The 'Book Review

Cracked MacBook Photos, First 64 GB Solid State Drive, Overheating Problems, and More

This Week's Mac Notebook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2007.03.30

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

A small number of MacBook owners have experienced case cracking and posted photos of their problems so others can see the extent of the problem. Each of these users reports the cracking occurred under normal use, so we hope Apple will do something to strengthen the MacBook's case.

It does provide one more good reason for choosing an aluminum-clad MacBook Pro.

Heat problems continue to effect MacBooks, their batteries, and now even the MagSafe power adapter. Apple's quality control seems to be slipping; perhaps they rely too much on outside vendors to provide the quality Apple and its customers expect.

On the rugged and miniature notebook front, Samsung has shown a crucial component - the first 64 GB flash drive small enough to fit inside an iPod. The new drive is silent, doesn't get hot, reduced battery consumption, and is actually faster than a conventional hard drive. Price may be a sticking point at first, but this is going to make inroads.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in The Mac News Review.

MacBook Cracks

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Tech Trends

Products and Services

Software

Bargain 'Books

MacBook Cracks

cracked MacBook

Some MacBooks Developing Cracks

A Flikr site has been set up for MacBook users with cracked cases to post pictures and comment. At this time, seven separate MacBook owners have posted photos of their cracked MacBooks.

Hairline MacBook Cracks Appearing

The Apple Core's Jason D. O'Grady reports:

"MacBook cracks - I received [a] photo from a reader concerned about the appearance of hairline cracks around the edge of the case near the hinge.

cracked MacBook case"How many of us honestly look at the back of our laptops? Well I did tonight and what do I see- stress cracks around the hinges, around the vents, and all along the back edge! Just look at the pictures! I'm never rough with my MacBook. It lives inside a messenger bag with a suede interior, and if it's not there, it's on my desk."

Is Your MacBook on Crack?

Ars Technica's Erik Kennedy reports:

"For those of you like myself who are already burned out on Apple TV news, here's a story that's more of a blast from the past: cracks in a plastic Apple case!...

"Us old-timey Mac users can easily conjure up memories of a similar issue for the company from about seven years ago, concerning a cute little 8" x 8" x 10" box-shaped computer with a clear acrylic shell that suffered from its own brush with crackdom . . . If it's eventually going to happen to all of them, well, maybe the MacBook Pro is the better value after all...."

News & Opinion

8 Laptop Coolers Rated and Reviewed

Crave.net's Dan Ackerman reports:

"Technology can be a hazardous to your health, and gadget-related dangers come in all shapes and sizes, from Blackberry thumb to mouse elbow. One of the most common complaints we hear is from laptop users literally burned by overheated systems. While desktop PC hot-rodders have all kinds of elaborate water-cooling contraptions at their disposal, laptop owners are stuck with decidedly more low-tech solutions.

"Many users would never dream of resting a laptop directly on their legs without a pillow, magazine, or some other improvised shield in place. After all, with faster processors, smaller cases, and increased workloads, the modern laptop burns the candle at both ends, so to speak. Even moving the laptop from your lap to a desk won't cure heat-related problems, especially if you're working in a cramped environment with lots of clutter to block fans and air vents.

"Naturally, for any problem, there's always someone willing to sell you a solution, and there are literally dozens of laptop cooling devices available. Some are simple, passive, plastic trays designed to keep the laptop from touching your legs, at best providing some additional air channels. Others are complex, powered devices with one or more built-in fans, running off power provided by a laptop's USB port. The right solution for you depends on whether you primarily use your laptop on a desk or on your lap, whether you want a powered or passive device, and how much extra space can be spared in your laptop bag.

"We looked at a total of eight cooling options, rating each for its design, utility, and capability to keep laptop temperatures down....

