The 'Book Review

Check Battery Condition, Optical Drives Going Away?, Ionic Cooling Patent, and More 'Book News

This Week's Mac Notebook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.11.10

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. Older Macs are covered in Vintage Mac News. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

Purchases made through links to and Apple's iTunes/iBook/App/Mac App Store support Low End Mac.

News & Opinion

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Check Battery Condition in OS X

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says that all batteries die over time, and OS X offers a quick way to determine if yours is on its way out.

Mac Notebooks: Determining Battery Cycle Count

An Apple Knowledge Base article says:

Battery informationFor computers with Mac OS X v10.4.x or later, use the steps in this article to determine the cycles on your Mac notebook's battery.

Use of your Mac notebook's computer battery accrues in the form of "charge cycles." You may use your battery after it reaches its maximum cycle count, but you may notice a reduction in your battery life. Knowing how many charge cycles are on your battery and how many are left can help you determine when a battery replacement is required. For optimal performance, replace your battery when the maximum cycle count is reached.

Follow these steps to access information on your Apple computer's battery, including the cycle count.

For more information on batteries consult

Apple Putting Optical Media on Life Support?

AppStorm's Connor Turnbull notes that last month Apple announced a 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which will inevitably replace the previous-generation 13" MacBook Pro without high-resolution display. Turnbull says that while the older model remains available as a cheaper alternative for the holiday season, he guesses it will be completely removed from Apple's lineup by the end of next year, leaving not a single consumer-level Mac with an optical drive.

Turnbull observes that what started with the MacBook Air in 2008 - and seemed like a crazy concept to an industry reliant on hard storage media - is now complete, four years later, and with software distribution moving entirely to the Web and entertainment increasingly being bought and stored in the Cloud, the need for optical drives is demonstrably declining, with PC Ultrabooks dropping optical drives in favour of thinner form factors, and the proverbial writing on the wall. The optical drive is dead.

Publisher's note: Pure and unadulterated nonsense. First of all, the 13" and 15" MacBook Pro models without Retina Displays continue to ship with optical drives, a distinguishing feature that many pro users need so they can burn CDs and DVDs for clients on the go without hauling around a separate SuperDrive. Optical drives are also necessary for ripping your CDs into iTunes and watching DVDs. And Apple certainly thinks there is a market for optical drives or it would not be selling its USB SuperDrive. That said, this provides a real opportunity for the low end of the Blu-ray drive market to make inroads among Mac users, especially now that the Mac mini and iMac no longer include internal optical drives. When the Mac Pro no longer has an optical drive option, then we can say Apple has pulled the plug on optical media - but not until then. dk

Apple Patents Ionic Wind Generator: An End to Cooling Fan Noise?

United States Patent 8,305,728, awarded to Apple this week by the US Patent Office, is for "Methods and apparatus for cooling electronic devices."

The patent abstract describes "various apparatus and techniques for deflecting or redirecting a flow of ionized air generated from an ionic wind generator. In general, a deflection field generator can be located proximate to the path of the flow of ionized air. The deflection field generator is configured to generate an electromagnetic field, which deflects a least a portion of the flow of ionized air to a different path and may possibly increase local heat transfer."

The inventors are cited as Jean L. Lee and Richard Lidio Blanco, Jr., presumably engineer employees of the patent assignee: Apple Inc.

Translation: a presumably silent means of cooling down internal components in eletronic devices.

The patent application goes on to observe that modern electronic systems tend to generate large amounts of heat, with cooling devices currently in use today being primarily mechanically-based devices, such as electric fans and heat sinks.

The cooling device being proposed for use in such systems in the patent application is an ionic wind generator, which generates airflow based on the ionization of air molecules.

Products & Services

Nifty microSD MiniDrives SDXC Card Reader for (Most) SD Card Slot Equipped MacBooks

How It Works

The MiniDrive is easy to use. A microSD card is simply inserted into the MiniDrive, which is then placed in the MacBook's SD card slot. Unlike an SD card which sticks out about 1cm from the body of the computer, Nifty microSD MiniDrivesthe MiniDrive sits flush against the body of the MacBook, becoming a semi-permanent feature of the computer. It is this complete integration with the MacBook that distinguishes it from other forms of removable storage that must be continually disconnected from the computer.


Whilst the MiniDrive is designed to be a semi-permanent feature of the MacBook it can be easily removed using the Nifty Tool (included with the MiniDrive) which is simply inserted through the specially designed eyelet at the front of the MiniDrive.

