The 'Book Review

Hidden App Finds MacBook Thief, MacBook Air the Ideal Desktop Computer?, A5 MacBook Spotted?, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.06.03

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

Tech Trends

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Hidden App Helps Find and Arrest MacBook Thief

Man driving off with stolen MacBookBlogger Joshua Kaufman says that on March 21, 2011, his MacBook was stolen from his apartment in Oakland, California. He reported the crime to the police and even told them where it was, but was told they couldn't help him due to lack of resources. Meanwhile, Kaufman's been using the app, Hidden, to capture photos of thie guy who had his MacBook and posted them online, which finally spurred the Oakland police department into action, tracking him down and arresting him.

Could a MacBook Air Be the Ideal Desktop System?

ZDNet's James Kendrick reports that his current desktop system is getting long in the tooth, and in starting to consider system upgrade options for upgrading. he finds himself leaning toward an unusual desktop system: the 13.3" MacBook Air.

Living Day-to-Day with an 11" MacBook Air and iPad 2

Cnet's Brooke Crothers has been using an 11.6" MacBook Air in tandem with an iPad 2 a on a day-to-day basis in an ongoing study in high-mobility computing and the pros and cons of both devices.

This piqued my interest, as I am weighing the pros and cons of buying the anticipated Sandy Bridge Core "i" MacBook Air, as opposed to switching partly to an iPad 2, and am holding off on replacing my current Core 2 Duo aluminum MacBook. Or, as a more expensive alternative, buying both an Air and an iPad. Decisions, decisions.

Consequently, Crothers' report on his experiences is helpful, although it has mostly confirmed deductive impressions I'd already formed and has not provided any clearly definitive answer to solving my personal quandary.

Crothers finds both machines useful, strongly favoring the Air for production work and serious computing, calling it "the ultimate productivity platform," but finding the iPad irresistibly seductive for more casual interfacing with the Internet, as a note-taking platform, and for most mobile computing.

As for my dilemma as to whether I need both, defined by the question of whether these two machines are mostly complementary or mostly redundant, Crothers says that even after experiencing the reality of living with both for some time, he still finds himself wrestling with that conundrum, but on balance he thinks there are two gigantic differences making him lean toward complementary - one has a keyboard, one doesn't; one runs OS X, the other iOS - making the iPad more convenient to use for some tasks and the Air better for others.

He says the immediacy of the iPad is highly seductive, and its extreme portability and touch interface, make it irresistible anywhere else than in his office (where there is "no role for the iPad") or formal business/journalism settings. However, he points out that the iPad's virtual keyboard and the iOS's manifold limitations (such as even simple and basic tasks like doing a simple cut-and-pastes in certain mission-critical applications being impossible) create major obstacles to productivity very quickly.

Crothers details his usage preferences in a variety of different circumstances, and summarizing, concludes that the iPad trumps the Air in a surprising number of cases but often quickly slams into a productivity wall, making its coolness is irrelevant, and the takeaway for me at least is that if he had to choose just one of these devices, it would be the MacBook Air hands-down.

MacBook Air vs. iPad 2: Laptop, Tablet, or Both?

Commenting on Brooke Crothers' musings, Online Social Media's Debbie Turner says that as a MacBook Air user herself, she can't imagine being persuaded by anything else and that she hasn't yet been lured to the tablet side, and continues to weigh if it's better to opt for either the laptop or the tablet, or whether they are indeed complementary, and draws a provisional conclusion that having both devices will give you the best of both worlds.

MacBook Air Supplies Constrained Ahead of Summer Refresh

9 to 5 Mac's Mark Gurman reports that sources around the globe have informed him that supplies and shipments of the MacBook Air are constrained ahead of the product's rumored June/July refresh. Gurman shares the developing general consensus that the the new MacBook Air should feature Intel's Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt, especially in light of Intel pumping out Sandy Bridge processors for Apple's MacBook Air competitors.

MacBook Air Sale at Best Buy Points to Imminent Refresh

Apple Headlines' Brian reports:

While checking out the local Best Buy I spotted something rather odd in the Apple area, the current gen MacBook Air models were on sale.

There were also MacBook Pro models on sale but they were previous generation models so it was not strange to see them marked down, but the MacBook Air model are current generation which is leading us to speculate that the Sandy Bridge refresh may be coming very soon.

