Rumor: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion resource files hint at possible next-gen iMac, Mac Pro models without optical drives

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Date: Friday, August 10th, 2012, 07:28
Category: Hardware, iMac, Mac Pro, Rumor

It’s the internal files that hint at the upcoming cool stuff.

Per AppleInsider, internal configuration files in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion make apparent references to yet-unreleased new generations of Apple’s iMac (iMac13,0) and Mac Pro (MacPro6,0), both in the context of USB booting options that indicate the new Mac desktops could, for the first time in nearly 20 years, lack built-in optical drives.

The discovery, made by a source close to the story, appears in a configuration plist file used by Boot Camp Assistant to designate the Mac model versions capable of supporting either a optical boot disc, or alternatively, a USB flash drive volume capable of installing Windows to a Boot Camp partition.

While all modern Macs can boot OS X from a USB drive, Apple’s Boot Camp Assistant references the plist to display a listing of newer Mac models with EFI-level support for booting a legacy operating system from a USB flash drive. The primary advantage to using a USB flash drive to create a bootable Windows 7 volume from an ISO (disc image file) is if you lack an optical drive burner.

The file lists a series of Mac models that support USB flash drive booting, referring to each model by its initials and its internal architectural version number. While it includes MacBook and MacBook Pro models with optical drives, most of the Macs in the supported list are optical free.

The list of models (below) include the “MM50″ (the Mac mini 5,x series, also known as the “Mid 2011 Mac mini”, which is the first non-Server version of the Mac mini to lack an optical drive), along with other optical-free models including the MacBook Air.

Two of the models in the USB-boot support listing refer to Macs that haven’t been released yet: the MP60 (the six generation Mac Pro, or MacPro6,x) and IM130 (pointing to the 13th generation iMac, or iMac13,x).

The current Mac Pro, updated only slightly in June during Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, hasn’t changed enough over the previous model for Apple to assign it a new architecture designation; it is still internally referred to as the “Mac Pro 5,1″ just like the Mac Pros that originally shipped back in August 2010.

Apple’s conspicuous lack of timely updates for the Mac Pro (and its relatively small and shrinking proportion of Apple’s Mac sales mix) has created the expectation that the company might eventually discontinue its full sized desktop the same way it terminated its rack mounted Xserve, an idea Apple reportedly evaluated as an option.

However, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook confirmed in June that Apple would not be killing the Mac Pro, stating instead in an email to a concerned customer, “Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn’t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today’s [WWDC] event, don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.”

Cook’s choice of the words “working on something really great,” indicates Apple plans to significantly update its Mac Pro model, which has carried forward the same basic aluminum box design introduced for the 2005 PowerMac G5.

While removing its optical drive would do much less to save space and thickness compared to Apple’s notebook designs, it’s likely that an all new Apple desktop aimed at professionals would rethink its use of slow, bulky and essentially obsolete optical drive devices and perhaps instead incorporate high performance SSD RAID options for a reduced profile.

Apple’s current iMac (referred to internally as the iMac 12) was last refreshed in May 2011, indicating that it’s overdue for a refresh. A new 13th generation iMac generation identified as “iMac 13,2″ has already appeared in Geekbench benchmarks.

Similarly, patent filings reveal Apple has also been working to once again slim down the peripherals that ship with its industry-leading all-in-one desktop, with the designs referenced in those filings having the potential to accompany the next iMac update.

The appearance of new Mac Pro and iMac models in the USB booting support list doesn’t definitively mean the models won’t have optical drives, as it also lists MacBook and MacBook Pro models that do incorporate an optical drive.

At the same time, Apple has clearly indicated in the newest Mac mini and Retina Display MacBook Pro that it plans to get rid of optical disc drives as soon as possible across the board, providing an external USB drive as an option for users who need one.

Users increasingly have fewer opportunities to use optical drives, as the bulk of third party software is now available as a digital download either directly from the vendor or through Apple’s App Store. Apple also sees digital distribution as the future of music and movies, as exemplified in Apple TV, which has never included an optical drive.