The MiniDrive as a Storage Solution

The MiniDrive means more storage for the things that are most important to you - holiday snapshots, music, movies and any documents you may need with you, wherever you go.

Currently the largest capacity microSD card available to put in a MiniDrive is 64GB. Of course the MiniDrive is bound only by the capacity of the microSD card inside it and with this technology set to grow, the MiniDrive will continue to remain relevant.

The MiniDrive as a Back-up Solution

Completely water and air tight, the average microSD card is about as rugged as it gets. Their robust design means that when combined with the MiniDrive they are perfectly suited as a primary back-up device.

MiniDrive for MacBook Pro
MiniDrive for MacBook Pro.

With the Minidrive designed as a semi-permanent feature of the computer, a daily back-up of your critical files may be set up and then occur automatically without having to remember to plug anything in. If you happen to spill coffee on your computer or drop it down the stairs, you can simply remove the MiniDrive to access your backed up files, meaning you will not be forced to re-do days, weeks or even months worth of work, or even worse lose memories in the form of photos, or videos that may be irreplaceable.

Flash memory will eventually wear out, but it will not be a problem.

NiftyDriveThe typical microSD card has a write cycle durability of 10,000 writes per bit. As modern microSD cards are designed to write evenly across the entire bank of memory, theoretically, any bit that has just been written to should not be written to again until all other bits have been written.

In practice, you will have some bits sitting idle as you often will keep certain files for an extended period on the drive (i.e. only reading those bits), while others are changed regularly. However, on the provision that the drive is never completely full, and you do a full re-write every time you use it, you will generally have a fair degree of latent memory that any write cycles may be spread over.

MiniDrive for MacBook Air
MiniDrive for MacBook Air.

As a result you will have far more than 10,000 writes of your drive before you see any failure. In the most extreme example; you should be able to do a reformat of the entire drive, 10 times a day, for 3 years before there is a memory failure.


MiniDrive is designed to match the computer for which it is designed. This is especially true of the aluminium front of the MiniDrive which will go through the same kind of rigorous anodizing process that the MacBook Air, Pro and Retina go through themselves. Naturally looks are not everything, and to ensure reliability and longevity the components selected have been tested to be reliable for over 10,000 insertions and removals of a microSD card.

MiniDriveNote that the casing material of the main body will be made from engineering plastic in the production model, whereas in the prototype model seen in the video it is made from aluminium.

The MiniDrive will work with either Windows or Mac, but it all depends on the dimensions of your computer's SD card slot.

Nifty strongly recommends getting the correct MiniDrive for your version of MacBook as each MiniDrive is designed specifically for the MacBook it is intended to be used for, however:

  • The MiniDrive Air can go in the MacBook Air, Pro, and iMac
  • The MiniDrive Pro can only go into the MacBook Pro, and iMac.
  • The MiniDrive Retina can go into the MacBook Pro Retina, MacBook Pro, and iMac.

MiniDrive Retina

The MiniDrive Retina is compatible with the 15" version of the MacBook Pro Retina. It will not currently work with the 13" version.

The 15" version of the MacBook Pro Retina has a Secure Digital Extended Capacity, or SDXC reader in their SD card slot. This format can support a microSD card of up to 2TB (2000GB), meaning they can utilize the 64GB microSD cards currently available on the market today.

MiniDrive Pro

The MiniDrive Pro is compatible with all non-retina versions of the MacBook Pro that have an SD card slot (the 17" MacBook Pro does not have an SD card slot).

All non-retina versions of the MacBook Pro that have an SD card slot from the mid 2009 refresh onwards have a Secure Digital Extended Capacity, or SDXC reader in their SD card slot. This format can support a microSD card of up to 2TB (2000GB), meaning they can utilize the 64GB microSD cards currently available on the market today.

MiniDrive Air

The MiniDrive Air is compatible with all 13" versions of the MacBook Air made since mid 2010.

All 13" versions of the MacBook Air made since mid 2010 have Secure Digital Extended Capacity, or SDXC reader in their SD card slot. This format can support a microSD card of up to 2TB (2000GB), meaning they can utilize the 64GB microSD cards currently available on the market today.

Pre-order price: $35

Shipping in December.

Sonnet Announces Form-Fitting Sleeve for 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display

PR: Sonnet Technologies has announced the immediate availability of its 2fit Laptop Sleeve for the 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display computer.