  • LapWorks Laptop Desk 2.0
  • LapWorks Laptop Desk UltraLite
  • BlueLounge Cool Feet
  • Antec NoteBook Cooler S
  • LapWorks Ergo Fan Riser
  • Belkin Laptop Cooling Stand
  • Antec NoteBook Cooler
  • Xpad Laptop Desk"

One Last Upgrade for a 12" PowerBook

MacUser's Derik DeLong reports:

"The 12" PowerBook still has a strong following, even among those that have since abandoned the beloved form factor (traitors). The MacBook is nice in all its 13.3" glory, but it just doesn't have that tiny feel of a 12". Once you find a former owner, you're likely to get a ten minute tirade about how Apple ditched what was perhaps the perfect laptop for those with two machines.

"I'm one of those nuts, except I still own mine. I still use it daily and will be putting off purchase of a new machine until a suitable replacement is released by Apple (which won't be too long if the current rumors hold any water). It's an aging machine and with the RAM maxed out, I felt there was nothing left to do until I did some investigation about the hard drive....

"If I was going to be replacing the drive, I might as well go high end. My choice was a Seagate 7200.1 (100 GB 7200 RPM) hard drive ($110 at New Egg at the time)."

MacBook Sales Down While the Industry Numbers Are Up

Ars Technica's Jeff Smykil reports:

"There was a time when I believed that Apple made the finest portable computers in the world. When I think back, it was sometime around the Pismo edition of the PowerBook. Two removable hot swappable drive/battery bays, a PCMCIA slot, 14.1" screen, a sleek-looking black notebook; life was good. I even felt strong admiration for the first line of the TiBook, despite its flaws. Nowadays my love for the portable line isn't as great. Perhaps it was combination of my naiveté at the time and the fact that I am reminiscing now, but I just don't have the same feelings anymore, even for those sexy black MacBooks. These days I find Lenovo's ThinkPad series and some of Fujitsu's Life Series notebooks just as desirable as Apple's line (if only they ran OS X).

"Perhaps this is why I'm not too surprised that, despite the sales growth of notebook computers in the industry over the last year, Apple was one of the odd men out this last quarter. According to research done by DisplaySearch, Apple's notebook sales were down in the last segment of 2006 by 2 percent from the previous quarter; not a giant amount by any stretch but when your market share is what Apple's is, every percentage point counts."

When MacBooks Attack

MacNewsWorld's Jack M. Germain reports:

"MacBook laptops have developed a reputation for a variety of maladies ranging from persistent annoying sounds to 'sudden shutdown syndrome.' Batteries that heat up is another issue, with MacBook instruction manuals even going so far as to warn users about computer lap burns. Apple offers fixes but remains careful about officially acknowledging widespread problems.

"In their search for an alternative to vulnerability-laden Windows-based laptops, consumers are growing increasingly attracted to Apple's MacBook. However, they face an ongoing challenge in attempting to purchase a MacBook that is not a 'hot' item - literally.

"MacBooks are developing a reputation for having a number of annoying problems, including but not limited to swelling batteries, a 'mooing' sound coming from the fan, and extremely high internal temperatures.

"Add to this list of problems batteries that fail to charge properly, MacBooks that shut down without warning, indicator lights that fail to properly reflect the operating status of the notebook and units that misbehave upon coming out of sleep mode."

MagSafe a 'Bad Design, Thoughtless Design'

burned power cableTechnovia's Ian Betteridge says:

"Kim was playing merrily on the MacBook Pro last night when she noticed that the area of the power cable close to the connector was hot. Very hot. So hot, in fact, that it was actually melting. A few minutes later, it wasn't just melting - it was charred.

"Ouch. And in fact, if you check the Apple Store, you'll find that there's a lot of very pissed off MacBook owners, who have had exactly the same problem....

"It's bad design, thoughtless design...."

Only You Can Prevent Airline Battery Fires

The Register's Austin Modine reports:

"The US Department of Transportation continues its war against laptop battery terror in the skies, warning passengers to take precautions while flying with a laptop or cell phone. Any suspicious lithium-ion battery behavior should be reported.

"A safety advisory released Thursday was prompted by recent on-board fires ignited by li-ion battery devices.

