release of an updated Apple TV, as it is likely too late in the holiday season for Apple to launch a new product. The last time the company released new hardware in November was the Core 2 Duo MacBook in 2006.

Though Apple declined to release a hardware update to its Apple TV this year, it did release a software update around the one-year mark. Version 4.4 of the set-top box’s software added compatibility with new iOS 5 features such as AirPlay Mirroring and Photo Stream. The update also added a Trailers app, as well as access to Wall Street Journal Live and National Hockey League content.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Scientists looking into methods of boosting consumer battery strengths via millions of tiny holes

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Date: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, 08:27
Category: battery, News

Even if you’d like to throw your MacBook or MacBook Pro’s battery through a wall on occasion, there’s hope.

Per BBC News, a new battery development technique could allow batteries for phones and notebooks to recharge up to ten times faster and hold a charge ten times larger than current technology allows.

Scientists at Northwestern University in the US have changed the materials in lithium-ion batteries to boost their abilities.

One change involves poking millions of minuscule holes in the battery.

Batteries built using the novel technique could be in the shops within five years, estimate the scientists.

In essence, a mobile phone battery built using the Northwestern techniques would charge from flat in 15 minutes and last a week before needing a recharge.

The density and movement of lithium ions are key to the process.

Dr. Harold Kung and his team at Northwestern said they have found a way to cram more of the ions in and to speed up their movement by altering the materials used to manufacture a battery.

The maximum charge has been boosted by replacing sheets of silicon with tiny clusters of the substance to increase the amount of lithium ions a battery can hold on to.

The recharging speed has been accelerated using a chemical oxidation process which drills small holes – just 20-40 nanometers wide – in the atom-thick sheets of graphene that batteries are made of.

This helps lithium ions move and find a place to be stored much faster.

The downside is that the recharging and power gains fall off sharply after a battery has been charged about 150 times.

“Even after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today,” said lead scientist Prof Harold Kung from the chemical and biological engineering department at Northwestern.

So far, the work done by the team has concentrated on making improvements to anodes – where the current flows into the batteries when they are providing power.

The group now plans to study the cathode – where the current flows out – to make further improvements.

A paper detailing the work of Prof Kung and his co-workers has been published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available…and a MacBook Pro battery that charged in less than 15 minutes, the ladies would love it.

Security researcher Charlie Miller outs iOS code signing flaw, security hole

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Date: Tuesday, November 8th, 2011, 05:46
Category: iOS, News, security, Software

It’s hard to say if it’s discouraging to see the iOS get spotted on assorted security failures or reassuring to see that security experts manage to notice these and bring them to the public’s attention.

According to Forbes, Mac hacker and researcher Charlie Miller has reportedly found a way to sneak malware into the App Store and subsequently onto any iOS device by exploiting a flaw in Apple’s restrictions on code signing, allowing the malware to steal user data and take control of certain iOS functions.

Miller explains that code signing restrictions allow only Apple’s approved commands to run in an iOS device’s memory, and submitted apps that violate these rules are not allowed on the App Store. However, he has found a method to bypass Apple’s security by exploiting a bug in iOS code signing that allows an app to download new unapproved commands from a remote computer.

“Now you could have a program in the App Store like Angry Birds that can run new code on your phone that Apple never had a chance to check,” Miller said. “With this bug, you can’t be assured of anything you download from the App Store behaving nicely.”

The flaw was introduced when Apple released iOS 4.3, which increased browser speed by allowing javascript code from the internet to run on a much deeper level in a device’s memory than in previous iterations of the OS. Miller realized that in exchange for speed, Apple created a new exception for the web browser to run unapproved code. The researcher soon found a bug that allowed him to expand the flawed code beyond the browser, integrating it into apps downloaded from the App Store.

Miller created a proof-of-concept app called “Instastock” to showcase the vulnerability, which was submitted to and approved by Apple to be distributed via the App Store. The simple program appears to be an innocuous stock ticker, but it can leverage the code signing bug to communicate with Miller’s server to pull unauthorized commands onto the affected device. From there the program has the ability to send back user data including address book contacts, photos and other files, as well as initiate certain iOS functions like vibrating alerts.

The app has since been pulled and according to his Twitter account, Miller has reportedly been banned from the App Store and kicked out of the iOS Developer Program.

Miller, a former NSA analyst who now works for computer security firm Accuvant, is a prominent Apple researcher who previously exposed the MacBook battery vulnerability and a security hole in the mobile version of Safari.

The researcher has refused to publicly reveal the exploit, reportedly giving Apple time to come up with a fix, though he will announce the specifics at the SysCan conference in Taiwan next week.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

PlugBug accessory simultaneously charges current Apple notebooks, iOS devices

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Date: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011, 04:30
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod

This could be nifty.

Per Electronica, accessory developer Twelve South on Tuesday Tuesday unveiled a unique add-on to help Apple fans that travel with more than one device. PlugBug takes advantage of the changeable connector on a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro AC adapter to add a 10W USB charger. The add-on can charge anything up to the power levels of an iPad and is seen as a way to charge any iOS device or other USB hardware without having to remember all the cables or charge through the MacBook.

The adapter doesn’t have to slot into the AC brick to work and has a cap to cover the exposed area. Twelve South imagines it as a substitute for those outside of North America who want a converter.

The PlugBug is already on sale and ships for US$35 through the company’s own online store.

If you’ve snagged one or have a favorite charger of choice, please let us know and thanks.