Hardware Stability

MacBook Pro

## IMPORTANT NOTICE ##

Do not purchase the Duo Core MacBook Pro until Apple has upgraded them to the new Intel Duo 2 Core microprocessor (and other issues are fixed). Or better still, wait for the quad core version released in 2011. The current Duo Core microprocessor is too hot and is likely to reduce the lifespan of the graphic processing chip, internal connectors etc. The new chip should be cooler and faster (unless Apple adds something extra to OSX to make the processor work hard).

You are also wise to avoid running too many dashboard widgets in the background as they will hog a significant amount of your computer's CPU, not to mention the numerous many fancy iOS-incorporated graphic features in OSX "Lion" causing the graphic processor chip to work hard, and thus making the chips run at a hotter temperature. Widgets can be removed from the /Library/Widgets folders and restarting the computer. Or consider using Onyx to turn off Dashboard altogether. OSX "Lion" can be downgraded to OSX "Snow Leopard". Or purchase a 2011 model Macintosh computer with quad core Intel i7 chip and a more resilient and tougher Radeon graphic processing chip and the latest OSX "Lion" update.

And make sure the computer is properly asleep or shutdown when not in use or else your computer may wake up while being carried inside a bag. Reports of laptops getting extremely hot and frying the logic board are not uncommon. You can learn more about this issue from here.

About the MacBook Pro of February 2006...

Known as MacBook Pro, the latest aluminium laptops comes with the Intel Core Duo microprocessor.

Purportedly to be four times faster than the latest G4 PowerBook (probably because of its dual core processing capabilities) despite the advertised 1.67GHz speed (1) from Apple, the new laptops come built-in with an iSight web camera (2) (so Apple can see who has been writing this article or who is using illegal software) and the new Intel-based MacOSX version 10.4.4 (which won't startup a PowerPC G4 computer because Apple chose not to provide a universal binary version). Price for these 15-inch laptops start at a whopping A$3,125 and goes up to A$3,895 for the same size screen model with a slightly quicker 1.87GHz speed. Although if you wait another 6 months, the speed of these laptops should increase to over 2GHz.

Screen brightness and contrast level is said to be 20 per cent better than the PowerPC models, bringing them virtually inline with Apple's top-of-the-range Cinema Display screens.

The MacBook Pro is slimmer than the aluminium PowerPC G4 laptops — now reduced to 2.5cm, athough it appears to be the same as the PowerBook G4 17-inch 1.67MHz laptop thickness-wise.

Care must be taken not to immediately buy one of these machines primarily because a number of third-party products have yet to be made available (both software and hardware). For example, there are no better third party power adapters compatible with Apple's new magnetic version (designed to stop those annoying power cable damage when the cord is accidentally pulled from a strongly gripping power socket in the laptop; now the magnetic socket should easily comes undone with the slightest of pulls). Also Apple has opted not to include a FireWire 800 port (users have to wait until the next model is released sometime in late 2006). And the new expansion card port will not accept the standard 54mm wide PC cards. Apple has allegedly improved on this feature with a new and more narrow 34mm PCMCIA expansion port known as ExpressCard forcing third-party manufacturers to develop new cards to be compatible with the new Mac. On the positive side, ExpressCard new technology is purportedly 2.5 times faster than the previous expansion port. And for this extra speed users must accept the new design!

Please be aware that ExpressCard is a technology ahead of its time, meaning that you will be looking at September 2006 at the earliest and more likely in early 2007 to find suitable cards on the market to handle things like wireless internet broadband. Otherwise, you would be better off sticking to the PowerPC laptop with its standard PC card expansion port for access to a wider range of cards. To learn more, visit http://www/expresscard.org/.

Actually the specs on the MacBook Pro are unusually low to start the Apple era on a new microprocessor suggesting that perhaps there aren't enough Intel-optimised and compatible third-party drivers included with Intel OSX to support the existing crop of expansion ports and internal drives available on PowerPC Apple PowerBooks. For example, the SuperDrive is not dual-layer. Also the S-video has been taken out. And there is no internal modem (Apple could be assuming users are on broadband).

On the software side, there are enough problems for the unweary with reports of incompatibility with the Intel processor, slow speed of running PowerPC software in Rosetta mode, and unexpected OSX behaviours.

Take, for instance, the view of an eager iMac Core Duo user who has quickly purchased one of these Intel Macs only to discover a random and intermittent situation of the screen freezing followed by the screen turning "completely blank blue". It lasts for a second or several seconds before returning to the original screen allowing the user to resume his work.

The MacBook Pro of May 2006

The 2GHz MacBook Pro is available for around the A$3,999 mark. Rather expensive compared to what you can get for the PowerPC laptop version. The LCD screen is claimed by Apple to be 67 per cent brighter (compared to what?). Touchpad is slightly larger and comes with a remote to trigger Front Row multimedia management software via infra-red. Add a digital TV tuner to the works and you'll quickly be overwhelmed by the number of remotes you will have to juggle!

This version has the latest revisions from Apple on the board (although you wouldn't think so when you see the problems below).

The positives of the MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro laptops with Intel microprocessors have come in for some special criticism. Before we mention a few from users, we should note that in general appearance, the MacBook Pro has the edge over PC laptops. Whoever is the designing team at Apple should be commended for a good design that sucks grabs people in and makes them think long and hard about whether or not to purchase one.

The other positive remark has to be the fact that the new laptop is at least as fast as a G4 microprocessor if not faster if you have the Duo Core variety, and yet still manages to generate a little less heat than a G5 computer (well, only just!).

Maybe this is deliberate in that Apple does need a fast enough processor to make it bearable for previous Apple users to run their PowerPC applications in Rosetta emulation mode. And even then, for some reason there are features in PowerPC that don't get translated into Intel very well, causing some applications to misbehave. Either that, or Apple made a rough and ready emulation system.

So is the move worth it?

As far as experienced users are concerned, the move is considered a gamble. Experienced users who have heavily invested in PowerPC software to do their work (i.e. not playing games), making the move any time before 2007 would be almost suicidal especially if you are running a business. Even if you could afford to buy new software, you will have to wait until enough titles have been Intel-optimised. Because of this situation, it seems the smartest thing to do for most experienced users is wait, build up their list of free or very low-cost universal binary or pure Intel software applications, and see what's selling in the secondhand software market in 12 to 24 months before making the decisive move to a secondhand or new Intel Mac. In fact, in 12 to 24 months, users will know what will emulate well and which software needs to be new for speed and reliability, then the move will be easy and cheap. Or else do as many experienced users are doing by sticking to Windows software, which isn't as bad as some people make out to be (and with it handle Microsoft's own way of learning about their users).

On the other end of the spectrum are the less experienced users. Here, the move is a cinch if you can afford to buy one. For these users, they don't have anything to lose. To Apple, this is the ideal target market as they need early adopters of the laptop to take the product through its lifecycle. Also these users make great guinea pigs testers to see what they think of the product and at the same time help Apple to see what the users are doing with their laptops online and when they have to bring in their laptops for repairs (which will be regularly we hear). As some observers have noted, software pirates tend to be highest among the inexperienced groups of users and many "early adopters".

Speaking of repairs or problems, we can now reveal a few notable ones. Please keep the information below in mind when you are in the market for purchasing a new laptop.

DOA problem

Some MacBook Pros have arrived Dead On Arrival (DOA). This shouldn't be a major problem if you are not among the very first customers to buy one. Manufacturing and quality control processes normally improve about 6 months after the initial release of the laptops. In other cases, a MacBook Pro not starting up could be the result of the RAM not being properly seated. When the RAM is not sitting in position, it can cause the laptop to suddenly shutdown if it attempts to start up or the screen will remain black but the power LED may blick at you to signal an error in the RAM card.

As Apple stated in Apple Knowledge Base document #303083:

"If the computer detects no SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory, also referred to as RAM) or the RAM installed does not meet the appropriate specifications, the screen will remain black but the power LED on the front of the computer will blink once per second to signal the error. This error condition may be due to physically damaged RAM, installing the incorrect type of RAM, or not having RAM installed."

No bootable third-party disk repair utility CD/DVD for Intel

Perhaps a minor oversight but it seems Apple did not supply a bootable Applecare disk for Intel-based Macs (including the MacBook Pro) sold as late as May 2006. And TechTool Pro, the utility Apple relies on to repair problems is not yet a universal binary or Intel-optimised. Apple would have done well to drop the "Pro" from MacBook Pro until these problems are sorted! As MacFixIt reader Paul Tansey wrote:

"Don't know if this is trouble shooting or not, but thought people should know.

'Just tried my Applecare which arrived with my MacBook Pro. The Applecare box says its for a Powerbook? And sure enough, try booting from the TechTool disk included, and it will not start. It cannot see the disk.

'Clearly not designed to run on this MacBook.

'On phone now to Apple, who say they will replace the disk with the correct one. Which I bet doesn't even exist yet. But we'll see." (MacFixIt.com: Note: Current AppleCare disc does not work with Intel-based Macs. 5 May 2006.)

By the time you read this, the new AppleCare CD produced in March 2006 for booting on dual-core iMacs should be available soon in your area (It should be labelled ASD Dual Boot 3S101, Part Number 691-5743-A). Please note, there is no TechTool Pro. It will boot into the Apple Service Diagnostic application only. Better than nothing!

Battery connection problem

A limited number of laptop units appear to have an issue concerning the battery itself or the circuit for drawing power from the battery once the external power cord is disconnected. The most common problem is either the laptop goes to sleep or shuts off completely within minutes or immediately after removing the power cord despite the battery indicating it is fully charged. Apple is looking into this and is deciding which ones will be replaced, fixed or ignored on a case-by-case basis (we hope replaced given how new the laptop is instead of taking the cheap route out of fixing bits and pieces as they appear). Confirmation for this observation can be found at MacFixIt.com. As one reader wrote:

"Just wanted to share some problems I've had with my MacBook Pro. I bought one of the first 2.0 GHz MacBook Pro's available at the Las Vegas Apple Store. I had a problem with it that it sometimes would not run off of the battery. About 30% of the time if I were to unplug the MagSafe connector, the machine would just die. The battery indicator lights showed a full charge. If I put the machine to sleep and then unplugged it, it would usually not reboot from battery, and if it would it would come back from the Safe Sleep. Restarting using the power key while the machine was plugged it would restart using safe sleep. The battery didn't seem loose and the contacts looked ok. I took the machine back to the Apple Store where I was lucky to exchange it for another 2 GHz unit they had in stock." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#14): Inconsistent wireless connections with third-party routers; Problems operating from battery; more. 15 March 2006.)

There may be a solution. It involves Apple fixing up OSX's energy saving feature. Until then, David McManis recommends the following:

"I read your article and have a fix for the MacBook pro operating off battery. The problem is due to a faulty energy saver feature. All you need to [do] to stop it is open system preferences, then open energy saver. Change all setting to never then click on options and uncheck the automatically reduce brightness of the display before display sleep." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#15): Kernel panics upon waking up (Inability to wake from sleep); More on whining noise; Wireless connectivity. 16 March 2006.)

Now the reports are moving to another issue concerning the improper seating of the battery. As one MacFixIt reader said:

"I removed the battery to get the serial off the unit and when reinserting it, it was obvious that the tolerances are so accurate that one must be absolutely right on in reinsertion to guarantee full internal contact. It takes a good clamping pressure on the battery to make certain of this and for the spring loaded locks sliders to engage FULLY. I noted that the LEDs will read even if the battery is not fully engaged so it is a feel to be sure issue. It is well locked in after doing it correctly and mine has never disengaged." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro Special Report follow-up #4: More on loose batteries, powering off. 31 March 2006.)

Apple has recommended users should reset the PRAM to solve this problem should it develop over time. MacFixIt has reported on 2 June 2006 that Apple failed to mention the PRAM should be reset by allowing more than three restarts to take place when pressing simultaneously the key combination Command, Option, P and R, not the usual two. The number of restarts while pressing the keys appears to be crucial to resolving this issue. If all else fails, try resetting the PMU as some users are claiming success through this method.

UPDATE
31 July 2006

Batteries that don't connect properly to the MacBook Pro 15-inch model are being recalled by Apple. As Apple stated:

"We recently discovered that some 15-inch MacBook Pro batteries supplied to Apple do not meet our high standards for battery performance. To give our users the best experience possible, we will replace these batteries for customers free of charge." (Apple Knowledge Document)

Affected batteries has model number A1175 and those 12-digit numbers ending with U7SA, U7SB or U7SC. Batteries must be removed from the computer to view this information.

Click the Apple Knowledge Document link to fill in a form for US residents to receive the new batteries free.

Wake up from sleep or going to sleep problems

When you do send the laptop to sleep, there is no guarantee it will wake up properly. This problem does exist on some PowerPC computers, but is persistent on the Intel Mac. The surest solution is to turn off safe sleep by typing in the Terminal:

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

Or make sure you have adequate RAM.

On the other extreme, closing the lid does not guarantee the laptop will go to sleep. As MacFixIt reader Andrew Springer discovered to his surprise:

"I put my system to sleep and placed it in my bag before leaving the office, when I got home the MacBook was red hot with the fan spinning. I was unable to wake the system and had to shut it down by holding down the power key. It restarted fine, but I've wondered ever since if this caused the problem.

This happened again just yesterday. In this case I put my computer to sleep, then opened it up again just briefly (less than 5 seconds) and shut it again. The system didn't appear to wake-up, but 30 minutes later when I removed it from the bag the computer was very very hot again with the fan spinning. Again I had to force the computer to shutdown before I could use it. Battery seems OK right now, I'll keep you posted if that changes.

It's a bit of a concern that it appears that if you quickly open the screen and then close it (accidentally or on purpose) that the computer may wake, but not sleep again." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro Special Report: Not sleeping properly, still "on" with lid closed. 7 June 2006.)

Among the solutions include unchecking all options to wake the laptop when the modem detects a ring, Ethernet Network administrator access, and after a power failure. Disconnect all USB and FireWire devices, disable all network activity including disconnecting network volumes, and resetting PMU.

Or better still, ask Apple to fix the problems permanently!

On the other end of the spectrum, users have noticed the laptops may not go to sleep properly when the lid is closed or when trying to select Sleep from the Finder menu. Apple has finally posted a Knowledge Base article (#303698) on 25 August 2006 explaining the reasons why a laptop may not go to sleep:

(i) Some FireWire/USB devices and PCI cards may prevent laptops and desktop machines from going to sleep.

(ii) Playing music in iTunes or movies in DVD player can prevent sleep.

(iii) Self-refreshing web pages in Safari may stop sleep mode.

(iv) Some applications may prevent sleep from taking place for certain reasons (might be a good reason although it can be known only to the software developer) by calling subroutines in the system such as IORegisterForSystemPower(), IOCancelPowerChange() and in the notification provided by kIOMessageCanSystemSleep.

(v) Check the system preferences such as Bluetooth, Spotlight, Sharing and others as they may affect the ability of a Mac to go to sleep.

Strangely the titanium and other laptops when running iTunes or other applications do go to sleep much easier. Not so for those newer laptops running OSX Tiger. Does this mean there is a greater risk of corruption taking place if the system were to force a sleep in the middle of some kind of operation?

Glenn Fleishman of http://tidbits.com/article/8702 has provided another possible solution not mentioned by Apple. This one involves typing a UNIX command in the Terminal to set the lidwake value in the power management settings to 0. Under ordinary circumstances, new laptops are set to wake up automatically as soon as you press the the latch to release the display. Fleishman reckons this latch could sometimes accidentally get pressed or suddenly open on its own causing the laptop to wake up while sitting inside a bag.

To turn the lidwake value off, type in the Terminal:

sudo pmset lidwake 0

The following strange message may appear:

"We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

#1) Respect the privacy of others

#2) Think before you type.

#3) With great power comes great responsibility."

You will also be asked to type your administrator password. Type it in and press the Enter key. Changes should take effect immediately. Note that older PowerBook G4 laptops (e.g. First Generation aluminium laptops, titanium PowerBooks etc) may not support this feature.

As a final resort, remove third party software from the Preferences Pane and turn off AirPort when not in use.

Keyboard problems

The keyboard appears somewhat unresponsive at times. It is most evident with the Shift key. We recommend you apply Apple's Keyboard 1.0 Update for all Intel Macs as soon as possible to make everything feel right as in previous Apple models.

MacFixIt.com reports on 7 June 2006 the problem is not resolved by the keyboard update.

UPDATE
10 June 2006

You'll be glad to hear that the keyboard problem has progressed from the Shift key to a variety of other keys. Not quite in the right direction as we would like to see. Here is a quote from an American MacBook Pro user named Dave. As he said to MacFixIt:

"I've now had two 17" MacBook Pros with keyboard troubles. I returned my first MacBook Pro after 4 days because the comma key did not work consistently. They replaced that unit, and I have been working with the replacement for about one month. Initially, the replacement unit seemed to require hard key taps on the 'i' and 't' keys to insure response. Now, I'm finding flakiness on other keys. I can't tell whether [this] is a heat-related problem — though, as I type this message, my MacBook Pro is hot and I'm finding that many of my keys are not responding well." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: Keyboard problems (keys not recognized); Uneven display illumination; more 27 June 2006.)

Does this suggest the heat is warping the keyboard? Damn heat! Someone needs to put a bit of heat right up Apple to get this problem fixed.

iSight camera problem

The built-in iSight camera in the MacBook Pros may not always work. The error message most commonly seen when trying to use iSight is "in use by another application" even though all other applications are quit (except the Finder) and the iSight status indicator light is supposedly off. If you encounter this problem, try resetting the System Management Controller or SMC, the equivalent to Power Management Unit or PMU on older Macs (see batteries.htm for Intel machines).

Annoying buzzing sound problem

A number of Intel-based laptops emit an annoying high-pitched whining or buzzing sound. It seems to be associated with the iSight camera. Turning on and off the mirror widget may make the noise disappear. But if you try applying the Keyboard Update 1.0 utility from Apple presumably to improve keyboard responsiveness, other users may suddenly notice the same noise. And this time the widget will not work simply by turning on and off. You will have to keep the iSight camera turned on continuously (chewing up battery power and reducing system performance) just to stop the noise. As Kyle Craft writes:

"I applied the keyboard update and now my whining noise is back. I was using the trick were I would turn on / off the mirror widget. Now I have to keep the mirror widget on at all times to keep the whining noise away." (MacFixIt.com: Keyboard Update 1.0 for Intel-based Macs (#2): Nullifies noise workarounds for MacBook Pro. 28 April 2006.)

Annoying whining noise when battery power is nearly empty

Drawing power from the battery can at times produce a high-pitched whining noise emanating from the laptop. The noise has been heard on some titanium laptops when the battery power reaches a low point and other circuits start to kick in in readiness to let you know you are running out of power. However, as we understand it, the noise is a lot more annoying on the MacBook Pro. Various solutions do exist (we wouldn't leave you out in the cold). One is to turn off or reduce power to other circuitry such as turning off the option in the system preferences for illuminating keyboard in low light conditions, turning off one processor using Apple's CHUD tools, or reducing display brightness to name a few. Or the other solution is simply for Apple to get its act together and fix it.

The problem appears to be caused by a build up of charge on the outer metal casing when a lot of circuits are turned on which is interfering with various electronic components. As one reader discovered:

"The noise increases over time and is very distracting. It disappears if I touch the metal screen cover, but builds up again- so it's presumably some sort of capacitive effect. In my case, just touching the back of the screen causes the noise to disappear, but only temporarily." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#13): Whining noises more fixes; AppleTalk printers not showing up over AirPort; more. 14 March 2006.)

Here is one reader's solution:

"I just wanted to chime in. I saw the suggestion about opening and closing the display and noticed that it would stop and start again as the ambient light under the keyboard would turn on and off. On it would whine, off it would stop. So I turned on the room light, the ambient light turned off and the whining stopped. So for me, anyway, the ambient light is what causes the whining." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#13): Whining noises more fixes; AppleTalk printers not showing up over AirPort; more. 14 March 2006.)

The problem is considered so significant that a 'whine' noise petition is going around the traps by US customers forcing Apple to address the issue with a new revision. As this could take some time before the new revised models come out, we recommend that you wait before purchasing a new MacBook Pro.

Excessive power draw

A minor problem for those doing a lot of travelling with a MacBook Pro is the amount of power this machine draws. Power sources on aircraft and in some cars generate 75W, which may not be sufficient to run and charge the MacBook Pro. You will need 85W of power. Otherwise you must either put the laptop to sleep for the battery to charge up, or remove the battery and run the computer normally.

NOTE: The power adapter that comes with the cheaper MacBook at 75W should work with MacBook Pro. But don't expect it to charge the battery and run the MacBook Pro at the same time. Next time we should ask Apple to throw in a bar fridge and plasma screen to draw just that little bit more current.

Excessive heat problems

Since their introduction in January 2006, we are learning in late April 2006 how a number of laptops are emitting far too much heat than their cousins — the PowerPC laptops. The consequence of this is a slight bending of the display where the latching mechanism for holding the display steady when closed does not work properly. For more serious cases, a vertical line/bar or other screen defects may appear (similar to titanium models after several years of use). Again there is some inconsistency in the way these affected laptops are dealt with according to Apple resellers. Some resellers, if they are not struggling for profits, are happy to have the whole unit replaced (e.g. in a big city such as Sydney or New York where there is a big enough population to support the products). For other resellers, the preferred option is to repair the display (make sure you have Apple warranty).