"The department advises travelers to keep spare batteries in their original retail packaging or covered with insulating tape to protect them from contact with metal objects. Each battery should be sealed in its own protective case and placed in carry-on baggage rather than checked-in. Batteries can be better monitored and dealt with by a flight crew in the overhead compartment than the cargo area the report said."

Apple Updates

Troubleshooting Your 'Book's Power Adapters

An updated Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"Is your portable computer's power adapter not working correctly? This article will tell you what you can do if you experience one or more of the following issues:

  • Your power adapter won't charge the computer.
  • The LEDs in the adapter don't light when the adapter is connected.
  • The adapter only charges the computer intermittently.

"Follow these steps to identify what is causing the issue and what solutions are available to you."

Tech Trends

Samsung's 64 GB Solid-state Drive

Samsung's 64 GB Solid-state DriveThe Register's Tony Smith reports:

"Samsung has upped the capacity of its Flash-based SSD line to 64 GB, offering the unit in the media player- and notebook-friendly 1.8in form factor.

"The 64 GB drive is faster than its predecessor too, with maximum read and write speeds of 64 MBps and 45 MBps, respectively...."

Editor's note: Although small enough to fit inside an iPod, these drives have enough storage space to replace the hard drive on a notebook computer. Not only that, but this flash drive is faster than a spinning hard drive. dk

Products and Services

Multipurpose Soft Seating Arm Chair with Laptop Surface

PR: Bretford Manufacturing, Inc., the leading supplier of high quality technology and media furniture that improves how people work and learn, today unveiled the new Plus Tablet Arm Chair. Featuring a laptop surface, coffee cup holder and supportive seat design, the new chair offers the ideal combination of productivity and comfort for higher education and office environments. The Plus Tablet Arm Chair is available exclusively through the North American dealerships of Herman Miller, Inc., global provider of office furniture and services. It will be shown for the first time in the Bretford (#233) booth at the National Association of Educational Procurement (NAEP) show, March 25-28 in San Jose, CA.

Multipurpose Soft Seating Arm ChairThe new chair is designed for use in lounges, libraries, coffee shops and other public areas within colleges or universities where students go to study or share information. In office environments, the new chair is perfect in lobbies or training rooms for guests to use as "touch-down" spots for checking email in-between meetings or training sessions. It can even be used in hospitality or retail environments, including hotel lobbies,bookstores or malls.

"Laptop computers have become a necessity in schools and offices. Students and professionals spend an enormous amount of time every day hunched over their laptops checking email and doing work or classroom assignments," said Karen Knight, product manager of contract furniture for Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. "The Plus Tablet Arm Chair gives laptop users the ability to stay productive while sitting on a piece of furniture made of premium foam and tailored upholstery for complete comfort and support. The 30.5" wide chair also has a coffee cup holder, making even more inviting to today's student or business professional."

The new chair is part of Bretford's Plus Series of furniture, which includes arm and armless chairs, sofas and benches, all of which can be integrated to fit the style and décor of virtually any public setting. The entire Plus Series of furniture is available exclusively through Herman Miller's North American dealerships. "Herman Miller is a well-known global brand with an impeccable reputation for delivering high quality, highly effective furniture and services," continued Knight. "Bretford's marketing alliance with Herman Miller's North American dealerships gives schools and businesses easy access to complementary product lines from both companies through Herman Miller's broad sales and distribution network."

Flexible, Durable and Environmentally Friendly

The Plus Tablet Arm Chair is available with or without arms and with a left-handed or right-handed laptop surface to accommodate a wide range of people. The chair's sturdy tablet arm surface was created to hold a laptop computer, but it can also be used for writing, typing and various other tasks, which add to its flexibility. It has a lightweight frame, handle on the back and cast aluminum legs for easy movement and reconfiguration. The Plus Tablet Arm Chair is available in a wide variety of fabrics that are durable and easy to clean, further extending the life of the chair. And because Bretford is dedicated to environmental safety and conservation, the new chair is made with combustion-modified foam cushioning and manufactured without the use of chloroflurocarbons (CFCs).

