Portables

Getting Charged Up Over Chargers at CES (Video) 32

Posted by Roblimo
from the slip-me-some-of-that-juice-Bruce dept.
First we look at Skiva Technology and their Octofire 8-port USB charger that pulled in nearly five times the requested amount from a Kickstarter campaign. (The 'pulled in X times the requested Kickstarter amount' is becoming a common product boast, isn't it?) Then, for MacBook owners who are tired of having their chargers or charger cords break, we take a brief look at the Juiceboxx Charger Case. These two power-oriented products and WakaWaka, which we posted about on January 9, are just a tiny, random sample of the many items in this category that were on display at CES 2015. Timothy was the only Slashdot person working CES, so it's shocking that he managed to cover as many (hopefully interesting) products as he did, considering that even the biggest IT journo mills don't come close to total coverage of the overwhelming muddle CES has become in recent years. (Alternate Video Link)
GNU is Not Unix

Librem: a Laptop Custom-Made For Free/Libre Software 227

Posted by timothy
from the asymptotic-development dept.
Bunnie Huang's Novena laptop re-invents the laptop with open source (and Free software) in mind, but the hackability that it's built for requires a fair amount of tolerance on a user's part for funky design and visible guts. New submitter dopeghost writes with word of the nearly-funded (via Crowd Supply) Librem laptop, a different kind of Free-software machine using components "specifically selected so that no binary blobs are needed in the Linux kernel that ships with the laptop." Made from high quality components and featuring a MacBook-like design including a choice of HiDPI screen, the Librem might just be the first laptop to ship with a modern Intel CPU that is not locked down to require proprietary firmware.

Richard M. Stallman, president of the FSF, said, "Getting rid of the signature checking is an important step. While it doesn't give us free code for the firmware, it means that users will really have control of the firmware once we get free code for it."
Unlike some crowdfunding projects, this one is far from pie-in-the-sky, relying mostly on off-the-shelf components, with a planned shipping date in Spring of this year: "Purism is manufacturing the motherboard, and screen printing the keyboard. Purism is sourcing the case, daughter cards, memory, drives, battery, camera, and screen."
Portables

Ask Slashdot: High-Performance Laptop That Doesn't Overheat? 325

Posted by Soulskill
from the chestnut-roasters dept.
AqD writes: Last year we started to replace business/multimedia-grade laptops with gaming laptops at work, after several years of frustration with overheating and throttling issues that plagued our laptops from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Lenovo, and basically every brand you can find on market, making it impossible to write code and run db/test environment all on the same laptop.

The first new batch comes from Clevo because their gaming laptops don't look like gaming laptops, and they offer 3-6 disk slots which we badly need. The result is acceptable, however, not quite as good as I had expected. Mine has i7-4700mq CPU which is more or less equivalent to an older i7 on the desktop, but its temperature is raised to 70-80C while turbo boost is on, even with the best thermal paste. My friend's i7-4801mq is worse — it could never stay at the advertised 3.6GHz for more than a few seconds before it burns up over 90 and starts to throttle. Its benchmark result is nearly identical to the 4700mq because of heat problems. And it's only 3.6GHz! The best i7 CPU on a desktop could easily run closer to 5GHz with 6 cores / 12 threads running!

So what should we choose next time? We're not looking for something cool or slim or light. We need real laptops which can at least run prime calculation at advertised turbo boost speed, full cores/threads for an entire day. A nice bonus would be manual fan control plus easy access to the fan for cleaning.
Portables (Apple)

Putting a MacBook Pro In the Oven To Fix It 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the tales-from-the-IT-kitchen dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A post at iFixit explains how one user with a failing MacBook Pro fixed it by baking it in the oven. The device had overheating issues for months, reaching temperatures over 100 C. When it finally died, some research suggested the extreme heat caused the logic board to flex and break the solder connections. The solution was to simply reflow the solder, but that's hard to do with a MBP. "Instead, I cracked open the back of my laptop, disconnected all eleven connectors and three heat sinks from the logic board, and turned the oven up to 340 F. I put my $900 part on a cookie sheet and baked it for seven nerve-wracking minutes. After it cooled, I reapplied thermal paste, put it all back together, and cheered when it booted. It ran great for the next eight months." The laptop failed again, and another brief vacation into the oven got it running once more.
Portables (Apple)