To minimise this poor manufacturing problem, you will need to reduce the temperature. You can do this by purchasing a slower MacBook Pro (e.g. 1.67GHz), reduce processor speed further in the Energy Saver preference pane, find an adapter or special stand to lift the laptop off the surface for better ventilation, and run the update from Apple. Beyond that, you will have to be prepared to pay for extended Apple warranty or pay for expensive repairs when the problem starts to set in.

Oops! Sorry guys. Apple has updated the MacBook Pro to have a 2GHz microprocessor. So much for having the slower machine!

UPDATE
10 June 2006

As for the excessive fan noise and heat problems, perhaps this update will help (so long as you don't use the laptop too much, perhaps it should be left on in a relatively idle manner — like a table lamp). Good luck!

UPDATE
27 June 2006

At the same time as Apple released its OSX 10.4.7 "Tiger" update, Apple saw it in their hearts to provide a firmware update for MacBook Pro 17-inch users known as Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch SMC Firmware 1.1 (420k). There isn't quite the same liberal splashing of detailed comments about this update compared to the full Combo OSX 10.4.7 updater. It is purported that this update changes the behaviour of the fans. By behaviour, we mean probably starting up earlier and more frequently to reduce the heat.

We can now see why Apple isn't too keen to discuss the changes here!

Oh well! So much for purchasing one of those nice little fluid-dynamic hard drives to keep things whisper quiet on the laptop (Oops, portable desktop computers we should say!). Library users will be pleased to hear the sounds of fans going off nearly all the time.

Apple would be better off doing something to control the heat — automatic reduction in processor speed to as low as 250MHz and better battery-recharging circuitry would be a good start!

To run this firmware update:


(i) Quit all running applications.

(ii) Run the firmware update.

(iii) When it says to click the Restart button, do it.

(iv) Wait until the machine restarts. The update will automatically run (including a progress bar to let you know what it is doing!). Fans will blast away, but this is normal. Critical is to make sure you don't interrupt the update process (fingers cross the bloody swollen battery in the MacBook Pro had better function right and the electricity company won't give us blackouts.

(v) Click the OK button when finished.
 

It is not clear whether Apple provides a firmware restoration tool in case something awful does happen. Your best bet is to repeat steps (iii) to (v) and keep trying until it works. Nothing like the application of Murphy's law (or should that be Apple's law!) when running an update.

UPDATE
30 June 2006

Some users are not entirely convinced Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch SMC Firmware 1.1 does increase fan activity. As MacFixIt reader Marc Marshall said:

"I've installed the 17" MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update (it didn't seem to show in my Software Update until after I had installed 10.4.7), and I can't say I've noticed any significant difference one way or the other.

Both before and after, I can only hear the fan if the computer is under heavy load and playing a game, in which case the processor core tops out at a hair over 80C. This has not changed.

I forgot [to] do a side-by-side test to make sure, but it's possible it did decrease the processor core temperature at idle by about 5C; after the update it is consistently idling in the low 50s (usually 51C), and I'm *almost* positive that before at very low load (just typing, for example) it tended to idle in the high 50s. It's possible that my memory is faulty on this, however, and regardless, there's no noticeable increase in fan noise or activityit is functionally silent. These are at a room temperature of about 25C, by the way, with good airflow underneathit's on a wire "mini-table"." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro 17-inch SMC Firmware Update (#2): Effects unclear. 30 June 2006.)

Another MacFixIt reader put it succinctly what he thinks about this firmware:

"Beware of SMC Firmware 1.5f10. Internal temps seem to run higher than before 1.5f10 (CPU gets up to 84C vs 80C).

After installing the firmware update, I can no longer burn DVD's without the Macbook Pro 17 overheating and suddenly rebooting in the middle of writing the disc. The only solution (hack) is to place a large fan beside the Mac that moves air above and below the keyboard while burning. That cools the case enough to get through the process.

I am now experiencing sudden reboots watching/editing MPEG's. (Video seems to generate a lot of heat.)

The firmware update is not reversible. Apple must replace the logic board or create a new firmware update. (Support has no idea if that is in the future.)

This is my second Macbook Pro 17. The first was returned for the same overheating problems mentioned above. This Mac (#2) worked flawlessly until installing firmware update 1.5f10. Now it has the same overheating problems as #1.

If your Macbook Pro 17 is working now, don't risk installing the firmware." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro 17-inch SMC Firmware Update (#2): Effects unclear. 30 June 2006.)

RAM problems

Do you have a MacBook Pro that repeatedly experiences a system freeze or sudden restarts? Check to see if you have good RAM installed. Any bad RAM cards could create or exacerbate the problem. As one reader writes:

"I have a week 7, 2.0GHz MacBook Pro that I ordered with 2 GB of RAM. I was experiencing random reboots, kernel panics, application crashes and failed application startups.

I ran the extended hardware tests off the special 'D' partition of install DVD #1, and it told me there was a memory problem. After removing one SODIMM, the tests succeeded. After swapping the SODIMMs (still only one in), the test failed.

I ordered a replacement SODIMM from Apple, popped it in, and haven't experienced any random reboots or other such issues since." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro Special Report: Repeated system freezes or sudden restarts — Checking for bad RAM. 7 June 2006.)

Given how new the laptop is, you are best to ask for a replacement from Apple or the vendor supplying the RAM.

QUESTION TO APPLE: How can a brand new laptop already contain bad RAM? Just how cheap is the RAM users are getting?

UPDATE
25 August 2006

You may wish to check your external devices as well while you are at it (Apple should pay users for doing the quality control work). According to this MacFixIt report, some external devices might cause start up problems, or unexpected system freezes/kernel panics. Although the report refers specifically to Mac Pro (another Apple computer to confuse the masses), we can't discount the possibility that external devices could be at fault for some system problems. MacFixIt recommends plugging the external devices into different ports on the computer as a workaround.

Insufficient drivers

Insufficient drivers to run a variety of hardware and software is a major issue for many MacBook Pro and other Intel Macs in the early stages of its release. No surprises here given the change over to a new microprocessor. Hopefully the latest Intel-optimised OSX "Tiger" version will provide some relief here.

Should get better in 2007.

MacBook Pro not quite having the full pro features

No inbuilt-modems or video out capabilities means people are basically forced to get on broadband using an external modem and/or network and buy a new adapter to show your presentations to clients.

Makes some observers wonder whether the next generation MacBook Pros with inbuilt modem and video out capabilities will have to be called the MacBook Pro Pro &*151 the professional version of the MacBook Pro.

Wireless networking problems

Slow or poor/inconsistent connection to wireless third-party routers on a network. As one reader named Michael writes:

"Connecting to a 3Com 7250 WAP using WPA2 (AES) is frequently difficult. The connection will be made initially and then go away minutes later. Subsequent attempts to connect usually do not work. When the connection disappears the DHCP information is lost and a dummy self-assigned IP address shows up on the interface." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#14): Inconsistent wireless connections with third-party routers; Problems operating from battery; more. 15 March 2006.)

AppleTalk printers may also not show up consistently and quickly on Apple's wireless AirPort network, necessitating IP printing to be used instead of AppleTalk (presumably to stop total strangers acting as freeloaders having free access to network resources such as an Apple colour laserprinter).

VLANs also gets a mention by users as being particular slow when it comes to network performance. As MacFixIt reported:

"We previously reported on an issue where Intel-based Macs exhibit significant data packet loss when connected to networks that also have 802.1q VOIP VLAN devices attached (such as VOIP phones from Cisco and other manufacturers), or when a VLAN setup is used." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#13): Whining noises more fixes; AppleTalk printers not showing up over AirPort; more. 14 March 2006.)

For other third-party routers, getting an IP address seems like an impossible task for OSX. For example, MacFixIt reader John Budacovich said:

"I too am having problems with a MacBook Pro accessing a secure (PEAP) wireless network.

'My laptop makes the connection to the access with no problem - but it does not receive an IP address from the CISCO access point. It self assigns a 169 address instead. In fact, I have observed the access point receiving the request for an address from the MacBook Pro which the access point does provide.

'I have also tried to get on the secure network with a fixed IP address in an open range on the VPN - but with no success. The same MacBook Pro will, however, access an open network (and receive an IP address from same) in the very same building without difficulty." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#15): Kernel panics upon waking up (Inability to wake from sleep); More on whining noise; Wireless connectivity. 16 March 2006.)

Another reader writes:

"I have done some non-scientific testing and found that the wifi, while more sensitive than in the previous Powerbooks (I had almost all generations of them), has slower throughput on the Macbook if you are any meaningful distance away from the access point even if you have a good signal (3 bars on the status bar indicator).

'I ran speed tests using speakeasy test servers.

'My Internet connect is rated at 8000/768 (8MB/768KB). When I use a wired Cat5 connection, on the closest server to me (NYC), I get 8168/695.

'On my PowerBook 1.67 at 10 feet from the access point I got 8020/695. On my MacBook Pro at the same distance I got 7080/684.

At 40 feet from the access point with my PowerBook 1.67 I got 6400/690. With my MacBook Pro, I got 2300/534. What is most interesting is that at this distance, my PB had only 1-2 bars, where my MacBook Pro had 3/4 bars, yet the throughput on MacBook Pro drops off considerably.

At 50-60 feet from the access point my PowerBook loses the connection. The Macbook Pro maintains the connection 1-2 bars, but the throughput slows to 430/123. My old Gateway PC laptop at that distance gets a 6300/650 throughput." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#15): Kernel panics upon waking up (Inability to wake from sleep); More on whining noise; Wireless connectivity. 16 March 2006.)

The best solution so far is to delete all AirPort network configurations, set it to automatically join a wireless network, and create new AirPort network information to help re-establish connections.

Are you also having problems sharing an Internet connection on a MacBook Pro over AirPort? Try opening up Network system preference pane, clicking on "Port Configuration", and dragging the relevant sharing port (whether it is Ethernet, Firewire or whatever) to the top of the list. That should hopefully fix it until Apple sorts this one out later.

Digital presentation problems

Going back to the presentation side of things, you will need to remember that a fully charged battery does not necessarily mean you don't need a power adapter. It is true the MacBook Pro can be connected to an external display with the lid of your laptop closed saving power to the LCD screen. Yet for some reason the power isn't sufficient to deliver the video signal to the external display, or else the computer will suddenly go to sleep. You are wise to keep the power adapter plugged in at all times.

UPDATE
7 July 2006

OSX 10.4.7 update may allow simultaneous viewing on an external display and the in-built display, but after a few minutes, the in-built display may lose colours or show black and white stripes. This is an update where video drivers have been botched compared to previous OSX updates.

Wait for the next OSX update to resolve this issue.

Inbuilt speaker problems

Notice anything funny about your speakers, especially the one on the right? The quality of the sound seems to be unusually poor. You are not alone! As one reader writes:

"The problem is not always obvious. I cannot hear it when listening to music. It is by far most apparent on Male speech such as podcasts or Steve Jobs Keynote. It almost sounds like the DVD drive is resonating. Please try the following with your MacBook Pros.

Turn the volume all the way up. Launch this CNET video of Steve Jobs presenting the new Mac mini. Turn the volume control on the video playback window to 100%. Listen to part of the keynote and I bet you will hear the distortion." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#11): Audio distortion; whining noises; screen flickering; more . 7 March 2006.)

Another reader writes:

"I have realized that the speakers in my MacBook Pro are worthless. The right speaker is horribly distorted. This distortion is most apparent at higher volumes when a male voice is speaking or music with bass is playing." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#11): Audio distortion; whining noises; screen flickering; more . 7 March 2006.)

Unfortunately there is no solution to the right speaker. You will have to wait for the next MacBook Pro model to solve this one! As of 30 April 2006, Apple should be shipping replacement units with improved right speakers.

Audio line output and DVI problems

More audio output problems on the laptop. This time the audio line output is highly sensitive to noise emanating from a cable connected to the DVI video out port. Sounds like Apple doesn't want the movie pirates copying DVDs to another computer in high quality sound together with the clearest video possible through DVI. Only one problem: it is affecting everyone else trying to make a decent presentation of their own work using the DVI port and audio output. Take, for instance, the view of Mauricio Ardila:

"If you use the line out of the MacBook Pro while using the DVI video out, as it would be the case as when doing a Keynote/PowerPoint presentation for example, the audio output has a lot of distortion and noise. Disconnecting the DVI connector silences the noise and the line out is usable again.

I have hooked my new MacBook Pro to my professional speakers in the studios at work and at home, have tried several cables, connections, patchbays, etc. and the one thing that quiets out the line out is disconnecting the DVI. I am going to measure the distortion specs because this is just NOT acceptable. I can deal with the whine, by working with the PhotoBooth "fix". I can deal with the excessive heat, by buying some fans and put the MacBook Pro on a stand. But having this noise out of the line out is just plain bad design, and one bug, that does interfere with my professional life.

I also tried closing the lid and only running from an external monitor, the MacBook Pro's screen off. The noise is still there, so it is probably a hardware problem that arises from using the DVI video out and not a dual screen problem." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: Audio distortion when using DVI. 10 May 2006.)

Your best solution is to purchase a PCI expansion card for desktop models or a USB device dedicated to professional audio output work. But as one MacFixIt reader said:

"I bet that if it was the other way around, say plugging something in the headphone jack would affect the screen resolution, people would be all over the place, and the solution could not possibly be, "just hook an external monitor and it will work fine." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: Audio distortion when using DVI. 10 May 2006.)

UPDATE
15 June 2006

There is still a continuing issue with DVI when projecting an image from the MacBook Pro to a digital projector. As MacFixIt reader Payson Hall writes:

"The MacBook Pro does not seem to play nicely with the ViewSonic PJ350 using DVI. It doesn't seem to recognize it. The PJ350 supports DVI and I have driven it successfully without issue for a couple of years with my G4.

'I tried using the DVI to VGA adapter, and plugging it into a VGA to DVI cable supplied with my projector. This gave me a signal, but I was unable to get the normal 1024x768 resolution on the projector... it defaulted to 800x600 and when I tried to force it, I lost connectivity. Strangely, I turned on video mirroring, then on a lark tried to rotate the picture 90 degrees, and THAT produced an image (rotated) on the PJ350. When I tried to rotate back, I lost the signal. I rotated the image 180 degrees and got the signal. I then rotated the image from the projector (a setting to support ceiling mount) and was able to project normally. This says to me that the problem is in the hardware or software on the MacBook Pro side.

'When I tried to go back to the DVI to DVI cable (without the adapter), I had a signal. Others have reported that once you get a second device detected on the video out, this seemed to correct the DVI issue." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: Melting or bursting batteries; Incompatibility with projectors; more. 15 June 2006.)

Screen flicker and vertical lines problems

Try reducing the screen brightness below a certain threshold level. You may discover another interesting anomaly of the MacBook Pro. The screen's backlight produces a faint flicker. As one reader said in March 2006:

"I realized that the backlight on my screen flickers when my screen dimmed down below 4 bars. If I turn my iSight Camera on, the flickering stops for a while, but eventually returns. This is not apparent when the brightness is turned up." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#11): Audio distortion; whining noises; screen flickering; more . 7 March 2006.)

In a more serious situation, one reader writes:

"I have had my MacBook Pro for 4 days and have had a screen problem twice. After being on for at least 3 hours the entire screen gets vertical pink/red lines across it. It appears that the 'red' in RGB has sifted on pixel right. The only way to fix the problem is to reboot and it goes away." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro (#11): Audio distortion; whining noises; screen flickering; more . 7 March 2006.)

This observation is similar to the vertical coloured lines appearing for many users of titanium laptops after a few years of regular use. However those lines tend to disappear by adjusting the screen lid angle. In this case, it seems likely a connection or few inside the display are touching something. However, for a new laptop such as this MacBook Pro, something else might be happening here.

Is this an overheating problem? Or is the VRAM getting corrupted somehow?

UPDATE
15 June 2007

MacFixIt claimed the latest MacBook Pro 2.2/2.4GHz laptops still exhibit a flickering screen when not at full brightness. As Albrei Labin said:

"I have discovered several (in fact all) new LED-macbook pros have a flickering screen if not set to maximum brightness. the flickering is worst at max minus 3 bars and disappears at about the last 4 bars. all those books have been running for at least half an hour." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro LED: Displays flickering when not at full brightness 15 June 2007.)

Then MacFixIt adds:

"There is also some indication that Apple may released a firmware update that will resolve this issue, perhaps through power delivery modification."

Well, that's 16 months ago when users noted this flickering problem. Why is it taking so long for Apple to notice users' concerns and to do something about it?

And why hasn't the problem appeared in the aluminium PowerBook G4 laptops?

The only explanation given for why the screen flickers can be observed from the following quote by an anonymous MacFixIt user:

"I believe Apple is controlling screen brightness with PWM or pulse width modulation. Rather than changing the voltage to the screen which requires larger more expensive components, PWM is very effective for most applications. Basically what it does is turn the voltage on and off very rapidly, this on off cycle can be very precisely controlled. The longer the off cycle and or the shorter the on cycles the lower the brightness.

Now here is where the trouble comes in. With CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamps) the bulb appears to be on solid at all brightness levels, this is because fluorescent lamps have a high persistence. This means that the bulb continues to glow for a fraction of a second after the voltage is removed, so when the PWM is in it's off state the bulb is getting dimmer but not going out completely and it's so quick that our eyes see it as a steady on.

Now LED's are extremely fast acting and stop emitting light within about a nano second after the voltage turns off. For PWM this means that at certain long off cycles the LED will go dark long enough for our eyes to notice it. Since we are talking about possibly hundreds of times a second we don't see a flashing light but more of a flicker.

It is possible that Apple may be able to fix this in software by modifying the PWM rates, they can control both the off and the on rates so if they make the off rate faster and the on rate slower they could get the same brightness levels at a rate where our eyes don't notice the off cycle as a flicker.

If they do not have full control of the PWM cycle setting or can't get a setting that our eyes don't notice the off cycles then I am afraid the only solution is to either view the screen at full brightness or change out the backlight for a CCFL model." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro LED: Displays flickering when not at full brightness 15 June 2007.)

Is this true?

Could Apple be cutting corners on the manufacturing process as a way of saving on costs while trying to sell the laptop to unsuspecting professionals users at the highest price possible for profit as if implying the laptop is built with high quality components?

UPDATE
29 June 2007

A partial solution to the flickering screen problem has been unveiled by Apple through the official MacBook Pro 2.2/2.4GHz Software Update 1.0. The best Apple can do for now is modify the extensions controlling the GeForce/NVidia graphics card to help slow down the rate of flickering. Apple is hoping the problem will be less annoying to users. As one MacFixIt reader said:

"I have a two week old 15" 2.4GHz MacBook Pro and have had the shimmering issue from day one. After installing the 1.0 software update, the shimmer or flicker that I was experiencing has now been reduced or replaced with slow waves or bands that undulate from the middle of the display towards the top. While this is slightly less annoying that the shimmering, I still do not consider the issue resolved." (MacFixIt: MacBook Pro 2.2/2.4GHz Software Update 1.0 (#2): Graphics card updates included; may reduce display "shimmering" 29 June 2007.)

Screen illumination problems

Thanks to the huge size of the 17-inch screen on the MacBook Pro, owners are unhappily reporting cases of uneven lighting of the display as if something in the screen housing unit is pinching the screen. A lousy design from Apple if you are a graphic artist trying to do your accurate colour work.

Take for example the quote from MacFixIt reader Bruce Stevens:

"The lighting of my brand new MacBook Pro screen is very uneven. I took some pictures.

This uneven lighting is really bad, making it difficult to make good color choices when retouching or color correcting images. It remains uneven all the time, even after being booted for several hours.

The placement of the uneven lighting looks like pressure points on the screen itself." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: Keyboard problems (keys not recognized); Uneven display illumination; more 27 June 2006.)

A look at the first picture from Mr Stevens isn't quite clear as it suggests a reflection of a lighting source behind the camera. But the second picture is a little clearer. It seems to suggest a darkening of the screen in the top two corners.

Then again? Could this be an example of excessive heat starting to warp the LCD screen?

Inferior display used in MacBooks and MacBook Pro?

As of 16 May 2007, a class action lawsuit has been filed against Apple. It concerns the displays of the MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops released in early May 2006. According to an article written by Charles Jade and published on arstechnica.com and a digital copy of the official lawsuit available freely to the public online in the PDF format, it is claimed by plaintiffs Fred Greaves and Dave Gatley that Apple has advertised the LCD display of the laptops as far superior to that of other portable laptops including the ability to show "millions of colors" (which would effectively require 8-bit LCDs) when in fact the plaintiffs have discovered an inferior screen. On receiving instructions on how to check the specs for the display used by Apple, the plaintiffs visited the manufacturer's web site showing the colours are no greater than 262 thousand colours (ie a cheaper 6-bit LCD from Samsung). Apple has been using a dithering effect to create the illusion of millions of colours.

The official Apple advertisement subject to the lawsuit can be found today on the Apple web site for the MacBook Pro. The advertisement states:

"Everything is illuminated

"MacBook Pro makes your ideas more enlightening, with a sharp, high-resolution screen. See blacker blacks, whiter whites, and many more colors in between on a brilliant 15.4-inch, 1440-by-900-pixel or 17-inch, 1680-by-1050-pixel digital display. Enjoy a nuanced view simply unavailable on other portables."

Enlightening indeed, especially the part that says "see...many more colors..."

See many more colours compared to what? Laptops built 20 years ago? Or are we comparing MacBook Pro laptops to say the previous model PowerBook G4 1.67GHz laptops with their millions of colours and some of the high-quality PC laptops being sold today?