Availability and Warranty

The new Plus Tablet Arm Chair is currently available for order through Herman Miller's North American dealerships and will begin shipping on April 1, 2007. It comes standard with a 12-year standard parts and labor warranty (chair fabric is warranted for one year) to ensure quality and longevity. For more information about technology and media furniture solutions from Bretford, please call 1-800-521-9614 or go online.

RAMJET Releases 2 GB Module for MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo

PR: Specifications: PC2-5300, DDR2-667, 667 MHz, Latency 5-5-5, Non-ECC, Unbuffered, 1.8V, 200-pin SO-DIMM

This kit contains one (1) 2 Gig module and is specifically designed and SPD configured for the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo 2 GHz+.

This module is compatible with the latest Apple Firmware.

Price: $299

Software

ThermographX Now Universal Binary

PR: ThermographX monitors the various temperature sensors inside your modern Macintosh.

  • Records maximum and minimum temperatures.
  • Shows temperature records over time, using a zoomable display so you can analyze short-term or long-term.
  • Shows individual sensor temperatures on models that have them.
  • Graphs customer-submitted temperature results for comparison with your own system.

ThermographX is compatible with many recent Macintosh models. It is known to provide accurate sensor readings on these models:

  • 12" & 17" PowerBook G4.
  • "Aluminum" 15" PowerBook G4.
  • "Mirror Door" G4 (see note #2 below).
  • Power Macintosh G5.
  • iBook G4.
  • G4 Cube (see note #2 below).
  • iMac G4 & G5.
  • Mac Pro
  • Mac mini
  • MacBook & MacBook Pro

Note #1 : Motorola's MPC7450CE/D Rev 5 errata indicates "The thermal assist unit (TAU) is no longer supported on the MPC7450, MPC7451, or MPC7441.". Because of this, you will not be able to measure the junction temperature on any system with these processors. At current, this includes the "Gigabit" PowerBook G4 and the "2001 Quicksilver" G4's.

Note #2 : Mac OS X 10.3.5 eliminates compatibility with some older Mac's, like the G4 Cube.

Note #3: Some of the most recent PowerBook G4 models don't have updating temperature sensors, and thus their readings may not vary in realtime. This includes some of the 1.5 GHz and 1.67 GHz models.

New in version 1.4:

  • Updated to Universal Binary for Intel-based Macs.
  • Added sensor support for Intel-based Macs.
  • Updated user measurements for all other models.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.

System support: PPC/Intel

$7 Shareware

Bargain 'Books

Bargain 'Books are used unless otherwise indicated. New and refurbished units have a one-year Apple warranty and are eligible for AppleCare.

There are two different versions of WallStreet running at 233 MHz, the cacheless MainStreet version and the later Series II with a level 2 cache. It's not always possible to determine from the vendor's listing which is being offered, so we've included links within this paragraph to the two models. The same goes for the PowerBook G4/667 (VGA) and G4/667 (DVI), the titanium vs. aluminum 15" PowerBook G4 at 1 GHz, and 1.25 GHz to 1.5 GHz 15" PowerBooks.

PowerBook, iBook, and MacBook profiles linked in our Portable Mac Index.

Apple Store

  • refurb 12" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 512/80/SD, $1,199
  • refurb 2.0 GHz Core 2 MacBook, white, 1 GB/80/SD, $1,099
  • refurb 2.0 GHz Core 2 MacBook, black, 1 GB/120/SD, $1,299
  • refurb 15" 2.16 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 1 GB/120/SD, $1,599
  • refurb 15" 2.33 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/120/SD, $1,999
  • refurb 17" 2.16 GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro, 1 GB/120/SD, $1,999
  • refurb 17" 2.33 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $2,299

