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.

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

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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

Current 27″ iMac unable to accept 1080p video input, firmware update may be en route

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Date: Thursday, July 22nd, 2010, 03:34
Category: iMac, News

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Apple’s updated 27″ iMac launched with a new feature: a Mini DisplayPort video port that worked in both directions, enabling external video sources to output video to the screen. Unfortunately, this feature is largely limited to 720p in HDTV applications however.

Per AppleInsider, this limitation effectively limits the iMac to accepting video input from recent MacBooks or other computers that produce DisplayPort video, which works significantly differently from earlier analog VGA or digital formats such as DVI/HDMI.

The shortcoming can be bridged by a converter box that accepts a DVI/HDMI signal (the two video standards are essentially the same in different packaging), transforms it to DisplayPort signaling, and scales it to the output resolution of the iMac.

A simple physical adapter won’t work for video input due to the iMac’s DisplayPort-only input limitation; cheap Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapters can only extract the HDMI output signal the iMac generates and pushes through its Mini DisplayPort connector. They do not do any signal translation.

Two products that can do this translation work are the AV360™ Mini DisplayPort Converter and Kanex HD, both of which retail for US$150. However, while those products appear to be capable of generating both 720p and 1080p output, the 27″ iMac only accepts 720p video or its native 2560×1440 resolution.

It appears the 27″ iMac could accept 1080p input, and certainly can support display of the video resolution, as it falls well within its 2560×1440 native resolution. A similar problem affects Apple’s 24″ LED Cinema Display, which has a native 1920×1200 resolution but only supports that resolution via its DisplayPort input; like the 27″ iMac, it won’t accept a 1080p signal (1920×1080), the common format of higher end HD equipment such as HDMI set top boxes and the PS3, even though it appears it should be able to.

The problem is that Apple’s EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) on the iMac and LED Cinema Display doesn’t advertise 1080p as an option. EDID is a simple data structure a display sends to output devices that outlines what video formats and settings it knows how to support. Both devices appear capable of 1080p but simply don’t advertise that capability in a way that external devices like the AV360 and Kanex HD can take advantage of.

It appears Apple could update the firmware for these displays to enable support of 1080p input, allowing users to input full 1080p video from devices such as a PlayStation 3 or current MacBook. Users might not notice a major difference, as experts say its hard to see a real difference between 720p and 1080p on screens smaller than 50 inches.

However, some devices are hardwired to only support 1080p, and can’t scale their output to support the Cinema Display’s slightly higher resolution nor the 27″ iMacs much higher resolution, forcing them to downscale to 720p or not work at all (as is the case with the LED Cinema Display, which is really only indended to work with Apple’s Mini DisplayPort-equipped MacBooks and modern desktop Macs).

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple cites $15.7 billion in sales, $3.25 billion profit for 2010 Q3 financial report

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Date: Wednesday, July 21st, 2010, 04:37
Category: Finance, News

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Apple generated its best quarter to date, reporting US$15.7 billion in sales and a profit of US$3.25 billion yesterday with shares accelerating US$3.51 per share, up 75% in the year over year from the same period in 2009. The company’s results beat analyst expectations of $3.10 a share and $14.74 billion in revenue according to Macworld.

The company sold a record 3.47 million Macs during the three-month period ended June 26, 2010, another quarterly record for the company that topped the previous high sales mark by 100,000 units. Mac sales increased 33% over the 2.6 million units Apple sold in the third quarter of 2009. Oppenheimer noted that Apple’s 33% sales growth topped the 22% growth rate market research firm IDC projects for the overall computer market.

As expected, portables drove Mac sales for the three months ending in June. Of the 3.47 million Macs sold, 71% were laptops.

The third quarter also marked the first full quarter of sales for the iPad, Apple’s new tablet. Apple said it sold 3.27 million iPads during the quarter with the company seeing US$2.17 billion in recognized revenue from iPad sales during the quarter. The tablet is currently shipping in 10 countries, and Apple plans to introduce the iPad to 9 more countries on July 23rd. The company also stated that it’s selling iPads just as fast as it’s making them, while attempting to increase manufacturing capacity.

