Apple releases Magic Trackpad and Multi-Touch Trackpad Update 1.0, adds gesture support to some additional notebooks

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, July 28th, 2010, 06:48
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Apple on Tuesday issued an update to a number of recent notebooks, including the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air, bringing inertial scrolling and three-finger drag gesture support to some trackpads.

Per AppleInsider, the Magic Trackpad and Multi-Touch Trackpad Update 1.0 was released Tuesday afternoon by Apple. The file is a 75.09MB update that requires Mac OS X 10.6.4 to install and run. In addition to adding inertial scrolling and three-finger drag in recent MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks, it also adds support for Apple’s newly released US$69 Magic Trackpad.

Per Apple, the following MacBook and MacBook Pro models now have both inertial scrolling and three-finger drag gesture:

MacBook (13-inch, Early 2009)
MacBook (13-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook (13-inch, Late 2009)
MacBook (13-inch, Aluminum, Late 2008)

MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2010)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2.53 GHz, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2009)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Late 2008)

Inertial scrolling, but not the three-finger gesture, is offered in four additional models:

MacBook Air
MacBook Air (Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2008)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2008)

The new three-finger gesture was first discovered earlier Tuesday with hands-on tests of the Magic Trackpad. The capability allows users to quickly drag windows around. At the time, the feature was exclusive to the new hardware.

If you’ve tried the file and can offer any feedback, please let us know

OWC releases Slim ExpressCard/34 peripheral for MacBook notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, July 21st, 2010, 04:54
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Pro

Peripherals maker OWC has released a new eSATA ExpressCard adapter for MacBooks. The card, which is rated for 3GB/s, is hot swappable and ACHI compliant, requiring no drivers for any Mac notebook running Mac OS X 10.5 or higher.

Per MacNN, the card is said to be capable of 170MB/s read speeds and 120MB/s write speeds using external SSD-based eSATA drives and supports up to five disk drives on a JMicron JMB360 chipset. The ExpressCard is bootable for MacBooks with any Core 2 Duo chips, which cover all but the first generation.



The new eSATA ExpressCard requires Mac OS X 10.4 to install and run, with Mac OS X 10.5 or later required for hot-swapping. It also supports Windows 2000 and higher, including Windows 7. The card retails for US$40 but is currently on sale for US$33.

How-To: Work around Apple notebook blank screens

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Date: Friday, June 4th, 2010, 09:59
Category: How-To, MacBook, MacBook Pro

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As trusty and reliable as your MacBook or MacBook Pro may be, there are times where it will hate you and its screen will go blank. Sometimes this will take place as you’re working, other times after a restart or when waking up from sleep. The cool cats at CNET have assembled the following useful guide as to what may be the underlying concern and how to fix it:

Software issues:
The display going out could be a matter of a software configuration problem, either with the display drivers or with one of the active processes that interacts with them, such as the window server. There are a few ways you can overcome this. The first is to change the display configuration by either plugging in or unplugging an external monitor. This will cause the drivers to refresh the display output and desktop configuration; hopefully, this will reset the error. The second way is to try sleeping the system again by closing the lid and opening it. When you close the lid, you should see the battery and sleep indicator lights (green and white, respectively) turn on.

You can also use a key sequence to force the display to sleep and reset, which, hopefully, will force the display to reset properly and turn on. To do this, press and hold the Control and Shift keys, followed by the Eject key.

Lastly, if the display will not work even after rebooting, try loading into Safe Mode, especially if the display turns off after properly showing an initial gray screen. If safe mode works, you will need to troubleshoot the software setup by first uninstalling any recently installed drivers or utilities, and then by creating a new user account for testing purposes, since sometimes display problems can happen from an account-specific configuration problem. This will tell you if the problem is account-related or has to do with more global resources. If the problem persists in a new account, the next best step would be to boot off your Mac OS X installation DVD to see if the display works under a completely bare and fresh installation.

If the installation DVD works, then you will need to reinstall your OS by first reapplying the latest “Combo” update for your version of OS X (this is best applied when in Safe Mode), and then by run the installer from your OS X DVD and ensure that you have “Archive and Install” selected with the option to save user accounts and data (this is done by default in Snow Leopard).

If the display problems occur when booting from the installation DVD, it is likely you are suffering from a hardware malfunction and will need to troubleshoot the hardware setup.

