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.

Rumor: Apple to release updated MacBook Air on Tuesday

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Date: Monday, May 10th, 2010, 04:17
Category: MacBook Air, News

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Following the recent refresh to its MacBook Pro line of notebooks last month, the same source who correctly predicted the new MacBook Pro notebook arrival date has stated that an updated MacBook Air could arrive as early as Tuesday.

Per AppleInsider, the same source has stated to Macworld UK that a new product will arrive Tuesday with the model MC516LL/A K87 BETTER BTR-USA. The “better” distinction reportedly means it is likely to be a Mac product, leading the tipster to suggest the refresh is a MacBook Air.

The report noted that there is “some potential” the listing could instead refer to a new 27″ Cinema Display. But the source said there are several thousand of the product headed to Australia, “which suggests a major new product.”

Further evidence for the MacBook Air refresh has been noted with current inventory levels of the ultra-light notebook apparently running low. The MacBook Air, starting at US$1,499, still ships within 24 hours from Apple’s online store.

In January, it was suggested that the MacBook Air refresh might have seen a delay due to limited availability of Intel’s Core i5 ultramobile processors. Those reports suggested Apple could adopt the ultra-thin 18W TDP processor. The Core i5-520UM has a maximum processor speed of 1.86GHz, and an integrated GPU with 500MHz of processing power. The 32nm dual-core chip also includes 3MB of L3 cache.

Apple last updated the MacBook Air in June of 2009, dropping its entry price to US$1,499 for a 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo-based system. Apple’s full line of MacBook Pros are also based on the Core 2 Duo processor.

In April, Apple updated its MacBook Pro line of notebook computers, with the high-end systems receiving Intel’s latest Core i7 and Core i5 mobile processors and new automated graphics switching technology.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Gizmodo editor’s home raided by police, equipment seized

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Date: Tuesday, April 27th, 2010, 04:22
Category: iPhone, News

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It might be fair to say that Apple isn’t happy with Gizmodo about that iPhone story.

Per AppleInsider, California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team entered Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home last week and seized four computers and two servers in its felony investigation of an obtained prototype iPhone.

Gizmodo revealed the information, along with a copy of the warrant issued by a judge of the superior court in San Mateo County, Calif. In response, the website’s post argued that it believes the warrant was invalid under section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code.

The warrant states that there was probable cause that Chen’s computers were “used as the means of committing a felony.” The REACT authorities entered Chen’s home without him present, according to Gizmodo.

A full inventory of the seized material includes a MacBook, MacBook Pro, 32GB iPad, 16GB iPhone, an AirPort Extreme, IBM ThinkPad, a Dell desktop, external hard drives, and many more. The items were removed from numerous rooms in his home.

An account of the events by Chen was also filed. The Gizmodo editor said he and his wife came back home from dinner around 9:45 p.m. when they noticed their garage door was half-open. When he tried to open the door, officers searched him and informed him that his property was under their control.

Chen’s front door was reportedly broken open so the authorities could enter, and those on the scene informed him that he could be reimbursed for the damage. Chen was provided with a copy of the warrant, and declined to comment to the authorities. He was not arrested.

Last week it was revealed that police are investigating the Gizmodo purchase of a prototype iPhone from Apple. The publication’s parent company, Gawker Media, has openly admitted it paid US$5,000 to obtain the device from a man who claimed he found it at a California bar.

The prototype was allegedly left at the Redwood City establishment by an Apple engineer. The employee frantically searched for the device, calling the bar multiple times to see if it had been returned, but the owner of the bar said no one ever contacted him to say they had found an iPhone. Gizmodo claimed that the person who found the phone attempted to call Apple and did not receive a response.

Gizmodo returned the iPhone to Apple after the company requested it be given back, but not before the publication wrote numerous stories about the device and revealed the name of the engineer who allegedly lost the device. The website also disassembled the hardware to confirm it was manufactured by Apple.

Micro Center stock post adds new strength to updated MacBook, MacBook Pro rumors

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Date: Monday, April 12th, 2010, 04:19
Category: News

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The new Apple notebook rumors continue as a Micro Center employee recently posted new Apple model numbers that seem to indicate at MacBook Pro updates. Per Electronista, while just listed as “Mac systems” with Good, Better and Best trim levels, they have completely new model numbers and roughly correlate to the three 15″ and single 17″ MacBook Pros that currently exist. They also hint at price changes with the base MacBook Pro price rising US$100 to US$1,799, the top-end 15-inch model would drop to US$2,199 and the 17″ would fall US$200 to US$2,299.

A mid-range MacBook Pro would stay in place at US$1,999.

The MacBook Pro line is expected to receive Intel’s Core i5 and i7 processors that may sport similar stock clock speeds but should be substantially faster than the outgoing Core 2 Duo models. Also likely on top of these is the use of NVIDIA Optimus graphics switching to save energy; the higher-priced entry model may reflect this as Apple would have to use a discrete graphics chip instead of the integrated GeForce 9400M used today.

A MacBook Pro update could come as soon as Tuesday and may also include a refresh of the white plastic MacBook and MacBook Air.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve heard anything on your end, please let us know.

Rumor: Upcoming MacBook, MacBook Pro notebooks to feature updated Intel processors, other improvements

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 6th, 2010, 03:45
Category: News

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You love your MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks but in the recent months of coverage surrounding the iPad (which also makes thousands of delicious julienne-style fries), you’ve wondered if it was due for anything new?

Per Taiwanese blog Apple Daily, sources close to the story say the only reason the MacBook lines haven’t already been updated is because of chip shortages from Intel. The same report claims that all MacBooks will be available with not only the newest Intel processors, but also up to 640 GB hard drives and 8-hour battery performance throughout the line.

