NewerTech Releases Intelligent Battery Charging Station for Apple Unibody Notebook Batteries

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Date: Friday, August 7th, 2009, 06:26
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

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Yesterday, accessory provider NewerTech announced the release of its Intelligent Battery Charging Station, a peripheral designed to charge and condition the batteries used by Apple’s 13″ and 15″ unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks.

The unit features two bays (one that charges while the other charges and conditions) and NewerTech claims that by conditioning the battery, you can get longer runtimes and better lifetimes from your laptop batteries. The charger retails for US$150 before shipping and handling.

Some Users Reporting Hard Drive Lag with 17″ MacBook Pro Notebook

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Date: Tuesday, August 4th, 2009, 04:31
Category: News

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Over on the Apple Discussion Boards, multiple users are contributing to a thread discussing hard drive lag on Apple’s current 17″ MacBook Pro notebook. According to The Unofficial Apple Weblog, several users report hearing the hard drive park itself, but at inappropriate times, causing the rainbow spinning wheel to appear and bringing all tasks to a halt. This comes a short time after other users have reported a strange beep.

One user reported no red flags while running Activity Monitor while another went so far as to swap the hard drive to no avail. Still another user reportedly fixed the problem by creating a secondnd user account.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end or arrived at your own fix, please let us know in the comments.

Early Predictions Arrive for Apple Q3 Earnings

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Date: Monday, July 20th, 2009, 04:30
Category: News

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Apple’s Q3 numbers come out tomorrow and per CNET, while results have been both eventful and mixed, analysts are expecting more positive than negative numbers when it’s said and done.

During the quarter, which ended June 30, the company released the third-generation iPhone, the iPhone 3GS, which can be regarded as a success, though its Mac and iPod divisions may not see identical results.

Throughout the quarter, Apple did pay a nod to consumers’ tight budgets, lowering prices on its Mac notebook lineup although keeping other prices about the same.

Analysts are expecting revenues for the quarter between US$7.88 billion and US$8.44 billion, and earnings per share between US$1.02 and US$1.31. Apple itself, which always gives guidance on the low side, is anticipating revenue between US7.7 billion and US$7.9 billion and earnings per share between 95 cents and a dollar.

Over the quarter, Apple’s stock jumped 21.4%, rising to US$147.52, since its last earnings report in late April. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who stood in for CEO Steve Jobs, has received high marks for keeping the company running smoothly in its leader’s absence. Jobs has been back at work, at least part-time, since the end of June.

Apple announced that the company had sold 1 million iPhones worldwide in the first weekend the 3GS was on the market, and AT&T said the first day the phone was available marked the best sales day in the carrier’s history. Analytical firm Piper Jaffray jumped in on this, specifically stating that it anticipates total iPhones sold for the quarter will be 5 million.

Mac revenue will show if price cuts are helping. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says Apple sold 2.2 million Macs during the quarter, and says it is getting a boost from the price cuts it applied when it upgraded its entire aluminum MacBook line to MacBook Pros. Per recent counts from IDC, which only tracks Apple’s sales in the U.S., showed that Mac shipments dipped more than 12% during this quarter while the entire PC industry was down 3.1% worldwide.

For those wanting a cool new item, the iPods’ annual tuneup is expected in September, when it has taken place the past few years. Where the iPod business has also been slowing down a bit, Piper Jaffray predicts sales to be down 7% from a year ago, though Apple has been increasingly focused on its iPod Touch, which has access to the popular App Store and is expected to get a reboot in September similar to the iPhone 3GS.

Apple also continues to put away cash during the quarter. As Brian Marshall of Broadpoint AmTech pointed out, Apple added US$800 million in cash during the last quarter, bringing its total to US$28.9 billion. Only Cisco’s US$29 billion in cash is better among technology companies.

Stay tuned for full Q3 coverage tomorrow and let us know what’s on your mind via the comments!

MacBook Air Overheating Issue Noted, Fixes Suggested

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Date: Wednesday, July 15th, 2009, 05:38
Category: MacBook Air

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Over on the mighty MacFixIt, reader “Martin V.” wrote in to desribe an ongoing issue wherein his new MacBook Air notebook began to experience a “kernel_task” process that caused his system to run abnormally hot.

