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#874: Eye Tracking and The Patent War, Speed Up Your Older MacBook Pro, MacBook Air/Pro Battery Fix, The All-New AirPort Extreme & AirPort Time Capsule

 
     
 

Welcome to another edition of Tech Tails!

Another week has gone by and we are now one day into WWDC 2013! There have been plenty of exciting things announced so far (among them OS X “Mavericks”, iOS7, a brand-spankin’ new, redesigned Mac Pro), and the conference will continue through the week.

We here in the Small Dog Service Department are connected to all things technology-based, and I am always scouring the internet for news, new projects, and new ideas. At times, I even enjoy just going through forums and seeing how people feel about certain programs and devices. I’m sure many of our readers do the same!

We have another newsletter full of very informative articles to accompany such a great event like WWDC. First off, Taylor writes about the ongoing war between Apple and Samsung, which includes patents they adapt off each other. Kyle shares his experiences with upgrading his 13-inch MacBook Pro and asks you how you feel about solid state hard drives. Last, but not least, Anthony demonstrates how to troubleshoot some battery problems that are common to certain Macbook Pros and Macbook Airs.

So sit back and enjoy Tech Tails and WWDC. Be sure to check our blog, Barkings, for recaps of all the new products and announcements!

Barry
barry@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Eye Tracking and The Patent War  
   
 

In this age of technology, a lot of companies — notably Samsung and LG — are using front-facing cameras as part of the interface with their smart phones.

Samsung was the first to integrate technology into the camera that would track eye movement. Basically, what this means is that your phones will be able to pause videos or other visuals when you look away from the screen.

Apple has submitted a patent regarding development of their own eye tracking technology in their iPhones. This patent is referred to as a “divisional” application, which means that they are taking elements from the patent filed in 2008 by Samsung and adopting ideas into their own technology.

Apple and Samsung have been in an ongoing patent war for the past few years over the iPhone and Galaxy lines. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds over the next few months and who comes out on top.

What do you think about eye tracking? What about divisional applications? Have you chosen a side? Let us know!

 
   
     
  Speed Up Your Older MacBook Pro  
   
 

Lately, my pet project has been to try and improve the performance of my 2009 13-inch MacBook Pro as much as possible. I am a speed freak when it comes to my technology. I maxed out the memory at 8 gigabytes which allows me to run multiple things at once, but I find that my processor and hard drive speed are slowing it down.

I can’t upgrade the processor unless I want to buy that new MacBook Pro with Retina Display that I have been drooling over, but what I can change is my hard drive. I happened to have a solid state disk that I installed into my Late-2007 MacBook Pro in conjunction with a regular hard drive to create a fusion drive.

Unfortunately, my SSD, as it’s called for short, is tiny; only 64 gigabytes (the size of my flash drive that I carry around in my pocket). So, I bit the bullet, backed up all my information onto an external hard drive via Time Machine, and installed the SSD with a fresh OS into my MacBook Pro.

Now why I would do such a thing after all the effort I put into creating my Boot Camp system? I didn’t get rid of it; I use an external hard drive enclosure and boot off of it should I need either my full Mac OS system or my Windows installation. This is an exploratory install, and so far, I am enjoying the speed increase. It’s four times faster than my 750 gigabyte hard drive, which means that programs open faster and are ready to run sooner. Plus, installing software and transferring data have been much quicker.

I am the occasional reader of anandtech.com, which has tons of articles about technology. Typically, if you want to do research on something, Anand Shimpi (as well as all the other writers), tries to take a consumer’s standpoint on technology while breaking out some of the tools of a technician to test them.

Of note? The article on SanDisk’s new Extreme II SSD; I might pick up the 240 gigabyte Extreme II SSD at some point. Check it out here.

I have been getting a lot of feedback from readers about my articles and I ask you: what are your experiences with solid state drives? Are you as smitten as I am or do you find you wish you had the space of a traditional hard drive again? Would you be interested in converting your CD drive into another hard drive for additional storage? What drive do you use and why?

We sell several SSDs here at Small Dog, though we don’t keep many in active stock. I would like to know about your experience with solid states and if you are happy with them. Email me!

 
   
     
  MacBook Air/Pro Battery Fix  
   
 

If you’ve ever had a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro’s battery disappear at random, it can be a disconcerting feeling. This is often accompanied by an “X” in the battery menu, the message “No Batteries Available”, and a very sluggish Mac.

Even after a reboot, the Mac will often have fans running at full speed despite nothing unusual showing up in Activity Monitor. To top it off, the MagSafe charger light typically won’t light up, and the computer won’t sleep. Uh oh…something is terribly wrong, right? Well, sort of — but don’t worry, though; this is all related and it’s a piece of cake to fix.

Before getting into any specifics or the details, let’s cover the solution: a SMC reset.

Get the Battery Back & Fans Normal By Resetting the SMC
This is a technical process, but it’s very easy to follow. This will be the same on a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina, and technically any Mac with a built-in, non-removable battery.

Shut down the MacBook and connect the MagSafe power adapter. Let the Mac completely power down before proceeding any further. Hold Shift + Control + Option + Power concurrently for a few seconds, and then release the Power button as usual to start the MacBook.