The MacBook Pro line’s last significant update was last June — and I know of several people who have been holding off on a new purchase until the line is updated. With Apple the lone remaining major manufacturer yet to integrate Intel’s newest i5 and i7 processors into their portables.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you’d like to see in Apple’s next generation of notebook computers.

Web Ad Points to Possible Higher Prices for Upcoming Macbook Air, Pro and Mac Pro

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Date: Wednesday, March 17th, 2010, 04:18
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

No one’s quite sure if this was intentional but it is interesting.

Per PC Authority, a set of Apple ads on the PC Authority web site are now listing the most affordable versions of the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac Pro at A$1,599, A$1,999 and A$3,599, respectively. These prices are far higher than the current prices and could hint at an early peek at the pricing of the newly updated models of each of those series.

In the ad, the MacBook Air has jumped by A$400 so that what used to be its costliest base price is now its lowest, while the MBP has suffered a A$300 bump in cost of entry. Then again, the machines are expected to receive updates to the new Intel Core i7 chips, so there may be an added cost to consider.

So, focus on the upgrades, even if you do have to consider smashing your piggy bank to get them…

Wisair Introduces Wireless USB Display Dock for Apple Notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, February 9th, 2010, 05:21
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

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Getting a bit of a jump on the Macworld releases, peripheral company Wisair on Monday introduced a Wireless USB DisplayDock Set, allowing users to wirelessly connect their MacBooks to a desktop-like setup that include a monitor, speakers, a keyboard and mouse. Per Electronista, the device connects to a USB port on any MacBook and Wisair claims there are no delays in sending the keyboard or mouse commands due to the nature of the ultra wideband radio.

The pre-paired adapters have a 128-bit encrypted link for security, while maximum range is said to be 30 feet. Video tops out at a resolution of 1440×1050.

The Wireless USB DisplayDock Set requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run. will ship by the end of March, though final pricing has yet to be revealed.

Microsoft Releases Findings on Windows 7 Battery Issue

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Date: Tuesday, February 9th, 2010, 04:12
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

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Because a combination of Windows 7 and virtualization makes life interesting.

Per Engadget, a Microsoft statement from last week claiming that the company would look into reports of Windows 7 causing premature battery degradation on notebook computers has led to Microsoft stating that Windows 7 isn’t to blame.

According to the company’s testing, the new tool, which reports when a battery is down to 40% of its designed capacity and suggests replacement, hasn’t reported a single false positive. Additionally, the tool uses read-only data from the battery, and is in fact incapable of tweaking the battery’s life span or internal data, as it merely reports the data it receives, and stacks the theoretical design capacity up against the current full charge capacity.

Microsoft has attributed negative reports to the mere fact that many people might not have noticed the degradation already taking place in their batteries, as most batteries start to degrade noticeably within a year. The company has also stated that it will continue to look into the issue, but for now this sounds like a bit of a non-issue.

Whether or not Windows 7 lives up to one of its featured claims about helping to use a notebook’s battery life more conservatively remains to be seen, both on conventional PC notebook hardware and on Apple’s MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air hardware.

If you’ve tried Windows 7 on your notebook hardware and have either positive or negative feedback regarding its effects on the battery life, let us know.

Initial Benchmarks Appear for Unreleased Core i7-Powered MacBook Pro

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Date: Monday, February 8th, 2010, 07:23
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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There’s a new wave of MacBook notebooks en route.

And it may arrive sooner rather than later.

Per Canadian web site, Geekbench, a recent set of test appears to have show an unreleased Arrandale MacBook Pro notebook running at 2.66 GHz according to MacRumors.

The processor shown is listed as an Intel Core i7 M 620 running at 2.66GHz with a Turbo frequency up to 3.33 GHz. The Intel Core i7 M 620 functions as a high end dual core processor with Turbo Boost and Hyperthreading features.

The MacBook Pro model designation is listed as “6,1″ and has a non-shipping build of Mac OS X 10.6.2 (Build 10C3067).

The original article reports that supplies of MacBooks have been constrained according to international resellers, adding to the belief new Apple laptops are forthcoming.

Intel officially unveiled the Core i3, i5 and i7 processors at last month’s CES trade show in Las Vegas.

The new chips fall under the brands of Core i3 for low-end systems, Core i5 for midrange systems and Core i7 for the fastest systems.

The new processors include dual-core laptop chips under the three brands running between 1.06GHz and 2.66GHz, and desktop chips running between 2.93GHz and 3.46GHz.

According to Intel, the Intel Core i5 processor features: “4-way multi-task processing that allows each core of your processor to work on two tasks at the same time, delivering the performance you need for smart multitasking.”

Last month, Intel pulled an internal ad showing a MacBook running with the Core i5 processor. The MacBook was being offered as a prize as part of the Intel Retail Edge Program, and was sent out in promotional emails. The ad was later replaced with one offering an HP Envy laptop as a replacement.

QuickerTek Releases Wireless nCard for Older MacBooks, Mac Minis

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Date: Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010, 06:31
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Pro, wireless

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It’s not quite as cool as whatever the iPad will become, but it’s useful stuff.

The cool cats at QuickerTek have released a new wireless nCard accessory for older MacBook notebooks and the Mac mini. The nCard extends Wi-Fi compatibility on the A, B, G and N standard and installs in the internal Airport card slot, with similar complexity to installing RAM chips. Per MacNN, the components are claimed to offer higher signal sensitivity and transmission power for potentially faster speeds and a wider reception area. Reception can also be further improved with an optional external antenna.

The nCard is compatible with 2006 through 2009 Mac minis but not the G4-based Minis, however and the 2006 through 2009 black and white plastic MacBook notebooks. The nCard also works in the 2006 through 2008 MacBook Pros in both the 15″ and 17″ inch models, excluding the unibody models.

The nCard is now shipping and is available for US$90.