Just with this statement alone, one can observe a slightly exaggerated claim assuming the plaintiffs can observe a banding effect — an unwanted feature that occurs when using colour gradients in professional illustration and photographic images for which Apple computers are meant to be designed to handle. One is led to believe this might be the case with the plaintiffs attempting to argue in the Superior Court of the State of California an inferior display and therefore a misrepresentation of the products being sold by Apple to customers.

Now it would be interesting to see if professional graphic designers can tell the difference.

For example, it is possible to reveal this banding effect on other laptops having millions of colours by reducing the colour range to thousands of colours. The banding effect becomes visible in a gradient fill from one colour to another within say a photograph or illustration image. But are there enough colours on the MacBook Pro to hide this effect? If it turns out to be true the MacBook Pro laptops does have a banding effect and any other oddities which isn't being repaired or replaced by Apple, then there would be a case to answer for. But even if this wasn't the case, the point has been made well to show that for MacBook Pro owners who have spent A$3,500 to $4,500 for the laptop, you would think Apple would have provided a decent "Pro" LCD display as in previous top-of-the-range Apple laptop models with genuine millions of colours. But no, Apple allegedly wants to save money so it can make a bigger profit without telling the public (especially the professionals who need the extra colours for their graphic work).

One would understand if the cheaper MacBook came with the inferior screen if only Apple would be nice to let customers know of this fact. However in the case of MacBook Pro owners, if it is found the display is inferior (i.e. a banding effect in the gradient colours and any other dubious observations) and were not told about it before making the decision to purchase the laptops, it would be another classic example of a shareholder company driven solely by profit and will use any method available to it to help minimise the costs in return for higher profits and force customers to keep purchasing new Apple computers every few years.

To make matters worse for Apple, the plaintiffs will also argue that within weeks of customers purchasing their MacBooks, users have observed what appears to be a "grainy" display, others complained of the display being "sparkly", and others would notice "distracting lines at different points on the display screen". When the users complained, many dissatisfied customers "were chastised by Apple agents and employees for being too picky about their assessments of the quality of the display". These quotes can be found in the original lawsuit document.

With no other avenue to turn to, it would appear that users have allegedly been forced to vent their complaints on the Apple discussion forum online (not exactly a new situation for dissatisfied owners of older Macs) only to be substantially edited by Apple to reduce the severity and nature of the complaints. Again this is another interesting claim to be contested in a court of law.

One wonders whether Apple is finding it difficult to leave behind obvious manufacturing flaws inside computers as a way of getting customers to continually pay for the repairs and have now opted to fool customers into thinking they are getting a quality product? Either that or Apple is living in la-la land thinking there isn't a quality control problem in the manufacturing of Apple products. Well, this is the implication of the class action lawsuit if it is found to be true.

This is the problem with Apple computers. You don't always know where the parts are coming from until you do some investigation. And when you do, are you getting your money's worth?

And, most importantly, can you achieve the type of work you need to perform on an Apple product?

SuperDrive problems

Another interesting observation from Randy Repass is how the SuperDrive of his MacBook Pro 15" can severely scratch CD/DVD-R disks if the machine is moved, and slightly scratched if resting on a desk:

"I am on my fourth mac laptop, this one being a MacBook Pro 15". This is the first machine where I have found my disk drive is severely scratching disks if the machine is moved at all during any use of the drive. Sometimes this even happens when it is not being moved, but less often. If I tap the casing over the drive it will cease, but it is very audibly scratching the disks when it does." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: More on swollen or bursting batteries; Continuing projector issues; more. 15 June 2006.)

If you have this problem, get the SuperDrive replaced immediately while the machine is under warranty.

UPDATE
21 May 2007

MacFixIt has acknowledged noisy slot load optical CD/DVD drives in MacBooks and MacBook Pro. It's an issue that appears to have been worse in early 2006 when the first generation models came out. One user commented that his noisy drive had collapsed within three months of use and had to be replaced. Some users suspect a different brand was used for the drive by Apple and later swapped back to the original drive manufactured by Matsushita. Still, even after 18 months, some users are noticing an increase in the noise level in the current crop of drives after a period of use although considered within acceptable range according to Apple.

With a bit of luck, current optical drives in the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro should not collapse too easily. Hopefully they will get past the 12 months warranty period.

Again one cannot stress the importance of considering other laptops from PC makers, or purchase a 3-year extended warranty deal for any new Apple laptop or desktop machine. This is especially true of any new model of computer coming out of Apple.

UPDATE
28 June 2007

Apple has released a SuperDrive Firmware Update 2.1 for MacBooks and MacBook Pro. This one allegedly fixes among other things the way the SuperDrive (e.g. Matchita DVD-R UJ-857 and Matchita DVD-R UJ-857D) stutters or freezes during playback as if it has trouble reading the data on the CD or DVD disks.

You'll need OSX 10.4.4 or higher to apply this update.

One interesting thing to note is how notoriously difficult it is to figure out which MacBook Pro needs the update. Not all MacBook Pros have the same SuperDrive (e.g. you may get the HL-DT-ST DVD-RW GWA4080MA SuperDrive instead of the Matshita brand). At 12MB to download the update, it can be a time-waster for some users.

UPDATE
15 August 2007

Something interesting has emerged from the SuperDrive Firmware Update 2.1 for pre-July 2007 MacBook and MacBook Pro. Those users who have went through the OSX's official Software Update tool under the Apple sign menu where it downloaded the firmware update have noticed no message indicating when it was installing the software so users could stop everything they were doing and quit all applications (ideally users should restart the computer before installation with extensions turned off). The result has been an interruption of the installation process for many users resulting in widespread failure of the optical drives. And unfortunately Apple did not provide a firmware restoration tool in case something went wrong. Apple has pulled the update down from its web site and the official web page for the update leads nowhere.

However, it is too late. A number of users have discovered their SuperDrives have become inoperative because of some kind of interruption.

UPDATE
4 February 2008

Apple Inc may not have notified enough Apple resellers and stores of the SuperDrive Firmware Update 2.1 fiascoe. Users claim they are having to fight hard or cough up nearly US$300 for a new SuperDrive to solve this issue. Perhaps the following quote from a user might help those people wanting a quicker solution:

"I just received my MacBook Pro back from the Apple Store. It was two months out of warranty and they wanted to charge me over $300 for a new optical drive that went kaput after the update. I explained how the Superdrive Firmware 2.1 was the obvious culprit, especially after reading discussions and sites like this one, but the Genius said unless Apple okays it and acknowledges the problem, there was nothing they could do about the cost.

I called Apple, spoke to a Specialist and he acknowledged it was probably the firmware update. He then called the Apple Store and waived the fee.

Although I'm sure not everyone's experiences are the same, the Apple specialist I talked to was extremely articulate and accommodating. It was as easy-going as any service could be. And the turn-around for the fix was less than 24 hours.

My advice is — If you are absolutely sure it is the Superdrive Firmware 2.1 update, call Apple. Insist on speaking to a specialist. Hopefully your experience will be the same as mine." (MacFixIt.com: Fix for some SuperDrive failures. 4 February 2008.)

More battery problems - batteries swelling and ready to explode

Are you ready for the next little ripper to plague the MacBook Pro?

Well, you'll be glad to hear at least two reports have emerged after 14 June 2006 suggesting the battery inside the MacBook Pro is swelling due to overheating (i.e. either from the charging process or just generally from the heat emitted by the entire computer during normal operation). The battery may be functional, but the swelling causes the battery to press against the keyboard and/or trackpad.

As MacFixIt reader Dana Stibolt said:

"We had a MacBook Pro in our lab today, where the user complained of a problem with his track pad clicker button. It appeared that the clicker was stuck, and when pressed sometimes it would unstick for a moment, and then go back to having the track pad button continuously pressed. After a short investigation, we found the problem to be the battery. The battery had swelled and had even separated some to the point where it was pressing up on the underside of the track pad area causing the button not to work.

'I posted the following note and two pictures at my Web site." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: Melting or bursting batteries; Incompatibility with projectors; more. 15 June 2006.)

Here is another picture courtesy of MacFixIt staff (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: Pictures of our own swollen battery. 22 June 2006.):

Another MacFixIt reader going by the name of John revealed his interesting observation:

"I have a new MacBook Pro, and it is running like everyone else's hot. Today I saw that the battery was totally warped, the metal pealing away from the body." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: Melting or bursting batteries; Incompatibility with projectors; more. 15 June 2006.)

UPDATE
15 June 2006

The fattening battery problem has swelled to several dozens of reports to MacFixIt.com since users have learned about the problem yesterday.

MacFixit reader Brian Bukowski writes:

"I had a problem with my battery in my early MacBookPro. It was warped, and would just randomly loose connection and the computer would shut off. Apple replaced the battery for me at my local Apple Store." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: More on swollen or bursting batteries; Continuing projector issues; more. 15 June 2006.)

Richard Levy writes:

"I had the same thing happen to me. battery expanded and then didn't work. Apple replaced the battery." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: More on swollen or bursting batteries; Continuing projector issues; more. 15 June 2006.)

This reader had a relatively severe case of malfunction:

"I had mine burst as well, though mine completely released it's self from the shell and jammed it's self into the MacBook Pro, not a easy feat since that adhesive they close the battery case with is tough." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro: More on swollen or bursting batteries; Continuing projector issues; more. 15 June 2006.)

UPDATE
22 June 2006

A severely warped battery can stop its proper functioning or cause the computer to shut down intermittently when running from the battery power. These batteries appear to have been shipped with the first MacBook Pro models of February 2006. The latest MacBook Pro laptops may contain improved batteries.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs would be wise to issue a Battery Repair Extension Program before things get worse. We hear Apple is replacing batteries on a case-by-case basis. It suggests Apple is looking to replace only the severely damaged batteries.

UPDATE
28 June 2006

Apple resellers are simply giving MacBook Pro users new batteries from other similar machines in stock. The demand is quickly outstripping supply. In the meantime, Apple has not issued official details of the battery serial numbers affected by this problem. This can only mean two things:

  1. Either all the batteries in every single MacBook Pro sold to this day are made from the same batch and there are simply too many to replace, taking the case-by-case approach of fixing users' battery problems to save money for Apple; or
  2. The problem is more entrenched and lies squarely at the battery-recharging circuitry (much harder to repair meaning that all MacBook Pro machines would have to be brought in as part of a repair extension program).

UPDATE
5 July 2006

We have been searching long and hard for positive feedback about the MacBook Pro. Putting aside the reasonable design, we are still plagued with serious "under-the-bonnet" hardware issues. These issues have brought the machine down to below what it should be. Here is another quote from a MacFixIt reader:

"Is it my imagination (it's not), or is it that EVERY Intel Mac released yet has had a series of problems, one right after another? What the heck has Steve Jobs given us with this "improvement" switch to Intel??? (All are based on not only Intel processors, but also Intel designed Mother Boards and Chipsets). While older PPC based Macs also had occasional problems (the G3 iBook debacle, OH BROTHER!... I have one that was repaired THREE TIMES under warranty! And a G4 iBook that the Trackpad that STILL skips), they were far more reliable! I for one, after 12 years of buying new Macs, will never buy a "MacIntel". I hope you're reading this Stevie." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): More on vertical multi-colored lines at startup; caused by Mac OS X 10.4.7?. 5 July 2006.)

Wouldn't this be a good time to provide a major revision of the MacBook Pro, Mr Jobs?

UPDATE
14 August 2006

Dell made the biggest recall of up to 4.1 million faulty batteries from its Dell Latitude, Inspiron, XPS and Dell Precision Mobile Workstation notebooks manufactured between 2004 and August 2006 inclusive in its history after several users posted online examples of what happens when the lithium-ion batteries in Dell laptops swell and explode (literally creating a fire and burning the laptop to a crisp) and Japan's Industry Minister ordered Sony and Dell to investigate the reports. The burning of the laptops is quite spectacular and disturbing to say the least considering this is the same problem Apple is having with the batteries inside the MacBook Pro. The only difference is that Dell is prepared to spend $400 million to fix the problem. Apple, on the other hand, is looking at the problem on a case-by-case basis for those affected 17-inch MacBook users and deciding whether or not to replace the faulty batteries. Otherwise if you can check the battery model numbers and see whether it satisfies A1061, A1078 and A1079 and serial numbers that begin with HQ441 through HQ507 and 3X446 through 3X510 then you might benefit from Apple's battery exchange program.

Channel NewsAsia has reported on 15 August 2006 how the faulty Sony Lithium ion batteries used in the Dell laptops were also used by Apple. It is unclear when this occurred but we understand the 15-inch MacBook Pro is definitely part of Apple's official Battery Exchange Program. If you have purchased this laptop between February 2006 through May 2006, check Apple's web site for further details.

According to Channel NewsAsia, a spokeswoman for Apple claims they were looking into the issue.

UPDATE
17 August 2006

Still not everyone is convinced the battery problem is widespread or of major concern. As one MacFixIt reader said:

"Why can't MacFixit start giving out numbers of reports instead non-committal terms such as "a few" or "some" or "a large number"? If MacFixit would report that they have received 10,000 reports of Superdisks failing it would help to put such an issue in perspective. Everybody wants to know how wide spread a problem appears to be. If only two or three users have reported issues ("a few"?) that is a far cry from 10,000. Most people know, or should know, that the internet tends to concentrate negatives. Uninformed users all to commonly jump to outrageous conclusions about the pervasiveness of any given issue.

'I'm not a statistician so could someone who knows about this sort of thing would work please explain. It would seem to me that surveys and/or forums that rely on self-selected participants and anonymous, anecdotal reports could not possibly provide any extrapolative conclusions about a particular issue. Am I wrong in this thinking? If not then how do we know what is really going out in the Mac universe? Note that Apple has once again been proclaimed to be the tops in customer satisfaction in a university study. There seems to be a disconnect as to what people are telling surveys and what they are posting on troubleshooting forums." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook and MacBook Pro SuperDrive failure (#3): Evidence of battery, logic board-related issue; PMU resets working for some. 17 August 2006)

UPDATE
23 August 2006

Apple announced a massive lithium-ion battery recall (a bad batch made by Sony and believed to be the same ones used by Dell) for users of PowerBook G4s and G4 iBooks sold from October 2003 until this month. The MacBook Pro battery problem is being handled by a separate battery exchange program so as not to affect sales of the new laptop. This latest battery recall affects 1.8 million Apple G4 laptops (700,000 outside the US). Now do some readers still believe the battery problem is not widespread or serious?

Apple Australia is not revealing much when it comes to the numbers of Apple laptops in Australia affected by the problem, but Apple in the US stated on its web site:

"If you participated in a previous battery recall for any of these computer models or recently purchased or received from Apple an extra battery for an iBook G3, please check your battery serial number in case you received a replacement battery that is affected by this program."

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said:

"We discovered that some Sony batteries in previous models of PowerPC-based iBooks and PowerBooks do not meet Apple's standards for safety and performance.

Our No.1 priority is to recall and replace the affected batteries free of charge." (The Canberra Times: Fire threat sparks Apple to recall laptop batteries. 26-27 August 2006, p.6.)

Apple's web site also stated the company is not expecting to incur "a material financial impact" meaning Sony is alleging it will pay for the costs. Hence the reason why Apple is happy to issue the announcement.

For the next few days, users should prepare for minor hiccups in the Apple system especially the online version where users can check and receive notification on whether their batteries are affected. As MacFixIt reader James Hsieh wrote:

"I think there are still issues. I have two batteries, both which fall in the recall range. My battery starting with 3K534 is recognized for the replacement, but the battery I have starting with 6N537 is still not being recognized." (MacFixIt.com: PowerBook G4/iBook battery recall (#2): Some iBook G3s also eligible; continuing problems with serial number, date ranges. 25 August 2006)

Apple is working hard to have the kinks in the system ironed out.

It is a pity Apple couldn't be first to issue a major battery recall before Dell did. It is almost like Apple wasn't prepared for this recall as if they were waiting for Sony to give the word. Until then, maybe Apple was hoping no one would mention the problem to avoid yet another poor quality control measure in the battery area?

NOTE: Please note that Apple has fixed the system by the time you read this even though Apple's web page listing the serial range of the affected batteries of 6C519-6C552 for iBooks does not conform to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) web site information which states the range should be 6C510-6C552. Perhaps another kink in the Apple system requiring further ironing out?

As MacFixIt reader Rick Montgomery wrote:

"My wife's battery has a serial number starting with 6C514, which is in the CPSC range range but not in the Apple range. I think I'll wait until they get the bugs worked out." (MacFixIt.com: Apple recalls 1.8 million PowerBook G4, iBook batteries; Online system not working for some; Serial number range discrepancies. 24 August 2006)

The discrepancy in the serial range has been fixed by the time you read this.

Here is the correct information for the faulty batteries:

12-inch iBook G4, battery model: A1061

* ZZ338 through ZZ427

* 3K429 through 3K611

* 6C510 through 6C626

12-inch PowerBook G4, battery model: A1079

* ZZ411 through ZZ427

* 3K428 through 3K611

15-inch PowerBook G4, battery models: A1078 and A1148

* 3K425 through 3K601

* 6N530 through 6N551

* 6N601

Apart from a few teething problems being resolved in the US, at least users are getting their new batteries before sending in the recalled battery upon receipt. Australian Apple users aren't so lucky. According to MacFixIt reader Mark Axton, he said:

"While there are problems in the United States at least you get to hang onto your battery. Here in Australia I have been told by my local Apple Authorized Service Provider that I have to give the old battery back and wait 2 to 8 weeks for the replacement. The recommendation was to buy another battery and then wait for the replacement. I can get another on the Australian Apple Store in 24 hours at a cost of US$150, great!

I have rung Apple Australia a couple of times and they have basically palmed the whole thing off to call Apple Authorized Service Provider." (MacFixIt.com: PowerBook G4/iBook battery recall (#4): Some countries apparently require original battery before replacement. 29 August 2006.)

It is not clear if other countries are following the same lead as Australia or taking the more customer service friendly approach in the US. Or maybe Apple Australia is trying to protect consumers by getting them to hand in their faulty battery and doing without a new battery for up to 6 weeks as a precaution? Either that or Apple Australia doesn't trust Australian customers for some reason.

UPDATE
23 August 2006

Apple Australia were having teething policy problems of its own. MacFixIt reader John Stachlewski writes:

"A global firm that has demonstrated that it can exchange faulty product - has effectively let a number of Australians down! Why? Because they have asked those affected to exchange their batteries with an Apple Service Provider.

Here's the catch what if you are 1000 kilometres away from a provider? It seems that this whole set of problems was not well thought out and the 'spin' doctors at Apple Australia (Customer Relations?!) follow the party line without listening to problems that their customer base is expressing to them!

I am still not sure after being told that it will be fixed - what they plan to do." (MacFixIt.com: PowerBook G4/iBook battery recall (#6): Some countries require dealer exchange. 1 September 2006.)

Overheating problems

It's official. A verification of the heat emissions of two Apple laptops on display at Domayne in Fyshwick proves the Intel-based MacBook Pro is considerably hotter than the PowerPC-based aluminium PowerBook G4. You can feel the difference by placing a hand underneath the laptops. The MacBook Pro was playing music in GarageBand and nothing more. The other laptop was displaying a movie.

The PowerBook G4 was considerably cooler to the touch. But the price for a cooler laptop is a machine whose software future is bleak. Whereas better future-proofing is achievable with the MacBook Pro at the expense of greater heat and with it a shortening in the lifespan of the computer.

Apple calls this choice for consumers.

UPDATE
9 September 2006

While Sony improves its lithium-ion batteries and spends $260 million to replace the existing faulty batteries from Dell and Apple, it has come to light that Sony is arguing Apple and Dell are using a new charging system that makes the lithium ion batteries more susceptible to expanding and causing explosions and fires to a small percentage of batteries.

Put simply, Apple and Dell are overcharging the lithium ion batteries to the point where the materials used in current generation batteries such as the cobalt oxide are breaking down and becoming more unstable. Sony is investigating alternative and more stable material such as iron phosphate to help solve the problem. But what will Apple and Dell do to prevent overcharging of the batteries?

Or is Apple and Dell competing with each other in the area of faster battery recharging times?

Logic boards being exchanged without software serial numbers

Apple is replacing some logic boards on a case-by-case basis. Users are noticing the serial numbers for the logic boards have been removed, making it difficult to know whether this is a new revised logic board or not. Is Apple trying to look like it has improved the logic boards when in fact it is using what's in stock?

Faulty batteries may be replaced with existing stock

Despite the battery exchange program, Apple could still be using batteries in stock to replace faulty ones in the hope the batteries will not exhibit swelling.

As MacFixIt said:

"In-house, our second MacBook Pro battery (for an original revision, Core Duo MacBook Pro) has severely swollen and failed to operate properly. This battery was an Apple-supplied replacement for our original swollen battery [see pictures here].

As noted our previous coverage noted, in mild cases, batteries swell but remain functional. In these cases, keyboard and/or trackpad functionality is sometimes affected by the rising of internal components. In severe cases, the swelling is visually striking, and users are eventually left with non-functioning batteries. Sudden shutdowns while charge remains are usually precursory to such failures.

This second failure calls into question the cause of the issue: are the batteries defective and failing, or is the MacBook Pro itself delivering a somehow faulty charge to the battery and therefore causing the swelling? With two failures, the verdict is out, but a third failure would almost certainly indicate a systemic cause (three swollen batteries in a row would be a statistical anomaly since the vast majority of users are not experiencing this issue)." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pro battery swelling: Second in-house unit fails; battery or system cause?. 19 December 2006.)

