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.

Rumor: Apple testing ultrathin, optical-drive-free 15″ MacBook Pro notebook

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Date: Monday, October 31st, 2011, 05:59
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Never doubt the thin nature of the MacBook Air, as people tend to like it.

Per the Japanese Macotakara web blog, Apple is allegedly prepared to add a new thin-and-light 15-inch MacBook to its lineup in the near future, with one report claiming the company has finished development of a crucial test component.

Calling the new notebook model an extension of the MacBook Air family, Macotakara reported on Sunday that Apple is finishing up a “test phase” for the new 15-inch ultraportable. Citing an Asian source, the report said Apple has already finished development of an LCD test component for the anticipated notebook.

However, the report also noted that Apple is believed to be developing a next-generation MacBook Pro that will not have a built-in optical disc drive. The new 15-inch MacBook reportedly “seems to fill” the role of a next-generation MacBook Pro.

Whatever name the new portable Mac might take, rumors have suggested the current physical form factor of the MacBook Pro lineup will undergo a drastic redesign in 2012. For some time now it has been said that Apple will redesign its MacBook Pro lineup sometime next year.

Last week, Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro lineup, adding slightly faster Intel Sandy Bridge processors, as well as improved AMD Radeon graphics. The new notebooks were a minor update ahead of the holiday buying season, believed to be an attempt to keep the MacBook Pro lineup competitive until a major refresh occurs next year.

Apple’s future MacBooks are expected to feature Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which are slated to arrive at some point in the first half of 2012. Intel confirmed last week that it has begun volume production of its 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, and systems powered by the new CPUs should be available in the spring of 2012.

Currently, Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup comes with screen sizes of 13 inches, 15 inches and 17 inches, and all of its professional notebooks feature optical DVD disc drives. The MacBook Air is available with screen sizes of 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches, and all models feature only solid-state hard drives with no optical drive.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.3, MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.2 upgrades

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Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011, 04:22
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple released EFI firmware updates for both its 2011 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air notebooks. The updates, which weigh in at a 4.1 megabyte download and a 4 megabyte download, respectively, fix several issues to improve the stability of Apple’s mid-2011notebooks.

The update includes fixes that enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on Apple’s mid-2011 notebook models.

As always, the updates can be located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

The updates require an Intel-based mid-2011 MacBook Pro or MacBook Air notebook and Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

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

Catcher unibody plant may reopen as early as next week

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 06:08
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Maybe the problems weren’t as bad as they said they were.

Per Reuters, Apple supplier Catcher Technology said Wednesday that its China plant that builds unibody MacBook cases will fully reopen at the end of October.

The new details from Taipei, Taiwan are an indication that any supply constraints experienced by Apple could be relatively short-lived. The company was ordered to shut down a factory that builds unibody enclosures for Apple on Oct. 16.

That plant in Eastern China was said to produce 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air products. The plant has also been responsible for casings for Apple’s all-in-one iMac desktop.

Catcher had previously said that a partial production halt at the factory would slash shipments in October by 20 percent. That number could have grown to as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refused to allow the plant to resume production.

But with Wednesday’s announcement that the plan will open at the end of the month, any concerns about November production appear to be assuaged. Last week, Catcher had originally said it hoped to reopen its plant at some time in November.

The Catcher facility was closed due to “strange odors” said to have been emanating from the plant. The shutdown came just as Apple reported its best quarter ever for Mac sales, reaching 4.9 million units.

Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro lineup on Monday, with slightly faster Intel processors and updated graphics, while some models gained larger hard drives. The design of the notebooks remains unchanged, featuring Apple’s signature unibody look.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Catcher to invest $2-3 million to reopen Chinese MacBook unibody case plant within November time frame

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:05
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

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After local officials ordered the suspension of operations at a Suzhou, China factory that supplies Apple with chassis for its laptops, Taiwanese manufacturer Catcher Technology will invest US$2-3 million with the goal of getting its facility back online in November.

Per DigiTimes, details emerged that Catcher had temporarily closed a plant that provides 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air product lines, as well as the iMac all-in-one desktop. The company is reportedly spending to “modify equipment and manufacturing processes” to resolve complaints from nearby residents regarding “odorous gas emissions.”

“Catcher aims to resume operations at the plant in November,” the publication noted. The manufacturer’s president, Allen Horng, had previously said that total shipments would fall 20 percent in October and could drop by as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refuses to allow the plant to resume production.

“Shipments to our customers will inevitably be affected,” he said in a press conference Monday. “We already asked them to make adjustments to their (casings) procurement.”

According to the report, Catcher is now considering increasing its investment in Taiwan in order to diversify operations and reduce its operating risk. The manufacturer recently ratcheted up production at a plant in southern Taiwan and purchased a new lot for further expansion in the area.

Catcher’s production woes could restrict an already limited supply chain for metal chassis. In August, it was reported that laptop makers looking to build machines to Intel’s “Ultrabook” specifications were having trouble securing production capacity for unibody magnesium-aluminum chassis. Foxconn and Catcher reportedly have a combined total of 10,000 CNC lathes required for the process, with most of their supply going to Apple.

During Apple’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said that the company is “investigating and assessing” the potential shortage of Mac unibody casings. In the most recent September quarter, Apple had its best quarter ever for Mac sales, selling 4.89 million during the period. Portables now represent 74 percent of the company’s sales.

In 2008, Apple detailed the new unibody manufacturing process, calling the design “in many ways more beautiful internally than externally.”

Apple is expected to release a modest update to its MacBook Pro line later this month. The laptops will likely receive a speed bump to tide them over until Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge chips are ready next year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.