Bottom Case Replacement Program for Late 2009 and 2010 White MacBooks

Apple has determined that under certain circumstances, the rubber surface on some current-generation white MacBooks may separate from the bottom case of the system. MacBooks shipped between October 2009 and April 2011 may experience this issue.

Apple will replace the bottom case of any affected MacBook, free of charge, that exhibits the issue, whether it's still under standard warranty or AppleCare coverage or not.

Bottom Case Replacement Process

You can choose from three options to get a replacement bottom case for your MacBook. In all instances, your MacBook serial number will be checked to verify that it is eligible for this program.

Assisted service

  • Visit an Apple Retail Store - Set up an appointment with a Genius.
  • Visit an Apple Authorized Service Provider

Self service

  • Order a replacement bottom case kit online. You will receive a kit that includes a new bottom case, screws, a Phillips head screwdriver, and instructions for how to remove the current bottom case and install the new one. If you feel comfortable with the self-service option, you can place your order via the Web.

If your MacBook does not exhibit any signs of this issue, no action is required on your part at this time.

If you believe you have paid for a repair or replacement due to this issue, contact Apple regarding a refund.

This program covers affected MacBooks for two years from original purchase date. Apple will continue to evaluate the service data and will provide further extensions to this program as needed.

You can sign up for the MacBook Bottom Case Replacement Program online.

Editor's note: Similar to previous programs covering specific quality issues with the PowerBook 5300 and some dual-USB iBook models, this worldwide Apple repair program does not extend the standard warranty coverage of the affected MacBook. cm

SATA 3.0 (6.0 Gb/s) Issues and 2011 MacBook Pros

OWC's Larry says:

"Since we first looked at a potential fix for problems with SATA 3.0 operation in the main bay of the 2011 MacBook Pros on April 15, we've learned much more.

"It's not so sweet at this point, but I will at least try to keep it as short as possible.

"Before going any further, I do want to be clear that, while I believe the issues noted should be and will be resolved, Apple makes no advertisement in specification or otherwise that creates any obligation for them to fix the issues noted. Again, I do believe they will I also believe it is in everyone's best interest that they do fix it, with respect to the incredible performance that our SSDs unleash in these fantastic MacBook Pro 2011 models. If were lucky, it will be a fix handled via some software update; it would seem more likely to require a hardware adjustment, but well see. FWIW, our shielding kit does make a difference for some, but not all, as there is just significant enough variability in the issue which means it ultimately needs to be resolved by Apple themselves.

"OK - To the details...."

A5 MacBook Air Spotted?

Japanese Apple-watcher site Macotakara Kanteidan's danbo notes that a few weeks ago, Taiwan's DigiTimes forecast that Apple will launch a MacBook Air with Sandy Bridge Core "i" processor power and the new Thunderbolt ultra-speedy I/O interface in June-July.

Now, an anonymous source says Apple is evaluating a test mule Thunderbolt MacBook Air made by Quanta Computer powered by Apple's in-house designed dual-core A5 processor that is used in the iPad 2 rather than Intel silicon. The source, who claims to have seen a real live A5 MacBook Air, says it appears to perform better than expected, although it wasn't clear whether it was booted from Mac OS X or the iOS is preinstalled on this A5 MacBook Air, suggesting that iOS would have difficulty supporting Thunderbolt with no Finder, and even if Mac OS X has been ported to A5, third-party developers would be obliged devote much engineering effort to supporting A5 with Universal Binary Applications. Consequently, it is deduced that the A5 MacBook Air would seem to be most likely a design exercise constructed for experiment.

That assessment makes sense, and no one should be holding their breath waiting for an A5 powered MacBook Air. The next Air refreshment will almost certainly be powered by Intel Sandy Bridge Core "i" processors and have Intel HD integrated graphics as DigiTimes predicted.

However, my take on this is that it's more evidence Apple may be seriously considering expansion of its iOS family to include a clamshell form factor laptop that would not be a MacBook.

A5 Powered MacBook? Perhaps a Prototype

Cnet's Brooke Crothers reports that rumors posted on Friday by the Japanese Web site Macotakara Kanteidan about Apple building a prototype MacBook with one of its own A5 chips, instead of Intel processor silicon, have impelled Intel's marketing chief Tom Kilroy to express some thoughts on the subject.

