The 'Book Review

Positive MacBook Pro Press, Sticking with a PowerBook, Super Capacity Batteries for Lombard and Pismo, and More

This Week's Mac Notebook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2006.03.03

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

The big buzz might be the new Intel-based Mac mini and iPod Hi-Fi this week, but on the 'Book front there's a lot of hands-on coverage of the MacBook Pro - and one writer explaining why he's sticking with his 15" PowerBook for now, thank you very much.

NewerTech, our favorite 'Book battery company, has new, higher capacity batteries for Lombard, Pismo, and the 12" PowerBook G4. With two batteries, Pismo and Lombard could already reach 10 hours with a new, fully charged battery - now make that 15 hours!

One other highlight this week is the OrangeWare wireless driver that supports non-Apple WiFi cards with higher speeds and greater range than Apple's AirPort Extreme. If you've been tempted by claims of 108 Mbps bandwidth, you can now try them with a Mac.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in The Mac News Review. iPod news is covered in The iNews Review. News about Apple's transition to Intel CPUs and other Intel developments is covered in The Macintel Report.

Looking at the MacBook Pro

Products and Services

Software

Tech Trends

Bargain 'Books

Looking at the MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro an 'iMac on Wheels'

Time magazine's Wilson Rothman reports:

"When I wrote about Apple's Intel-based iMac a few weeks ago, I said that the upcoming MacBook Pro was an 'iMac on wheels.' One reader wrote to say this was an unfair description, because the iMac was for consumers and the MacBook Pro was, well, for professionals. As true as that may be, the MacBook Pro is definitively a mobile version of the same basic system.

15" MacBook Pro"Both the iMac and the MacBook Pro come in 1.83 and 2 GHz dual-core processor configurations. Both have built-in iSight cameras. And both have remotes for Front Row, so that you can manage music, videos and photos from a distance. Certainly, the MacBook does have a few elements that the iMac doesn't share: The illuminated keyboard works with a twilight sensor, adjusting the backlighting so you can always see the keys; the screen is much brighter than previous models - fully viewable, even when you use it while sitting in a bay window on a sunny day; and the MagSafe magnetic breakaway power cord works as billed, so kids and cats can tug without risk to body or machine. Leave it to AppleDesigners to take a cue from the makers of deep fryers and fondue pots....

"My only concern about the transition to Intel-based systems - the iMac, the MacBook Pro and the newly announced Core Duo Mac Mini - has to do with hard disks. If you boot up using an external drive, as many Mac users often do, you have to reformat that external drive to have something called a 'GUID partition,' otherwise the computer will simply not recognize it as a boot disk. [Editor's note: See Booting an Intel iMac from an External Drive and Intel-based Mac Boot Incompatibility for more on this subject.] The other disk issue I have had in the last few weeks regards DiskWarrior. The hallowed saviour of Mac-formatted disks since time immemorial doesn't run on the new systems...."

Other MacBook Pro Reviews

stuffmagazine.co.uk says:

"Yesterday I received one of the first 15.4in MacBook Pros to be given to any journalist. I've been buzzing ever since....

"The MacBook Pro does nothing to damage Apple's appeal as a status symbol. But nor does it mark a great leap forward for the brand - the design is the familiar, as are the functions. Battery life is acceptable. Performance is roaring with Universal applications, but less so with unoptimised software."

Link: Apple MacBook Pro

Macworld's Jason Snell says:

"It's got a new name on the outside and a new processor on the inside, but the MacBook Pro (Best Current Price: $2499.00) is in many ways indistinguishable from its predecessor, the 15-inch PowerBook G4. Yes, this first MacBook Pro model is a huge step forward in many different ways, but it also provides reassuring continuity for longtime PowerBook users."

Link: MacBook Pro/2.0 GHz

Macworld's Jason Snell says:

"...if you want reassurance that this isn't some strange pod-PowerBook inhabited by the soul of an alien, you've got it. It's a Mac, through and through. Even though there's Intel inside."