ExperCom

  • 12" iBook G3/700, 256/20/CD, AirPort, $349
  • 12" iBook G4/1 GHz, 256/30/Combo, no AirPort, $449
  • 12" iBook G4/1 GHz, 256/30/Combo, AirPort, $519
  • 12" iBook G4/1 GHz, 256/30/SD, AirPort, scratches, $599
  • 12" PowerBook G4/867, 384/40/Combo, Scratch & Dent, $479
  • 12" PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 256/40/Combo, BT, $649
  • 15" PowerBook G4/867, 25/40/Combo, $599
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 512/80/SD, APX, $849
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.25 GHz, 256/60/SD, BT, Scratch & Dent, $799
  • 17" PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 512/80/SD, APX, BT, $999
  • 17" PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, 512/80/SD, APX, BT, $1,099
  • Apple refurbished 17" PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, 512/80/SD, APX, BT, $1,099
  • Apple refurbished 17" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 512/80/SD, APX, BT, $1,249

Power Max

  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, 256/60/Combo, APX, $999
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 512/80/Combo, APX, $1,049
  • 17" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 512/120/SD, APX, BT, $1,288

We Love Macs

  • 12" iBook G3/500, 192/10/CD, $284.95
  • 12" iBook G3/700, 256/20/CD, $379.95
  • 12" PowerBook G4/867, 256/40/Combo, $899.95

Baucom Computers

  • 12" iBook G3/700, 256/20/Combo, $295
  • 12" iBook G3/800, 256/30/CD, $329
  • 14" iBook G3/900, 256/40/Combo, $409
  • Add AirPort for $75
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 512/80/SD, $1,199
  • Add AirPort Extreme for $65

TechRestore

TechRestore is offering a $25 discount to 'Book Review readers off any PowerBook or iBook in stock. Just enter the code CWM during checkout when ordering online. The coupon code is valid from now through 2007.12.31.

  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.25 GHz, 512/80/SD, BT, $899.99 less $25 = $874.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 512/80/Combo, BT, $1,199.99 less $25 = $1,174.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 512/80/SD, BT, $1,219.99 less $25 = $1,194.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 512/80/SD, BT, StrongArm aluminum carrying case, $1,289.99 less $25 = $1,264.99

The PowerBook Guy

  • 12" clamshell iBook G3/300, blueberry, 64/3/CD, $179.95
  • 12" iBook G3/500, 128/10/CD, $199.95
  • 12" iBook G3/700, 256/20/CD, $279.95
  • 12" iBook G4/1 GHz, 512/30/Combo, APX, $529.95
  • 12" iBook G4/1.2 GHz, 512/30/Combo, APX, Minor Case Defect, $559.95
  • 12" iBook G4/1.33 GHz, 512/40/Combo, APX, BT, $629.95
  • 14" PowerBook Pismo G3/400, 256/20/DVD, $379.95
  • 15" PowerBook G4/400, 256/20/DVD, $429.95
  • 15" PowerBook G4/667, 256/20/DVD, $529.95

Wegener Media

  • 12" PowerBook G4/867, 256/40/Combo, $599.99

Custom Macs

  • Apple Emate 300 PDA, Touch Screen in great working shape, $69.99
  • 12" iBook G3/300, 128/3/CD, OS X 10.2 installed, tested battery and power cord, $259.99
  • 12" iBook G3/600, 128/20/CD, OS X 10.2, working battery and power cord, $299.99

Computer Geeks

  • 12" iBook G4/1 GHz, 512/30/CD, APX, $449

BetaMacs

  • 12" iBook G3/500, 128/10/CD, OS X, $209
  • 12" iBook G3/500, 128/30/CD, OS X, $279
  • 12" iBook G3/600, 128/30/CD, OS X, $329

For deals on current and discontinued 'Books, see our 13" MacBook and MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, 13" MacBook Pro, 15" MacBook Pro, 17" MacBook Pro, 12" PowerBook G4, 15" PowerBook G4, 17" PowerBook G4, titanium PowerBook G4, iBook G4, PowerBook G3, and iBook G3 deals.

We also track iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle deals.

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