Here are the precise key sequences for what an SMC reset looks like on a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro (Retina) keyboard:

After the Mac has rebooted normally again, things should be all well and good again. Here’s an example of the “No Batteries Available” menu, then after the fix the battery is shown functioning as normal again: Note the total elapsed time in the clock is 2 minutes. In other words, it took only two minutes fix the entire problem, from adding up all the power-related issues, saving an important file or two, shut down the Mac, reset the SMC with the aforementioned keyboard sequence, then reboot the Mac to normalcy again.

The Power Preferences will reset too. It’s important to point out that resetting the SMC will cause you to lose many power-specific options and customizations you may have made to OS X with System Preferences, ranging from screen brightness levels, to settings in Energy Saver for how the Mac handles things like auto-dimming based on lighting and power sources, screen sleep behavior, sleep when idle, etc. Thus, you will have to go back and make those minor power customizations again.

Why does this happen? You won’t always find an exact reason as to why the system management controller goes haywire along with core system and power functions, but the basic idea is that at some point something was corrupted, maybe for a reason or maybe not.

What is an SMC anyway?
For those who don’t know, SMC stands for System Management Controller, and it handles power functions and other core hardware roles on Macs, thus inexplicable issues with power management are almost always resolved by resetting the SMC. This is why for problems or oddities with power management like batteries disappearing, refusal to sleep, a very sluggish Mac combined with system fans blazing loudly, graphics cards acting up, are all very classic symptoms of needing to reset the SMC to get things back on track. Take the time to do it; it works.

Having run into this twice on two different Macs in the past week it’s certainly a worthwhile topic to cover, even if it’s a relatively rare problem to deal with. At the very least, it helps to be informed of these kind of things, so if any of the above happens to you, before calling AppleCare or taking a trip to the Genius Bar, take a moment to reset the SMC yourself; it will almost certainly fix the issue completely.

 
   
     
  The All-New AirPort Extreme & AirPort Time Capsule  
   
 

In yesterday’s Keynote presentation at WWDC 2013, Apple announced a few new products and a bunch of new features for both iOS and OS X. Two products that I feel weren’t given their fair share of the limelight were the new base stations — the AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule.

Apple is keeping consistent with the naming convention of AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule, but that is about it. The new base stations have a radically new design. Apple’s engineers wanted to increase the performance and as such, put the antennae at the top of the tower.

Now, the base station stands 6.6” tall with a 4“x4” footprint, giving you more space on your desk for more TPS reports. Not only did they move the antennae, but they added more of them! With a total of six antennae — three for the 2.4GHz band and the remaining three for 5GHz — you will certainly notice the boost in speed.

The changes to the shape have certainly had an impact on speed and efficiency. The new AirPorts are now up to three times faster utilizing the newest 802.11ac technology. This new protocol can theoretically reach data rates of up to 1.3Gbps. However, there is no need to worry if you don’t have any devices that are using 802.11ac — Apple has ensured their backwards compatibility to work with 802.11a/b/g/n as well.

They also support simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac. That means no matter which frequency you are on (2.4GHz or 5GHz) your device will automatically connect to whichever band will give you the fastest speeds. The last performance upgrade is some crazy thing called “Beamforming”. Most base stations emit a constant signal that decreases in strength as you get further away. Beamforming creates a tractor beam (not really but it sounds cool) between your device and the base station, but instead of pulling you in it just gives you the strongest, clearest and fastest signal possible.

Most other features have remained the same. Just like before connecting is as easy as ever. Using either your Mac or compatible iOS device you can set up your home network in three easy steps. Once you have the whole kit-n-caboodle up and running, you can manage the network once again from either your Mac or iOS device. If you opt for the iOS version you will want to download the AirPort Utility App found here..

If you choose the Time Capsule over the Extreme, you will once again be left with the decision between 2TB or 3TB; easy right? And regardless of which model you go with, you still have the ability to print without wires with Apple’s AirPrint technology.

My one gripe is with the ports in the back. Sadly, the AirPort Extreme still has a USB 2 port and not a USB 3. I suppose the engineers at Apple figure the bottleneck will be your network speed and not the USB’s speed but come on, Apple — you’ve already got the tech there, so just use it! Besides that, I simply love this revamp to the AirPort line. I know that I will be getting an Extreme as soon as I can.

 
   
     
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Back up a lifetime’s worth of memories with AirPort Time Capsule, a wireless hard drive that works seamlessly with Time Machine in OS X. It’s also a full-featured Wi-Fi base station with the latest 802.11ac technology and simultaneous dual-band support. Choose from 2TB and 3TB models.

Regardless of which model you choose, the new speed will surely blow your socks off. Be one of the first to get an AirPort Extreme or AirPort Time Capsule in your home and yours will ship for FREE!

 
   The all-new AirPort Extreme
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   The all-new AirPort Time Capsule - 2TB
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   The all-new AirPort Time Capsule - 3TB
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  SPECIAL | Everything But The Display!  
   
 

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