Power cable breaking free from MagSafe power plug/connector

Although this issue is not new and has been mentioned by users of the 2006 MacBook Pro edition (it takes between 3 to 8 months for the problem to develop), it seems Apple has finally acknowledged the problem. Two Knowledge Base articles have been released. The first article titled How to disconnect the MagSafe power adapter, makes the point that users should pull the power plug by gripping the square connector where the cable goes into it. Any pulling on the cable to the side or straight back will weaken the joint and eventually break.

For example, to pull the connector out of the laptop, this is what you should do:

But not like so,

However, as one user has sensibly explained, the connector is so small, you would have to grip hard with the tips of your fingers to pull it free:

"How about if Apple makes the connector robust enough that such reminders are unnecessary? It is trivial to do. The connector should include a "handle" that protrudes about 1 cm with which it would be easy to break the magnetic connection. People are pulling on the wire, because the connector's plastic housing is too small." (MacFixIt.com: Apple posts reminders on care of MagSafe power adapters. 11 October 2007.)

While it makes common sense not to pull on the cable part, it is imperative Apple designs a bigger connector to allow users to pull the adapter away from the socket.

As another MacFixIt readers said:

"It is interesting the original selling point of the MagSafe connector that is was supposed to solve some of the these power connector based issues like damaged power connectors and system being pull down because of the power connector. I remember that they said that you can "inadvertently" yank the connector without damage to the MacBook/MacBook Pro and power connector. Now they sort of change their story about this power connector taking the some abuse and issues how to properly disconnect the power connector without damaging it. I like the MagSafe power connector but I do see some engineering deficiencies like the there is not sufficient strain relief at cord end of the connector and I think wire connection in the connector is not strong enough for what it is designed to do. I noticed that the older power connector has very little strain relief compared to the new power supplies and I have sent one in that had a internal connection problem which I think is caused by short strain relief. The older power connector appeared to be okay from the outside, no sign of wear, bungling or damage at all, but when I plug it in to a MacBook Pro and it wouldn't charge the system and I called AppleCare and sent a new power supply to replace the old one." (MacFixIt.com: Apple posts reminders on care of MagSafe power adapters. 11 October 2007.)

The second article titled Reducing cable strain on your MagSafe power adapter explains how users should avoid stretching or bending the power cable at the point of entry into the connector or immediately out of the power adapter.

For example, to put away the cable around the power adapter, this is what you should do.

and

But not like so,

But even if one follows these instructions (and without wrapping the main power cable around anything), this is what can happen:

Instead of looking like this:

To put it quite simply, the power cable is not of a high quality. You don't see this with PC laptops. This is a decision by Apple to save money by building power supplies on the cheap.

Apple must wake up from its obsolesence policy and doing things on the cheap for the sake of profit and realise the company should manufacturer quality power adapters for customers. This includes a flexible power cable (i.e. can return to its original shape), stronger metal filaments, better protection of the wire where it joins the plug, and a bigger power connector to allow users to pull the power plug out of the computer in the correct way as indicated by Apple in its latest Knowledge Base articles.

Conclusion

Given the problems we see in the MacBook Pro, Apple would have done well to drop the "Pro" from MacBook Pro until everything is sorted out. All in all, we have to assume this is one of Apple's better laptops. (3)

And now for the Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros...

About the new Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros...

Finally Apple has upped the ante with the release of the Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros in late 2006. Speed improvements are said to be around 39 percent faster compared to the first generation Core Duo processor. Professional users with many processor intensive workloads may benefit from this minor extra speed. However families and schools should carry on with their existing computers as usual.

You would be better off waiting until the Intel Core 2 Duo Extreme is released in later 2007.

FireWire 800 and other features comes as standard as with the aluminium 1.67GHz PowerBook G4 and previous MacBook Pros. Apple has decided to be generous on the memory and storage capacity to attract users to the new machines. Well, you have to. How many people were gullible enough to buy the previous model? Anyway, you'll now get 2GB RAM built-in as standard for the mid and high-end models, expandable to 3GB. And hard drive capacity has reached a whopping 160GB (5,400rpm) although you can purchase a 200GB (4,200rpm) version should storage space be at a premium.

Please note that you can't simply swap a hard disk from a PowerBook G4 into an Intel Mac laptop. Connectors will be different. Use a FireWire 400/800 cable to transfer information across (and check the applications can run and if necessary reinstall). For really old Macs, consider the slower ethernet and reboot the old Mac with only the core Apple extensions and control panels to avoid a convenient glitch where copying large amounts of data can suddenly interrupt for no apparent reason.

Beyond that, you should wait for the latest batch of manufacturing faults Apple may have allowed to get through to be fixed before considering a purchase of this model. Minimum waiting time should be 6 months (we recommend at least 12 months as some users as of December 2006 are noticing a screen flickering problem at high brightness levels).

Better still, why not wait until the proper 64-bit MacBook Pros are released late next year? You can tell the current Core 2 Duo machines are still 32-bit even though the CPU is 64-bit because of the limitation set by Intel on the maximum RAM for the machine (i.e. 3GB). True 64 bit machines will always exceed this limit.

Good luck!

Manufacturing inconsistencies — problems with AirPort reception

As of 7 November 2006, some reports have come in that not all Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros work identically. Like Forrest Gump's "Life is like a box of chocolates, you don't know what you might get", we see some MacBook Pros experiencing unusually poor AirPort reception with certain wireless routers. But not all MacBook Pros are affected.

There is talk of a mismatch between the new 802.11 pre-N chipset Apple has included in the latest MacBook Pro and the chipsets used in some routers. The problem is most notable in older router models having the 802.11b-only transfer capabilities.

There seems to be a solution to this problem: move the folder SystemConfiguration out of /System/Library and restart the computer. A number of users are discovering the connectivity issues are resolved. But remember, this technique will require you to reconfigure and reenter network configuration settings.

Apple must love annoying some users out there (possible those involved in software piracy?).

Screen problems with the Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros

As of 13 November 2006, we received reports of screen issues. Incredibly, for what suppose to be a change in microprocessor and nothing else (i.e. same aluminium case as in the previous Core Duo and PowerBook G4 model), some reports have come in suggesting the display flickers in brightness (and may be accompanied by a buzzing sound just to complete the annoyance) after a period of time or begins to suffer from the appearance of dark horizontal distortion lines. MacFixIt.com suggests this problem has been seen on some iBook G4s and the solution was to replace the logic board. We hope this isn't the case with the latest Core 2 Duo laptop.

Further details can be read from here.

Magsafe cable breaking from plug

And finally, if you're still not convinced a PC is for you, we can happily report the latest news concerning the radically-designed magsafe power adapter. The trouble Apple has gone to build a unique magsafe power adapter to prevent users from accidentally pulling on the cable and damaging it will now break whether or not you pull on it.

According to this MacFixIt report, users are noticing melting or fraying of the insulation around the point of contact with the magsafe plug. And worse, the heat created at this point is enough to weaken the very thin wires and break, putting the power cable out-of-action. It looks like Apple has indeed chosen to have very thin wires at this critical juncture in the plug head causing the resistance and heat to jump up dramatically.

MacFixIt claims to have experienced the problem, confirming a number of other users' observations. And MacFixIt claims the power cord has been used in a normal manner.

Yet Apple is taking a hard line on "strain relief damage according to Knowledge Base article #302461 as if not expecting the power cable to be at fault because of poor design. As the article stated:

"If the DC cable shows visible strain relief damage or if the cable is missing insulation or rubber in some areas, discard the adapter properly and do not use it again. Strain relief damage and missing cable insulation or rubber typically result from excessive force or improper use which are not covered by Apple's one year limited warranty. Replacement power power adapters may be purchased from the online Apple Store or from an Apple Authorized Reseller. If no damage is visible on the DC cable, contact Apple using the contact information listed in step 5."

The problem here is how does a customer distinguish the effects of an abnormal or deliberately damaged power cord and one which is used properly? Unfortunately you can't. The damage looks the same much to the convenience of Apple. In the eyes of Apple, the fault has to be placed squarely at the user and no one else..

Such an attitude from Apple has seen yet another barrage of verbal abuse emerge from its MacBook Pro customers. Here are some examples:

"Same old, same old. Apple blames the victims.... On the heels of the battery fiasco think for a minute Apple: REPLACE THEM, PERIOD." (MacFixIt.com: Melting or fraying MagSafe power adapter connections (MacBook, MacBook Pro). 23 November 2006.)

"This has happened to me. It stopped charging the computer after a while because the ground (the "frayed" wire) no longer had a connection. I just put a dallop of solder on there to complete the connection, and it works again.

Apple should replace these for their customers. Period. Then they should figure out a way to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

Sure, I would love to have a brand new charger. But why should I buy another one when I'm sure that this is just going to happen again?" (MacFixIt.com: Melting or fraying MagSafe power adapter connections (MacBook, MacBook Pro). 23 November 2006.)

"I hate to bring up the whole mac/pc comparison, but over the last 4 years working IT at universities I have distributed over 200 PC laptops of various brands and I can only recall one incident with a damaged power cord and it was clear abuse. With Apple laptops I've see at least 4 damaged power cords in the last year. I think Apple resorts to too thin of cords for looks (same with their mice, which I have replaced almost every apple optical mouse we have) and as a result they get damaged too easily. I'm sure most users would gladly deal with thicker cables if it lowers the chance of damage through normal use." (MacFixIt.com: Melting or fraying MagSafe power adapter connections (MacBook, MacBook Pro). 23 November 2006.)

"New MacBook Pro in April, replacement MagSafe charger in September. The charger was never tugged but frequently packed away (we took the computer with us on a 4 month holiday) yet the cord insulation separated from the MagSafe head and the adapter stopped charging. It's funny that this is the 3rd Apple power cord that has failed on me - all from different models (a clamshell iBook , a G4 PowerBook and a MacBook Pro) and I've never had a USB or Firewire plug problem." (MacFixIt.com: Melting or fraying MagSafe power adapter connections (MacBook, MacBook Pro). 23 November 2006.)

A user has published a photograph he has taken of an extreme case of the magsafe cable melting and breaking up. The following image was available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/60224724@N00/294239030/:

And it isn't a new discovery. It has been happening regularly enough with previous aluminium PowerBook users, which only a third-party power adapter can significiantly improve the situation (e.g. Kerio). If you can get away with not using Apple power adapters, you would be better off in the long run. Here is an example:

"Yep, blame the customer. I have 4 power adapters for my 17" Aluminum Powerbook so that I don't have to wind and unwind the cords at my multiple locations that I visit. Regardless of that, I have 3 power adapters sitting on the floor that have failed even without visible fraying" (MacFixIt.com: Melting or fraying MagSafe power adapter connections (MacBook, MacBook Pro). 23 November 2006.)

So just when you thought the latest Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro might be fixed, you have the power adapter to contend with.

Users must be getting the biggest hint from Apple yet at how much better it is to have a desktop machine. In that way, Apple can always track you down if you are doing something the company doesn't like.

And with the amount of power adapters people have to buy and send in the damaged ones to Apple, hasn't Apple done enough quality control work to test the new magsafe power adapters before they are released onto the unsuspecting public?

UPDATE
12 October 2007

Apple released two Knowledge Base articles explaining how to look after your MagSafe power adapters (see above).

Faster Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros

On 5 June 2007, Apple released a slightly faster MacBook Pro of between 2.2 and 2.4GHz depending on how much money you wish to throw at Apple to purchase this laptop (between US$1999 for the slower 15-inch model right up to US$2799 for the 17-inch model).

Not a significant speed improvement in anyone's language, but it does help when it comes with a decent 800MHz frontside bus speed (up from 667MHz). When purchasing one of these laptops, the base RAM is now 2GB expandable to 4GB (up from 1GB expandable to 3GB in previous models). And if this isn't Pro enough for those users wanting to participate in a class action against Apple for allegedly putting in an inferior screen on the MacBook Pro, Apple has provided a longer-life and brighter LED backlit display that many users have been requesting for some time.

Also thrown in is a better graphics card to speed up graphics processing (to quell the concerns by users they are not getting a Pro machine for their professional graphics designing work). The new model comes with a NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT.

And finally, the new 802.11n wireless technology has been incorporated as a standard feature on all the new models.

Will these features be enough to keep customers happy?

UPDATE
9 August 2007

Hot on the heels of the highly cryptic iMac 2007 Software Update to fix alleged graphics card bugs, comes another vaguely described Software Update 1.1 for all 2.2/2.4GHz MacBook Pro models. The improvements here are allegedly to "provide important bug fixes" and increase the stability with Apple Motion 2 and Motion 3 (a motion graphics package with real-time previews). It is not clear if "bug fixes" is the same as fixing the stability issues of Motion 2 and 3. Apple is again unclear. Perhaps Apple has realised it is time to secretly cover up other gaping flaws in the software of MacBook Pros before anyone finds out. Or is Apple playing games?

If this ain't true, Apple should (although in the unregulated industry of software and hardware manufacturing, Steve Jobs probably wouldn't give a rat's arse) give the details rather than let users discover by chance other instability issues after the update.

UPDATE
15 November 2006

One major criticism of the keyboard used in the aluminium MacBook Pro is how flimsy the keys are physically attached. All it takes is a quick wipe of the keyboard with a cleaning cloth and you'll find yourself with one or more broken keys (i.e. cannot be reattached). There are single key replacements on eBay.com at US$5 each. Apple will only sell the entire keyboard at a hefty price as the best solution to fixing one or two damaged keys.

UPDATE
20 August 2007

Apple has realised after selling a few MacBooks how much fewer reports there are of damaged or ripped out keys. So now the company is testing a new anodized aluminium "super thin" keyboard of the wired and wireless variety designed in a similar way to the MacBook keyboard with the public. The keys in this new product are designed to be virtually impossible to accidentally lift off with a cleaning cloth. If successful, it is likely the future of all Apple laptops and desktop machines will see this keyboard design incorporated as a permanent feature.

If there are any disadvantages in the new aluminium keyboard, it might be in the Keyboard Update 1.1 required to make it work on any Macintosh computer. It is claimed by some users they are no longer able to boot the machine through certain key sequences such as Cmd-S to go into single user mode, pressing the Option key to select an external hard drive connected by FireWire, or other methods.

Further details of this anomaly (or perhaps a new quiet policy emerging from Apple Inc.) can be found here.

Either that or its time for another Keyboard Update (version 1.2?).

UPDATE
25 September 2007

Have you noticed how MacBooks and MacBook Pros (15-inch and 2.2 or 2.4GHz in processor speed) shipped in mid-2007 came with journaling switched off. This mistake from Apple has been rectified by the Apple MacBook/Pro Software Update 1.0. Users have noticed a considerable increase in speed after applying the update.

UPDATE
7 October 2007

Have you installed Apple 's recent EFI Firmware updates for your particular Intel Mac (MacBook Pro, MacBooks, iMac etc) and discovered sluggish system performance? You may discover the speed improves when disconnecting USB devices. This undocumented problem from Apple and discovered by users almost immediately may be resolved by creating a new user account and logging into it. Apparently some system file is corrupted or not compatible with the new firmware conditions. Unfortunately the updates cannot fix the offending system file for total stability. OSX has become too complex for Apple to do the quality control work.

UPDATE
16 October 2007

Apple could be getting its ass into gear with respect to the batteries of the latest MacBook Pro after revelations that Apple is prepared to quickly replace faulty or somewhat suspect batteries not providing sufficient charge after the Battery Update 1.3. Most of the faulty batteries appear to come from the MacBook Pro 15-inch (first generation) model.

UPDATE
12 May 2008

To bump up profits on the sale of MacBook Pros, Apple has released an updated version containing the 2.6GHz Penryn processor and you have the option to add a 300GB 4200rpm hard drive. Price is expected to be between US$2,750 and US$3,000.

This is a necessary move until all problems in the MacBook Air are ironed out before releasing the new MacBook Pro Air version.

The return of the hiss, pop and beeping noises

After Apple's release of version 1.1 of the OSX 10.4.10 update to fix an audio popping noise but still managed to introduce other poor quality sound issues, some people thought the problem had disappeared with OSX 10.5.x. Not anymore. The popping noise is now very subtle and is heard occasionally at the start or end of a sound (system alerts, changing volume level, music in iTunes etc). This may be accompanied by hissing or beeping sounds. As one MacFixIt user noted:

"When I startup the computer (sound muted or not), there are two distinct pops from the left speaker (approximately 2 seconds apart. Then when the computer is on, say I press the volume up key for instance, almost simultaneously there is a pop from the left speaker. About thirty seconds afterward, there is another popping noise and I can hear a hiss from the left speaker disappearing if I put my ear right up to it." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Pros make mild popping and beeping sounds before playing audio files. 19 May 2008.)

Could Apple be trying to prevent users from re-recording copyright music on their computers? Or is this another hardware manufacturing or OSX software-related problem?

Other problems that could get solved with an Apple software update

Although not universal in nature, a number of users as of May 2008 have claimed that the MacBook Pro's ethernet port may suddenly lose connection to a network when sending a large file, say, to a printer or another computer. As one user bgarlock said on the Apple Discussion board:

"All I have to do is simply submit any "large" print job, be it to a network printer, or even saving as a PDF will throw this error...The files are usually at least 100 or so pages, but I did have this happen when it was only about 20 pages. I thought it was the printer driver, so I removed the printer, downloaded the latest driver (HP PSC 7310), and installed it. It still did not make a difference."

Could Apple be trying to prevent users from copying large software files through the ethernet port? Or is this another hardware manufacturing or OSX software-related problem?

It's an issue that hasn't affected users of early MacBook Pro models and all previous laptop models, and it seems OSX "Tiger" is immuned.

Best solution is try deleting the Finder's preference file located at ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.Finder.plist and restart, or restart to reactivate ethernet connection and wait for Apple to decide when to provide an software update for this issue.

UPDATE
10 November 2008

The latest 2008 MacBook Pros appear to have a hidden restriction put into them courtesy of good old Apple. Apparently users are having great difficulties applying a jailbreaking techniques to unlock their iPhones. And if they do manage to unlock the iPhone, Apple has prevented users from syncing their data with their unlocked iPhones through iTunes. Apple has recognised there is flag information that tells the company if the disk inside the iPhone is unlocked and then tells the iTunes software to behave badly as a result. Some users are feeling deterred by the latest move. Others are resorting to Windows XP on a PC to bypass the restrictions.

UPDATE
13 November 2008

Could there be more hidden restrictions incorporated into this latest MacBook Pro model? According to one user, he claimed the latest MacBook Pro for late 2008 will not burn a disk image of OSX Leopard and, if you succeed in doing so by other means, the so-called professional laptop will not boot up from a burned OSX disk. If anything happens to your original disks, bad luck. You will have to purchase a brand new OSX disk from Apple.

Apple may wish to consider dropping "Pro" from MacBook Pro. Or call it the Clayton MacBook Pro machine? There isn't a great deal of "pro" in this latest machine.

Further details from this MacFixIt article.

Late-2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

Apple is making full use of the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor of the late-2008 MacBook Air to keep the latest MacBook Pro 15-inch laptop cooler than previous models. In other words, you are not forced to use Intel's own built-in graphics processor on the Duo Core 2 processor, although you can choose in the Energy Saver system preferences pane which graphic performance type you want.

Yes, it has finally been released on 24 November 2008. The new late-2008 MacBook Pro 15-inch model has combined all the previous new features of the late-2008 MacBook and MacBook Air 1.85GHz models such as the stronger aluminium unibody case, the faster GDDR3 RAM memory chips, independent NVIDIA graphics processor (MacBook Pro uses the slightly faster 9500M GT version), and latest Intel Core 2 Duo processor. The only things to distinguish the Pro from the late-2008 "non-pro" siblings is a faster processor (2.4GHz or 2.53GHz, with the option of choosing 2.8GHz if you're willing to take a bit more heat for the extra performance), the option to add a 7,200rpm 250GB or 320GB hard drive (standard hard drive has the same capacity but is slightly slower at 5,400rpm) or a 128GB solid-state drive, a bigger screen, faster DVD/CD drive, the ExpressCard/34 expansion port and a few additional ports.

Weight of the new laptop hasn't changed that much — currently 2.5kg.

Battery technology hasn't advanced sufficiently, giving out a maximum of 5 hours for the first 3 to 6 months using the 50 watt hour lithium-polymer battery. This is an optimistic figure requiring optimum conditions where hard disk is not running, you're not running Adobe Photoshop, wireless connection stopped, etc. In fact you might as well let it sit there showing off a fancy desktop pattern or picture to get the optimum conditions suggested in the advert. Expect the battery time per charge to drop fairly quickly after 6 months.

The laptop was released just in time for the 2008 Christmas period. Perhaps Apple hasn't noticed a slight downturn in the US economy?

How many more consumers will be sucked in by Apple's latest offering? We don't know. If the past is any indication, probably quite a few. We can only hope this latest model is the first from Apple to stop people getting caught out on a range of new bugs requiring firmware updates (or yet another new model to come out in late 2009).

UPDATE
3 December 2008

Hopefully this is the only glitch in what could otherwise be Apple's best laptop in a very long time (although more time is needed before we know for sure). The late-2008 MacBook Pro 15-inch model suffers from an annoying blinking on-and-off effect. Further investigations have revealed a solution. Users are recommending "high graphics performance" in the Energy Saver preferences pane be turned on (at the expense of more power from the battery) to help switch to the higher quality and faster GeForce graphics processor. By choosing this option, the screen flickering will disappear.

