The 'Book Review

11" MacBook Air Always Intended as Apple's iCloudBook?, Choose a Beater Mac for Under $300, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.07.15

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

Products & Services


Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

11" MacBook Air Intended to Be Apple's iCloudBook All Along?

Writing for Macworld, Andy Ihnatko, says that when Apple released the 11" MacBook Air (MBA) last year, the question nagged as to why Apple would even bother making such a niche MacBook with so many tradeoffs, and noting that at $1,299, the 13" MacBook Air is too expensive to compete with the base white plastic MacBook or even the iPad, and not powerful enough to compete with the similarly-priced (starting at $1,199) 13" MacBook Pro.

However, Ihnatko says he can now belatedly identify the 11" MBA as Apple's first public salvo in its cloud strategy, and that its 64 GB drive, which he originally thought was a complete dealbreaker (an awful lot of early adopters didn't agree), will be a lot more acceptable once iCloud's 5 GB of free cloud storage are available. So while a 64 GB boot drive is still "pretty damned teeny" if you intend to use the 11" MBA as a real MacBook, he's done the math and pronounces it just the perfect size for an iCloudBook, as well as being a full-fledged a Mac OS device, so you won't need to translate files between mobile and desktop app formats, and unlike with an with an iPad, you can use the same Mac OS software you've got on your office workstation.

Apple to Restore Backlit Keyboards in New MacBook Air?

AppleInsider's Kasper Jade reports:

"With the release of new models later this month, Apple is set to reinstate a feature to its MacBook Airs that went missing when the company overhauled the ultra-thin notebooks into more cost-affordable products late last year, AppleInsider has learned...."

New White MacBook and Mac mini Models Imminent?

9 to 5 Mac's Mark Gurman says that they've determined that the Apple part numbers they'd acquired were for an upgraded white MacBook and new Mac mini, with the price-leader MacBook likely to get Thunderbolt I/O ports and faster processors, three upgraded mini configurations (including a server model), and he's also expecting new Mac Pros later this month or early next month.

Publisher's note: One other possible explanation is that Apple is changing part numbers because models will be shipping with OS X 10.7 Lion instead of 10.6 Snow Leopard. That said, the MacBook Air, white MacBook, Mac mini, and Mac Pro are all due for a refresh. dk

Choosing a 'Beater' Mac for Less than $300

Writing on AppleTell, Charles Moore says:

"I'm a fan and proponent of 'beater' hardware. Living in one of the saltiest environments on the continent - both coastal sea air and winter road salt - one defence against the indefatigable advance of rust is to drive a beater car in the winter....

"Similar principles apply to computers, especially laptops, which can face some challenging environments when you take them mobile.....

"AppStorm's Adam Williams observes that Macs are expensive, and there's no getting around the fact that a reasonably late-model Mac costs a significant amount of money and is a gleaming thief-magnet, with real potential for being dropped, lost or stolen. And while the iPad or even an iPhone these days present a less-expensive alternative for light-duty mobile computing, Williams says that as a freelance writer he needs a real computer for significant work when he travels, and that he needs a Mac he can lug around, collecting accidental knocks without worry, as well as acting a as temporary backup if his MacBook Pro ever needs repair. In short, an older, expendable Mac he won't have to worry about. Ergo, a beater....

"Williams proposes the iBook G4 as an ideal compromise between cost and performance in a beater laptop, which for him must cost no more than $150, not take too much time to get up and running, and still be capable of running Tiger or Leopard effectively.

"Anything newer or more powerful starts to get too expensive to be a Mac for throwing on a car seat, lending to a friend, and leaving around clumsy pets, he contends, suggesting you shoot for an iBook with at least a 1 GHz processor speed, equipped with a wireless card, and capable of upgrading to 1 GB RAM.

"The takeaway is really that finding the ideal beater laptop will be more a matter of the individual deal you find or run across rather than doggedly setting your sights on getting a particular model. Shop the deal and condition of the machine within a fairly broad range of alternatives."

Products & Services

OWC Data Doubler DIY Kit Allows Up to 2 TB in MacBook and MacBook Pro

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced the OWC Data Doubler 1 TB DIY Kit for adding up to 2 TB of internal storage capacity to Unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro computers.

