The 'Book Review

Use MacBook Air SuperDrive with Most Macs, New Ivy Bridge CPUs and MacBooks Soon, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.04.05

Because many businesses close early on Good Friday, and because Low End Mac's 15th birthday is Saturday, we're posting our news roundups a day early this week. Come back on Friday as we look back at our first 15 years - and thanks for visiting Low End Mac. - Dan Knight, publisher

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

Top Stories in This Week's Mac News Review

Rumor Roundup

Tech Trends


Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

New iPad Didn't Cut Into March Notebook Shipments

The notebook industry, which has been suffering a downturn, appears to have turned a corner and headed back toward recovery in March. That's according to Joanne Chien, senior analyst at DigiTimes Research. Ms. Chien notes that the hard drive shortage caused by last fall's flooding in Thailand has largely been resolved, and consumer demand is also rising, and Apple's New iPad, which launched in mid-March, did not create the negative impact on notebook shipments that some had been anticipating. Consequently, she says, indications point to an optimistic shipment forecast for notebooks in the future.

Ms Chien also reports that Apple, which initiated the ultrathin notebook market with its MacBook Air, is also planning to adopt ultrathin designs for its MacBook Pro product line and is set to start mass producing a 15" MacBook Pro in mid-April with initial monthly shipments of 200,000 units, followed by ramping up mass production of a redesigned 13" Pro model in June with initial monthly shipments of 300,000-400,000 units.

Use the MacBook Air SuperDrive with Almost Any Mac

TUAW's TJ Luoma says that while the MacBook Air SuperDrive is only officially supported on the MacBook Air or Mac mini, it turns out you can make it work with other Macs simply by editing one text file and then rebooting.

He notes that Lukas Zeller had posted instructions on "How to make the MacBook Air SuperDrive work with any Mac," but his workaround involved editing a binary with a hex editor, a practice that could be fraught with problems - possibly serious ones. However, he says that Lukas subsequently found an easier way that only requires editing one line in one text file, details of which are included in the article.

Luoma says he couldn't believe it could be that easy, but he edited the file, hooked up his MacBook Air SuperDrive to his MacBook Pro, rebooted, and it worked, as it also did with his Black MacBook.

He cautions that it's still possible that there's some good reason Apple chose to restrict use of the MacBook Air SuperDrive to just the MacBook Air and the Mac mini, but it's also possible that it was just an arbitrary restriction that Apple will eventually lift as the internal SuperDrive is removed from the rest of the MacBook line, as widely anticipated.

Make a DIY External MacBook Battery

The Verge's Evan Rodgers says if you want to be a road warrior with your 13" MacBook/Pro or MacBook Air, HyperMac will be happy to sell you an external battery, but it'll cost you $250. Alternatively if you're like him and don't mind getting down and dirty with a soldering iron, you can make one yourself after collecting the following materials and tools:

  • 2 - 12v CCTV Batteries
  • 3rd party MacBook car charger
  • Soldering Iron
  • Flux (optional)
  • Solder
  • Heat Shrink Tubing
  • 5x Blocking Diode

The accompanying video shows Rodgers using just one CCTV battery, which he says works, but because of voltage drop on the battery the car charger will power off after about half of the battery is depleted. He says this is a good thing, since it prevents strain on the voltage regulator, which, if this fail safe were not present, could overheat the regulator. However, a more elegant solution is to attach two CCTV batteries in parallel with a diode between each battery will allow for a much higher current draw before the voltage droop takes effect. The blocking diode prevents current from traveling back into the battery. This could happen if you were to use one charged battery and one depleted battery.

He estimates this will provide over 6 hours of battery life for his MacBook.

New 13" MBP and MBA Waiting Until June?

Hardmac's Lionel deduces that CPU World's Ivy Bridge release timeline (below) would dovetail nicely with an iMac refresh announcement on May 1st, 2nd, or 8th, but new MacBook Pro models will have to wait for appropriate CPUs to become available, especially for the 13" model. Lionel suggests that Apple is probably upset with Intel's Ivy Bridge release delays, since notebooks account for a strong majority of its Mac sales.

Rumor Roundup

Ivy Bridge MacBook Pro to Begin Mass Production This Month

DeviceMag's Sanjeev Ramachandran says that notwithstanding our having entered the post-PC era, there is still a world of laptops and desktops "where parties are thrown when much anticipated devices are launched."

Ramachandran says he's hearing that one of the most anticipated such devices is ramping up towards mass production, with Apple's new MacBook Pro laptop moving faster toward the point where speculation about design and features are confirmed with only assembly remaining. With Intel launching the Ivy Bridge class of its new generation processor chips in April (see below), the Ivy Bridge powered new generation portable from Apple will also hit mass production lines at Apple's upstream manufacturing partners in April. Rumor has it that the first new MacBook Pro model will be a 15" display unit with a thinner and sleeker form factor than the current machine.

So what about the name? Sanjeev Ramachandran observes that if we go by the iPad 3 example, the new gen professional laptop could simply end up being called "New MacBook Pro," right?