The same solution is also available in the late-2008 MacBook and MacBook Air, but neither model is affected by this screen flickering. Perhaps the proximity of the graphics processing unit to a particular electronic component or circuitry is causing interference? If so, a new updated model will have to be released to solve this one. For a quick fix resulting in shorter battery life, try the above.

Further details about the problem can be found here.

UPDATE
8 December 2008

A potentially minor inconsistency in the manufacturing process but hopefully affecting only a handful of users worldwide and will be rectified by Apple quickly is the sound of an audible hum when the late-2008 MacBook Pro 15-inch model is left on a desk for a few hours. As doctorholliday said on the Apple Discussions poster:

"Yesterday, when returning to my desk, I realised that my MBP was making a humming noise. It is not super loud and if I had bad hearing, I probably wouldn't notice it. So instead of being super quiet and the occasional clicking of the hard drive, I have a continuous low level humming noise."

The few that have reported this issue have mentioned touching the laptop's casing has no effect but if the casing is pressed slightly, the hum will disappear. It is not clear if removing the power cord from the laptop also improves the situation.

If simply pressing the casing solves the problem, this may suggest that as the computer heats up, the materials expand slightly causing a slight loosening of certain structural components or the casing itself. Again it is not clear if the humming comes from the power supply or a wonky hard disk not seated properly or whatever, but may be in the interest of Apple to investigate and make sure it isn't something that could cause harm to the users if not to the machine over the long term.

UPDATE
10 December 2008

The late-2008 unibody MacBook Pro requires EFI Firmware v1.6 and SMC Firmware v1.2 updates to fix a range of problems summarised in one Apple statement:

"These updates address system stability issues, as well as problems with the computers properly sensing the presence of magsafe power adaptor attachment and battery indicator lights."

The firmware updates have been released simultaneously and Apple recommends installing both of them.

These follow from a previous firmware update addressing "an issue where trackpad clicks may not be recognized". You will be forced to update OSX to version 10.5.5 to implement this trackpad firmware update.

UPDATE
2 February 2009

Apple is offering a replacement of any late-2008 MacBook Pro 17-inch and 15-inch including early 2008 MacBook Pro (all sizes) experiencing what is known as a graphics glitch in certain batches of the nViDia Ge Force 8600M GT graphics processor.

The manufacturer of this graphics processor — nViDia — claims the flawed batches have not made it into the MacBook Pro. Apple thinks otherwise when it stated on its Knowledge Base page:

"In July 2008, NVIDIA publicly acknowledged a higher than normal failure rate for some of their graphics processors due to a packaging defect. At that same time, NVIDIA assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected. However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers with the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor may be affected."

And since the processor is directly soldered to the logic board, it means the quickest way to fix the problem is to replace the laptop.

Whatever the cause and whoever is responsible, it is good to see Apple is willing to immediately replace the laptops (just make sure you supply the original hard disk).

For users of the laptop, you should keep an eye out for a screen that goes black or shows distorted, scrambled or garbled video information. If you experience these problems, visit your local Apple store immediately for a replacement.

Still got data on your hard disk and somehow must provide the hard disk for this replacement policy to apply? That's not good. If you can't backup your data and applications before losing the screen information and do a security wipe of the laptop's hard disk, you will have to get another hard disk to replace the one you've got.

Cheeky buggers!

Beyond that, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope the next laptop is free of defects for the life of the machine.

Please note that a recent Nvidia settlement in the US courts will see a variety of laptops from HP, Dell and Apple's 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models manufactured from May 2007 through to September 2008 containing the flawed Nvidia GeForce 8600M graphics processing chip repaired for free with all costs covered by the graphics chip maker. To determine whether your laptop is eligible, visit this page.

Further details can be found at CNET.com.

If you are looking for a laptop with a better graphics chip, the newer Nvidia GeForce 9400M should be fine.

UPDATE
17 February 2009

The MacBook SMC Update 1.3 is available for users of the unibody MacBook Pro and MacBook laptops. This one fixes slow boot times when running on battery power.

UPDATE
23 February 2009

The above update will, unfortunately, not repair what is believed to be another bug in the "unibody" models where somehow the screenshot function using Shift+Command+3 (or 4) takes 2 to 3 minutes to process before showing the file on the desktop. No previous laptop model or desktop machine from Apple has been known to exhibit this anomaly. Some observers claim it may have something to do with running the GeForce 9400M graphics processing unit. If you experience this problem, try resetting SMC and PRAM and/or repair permissions. If it doesn't work, try a third-party screenshot utility such as SnapNDrag or InstantShot to get the job done properly.

Apple needs to get its machines working right.

UPDATE
10 March 2009

It is alleged the unibody 13-inch MacBook and 15-inch MacBook Pro has a minor hardware design problem whereby the stereo headphone jack will not hold onto the stereo plug strongly enough. Apparently it will slip out of the jack with just a little tug of the headphone cable. The 17-inch MacBook Pro appears not to be affected. If this gets annoying, try a stereo USB or Bluetooth headphone for a more reliable connection to the machine. NOTE: Perhaps Apple Inc is encouraging users to buy alternative headsets so that one day the stereo headphone jack can be permanently removed from future Apple laptop designs?

Another slight anomaly — although probably to do with maximising battery time and minimising power consumption — is the display of the unibody 17-inch MacBook Pro — it appears dim compared to the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook models. But when compared to other notebooks, most users think it has the brightest display. No option provided for users to adjust the brightness. This would have to be seen as nick-picking for what is Apple's best laptop model released so far.

Just a few more improvements and hopefully we can call Apple laptops the perfect model (and less for us to write too).

The best solution to the dim display issue is to consider reinstalling OSX as it is possible some video drivers are not the latest, and do consider fixing file permissions while you are at it.

UPDATE
25 March 2009

The main drawback of the unibody late-2008 MacBook Pro 17-inch model appears to be the appearance of "vertical lines and distorted graphics in the notebook's display" according to MacFixIt.com. Apple has come up with a solution as of 25 March 2009 with the release of the 17-inch MacBook Pro Graphics Firmware Update 1.0.

As with any delicate firmware update, please plug-in your power adapter and backup all data before applying the update.

NOTE: The 17-inch aluminium PowerBook model also suffers from vertical lines on the screen. Unfortunately Apple sees no benefit in issuing a firmware update for this model.

UPDATE
23 June 2009

On 23 June 2009, Apple released the MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update.

Then this UK article titled Apple MacBook Pro firmware fritzes third-party HDDs by Chris Mellor at Register Hardware dated 26 June 2009 claimed Apple's firmware 1.7 update "...caused 'unauthorised' hard drives to fail'. An Apple Discussion board thread has appeared with at least 65 comments at the time the article was published discussing the problem.

Apple has issued the firmware upgrade presumably to restore the faster 3GB per second Sata link speed of Apple-shipped drives in the MacBook Pro. However Apple has not made an effort to determine other drives compatible with this firmware. There is not even a restriction put into the update itself just prior to the firmware being installed to say the update is only compatible with the hard drive 'authorised' by Apple (and giving a list of which ones are authorised). Basically users of the MacBook Pros are being used as guinea pigs to provide the testing Apple should be doing themselves if they weren't so profit driven.

Otherwise Apple would probably argue that the users knew what they were getting themselves into by installing the firmware update and carrying out their own installation of 'unauthorised' hard drives. Users are suppose to be experts, as Apple would say, so let them stuff up whatever they are doing to their laptops and get them to return the MacBook Pros and hard drives to Apple for repairs (since there is no update to reverse the situation). And anyway, as one user said on the discussion board, he was allegedly told by Apple Technical Support:

"Apple is not responsible for maintaining compatibility with third-party aftermarket hardware with their firmware updates."

Yet Microsoft can, and do, test many different components for compatibility when developing their Windows OS. As a user commented:

"MS [Microsoft] on the other hand have to support hundreds of motherboard combinations, with hundreds of different hard drives, with hundreds of memory suppliers/sizes/types... which, in all honesty, they do pretty well."

So why can't Apple?

Understandably not too many users are pleased.

As far as is known by late June 2009, the third party drives that don't work with Apple's firmware update are:

WD Scorpio Blue

WD Scorpio Black

X25-M SSD

Apple could not comment on this issue when asked for an explanation.

NOTE: As the price of Apple computers come down to compete with the latest touchscreen PCs, consumers should be prepared to see more examples of Apple not putting in the sufficient effort to build quality machines that are compatible with third-party solutions as well as a greater risk of finding manufacturing defects.

A fresh new generation of Intel-based MacBook Pro machines emerge for 2009

The start of the financial year on 1 July 2009 has seen Apple waste no time in releasing an updated hardware version of the MacBook Pro. From a brief read of the page above, we are not surprised why. It is not immediately apparent if all of the abovementioned hardware issues have been addressed, but superficially we see the standard improvements for any new machine has been incorporated such as a faster processor and higher hard disk capacity.

The minimum specifications you can get is a 13-inch MacBook Pro with 2.26GHz Intel processor with standard built-in 2GB RAM and a 160GB hard drive for AUD$1,899 inc GST (a bit expensive). The top of the range model is the MacBook Pro 17-inch with 2.8GHz Intel processor, 4GB RAM and 500GB hard drive for AUD$3,999 inc GST. If you choose the lower end, you might be better off trying to get the next cheaper model for AUD$2,399 where the speed of the processor is only slightly faster, but you do get a doubling of the RAM (to 4GB), and a more decent 250GB hard drive. But for an extra AUD$300, you would be better getting the 15-inch model to benefit from a bigger screen (all other specs are the same). Beyond that, you are simply paying for higher hard drive capacities (e.g. 320GB and 500GB), a slightly faster processor (i.e. 2.8GHz) and a bigger screen (i.e 17-inch).

You can also purchase a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD) — these are the new flash memory drives with no moving parts. So no noises to annoy your wife while she tries to sleep next to you, will last longer and is definitely not susceptive to shock.

On the positive side, all models should have the latest GPU (graphic processing unit) to handle the latest OSX "Snow Leopard" when it is released in September 2009. And these ones shouldn't overheat too easily after a few years of normal use leading to strange visual oddities such as vertical coloured lines on the display. Of course, the big question is, "How long can Apple stay with the better quality components?"

We can also see Apple has decided to make the keyboard sink further into the casing to ensure the keys do not leave permanent scratch marks on the screen. Plus the screens come with a tougher scratch-resistant glass surface — yes, the laptops are finally starting to look more professional in keeping with the name "Pro" and for the price being asked rather than an expensive throw away plastic and aluminium toy.

Speaker grills consist of smaller-sized holes to prevent dust and droplets of water getting in and provides extra strength to the unibody casing. Grill at the back for cooling the machine is more concealed and difficult for dust and hair to get in, and the keyboard design reduces the likelihood of hair and dust getting in too. However, despite these improvements, it is recommended a rubbery plastic transparent sheet be purchased to sit over the entire keyboard for greater protection. A similar material is also available to protect the aluminium coming off over the palm rests and trackpad areas (expensive at AUD$79 to $99 each).

DVD drive remains positioned over right-hand side below the right speaker area giving the casing greater strength.

Now if only the bottom lid/covering of the laptop behind which the battery and RAM cards are located was made thicker and tougher and the laptop would be very close to being perfect (worth complaining about given the high price of these laptops).

UPDATE
19 August 2009

A selected range of the latest MacBook Pro released in June 2009 have been reported to create "infrequent noises made by 7200-rpm drives". Apple recommends applying the MacBook Pro Hard Drive Firmware Update 2.0 (3.7MB).

How many more issues will consumers discover with Apple computers by Christmas 2009? The PCs with Windows 7 might end up being a better buy at a cheaper price.

UPDATE
6 January 2010

MacFixIt.com claims OSX "Snow Leopard" 10.6.x has increased its sensitivity to detecting battery problems in the wake of a few continued complaints of MacBook Pro and MacBook batteries swelling during charging and normal use and lower than expected full charge capacity and cycle count for the batteries' age. As a result, some additional users are now noticing a message indicating the battery is defective when no such message was noticed when users return to the previous OSX "Leopard" 10.5.x software. It is possible Apple Inc. could be playing it safe by bringing out those batteries considered a little suspect. So long as Apple is happy to replace the batteries with proper, fully-tested batteries from the factory, it should be okay (probably under AppleCare warranty).

You should be aware that the battery is no longer easily removed by the average user. The less technically-minded consumer and those not wishing to lose their warranty will be required to hand in their laptop and internal hard disk to Apple technicians for inspection replacement of the batteries.

How much for the 17-inch model? As of December 2009, you could get the 17-inch 2.8GHz MackBook Pro with a 500GB hard drive and 4GB RAM for AUD$3,200 (or AUD$3,000 at the education price). If you are lucky, you can buy a brand new laptop from a local importer for AUD$2700.

In fact, if you look around online and receive your new laptop from the importer will reveal the true prices from manufacturing to retail sales. Thus when imported, it is insured on the parcel for USD$900 (roughly AUD$1000) meaning this is the price to purchase the laptop direct from Apple. When the importer sells it to a retailer, it is probably AUD$1800 to AUD$2,000. The retailer then sells it for AUD$3,200. If an importer decides to sell it direct to consumers, AUD$2700 is about the right price to get a quick sale to knowledgeable consumers.

Hence Apple is probably able to get it made in China for a cost of roughly USD$350-500 per unit. Once sold to the importer, Apple makes additional profit from the 3-year extended warranty (approximately USD$350) and parts for repairs of any machine not under warranty (e.g. the Apple Store). The rest of the profit for the company is mainly in software sales (e.g. OSX, Final Cut Pro and iLife) and selling large numbers of iPhones, iPods and iPads.

So from this we can see how it is feasible for Apple Inc. to sell laptops at a price no greater than their PC counterparts if Mr Jobs choses to do so. But because of the Apple brand name and the fancy designs, many consumers make the assumption it is more expensive than PCs because of higher quality and therefore Apple sells them as if they are higher quality or are more expensive to produce. But as marketer Marc Gobe has revealed in 2007, it is inconsequential as to whether Apple products are of high quality or is easier or harder to make. Apple is relying on the brand name to sell the products at a higher price. As Gobe said:

"Without the brand, Apple would be dead. Absolutely. Completely. The brand is all they've got. The power of their branding is all that keeps them alive. It's got nothing to do with products."

Privacy issue with the webcam built into the MacBook Pro

Australian 7 News and AAP has published an article titled US school 'spied on students via laptops' on 19 February 2010. It is alleged in a US federal lawsuit that an Assistant Vice Principal at Rosemont's Harriton High School in Philadelphia, had heard and told a 15-year-old student named Blake J. Robbins that "school officials thought he had engaged in improper behaviour at home". It is alleged a photograph was shown as evidence.

If this is true, how did the school official obtain this information? It would seem a little far-fetched until we learn 2,300 students of Harriton High School and Lower Merion High School were issued with an Apple laptop (i.e. a MacBook with a built-in webcam). This means OSX was probably not wiped clean and reinstalled by the students and/or their parents with the original commercial version. Instead the version of OSX installed may have come with a tool or school script designed for monitoring student activities so long as the laptops are connected to the internet.

Are there scripts or tools to monitor student activities? Certainly there is a freeware and open source tool available called VUWER 1.4 (an AppleScript application). The tool can be run in the background to allow a user to locate his/her stolen laptop by specifying the IP address of the laptop or other identifiying means where it can take a picture at a specified interval and have the images sent "either by email or by secure file copy to another computer account" where the thief can be caught in the act of using the laptop.

The question is, have these schools been using the same or similar tool on students' MacBooks?

At first a school spokesman did not confirm the existence of a tool for monitoring students. However, the school district spokesman Doug Young later thought it was unacceptable for the documentation signed by students for receiving the MacBooks to be vague in how the webcams could be activated remotely. As he said:

"It's clear what was in place was insufficient, and that's unacceptable." (Matyszczyk, Chris. School district: Spy Webcams activated 42 times: CNET.com. 20 February 2010.)

Then in later media reports we learn the schools do have a webcam monitoring tool called LANrev. Although interestingly the company that sold the software to the school just happens to have been acquired in 2009 by Absolute Software who in turn are looking at a new software version which requires a police report to be issued before the company can remotely activate and view the webcams. Whether this will improve the privacy issue is anyone's guess (and still no guarantee whatsoever that your privacy will be protected). But at least it would avoid all the legal headaches for the school administrator in this case.

This is a serious allegation.

Who authorized the monitoring outside school premises? A rumour had floated around at this time that, as a concerned parent with two children of her own, it could have been the assistant principal that authorized the spying. It has been alleged that Blake may have been involved in some form of drug-related activity and either the assistant principal or someone else at the school had wanted to find out.

The assistant principal has since publicly denied the rumour.

Even if the school is found not to be using a remote-activating webcam software tool or, if so, to look at students outside school premises, just raising the privacy concerns has already seen vast numbers of angry students at the two schools (and probably elsewhere in the US and abroad) to put a piece of black plastic electrical tape over the laptop's camera, and for some the microphone as well.

In the case of Apple computers and how they are manufactured, it reveals to us yet another major design fault with the products: how can you be sure your privacy is not being compromised when OSX has access to the webcam and any company such as Apple, or the US Government through the Department of Defence or an intelligence agency, can activate the camera without your awareness? OSX is definitely not an open-source software product. It is owned by Apple. So you can never be absolutely sure the OS is not being used to spy on you. In fact, there is no option on the iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops to physically cover the camera. And there is nothing in the System preference panes or Finder to give you guarantees that the camera is not being turned on without your awareness. Not even a red light next to the camera to show it is turned on and watching.

It is a serious flaw, irrespective of the potential benefits in terms of finding stolen or missing laptops. Once you have the laptops, can you be sure you are still not being spied on?

NOTE: Software such as flexiSPY is available to the public for a few hundred dollars to install on someone's 3G mobile phone where another person spying can determine your location through GPS and receive an SMS message notifying the person a call is being made. Then by dialling the mobile phone number, the person can listen in on the conversation. Even if the phone is not being used but left on standby, the software can turn on the microphone and the built-in camera, allowing the person to listen and watch.

MacBook Pro 2010 models

These models come with the latest Intel Core i5/i7 processors and NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M GPU. The processors will provide roughly 10 to 50 per cent greater performance for most applications. The NVIDIA graphics card should be a little cooler to run as it is up to 30 per cent more energy efficient than its predecessor, yet manages to achieve faster performance. With these efficiencies, an extra 1 or 2 hours can be had from the battery depending on how the laptop is used. So potentially you could reach 8 hours on a single charge for the 17-inch MacBook Pro at its newest, out-of-the-box, state and if you are not watching too many movies on it.

All other features appear the same as in the previous model, including a 500GB hard drive and standard 4GB RAM.

Prices as of April 2010 are US$1,999, US$2,199 and US$2,299 for the 13-, 15- and 17-inch models respectively. Higher prices are expected for extra RAM, higher hard disk capacity and whether you want the solid-state drive (SSD) for total silent operation and a more robust portable unit (so long as other movable parts are of top quality and durable enough to last for decades rather than a couple of years as Apple would like).

Apart from an immediate firmware software update for the independent third-party NVIDIA graphics processing and accelerator card and how easily the surface of the black plastic keys of the keyboard can quickly show wear-and-tear with a greater smoothing of the plastic surface where the fingers have been touching, there has been no significant reports of battery issues or other aspects of the hardware.

Has Apple finally turned the corner on producing more durable professional laptop products for the mass market? Or has it merely decided to switch the manufacturing problems to the iMac Intel machines to help them find out something?

Hardware problem: the sound output minijack port

It's been more than 4 years since this problem first cropped up. MacBooks, early models of MacBook Pros and the G5 tower computer were affected. As of the late-2009 so-called professional MacBook Pros and in the latest 2010-model laptops, the problem has been reported by users to have remained. It occurs after a period of say 6 months of use or sooner if you use a particular port a lot.

The issue involves a tiny sensor switch embedded deep inside the combined digital/analog sound output minijack port. When the sensor moves to detect the presence of a 3.5mm stereo plug inside the port, the computer is suppose to automatically switch to "digital out" and deliver a crisp signal to your external speakers. No problems here. But remove the plug and sometimes the sensor won't return to its position. The result is a locked or greyed out volume level icon meaning the volume can't be changed. Neither will you be able to change the volume through the Sound system preference pane or by pressing the F10, F11 or F12 keys. Restarting the computer into another OSX system startup disk will not work. Hence you will not hear sound through the internal speakers of your laptop.

This is a hardware problem.

A thread on the Apple Discussion site has the problem mentioned well before September 2006. Another thread indicates as early as April 2006. Plenty more discussions can be found in places such as the MacRumors Forum. Check Google.com for more examples.

The solution is to try re-inserting the plug and removing it and repeat the process until the sensor returns to its position. Alternatively, you may wish to get a wooden toothpick and gently poke at the sensor towards the base or bottom of the hole inside the minijack. In roughly 10 seconds you should be able to fix the problem.

One user named caseystrom gave one suggested reason why this has happened:

"This is caused by being hard on the interface, bad plug inserted, bending plug, or just being forceful. Ive had my left I/O board replaced by apple twice because of this issue."

However another user named regainchris vehemently disagrees saying:

"This is total bulls#@t, after spending 4 grand on a macbook pro I shouldn't have to stick fricken toothpicks into it! I've had my mac for about a month now and haven't done any forcing or shoving of any kind, so why is this happening?"