Kilroy told Crothers that Intel is "very closely aligned with Apple, and that Intel's best design teams are working with Apple's best design teams", and he's "quite comfortable we've got good collaboration going forward."

Crothers also cites AnandTech's Anand Shimpi, who thinks that Apple won't think seriously about moving to ARM-based notebooks until a next-generation A6 CPU, expected to be based on ARM's Cortex A15 core, is ready, although it's not surprising that Apple would be experimenting with speculative design concepts.

Tech Trends

Asus UX21 Ultrathin Laptop: A MacBook Air Challenger?

PC Magazine's Cisco Cheng reports that Asus has unveiled its new UX21 thinbook Computex 2011, a machine that he says has more MacBook Air characteristics than any other ultraportable he's encountered thus far, and packing an impressive quite a performance punch for such a little guy

Asus UX21 Ultrathin LaptopThe UX21 apes the MacBook Air with a unibody aluminum chassis - a more polished, hardened one than the MacBook Air has, and measures 7mm thick in the back, tapering to 3mm at the front and weighing the same 2.2 pounds as the 11.6" MacBook Air, also sharing the Air's 1366 x 768 display resolution and using a Chiclet-style keyboard and glass touchpad, albeit the latter with two mouse buttons

Other distinctions include a USB 3.0 port in addition to one supporting USB 2.0, and a mini-HDMI port rather than the Air's MiniDisplay port, but SSD storage options are the same at 64 GB and 128 GB.

The UX21is powered by a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, which is higher-performance than the Core 2 Duo silicon found in current (and likely soon to be replaced) MacBook Airs.

While prices have yet to be announced, Cheng reports that Asus PR reps emphatically assured him that it will be less expensive than the $999 11" MacBook Air.

ASUS Selects SanDisk SSD for Ultra-Thin Sandy Bridge Notebook

SanDisk Corporation, specialist in flash memory storage solutions, has announced that ASUS has selected the U100 drive for use in its new UX Series ultra-thin notebook. The drive's flexible, cost-effective SATA III performance and low power consumption allows ASUS to deliver a sleek, powerful notebook with a long battery life.

SanDisk has created a customized form factor to meet ASUS design requirements for its UX Series ultra-thin notebook that measures 0.3cm to 1.7cm and weighs 1.1kg with an 11.6 screen

The recently announced U100 drive builds upon the successful SanDisk P4 modular SSD series, which is widely used in ultra-thin notebooks and other mobile computing platforms. The ASUS UX Series notebooks measure 0.3cm to 1.7cm thick and weigh only 1.1kg while providing remarkable performance with a SATA III SSD, Intel core CPU and Instant-On technology.

"SanDisk tailored their SSD to meet our specific needs and then helped us optimize the drive in our new UX Series notebook." says S. Y. Shian, ASUS corporate vice president and general manager, notebook business unit. "SanDisk's U100 drive allows our notebook to achieve the thin size, fast performance and long battery life needed to produce an enjoyable user experience."

"The ASUS UX Series notebook combines advanced features with the portability that consumers demand from a mobile computing platform," comments Kevin Conley, senior vice president, solid state drives, SanDisk. "Our form factor miniaturization leadership enabled us to customize the U100 drive according to ASUS needs while providing high performance and low power consumption."

The U100 drive delivers fast SATA III performance with up to 450 megabyte per second (MB/sec)1 sequential read and up to 340 MB/sec sequential write speeds. The drive's low-power architecture allows OEMs to extend battery life while maintaining high performance. The U100 is available in a variety of form factors, including Half-Slim SATA SSD, mSATA, mSATA mini and 2.5 cased, with capacities ranging from 8 gigabytes (GB) to 256 GB.

SanDisk SSDs Offer Additional Benefits

  • nCache Acceleration Technology provides fast random burst write performance for improved system responsiveness and multitasking functionality nCache acceleration technology is a large Non Volatile Write Cache, a unique feature in SanDisk U100 SSD that improves random write performance to ensures an improved user experience. Studies show that modern operating systems mostly access the storage device using 4k access blocks. The cache is filled during these small write commands and emptied during idle time when the host is not accessing the drive, with no risk of data loss. For a typical everyday use, the write performance that the users see is the nCache (burst) high performance, and not steady state (sustained) SanDisk U100 SSD performance. Based on IOmeter 4K random write test.
  • Based on a JEDEC-standard package for industry compliance

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