New, Thinner MacBook Pros to Get Retina Displays?

Wall Street Cheat Sheet's Diallah Haidar weighs in on rumors that Apple will unveil lighter, skinnier MacBook Pros this year, citing a report from CPU Central saying that Intel will launch its new chipset and Ivy Bridge Core i processor family in April (below) - with Apple to follow with a new MacBook Pro borrowing heavily from the MacBook Air form factor.

Haidar deduces that the new MacBook Pro's will drop the internal optical drive and feature ultra high resolution Retina displays sourced from Sharp.

The timeline projected by CPU Central would have Apple rolling out both new 15" MacBook Pro and 15" MacBook Air models, although speculation persists that the Air and Pro lineups could be merged or at least rationalized.

Haidar observes that Apple's central focus has been on the iPad lately, while more or less ignoring its notebook line, save for discontinuing the white plastic MacBooks, but even with an inevitable Post-PC era looming over the market, a Retina Display just might restore consumer interest in conventional PCs and attract more users to the Mac, possibly delivering a devastating blow to competing PC makers like Dell and desktop OS hegemon Microsoft.

The article advises Apple to consider incorporating the new iPad's dictation feature and increasing battery power on its notebooks, noting that a smaller, lighter laptop with MacBook Pro capabilities and the portability of the MacBook Air would give Apple an edge over competitors, and successfully incorporating the best of both worlds might even re-cannibalize some iPad sales and help Apple win a larger share of the PC market. However, those respective qualities could prove elusively difficult to incorporate in a single machine given physics limitations.

Tech Trends

Revised Ivy Bridge Launch Schedule

Revised Ivy Bridge Launch Schedule
Revised Ivy Bridge Launch Schedule

CPU World's Gennadiy Shvets notes that Intel's Ivy Bridge launch has been delayed twice, first pushed back from Q1 to Q2 2012, then delayed another two weeks. Shvets reports that the currently targeted launch date for quad-core desktop Ivy Bridge CPUs is April 29, and while the rollout timeline for the new generation mobile processors has been rumored to be delayed until June, the latest desktop and mobile roadmaps confirm that both desktop and mobile Ivy Bridge chips will be released at the same time, the first wave to come April 8, and another announcement to follow somewhere between April 22 and April 28. That one will include only quad-core models including mobile Core i7 and Core i5 families, with the announced chips to be available to customers April 29. Moving along, more Core i5 desktop and Core i5 dual-core mobile microprocessors will be introduced on June 3rd, and while there was a rumor that the Core i3 mobile chips would not be transitioned to Ivy Bridge, CPU World believes that Core i3 mobiles will be released after all.

Shvets has posted tables (right) showing specifications and prices of the new processor lines.

Dell XPS Laptop to Feature Gorilla Glass?

Hardmac's Lionel notes that according to Dutch tech site, Dell is considering using Gorilla Glass, a special kind of hardened glass developed way back in the 1960s by Corning Glass and used in the iPhone and iPad (as well as almost every other tablet or smartphone), to cover the display of its new XPS laptop

The XPS will reportedly feature a 15.6" display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution (by comparison, the optional high resolution display of the 15" MacBook Pro has a 1680 x 1050 resolution) and will of course run an Ivy Bridge processor. Overall thickness of this laptop is reported to be 24.2 mm - 0.1 mm thicker than the Late 2008 vintage unibody design of the current 15" MacBook Pro.


Eltima Connector Lets Macs Share USB Devices over Network

PR: Eltima Software has announced the release of its USB to Ethernet Connector 1.0 for Mac, claimed to be the only software solution offering this kind of Mac OS X support. USB to Ethernet Connector lets your computer work with remote USB devices over Internet/LAN/WAN as if those devices were connected directly to the computer. You can share a USB device with remote computers no matter how far they are and let people all over the world use them, over networks between Macs, Windows, and Linux computers, the USB to Ethernet Connector being completely cross-platform now.

USB to Ethernet Connector allows access to a printer, scanner, webcam, USB dongle, or any other supported device from anywhere any time.

With USB to Ethernet Connector for Mac one can:

  • Connect remote devices to a Mac over Ethernet, Internet, LAN, WAN
  • Share a USB device among multiple computers
  • Use USB devices on virtual machines & blade servers
  • Share your device with anyone at any spot on the globe
  • Access USB devices over WiFi or RDP

USB to Ethernet Connector runs on Mac OS 10.6 and 10.7 and costs $89.95 for Single License for 1 shared USB device. Note that USB to Ethernet Connector by Eltima is licensed according to the number of shared USB devices. Every server computer requires a separate license. Client modules of USB to Ethernet Connector are free.

Publisher's note: Mac OS X supports printer, scanner, and file sharing, but this could be useful for accessing a webcam, USB registration dongle, or perhaps even a USB floppy drive or Apple's MacBook Air SuperDrive over your ethernet network. dk

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.

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