“A few months ago I bought a MacBookAir1,1 (standard hard disk, no solid state) which was then hugely reduced in price (€999). Lately it has been nearly impossible to watch youtube video’s (for instance). If I do the machine gets really hot and slows down dramatically. A process called ‘kernel_task’ uses almost all resources. Just do a search on “macbook air” and “kernel_task” and you’ll see this is a widely spread problem”

Over on the Apple Discussion Boards, a large number of users appear to be encountering the same issue with the following solutions being offered:

“it seems to be temperature issue, i.e. the system tries with the kernel task to avoid an overheating of the cpu/gpu.
those guys here (Plasma Design) recommend a cpu undervolting to reduce this heating. they use CoolBook
you can get it for $10. i just installed it and hope that it helps.”

In addition to the Apple Discussions Board back and forth on this, you can also find a full MacRumors forum thread as to how to use CoolBook to best deal with the overheating issue.

Apple Releases MacBook Air Update SMC 1.2

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Date: Tuesday, June 30th, 2009, 04:56
Category: Mac, MacBook Air, Software

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Apple released its MacBook Air SMC Firmware Update 1.2 patch yesterday, a 623 kilobyte download that offers the following fixes and changes per the web site:

“This SMC firmware update adds compatibility for the latest service replacement batteries…. After this update has successfully completed, your SMC Version will be: 1.23f20 [for original MacBook Air models, or] 1.34f8 [for more recent models].”

SMC Firmware Updates generally control the System Management Controller on Intel-based Macs. The SMC controls power and thermal management features, including the battery and fans. In this case, new replacement batteries from Apple are apparently different enough that they require the use of this updated version of the SMC firmware.

The update can be downloaded directly or snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Latest High-End MacBook Air Performing Slower Than Predecessor

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Date: Monday, June 29th, 2009, 04:47
Category: MacBook Air

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Taken at face value, the specifications tied to Apple’s most recent MacBook Air updates imply the latest pair of ultra-slim notebooks should handily outperform their predecessors, but a new report claims this notion only holds true for the slower of the two models.

According to Macworld’s review, the most recent MacBook Air notebooks, an entry-level US$1,499 model with a 1.86GHz processor and 120GB hard drive, and a high-end version for US$1,799 that sports a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 128GB solid-state flash drive, have been tested against their predecessors introduced last October: a 1.6GHz model with a 120GB (then priced at US$1799) and a 1.86GHz version with 128GB solid-state flash drive (then priced at US$2499).

While the new low-end 1.86GHz model bested its 1.6GHz predecessor, outperforming it in most tests and recording a Speedmark score of 11 points higher at 156, the same couldn’t be said for the new high-end 2.13GHz MacBook Air, which achieve a score of 175 — a full 4 points lower than the previous-gen 1.86GHz model.

“What’s weird about the new high-end MacBook Air model is that although it cost dramatically less than its immediate predecessor, it was also slower than that model,” wrote Macworld’s editor, Jason Snell. “The late-2008 1.86GHz MacBook Air was faster than the new top-of-the-line model in 11 of our 18 tests, and as a result, the old system’s final Speedmark score was slightly higher.”

Snell also reported that he saw several cases in which the new, low-end MacBook Air, with its slower Core 2 Duo chip and hard disk drive, outperform the high-end model and its sold-state flash drive. He notes that this may be the result of hard drives being known to outperform their solid state drives in certain operations, but added that the slower system also beat the faster model in some video compression and 3D rendering tests.

“We’re not quite sure why this is happening, though it’s possible that the Air’s thermal-protection systems are aggressively ratcheting down the speed of the faster, hotter processors when they’re asked to perform those tasks, slowing their performance,” he wrote.

In light of these results, it’s worth noting that several Apple authorized resellers maintain inventory of the previous-generation 1.86GHz MacBook Air, which they’re discounting to a price of US$1,649 (roughly US$150 cheaper than than the new 2.13GHz model they appear to be outperforming).

Apple Releases MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.7

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009, 05:23
Category: MacBook Pro, Software

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Apple released its MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.7 patch on Tuesday, a 3.4 megabyte download which addresses an issue reported by a small number of customers using drives based on the SATA 3Gbps specification with the June 2009 MacBook Pro. While this update allows drives to use transfer rates greater than 1.5Gbps, Apple has not qualified or offered these drives for Mac notebooks and their use is unsupported.