Thunderbolt Rootkit Vector 163

Posted by Soulskill
from the like-USB-but-better dept.
New submitter Holi sends this news from PC World: Attackers can infect MacBook computers with highly persistent boot rootkits by connecting malicious devices to them over the Thunderbolt interface. The attack, dubbed Thunderstrike, installs malicious code in a MacBook's boot ROM (read-only memory), which is stored in a chip on the motherboard. It was devised by a security researcher named Trammell Hudson based on a two-year old vulnerability and will be demonstrated next week at the 31st Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg.
Data Storage

BitTorrent Performance Test: Sync Is Faster Than Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox 124

Posted by timothy
from the pardon-us-fellas dept.
An anonymous reader writes Now that its file synchronization tool has received a few updates, BitTorrent is going on the offensive against cloud-based storage services by showing off just how fast BitTorrent Sync can be. More specifically, the company conducted a test that shows Sync destroys Google Drive, Microsoft's OneDrive, and Dropbox. The company transferred a 1.36 GB MP4 video clip between two Apple MacBook Pros using two Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapters, the Time.gov site as a real-time clock, and the Internet connection at its headquarters (1 Gbps up/down). The timer started when the file transfer was initiated and then stopped once the file was fully synced and downloaded onto the receiving machine. Sync performed 8x faster than Google Drive, 11x faster than OneDrive, and 16x faster than Dropbox.
Apple

Why You Can't Manufacture Like Apple 408

Posted by timothy
from the you-just-haven't-earned-it-yet-baby dept.
HughPickens.com writes Medium reports that although many startups want to design something that mimics the fit and finish of an Apple product, it's a good way to go out of business. "What happened when Apple wanted to CNC machine a million MacBook bodies a year? They bought 10k CNC machines to do it. How about when they wanted to laser drill holes in MacBook Pros for the sleep light but only one company made a machine that could drill those 20 m holes in aluminum? It bought the company that made the machines and took all the inventory. And that time when they needed batteries to fit into a tiny machined housing but no manufacturer was willing to make batteries so thin? Apple made their own battery cells. From scratch." Other things that Apple often does that can cause problems for a startup include white plastic (which is the most difficult color to mold), CNC machining at scale (too expensive), Laser drilled holes (far more difficult than it may seem), molded plastic packaging (recycled cardboard is your friend), and 4-color, double-walled, matte boxes + HD foam inserts (It's not unusual for them to cost upwards of $12/unit at scale. And then they get thrown away.). "If you see a feature on an Apple device you want to copy, try to find it on another company's product. If you do, it's probably okay to design into your product. Otherwise, lower your expectations. I assure you it'll be better for your startup."
Displays

Dell Demos 5K Display 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-pixels dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Even though 4k displays are just making their way into consumer affordability, manufacturers are already pushing beyond. Dell has previewed a computer monitor it calls a "5k" display. The resolution is 5120x2880, stuffing 14,745,600 pixels on a 27" screen. For comparison, that's more than seven times the amount of pixels in a 1920x1080 display. Pixel density is 218 PPI, roughly the same as a 15" Retina MacBook Pro. ExtremeTech suggests, "As far as we're aware, no one is actually making 5120×2880 panels, especially not at 27 inches diagonal – so what we're probably looking at is two 2560x2880 panels squished together as a 'tiled display.'" Unfortunately, it's pricy, expected to cost around $2,500. But hopefully it will help drive 4k display prices even further toward mainstream availability.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Recliner For a Software Developer? 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the twelve-foot-diameter-bean-bag dept.
Taxilian writes We've talked about office chairs before, but I'm one of those coders who tends to relax by doing more coding. Particularly when I'm short on time for a project, I like to move my work to where I am still around my wife and children so that I can still interact with them and be with my family, but still hit my deadlines. I have used various recliners and found that programming in them (at least in evenings) can be quite comfortable, but haven't felt like I really found the 'ideal chair' for relaxing and working on my Macbook.

