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#790: Apple Updates MacBook Pro Line, Wireless Sync with iTunes, AirPort Utility for iOS 5, Make Your Own iPhone Ringtone in iTunes


Happy Tuesday,

I spent the past five days housesitting in Buels Gore, up on Stark Mountain, with an amazing view and four crazy dogs while my friends Jon and Renee enjoyed a long weekend in Las Vegas. There’s a brook, a huge pond and miles of trails, and each day when I took the dogs for a hike through the rustling leaves and a swim in the pond, neighbors’ pups would come running after a few minutes.

The commute from Buels Gore to Small Dog headquarters in Waitsfield takes me up and over Stark Mountain on Route 17, a steep and twisty road that draws thousands of motorcyclists from all over the place in the warmer months. The top provides some of the best views around. Art drives this road every day, even in the middle of winter.

The commute to Burlington takes me on Main Road, through valleys, Huntington and farmland. It’s another great drive that I particularly enjoyed last night during sunset.

I’ll miss the dogs and the amenities, but it’s great to be home.

Thanks for reading, and stay in touch!


  Apple Updates MacBook Pro Line  

Apple has updated the MacBook Pro line with increases in processor speed, hard drive capacity and graphics processing power. Pricing on the MacBook Pro line has not changed from the previous generation. Here is a run-down of the updates:

  • The entry-level 13” MacBook Pro, priced at $1199.99, now has a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor (up from 2.3GHz) and a 500GB 5400-rpm hard drive (up from 320GB). The $1499.99 13” MacBook Pro’s dual-core i7 processor now runs at 2.8GHz (up from 2.7) GHz and the 5400-rpm hard drive now starts at 750GB (up from 500GB). The graphics (Intel HD Graphics 3000) and RAM configurations (4GB standard, upgradable to 8GB) of these 13” MacBook Pro base models remain unchanged. Click here to view the 13” models.
  • The entry-level 15” MacBook Pro, priced at $1799.99, now sports a 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (up from 2.0GHz), while the $2199.99 model now has a 2.4GHz quad-core i7 processor (up from 2.2GHz). The hard drives on the base models of the 17” MacBook Pro remain at 500GB 5400-rpm and 750GB 5400-rpm, respectively. RAM configurations have also not changed, with 4GB coming standard (upgradable to 8GB). Graphics have been updated on both base models: integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 and discrete AMD Radeon HD 6750M (up from 6490M) on the entry-level model and integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 and discrete AMD Radeon HD 6770M (up from 6750M) on the 2.4GHz model. Click here to view the 15” models.
  • The base model 17” MacBook Pro, priced at $2499.99, now includes a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel i7 processor (up from 2.2Ghz) as well as integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 and discrete AMD Radeon HD 6770M (up from 6750M). Standard hard drive capacity remains 750GB @5400-rpm. As with the previous generation, the 17” base model MacBook Pro comes with 4GB RAM (upgradable to 8GB). Click here to view the 17” models.

Custom configurations are available for all MacBook Pro models.

While these upgrades are more subtle than the updates to the line in February, they do bring significant increases in speed, storage and power. Students will be excited about the hard drive upgrade on the 13” models, and gamers and designers will love the processor and graphics upgrades in the 15” and 17” models!

Apple has also updated the polyurethane Smart Cover for iPad 2 line. Click here to read about the changes on our blog.

  Wireless Sync with iTunes  

A few days ago, a friend asked if I’ve played around with iOS 5 and what my favorite feature is. Since I have a 3rd-generation iPod touch, some of the new features don’t apply to me, but one of the cooler ones so far is the ability to sync with iTunes without plugging into my laptop. My friend said he’d heard of that but thought he couldn’t set it up because he was still running Leopard. The good news is, unlike iCloud support, wireless syncing doesn’t require Lion. As long as your computer will run iTunes 10.5 and you have a device that supports iOS 5, then you have what you need.

To wirelessly sync your device with iTunes, first connect your device to your system using the USB sync cable. Start iTunes if it doesn’t run automatically, then click Check for Updates to make sure you’re using the latest version. Now, click the Summary tab and click on Check for Updates to make sure your device is running the latest version of iOS. Update it if necessary. (As of this writing, there are a lot of people updating, so don’t panic if the download takes a while.)

Once everything is up to date, look at the bottom of the device’s Summary page for “Sync over Wi-Fi connection.” Check this option, then go through your library and select what you’ll be syncing. After the initial sync, you can eject your device by clicking the little Eject symbol next to the device’s name.

