The 'Book Review

Café Computing and the MacBook Air, Paired Storage and the MacBook Pro, MagSafe Shortage, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.04.01

General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in The Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Tech Trends

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

I Now Know Why Someone Would Want a MacBook Air

So says ZDNet blogger Christopher Dawson, who allows that what he really wants is an affordable, yet much higher performance, Chrome notebook. For now a natural fit just might be the MacBook Air (MBA) until OEMs starting taking off with Chrome OS, but - as usual for him - with Macs it's that value-for-your-money proposition, although he concedes that the Chromebook is worthless if it isn't connected to the Net and suffers from performance- and durability-related shortcomings, while the MacBook Air's Core 2 Duo processor will blow away Atom processors any day. The MBA can support 4 GB of RAM, has an awesome keyboard, extreme durability, excellent portability, above-average notebook performance, and local storage besides -and that its dated processors put it at an attainable price point in the super-portable-but-not-a-netbook category.

Café Computing

"Leave the heavy laptop at home and try one of these lightweight alternatives instead, with or without a latté," says InfoWorld's Galen Gruman, noting that last weekend he did a double-take when he spied a prototype Chrome OS laptop being used by a young woman at his favorite coffee house, noting that the Chromebook is much lighter than a laptop, while its screen is a larger, more readable size than a netbook's screen.

Gruman notes that using a Chromebook or other lightweight device - such as an iPad, Android tablet, or smartphone docked into a dumb laptop like the Motorola Atrix/Lapdock combo - as a casual "café computer" makes a lot of sense, noting that when he flies these days, he sees about as many iPads (and the occasional Motorola Xoom) as he does MacBooks and PC laptops, with the tablets having the advantage of fitting comfortably on an airplane tray, plus, an iPad will easily run for an entire cross-country flight - and considerably longer.

He also takes a look at how much one can rely on café computers for "real" work, noting that they can only go so far, but they perfectly fine for café computing, citing the MacBook Air as a logical alternative for a users who find that the iPad's "so far" isn't quite far enough for their needs, with the 11" MacBook Air weighing weighs just 50% more than an iPad and being not even twice as thick - albeit at a stiffer price.

Thunderbolt MacBook Pro: The Last Notebook You'll Ever Need

InfoWorld's Tom Yager says if the new MacBook Pro and its amazing Thunderbolt don't blow your mind, you're not paying attention, noting that Apple's MacBook Pro has been the standard-bearer for professional notebook computers from the outset, with Apple's "go the extra mile" engineering setting the bar for performance, durability, build quality, longevity, ergonomics, battery life, and connectivity.

Yager observes that for the past several years, Apple has had only itself to outdo with each new generation of MacBook Pro, yet it has still managed to set and advance the pace, such as with its one-piece machined aluminum frame and dynamic GPU switching, among many unique and jaw-dropping innovations, and with the new Thunderbolt MacBook Pro, buyers will realize double, triple, and order-of-magnitude level improvements that can justify spending $1,799 to $2,499 on a notebook in a dodgy economy - a brand of magic that can't be (or at least hasn't been) conjured up by Apple's competitors.

The MacBook Pro and Paired Storage

ZDNet blogger David Morgenstern says that one hot topic in data storage right now is paired storage, the combined use of a hard disk drive and a solid-state drive (SSD). A third-party upgrade kit, the OWC Data Doubler, lets owners of the MacBook Pro give this advanced storage architecture - not to be confused with hybrid hard drive technology - a spin by swapping out their optical drive and replacing it with an SSD.

A hybrid drive integrates flash storage with the primary hard drive media, while paired storage uses separate flash and hard disk drives, addressing the lower speed performance associated with using just hard drives and the lower data storage capacities found in higher-performing SSDs.

Morgenstern cites a joint report by storage analysts Tom Coughlin and Jim Handy of Coughlin Associates and Objective Analysis entitled "HDDs and Flash Memory: A Marriage of Convenience" (PDF), noting that according to the authors' projections, the paired storage market will grow to 328 million units by 2016 AND be found in 53% of desktop computers and 25% of notebooks. The emergence of a new category of "fat tablets" that will also incorporate paired storage.

How to Activate TRIM on Any SSD

Hardmac's Guy reports that they were able to activate the TRIM command on an OCZ-Vertex SSD, thanks to a Hardmac member reporting a solution discovered by German and/or Russian Mac users.

To activate the command, you'll need a hex editor such as 0XED, HexEdit, and others, some of them freeware.

You will also need to review the activation of TRIM on an APPLE SSD, because the procedure is essentially the same, with the necessary addition being is the modification of the extension identifying the disk and thus allowing TRIM or not: IOAHCIFamily.kext version 2.05.

