Apple announces “Back to the Mac” media event for October 20th

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Date: Thursday, October 14th, 2010, 05:41
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Rumor, Software

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On Wednesday, Apple announced that the company will hold a special media event next Wednesday to reveal its latest offerings in the Mac space, which may include new MacBook Airs, a preview of Mac OS X 10.7, and an unveiling of iLife and iWork ’11.

Per AppleInsider, the event is set to begin at 10:00 am Pacific time on Wednesday, October 20th in the Town Hall on Apple’s Cupertino Campus.

MacBook Air:
Persistent rumors out of the Far East have suggested Apple is gearing up to overhaul the MacBook Air line with a newly designed 11.6″ display, creating a more aggressively priced notebook for students and the business traveler. Those reports claim that Apple plans to ship around a half-million units before the end of the 2010 calendar year. The current MacBook Air sports a larger 13.3″ display.

Rumors of a MacBook Air with an 11.6: display first cropped up in July. It was said the redesigned hardware will be even slimmer and lighter, and will be powered by an Intel Core i-series ultra-low voltage processor.

There’s also been a mixture of chatter regarding a much cheaper, thinner 11.6″ Apple notebook that would weigh as little as 2.7 pounds due to the possibility of new carbon fiber unibody construction.

iLife and iWork:
In addition to the introduction of a new MacBook Air, Apple’s iLife suite of digital lifestyle applications and its iWork suite of productivity software are also due for a revamp. The last update to both offers came in January of 2009.

At least one recent discovery has suggested that a iLife ’11 refresh will be written entirely in 64-bit code, will include a rewritten iWeb, and will drop the iDVD application. It has also been suggested that the software will be launched for iOS devices, like the iPhone and iPad.

Mac OS X 10.7:
Meanwhile, a copy of Apple’s official invitation for next week’s event appears to show a lion peering out from behind the company’s iconic logo.

This appears to suggest that Apple may provide the first preview of its next-generation Mac OS X 10.7 operating system given that all of its predecessors have been nicknamed after large felines.

Distributions of Mac OS X 10.7 have been making the rounds inside Apple under the internal code-name “Barolo” (named after the prestigious Italian wines from the Piedmont region) since early 2010, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Those same people have said that Apple initially hoped to preview the software during this past June’s Worldwide Developers Conference but was forced to relinquish those plans when it was forced to pull resources off the project temporarily to help finalize iOS 4.0 in time for the summer’s iPhone 4 launch.

Other possibilities for the event include possible processor and graphics speed bumps for the MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks. For example, both the 13″ MacBook and MacBook Pro still lack Intel’s latest generation of Core i3 microprocessors.

If you have any thoughts on what the new announcements will bring, let us know and stay tuned for continued coverage of the event!

Review: 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro 2.5″ Notebook Drive

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Date: Sunday, October 10th, 2010, 12:35
Category: hard drive, Hardware, Review

Maybe it’s part of getting older.

When the idea of solid state hard drives first emerged a few years ago, there was some hesitancy on my part.

Not quite the smashing of all available nearby looms, but some hesitancy.

This was a new thing, a hard drive made entirely of flash memory with no moving parts whatsoever and thus mysterious. And after years of fighting with both ATA-IDE drives (including occasionally realigning the pins with a pen when they bent) and SATA-based hard drives, you become hesitant to change.

Beyond my own hesitancy came the idea of sheer capacity. Yes, various hard drive companies had been offering solid state options for a while, but when they first hit, their capacities were a fraction of what you’d find on a conventional hard drive with moving parts. Yes, a MacBook Air with a quiet solid state hard drive seemed cool when it first came out, but when your capacity topped out at 40 to 80 gigabytes, this put pause on being an early adopter.

Still, 120 gigabytes didn’t seem like something to sneeze at and with my 2008 white plastic MacBook’s conventional SATA hard drive slowing down during iMovie work, there seemed to be no time like the present to try an alternative.

The result: I’m going to be reluctant to have to ship Other World Computing’s 120GB Extreme Mercury Pro SSD drive back in a couple of days.

Having done the classic hard-drive-swaperoo of taking the new drive, putting it in an external carrier, cloning the old hard drive’s data to the new drive and then swapping the new drive in, the drive booted cleanly and without issue. In the following months, the drive has run a bit quieter than its conventional SATA alternative and felt just as brisk as a conventional notebook hard drive.

Even if the drive itself doesn’t blaze along at a professional grade speeds (there’s always been something cool about a high end 10,000 RPM desktop hard drive tearing through Photoshop and Final Cut processes without slowing down in the least), the Mercury felt like something you could install and forget about. Yes, this was a new thing, my very first flash hard drive. Still, once installed, it fell into the background, ran completely reliably no matter what was thrown at it and never seemed to slow.