The company has never supported any new HD optical disc formats on its products, including Microsoft’s ill fated HD-DVD or Sony’s Blu-ray format, despite initially being involved in the Blu-ray standardization process. Instead, Apple has put its resources behind developing increasingly higher definition audio and video formats that it can distribute electronically through its own iTunes Store.

Apple even developed an alternative iTunes Extras web based multimedia format to deliver the same kind of interactive menus supported on DVDs, with a parallel solution for albums it called iTunes LP.

In addition, Apple introduced technologies intended to wean its Mac platform from optical disc dependance with the MacBook Air, which was designed to remotely share disc drives available on the local network (even remotely install OS X) via Remote Disc and handle Migration Assistant tasks over a wireless network connection.

Modern Mac models can now apply system updates, such as OS X Mountain Lion, entirely via digital downloads, while Apple’s newest Mac models can boot legacy operating systems from USB flash drives.

By ditching the need for a built in optical drive, Apple can not only make new Macs smaller, thinner and more energy efficient, but will also increase their overall reliability, as optical drives become one of the last complex physical mechanisms inside computers.

Apple has similarly helped to pioneer the mainstream adoption of Solid State Drives as an alternative to the more fragile mechanical design inherent in conventional Hard Disk Drives. Its most popular general computing device, the iPad, makes no use of either optical drives or HDD mechanisms.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Picture: MacBook Pros galore helped Curiosity get to Mars

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Date: Monday, August 6th, 2012, 06:06
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Pictures

By the time I graduated from high school in 1996, I was one of two people in my school routinely carrying a notebook computer through the halls of Providence Country Day in East Providence, Rhode Island. I carried a PowerBook 150 and one of my best friends, Josh Ledgard, carried a white Toshiba notebook that he had named “Herbie”.

It was also around this time that Apple was at its lowest point, Steve Jobs had yet to officially return in any capacity and people wondered aloud if Apple would die and why I didn’t carry a Windows PC notebook?

A picture’s worth a thousand words, ladies and gentlemen, and via the extremely cool cats at 9to5 Mac, there’s the following killer picture of not just a few MacBook Pro notebooks helping to land Curiosity on Mars last night:



And yes, I know some of them may have booted Linux or Windows partitions at the time, so that joke still stands…

Happy Curiosity Day, guys!!!

Apple offers final notice, warns users of July 31st iWork.com closure

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Date: Tuesday, July 24th, 2012, 11:46
Category: News, Software

Ok, it’s time to stop procrastinating…

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday issued what it called a “final reminder” to users that they must save their iWork.com documents before July 31 or lose them forever.

The iWork.com beta website will close in one week’s time, after which users will no longer be able to access their documents on the iWork.com site or view them on the web.

Apple has recommended once again that users immediately sign in to iWork.com to download documents and ensure tehy are not lost. An accompanying support article also details how users can save a copy of their documents onto their computer.

“Moving forward, you can use iCloud to store your documents and make them available across your computer and your iPHone, iPad or iPod touch,” the e-mail sent out on Tuesday by Apple reads.

Apple has sent out numerous reminders, including one earlier this month, encouraging users to back up their documents. Apple first notified customers in March of its intent to shutter the iWork.com website by the end of July.

The iWork.com service first launched as a beta in early 2009, offering iWork users on the Mac the ability to more easily collaborate with others using Windows and Microsoft Office. Now, the iWork suite of applications is become available on iOS, with Pages, Numbers and Keynote among the most popular downloads on the iPad App Store.

So, yeah, snag those files, put them somewhere else and perhaps head out and grab a really good bagel between now and the 31st, because Apple has decided to move on.

Microsoft: No plans for Mac version of Office 2013

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Date: Thursday, July 19th, 2012, 06:20
Category: News, Software

Sometimes it’s just natural to want to take the ball and run off with it.

Per Cult of Mac, when Microsoft recently announced an Office for Mac 2011 update was in the works it also confirmed that OS X users would not be able to take advantage of the newer Office 2013 as the software suite is reserved for Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines only.