If you don't have a 2011 MacBook Pro, you'll need to download that version of the extension following the link in the news about the APPLE SSD. With the 2011 MacBook Pro, you'll find it in the extension folder.

Very Powerful USB Ports on 2011 MacBook Pro

Hardmac's Lionel reports that peripheral device bus-powering through USB is usually limited to 500 mA at 5V, a minimum required by in order provide 1 A of power for it external SuperDrive, an external hard drive, or to recharge an iPhone.

Citing a 9 to 5 Mac report, he notes that Apple has gone even farther with the 2011 MacBook Pro, making a total of 2.1 A available. It may soon be possible to power a 3.5" external drive from a USB port.

Does Your 2011 MacBook Pro Literally Rock?

Hardmac's Lionel notes that some 2011 MacBook Pro users have noticed that their laptop is a little "unsteady" when resting on flat surfaces - not a whole lot, but enough unevenness to be able slide a sheet of paper under one corner.

Lionel says that the problem is not case warpage, but rather assembly of the bottom panel, and that according to Apple (and confirmed by Hardmac's own tests), the remedy is to remove all ten screws securing the panel and then align and refasten the panel carefully, making an effort to torque all ten screws as evenly as you can.

60W MagSafe Power Adapter Shortage

Hardmac's Lionel reports that Apple has informed its retail partners that multipacks of 60W MagSafe power adapters, the model that ships with the 13" MacBook Pro, are will not be available until further notice, with dealers only able to order single adapters.

Normally Apple offers authorized dealers packs of five or 20 units of MagSafe adapters. Packs of 85W adapters for the 15" and 17" MacBook Pro and 45W units for the MacBook Air remain available.

Lionel speculates that the shortage is likely due to the sales success of the 13" MacBook Pro, with Apple diverting the bulk of 60W MagSafe production to manufacturing plants assembling those laptops.

For anyone needing a replacement MagSafe adapter and finding them backordered, note that it is perfectly okay to substitute an 85W unit in place of a 60-watter (or, for that matter, a 60W instead of a 45W). Arguably, a more powerful than necessary power adapter could last longer, because it will never be stressed to its full capacity in use. It's not recommended to use a lower-wattage power adapter with a laptop (although my wife has been getting away with using an iBook adapter with her 17" PowerBook for several years now).

Another word to the wise: Frequently coiling and uncoiling the MagSafe adapter's cable will accelerate fatigue, so it's preferable to just stuff it loosely in your computer bag or case when mobile, or even better - have one adapter dedicated to your home or office workstation and another for road warrioring.

Apple Updates

Mac OS X v10.6.7 Supplemental Update for 13" Late 2010 MacBook Air

The Mac OS X v10.6.7 Supplemental Update for 13" MacBook Air (Late 2010) addresses an issue that makes the system unresponsive when using iTunes and is recommended for all 13" MacBook Air (Late 2010) users running Mac OS X v10.6.7.

Early 2011 MacBook Pro: Spotlight Indexing Makes the Cooling Fans Run Harder

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

Sometimes you may notice your computer's fans may run on high after you perform a data migration from another computer and Spotlight begins to index your hard drive.

Products Affected: MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2011), MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011), MacBook Pro (13-inch, Early 2011)

Resolution

After you complete your data migration, Spotlight automatically indexes the contents of your hard drive. This activity may increase the CPU utilization and your computer may become warm. Your computer's fans should turn on and run to cool your computer. After Spotlight completes its index, the computer and its fans should return to a normal idle state if no other applications are open. After a file has been indexed, Spotlight updates the index only if that file is modified.

To confirm Spotlight is indexing:

  • Click the magnifying glass icon in the upper-right corner of your display If your computer is indexing, a message and a progress bar will appear. The magnifying glass will also have a tiny dot in the middle.

You can also prevent Spotlight from indexing certain folders.

Open System Preferences and select Spotlight. (From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences, then choose Spotlight from the View menu.)

Under Privacy, add specific files to exclude from the indexing process. Note: Although you can exclude your entire hard drive this way, doing so may prevent search features in applications from functioning properly.

Tech Trends

Vendors to Ship Chrome OS Notebooks in Bulk in 2011

DigiTimes' Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai report that first-tier notebook vendors - including Acer, Asustek Computer, Sony, and Samsung Electronics - are set to launch Chrome OS-based notebooks featuring Intel or Nvidia processors, 10" to 12" screens, and Chrome OS or dual-OS support, with mass shipments to start in the second half of 2011. Machines may be showcased at Computex Taipei 2011, according to sources from notebook makers who also note that Acer and Asustek's Chrome OS or dual-OS notebooks will have a chance to see prices below US$300 to separate them from the tablet PC market.

Bargain 'Books

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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