Hardware issues:
Hardware issues that can affect the display output include firmware settings as well as the display hardware and controllers themselves. Many people have tried to reset the PRAM when they have issues such as the screen being blank when the computer is woken from sleep; however, many display settings are stored in the System Management Controller. Therefore, in addition to resetting the PRAM you may benefit from resetting the SMC on your machine. On most MacBooks you can do this by removing the power and battery, and pressing the power button for 15 seconds, but some models vary so look up how to do this for your particular machine.

Beyond firmware settings, you may have a problem with the display inverter or LED driver board, which is what runs the backlight on LDC displays. When this happens, the display should still be working, but will not be easily visible because of the lack of lighting. You can test this by shining a flashlight on the display at different angles, or preferably through the Apple logo on the back of the display. If you see graphics showing on the display, then your backlight is not working. If a restart or SMC/PRAM reset do not help, you will need to take the computer in for servicing.

Lastly, if you have recently had the computer serviced (especially if done by yourself), some of the display-related circuits may have been improperly connected or insulated upon assembly. Apple has foam and plastic insulation around circuits and connectors that can be shorted out by touching other components, so if you forget to put these back on when assembling the system, you can easily cause a component like the inverter to fail. Luckily this usually can be fixed by replacing the insulation, but you will need to have it serviced again to fix.

Work-arounds:
If you are unable to get your display working, you can still control your system in an attempt to save your work and safely shut it down. One way is to use Screen Sharing, which you may have enabled in the Sharing system preferences. You can then use Remote Desktop or Apple’s built-in Screen Sharing service to connect to and control your Mac.

Alternatively, if you have Remote Login enabled (SSH), you can use an SSH client on any other networked computer to log in and issue the “shutdown -h now” command to close down and turn off the computer. This will take familiarity with the Terminal, as well as knowing its IP address (unless you are on a Mac).

Here’s the basic procedure:
Launch the Terminal application with SSH support

Type the following command:
ssh USERNAME@Computer-Name.local

In this command, the username is the short account name on the system, and if you are using a Mac “Computer-Name.local” is the computer’s network name, such as Tophers-Desktop.local; however, it can also be the computer’s IP address.

Confirm connecting and supply your password (it will not be shown)
Issue the shutdown command by typing the following:
sudo shutdown -h now

This process will turn off the system, but will force applications to quit so you will lose unsaved data. However, it still is a better option than pressing and holding the power button to turn off the system.

If you’ve found any fixes or workarounds of your own, please let us know.

Apple quietly releases updated 13″ MacBook

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 18th, 2010, 03:35
Category: MacBook, News

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Confirming yesterday’s post, Apple quietly released a refreshed MacBook notebook, the new model incorporating a new faster 2.4GHz processor, and NVIDIA GeForce 320m graphics processor.

These changes bring it into line with recently released MacBook Pro model.

Apple is claiming that the new MacBook provides 80% faster performance, largely due to the the improved graphics NVIDIA GeForce 320m graphics processor.

Like the NVIDIA 9400m graphics chip it replaces, the 320m shares its memory (256MB) from the main system RAM, rather than possessing the discrete graphics memory found on the NVIDIA 330m (used by the MacBook Pro).

Per Macworld UK, the NVIDIA 320m is 40% more efficient than the 9400m chip it replaces. Apple is also claiming a fairly hefty 10 hours of wireless productivity from the new MacBook.

Another new feature (albeit a small one) is that the DVI socket now supports the DVI to HDMI adaptor, enabling users to connect the older monitors to the laptop.

The 2.4 GHz MacBook retails for US$999 and is immediately available.

Rumor: Apple to release updated 13″ MacBook notebook

Posted by:
Date: Monday, May 17th, 2010, 07:08
Category: MacBook, Rumor

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It’s the leaks that keep life interesting.

Per Vietnamese web site Tinte, Apple will soon release an updated MacBook with a 2.4 GHz processor, NVIDIA 320M mobile graphics chip and an LED backlit display.

The new MacBook was obtained by the same website that also got their hands on a prototype of Apple’s next-generation iPhone this week. The new MacBook (identified as model MacBook7,1) uses a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, up from the existing 2.26GHz model.

The new notebook will receive the same Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM as the MacBook Pro. That’s an update from the existing GeForce 9400M of the “MacBook6,1″ entry level white MacBook.

