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#710: New MacBook Pros, Protecting Your Photos, Repair of the Week: Bizarre Keyboard Problem


Happy Tuesday,

Apple today announced revisions to the whole MacBook Pro line, adding substantially faster processors and graphics cards to the line. Of note is the auto-sensing graphics system.

The MacBook Pros for some time had dual graphics systems: one was a more energy-efficient integrated system that shared main RAM, and the other was a dedicated graphics processor with its own dedicated memory. Users had to change the setting manually, then log out and back in, to affect the change. That’s happening transparently now, which is a relief!

The energy efficiency gains come not only from this graphics system, but also from the battery itself. Apple continues to refine its batteries, which are advertised as lasting between eight and ten hours on a single charge. Most remarkable is their 1,000 charge/discharge cycle lifetime. Most all other laptop batteries on the market today will begin show severely degraded performance at 300 cycles.

This is a big environmental win, and also lowers cost of ownership for everyone over the long term. Of course, it also means fewer toxic substances winding up in landfills or needing proper recycling.

Ed has a full write-up in this issue. As always, keep in touch.


  New MacBook Pros Announced Today!  

The MacBook Pros have been updated! All models (13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch) sport new and refined features.

All new 13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch MacBook Pros include:

  • 4GB of RAM (expandable to 8GB)
  • Updated glass Multi-Touch trackpad, which now supports inertial scrolling
  • An updated notebook battery that delivers longer battery life on a single charge (up to 10 hours of wireless productivity on the 13-inch models)
  • Widescreen LED-backlit display
  • Sudden Motion Sensor to protect hard drive data
  • Slot-load 8X SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD+/-R DL/DVD+/-RW/CD-RW) optical drive
  • Mini DisplayPort (VGA, DVI and HDMI adapters sold separately)
  • AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • iSight video camera
  • Two USB 2.0 ports (three on the 17-inch MacBook Pro)
  • One FireWire 800 port
  • SD card slot
  • Updated MagSafe Power Adapter

All 13-inch MacBook Pro models now include faster Intel Core 2 Duo processors, 4GB RAM, a 10-hour built-in battery and the new NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor. With 48 processing cores, the new NVIDIA GeForce 320M is the fastest integrated graphics processor on the market, ideal for graphics intensive applications or high performance games. The GeForce 320M is apparently a custom production just for Apple.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is available in two configurations: one with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 250GB hard drive priced at $1,199; and one with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 320GB hard drive priced at $1,499.

Bigger changes are found in the 15-inch and 17-inch models. They now ship with the 2.4GHz or 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 processor, with an option to upgrade to the more powerful 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 processor. While at first glance the processor clock speed is the same as the previous generation, the processor architecture in the i5 and i7 intel processors is completely different than the previous Intel Core 2 Duo.

Apple states that they are the fastest dual-core processors available, with a smaller nanometer process, Hyper-Threading, and Turbo Boost, that improve performance up to 50% from previous models.

All 15-inch and 17-inch models include two graphics processors, the new NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M for peak performance and Intel HD Graphics for energy efficient operation.

The powerful new GeForce GT 330M is more than twice as fast as the GeForce 320M. Apple’s updated automatic graphics switching determines which graphics processor an application needs and switches instantly between processors to deliver peak performance and long battery life. Tightly integrated hardware and software allow the new 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro to deliver 8 to 9 hours on a single charge.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro includes a high resolution 1920 × 1200 display, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro is now available with an optional high resolution 1680 × 1050 display. Customers can also upgrade their MacBook Pro with new 128GB, 256GB and 512GB solid state drives. Both the 17-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro screens can be upgraded with an anti-glare coating for an additional fee.

As the industry’s greenest notebook lineup, every Mac notebook achieves EPEAT Gold status and meets Energy Star 5.0 requirements, setting a new standard for environmentally friendly notebook design. Each unibody enclosure is made of highly recyclable aluminum and comes standard with energy efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. Mac notebooks contain no brominated flame retardants, are PVC-free and are constructed of recyclable materials.

All Macs come with Mac OS X Snow Leopard, the world’s most advanced operating system, and iLife, Apple’s innovative suite of applications for managing photos, making movies and creating and learning to play music.