Granted, this isn’t the most exciting news in the world, but it does offer a promise for the encompassing technology itself. Even if conventional SATA notebook drives still offer a larger capacity and these are the early years of flash-based notebook hard drives, there’s something reliable here. As strange as the idea of a hard drive without moving parts may be (upon removal from the box, the drive itself weighed next to nothing, almost if if you’d received a fake cardboard hard drive in the mail), the end product works reliably enough to install into grandma’s Apple notebook if need be (provided it supports SATA hard drives), makes sure all her old files have been cloned over for her to use and you’re off to the races.

No, this isn’t groundbreaking, but it is cool, fun to install and reliable in the end. The drive installs, it works briskly and you can put it in the back of your mind and get on with the rest of your day, remembering to feed your pets instead of wondering why your hard drive appears to be groaning loudly or, worse, scraping one of its data platters during day to day operation.

And at the end of the day, none of these are terrible things.

Give it a gander.

The 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro retails from US$289.99 and is available now.

Apple releases MacBook SMC Firmware Updater 1.4 for older MacBook, MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Friday, October 8th, 2010, 03:04
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released its MacBook SMC Firmware Updater 1.4 for older MacBook and MacBook Pro models solves a charging issue that takes place when using the latest MagSafe power adapters.

The update, an 880 kilobyte download, requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or 10.6.4 to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes at all, please let us know in the comments.

Adobe releases Acrobat Reader, Pro 9.4 versions, patches security holes

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Date: Wednesday, October 6th, 2010, 04:06
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Adobe released version 9.4 of its Adobe Reader and Acrobat Pro applications. The updates, which can also be snagged through the Adobe Update Utility, address security vulnerabilities while providing additional stability.

Acrobat Reader 9.4 and Acrobat Pro requires an Intel or PowerPC-based processor and Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new versions and noticed any differences, please let us know what you think.

Apple files suit against Sanho-owned HyperMac regarding MagSafe, iPod connector patent infringements

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Date: Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010, 04:00
Category: Legal, News

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If you’re going to be in the market with the 800 pound gorilla, it’s advisable not to infringe on said 800 pound gorilla’s patents.

Or at least try to be subtle about it.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has filed a lawsuit against Sanho Corporation, maker of the HyperMac line of accessories, alleging violation of patents it owns related to the MagSafe charger and cables that use the iPod 30-pin connection.

The lawsuit filed this month accuses Sanho, based out of Sunnyvale, Calif., of infringing on six MagSafe- and iPod-related patents, covering a variety of products sold under the HyperMac brand name. Among the products named in the suit are its magnetic power connectors, known as MBP-PRO and MBP-AIR, as well as a MacBook car charger, MBP-CAR.

Instead of mimicking Apple’s patented MagSafe connectors, Sanho’s products actually rely on recycled official MagSafe products made by Apple. “Our charging cables use original Apple MagSafe connectors for maximum compatibility,” the company’s website reads.

The suit also focuses on charging and data cables that rely on the 30-pin dock connector compatible with Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad ecosystem of devices. Named in the suit are the “HyperMac Nano,” “HyperMac Micro” and “HyperMac Mini” products.

Sanho sells a number of small, portable external batteries that can provide extra power to portable devices on the go. Using the iPod 30-pin dock connector, products like the HyperMac Micro come in a variety of colors and are compatible with Apple products like the iPhone 4 and iPad.

In the suit, filed in a U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, Apple says it notified Sanho of its infringement via official letters on April 26th, May 19th and June 20th of 2010.

“Defendants manufacture, distribute, and/or sell products that infringe patents related to Apple’s proprietary MagSafe connectors used to connect power adapters and other products to Apple portable computers, such as the MacBook,” the suit reads. “Defendants also manufacture, distribute and/or sell products that infringe patents related to Apple’s 30-pin connectors and receptacles , used to connect cables to Apple iPod, iPhone and/or iPad products.”

“Defendants’ infringing conduct has damaged Apple and inflicted irreparable harm for which Apple seeks, among other remedies, an award of its actual damages, disgorgement of Defendants’ profits from the sale of infringing devices and injunctive relief.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AMD to consolidate graphics chips, retire ATI brand name

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Date: Tuesday, August 31st, 2010, 03:10
Category: News, Processors

AMD, the current exclusive provider of discrete graphics chips in Apple’s latest refresh of the Mac desktop lineup, will phase out the ATI graphics brand name this year.

Per ZDnet, AMD is prepared to make the change because it believes having two brands is unnecessary, and the company plans to offer both CPUs and GPUs combined in its forthcoming Fusion product. Existing products such as the Radeon chip series will maintain their names, but will be labeled as AMD products rather than ATI.

AMD said it conducted research that found its brand is stronger than ATI, and that consumer preference toward ATI triples when they are aware of the ATI-AMD merger. AMD acquired ATI for US$5.4 billion in 2006.

Apple partners with AMD’s rival, Intel, for all of the CPUs in its line of Macs. However, AMD and Apple do have a close relationship when it comes to graphics processing in the Mac lineup.

In July, Apple updated its Mac Pro and iMac desktops, and the new machines only offer ATI graphics. But soon, those same products will be labeled AMD.