On your device, select Settings and then General. Tap on iTunes Sync. Tap the button marked Sync Now and your device will connect to your computer and synchronize your library. Your device will also sync automatically any time you connect it to a wall charger. (This assumes that you are on the same network as your iTunes library.) Wireless syncing will take a little bit longer than from the USB sync cable, but the convenience is worth the wait.

This has been a huge help to me. I recently moved into a new place, and my office is full of boxes. Climbing around the pile to connect my iPod to my computer is a pain, but now that I can sync wirelessly, I don’t even have to be in the same room. I hit Sync Now, grab breakfast, then charge my iPod during the drive to work.

The fine print: iTunes 10.5 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or higher, or Windows XP Service Pack 2 or higher. iOS 5 is supported on the iPod touch 3rd and 4th generation, iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S.

  AirPort Utility for iOS 5  

One of the features Apple announced as part of iOS 5 is the ability to configure an AirPort Express or Extreme from your device. This is in answer to all the people who bought an iPad and then found out they needed not only a wireless router to use it but also a computer to configure the router. If you downloaded iOS 5 and went looking for the AirPort Utility app, you’ve discovered it’s not automatically downloaded to your device during the update.

It turns out that Apple decided at the last minute to keep it as a separate app. The easiest way to get it is to go to Settings on your device, select Wi-Fi, then tap the blue arrow next to your wireless network. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and tap Manage this Network. You will get a pop-up window offering to download it from the App Store. Select OK and you will be taken right to it in the App Store. Tap the button marked Free, then tap Install.

Running the AirPort Utility app will bring up a network chart showing any AirPort devices along with an indicator to show a valid connection to the Internet. Tap the device, and if you have already configured it you will be prompted for the password. From here you can view the device’s settings: IP addresses, serial number, firmware version (including the ability to update the firmware if needed), network name and what clients are currently on the network. (Mine showed the iPod I was using, an Apple TV, a wireless printer, an XBOX and two laptops.)

Clicking the Edit button at the top gives you access to things like the name of the Base Station, network name, whether you have a Guest network configured and advanced features like DHCP, Disk Sharing and wireless security. You can make any changes you like, then save the settings to the device and restart it if needed.

There are some limitations to this app. First, it only works with recent wireless-n devices, so if you have an older 802.11g model, it may not work with this app. Also, and this is a big one, you have to already be on a wireless network to download the app. So if you bring home your iPad and a new AirPort Express, you can’t configure it until you download the app, but you can’t download the app until you configure the AirPort Express. Maybe I am missing something obvious here, but I think they call that a “Catch-22.” One workaround would be to download the app in the store when you buy your iPad, or maybe do it from a friend’s wireless network.

  Make Your Own iPhone Ringtone in iTunes  

This is a neat little tool I’ve been using for a while. You can essentially turn any song in your iTunes library into a ringtone for your iPhone.

First, you’ll want to pick out the song you’d like to use and find a good 15-30 second duration that you would like to specifically use for your ringtone. If it’s not the beginning or end of the song, you’ll want to make a note of the start and stop time of the part.

Next, click on the song and press Command + I on your keyboard. Click on the Options tab and plug those recorded times in the Start and Stop Time fields (e.g. if you would like to use the first 30 seconds of the song, you would leave the Start Time at 0:00 and input 0:30 for the Stop Time). Make sure both check boxes are checked next to Start Time and Stop Time, and hit OK.

With the song still selected in iTunes, click on Advanced > Create AAC Version in the menu bar. You should now see a duplicate of that song in your library that has a 30-second duration. Click the newly made AAC version of the song and drag it onto your desktop. Click the file once, then press enter.

Now, you’ll need to change the .aac file extension to .m4r (the standard iTunes ringtone file). You should receive a prompt asking if you would like to use the .m4r extension (yes). Your ringtone should now look like “[song title].m4r”. Drag the file back into iTunes where it should populate under the Ringtones section of your library.

Now, when you plug in your iPhone, you’ll want to check the box next to Sync Ringtones (if it’s not already checked) under the Ringtones tab. The next time you sync your phone with your iTunes, this ringtone will be uploaded to your device. Lastly, you’ll need to select the song in your iPhone as your ringtone. You can do this under Settings > Sounds > Ringtone.

Turn up the volume and enjoy your new ringtone!

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