The 'Book Review

Does Apple Hate RAM Upgrades?, Has WiFi Killed Ethernet?, Why Windows RT Was DOA, and More

This Week's Mac Notebook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2013.01.29

News & Opinion

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

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

What Does Apple Have Against Memory Upgrades?

Tech Night Owl Gene Steinberg reminds us that you couldn't upgrade the RAM in the first Mac back in 1984, and while Apple relented to complaints and later Macs could be upgraded, that clearly wasn't the vision of Steve Jobs, and that making RAM easy or quick to replace has never been an Apple priority, an example being that you had to pull out the entire electronic assembly to reach the RAM slots in the first iMac.

Steinberg observes that you could get the impression that Apple was clearly hostile to people who wanted to upgrade RAM.

Then with the MacBook Air, Apple came full circle with a Mac that can't be RAM upgraded after manufacture, since the memory is hard-soldered to the logic board, a motif expanded with the new MacBook Pros with Retina display and the latest 21.5" version of the iMac on which RAM upgrades are not officially possible.

Has WiFi Killed Ethernet?

Digital Trends' Matt Smith asks: Now that WiFi routers have become virtually standard home appliances, with some newer computer models (such as Apple's MacBook Air) not even shipping with ethernet ports, does that mean ethernet's time has passed, or are there still reasons to deal with wires?

Smith notes that WiFi performance has improved significantly over the last five years, with the new 802.11ac standard promising speeds of up to 1,000 MB/s finally giving wireless the ability to match Gigabit ethernet - at least on paper - and able to easily outpace the average broadband connection in North America.

However users with extremely fast connections can still see benefits from ethernet, and there's also a niche option helping to keep ethernet alive in homes: powerline networking, which uses wall current power lines to transfer data. He explains that you'll need two adapters to create a powerline network - one connecting via ethernet to your primary router or modem that plugs into a wall socket, and the other that can be used in any socket in your home. Run an ethernet cord from the second adapter to a PC, and you have a powerline network.

Publisher's note: Either Smith or his editor makes the error of reporting speeds as MB/s (megabytes per second) rather than Mb/s (megabits per second). 802.11ac is faster than he reports, with maximum capacities of 867 Mbps with one 160 MHz antenna, 1.73 Gbps with two, 3.47 Gbps with four, and 6.93 Gbps with eight. In contrast, 802.11n supports up to three 150 Mbps 40 MHz streams for a maximum 450 Mbps data rate, while good old 802.11a and 802.11g top out at 54 Mbps, and the original 802.11b AirPort Card introduced in 1999 has a maximum data rate of 11 Mbps.

As for powerline networking, HomePlug, which started at a mere 14 Mbps in 2001, today has a maximum bandwidth of 200 Mbps, twice as fast as the 100 Mbps ethernet that's been popular for over a decade, one-fifth as fast as the Gigabit ethernet standard on today's Macs, and in the same ballpark as today's 802.11n WiFi. Powerline networking isn't cheap, but it does eliminate the need to run ethernet cables. dk

Tech Trends

Laptop/Tablet Hybrids Will Never Work

CNN Money's Adrian Covert maintains that while Microsoft's Surface tablet PC aims to meld laptop with hybrid, it proves that the quest may be futile, and that one single device promising both laptop and tablet experiences with no compromises will never work - and that goes for the Surface Pro that's coming next month as well as the Surface RT that went on sale last fall.

Covert notes that while the Pro's Intel Core i5 processor makes everything faster and smoother, it runs legacy Windows apps on the full desktop version of Windows 8 and even includes a pressure-sensitive stylus, it's not only as or more expensive than some PC Ultrabooks starting at $899, it's also more than half an inch thick and weighs two pounds, which would be fine for a laptop, but for a tablet is borderline obese, and battery performance will likely also lag behind other tablets as well.

7 Reasons Why Windows RT Was DOA

The Register's Neil McAllister thinks Microsoft's consumer level tablet OS was doomed from the start, and while comparisons of Windows 8 and Windows Vista are premature, with the holiday season behind us, it's now plain that Windows RT is a flop.

In his estimation, Microsoft choosing to launch Surface based on an ARM processor running Windows RT, delivered a machine with an oddly hobbled OS that's neither fish nor fowl, one that falls somewhere between Windows 8 on PCs and Windows Phone 8, but with the advantages of neither, and for all Microsoft's hype around Surface RT, customers aren't buying it - literally - with UBS analyst Brent Thill estimating that Microsoft has sold only about 1 million Surfaces since the RT launched in October 2012 - half what Thill himself had predicted, McAllister noting that even sales of 2 million would have been a spit in Apple's ocean of 14 million iPads sold in the three months before the holiday season.

Reasons for the failure cited:

  • Windows RT devices are too expensive
  • The software stinks
  • Microsoft is competing with itself
  • Microsoft is competing with everyone else, too
  • Windows RT is too closed
  • Hardware OEMs haven't bought in
  • Microsoft's marketing sucks

McAllister concludes that Windows RT is an OS that nobody asked for, sent in search of a market that's already well served by other options, and even ignoring everything else that's wrong with it, that's reason enough for it to go down in history as one of Microsoft's biggest bombs.