The update is also available via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires Mac OS X 10.5.7 or later to install and run.

Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) to Offer Warning for Near-Dead Notebook Batteries

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Date: Wednesday, June 17th, 2009, 18:06
Category: Software

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While the immediate charge on a Mac notebook’s battery has been available for years, Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) users will be able to see when their batteries are nearing the end of their useful lifespans.

According to AppleInsider, the Mac OS X 10.6 build offered to Worldwide Developers Conference sports a feature in which clicking the battery icon in the menu bar now shows a new, one-word “battery condition” summary in addition to the energy for the current charge and the power source.

When the battery has been used often enough that it ‘s losing capacity, the icon is overlaid with an exclamation mark warning and the battery condition changes to “poor” — both signs that the pack is due to be replaced. While not every condition is known, Snow Leopard presumably reports varying degrees of battery status when the pack has only been moderately used or is like new.

Though Apple has yet to document the reasons behind the change, the most logical explanation is simply that the company’s decision to seal in most notebook batteries makes it more important to have an early notice that a battery is near failing.

Apple has lately been paying closer attention to battery life on all its devices and with iPhone OS 3.0 will add a numerical percentage to the iPhone’s previously icon-only battery indicator.

How-To: Add Multi-Touch Functionality to Your Pre-2008 Apple Notebook Trackpad

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Date: Monday, June 15th, 2009, 18:13
Category: How-To, MacBook

Amidst heated controversy as to whether Apple’s upcoming Mac OS X 10.6 (“Snow Leopard”) operating system will add multi-touch gestures to older MacBook and MacBook pro notebooks, the guys at The Unofficial Apple Weblog have taken it upon themselves to ask what makes a multi-touch trackpad unique and how to simulate this on an Apple notebook sans such an interface. The answer lies in an embedded controller chip, identical to the one in the iPhone and iPod Touch, which allows advanced input from more than two fingers at once.

Later, Apple’s unibody MacBooks and MacBook Pros debuted with multi-touch trackpads, but also introduced new four-finger gestures, which will not be officially supported in the older MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros until Snow Leopard’s release.

The original MacBook Air and early 2008 MacBook Pro are the only machines which will gain additional gestures via Snow Leopard. The only reason these notebook models are able to gain these gestures via software updates, while earlier MacBook Pros and all plastic MacBooks are not, is because they possess the multi-touch controller chip in their trackpads.

The following is the list of Apple notebooks that will support multi-touch gestures, either now or after Snow Leopard:

  • MacBook Air (all models)
  • Early 2008 MacBook Pro
  • Late 2008 17″ MacBook Pro
  • Unibody MacBook (all models)
  • Unibody MacBook Pro (all models)

Still, for pre-2008 and plastic MacBook owners, the following steps (courtesy of the MacRumors forums) can help bring multi-touch functionality to your notebook:

First, download a modified AppleUSBMultitouch.kext file. Navigate to System/Library/Extensions, and remove the old AppleUSBMultitouch.kext (you will need to type in your admin password).

Move the modified AppleUSBMultitouch.kext into System/Library/Extensions. You’ll most likely have to type in your password again.

This next step is critical: repair disk permissions using Disk Utility. If you don’t, after you restart your trackpad will not function.

Once permissions are repaired, restart. Success!

This procedure isn’t for the faint of heart and will probably have to be repeated with every major Mac OS X 10.5.x update, but it should provide multi-touch goodness if you want it.

iFixIt Posts Full 13″ Unibody MacBook Pro Disassembly/Report

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 11th, 2009, 17:58
Category: MacBook Pro, Pictures

With Apple’s new 13″ Unibody MacBook Pro (formerly the MacBook) having been released, the guys at iFixIt did what they do best: making a mess of the latest Apple hardware and reporting on it.

Over in their latest teardown, the guys have dug into Apple’s newest notebook and discovered some cool stuff, such as a similar battery architecture to the 17″ unibody MacBook Pro, the new .5″ SD card slot and how to cleanly remove the logic board if necessary.

Take a gander and let us know what you think!