I have found references to failed chairs (like La-Z-Boy Explorer, the so-called "E-cliner") that were intended for tech and failed, but are there any existing and useful options? I'd really like something that provides some sort of lap desk (to keep the heat from the laptop away from me) and reasonable power arrangements while still being comfortable and not looking ridiculous in a normal family room.
China

China Bans iPad, MacBook Pro, Other Apple Products For Government Use 115

Posted by timothy
from the regulatory dept.
MojoKid (1002251) writes "China seems to be on a mission to isolate itself from the world, at least in terms of technology. After banning Windows 8 on government PCs and raiding several of Microsoft's offices in China as part of an anti-trust investigation, Chinese officials have now prohibited purchase of several Apple products for government use. The list of banned Apple products include the iPad, iPad Mini, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and half a dozen other items, all of which were left off of a final government procurement list distributed in July. This is a potentially big hit to Apple, which generated around 16 percent of its $37.4 billion in revenue last quarter from China. Apple saw its iPad sales jump 51 percent and Mac sales boosted 39 percent in China."
Stats

Better Living Through Data 38

Posted by timothy
from the we-call-them-insomnia-anomolies dept.
jradavenport (3020071) writes "Using two years of continuous monitoring of my MacBook Air battery usage (once every minute), I have been able to study my own computer use patterns in amazing detail. This dataset includes 293k measurements, or more than 204 days of use over two years. I use the laptop over 50 hours per week on average, and my most productive day is Tuesday. Changes in my work/life balance have begun to appear over the two-year span, and I am curious whether such data can help inform how much computer use is healthy/productive."
Microsoft

Microsoft Wants You To Trade Your MacBook Air In For a Surface Pro 3 365

Posted by samzenpus
from the try-ours-instead dept.
mpicpp writes with news about a new Microsoft trade-in program to encourage sales of the new Surface Pro 3. Microsoft is offering a limited time Surface Pro 3 promotion via which users can get up to $650 in store credit for trading in certain Apple MacBook Air models. The new promotion, running June 20 to July 31, 2014 -- "or while supplies last" -- requires users to bring MacBook Airs into select Microsoft retail stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. (The trade-in isn't valid online.)...To get the maximum ($650) value, users have to apply the store credit toward the purchase of a Surface Pro 3, the most recent model of the company's Intel-based Surface tablets.
Microsoft

TechCrunch and Others On the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 136

Posted by timothy
from the it's-a-thing-you'll-like-or-you-won't dept.
TechCrunch's video introduction (not intended as a full review) to the recently introduced Microsoft Surface Pro 3 has mostly good things to say about the device. Reviewer Alex Wilhelm compares it to his MacBook Air, and though he's not sure that the Surface is a better fit for all-day typing than the 11" Air (slightly larger, slightly heavier than the Surface), he says the Surface does a good job of integrating input options (both finger and stylus input) that the Air -- and most laptops -- just don't have. The Washington Post's Hayley Tsukayama also compares the Surface to the Air, rather than to an Android or Apple tablet, writing, "It's heavy for a tablet, sure, but light for a laptop at 1.7 pounds. And while it doesn't have the array of ports that laptops do, you can make do with the two that it does have, a mini-display port that's good for presentations and a USB 3.0 that's good for, well, everything else. You will probably need a hub to get everything you want of this, though. (Or you could go to using Bluetooth accessories, which the Surface Pro 3 will also support.)" Ars Technica has an informative hands-on review as well, but one which parts from these by emphatically describing the Surface as a tablet, not a laptop; Ars reviewer Peter Bright gives high marks for many aspects of the design and materials, though he says his experience with the included pressure-sensitive pen was "problematic." (His initial sample pen had to be replaced, and even when it did work, it lacks tilt sensing.) Troubling for anyone who would prefer to use it as a laptop, Bright says the Surface 3 is better than its forebears but still an awkward fit for using on an actual lap, and that despite the improvements Microsoft's made it therefore isn't quite the system he's looking for.
Portables (Apple)