Publisher's note: I had high hopes for the Surface, which appears to be a clever piece of hardware hobbled by a horrid new version at Windows that seems to go out of its way to not leverage nearly 30 years of Windows experience by reinventing almost everything. Had the Surface been designed to function primarily as a tablet - which means in portrait mode - it might have had a chance. In landscape mode, the keyboard and kickstand have to make it a much better writing device than the iPad. Problem is, by making Surface primarily a landscape device obviously intended to be used on a table or desk, Microsoft has made it essentially a notebook PC with Windows 8 (which is not selling well on laptops) that can do double duty as a tablet. A shame, as some of the hardware ideas are brilliant. dk

Lenovo Introduces Rugged ThinkPad Chromebook for Schools

PR: Lenovo has announced the ThinkPad X131e Chromebook - a fast booting, highly customizable laptop PC built with rugged features for the daily rigors of K-12 education. The ThinkPad X131e Chromebook simplifies software and security management for school administrators and provides students and teachers with quick access to thousands of apps, education resources and storage.

Rugged ThinkPad ChromebookThroughout the course of a typical school day, students' laptops are often subject to extreme wear and tear. To help school-proof them, the ThinkPad X131e has rugged features including a rubber bumper around the top cover and stronger corners to protect the system in the case of an accidental drop. The hinges and hinge brackets are also strengthened to last more than 50,000 open and close cycles.

"The ThinkPad X131e has proven to be very successful in education environments," says Jerry Paradise, executive director of product marketing, ThinkPad Product Group. "With the rugged features we added to the X131e, we've seen reduced failure rates in the field. This is a huge benefit to schools and students. Were pleased to be able to offer this hardened ThinkPad Chromebook as a great computer for schools."

Latest Tools for Today's Digital Learning Environment

Lenovo's ThinkPad X131e Chromebook provides students, educators, and IT administrators with an intuitive, easy-to-manage, and rugged laptop for all their computing needs right out of the box. Using Google Apps for Education along with thousands of web apps in the Chrome Web Store, students can easily create documents, edit spreadsheets, view multimedia videos, create slide show presentations and view PDF files.

Students can use the low-light webcam to communicate with students in other schools across the world or just across town. They can also easily connect via WiFi, and Chrome's fast startup gets students online instantly. With HDMI and VGA ports, students can present their reports to the class with a projector or big screen TV.

The 11.6" X131e laptop features an Intel processor, a 1366 x 768 HD LED antiglare screen, and three USB ports. At less than four pounds1 and battery life for the entire school day, students can easily carry the laptop between classes without the need to recharge.

Recognizing that one laptop doesn't fit all, especially when it comes to schools, the ThinkPad X131e offers a number of customization options including custom colors, asset tagging services to help keep track of devices left on the school bus or in the classroom, and school logo etching to make every device unique to each educational institution2.

"ChromeBooks are in use today by more than one-thousand K-12 schools, and they make an ideal one-to-one device because they're more cost effective, easier to manage and maintain than traditional laptops or tablets," says Caesar Sengupta, director of product management, Chrome OS, Google. "Lenovo has a great reputation in schools for making durable and reliable laptops, so were excited to partner with them to introduce the ThinkPad X131e Chromebook."

Student Tested, IT Approved

As millions of students in education institutions across the country continue to use Google Apps for Education, administrators need a system that is easily manageable but also provides the layers of security required to safe guard a schools ecosystem. In conjunction with Chromes built-in protection, ChromeBooks allow schools IT teams to manage security and scalability through one dashboard. This allows IT professionals to configure and manage devices all from one place, saving time, resources and money rolling out multiple computer images.

For the always budget conscious educators and school administrators, ChromeBooks cost less than most high end tablets and according to the IDC, require 69% less labor to deploy and 92% less labor to support3.

The ThinkPad X131e Chromebook will be available starting February 26th via special bid volume pricing starting at $429. Interested K-12 institutions should contact their Lenovo Sales Representative.

  1. 3.92 lb. (1.78 kg) with 6-cell battery
  2. Some customization may require a minimum order quantity
  3. Based on research performed by IDC, August 2012, Quantifying the Economic Value of ChromeBooks for K12 Education

Products & Services

Solar Juicz Provides 62W of Solar Power for MacBooks

PR: QuickerTek, specializing in mobile power and wireless networking for Apple computers, has announced the 62 Watt Solar Juicz solar power charger. Solar JuiczThis a new, higher performance solar charger with new faster-charging technology packs more power in a smaller size. Apple MacBook Pro, Retina display and MacBook Air users now have the freedom solar power offers and the satisfaction of lowering the carbon footprint.

QuickerTek packs an impressive improvement in efficiency of more than 39% over their previous Solar Juicz model as a direct result of using new technology as well as a philosophy of continual improvement. Faster charge time is provided by higher wattage (62 Watts vs. 55 Watts of previous model). Users can charge the laptop battery while using the Solar Juicz at the same time - something not possible using other solar products. If you have sunlight, you have power, whenever you need it.