Microsoft failed to mention whether a Mac version of Office 2013 was in the works when the productivity software reached Customer Preview phase on Monday, though during Wednesday’s Office for Mac 2011 update announcement the company stated that it had no such plans.

“We haven’t announced the next release of Office for Mac,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

According to the publication, Office 2013 will feature support for a new server-based version of Office which is said to be highly integrated with its SkyDrive cloud system. Microsoft released the Service Pack 2 update to Office for Mac 2011 in April to fix bugs affecting Outlook.

While Mac owners won’t be able to enjoy the newly-implemented cloud capabilites of Office 2013, the Office for Mac 2011 update will bring access to Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Office 365 where users are able to save documents off-site.

The Office for Mac 2011 update is expected to ship early next year alongside the Windows-only Office 2013.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft to release Windows 8 on October 26th

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Date: Thursday, July 19th, 2012, 05:05
Category: News, Software

You can pick up Windows 8, then begin working on a Halloween costume this year.

Per Electronista, it was revealed during Microsot’s annual sales meeting that the company’s next-generation operating system will hit shelves on Oct. 26 meaning new hardware will shortly follow including the Surface tablet.

Microsoft’s Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky made good on a promise from Windows Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller who said Windows 8 would see release sometime in October. A subsequent post on the company’s dedicated Windows blog detailed the meeting, describing upgrade tiers and purchasing options.

Windows 8 will debut in 231 markets covering 109 languages on launch day and existing users of the ubiquitous OS can upgrade to the revamped software online for US$40. According to Microsoft’s website, all PCs running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 qualify for the US$39.99 upgrade with the option to add on Windows Media Center for free though the operating system’s “add features” option.

Wednesday’s announcement also portends the imminent release of tablets, PCs and Ultrabooks running the one-OS-for-all software when Microsoft announced as much during the Surface unveiling in June.

Microsoft’s Surface will likely be one of the first Windows 8 examples on offer when the OS debuts as the device marks the Redmond-based company’s first foray into the tablet hardware market. Initially, a stripped-down ARM-based iteration called Surface for Windows RT will roll out before a more full-featured Intel version dubbed Surface for Windows 8 Pro hits stores later this year.

It is unclear what features are missing from Windows RT but Microsoft is claiming the new OS is meant to reflect a “PC+” era where all devices run identical operating systems. This is counter to Apple’s “post-PC” era which describes multiple devices running software tailor-made for specific tasks, an example being OS X for laptops and iOS for iDevices. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner claimed that the iPhone maker’s view future computing is incorrect and instead believes in a “ond-OS-fits-all” approach to OS coding. Interestingly it appears that Windows RT skews toward the “post-PC” model.

Apple is looking to release its own next-generation operating system with OS X 10.8 later in July, and while no specific date has been set a launch should be imminent as the company seeded the Mountain Lion gold master last week.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Parallels Desktop updated to 7.0.15104

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Date: Thursday, July 12th, 2012, 06:38
Category: News, Software

parallelslogo1.jpg

On Thursday, Parallels released version 7.0.15104 of its Parallels Desktop virtualization software. The new update, a 306 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Run Windows 8, Ubuntu, and Fedora on the latest models of Mac computers (MacBook Air (mid 2012), MacBook Pro (mid 2012) , MacBook Pro with Retina display).

- Run Fedora 17 in virtual machines.

- Install Parallels Desktop on Mac computers running OS X Mountain Lion.

- Use IMG disc images for the virtual machine CD/DVD-ROM drive.

- Use USB 3.0 devices in virtual machines.

- Improved Parallels Mobile connectivity with Mac.

- Improved Linux distributions detection during Express installation.

- Enhanced Retina display support.

Parallels Desktop 7 retails for US$79.99 and requires a 64-bit Intel-based processor, Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later, 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended to run Windows 7), at least 700 MB of space available on the boot volume for Parallels Desktop installation and 15 GB of available disk space for Windows.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

Java malware goes live, begins affecting, Mac OS X, Windows, Linux systems

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Date: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012, 10:47
Category: News, security, Software

On the plus side, this keeps a security department employed.