Stylish and practical, the titanium-colored 2fit sleeve is a form-fitting cover for that helps prevent damage to the computers finish. 2fit Laptop Sleeve for the 13" MacBook Pro with Retina DisplayThe 2fit sleeve feels marvelous to the touch and provides a durable layer of protection for the computer when stowed together with pens, keys, and an iPhone in backpacks or briefcases. Each 2fit sleeve is constructed of plush microfiber material, custom-tailored for the newest MacBook Pro Retina model. This machine-washable sleeve stretches to provide a snug fit. When not in use as a cover, the 2fit sleeve can function as a heat shield between laptop and lap. The 2fit package also includes a screen cleaner made of the finest-quality optical cloth, which is perfect for cleaning the MacBook display.

Shines and Protects

Made of high-quality optical cloth, the 2fit screen cleaner is perfect for cleaning the screen on your MacBook Pro. And, it buffers the screen on your 17" MacBook Pro from keyboard rubs during transport.

Key Features

  • Durable and Lightweight - Microfiber fabric sleeve provides extra protection from common day items that cause scuffing and scratching
  • Optical Quality Material Screen Cleaner - Soft screen cleaner is safe to use for cleaning your MacBook Pro's display, and buffers keyboard from screen on the 17" MacBook Pro when it is closed
  • Hand-made and Custom-Designed - 2fit is designed specifically to fit a 13" MacBook Pro (Retina Display) or 17" MacBook Pro
  • Easy to Clean - Just throw it in the washer2fit is machine-washable

The 2fit Laptop Sleeve plus Screen Cleaner for 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (part no. 2FIT-13TR) is available now for $19.95.

The First and Only External Battery for MBA That Uses MagSafe 2

PR: Continuing the tradition of innovation with new technology in the Apple computer world, QuickerTek's popular Battery for the MacBook Air now offers a product that works with MagSafe 2 power adapters and connections. The battery comes complete with an OEM Apple MagSafe 2 modified power adapter, and it's ready use on all the MacBook Air Models right out of the box.

Built for the professional that doesn't have easy access to an outlet yet can't be without their computer. The battery can extend your computing time by 12 additional hours, exceeding most work days. This provides an enormous benefit to photographers and videographers working on site, as well as lawyers and other professionals who may be in a situation where there aren't always easily accessible power outlets.

Another big advantage is to international travelers. Electricity specifications are different all over the world, and having a large battery backup may make the difference in a presentation if a movie or sideshow is involved. The battery also works with QuickerTek's line of solar panels, further extending your computer time.

The battery for the MacBook Air can be recharged in approximately 4 hours - depending on your individual situation and how the computer is used while charging. Like most QuickerTek products, the new battery for the MacBook Air is backed with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

QuickerTek manufactures external batteries, solar power sources, and wifi solutions. QuickerTek can also build custom cables to power devices other than just laptops - from digital cameras to external hard drives and LED light sources.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 8.25" x 7/8"
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs
  • Chassis: anodized machined aluminum
  • Works with all Apple MacBook Air laptops released since May of 2012.
  • 6 LED fuel gauge, push switch activated

Price: $449.95

Just Mobile Aluminum Accessories for Mobile Devices

PR: Just Mobile creates stylish mobile accessories for computer devices, and these days, the Just Mobile collection includes over 30 product lines, some of which are sold by The Apple Store.

Just Mobile doesn't make disposable junk, nor do they indulge in exercises in aestheticism, but rather create beautiful products that solve real-life problems - like how to prop up your tablet to watch a movie, or how to recharge your iPhone when you're on the move.

Aluminum: Beautiful, Useful, Recyclable

At Just Mobile, aluminum is in the DNA - the base material for almost all their design objects.

Just Mobile Aluminum Accessories for Mobile DevicesAluminum is strong yet lightweight, malleable yet durable, tough yet beautiful. Its also one of the planet's most abundant - and easily recyclable - elements.

Just Mobile works with some of the worlds best product designers, and remember that every authentic Just Mobile product has their logo printed on it - which guarantees the highest level of craftsmanship and quality.

  • Just Mobile HeadStand: The high-design headphone hanger, $49.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile AluRack: The laptop mount for Apple iMac and ThunderBolt Display, $59.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile AluBase: The upright MacBook stand, $49.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile Xtand Pro: A tting throne for the king of laptops. $79.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile Drawer: The ultimate desktop tidy, $109.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile Mtable: The high-style desktop stand, $69.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile Cooling Bar: The stylish laptop lift, $39.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile Lazy Couch: Laptop comfort to go, $24.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile AluCube Mini: The high-style cable tidy, $17.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile Donut: The tasty cable storage, $29.95 plus shipping
  • Just Mobile Alupad: The high-style mousemat, $49.95 plus shipping

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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