The reality is that too many people exist showing they have taken care of the port on their laptops and used it in the correct manner without abuse of any kind. The problem worsens after regular use of the output sound port to plug an external speaker. Sometimes dust might be the culprit. But to put it in a nutshell, the problem is a poor quality minijack used during the manufacturing of your laptop. As another user named mohthom correctly made the point:

"No, it's not. It's caused by shoddy Apple design. Take it to the apple store and they'll replace the audio IO board (with a better design jack and output preamp). That's what happened with me."

And Apple hasn't taken the effort to listen to its customers after all these years. Shocking.

If you discover this problem, check to see that the port is clean. Beyond that, you should use the opportunity presented to you by the standard 12-month or 3-year extended Apple warranty period to have the audio IO board replaced and, hopefully, for a better quality version (but you can never be absolutely sure).

As a final comment on this issue from another user named page2bwritten:

"Who would believe that on a $1699 macbook this worked! I have had nothing but problems with my macbook since the warranty expired! I still love mac, but this answers my question. Why did the applecare plan go from $69.00 (a year and a half ago) to $299.00. Now I know!"

And so do others too!

13-inch MacBook Pro (mid-2010) Firmware Update 2.0

The Apple MacBook Pro EFI Firmware 2.0 update will fix a purple coloration on external displays plugged to the 13-inch MacBook Pro mid-2010 model has been released as of 18 November 2010. Also fixes the same issue for MacBooks manufactured in mid-2010.

The future for the MacBook Pro

If the intense interest in the MacBook Air has been anything to go by, it is likely the next major revision of the MacBook Pro (presumably to come in 2012) will involve the removal of the in-built DVD/CD drive to make way for a much thinner laptop design (probably less than half the thickness of the mid-2010 MacBook Pro). (4)

As interesting as this hardware development might seem, there is a major engineering issue to deal with when making thinner laptops. The only problem with making laptops any thinner can be observed in the original aluminium-based 17-inch model in 2004 where users noticed how easy it was to bend the laptop body.

Since 2008, Apple made the wise decision to improve the strength of the aluminium body for 17-inch laptops by moving the DVD players to a different position and employing a new manufacturing technique known in the industry as the unibody design, meaning the laptop body casing was made from a single piece of aluminium. Since December 2009, the stereo speaker holes doubling as a cooling vent on either side of the keyboard were made smaller to increase strength. But making the 17-inch laptop any thinner would increase the risk of the aluminium metal bending slightly which could be enough to touch sensitive electronics on the circuit board causing short-circuiting and eventually permanent damage to the logic board. Either Apple Inc. must use a thicker wall of aluminium for a thinner casing to give it strength which means there would not be enough room to fit the electronics inside, or look to new types of advanced materials patented in the US to increase the hardness of the casing without increasing the wall thickness.

Just to add another level of complexity to the problem, Apple Inc. is fully aware of the high heat emissions from the graphics processing unit and the main microprocessor. As these will always remain the perennial problem for Apple over the next 10 to 20 years despite improvements in this area after the release of the i5 and i7 Intel processors, Apple is focussing on a new class of tough alloys for building the casings of all portable Apple products and yet somehow they must not conduct electricity. Seems like a tall order in anyone's language you might think?

Now an AppleInsider report has revealed that Apple Inc. has obtained exclusive rights to use amorphous alloys having the necessary hardness levels, high strength and lightweight properties, as well as the necessary electrical insulating properties. Amorphous alloys look and feel just like any other alloy or metal except for one crucial difference. The chemical bonds forming the crystalline structures of alloys and metals are broken up and the atoms forced into a random structure (and hence the name amorphous). The advantage of this class of alloys and metals is that they behave not unlike glass in terms of their hardness. The alloys will be very hard, thereby increasing the alloy's strength and making it more scratch resistant. Furthermore, amorphous alloys and metals have the added benefit of stopping the flow of electrical current because the energy cannot flow through chemical bonds from one atom to the next. Since there are no chemical bonds formed between atoms in an amorphous alloy, there is no risk of the logic board becoming damaged if it touches the amorphous alloy casing.

Very high levels of hardness have been displayed in certain amorphous alloys to the point where a metal ball made of this substance can bounce up and down on a hard surface almost endlessly.

Not all amorphous alloys with this level of hardness are ideal for making laptop cases. In some amorphous alloys, the substance can behave too much like glass. Indeed if you try to hit the metal hard enough, it can shatter like glass. But other amorphous alloys are much more resistant to sudden impacts. It is believed Apple Inc. is looking into these tougher alloys for its upcoming new laptop model.

And finally amorphous alloys have the benefit of being cheap to manufacture just like a single moulded piece of the aluminium unibody of current MacBook Pro laptops. Why? Because amorphous alloys can be moulded like glass when heated at low temperatures (perhaps a couple of hundred degrees celsius). Because of this extreme mouldability of virtually any amorphous alloy, some scientists have nick-named the substance as liquid metals. This means Apple, Inc. can now choose and combine a wider range of metals to form an amorphous alloy to get the desired physical characteristics needed for building stronger Apple products of the future.

At present, Apple Inc. may be looking at a particular high strength and hard zirconium-based Liquidmetal alloy known modestly as VIT-001. In fact, the US-based company that will be supplying this and other amorphous alloys to Apple Inc. is known as Liquidmetal Technologies. As the company's web site has stated:

"As the demand for product 'miniaturization' continues in the electronic casings industry, Liquidmetal alloys enable smaller, thinner and more durable designs. Current casings technology is pushed to the limit in supporting these new designs and specifications, especially requirements for larger LCD screens, thinner wall sections and pure metallic surface finishes for products such as mobile phones, PDA's and cameras."

The technology of liquid metals has been around since 2003. License fees have to be paid to the US-based company in order for other companies to use amorphous metals in their own products. In a daring move designed to prevent other competitors in consumer electronics from using amorphous alloys, Apple has decided it would pay a hefty license fee to Liquidmetal Technologies giving Apple "a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercial such intellectual property in the field of electronic products in exchange for a license fee."

The agreement was made on 5 August 2010 and was almost immediately revealed in a Form 8-K filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The agreement was signed by Larry Buffington, president and CEO of Liquidmetal Technologies.

Amorphous metals are currently being used by the US Department of Defense in various secret military projects to mould desired aerospace alloys into various shapes with virtually no impurities at very low temperatures. Some of the defence projects also imvolve applying other patented techniques to nudge the metal atoms back into their natural crystalline structure states for extremely high melting points, great electrical conductivity, and other useful physical characteristics.

Of particular interest to the USAF in this respect is the world's most powerful and lightest titanium-based shape memory alloy known as nitinol (made of nickel and titanium) which when formed with virtually no impurities and bent many times in the cool state can achieve tremendous hardness and hence strength and therefore can be manufactured into newspaper-thin sheets while retaining its shape recovery ability. Other similar titanium-based alloys are also of interest to the USAF.

Apple's 27-inch Cinema Display connected to laptops has sound issues

The latest Apple 27-inch Cinema Display released since October 2010 has come in for some criticism. A growing number of users claim a problem exists with the sound. As CNET remarked, the "sound will randomly cut out, ceasing to work until a system restart is applied." (Aimonetti, Joe. Apple's 27-inch Cinema Display has sound issues for some: CNET News. 1 December 2010.)

Luckily for Apple Inc., the supporters are out there (especially if they are lucky not to get a faulty product) ignoring the hardware faults and arguing the warranty is there to get Apple to replace or fix the problem. For example, CNET user FredC1212 said:

"No problems with my 27 inch Cinema Display.

I am kind of stunned that so many people who can afford a thousand dollar monitor would waste time sounding off on any forum instead of going straight to Apple customer support. These displays have only been on the market for a couple of months and are still fully covered by the original warranty. If a paying customer doesn't get that what else are they failing?" (Aimonetti, Joe. Apple's 27-inch Cinema Display has sound issues for some: CNET News. 1 December 2010.)

Only one problem with this idea. As a consumer, you are entitled to know that you will receive a certain level of reliability in the products you will receive from the company. Why? Because if you happen to live in the country right out in the middle of nowhere, the last thing you want to do is drive all the way back to an Apple store to exercise one's right under the warranty in order to get a replacement.

And if you are too busy of travelling overseas, do you really want to visit the Apple store again?

As Apple once advertised, it should work right out of the box. And not only that, it should continue to do so well after the minimum 12 months period.

It makes one wonder why Apple never provides a standard 3-year warranty as a show of confidence in the products produced and sold to consumers. It is because Apple knows the quality is not quite there and is hoping the consumers will do the quality control testing on behalf of the company and will return any faulty products to Apple for a replacement.

It just saves the shareholder company money.

March 2011 MacBook Pro

Commonly referred to as the Thunderbolt MacBook Pros by aficionados of the Mac world, the latest batch emerged in early March 2011 with the aim of improving the specs of previous models and possibly fix other issues noticed by consumers as well as achieve another high in the profits earned by the company to help keep the shareholders happy once more. It seems Apple is going for yearly updates for these laptops as if there might still be some issues to fix from previous models while making sure potential consumers see the usual spec improvements for a faster machine with greater storage capacity. So why are there so many problems?

Looking at it from the eye of a consumer, we can see not a lot has changed in this model compared to older versions. Indeed there is much to remind users of earlier models such as the 3-year-old but much loved and properly tested aluminium unibody casing with black keyboard and black display border design. But incredibly, again Apple has managed to let through another graphic display and performance bug (like the one for the 2010 model) after moving onto yet another new graphics processing chip known as the AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPU for high end graphics intensive work such as rendering professional 3D images or editing movies. The new chip is meant to complement Intel's new and integrated HD Graphics 3000 GPU for basic graphics display and will switch between the two chips depending on the workload. Where the workload is minimal, the Intel chip will be used to save on the battery life. Apple has quickly issued an OSX 10.6.7 update (months earlier than anticipated) on 21 March 2011 to quickly fix the graphics bug problem (and one other problem relating to a "Finder freeze" effect). Beyond that, the laptop should hopefully be relative stable and free of any further mishaps — and perhaps for a long enough period of time if Apple will allow it.

The fix for the graphic and performance bug would coincide with the release of the latest OSX 10.6.7 as if Apple is encouraging users to keep things up-to-date and using the latest software features embedded into the operating system.

Moving away from the software and looking at the hardware, the most noticeable new feature of these laptops is the introduction of a high-speed interconnect option known as Thunderbolt. Sounds great until you realise this is more marketing hype from Apple to make consumers think this is a must have laptop. The problem with it is that there are no peripherals on the market to make full use of the new technology. If you can wait long enough and are prepared to spend more money on the upcoming new peripherals to hit the shelves of your local computer store, a new breed of external devices will eventually come with the new Thunderbolt technology. And when the devices do arrive, the new technology will allow superfast data transfer rates of up to 10 gigabits per second (10Gbps). A necessary feature for high end professional graphic designers and anyone else wanting to display, print or transfer huge amounts of information from the laptop to another device in a short space of time. There is no doubt the new technology will be useful at some point in the future. But not at the moment. When? We suggest the moment when the new amorphous alloy MacBook Pro finally gets released is probably the best time to revisit this new technology and see what's on offer in the marketplace by way of the latest peripherals unless, of course, your laptop prematurely collapses or develops issues.

No surprises there.

With no complaints from the public so far, Apple has quickly updated its range of iMacs, Mac Mini and laptops to have this Thunderbolt feature. But remember, although the feature allegedly support the DisplayPort protocols for displaying visual information to an external monitor including an iMac, any older Mac computers with the older DisplayPort connection will not be able to do the same in terms of turning the latest "Thunderbolt" iMacs into an external monitor. You will need to upgrade your computer. Further details about this minor quirk can be found at CNET.com.

Speaking of marketing hype, just imagine the names Apple will have to come up with in the future when a faster input/output (I/O) option is found. Will they have to call the newer technology something like Thunderbolt Extreme or Thunderbolt II: The Next Generation? After that, who knows? They will be scratching their heads for another catchy name to grab the consumers' attention. And even then there may not be enough words in the dictionary to make it sound sexier and more powerful, unless one wanted to add the letter "X" in front of any name.

Getting back to the laptop, we see it does come with the latest SDXC card slot to replace the old SD card slot. Like we said, just add an X and perhaps another letter at the end of SD and everyone will be thinking this is the sexiest machine ever. Yeah right!

Incredibly Apple has decided not to throw in a Blu-ray optical drive as many PC manufacturers are doing right now to their own laptops. Not sure the rationale for this decision. Perhaps too difficult to fit the latest drive into the incredibly small space of a MacBook Pro laptop casing? Or more likely Apple is having ideas of removing the drive altogether at some point in the future. Should it be necessary to have one, it could be purchased as a separate external unit that might be wireless. Apple is probably thinking most users will be downloading movies rather than renting optical disks from video stores, friends etc. Expect the new superthin and supertough unibody amorphous metal casing design for the next MacBook Pro models to come out with no inbuilt optical drive.

And at last the 17-inch MacBook Pro will feature the latest and fastest quad-core Intel i7 processor (what took Apple so long when PC manufacturers were already using them in their 17-inch models?) running at a minimum of 2.2GHz with Turbo Boost speeds at the most crucial times when the processors are extremely busy to a whopping 3.4GHz. Overall this 17-inch laptop should be slightly faster than the 2010 model. Apple reckons twice as fast. Consumers should be wary of such claims and assume a modest increase in speed. For professional users, every ounce of speed improvement is probably worth every cent if it means saving time and money for them.

And finally the in-built forward facing iSight camera in the display has been replaced with a newer full-screen High Definition (HD) and wider image size FaceTime camera showing yourself and all your friends in the one picture. And this camera is said to be "astonishingly crisp" as Apple puts it. So yes, you can't escape Big Brother (although you can always put a piece of electrical tape over the camera).

Internally we see Apple has not opted for the latest 1TB (i.e. 1,000GB) hard drives seen in PC laptops since 2009. Instead the company has kept it at 500GB running at 7,200rpm (for the extra performance in accessing stored data) or the 750GB running at a reliable 5,400rpm. But consumers do have the option of a 512GB Solid-State Drive (SSD) for a laptop having no moving parts, which should make it the most reliable, high performance and durable product achievable by today's technology (assuming no more problems with the graphics processing chip). But at an extra US$1,100 on top of the price of the MacBook Pro, it does seem a bit rich except for the keenest of professional users. Consumers should look seriously at the SSD option when the amorphous alloy laptops are eventually released.

RAM remains surprisingly stagnant at 4GB. Perhaps a glut of these chips have to be got rid of and an opportunity presented itself for Apple to acquire them at rockbottom prices. If you don't like Apple's offering in this area, add an extra US$240 to double the RAM (i.e. 8GB) through the Apple store, or pay $125 elsewhere and install the RAM cards yourself. Much more useful to have this extra RAM (makes for a faster experience in running more of your applications at once).

UPDATE
23 March 2011

Early indications suggest this laptop can get fairly hot when used heavily to process something like video and 3D-rendering and animation work and with the AMD Radeon graphics chip apparently going at full blast. However, the chip seems to be holding up to the high heat levels.

UPDATE
5 May 2011

A number of updates have emerged from Apple Inc. All related in some way to the early 2011 release of the MacBook Pro and iMacs having the Thunderbolt feature and latest graphic processing chips. Included is an updated and larger Mac OS X 10.6.7 Update for iMac (Early 2011) to help with Thuderbolt performance and stability, address graphics stability and 3D performance, improve external display compatibility, fix minor Mac App Store bugs etc. The full range of updates are:

MacBook Pro (Early 2011) Updates

MacBook Pro Software Update 1.4 (132.69MB)

MacBook Pro EFI Update 2.1 (3.06MB)

iMac (Early 2011) Updates

iMac EFI Update 1.6 (6.1MB)

Mac OS X 10.6.7 Supplement Update for early 2011 iMac 1.0 (382.56MB)

So, how stable and reliable is your Mac now? And for how long?

UPDATE
27 June 2011

Apple released the Thunderbolt Firware Update 1.0 for all MacBook Pro 2011 models carrying the Thunderbolt data transfer technology.

Now how stable is your Mac today?

UPDATE
31 August 2011

The MacBook Pro 2011 models are proving to be a little more resilient in handling higher heat levels than the previous 2010 model and possibly earlier models. Latest OX 10.7 "Lion" with its extra graphics processing demands are not showing signs of verheating in the graphics processing chip of the 2011 model compared to an older chip version in the 2010 model. If you have to run the latest OS, users will be better of going for the 2011 model to do this job properly.

MacBook Pro (2007-2008 models) may need an SMC Firmware update

Apple has made some changes to the latest power adapter in use with the 2011 "Thunderbolt" MacBook Pro laptop that may prevent them from charging up the older MacBook Pro laptops built during the period between 2007 and 2008. It will probably be up to you to figure out whether this refers to your laptop or not (much harder if you've purchased yours secondhand). But with a bit of luck, Apple will have managed to perform a test to see if your laptop qualifies after running the Apple MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Updater.

When you do run the updater, make sure the power adapter is plugged in and working (i.e. not the newer adapter, but the old one unless, of course, this is the reason why you had to buy a new adapter in which case you might be in trouble running this test).

MacBook Pro suffers video/display issues after roughly 15 months of normal regular use

Apart from the faulty Nvidia graphics chip needing replacement in the older 2007-2008 MacBook Pro models after a period of use (due to high heat damaging the below standard manufacturing chip), you will probably not escape some form of a video/display issue in the 2009 (and probably later) MacBook Pro. The problem seems to relate to the regular movement of the display hinge causing the below standard quality display data cable to move as well and show signs of damage when rubbing against something or perhaps the metal used in the wires of the cable are of poor quality.

The first thing you will notice is a flickering vertical band of digital garbage. Slight adjustment of the angle of the display removes the band if it tries to persist. The cause for this is either (i) the display data cable; (ii) the display itself; (iii) a short-circuiting problem between the video cable connector plug (white) on the logic board and the external metal casing due to some hairs getting stuck on the connector; or (iv) a logic board issue (probably a faulty GPU).

Here are some pictures to help you identify the problem:

For any short-circuiting issue, you'll need to shutdown your computer, open the lid underneath the laptop (you should remove the battery just to be safe) and inspect the display cable plug and its connector. If you see any hairs, these will need to be carefully removed using a plastic fine tip tweezer. Use a magnifying glass to see what you are doing. Make sure there are no charges already built up on the end of the tweezer by touching the tip onto a large silvery metal plate. Next, remove the display cable connector (pulling parallel to the logic board, never upwards) and make sure the display cable socket and connector are clean. Also inspect the cable itself for any breaks, especially since the cable does move with the display. As there anything rubbing against the cable insulation? If the condition of the cable is not good, it will need to be replaced.

Inspect the inside of the lid and clean it up of all dust and specks of hair congregating near the grill.

Also check to see there are no more hair specks or dust on the logic board, taking great care not to touch the conducting silvery metal portions coming out of any electronic component soldered on top or underneath the logic board. For dust and hair specks on the CD drive, hard drive and battery, you can be a little less careful. But make sure you do not touch the RAM card situated next to the black lithium battery. If necessary, remove the RAM cards first before cleaning as a precaution.

You can use a vacuum cleaner with a narrow nozel to suck up the hairs and dust. But make sure you never touch any electronic components. Get the nozel to hover just above the logic board and especially around the edges and the various connectors.

If this method does not work, there is almost certainly a problem with the display cable itself. The insulation must be breaking or something is wrong inside the cablke. Try getting this replaced.

If your model has the cable going all the way into the display, it may suggest the cable plug inside the display could be coming loose. Since the display itself cannot be disassembled, it is likely the entire display will need to be replaced and a new one purchased (ouch!). This might be the time for you to purchase Extended Warranty to minimise the cost of purchasing a brand new display. Just do it before the problem gets worse so hopefully the Apple technician won't notice the issue.

As for a logic board problem where the main graphics processing unit (GPU) chip or some other area responsible for displaying information is not functioning properly, you could try applying the Graphics Firmware Update 1.0. Or as a test, try toggling between the two main GPUs. Go into the Energy Saver system preferences and change to either "Better battery life" or "High performance". Whatever option you had before in the Energy Saver, select the opposite option. Now test to see if the vercial band of colours repeats itself. As a final resort, you will definitely need Apple extended warranty for the repair.

So far this flicking vertical band of information is looking like it is related to the LED LVDS display cable, which either needs to be unplugged and the connectors cleaned, or a new cable has to be purchased because the fine conducting filaments and insulation are breaking and is touching the chassis or external casing. All evidence is now pointing to the latter scenario since on a cold winter morning when all the materials on the laptop have shrunk slightly, the flicking vertical band of display data garbage comes on and stays on longer and is much harder to get rid of when moving the display (it will disappear with movement, but letting go of the display can bring the band back). But once the machine is warmed up, it is much harder if not impossible to get the flickering band.

Apple has yet to come up with a permanent solution to this common display problem. Yet the simple solution is for Apple to put in a super fine mesh across the grill to prevent dust and hair specks from entering the logic board area. And finally, use quality electronic components when manufacturing a MacBook Pro. Otherwise it can't be "Pro" when the manufacturing of electronic components are not "pro" in themselves. This probably constitutes the only remaining issue with the MacBook Pro that needs urgent addressing. And it is about time Apple learns from this simple design fault.

NOTE 1: The laptop is in virtually perfect condition, well-protected and never been abused in any way. If the machine is sold, it would be virtually impossible to tell how old it is due to its pristine condition apart from a slightly smoother and more reflective surface on the keys suggesting regular typing by the user.