Sure, the above two paragraphs are Apple PR speak—but not only are they true, but they (Snow Leopard and green tech) are two major reasons we love Macs!

Click to see all 13-inch MacBook Pros

Click to see all 15-inch MacBook Pros

Click to see all 17-inch MacBook Pros

  Protecting Your Photographs  

Let me ask you a few questions: Do you have a digital camera? How many megapixels does your camera shoot? How many years and how many photos do you have on your computer?

Now imagine this… tomorrow morning you wake up and turn your computer on. It boots slower than normal and all you see is a flashing question mark on a gray screen. Your heart drops and you start to think about all of the memories that made up your iPhoto library.

The purpose of all this is to get you thinking about how many pictures you take every week and what would happen if one day you lost all of them. Could be 10 days or 10 years of photos; either way you’re losing all of those precious memories. Your best solution is to backup your files. The key to a true backup is to have your files in two places.

My suggestion is to purchase a pair of identical external hard drives. Several hard drive units ranging from 250 gigabytes to 2 terabytes are becoming more and more affordable.

Click here to see Small Dog’s selection of external hard drives.

When you’re finished with your photo shoot, birthday party or vacation, store your photos on your computer and then back it up to your external hard drive. It may also be good to store your external hard drive in a different location than your computer and pull it out once a week to backup your new work.

I like to go one step further and back up my backup. My setup includes my MacBook which is backed up onto an external hard drive which is then mirrored to a second external hard dive. This allows me to delete some photos off my MacBook to free up space while still leaving my photos in two different locations.

*Buffalo 320GB MiniStation Metro USB 2.0 Hard Drive in Ruby Red shown above. Find it for $10 off with free shipping for a limited time here.

  Repair of the Week: Bizarre Keyboard Problem  

A MacBook Pro came in last week because it refused to render the “d” character when its key was pressed. This is bizarre behavior that I hadn’t seen before; usually when a customer reports this sort of problem, technicians don’t immediately believe it.

We confirmed it was an issue and tried an external keyboard first. The problem persisted, so we knew it wasn’t the keyboard or top case. In MacBook Pros with silver keys on the keyboard, the keyboard and top case are two separate parts. Confirming it wasn’t either, we booted the computer up from a known-good external source. Your system’s restore disks are the perfect choice here, but we use a fancy NetBoot system that’s much faster and versatile.

The problem went away when booted from the external source, confirming that hardware was not to blame. So, after a restart we started narrowing things down. By creating a new account on the computer, you can determine whether the problem is system-wide, or isolated to one particular user. Mac OS X is designed for multiple users, but there are core components that all accounts use.

The new account did not show the symptom. Lower case “d” worked just fine. This means we needed to look at the user account.

Knowing from experience that this sort of thing usually is a result of fiddling with the Universal Access preference pane, I headed there to look for the case. No luck. Google searches yielded little, and the replacing of various kernel extensions proved ineffective. By chance, I’d clicked on Macintosh HD once, and the name became editable. I decided to try the “d” key again, and the computer spoke “Macintosh HD.”

Off to the Speech preference pane, where I unchecked “Speak selected text when the key is pressed” from the Text to Speech tab. Somehow, lower-case “d” was set to make the computer speak selected text.

  SPECIALS | 4/13/10 - 4/21/10  
   MacBook Air 1.86GHz 2GB/120GB, Apple SuperDrive, 3-year AppleCare plan, Free Shipping!
   iPod touch 8GB, AppleCare, Free Chill Pill Speakers (black)!
   Stubbie USB Auto Adapter for iPod/iPhone, FREE USB Cable for iPod/iPhone!
   Mac Mini 2.26GHz 4GB, RAM, 160GB drive, SuperDrive, 9400M Graphics, AppleCare!
   iMac 21.5in 3.06GHz 8GB RAM, 500GB drive, 9400M, 3-year AppleCare plan, Free Shipping!
   iPod nano 16GB (purple) AppleCare, Free Chill Pill Speakers (black)!
   Nike + iPod Sensor plus FREE Marware Sportsuit Case for Nike + sensor!