GPUs Dropping Dead In 2011 MacBook Pro Models 359

Posted by Soulskill
from the satisfaction-is-not-guaranteed dept.
New submitter blackwizard writes "MacRumors is reporting on pervasive GPU failures in 2011 MacBook Pro machines, leading both to intermittent video issues, corruption, crashing/freezing, and eventually even failure to boot. Luckily for Apple, the machines are now out of warranty (unless you bought AppleCare). The issues have been reported both on Apple's own forums and other blogs. Apple has so far failed to take action on the problem. Will they take ownership of the issue, or continue to ask customers to pay for an entire new logic board when just the GPU fails?"
Privacy

How a MacBook Camera Can Spy Without Lighting Up 371

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-can-see-you-right-now dept.
New submitter ttyler writes "It turns out a MacBook's built-in camera can be activated without turning on the green LED. An earlier report suggested the FBI could activate a device's camera without having the light turn on, and there was a case in the news where a woman had nude pictures taken of her without her knowledge. The new research out of Johns Hopkins University confirms both situations are possible. All it takes are a few tweaks to the camera's firmware."
Portables (Apple)

Ask Slashdot: Best Laptops For Fans Of Pre-Retina MacBook Pro? 477

Posted by timothy
from the daddy-what-were-batteries? dept.
stigmato writes "Once upon a time the MacBook Pro line was well-regarded amongst IT professionals for their quality, performance, serviceability & upgradeability. As appealing as the new Retina displays are, I don't want a device I cannot upgrade or repair. Glued in batteries and soldered in RAM with high prices have made me look to other manufacturers again. What are you buying, /. community? System76? Dell? Old article but still rings true with the latest models. I post this from my 2010 MBP 13" with a 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD in the optical bay, 8GB (possibly 16GB soon) and a user replaced battery."
Security

Airgap-Jumping Malware May Use Ultrasonic Networking To Communicate 265

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dan Goodwin writes at Ars Technica about a rootkit that seems straight out of a science-fiction thriller. According to security consultant Dragos Ruiu one day his MacBook Air, on which he had just installed a fresh copy of OS X, spontaneously updated the firmware that helps it boot. Stranger still, when Ruiu then tried to boot the machine off a CD ROM, it refused and he also found that the machine could delete data and undo configuration changes with no prompting. Next a computer running the Open BSD operating system also began to modify its settings and delete its data without explanation or prompting and further investigation showed that multiple variants of Windows and Linux were also affected. But the story gets stranger still. Ruiu began observing encrypted data packets being sent to and from an infected laptop that had no obvious network connection with—but was in close proximity to—another badBIOS-infected computer. The packets were transmitted even when the laptop had its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards removed. Ruiu also disconnected the machine's power cord so it ran only on battery to rule out the possibility it was receiving signals over the electrical connection. Even then, forensic tools showed the packets continued to flow over the airgapped machine. Then, when Ruiu removed internal speaker and microphone connected to the airgapped machine, the packets suddenly stopped. With the speakers and mic intact, Ruiu said, the isolated computer seemed to be using the high-frequency connection to maintain the integrity of the badBIOS infection as he worked to dismantle software components the malware relied on. It's too early to say with confidence that what Ruiu has been observing is a USB-transmitted rootkit that can burrow into a computer's lowest levels and use it as a jumping off point to infect a variety of operating systems with malware that can't be detected. It's even harder to know for sure that infected systems are using high-frequency sounds to communicate with isolated machines. But after almost two weeks of online discussion, no one has been able to rule out these troubling scenarios, either. 'It looks like the state of the art in intrusion stuff is a lot more advanced than we assumed it was,' says Ruiu. 'The take-away from this is a lot of our forensic procedures are weak when faced with challenges like this. A lot of companies have to take a lot more care when they use forensic data if they're faced with sophisticated attackers.'"
Hardware