Apple sold 8.4 million iPhones in the third quarter, a 61% jump over last year’s figures. The iPhone 4, which debuted in the waning days of the third quarter, made up about 20% of those sales—or more than 1.7 million units. Apple called the iPhone 4 launch the most successful product launch in its history.

Consumer demand for the new phone has been so great, in fact, that Apple has had trouble filling orders. Last month, the company announced that it would delay the release of the white iPhone 4—it’s expected to ship by the end of July. iPhone 4 orders placed through Apple’s online store list a three-week shipping wait as of this writing. (In contrast, the 8GB iPhone 3GS ships within 24 hours.)

Apple saw recognized revenue from its handsets of US$5.33 billion during the quarter, up 74% from last year’s figures. Apple says the iPhone has a sales value of US$5 billion, for an average selling price of US$595.

Combining the sales of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, Apple sales there are now 100 million devices running its iOS mobile operating system.

iPod sales fell during the third quarter of 2010. Though the company sold 9.41 million iPods, the figure represented an 8% drop from the 10.2 million music players Apple sold in the year-ago quarter. The iPod segment has seen declining growth for some time now, particularly outside of the holiday shopping season. During the fiscal second quarter, iPod sales dipped by 1% while the 2009 third quarter saw a 7% decline in sales.

Despite the decline, the music device remains the top-selling MP3 player internationally and continues to command a 70% market share in the U.S. More significantly to Apple, the iPod touch continues to grow with Apple stating that sales of that product were up 48% from the year-ago quarter, leading to a 12% increase year-over-year in average selling price for the music player. Apple’s iPod segment saw quarterly revenue of US$1.5 million, a 4% increase from last year.

With regard to the iTunes Store, Apple cited more than $1 billion in revenue, a growth rate of 25% year over year. The mobile app segment of the store has grown to 225,000 apps, with 11,000 specifically built for the iPad. Users have download more than 5 billion apps from the App Store, Apple says.

Apple ended the third quarter with 293 Apple Store locations, the company opening seven more during the three-month period. Four of those new stores were opened in the U.S., while two opened in Australia; the remaining new store was in Canada.

Retail stores generated US$2.58 billion in revenue during the quarter, jumping 73% from the year-ago numbers. Apple sold 677,000 Macs via its retail stores, compared to 492,000 last year; half of the Macs sold at Apple Store were to customers new to the platform, Apple says.

Apple plans to open 24 stores during the fourth quarter. In addition to an outlet in Shanghai, China, that opened earlier this month, noteworthy store openings include ones in Paris, London, and Apple’s first two stores in Spain.

Apple ended its fiscal third quarter with US$45.8 billion in cash and short-term investments, up from US$41.7 billion at the end of last quarter.

For the fiscal fourth quarter ending in September, Apple expects revenue of US$18 billion and earnings per share to come in around US$3.44. Analysts were predicting sales of US$17.03 billion and earnings of US$3.82 per share in advance of Apple’s announcement on Tuesday.

Apple said it would defer revenue during the quarter as a result of its decision to offer free cases to iPhone 4 customers. Last week, the company made its free case offer after reports of reception problems related to the placement of antennas in the iPhone 4. Oppenheimer put the cost of the case giveaway at US$175 million; Apple will recognize the cost of those cases as they’re delivered to customers.

Adobe releases Acrobat Reader, Pro 9.3.3 versions, patches security holes

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Date: Wednesday, June 30th, 2010, 04:36
Category: News, Software

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

Per Macworld, the fix addresses 18 different vulnerabilities, some of which are critical, are corrected by the update.

Adobe has released new versions of both Acrobat Professional and Acrobat Reader for Mac. The former comes in a Universal package, while the latter comes in separate packages for Intel and PowerPC architectures.

Both Acrobat 9.3.3 Pro and Adobe Reader 9.3.3 address what Adobe calls �critical vulnerabilities� in earlier versions of the software. According to an Adobe security bulletin, the vulnerability could cause either Acrobat or Reader to crash, potentially allowing an attacker to take control of your computer. Earlier this month, Adobe patched a similar vulnerability in its Flash software.

Acrobat Reader 9.3.3 and Acrobat Pro requires an Intel or PowerPC-based processor and Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

E3 2010: OnLive launch titles, June 17th release date revealed (updated 2x)

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Date: Thursday, June 17th, 2010, 03:18
Category: News

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You’re going to like this.