Link: MacBook Pro Reviewer's Notebook

MacBook Pro Heat Generation

PowerPage's Jason O'Grady says:

"With the disclaimer that this isn't at all scientific, I wanted to comment on the heat generated by the MacBook Pro, a frequent question. I tested the PowerBook G4 (1.5 GHz, 2 GB, 120 GB) and a MacBook Pro (2.0 GHz, 2 GB, 120 GB) running all night while sitting on a Podium CoolPad from RoadTools...."

Link: MacBook Pro Heat Generation

MacBook Migration Strategies

In his latest ZD Net blog, Jason D. O'Grady says:

"It's no secret the I took delivery of my new MacBook Pro notebook this week, and like many of you upgrading to a new Mac I was faced with a tough decision: how to migrate my data to the new iron.

"One tip: I highly recommend that you name the target hard drive the same name as the source as this saved me tons of problems with file paths on the new Mac. Once you've used it for about a week, you can change the target HDD name to whatever you wish....

"Some people recommend copying your source User folder to a FireWire drive then simply copying it over to the target. While this can be done, I don't recommend it. There's a much better solution that's now included with all new Macs (since OS 10.3.4) called the Apple Migration Assistant."

Great tips!

MacBook Pro's Bright Keyboard LEDs

The ZD Net's Jason D. O'Grady says:

When I turned out the lights to go to bed recently I discovered something new about the MacBook Pro that was quite surprising. Apple has cranked up the keyboard backlight on the new notebook to several times the brightness of the backlight on my PowerBook G4 (1.5 GHz) . . . I'm hesitant to say that the MBP keyboard is ten times brighter, but it's darned close. It almost burned a hole in my retinas!....

Link: MacBook Pro's Crazy New LEDs

More Thoughts on the MacBook Pro

O'ReillyNet's Tom Bridge says:

"Just a few more thoughts this morning about the new MacBook Pro:

"The first major gaping hole in my day to day workflow was exposed when it was revealed that Apple Remote Desktop Admin doesn't work on the new MacBook Pro. The app launches, then fails. Supposedly a 2.2.1 is coming that will be Intel compatible, but until it does, I'm short a serious part of my server admin workflow. If ARD is a requirement for your computing life (and there are a few of you out there, many of you early adopters), please consider waiting until detailed plans are announced...."

Link: MacBook Pro: More Thoughts

Troubleshooting a MacBook Pro That Won't Turn On

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"There are some simple troubleshooting steps you should try if your MacBook Pro won't turn on. Use these steps if:

"Your MacBook Pro's display has no picture after you turn it on.

"You don't hear any fan or hard disk activity sounds after you turn the computer on, and the sleep light doesn't turn on.

"The computer doesn't seem to have any power when you try to turn it on."

Link: Troubleshooting a MacBook Pro That Won't Turn On

A Guide to Making the Best of Your PowerBook

AppleXNet's Trent says:

"Why I am choosing to keep my PowerBook for a while and what I am doing to make it not matter that much.

"So, are you like me? You love seeing the new stuff, software and hardware, which Apple keeps cranking out. And, often you cannot wait to get your hands on it. Yup, sounds about right. But, not so much with the new MacBook Pro. Something is too different, unsettling, and you just cannot bring yourself to consider it seriously right now. What are these nagging voices saying and what can you do about it? Well, I will hit on some of the points that are bothering me, and tell you what I am doing to make them not matter that much....

"...What are we really losing by switching from a PowerBook to a MacBook Pro? Quite a bit if you ask me. Let's start with the ports. My PowerBook has 13 wonderful and well-used ports. So, what is different? First, get rid of three ports all together; The Modem, FireWire 800, and S-video are all gone. For me, the modem is actually the least of my worries but it is nice to know it is there in a pinch. Now your only choice is to purchase the modem separately if you want one with the MacBook Pro, but it will set you back an extra $49. The biggest deal to me is the loss of S-video . . . but again, if you want to shell out an additional $19 you can purchase the Video Adapter separately for the MacBook Pro.