Dell Fixes Ultrabook That Smelled of Cat Urine 133

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the catbert's-revenge dept.
Sockatume writes "The BBC is reporting that Dell's Latitude 6430u Ultrabooks have an interesting characteristic you won't find in any Macbook Air: the palm rest emits an odor like cat urine. An issue with a manufacturing process is thought to be to blame. Although Dell has assured potential customers that the issue has been fixed, reports in the Dell support forum indicate that units with the novel fragrance continue to ship out to users. Dell staff state that the palm rest will be replaced by Dell at no cost, but only if the unit is still under warranty."
OS X

OS X 10.9 Mavericks Review 222

Posted by Soulskill
from the installation-will-finish-before-you-get-through-the-article dept.
An anonymous reader writes "John Siracusa at Ars Technica has put together a comprehensive review of Apple's OS X 10.9 Mavericks. This is the first time a major OS X update has been free, and it works on any device that supports Mountain Lion. This suggests Apple is trying to boost adoption rates as high as possible. Siracusa says the following about Apple's move away from skeuomorphic design: 'Mavericks says enough is enough. The leather's gone, the fake pages are gone, the three panes are independently resizable (more or less), even the title bar is bone-stock, and it's boring?' On the other hand, he was a big fan of all the internal optimizations Apple has done, since the energy savings over Mountain Lion are significant. He found a 24% increase in his old MacBook Pro's battery life, and a 30% increase for his new MacBook Air. He also praised the long-needed improvements to multi-monitor support: ' Each attached display is now treated as a separate domain for full-screen windows. Mission Control gestures and keyboard shortcuts will now switch between the desktop and full-screen windows on the display that contains the cursor only, leaving all other displays untouched.' The 24-page review dives deeply into all the other changes in Mavericks, and is worth reading if you're deciding whether or not to upgrade."
Handhelds

Apple Announces iPad Air 471

Posted by Soulskill
from the listening-to-this-press-conference-is-like-mainlining-the-essence-of-marketing dept.
Today Apple held a press conference to unveil its updated software and hardware products. The biggest news was the announcement of the 'iPad Air,' which has a 9.7" Retina display. It's 7.5 mm thick, which is 20% thinner than the older iPad. The weight has dropped from 1.4 lbs to 1.0 lbs, and it runs on a 64-bit A7 chip with an M7 motion coprocessor. Apple claims performance has doubled over the previous-gen iPad. The iPad Air will be available on November 1st. The iPad Mini is getting a new revision as well. The display has been upgraded to 7.9" at 2048x1536, which is the same resolution as the iPad Air. The new Mini has an A7 chip as well.

Apple also announced that the new version of Mac OS X (10.9 Mavericks) is available now and is free to all Mac OS X users. It includes better multi-monitor support, tabs in Finder, and a number of performance optimizations. The Macbook Pro is getting updates to the 13" and 15" models, which are now running on Intel Haswell processors. They both have PCIe SSDs, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Thunderbolt 2 support. Apple also talked about the redesigned Mac Pro line. As you may recall from WWDC, the new model takes up about about 1/8th of the volume as the old one. It's cooled by a single fan, uses 70% less power than the earlier model, and puts out 12 dB of noise when idling. It'll be available in December. On the software side, Apple has been updating a lot of their software to add 64-bit support and mesh with the new iOS 7 style of design. This includes iPhoto, iMovie, and Garageband, as well as the iLife and iWork software suites. iWork is also getting collaborative work features, and it's now free with new Macs and iOS devices.