The 'Book Review

RAM Disks Return, Stretch Battery Life, Muzetto Outback Bag for MacBooks and iPads, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.03.16

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

News & Opinion

Rumor Roundup

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Cheap RAM Makes RAM Disks Viable

Hardmac's Lionel notes that RAM modules are currently cheap, making it relatively economic to add 8 GB to a MacBook Pro, with 16 to 32 GB not outrageously expensive. All of which reopens creation of RAM disks as a practical proposition. RAM disks are virtual volumes, located in RAM, offering very high performance level facilitated by RAM's fast I/O data transfer speeds (even faster than SSDs), but which evaporate with all data contained and not saved to storage media if the computer is switched off.

The command line to create a 4 GB RAM Disk in OS X is:

diskutil erasevolume HFS+ ramdisk 'hdiutil attach -nomount ram://8000000'

Two freeware apps to create RAM disks in OS X are Make RAM Disk and Esperance DV.

Publisher's note: There used to be a great RAM disk utility for the Classic Mac OS, ramBunctious, which not only created a RAM disk but also mirrored it to your hard drive. Any changes to the RAM disk would be written to the disk image immediately, and ramBunctious would also create a RAM disk from an image when it was launched. I used it and loved it. ramBunctious 2.0.1 is the current version of the $25 app, and it hasn't been updated since OS X 10.3 Panther. I have installed it and launched it on my OS X 10.4, 10.5, and 10.6 Macs, where it appears to work, although it almost certainly will not work with OS X 10.7 Lion, which no longer supports the PowerPC code it was written in. I have contacted Clarkwood Software about getting a registration code so I can fully test it on my various Macs and review it, if it does indeed work. dk

Get the Most Out of Your Mac's or iPad's Battery

Cult Of Mac's Jonathan Zschau notes that the new iPad requires a lot more power than the iPad 2... So much that despite an astounding 70% increase in the new iPads battery capacity (42.5 watt-hour up from 25 watt-hour), it will still only run for the same amount of time as the iPad 2 on a single charge. Therefore, knowing a thing or two about this power-hungry beast's battery is more important than ever.

Zschau has posted a handy a two-part guide on the battery basics everyone needs to know about the batteries used by all Macs - including the new iPad.

Part I offers a little bit of background on lithium-ion batteries and covers the essentials of battery life and care. Part II provides you with the fundamentals of maximizing your Mac's usage time through optimizing power saving settings or supplementing your existing battery with an external power source.

Rumor Roundup

15" MacBook Air Coming in April?

Electricpig's Adam Bunker reports that at the UK CU Exposed event showcasing Mac accessories, he heard from an anonymous vendor that Apple is likely to launch a 15" MacBook Air in April, "effectively killing the MacBook Pro for the average consumer." Bunker acknowledges that there have been similar rumors floating for some time, but allows that he found hearing it affirmed in such a certain manner from a premium Mac accessory maker specializing in MacBook docking solutions, pretty convincing.

If the vendor's projection is accurate, Bunker says the 15" MacBook Air will sport ports on both sides, no optical drive, and no ethernet port, and while the source wasn't certain this new Air would completely replace the 15" MacBook Pro (also saying Apple might continue the 17" model for high-end pro users), he was fairly sure that the new machine will debut in April.

Tech Trends

Reviewer: Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Is Pretty, but Also Pretty Weak

Business Insider's SAI Tools editor Steve Kovach has posted a review of Dell's new $999.99 13" XPS 13 Ultrabook, which he notes looks pretty slick from the outside, proving that Dell actually can make an attractive product - albeit borrowing liberally from Apple's MacBook Air design - but he allows that in today's hyper-competitive laptop market, the XPS 13 has to do more than just wow us with aesthetics and in terms of power and functionality it falters.

There are some good things. Kovach says the XPS feels sturdy and well-built - something you typically don't see in Dell hardware. He likes the feel of the black rubbery material covering the XPS' body and says the keyboard is decent, the machine boots up in less than 20 seconds, and it wakes up from sleep mode almost instantly. The unit Kovach tested had an Intel Core i7 processor and 4 GB of RAM, so it was pretty lively, but battery life was disappointing, as was the display once it was turned on, Kovach pronouncing it "just plain bad."

Another XPS abomination is its trackpad, he reports, saying whatever software is driving the trackpad is just plain dumb, bad enough that he would a tough time recommending the XPS to anyone unless it's fixed.

Products & Services

Muzetto Outback Bag for Laptops and iPads

Muzetto Outback Bag for Laptops and iPadPR: WaterField Designs has announced the Muzetto Outback, a waxed canvas version of its popular Muzetto line of cases. The Outback is available in dark brown canvas that gains character over time, a choice of six accent colors and five sizes - two designed specifically for the new Apple iPad. The Muzetto Outback is available for preorder today and will begin shipping by March 26, 2012. All WaterField Designs bags are made entirely in San Francisco.