Even though it sounded like a bit of a pipe dream when it was described last year, the OnLive gaming service will launch on June 17th and allow Macs to play bestselling console titles such as Arkham Asylum or Assassin’s Creed II. Per Macworld, OnLive uses a cloud computing technology to process games and allow any Intel-based Mac to function as a high-end gaming machine.

Where the bottom line is concerned, the service gets a cut of every game downloaded, but also has secured funding through partnerships. The most pivotal of those is AT&T, which has teamed up to become an official partner of OnLive’s Founding Member Program. The program (available to qualified users for a limited time), includes a one-year free membership to the OnLive Game Service. Registration has begun at www.onlive.com/att today at 3:00 pm Eastern and ends on July 15. Members of the program can also sign up for an additional year for US$5 per month.

OnLive is currently offering a free trial in which users can download a 1MB client and can try out all the demos for free. You can “rent” a game for a small fee to try it out, or purchase the game directly from the service. The games range from casual to hardcore, and prices range from US$5 to US$59 for full purchases.

Launch titles will include Ubisoft titles Assassin’s Creed II, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction, and Price of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. From Square-Enix, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Just Cause 2. From Electronic Arts, Dragon Age: Origins. Finally, from Take Two Interactive Entertainment, Borderlands. That’s quite a lineup of games that are not only hugely popular, but fairly recent.

While the potential to play high-end games on any Intel Mac is enticing, there are also lots of less-graphically intensive, casual games as well. Perlman cited Mad Balls, Defense Grid, Brain Challenge, and World of Goo as casual games that will appear on the service for download.

Additional games coming down the pipeline with unannounced release dates include: Sega’s Aliens vs. Predator and Alpha Protocol; Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Driver San Francisco, and Shaun White Skateboarding; THQ’s Darksiders, Homefront, and Red Faction: Armageddon; Square-Enix’s Deus Ex 3, Kain and Lynch 2: Dog Days; Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s F.E.A.R. 3 and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4; and finally, 2K Sports MLB 2k10. The vast majority of these games have either come out in the last year or will be coming out in the next— and nearly all of them have never before appeared on the Mac.

Perlman is emphatic that his service will work on the Mac. “Every Intel Mac runs OnLive. We’ve tried them all,” he admits. That includes Mac minis, MacBooks, iMacs, and Mac Pros. Unfortunately, PowerPC Macs will not be supported by the service.


What You've Been Waiting For...


The only problem his team has encountered, Perlman concedes, is that the original release MacBook Air has a tendency to overheat but “you’ll encounter those same problems running a Flash video.”

The OnLive service will be launching for the Mac and Windows PC platforms on June 17 and after that you can “expect all games going forward to be Mac and PC.” Simultaneously launches on the service should be music to all Mac gamers’ ears.

For those who can’t wait that long, there’s a chance to sign up for the beta on the OnLive website. Oh, and for those who enjoy using game controllers, like the XBox 360 controller, you can with OnLive’s service. “They’re normally not compatible,” Perlman explains, “But we bridge the gap.”

Perlman claims that OnLive has had successful demos with the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. One demo included the high-end sci-fi first person shooter Borderlands running on the iPad. “It works beautifully,” said Perlman.

Update:
Dropping by the OnLive booth, I was able to learn the following tidbits as well:

– The booth itself featured OnLive running well on current generation MacBook notebooks that had been closed but attached to power, Ethernet cables and USB controller peripherals. Titles like Red Faction: Guerilla ran without any latency.

– The company is doing a staggered launch and bringing more and more players online. Representatives said that the service had been in beta for months with thousands of users online and no significant delays were expected.

– OnLive is currently recommending a five megabit per second Internet connection. A utility available on the company’s web site allows this to be tested. In cases where the connection is too slow, users might want to look into a better connection through their Internet service provider.

– The company is currently running three data centers throughout the country via the Bay area (west coast), Dallas (midwest region) and Washington, D.C. Representatives said they’d like their data centers to be within 1,000 miles of their users.

– The client requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

– Players can purchase a Full Playpass to buy a game and then have unlimited use for the game, the game itself staying on OnLive’s cloud service and not downloading directly to the hard drive.

– Users can look in on other players’ games to observe gameplay, tactics, etc.

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.