NOTE 2: Why aren't the plastic keys made of a harder material to prevent them getting smoother and shinier and looking like it is worn over time as users type on the keys? Surely this issue can't be a question of cost given how much people pay for a MacBook Pro? Make sure the MacBook Pro is as the name suggests, a "Pro" machine.

MacBook Pro 2010 edition may suffer video/graphics problems under OSX "Lion"

CNET claims a number of users of the MacBook Pro 2010 model with the Intel duo core i5 or i7 processors who have upgraded to OSX "Lion" have experienced either a crash, a black screen after wake up, or a combination of the two. CNET reported:

"Most systems that appear to be affected are 2010 MacBook Pros running a Core i5 or Core i7 processor and with Nvidia 330M graphics, but some iMac systems have also been affected. The problem appears to be an issue with the handling of the Nvidia graphics card, either in the drivers or in the firmware of the card, and may be rooted in how the systems are handling the switch between the onboard and discrete graphics chips in these dua-GPU systems. Affected users have found that if they force their systems to run on the integrated graphics chip then the prevalence of the crashes lessens, if they happen at all." (Kessler, Topher. Some Lion users plagued by black-screen bug: CNET News. 27 July 2011.)

The Black Screen Bug as it has come to be affectionately known, is being investigated by Apple Inc. after enough users talked about it on the Apple Discussion Board. As one user reported:

"Lion crashes ever now and then and stays on a black screen. Its totally unresponsive, all I can do is force shut down but I've done this about 4 times already today any idea what's going on, or how to fix?"

And another user stated to CNET:

"Yes, I too have a mid 2010 MacBook Pro, and stupidly downloaded Lion. Two to three times a day, I get the black screen crash. I just am not technical enough to even understand some of these solutions. Apple seems aware of this but the response is a deafening silence! DO NOT DOWNLOAD LION!!"

Now users are talking of a possible beta testing phase still taking place for OSX Lion 10.7.0 with some claiming the problem appears to be that the original beta testers in the early development phase for OSX "Lion" are not being paid to do their work properly. But can we blame the beta testers? Could it be that Nvidia, the company that manufactures the Nvidia GeForce GT 330M video chipset for the MacBook Pro, has not updated its video drivers to work properly with OSX "Lion"? As another user reported:

"I am seeing the black screen problem on a 2007 MacBook Pro with Nvida graphics. It's the model that would have qualified for the Nvida replacement IF the right symptoms appeared but none did under Leopard or Snow Leopard. Lion is the first to present these symptoms." (Kessler, Topher. Some Lion users plagued by black-screen bug: CNET News. 27 July 2011.)

And another user said:

"I have the same issue with my 2010 MacBook pro i7 with 8 GB of RAM. I re-installed snow leopard. However for a strange reason that I did not remember, it gave the black screen crash with the backlit keyboard on with snow leopard, so I am asking myself if it is not the nvidia 330 m installed which is faulting and needs to be replaced."

It seems OSX "Lion" has added something to create the problem and reverting back to a older OSX version has not completely eradicated the black screen issue. Could it be a firmware update for the Nvidia video processing chip still in the beta phase for OSX "Lion"? Or has Nvidia dropped support for older video processing chips? Because one thing is certain, no MacBook Pro 2011 model has ever suffered this issue.

Perhaps there is an even more serious problem in that the Nvidia chips could be overheating during intensive graphics drawing activities under OSX "Lion" but less of an issue under "Snow Leopard". Are these chips failing after a period of normal use?

The truth to these claims should come soon when OSX 10.7.4 update finally comes to fruition for OSX "Lion". If it doesn't, we may have a hardware failure taking place in the Nvidia chips.

UPDATE
5 May 2011

This CNET article is suggesting a logic board replacement program is secretly taking place at Apple-approved repair centres after users sent in their affected black screen bug MacBook Pro systems (primarily the mid-2010 model and mainly affecting the 15-inch version). For only a few of these users, the replacement had to be done twice in case the current batch of logic board replacements still had a hardware fault. A fresh new batch of the logic board is unlikely to be manufactured until Apple gets through the current batch and removes the ones that are clearly not functioning as well as users would like to see.

In other words, Apple is happy to waste your time as they fix the problem for you.

If the time taken to have your machine fixed is unacceptable for performing your work, our only advice is to consider downgrading to OSX 10.6 "Snow Leopard" and hope the problem doesn't repeat itself. There are reports suggesting the problem is either non-existent or rarely happens under the older OS version. For example, this CNET user said:

"I have the affected model and never had any problems with Snow Leopard. Moving to Lion I constantly encountered graphics problems. I have currently moved back to Snow Leopard and once again my system is running flawlessly. I wonder how many users had these problems under snow leopard at all.

If the number is very small, I don't see how this can be blamed on hardware." (Kessler, Topher. OS X Lion black-screen bug likely from hardware malfunction: CNET News. 31 August 2011.

Nor can it be entirely blamed on the software as well if the actions of Apple to replacement logic boards are anything to go by. It seems to be a combination of the two: the issue is both software- and hardware-related. Perhaps OSX "Lion" requires so much work from the older 2010 edition graphics processing chip to render the new fancy graphics of the new OS that the quality of the chip is not up-to-scratch to handle the demands? As a result, the chip is showing signs of overheating and possibly getting damaged over time — a new tougher chip will need to be built. If so, it would probably explain why the chip had to be improved and the quad core microprocessor introduced into the 2011 MacBook Pro edition to help reduce the heat levels and make it easier for the machine to handle the graphics-intensive demands of the latest OS.

How interesting. So when did Apple realise they had to improve the MacBook Pro for the 2011 edition? Let's see, was it just after testing the first beta version of OSX "Lion" on the 2010 MacBook Pro and thought, "Oh crap! Let's keep quiet and pretend we don't know what's happening and then we will introduce a new model in readiness for the release of the new OS."?

Or is this Apple's latest way of introducing built-in obsolescence into Macintosh computers? Just get the new OS to demand more from the slightly older machines and hopefully people will see the value of buying a new model. And if not, give Apple a peek at your hard disk while they repair your machine using old logic boards in their own time.

Yeah right! And pigs can fly too.

In which case, what do you do now?

Well, if this "downgrading of the OS" method doesn't work (because the graphics processing chip has now been stuffed up by the new OS) or is not acceptable in your situation because you definitely need to use OSX "Lion", then it is time to get another laptop (probably the 2011 model is starting to look good right about this time), transfer the hard drive over to the new machine, put the new hard drive of the new machine in the old laptop, and send the old laptop to Apple where they can spend as much time as they like doing whatever they please with the machine. Hopefully it will come back all fixed. If not, at least it is not on your time and you don't have to wait on Apple again to fix it.

If Apple, Inc. is claiming to be "over the moon" with excitement over the choice of quality components as part of the quality control measures coming out of the Taiwanese company responsible for producing the 2010 MacBook Pro, maybe it is time Apple, Inc. considers selling the laptops like they were Big Macs at a McDonald's store: if you buy one, you really ought to get a second one for free. Then, if one machine plays up, send it in while using the second machine. Such issues should never be repaired at the expense of user's valuable time and money especially when people are trying to use the machine for work-related purposes.

If you think the idea of getting one free is being silly and just not realistic, consider the fact that the PC equivalent of the MacBook Pro containing an i7 processor, 15.6 inch widescreen display, and comes with a Blu-ray burner (the MacBook Pro doesn't even have this optical drive unit, instead you get the Thunderbolt port which is about as much use as a paper weight as no new devices can benefit from it), 8GB RAM (the MacBook Pro is still stuck with 4GB RAM as a standard inclusion), 750GB hard drive, and a dedicated 2GB for the graphics processing chip, costs AUD$998 (ASUS model) as of 10 September 2011 (from Harvey Norman Superstore). Given the price of a MacBook Pro is nearly AUD$3,000, you could effectively buy 3 PC laptops for the price of one MacBook Pro. So getting a free MacBook Pro after purchasing one is certainly not unreasonable.

And as of 14 September 2011, Harvey Norman Superstore were offering a buy one laptop with an AMD processor and get the second one free. Someone must be reading our minds.

NOTE: There is a slowing down in the PC market between September and December 2011 which is causing a drop in the price for basic computer components such as RAM cards, with some PC manufacturers also considering a drop in the price of their current range of PC laptops as well. So if you happen to be in the market for a new PC (forgot about the Mac for the moment unless you already have one and in need of a RAM upgrade, which should be as cheap as US$55 for 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1333MHz RAM cards from places such as Crucial or Other World Computing, and not US$400 at the Apple online store), this would be a good time.

UPDATE
1 September 2011

For Mac users who have purchased a Mercury line of SSD upgrade from Other World Computing for their Mac laptop may have experienced a problem causing some machines being put prematurely into sleep mode. This should be resolved with a firmware release available specifically for the MacBook Pro 2008 to 2010 models, Mac Pro 2009 to 2010 models, and iMac 2010 and MacBook Air 2008 to 2009 models.

UPDATE
14 September 2011

The updates keep coming, but at least the bugs are being wiped out (it is only the undocumented new bugs after an update is made which worries us the most). The model to be fixed today is the MacBook Pro early 2011 models. It is known as the MacBook Pro EFI Update 2.2. Apple documents the improvements provided by this update with the following quote:

"Apple MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection and includes fixes that resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Pro (early 2011) models."

Basically it is looking like all 2011 models of Macintosh computers containing the Thunderbolt port are getting the same update treatment.

UPDATE
26 October 2011

Another MacBook Pro Early-2011 EFI firmware 2.3 update. With a bit of luck in this post-Steve Jobs era, the update will knock the remaining Thunderbolt and other bugs on the head.

Thanks!

UPDATE
26 October 2011

Yep. We definitely have Apple acknowledging the infamous black-screen bug. Fortunately Apple has put the situation into perspective by using the word "intermittent" in its Knowledge Base article to help reduce the severity of the problem for other users who may be wondering just how bad this might be and whether the logic board could collapse at any moment or not.

Nice to see the company is taking an active interest to understand there is a problem for a number of 15-inch mid-2010 models not waking up from sleep or choosing to go black on the users while in the process of manipulating graphics on the screen (usually when the laptop is hot and working hard to render the images).

Apple has issued a MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 for OSX "Lion" users only with mixed results for these users. Nothing by way of a similar update for OSX "Snow Leopard" suggesting Apple may not see a problem for these users and, in fact, would probably rather see these users upgrade to OSX "Lion" to benefit from the update.

But, at last, Apple has released the MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 for "Snow Leopard" users on 14 November 2011 showing acknowledgement of the problem was there when running the older OSX version.

Yippy!

But will it permanently solve the problem? According to Topher Kessler of CNET:

"The problem was worse in Lion than it was in Snow Leopard. This fix addresses the issue in Snow Leopard, but there was another one that was required for Lion. Despite these updates the problem has still occurred for people, though less prevalently.""

Sounds like a new 2011 model laptop is in the pipeline for purchasing for anyone with money to burn.

NOTE: The above updates are specifically for the MacBook Pro mid-2010 models with the 15-inch display. Don't apply the updates for any other model.

MacBook (mid-2010) EFI Firmware Update 2.5

Apple is in a good mood as of 25 January 2012 (probably after seeing how healthy their financial sheet for the last quarter has been) to the point where MacBook Pro mid-2010 13-inch models have received a nice, easy to install and without hiccups, firmware update. The MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.5 is designed to enable Lion recovery from an internet connection. But you don't need OSX "Lion" to install. OSX "Snow Leopard" users can happily install the update in readiness to upgrade to the next OSX version.

Seems to also work for 15-inch mid-2010 models as well. but only if you cannot enable Lion recovery on your Mac.

For users of some MacBook Pro 2011 models that also cannot enable the Lion recovery feature, check this KnowledgeBase article for similar EFI firmware updates.

MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.8 for late 2008, 15-inch MacBook Pro

Apart from a heap of numerous firmware updates to allow these older MacBook Pro models to take advantage of new online diagnostic, repair and recovery tools through the Apple server, this latest update specifically targets the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Apple claims this update will address the following issue:

"The update resolves a graphics issue that may cause the internal display to flicker."

Although it may be possible to install this update on later models, there would be little if any benefit in doing so. Just stick with the recommendations in Software Update under the Apple menu for a clue of the sorts of updates your computer will require.

Having trouble getting your stubborn Apple Magic Mouse to work for you?

This seems to be a relatively common problem reported by numerous users, especially around the time you need to replace the batteries. For example, in this Apple discussion thread, one user said:

"I've had it a couple of months only. Today it said the batteries were low and I should change them but when i put new batteries in and made sure it was on there is now no little green light and the system Bluetooth is unable to find the mouse.

What should I do now?'"

All sorts of possible reasons are given ranging from the batteries are not the right ones and should try non-rechargeable types, checking the batteries are installed correctly, to trying the mouse on another computer (but usually will still not work).

In 99 per cent of cases where the mouse refuses to show the green light with your new batteries inside and in the right orientation within the battery compartment, try the following method:

  1. Turn the switch on the mouse off.
  2. Power down the computer.
  3. Press SHIFT CTRL OPTION and the Power Button all at once and keep them pressed down for 10 seconds. The computer will automatically turn on after the 10 seconds.
  4. Turn Bluetooth on.
  5. Select "Set Up Bluetooth Device".
  6. As Bluetooth searches for a device, turn on the mouse.

In a few seconds the green light on the mouse should turn on and the device will be re-paired correctly with the computer.

It seems the computer needs a bit of a wake up call in order to see your mouse again.

Finally, if the above method doesn't work, it is likely the mouse connectors inside for touching the terminals of the batteries are losing their mechanical spring strength to push against the battery terminals resulting in the batteries moving about slightly to the point where you can cause the tiniest loss in power. Once this happens, the mouse will lose the wireless connection with your computer. Since this can happen to some users within 6 months of purchasing a magic mouse (at least for the 2011 model), we can confidently state that this is a manufacturing design fault and will need to be replaced with a better model or get your money back. While the mouse may look attractive on the outside (a testament to the brilliant industrial designs from Apple), the quality of the components internally in relation to the battery connectors are not of the highest quality.

Need to continue using the mouse until a replacement arrives? The temporary solution would be to get some paper and insert inside such that the batteries are prevented from physically moving about when you put the lid back on and use the mouse normally. The mouse should then be able to maintain wireless connection to the computer for longer.

MacBook (mid-2012) Software Update 1.0

Huh? So new is the laptop and already it needs a software update? And a whopping 1.09GB to download as well. Either lots of fixes, or Apple forgot to put something into it? Or perhaps the latest technologies are so new, the manufacturers didn't have time to provide proper software to run them. Any any rate, Apple has stated that "The update includes fixes that improve graphics stability, external display support, and USB 3 device support."

The 2012 retina MacBook Pro (rMBP) 15-inch laptop

The release of the 15-inch retina MacBook Pro in 2012 heralds a new chapter for Apple in offering a cheaper to build laptop with its smaller display, less materials and no SuperDrive, but priced the same as a traditional 17-inch MacBook Pro. With only a 15-inch model released (the 13-inch model has been phased out due to the greater popularity of the MacBook Air 13-inch model, and Apple believes not enough sales of the 17-inch MacBook Pro has warranted a continuation of this version), the high price is due partly to the inclusion of the expensive SSD flash memory drive, but also the company is counting on the laptop's very thin computer design to attract enough consumers to think it is worth paying the extra money. So far the laptop can be considered a kind of compromise between the more fully fledged traditional hard drive with a SuperDrive MacBook Pro models (still being sold for those consumers wanting extra storage and access to DVDs, including the 17-inch model) and the very thin and perhaps a bit too small 13-inch MacBook Air model

Market research from Apple Inc. also suggests consumers tend to prefer the 15-inch sizes for greater portability. Whereas the professional graphic designers and business professionals who usually prefer the 17-inch laptops will likely be forced to spend more money in purchasing a large external Apple display to get the extra screen real estate.

Or perhaps the real reason for dropping the 17-inch model is because Apple has received advice from their engineers that a laptop larger than a 15-inch is a little too wide for its thinness with a risk that the unibody aluminium casing will not stay firm under normal use?

Still, one can't complain.

The significance of including the word "retina" in identifying this model from previous versions is mainly a marketing gimmick to let people know the screen resolution is now equivalent to what the human eye creates when generating images for the brain. Although this is technically meaningless (any display will allow you to see what you are doing), it just means the graphics will have a slightly more detailed and finer appearance. Of course, it won't miraculously improve your productivity, it is just something you may wish to mention if you want your friends to drool at your new laptop.

As for people whose job it is to design software applications, web sites and other electronic print media documents, it just means extra work converting images of text and pictures from 72dpi to at least twice the resolution (recommended minimum should be 150dpi). Of course, this will mean extra bandwidth and slightly longer download times for people wanting to view web sites and obtain software, but as the networks in various parts of the world get faster, the download times will seem no different than before. At the moment, a lot of developers are having to decide whether to cater for both retina and non-retina display computers by adding an extra javascript to web pages and call on the script within the IMG html tag to allow images to automatically switch between low and high-reoslution versions once the browser knows the screen resolution in the hope of maintaining reasonable download speeds, or just go fully retina-enabled images and be done with it. Certainly, in the end (and as more PC computers increase screen resolution), developers will eventually have to settle on one minimum image resolution. With the ability of Safari 5.x and higher to zoom on a web page, it won't matter if the image width and height is the same. Just make sure the resolution is at least 150dpi (you can go higher, but remember the donwload time factor) so that when the images are magnified to fill a retina-enabled screen, the images will remain crisp and clean. Or alternatively, you can make all the images, text and web page designs twice as big at 72dpi to suit retina-displays and hope users of older computers can zoom out to fit everything on their screens. Just something to keep developers busy.

Alright, enough of this "retina display" feature.

Getting back to the latest MacBook Pro, we know it comes with an SSD flash memory drive to store your personal files and applications. The cheapest option will be around AUD$2,400 for the 256GB SSD and running a 2.4GHz quad-core i7 processor. This goes up to AUD$3,400 for the 512GB and a slightly faster processor of around 2.8GHz. Mind you, it really should be 512GB across the board given how long the 256GB SSD has been around while the 512GB SSD has always been an option for those willing to pay extra. Continuing to include the 256GB SSD for the cheapest model may suggest that Apple could be encouraging consumers to make full use of the iCloud as a new place to store all their personal files, applications, and all the rest. Otherwise, being forced to use SSD will be a major step backwards for professionals who are used to 1TB magnetic hard drives. To compensate slightly, Apple is offering a 768GB SSD as an option. If you can afford it, you are better off getting the extra storage and be done with it. However, the laptop will set you back at least AUD$3,600 for the basic model having this greater SSD capacity running the slightly slower 2.4GHz quad-core i7 processor (boosts to 3.3GHz for processor intensive situations).

All the laptops will come with the minimum 8GB RAM, although you are better off buying extra RAM outside the Apple Store for a better price to help bring these laptops to at least 16GB.

Beyond that, the standard Thunderbolt port, USB ports and other essential connections have not changed from the previous model. The only thing that sets this laptop apart from all previous models has to be its remarkably thin design for the casing. It is for this reason alone that Apple is hoping the laptop will be insanely popular enough to make substantial sales. And probably it will for those who have never used a Mac computer before. For everyone else, we will have to wait until Apple decides to achieve another outrageous technological marvel in reducing the thinness even more followed by the introduction of the amorphous alloy casing to replace the aluminium, making the laptops almost indestructible and scratch-resistant. And with a bit of luck, the 17-inch model might be re-introduced. Until then, one can be sure there will be plenty of interest from consumers in this latest Apple offering.

For something so new, Apple has managed to find sleep/wake issues and trackpad problems. To fix these, download the MacBook Pro Retina SMC Update 1.0, and MacBook Pro (Retina) Trackpad Update 1.0.4

MacBook Pro (Standard and Retina) EFI Firmware Update

Released on 19 September 2012, the MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update for standard mid-2012 models resolves an issue which can cause the system to hang during heavy processor loads.

The MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina mid-2012 model has its own update, plus it also resolves an issue where NetBoot does not function properly when using an Ethernet adapter.

MacBook Pro mid-2012 (Standard) Apple Thunderbolt Firmware Update 1.1

There must be plenty of problems with getting the Thunderbolt port working properly. This update seems to hopefully fix remaining issues, although one wonders why a similar update is not offered to users of earlier MacBook Pro models. Is this because the Thunderbolt ports on older Mac are perfect and don't need an update? So why aren't the ports perfect on the mid-2012 models? Or is Apple choosing to stop supporting products sold before 2012 because they know the older models have problems but it is cheaper to support the latest models only? We can only speculate.

This update is not suitable for MacBook Pro (cough!) Retina laptops.

But don't despair. There are plenty of other updates to be had for Retina users from the Apple web site, with software updates to fix graphic issues, updates to fix a trackpad issue, EFI firmware updates and the works. Must be another model going through the usual beta testing by Apple with the help of the public willing to pay thousands of dollars on an early prototype. Hopefully things will improve with the next Retina model in 2013.

Numerous updates for late 2012 model Macs

Lots of updates to keep the users of 13-inch retina-display laptops and all 2012 model iMacs and other computers amused over the Christmas holidays. For the MacBook Pro Retina laptops, download the MacBook Pro Retina EFI Update 1.1. For late 2012 version iMacs, enjoy the iMac ERI Firmware Update 2.0">. And if you thought everything was up-to-date, Apple has kindly provided to all late 2012 version computers the Mac Wi-Fi Update 1. All in a day's work from the company, and just in time for Christmas as of 17 December 2012.