Solar Juicz users gain 1.5 to 2 times greater power than more common thin-film flexible solar materials, by using new Copper Indium Gallium DiSelenide (CIGS). CIGS yields an amazing 10.5% to 11% average efficiency - ideal for power on the go. QuickerTek claims there is no other CIGS technology solar product available for any Apple device. MacBook users can now spend even more time working away from the wall power outlet. Even if the laptop battery is completely dead, the Solar Juicz charges and powers the MacBook laptop simultaneously.

Solar Juicz

CIGS technology offers these user benefits:

  • Highest efficiency thin-film photo voltaic delivers faster charge times;
  • Highest efficiency energy produced under varying light conditions makes solar efficient more often;
  • Raw materials availability helps to reduce prices, while remaining environmentally friendly

The 62 Watt Solar Juicz also comes ready to use out of the box with both an Apple MagSafe 1 and an Apple MagSafe 2 power cable. This allows users to power and charge a wide variety of mobile devices from Apple. Solar Juicz also charges QuickerTek's extensive line of Apple Juicz external battery products. QuickerTek also regularly makes custom cables for users who need the convenience of solar power for other devices, such as digital still and video cameras.

The solar panel itself is flexible - allowing for easy transport and use. The higher efficiency technology is only 1534 square inches - 40% more compact than the previous 2478 square inches. The lighter and flexible solar panel also adapts to irregular surfaces better - providing an easy way to use the sun, regardless of the surroundings.

The new 62 Watt Solar Juicz has a new lower Suggested Retail Price of $999 - available from QuickerTek's worldwide dealer network.

Like most QuickerTek products, the new Solar Juicz 62 Watt is backed with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

QuickerTek offers a range of antennas and RF products for Apple Power Macintosh, Mac Pro, iMac PPC and Intel, PowerBook, MacBook and MacBook Pro computers as well as power products for MacBooks.

Slappa Offers Selected Cases at 20-50% Off

PR: Slappa is starting the year off with a special offer unlike most anything we've done before.

Jedi Mind Trix TrolleyThe Jedi Mind Trix Trolley

The new Jedi trolley has been wildly popular since it launched two months back - popular - and now offered at the sale price of $99.99.

This large trolley is a rugged, versatile, spacious and good looking. Inline skate wheels, 5-stage handle, 1 cavernous main storage section, 1 heavily organized "gear" section, 3 outer pockets PLUS Slappa's 'strap system' front weave to add other sleeves, cases, etc.

Kampus Laptop BackpackKampus Laptop Backpack

Kampus Laptop BackpackA lightweight laptop backpack that has lots of "throw it in there" storage space, the Kampus bags are essentially duffle style laptop backpacks. The straps are perfect for riding a bike/motorcycle, and weighing in under 3 lb.. this is a great cycling backpack.

Quarter-inch super-cush padding for the laptop compartment; 5 outer storage pockets, drawstring synch-strap.

This month's special price: $59.99.

DSLR + Tablet Bag DSLR + Tablet Bag

DSLR + Tablet BagThe DSLR + Tablet bag gives you the perfect mobile photo capabilities.

A heavily padded section that can store your DSLR body and a lens (or 2 lenses) and a padded compartment for your tablet and camera essentials.

This month you save 50% - $29.99

DSLR + Tablet BagMatrix Laptop Backpack

The original and still Slappa's best seller, the Matrix laptop backpack gives you great protection and a highly unique look.

DSLR + Tablet BagIts rubber molded exoskeleton gives the Matrix it's distinct looks and provides extra protection - the dedicated laptop compartment has our super-cush padding; lots of inner pockets and sections for smaller gadgets, books and peripherals.

This month you can pick up the 15.4" version for $59.99 - the lowest price ever on the Matrix

Laptop and Tablet Sleeves

Slappa has a large assortment of 10", 13", 15.4", 17" and 18" sleeves for your laptop or tablet. Unique materials, superb protection and most are 50% off this month.

Stovepipe Laptop BackpackStovepipe Laptop Backpack

The Stovepipe laptop backpack is another unique backpack invention from Slappa. Cool looking, lots of inner storage space and a heavily padded laptop compartment.

The straps and contouring make this bag perfect if you ride a bike/motorcycle.

This month you can steal a Stovepipe for $69.99

  • sale offer applies only to and no other Slappa websites
  • no other sales code, gift certificate or discount code can be used in conjunction with or in addition to this sale
  • sale offer expires Jan. 31, 2013 midnight p.d.t. or while supplies last
  • $5 shipping special is $5 per item with a maximum of $25 per order. $5 shipping special only applies to orders that are shipped standard ground shipping in the continental USA only. Any orders that ship outside the continental USA do not apply for the $5 shipping offer. Any orders that ship via any other method other than continental USA ground shipping do not apply for the $5 shipping offer.

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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