The updated model also snag the improved, streamlined MagSafe connector as the latest MacBook Pro models, which points the adapter cord backward rather than perpendicular from the body. It will retain the same 1280×800 pixel widescreen display, a 250GB 5400 RPM hard drive, and 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM from the previous MacBook update.

Apple last updated its entry level MacBook line in October of 2009, giving the US$999 machine a polycarbonate unibody design, LED-backlit display, multi-touch trackpad, and built-in battery with 7 hours of run time.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

USB 3.0 underperforms in notebook tests, bottlenecks cited

Posted by:
Date: Monday, May 10th, 2010, 05:49
Category: News

USB 3.0 may be the future, but it may still have room for improvement. Per Techworld, the upcoming port technology may be hard pressed to surpass current technologies like eSATA.

The test comprised plugging Freecom’s USB 3.0 external drive, the XS Hard Drive 3.0, into a mainstream dual-core notebook using the company’s new USB 3.0 Express Card notebook add-on.

Throughput was derived using a simple calculation based on how long the drive took to copy and paste a large number of video and image files to and from the laptop, replicating how the drive will actually be used in the real world for functions such as directory backup.

The Freecom XS operating in USB 2.0 mode managed an average throughput of 18.7MB/s for reads and only 11.1MB/s for writes, well below the theoretical maximum of USB 2.0 but in line with real-world transfer speeds on a mid-range laptop.

The same drive in USB 3.0 mode raised this to 36.6MB/s for reads and about the same or slightly slower for writes, although this fluctuated considerably for reasons that might relate to the supplied NEC driver. Still, there seems to be a relative difference which will depend on a range of factors including overall system performance.

The tests concluded that USB 3.0 offers even notebook users a handy though not spectacular speed boost compared to USB 2.0 of around two-three times. However, when pitted against an eSATA drive from LG, the interface port for which is found on many high end notebooks, the results were less clear cut.

Copying the test files to an external LG eSATA drive achieved throughputs of 32.5MB/s for reads, and 29.7MB/s for writes, not much slower than USB 3.0 on this hardware. In some cases, it even matched the USB 3.0 drive.

Freecom engineers agreed that USB 3.0 would be held back by a number of bottlenecks on today’s systems, especially laptops which typically use slower internal hard drives. Desktop systems which can use the company’s faster PCI Express Card interface would fare better, they said.

USB 3.0 will start to shine when paired with forthcoming SATA 3.0 or even SSD drives, faster CPUs able to keep up with the dramatically higher data throughtputs, integrated USB 3.0 ports that don’t need slow interfaces such as Express card, and possibly also better drivers and chipsets.

OWC releases additional Do-It-Yourself upgrade kits for Apple notebooks, Mac minis

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 2nd, 2010, 07:15
Category: Hardware, Mac mini, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

Peripherals provider and all-around-useful company Other World Computing (OWC) has announced the release of over 50 Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Storage Upgrade Kits for Apple’s notebooks and Mac mini computers.

Per Macsimum News, suggested retail pricing starts at US$67.99 for a model that consists of a 2.5-inch SATA hard drive up to 1TB, an OWC brand FireWire and/or USB 2.0 bus powered 2.5-inch portable external enclosure, and a five piece installation tool kit.

With an OWC DIY Storage Upgrade Kit, Mac and PC notebook users and Mac mini users can upgrade their computer’s internal hard drive to a new larger capacity and/or faster speed, transfer their data to the new drive, and then continue using the “old” drive by installing it into the provided OWC enclosure for a “new” pocket-sized external drive.

Toshiba rolls out 750GB, 1TB notebook hard drives

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, March 25th, 2010, 05:26
Category: hard drive, Hardware

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Electronics manufacturer Toshiba announced the release of its MK7559GSXP (just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) notebook drive Wednesday night. Per Electronista, the 2.5″ notebook drive is the first to hold 750GB but reach the same 9.5mm height as most slimmer notebook hard drives. As such, it can provide the capacity expected of a desktop hard drive but fit into thin-and-light notebooks like the MacBook Pro as well as all-in-one desktops and digital media hubs.

Despite featuring about 17% more capacity, the new SATA II drive consumes about 14% less power than the 640GB predecessor it’s set to replace and could extend the theoretical battery life. The units spins at just 5,400RPM, but its very high density, two-platter design may compensate for the perceived drop in access speed.