Per F-Secure, a new form of browser-based cross-platform malware can give hackers remote access to computers running Apple’s OS X, Microsoft’s Windows, and even Linux.

The multi-platform backdoor malware was disclosed this week by security firm F-Secure. It was originally discovered on a Colombian Transport website, and relies on social engineering to trick users into running a Java Archive file, meaning it is not likely to be a major threat.

However, its cross-platform design is unique. If users grant permission to the Java Archive, the malware will secretly determine whether the user is running a Mac, a Windows PC, or a Linux machine. When running on a Mac, the malware will remotely connect to an IP address through port 8080 to obtain additional code to execute.

Anti-virus maker Sophos said on Wednesday that the new malware has the potential to affect a higher number of people because of its multi-platform strategy. Typically, malware and viruses target Windows PCs, as they represent the overwhelming majority of computers.

“Once it has found out which operating system you are running, the Java class file will download the appropriate flavor of malware, with the intention of opening a backdoor that will give hackers remote access to your computer,” explained Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with Sophos.

On a Mac, the new malware is defined as “Backdoor:OSX/GetShell.A. According to F-Secure, it is a PowerPC binary, which means users running a modern, Intel-based Mac must also have Rosetta installed.

While rare, cross-platform malware attacks are not unheard of. In 2010, a Trojan known as “trojan.osx.boonana.a” was a Java-based exploit that affected both Macs running OS X, as well as Windows PCs.

As Apple’s Mac platform has grown in popularity and outpaced the PC market as a whole, the OS X platform has become a bigger target for hackers. Last month, Apple opted to tone down promotional language on its website that once claimed the Mac “doesn’t get PC viruses.” Apple’s website now says that OS X is “built to be safe.”

That change was made just a few months after more than 600,000 Macs were estimated to have been infected by a trojan horse named “Flashback.” More than half of the Macs believed to be infected by the botnet were found in the U.S. alone before Apple aggressively released a series of software updates to quash the malware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Axiotron announces Modbook Pro products, points towards early fall launch

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Date: Thursday, June 28th, 2012, 09:35
Category: Hardware, Modbook, News

It’s been a while since we covered this.

Per MacRumors, Axiotron, creators of the famed Modbook tablet, has announced a new generation of Modbook Pro products.

Built from a unique enclosure conversion kit, the Modbook Pro incorporates and completely encases the original hardware of a new Apple MacBook Pro 13.3-inch base system. Its Wacom digitizer delivers 512 levels of pen pressure sensitivity — more than any other tablet computer on the market. And its ForceGlass screen provides an etched, paper-emulating drawing surface.



The Modbook Pro components connect to the original MacBook Pro through one of its two USB 3.0 ports, with the entire assembly being enclosed in a new casing for an integrated OS X-based tablet solution that also supports Windows 7.

The Modbook Pro is scheduled to launch in “early fall 2012″, with pricing and retail partners yet to be announced.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple updates Retina Display MacBook Pro FAQ, explains display settings and resolution differences in article

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Date: Wednesday, June 27th, 2012, 06:17
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

The Retina Display on your new MacBook Pro is nifty.

Now it’s time to learn the ins and outs of it.

Per AppleInsider, a Frequently Asked Questions page on Apple’s support website offers detailed information about settings for the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display in an attempt to clear up confusion about the new screen’s capabilities in low-resolution mode and Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

The page explains the difference between scaled resolutions and the Retina setting on the new notebook.

Apple also noted in the article that all of its applications included with OS X Lion support the Retina Display.

“Additionally, iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes, Aperture, Final Cut Pro X, and Motion all support the Retina display,” the page read.

Users experiencing “functional or visual issues” with applications are instructed to go into Finder to switch the application into Low Resolution mode.

“Some applications work best using the Low Resolution mode. Other applications will only run in Low Resolution mode,” said the FAQ.

For applications, such as 3D games, that want to use their own resolution settings, Apple recommends the 1440 x 900 resolution. Blizzard’s “Diablo III” game is one of the few titles that supports full 2880 x 1800 resolution on the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, though the studio is working on further optimizations that should improve the performance.