"The new MagSafe power port is also a concern . . . when your computer is rendered useless because you forgot your power cord. The saving grace here is that I can, and have often relied on my girlfriend's iBook power cord in these instances....

"Final complaints: The MacBook Pro screen is smaller, due to the thicker bezel needed to accommodate the built in iSight. That new slot (ExpressCard), although it may be the future of computing, is pretty useless right now . . . Yea, I know it is supposed to be 2 - 4x faster, but unfortunately you can only get those type of results from benchmarks and not really from the programs that we all use the most . . . there is still a bulk of applications that are not Universal Binaries that will either run slower under Rosetta or won't run at all.

"Enough Complaining, What Can I do About It?"

Link: MacBook Pro? Maybe Later: A Guide to Making the Best of Your PowerBook

Products and Services

56% Higher Capacity Battery for PowerBook Pismo and Lombard

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) and Newer Technology, Inc. (NewerTech) have introduced the newest addition to the award-winning NewerTech NuPower extreme high-capacity battery family with the immediate availability of a new 81 Watt-Hour replacement battery for Pismo G3 and Lombard G3 PowerBook models.

The newest addition to the NewerTech NuPower Lithium-Ion battery family provides up to 56% more run time capacity than Apple factory-shipped batteries. The unmatched capacity is achieved using revolutionary cells only just released on the market and available exclusively through NewerTech in units of this capacity and quality.

"Pismo and Lombard PowerBooks are extremely well designed and have very loyal users. Now with up to 56% more power-life from NewerTech NuPower batteries these G3 workhorses can run better than ever," said Larry O'Connor, President of NewerTech. "The longer life span of the new NewerTech NuPower PowerBook batteries translate into both long term economical and environmental savings. It's a guaranteed win-win."

All NuPower batteries are designed, engineered, and manufactured in the United States of America using only the world's top quality Lithium-Ion cells from Japan and Canada to ensure both longer runtime and life span.

NewerTech offers extreme power, high capacity battery upgrades for every PowerBook and iBook model produced from 1998 to 2006. A custom line of Intelligent Charger/Conditioners also is available from NewerTech, allowing PowerBook and iBook users to get the most out of any battery. Exclusively from NewerTech, the Intelligent Charger/Conditioners work to enhance the life span of any Apple, NuPower, or third party battery.

The new extreme high capacity 81 Watt-Hour Pismo/Lombard PowerBook batteries retail for only $169.95 and come with a one-year NewerTech warranty. A 78 Watt-Hour model is available for $159.95.

NewerTech's full line of NuPower high capacity battery replacements for Apple PowerBook G3 & G4, iBook G3 & G4, and iPod models can be purchased through OWC and other fine retailers.

17% Higher Capacity Battery for 12" PowerBook G4

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) and Newer Technology, Inc. (NewerTech) have introduced the newest addition to the award-winning NewerTech NuPower high capacity battery family with the immediate availability of a new 55 Watt Hour rated replacement battery for the 12" PowerBook G4.

The newest addition to the NewerTech NuPower Lithium-Ion battery family provides up to 17% more run time capacity than Apple factory-shipped batteries. The extreme high capacity is achieved using revolutionary cells only just released on the market and not available through any other manufacturer in units of comparable capacity and quality.

"PowerBook owners want the highest capacity run times imaginable that they can only get from NewerTech NuPower batteries," said Larry O'Connor, President of NewerTech. "The longer life span of the new NewerTech NuPower G4 12" Aluminum PowerBook batteries translate into both long term economical and environmental savings. It's a guaranteed win-win."

All NuPower batteries are designed, engineered, and manufactured in the United States of America using only the world's top quality Lithium-Ion cells from Japan and Canada to ensure both longer runtime and life span.