MacBook Pro 15-inch and 17-inch 2011 battery update

A class action against Apple by users of these models has succeeded in getting Apple to supply a MacBook Pro SMC Update for the mid-2010 and early-2011 15- to 17-inch models. According to the class action, Apple advertised the Macbook Pro will lasts up to 7 hours on a single battery charge. However:

"Soon after the 2011 MacBook Pro was released, purchasers began complaining that their 2011 MacBook Pro was not charging the battery under certain conditions when the 2011 MacBook Pro was fully utilizing either the Intel quad-core 17 processor or the AMD Radeon graphics processor, or both, such as when streaming movies, playing video games or editing video."

For some consumers, the battery would not actually charge up when the AC adapter is plugged in and providing power because the high processor usage seems to demand much more power than expected, resulting in either a defective battery or an insufficient high-wattage power adapter for the laptop to do what was advertised during a period of processor intensive operation.s Furthermore, the problem seems to evident after more than 1,000 charge cycles for other consumers who think they are not affected.

Whatever the case, it becomes a design/manufacturing fault of the model when Apple advertised how it should work and later claimed to consumers it could not resolve the issue. As stated in the class action lawsuit:

"Moreover, Apple's design, which does not allow the consumer to change the battery, prevents consumers from using more than one battery in order to optimize and obtain better performance. Apple tells customers who've purchased the 2011 MacBook Pro and complained to its customer service representatives about this problem that this is how Apple designed the MacBook and that Apple will not help resolve the issue."

As Apple provides the only 85W AC adapter for this model with its exclusive proprietary "magnetic connector" and the design of the laptop makes it hard to swap the battery for another, it has forced Apple to provide an update.

You can download the MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Updater 1.6 (or use this download link if Apple has changed the location) for selected 15-inch 2011 MacBook Pro models. Apple has also issued the MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Updater 1.7 (1MB) for both 15-inch and 17-inch mid-2010 and early-2011 MacBook Pro models.

Thoroughly confused? No worries. We suggest going for the Updater 1.7 version for the latest from Apple.

When you do apply the update, make sure your laptop is fully charged and the AC adapter is plugged in and providing charge. There must be no interruption in the power supply during the update process.

MacBook Pro Retina SMC Update 1.1

Another firmware update for this early prototype model with no DVD/CD burner, but with a flash storage and a new screen known as the MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch. This one fixes a rare issue where users may experience slow frame rates when playing graphics-intensive games. All other fixes such as power nap, wake from sleep, and fan control, are included.

Thunderbolt Port Firmware Stability Update 1.2

A reign of sensibility has arrived with Apple choosing wisely to come up with a single update to fix all known instability issues for all Mac models (except the Retina models; well it was a good try considering this latest super-thin model is quite unique) that have the Thunderbolt port feature. This one specifically addresses problems found when sharing the hard disk of one computer with another through Target Disk Mode.

MacBook Pro SMC Update 1.2 for Retina and non-Retina models

The Retina update fixes a battery management related issue for the (now very old) 13-inch and 15-inch 2012 Retina MacBook Pro models. Another update for the same problem known as MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.8 is also available for mid-2012 MacBook Pros. This battery problem must have emerged as a common issue after around 12 months of use (or when the battery has accumulated more than 1000 charge cycles). Fortunately Apple has taken notice of the problem and has decided to solve it. As Apple stated:

"This update addresses rare issues where the battery unexpectedly stops functioning or the system hangs when the battery charge reaches less than one percent."

Wake up or startup problems?

After about 2 years of use, some MacBook Pro laptops with CD/DVD drives are not properly sealed sufficiently to ensure hair and dust do not accumulate in between the port connectors and behind them where the logic board is located.

There is also the possibility of faulty graphics cards manufactured with your Macintosh computer. Ask a Mac specialist to perform diagnostics to determine any known graphics-related issues and receive a free logic board replacement (even if you are out-of-warranty).

Whatever the case, the first signs of a logic board problem it intermittent start ups where the computers can sometimes reach the desktop and everything is fine, to occasionally it has trouble starting up. When it doesn't start up, the sleep light indicator will turn on to high brightness briefly then dim down and stay relatively dim. The hard disk will sound like it is trying to go with a quick whirl of the hard disk and cooling fans. Battery is fully charged and plugging the AC adapter will show it is charging up fine and running the computer with full power. However, the screen stays black and never turns on. Nothing happens.

If you see this, you must immediately shutdown. Take out the hard drive (and replace with another to satisfy Apple technicians requirements that all components should be supplied with the machine. Or, if you want to take the risk, try the following technique first of resetting the System Management Controller (SMC):

  1. For a portable Mac without a removable battery, shut down the computer.
  2. Plug in the MagSafe power adapter to your laptop. Light should show indicating power is flowing into the machine.
  3. On the built-in keyboard of the laptop, press on the left side of the keyboard Shift-Control-Option keys and the Power button at the same time for 7 seconds.
  4. Release all the keys and the Power button at the same time.
  5. Press the Power button to start up the computer.

If you do succeed in getting to the desktop, backup everything on your hard drive.

Now shutdown your computer. Take the machine to an Apple technician and he will immediately clean both sides of the logic board of all hair and dust, especially behind the port connectors and around the video and graphics card. In fact, you may have noticed by tapping on your computer when it is working how it may suddenly shutdown? This causes movement of the hairs that are likely to short-circuit parts of the logic board, especially the video region.

Do this and you have a chance to save your laptop from a logic board failure. It is the only way. The machines are not designed to be properly sealed up (although improvements to the cooling vents reveals a series of thin and small plates running along the vents to prevent hair and most dust from getting in. Unfortunately these machines are not sufficiently well sealed around the ports to stop muck from getting in.

The MacBook Pro with SSD and Retina displays may be better sealed, but you will need to talk to consumers to see how many years these products will last. Prefer to take the plunge? Take out extended warranty to ensure problems can be fixed free-of-charge,

If cleaning the logic board doesn't properly solve the problem, check the Hall Effect sensor for sending the machine to sleep (activated by the magnet in the screen and is located behind the high-powered first USB port (below the left speaker grill when looking at the keyboard). You can use a magnet or magnetize paper clip on a string, or mobile phone (watch whether it sleeps if it has its own Hall Effect sensor as you move it over and around the keyboard. In the early 2011 and newer models, this switch is now permanently attached to the logic board. So any problems here will require a logic board replacement

Otherwise try changing the hibernation mode of your laptop and clear out the sleepimage file. Sometimes, after upgrading the RAM (say, from 4GB to 16GB), the operating system has to store the contents of the RAM into a file on the hard disk in the event you lose power. Only thing is, a RAM size of, say, 16GB requires 16GB of hard disk space to be set aside for this purpose. This is when you may realise you don't have the space. Or what little space you have left is not enough to run OS X. As a result, this can sometimes cause problems waking up your laptop. At other times, any corruption to the sleepimage file could also prevent your laptop from properly waking up. To see if this is the cause of your problem, consider turning off Safe Sleep mode. To do this, go into the Terminal application (located in Applications-->Utilities) and run the following command:

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

Disabling Safe Sleep simply means that you can still put your laptop to sleep. The only difference here is that power is kept to the RAM to retain the data and not saved to the hard disk. The only disadvantage in this option is that in the event the battery does run out of power, you could lose everything held in RAM (which is effectively whatever you were working on during for that portion of the data that you haven't told the application to save it to the disk). However, if you have a routine of regularly saving information to the disk using the "Save" or "Save As..". command, you shouldn't have a problem. whatsoever. Of course, if at anytime you wish to restore the Safe Sleep mode, type:

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 3

If you do decide to disable Safe Sleep mode, consider freeing up the hard disk space by deleting the sleepimage file. To do this, type:

sudo rm /var/vm/sleepimage

and restart your computer. After doing this, you should notice a dramatic increase in the amount of hard disk space you have on your startup disk.

Should the problem persist, try pressing the Power button as you would to start up your computer. If the white light comes on and the screen doesn't turn on, tap with your fingers roughly midway down the left side of the casing next to the keyboard and below the speaker grill region. If the screen suddenly starts up after tapping over this area, the logic board has much on it and needs cleaning.

Be weary of early models of the Retina MacBook Pro variety

Apple is still going through a level of refinement to minimise issues associated with this ambitious new and highly compact model.

According to iFixIt Newsletter for October 2013, repair specialists have warned users of the following regarding MacBook Pro Retina display models:

New MacBook Pro Retinas Spill Their Guts

Last year's [2012] MacBook Pro with Retina Display was the least repairable, least upgradeable laptop we had ever seen. So when Apple released two new Retinas last week, we readied our spudgers and prayed to the gods of repair. Maybe the new 13" and 15" MacBook Pro Retinas would be better this time around?

It turns out, they aren't. The RAM is still soldered down to the logic board and the battery is still slathered in glue. So, while these Retina bad boys may be a graphics dream, they remain a fixer's worst nightmare.

None of us plan on breaking things, but everything breaks eventually. And when that happens, we think consumers deserve a product that is easy and affordable to fix — even after the warranty expires.

This is advice worth considering before purchasing one of these laptops. Apart from the potentially high costs of repairs should you machine not be in warranty, early Retina models are likely to have certain issues needing to be ironed out (usually by waiting for newer, updated models). And because of the way these laptops are currently built, it is unlikely there is much you can fix on your own to save money. If anything, you would be forced to take our extended warranty and make sure you have a backup unit to keep a copy of your data before wiping the data off your laptop for sending to an Apple repairer. And even then, the data in SSD are not securely eraseable. It is unclear if the SSD for holding the data is removable (it should), but if Apple has also decided to apply a generous amount of glue to securely lock in the SSD and later requires replacement of major sections or components just to fix minor issues (funny if it only needed a screw or two to be added here or there in order to fix something permanently) and the problems in terms of costs to the consumer and the environment can be greater than older models prior to the introduction of the Retina displays. In the end, these compact Retina computers could end up being the kind of machine where you are more likely to throw it away. And that's not particularly good for our environment. We hope this isn't the case.

For the latest low-down on what's inside the 2013 MacBook Pro Retina laptop (13-inch) model, visit http://www.ifixit.com.

In the meantime, Apple is feeling confident as of October 2013 to have made the decision to do away with all non-Retina MacBook Pros as it feels the sales of the Retina variety is sufficiently high. Or more likely, as Apple is looking for the next best thing to sell, it needs to be lean and trim and do away with products that costs too much to build. Of course, the reader should not assume the decision is a sign that Retina laptops are solid, dependable machines that will last as long as the very earliest Macs built from 1984 to 1992 (i.e. more than 25 years). We simply don't know yet just how reliable these Macs are at the present time. One would need at least another 5 years of solid application of the product in the consumer world before we can give a verdict on just how good these machines are at the present time. Technically, with fewer moving parts and no magnetic hard drive or CD/DVD player/recorder, that the laptops should last as long as you require its use (what's wrong with 25 years?). The reality is, we don't know for sure. Perhaps a visit to your local rubbish tip (or or startuplandfill site) may provide the answer? Or just check online to see what people are saying about the product.

MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch (late 2013) EFI Update 1.2 and 1.3

After changing back to the NVIDIA graphics processor from the more robust and reliable Radeon stuff, already Apple has to provide an EFI Update to fix "an issue which, in rare cases, may limit the performnce of the discrete graphics processor after a system wake or boot."

This was not an issue when the Radeon graphic processing chips were used.

To fix this issue, 15-inch (late 2013) models should download this update (version 1.2); for 13-inch (late 2013) models, try this update (version 1.3).

The main problem with Genius Bar service approach

The Genius Bar service approach does provide a useful way to help Apple customers solve problems related to their Mac computers. Staff are helpful and try to solve the problems once you have set an appointment time to see someone. As for the rest of the staff, they are everywhere (presumably to make sure you don't accidentally pick up a demonstration product model and walk out the store) and they are there to help you buy an Apple product. But should you get to a point where you need to fix your Mac computer, you may notice something odd in the service approach of Apple staff.

First appointment session is fine. You have to wait a few days to see someone as you are told all staff members in the store are busy (even if a number of the staff members are just walking around). Not good if you need your computer fixed ASAP for work. Apple staff must think you are a consumer playing games on it and watching videos and you can live without your computer for these purposes for the few days you have to wait.

Okay, you finally get to see someone at the Genius Bar. A technician, apparently. The first session turns out to be an opportunity for the Genius Bar service technician to run his troubleshooting software using his iPad plugged into your computer. If everything looks fine and the computer can start up (you've told him it will do this intermittently), he resets the SMC and recommends fully charging up the battery. He is naturally inclined to believe the computer should be okay. If not, bring it back for repairs. All details are recorded on their Apple database system to help the technicians later if they need to repair your computer. No worries.

You discover when you get home the computer doesn't start up. Hmmm. Sounds like transporting the computer seems to move something around and may make it work and other times it doesn't. Interesting.

Alright. One would think it would be a simple matter of going back to the store, dropping the computer off, pay the $99 and let the technician in his own time check the computer and hopefully fix the issue. Only one problem: you are a consumer. As a consumer, you have to wait for the next appointment, which is another few days away.

You get there late by 10 to 15 minutes, so effectively you have to wait a few more days to come back for the next appointment. How about just leaving the computer with one of the staff to deliver to the back of the store? Just fill out the customer details on a form and sign it, possibly pay some money, and that's it. No. Only a technician can provide the papers (and inspect the machine). Even if it is recorded on the Apple system by the previous technician to bring back the machine for repairs, it won't make a difference. You must make an appointment to see a technician presumably to do some more tests, but in the end you know it is a hardware problem. You've explained that you have tried different OS X versions and swapped hard drives. So you know it isn't a software problem. Unfortunately if you are late, none of the other staff can help you as only a technician can provide the papers for you to fill in and take your computer. In the meantime, up to 2 weeks can go by before the computer is finally in the hands of a technician.

But wait! There is an express service. It is tailored specifically for business users, so you can be sure to get quicker service. We recommend that you walk into the Apple store wearing a business suit and tie and look more professional in your mannerisms (get your friend outside the store to ring you up on your swanky mobile phone and pretend you are negotiating an important contract that will allegedly earn you millions of dollars while confidently finding brief moments between your chattering on the phone to explain your problem to the Apple technician), then the service should be a whole lot quicker.

So why can't consumers just simply leave the computer with the Apple store, with the relevant paper filled in, and the upfront initial $99 fee paid even when the details of the previous appointment stated it should be repaired should the problem persist? And why aren't these other Apple staff able to handle this situation more effectively?

Apple staff are all over you like kids to a candy store if you vaguely hint at the possibility of buying an Apple product. But if you have to get something repaired, it can be one of the most painful experiences if you require your computer fixed for work purposes.

How about lending a second-hand machine to use while waiting for the technician to repair your computer? We hear Telstra is able to do this for various products needing repair and you must use a similar product to perform your work?

Or how about Apple providing the option to buy one Mac computer and get one free? Then if one computer is down and out for the duration of waiting for a technician to look at it and do something, you still have another machine you can use. In fact, at Apple, you are better off buying two Macs (perhaps a new one from the Apple store, and a recent second-hand one from eBay as a backup).

Something just doesn't seem right.

Apple preparing to release new MacBook Pro models with built-in TV tuners

Apple may not be approving TV tuner manufacturers to access the superfast connector of the latest MacBook Pro models to enable higher quality display of TV reception. All you can buy are USB and Wi-Fi TV tuners. Now rumours have it that Apple is preparing to include a built-in TV tuner into the next generation of MacBook Pro models. When the models will be released is not yet known.

Microsoft ramps up its dominance in combo laptop/tablet devices

Following the success of the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has unveiled the Surface Book. This one is designed to compete with Apple's own 13-inch MacBook Pro. While both machines have similar specs in terms of storage SSD capacity, RAM, Intel processor (either i5 or i7), and silver colour of the metal casing, Microsoft has deliberately distanced itself from Apple's own offering with a machine that is now a clear winner. The differences in the Surface Book include a touch screen (not available in the Apple laptop), a detachable keyboard, an SD card reader port, a higher resolution screen, a 13.5 inch screen (compared to the 13-inch of the MacBook Pro),up to 12 hours of battery life per charge (compared to 10 hours with the Apple laptop), and is slightly lighter in weight.

Further details can be found http://mashable.com/2015/10/06/surface-book-vs-macbook-pro/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-tech-link#6_4JuTaOmuq6 (or grab a copy from here).

Beware of the way Apple resellers earn extra profit from customers

Take great care about how your laptop is repaired by Apple technicians. The way Apple resellers can make extra money is to claim a part was replaced and you pay for the cost, but the replacement was not actually done. Instead, the technician has only cleaned the inside of the machine to make the part work again. Here is an example of feedback from a customer in Australia.

"I suspect the network WiFi card was not replaced (even though I paid $160 for what was suggested by the Genius bar person as a replacement repair job). The reason for saying this is because of a critical screw that needs to be removed for the WiFi card to be taken out. The screw head is in a state that no screwdriver will remove it. Checking this after the alleged replacement (in order for me to swap the hard drive from another laptop) shows the screw has never been removed (it still remains too tight and cannot be removed, and no new screw has been installed by the Apple technician).

I recommend that the receipt/tax invoice should provide clear details of what exactly was fixed (or replaced). If a replacement part was needed, the old part should be shown to the customer and explained what has happened to it (or at least provide some evidence to support the technician's claim of the part being replaced). And if a replacement is done, make sure all extra components needed to secure the replacement part to the machine itself (i.e. the screws) looks reasonably new.

Also, I have requested the top part of the casing (that was replaced recently) containing the good trackpad and keyboard be kept so I can ask an Apple technician to replace the trackpad in another laptop (trackpads are identical, it is just that the other trackpad on the slightly older laptop is not responsive in the clicking action compared to the trackpad in the newer laptop despite careful use). There is no evidence from the Apple store that this has been done through the receipts I have seen. So it is likely I will pay extra for any trackpad replacement even though the trackpad I have asked to take out with the top casing is fine and wanted to re-use it later in the next repair job.

Update: I have used the laptop for a couple of hours. While I am grateful for any effort made to fix the problem, I am now certain that the card was not replaced. I am observing right now the WiFi network card problem (i.e., the network status icon is locked up and can't be turned off or on unless the machine is restarted). I will ask the Apple technician to actually do the replacement for the money already paid.

NOTE: The Apple technician has re-installed OS X 10.11 (the network problem also occurs in OS X 10.8) without success. The problem does not occur on the other laptop using the same network."

MacBook Pro (December 2016)

Improvements for this model are in a thinner casing, replacement of the functions keys with a changeable icon touch glass screen (you can now use Touch ID technology to access any password-enabled web site or your own laptop to avoid the multitude of different passwords and usernames we might need), a faster graphics processing chip and the latest sixth generation Intel processor that allows the speed to automatically boost to 3.5GHz (Apple emphasises this speed in its adverts and web site, but does not give the average speed) for intense processing work, but drops down to 2.6GHz to conserve power and reduce heat emissions.Battery life is a maximum of 10 hours (and will be much less if the processor is working hard continuously at 3.8GHz). Probably not as bad as it sounds considering we have a decent speed and a brighter screen ina compact "magazine-thickness" design.

Also include is a 58% increase in the maximum volume but provides better sound to ensure minimal distortion. The dynamic range of the sound has also been improved.

And did we mention a larger trackpad too? With four Thunderbolt 3 ports (and hopefully a USB port and a 3.5mm sound connector, somewhere but no guarantees), this has reasonable flexibility to connect two external screens and a couple of RAID storage systems for a seriously good server. WiFi is included as standard. And the best internal storage and RAM is 256GB for the flash drive in the 13-inch model or 512GB in the 15.5-inch model, and 8GB (Huh?) or 16GB for the RAM, respectively. Apple should have kept the RAM for both models at 16GB. The only silly decision from the company (which is thinking in terms of reducing costs and maximising profit, but not what the users actually need for a decent and fast Mac system, even if the 13-inch model is selected).

Overall, this is a reasonable improvement. It is only let down by the numerous bugs introduced in the latest macOS X "Sierra" (expect a few more fixes over the next 12 months). Then again, it is hoped that many new Mac users will be naive not to notice them. For more advanced Mac users, they may wish to find ways to downgrade the OS to Yosemite or El Capitan.

Other than that, there is still no 17-inch model to be truly called a Pro machine. The best you will get is a 15.5 inch screen. Price is USD2,800 for the standard configuration of the 15.5 inch model (and USD2,400 for the 13-inch model). To make these Pro machines truly useful to the professional, it is recommended to get a slightly higher processor speed of 2.9GHz (boosts to 3.8GHz) for an extra USD200 more on top of the standard price, and bump up the flash drive to 1TB (add USD400 on top of the price), or 2TB (add USD1,200). Still one should not complain, right? It isn't called an Apple machine for nothing. As a final further enhancement, the graphics processor comprising of the Radeon Pro 455 with 2GB memory (a decent processor) can be bumped up to the Radeon Pro 460 with 4GB memory resulting in a super crisp and faster drawing of graphics to the point where you won't see how the screen image is created). Add an extra USD100 for this option.

Sure to find its way in the 2016 Christmas stockings of numerous consumers out there (mostly students requiring the smaller 13-inch version) just as Apple had intended, the new MacBook Pro is a reasonable improvement even if the price hasn't changed from previous models. Prices are dictated by the cost of producing a flash drive of reasonable capacity and with a few extra latest features that probably costs very little to Apple to include (but costs consumers plenty to pay).