In tandem with the thin drive, Toshiba is rolling out the MKxx59GSM line, which brings 750GB and 1TB drives but in a taller three-platter, 12.5mm profile more suited to desktop replacement notebooks and other computers where thinness isn’t an absolute priority. Either rotates at the same speed but is slightly less energy-efficient.

All three of the disks are due to start sampling for system builders in April and should enter mass production soon afterwards.

Suburban Philadelphia School District Denies Accusation of Spying on Students with MacBook Cameras

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 19th, 2010, 05:18
Category: Legal, MacBook, News

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A suburban Philadelphia school district has denied it spied on students by remotely activating the cameras on their school-issued MacBook notebooks.

Per Macworld UK, in a statement released late on Thursday, Christopher McGinley, the superintendent of Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa., admitted that the MacBooks’ cameras could be turned on without the user’s knowledge, but said that the functionality was part of a security feature.

“Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off-school property,” said McGinley. “The security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student.” When switched on, the feature was limited to taking snapshots of whomever was using the notebook and capturing the computer’s current screen.

Laptop cameras have only been activated for that purpose, McGinley continued. “The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever,” he said.

This Tuesday, a high school student and his parents sued the district, claiming that the student’s MacBook had been used to spy on him in his home. According to the lawsuit, Michael and Holly Robbins of Penn Valley, Pa., said they first found out about the alleged spying last November after their son Blake was accused by a Harriton High School official of “improper behavior in his home” and shown a photograph taken by his laptop.

Doug Young, a spokesman for the school district, declined to answer questions as to whether Blake Robbins’ computer camera had been activated, and if so, under what circumstances. “I can’t speak to the lawsuit,” Young said.

The lawsuit speaks for itself, said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This is utterly shocking, and a blatant violation of [the students'] constitutional rights,” Bankston said Thursday, citing the Fourth Amendment after reviewing the Robbins’ complaint. “The school district would have no more right to [use the laptop's webcam] than to install secret listening devices in the textbooks that they issued students.”

Bankston suggested that students should tape over the lens of their laptops’ cameras when not in use.

McGinley confirmed that the district had disabled the camera activation feature on Thursday, and would not switch it back on without the written consent of students and families. The Robbins’ lawsuit alleged that the district had not told students or their families of the activation feature when it handed out the MacBooks. All 2,300 students at the district’s two high schools have been given notebooks.

The district intends to contest the lawsuit, said Young.

Mark Haltzman of the law firm Lamm Rubenstone, and the Robbins’ attorney, did not return a call for comment on Thursday.

The Robbins family has asked for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and requested that the case be granted class-action status so other students in the district can join the suit.

Apple Offers Extended Warranty Program for MacBook Hard Drives

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 17th, 2010, 04:15
Category: hard drive, MacBook, News

If the hard drive on your older MacBook Pro was starting to go south, Apple may have something for you.

Per CNET, Apple is now offering the MacBook Repair Extension Program for hard-drive issues on machines purchased roughly between May 2006 and December 2007. Customers experiencing hard-drive issues should take their machines to an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Reseller to have it diagnosed.

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The primary sign of hard drive troubles on your MacBook is the flashing question mark when starting up. Should your machine fall into the eligible model range, you will be given a replacement drive, free of charge.

Apple has published a knowledge base article relating to the program and listed the following models as affected units:

- 13-inch black and white MacBook models with the following processor speeds and hard-drive capacities:
- Processor speed – 1.83GHz, 2GHz, or 2.16GHz
- Hard drive capacity – 60GB, 80GB, 100GB, 120GB, or 160GB

If you’ve already paid for an out-of-warranty repair, Apple also offered the following:

“Some customers may have paid for out-of-warranty repairs that qualify under this program. Apple will contact affected customers (where contact information is available) with details on the reimbursement process. If you believe that you paid for a repair covered by this program and you have not been contacted, you may contact Apple Technical Support.

This worldwide Apple program does not extend the standard warranty coverage of the MacBook but covers affected MacBook models for 3 years from their original date of purchase or until August 15th, 2010, whichever provides longer coverage. Apple will continue to evaluate the repair data and will provide further repair extensions if needed.”

As always, hurl in your two cents and let’s see how Apple handles this.