AMD, in justifying the change, highlighted its relationship with Apple, noting that the company continues to “secure new design wins with major OEMs — e.g. Apple iMac and Mac Pro.” The company said it has the “momentum and data to make this change with confidence.”

The chipmaker also said that with the AMD Fusion chip set to debut in the fourth quarter of 2010, it is “perfect timing” for the branding change. AMD said its “Ontario” model, which will be its first to offer a CPU and GPU in a combined package, will be a “watershed moment” for the company.

Not the worst thing in the world, even though as a Mac gamer I fondly remember drooling over the coolest ATI graphics cards in yesteryear’s Power Mac G3 and G4 units…

Apple releases MacBook EFI Firmware 1.9 Update for mid-2010 models

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Date: Friday, August 27th, 2010, 06:32
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released its MacBook EFI Firmware 1.9 update for its 15″ and 17″ mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks. The update, a 2.2 megabyte download, resolves a rare issue that may cause the system to freeze during startup or intermittently stall during operation, and it improves compatibility with external displays.

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

The MacBook EFI Firmware 1.9 update requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

Adobe releases Acrobat Reader, Pro 9.3.4 versions, patches security holes

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Date: Friday, August 20th, 2010, 05:21
Category: News, Software

On Thursday, Adobe released a long-awaited patch that addresses a number of vulnerabilities in versions of its Acrobat Pro and Reader offerings.

The updates, which can also be snagged through the Adobe Update Utility, address security vulnerabilities while providing additional stability.

Acrobat Reader 9.3.4 and Acrobat Pro requires an Intel or PowerPC-based processor and Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new versions and noticed any differences, please let us know what you think.

Apple releases Snow Leopard Graphics Update 1.0

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Date: Tuesday, August 17th, 2010, 14:14
Category: News, Software

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Late Tuesday, Apple released its Snow Leopard Graphics Update 1.0 patch. The update, a 65.7 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Addresses frame rate issues occurring in Portal and Team Fortress 2 by Valve, on iMac (Late 2009 and Mid 2010), Mac mini (Early 2009 and Mid 2010), Mac Pro (Early 2009), MacBook (Early 2009 and Mid 2010) and MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010) or MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2010) models.

- Resolves an issue that could cause Aperture 3, or StarCraft II by Blizzard, to unexpectedly quit or become unresponsive.

- Resolves an image corruption issue that may occur when disconnecting and reconnecting external displays while the system is running.

The update requires Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know.

Apple licenses new durable metal alloy for use in products

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Date: Tuesday, August 10th, 2010, 04:50
Category: News

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Apple has entered into an exclusive agreement to utilize amorphous metal alloys with unique atomic structures, allowing products that are stronger, lighter, and resistant to wear and corrosion.

Per AppleInsider, the metal alloys, owned by Liquidmetal Technologies, were developed by a research team at the California Institute of Technology, and their amorphous, non-crystalline structure makes them harder than alloys of titanium or aluminum.

Introduced for commercial applications in 2003 through the Delaware-based Liquidmetal corporation, the product has been used to create technology for the U.S. Department of Defense, has been found in medical equipment, and is even used to create sporting goods like tennis raquets and golf clubs.



In a Form 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week, Liquidmetal Technologies indicated that it had granted all of its intellectual property assets to Apple. According to the terms of the deal, Apple was awarded “a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercial such intellectual property in the field of electronic products in exchange for a license fee.”

Though the licensing agreement grants Apple exclusive use in consumer electronics, Liquidmetal is still allowed to license its products to other companies for any use outside of markets where Apple competes, meaning its deals with defense contractors, sports equipment manufacturers and medical suppliers are likely to remain intact.

The agreement was made on August 5th, revealed to the SEC on Monday and was signed by Larry Buffington, president and CEO of Liquidmetal Technologies.

The company’s official website gives examples of where Liquidmetal’s products were used in portable electronics in the past. It touts that Liquidmetal alloys are 2.5 times the strength of commonly used titanium alloy and 1.5 times the hardness of stainless steel found in portable electronic devices. The technology is said to allow for thinner, smaller design while offering greater protection for internal components, and giving users a scratch and corrosion resistant exterior.

Past devices where Liquidmetal’s technology was utilized include the Nokia Vertu smartphone, Sandisk Sansa media player, and Sandisk U3 Smart thumb drives. The product was also used to create strong hinge components for devices like flip smartphones.

Apple’s interest in a company like Liquidmetal is no surprise, given its constant desire to create smaller and thinner devices. Apple has also employed a unibody design in its portable computers, beginning in early 2008 with the MacBook Air.

The precision unibody enclosures are milled from a single extruded block of aluminum, allowing devices like the MacBook Pro to become thinner while maintaining a rigid, sturdy frame. Previously, the frames of Apple’s notebooks were made from multiple parts. Now, raw aluminum is carved out using CNC, or “computer numerical control” machines.

Whatever becomes of this, you can’t say it won’t be interesting.