Apple provided a detailed response on options for using an external display with its high-end laptop. It also offered a hint that users can hold down the Option key when clicking the Scaled button to get more resolution choices in extended desktop mode.

Windows users will be relieved to know that installing Windows 7 via Boot Camp is supported on the Retina Display. The article did, however, note that Windows on the new MacBook Pro will automatically start up with small icons because it defaults to the maximum dpi supported (144 dpi, or 150 percent magnification). Users can adjust their settings in the Windows Display Control Panel.

As the first of Apple’s Mac models to sport a Retina Display screen, the MacBook Pro is leading the transition to high-dpi resolutions on OS X. The laptop has received largely positive reviews, with special praise reserved for the screen.

The new screens are not without problem, though. Scattered reports have emerged that users are experiencing image retention issues on some MacBook Pro models. Apple Genius technicians have reportedly been instructed to replace the screens, but crushing demand has left some owners waiting for up to three weeks.

If recent reports are to be believed, Apple could add another Retina Display-equipped Mac this fall in the form of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Though some rumors have suggested that Apple would also upgrade its iMac all-in-one desktop to a Retina Display, multiple sources recently told one blogger that it would not happen until 2013.

If you’ve snagged a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Microsoft announces Windows 8 release date for this fall, shows off NFC features

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Date: Wednesday, June 20th, 2012, 11:06
Category: News, Software

It may not be your favorite operating system, but it’s good to have on hand.

Microsoft announced today that its Windows 8 operating system will launch this fall alongside Windows 8 for PCs and the new Surface tablet, featuring e-wallet support with NFC chips, as well as support for high-definition screens.

Windows Phone 8 was unveiled at Microsoft’s Windows Phone Developer Summit, where the company announced that the platform will support multi-core CPUs and high-definition screen resolutions. The new Windows Phone 8 will also borrow much of its code base from Windows 8, which will allow developers to create applications that can be run on phones, tablets and desktops all running Microsoft’s operating systems.

Windows Phone 8 also features Internet Explorer 10, which Microsoft said has four-times faster JavaScript performance than its predecessor, Windows Phone 7.5, and also twice the feature support for HTML5. Microsoft says that Internet Explorer 10 for Windows Phone 8 gets a better SunSpider score when testing Web browsing than the iPhone 4S running Apple’s first beta of iOS 6.

The operating system will also support near-field communications chips with a native wallet application that will store credit and debit cards, as well as loyalty and membership cards. Microsoft Vice President Joe Belfiore also demonstrated onstage on Wednesday how the new NFC functionality in Windows Phone 8 will allow handsets to scan NFC-enabled advertisements or business cards.

Microsoft is also focusing on enterprise users with Windows Phone 8, offering encryption, secure boot, and IT device management. And turn-by-turn navigation will also be built in to the operating system with Nokia map technology.

Starting with Windows Phone 8, developers will also be able to offer in-application purchases. That means upgrades and other content can be purchase with an integrated tool part of the operating system.

Microsoft is also enhancing its speech support with the latest version of Windows Phone. But in one onstage demonstration, the Audible application was asked to play “Game of Thrones,” but the phone mistakenly tried to search for “St. Louis, Missouri.” After the technical hiccup, Microsoft showed how speech recognition could be used by third-party developers for functions like searching, and playback and pausing of content.

Devices currently running Windows Phone 7.5 will not be able to upgrade to the new Windows Phone 8. Instead, Microsoft announced on Wednesday that some of the new features, such as an updated Start screen, will be brought to legacy devices with the Windows Phone 7.8 update.

The unveiling of Windows Phone 8 comes only a few days after Microsoft held a heavily hyped, high-profile event in Hollywood to unveil Surface, its new touchscreen tablet that will compete with Apple’s iPad when it hits the market this fall. Surface will be built by Microsoft itself, and will come in two forms: an ARM-based model running the Windows RT operating system, and a “pro” model featuring an Intel processor and running the full Windows 8 operating system.

A final release date and pricing have yet to be announced for the new operating system.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.