The $174.99 MSRP OWC Data Doubler 1 TB DIY Kit is available for immediate ordering and comes complete with the Data Doubler optical bay converter bracket, a Samsung Spinpoint M8 1 TB 9.5mm hard drive, a detailed step-by-step Mac notebook model specific installation guide, a five piece toolkit, free online 'How To' installation videos, and is fully compatible with the following Macintosh notebook computers:OWC Data Doubler

  • MacBook 13" "Late 2008" Unibody and later models (All)
  • MacBook 13" "Late 2009" White Unibody and later models (All)
  • MacBook Pro 13" "Mid 2009" Unibody and later models (All)
  • MacBook Pro 15" "Late 2008" Unibody and later models (All)
  • MacBook Pro 17" "Early 2009" Unibody and later models (All)

"This new, smaller footprint drive provides incredible upgrade options for every MacBook and MacBook Pro owner," says OWC Founder and CEO Larry O'Connor. "With our value priced DIY kit, Unibody owners can have a previously unimagined 2 TB of internal storage that installs with Plug and Play ease thanks to the included toolkit and 'how to' videos. And now even the earliest pre-'Unibody' model owners can expand from the factory maximum 120 GB drive with up to 7x more capacity thanks to this 1 TB drive."

OWC Data Doubler DIY Kit value priced bundles start at $117.99.

Offers Custom Drive Configuration

The custom engineered, blue anodized aluminum OWC Data Doubler gives Unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro owners the flexibility to uniquely configure their computer's internal drive array. Any SATA 2.5" hard drive or SSD of up to 9.5mm (Super Slim) height can be mounted onto the bracket with the entire assembly then user installable in a Unibody MacBook or MacBook Pro optical drive bay. 9.5mm SATA 2.5" hard drives are fully "Plug and Play" recognized via the Apple Disk Utility program with standard configuration options just like any typical drive including, but not limited to:

  • Creating an individual volume with its own desktop icon.
  • Combining a new drive with the existing internal drive for one larger volume (SPAN).
  • Combining a new matching drive with existing internal for high-performance RAID-0 Stripe volume.
  • Configuring a new drive as a Time Machine&trade backup drive.
  • Formatting one drive for the Mac OS and the other dedicated for Windows.

SuperSlim Enclosure Converts Optical Drive Into External Solution

Consumers purchasing the new OWC Data Doubler 1 TB DIY Kit can receive an instant $10.99 OWC rebate when also ordering the $47.99 MSRP OWC SuperSlim. This lightweight, USB 2.0 bus powered enclosure is the ideal solution for "Unibody" MacBook and MacBook Pro owners installing any OWC Data Doubler DIY Kit. Now while enjoying up to an additional 1 TB capacity in the optical drive bay, users can install the replaced Apple SuperDrive into the OWC SuperSlim to create an external Plug and Play CD and DVD burning/playing solution.

New Drive Footprint Adds Over 7x More Capacity

Until now, the only 1 TB notebook hard drives available were 12.5mm high. That meant only Unibody MacBooks and MacBook Pros and 17" pre-Unibody models could utilize the largest capacity offered in 2.5" drives and only in the main drive bay. With the arrival of the thinner Samsung 9.5mm drive at OWC, a full terabyte of storage up to over 7x more capacity than originally factory offered can now be installed in the main drive bay of any MacBook and MacBook Pro introduced since 2006.

WD My Book Studio Drive Matches Mac Aesthetics with Creative Pro Performance

WD My Book StudioPR: Western Digital has announced that the newest generation of its My Book Studio external hard drives, designed for use with Mac computers and Apple Time Machine. Now available with a 3 TB storage capacity, the new design features a brushed aluminum casing to match the appearance of Mac computers, and also serves to keep the drive cool while in use. The aluminum exterior, combined with its WD Caviar Green drives, eliminates the need for an internal fan to reduce drive noise and extend the life of the drive. Although formatted for Mac computers, the My Book Studio external hard drives can also be reformatted for PCs.

WD My Book StudioThe My Book Studio drive includes features and benefits including fast and flexible FireWire 800/400 and USB 2.0 interfaces, user-controlled automatic backup software and drive management, password protection and hardware encryption. Shipping in capacities of 1 TB, 2 TB, and 3 TB, the My Book Studio drive includes the WD Caviar Green series of internal hard drives with WD GreenPower Technology.