Originally used for waterproofing sailing garments and popularized by mariners, gamekeepers, and outdoorsmen, waxed canvas is a naturally durable, time-tested fabric that brings a rugged and weathered look to the new Muzetto Outback. The bag is sewn in small batches to take full advantage of the material's unique characteristics; working the fabric during production brings out its distressed quality, making it an ideal match for the style-conscious, urban adventurer.

Muzetto Outback Bag for Laptops and iPad"What appeals to me about waxed canvas is the old world, retro look," explains Gary Waterfield, company founder. "It ages like leather, and each bag develops its own unique character. I like to think it's something a modern Indiana Jones would use for his new iPad tablet. Plus, scratches and marks can be softened by applying some heat from a hair dryer, giving it that handsome, well-worn look."

The Muzetto Outback is a vertical messenger bag with one main compartment to hold the iPad, a back pocket for easy-to-retrieve paperwork, a pocket under the flap, a zippered interior pocket for stashing cash, and an adjustable strap. A gold liner lights up the interior making it easy to see contents. To reduce shoulder and back fatigue, a removable, shoulder pad with a gripping underside keeps the strap firmly in place. The bags flap length and angled sides add to a svelte look. The Outback's urban rustic style complements anything from casual work outfits to well-worn hiking boots.

Personalization options include six accent color choices and five sizes: the Personal Size for daily necessities including a wallet, cellphone, digital camera, and a naked iPad or an iPad in a minimalist case; the 10" Portable Size for the iPad within a protective case; the 11" for the 11.6" MacBook Air, the Laptop Size for up to a 13" MacBook and the 15" for the 15" MacBook Pro or similarly sized laptops - naked or within a SleeveCase. All size options are small enough to provide unrestricted motion yet large enough to stow essentials and digital gear.

red Muzetto Outback Bag for Laptops and iPadPricing & Availability

  • Personal Size (10.5" x 8.5" x 1.5") Price: $149
  • 10" Portable Size (11.5" x 9.3" x 2.0") Price: $159
  • 11" Size (12.25" x 9.75" x 2.25") Price: $169
  • 13" Laptop Size (14" x 11" x 2.5") Price: $179
  • 15" Laptop Size (15.5" x 11.75" x 2.7") Price: $189

Colors: Distressed, dark brown, waxed canvas with color accents in black, copper, pine, green, flame, or pearl.

Available now for preorder. Shipping begins by March 26, 2012.

WaterField Designs manufactures custom-fitted, high-quality cases and bags for a full-range of laptop computers, cameras, and other digital gear. All products are manufactured to exacting standards in San Francisco.

Software

Free Battery Health App: Access Important Information About Your MacBook's Battery

PR: With Battery Health, you can easily see all the important information about your MacBook's battery, such as current charge level, battery capacity, power usage, number of times it has been charged and much more!

Be sure to check out the 'Tips' section within the app to learn a host of useful ways to improve the life of your MacBook's battery.

System requirements:

  • Intel
  • Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later

BatterySqueezer Battery Performance Optimizer Utility

BatterySqueezerPR: BatterySqueezer throttles selected resource-hungry applications when in the background. This can reduce their CPU load which many users find beneficial.

How Does It Work?

Applications, especially Internet browsers, can put a heavy load on your system by demanding processing power even if they're running in the background. BatterySqueezer throttles Flash animations, videos, advertisements and virtually everything that your browser runs when it is in the background.

When you visit web pages that have Flash animations, videos, or JavaScripts running, or you have many open tabs in your browser, it can take a substantial amount of CPU processing power. BatterySqueezer can reduce this load significantly when you switch to another app.

BatterySqueezerBatterySqueezer currently throttles: Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera and their plugins including Flash, Office apps, Preview and App Store.

BatterySqueezer is a low footprint application. It runs discreetly on the menu bar and its dock icon can be hidden.

Note: BatterySqueezer only stops apps when they are in the background. For instance, if the user actively uses Safari/Chrome etc. (their windows on the top) it will only reduce their load when they become inactive. If the user switches from Safari/Chrome to MS Word, then MS Word becomes active and Safari/Chrome will be paused with their load dropping to almost nil. And vice versa.

BatterySqueezer

If you watch a Flash/HTML5 video in your browser and switch to another app, the video will be paused and its load drops to almost nil. It is recommended to pause a video if you are not watching it.

New in Version 1.7:

  • fixed bug when Auto throttling setting was reset at app start

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.6 or later

$2.99

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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