"WD has updated the design of its My Book Studio drive while providing natural cooling features delivered by the new aluminum enclosure," says WD executive vice president and general manager of branded products and consumer electronics groups Jim Welsh, "The drive will maintain all the features that are important to the creative community, including high speed FireWire 800 and adding large capacities up to 3 TB."

WD's My Book Studio is available on the WD store and at select retailers and distributors. MSRP for My Book Studio with 1 TB is $149.99; MSRP for My Book Studio with 2 TB is $199.99; MSRP for My Book Studio with 3 TB is $249.99.

Publisher's note: The WD Caviar Green drives are very energy efficient and run cool partly by reducing rotation speed as low as 5400 rpm, which means that while they are good performers, they don't have the same throughput as a full-time 7200 rpm hard drive. That said, these should be good for storing your media (music, images, videos) and for backup use. dk

USRobotics All-in-One USB 3.0 Card Reader/Writer First to Offer Dual SD Card Slots

PR: USRobotics has introduced the USR8420 All-in-One USB 3.0 Card Reader/Writer. The new device is the first of its kind with duplicate SD card slots for a total of five card slots that can be read simultaneously at speeds up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0 card readers. The USR8420 joins USRobotics USB 3.0 family, which currently includes a 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub (USR8400), a 2-Port ExpressCard Adapter (USR8401), and a 2-Port PCI Express Card Adapter (USR8402).

USRobotics All-in-One USB 3.0 Card ReaderAccording to USRobotics CEO Bruce Swail, the new card reader follows suit with the company's goals for its USB 3.0 line, which focus on improving connectivity speed and productivity while maintaining backwards compatibility with USB 2.0 devices.

"The new card reader is perfect for photographers and videographers who use multiple cards and cameras and need to quickly download a large number of images," says Swail. "The device allows double the number of photos to be transferred than other available card readers while maintaining the fast USB 3.0 speed. Everyone from business professionals to families with more than one camera can benefit from the time saved through the use of this device professionals can be more productive and families can get on with their vacations without having to wait for their photos to download."

USRobotics All-in-One USB 3.0 Card ReaderThe new USR8420 provides a total of five slots, one SD, one SD/MMC/Memory Stick, one Compact Flash, one Memory Stick, and one for SmartMedia. The new reader/writer offers blazing fast transfers with USB 3 interface, so the data flow can be as fast as the memory card permits. As faster cards become available even greater transfer speeds can be realized. At the same time, it is backwards compatible with USB 2.0/1/1 ports.

The reader/writer supports all new card formats including SDHC with UHS, CF with UDMA, SDXC, and MSXC cards including the separate SD slots making it convenient for families with more than one camera or professionals with multiple cards. Like other USR products in the USB 3.0 family, the USR8420 is compatible with Windows, Macintosh and Linux operating systems. The plug and play device is also hot swappable and its USB cable can be removed for easy storage or portability.

The new USRobotics USR8420 All-in-One USB 3.0 Card Reader/Writer is currently available at retail prices starting at $39.99. The products can be purchased from USRobotics authorized distributors and reseller partners or directly.

The All-in-One USB 3.0 Card Reader/Writer comes standard with a one-year limited manufacturer warranty from the date of purchase.

Publisher's note: No Mac built today supports USB 3.0, but it is completely backward compatible with the USB 2.0 ports in all current Macs. dk


Temperature Monitor Keeps Tabs on Your Mac's Operating Temperature

PR: Temperature Monitor is an application to read out all accessible temperature sensors in Macintosh computers released between August 2002 and March 2011. The program can visualize the history graphs of the readings, display measured values in a large variety of fashions, or announce readings by speech output. It can also store and export values.

Temperature Monitor is the small, free version of the application Hardware Monitor. Hardware Monitor can additionally display "non-temperature" sensors and artificial operating system probes, or control external LCD panels. Temperature Monitor is part of a software suite of 9 different monitoring applications which can be used for numerous purposes.

Temperature Monitor is electronically distributed software.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 or later

You can download the product free of charge.

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