NewerTech offers extreme power, high capacity battery upgrades for every PowerBook and iBook model produced from 1998 to 2006. A custom line of Intelligent Charger/Conditioners also is available from NewerTech, allowing PowerBook and iBook users to get the most out of any battery. Exclusive from NewerTech, the Intelligent Charger/Conditioners work to enhance the life span of any Apple, NuPower, or third party battery.

The new 55 Watt Hour PowerBook G4 Aluminum 12-inch batteries retail for only $149.99 and come with a one-year NewerTech warranty. A 53.3 Watt Hour model is available for $139.99.

NewerTech's full line of NuPower high capacity battery replacements for Apple PowerBook G3 & G4, iBook G3 & G4, and iPod models can be purchased through OWC and other fine retailers.

Macally 4 in 1 Multimedia PC Card Adapter

MacAlly 4 in1 Multimedia PC Card AdapterPR: Super simple solutions for downloading/uploading files onto media. PCMCIA to SmartMedia card, Memory Stick, Secure Digital card and MultiMedia card adapter allows users on the go the comfort of using a their PCMCIA slot as a media reader.

Features and Advantages:

  • Supports SmartMedia card, Memory Stick, Secure Digital card and MultiMedia card
  • low power consumption
  • No external power required
  • Compact and light weight design
  • Plug and play, hot swappable
  • No driver required

System Requirements:

  • Mac OS 8.6, 9.x, and OS X 10.1 or above
  • Available PCMCIA or CardBus slot
  • Windows 98SE, Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Me

Specifications:

  • Interface: PCMCIA or CardBus
  • Dimensions : Width 2.1" x Height 0.07c" x Depth 4.3"

MSRP: $39.99

Link: Macally 4 in 1 Multimedia PC Card Adapter

Software

Wireless Driver Adds Speed, Triples Range for Mac Users

PR: OrangeWare has announced a major technology advance for Macintosh users with the latest upgrade, Version 3.2 of its 802.11a/b/g "Wireless Driver for Mac." This new driver supports the newer Atheros AR5005 Chipset that is a quantum leap forward in range capability for Mac users. For example, this new chipset is used in the Netgear RangeMax Wireless PC Card/Router products and, when coupled with OrangeWare's Wireless Driver for Mac, they deliver up to 500,000 square feet of coverage. That's 10 times* the coverage of standard 802.11g, which is what Mac users are used to today.

No need to waste money on impotent range extenders, repeaters, and external antennas. The RangeMax products are optimized when used together, and they automatically adjust to the interference and physical barriers in your home. It is an advanced MIMO (Multi-In, Multi-Out) technology that uses 7 internal antennas in the Router that is constantly readjusting the signal to compensate for performance barriers. This range-based optimization ensures that all Mac and PC users will enjoy the highest speed connections available everywhere in your home - no dead spots or dropouts.

And it is completely compatible with all 802.11b/g products - no problem connecting your Macintosh to other home or work wireless routers, or public hotspots. Note however, to receive the range benefit, you must use both a PC Card or PCI card in combination with an Atheros based XR eXtended Range router which have the new range capability.

Other Mac User Benefits

Whereas Apple's AirPort Extreme 802.11g product offers a 54 Mb/s data rate, OrangeWare's 802.11a/b/g Wireless Driver runs at up to 108 Mb/s and supports over 20 different wireless cards. OrangeWare offers the Wireless Driver for Mac to end users for $15. When it is combined with a host of non-Apple wireless cards, it can run at double the 802.11g speed which are the newest performance modes called "Super G" or "Turbo Super G". Note however, to receive the performance benefit, you must use both an Atheros based PC Card or PCI card in combination with an Atheros based router that supports Super G.

These capabilities are offered only on wireless cards using the Atheros wireless chipset, many of which are listed at the end of this document.

Available immediately in a free trial version, the Wireless Driver for Mac v3.2 along with an 802.11g wireless card not only dramatically outruns Apple's AirPort Extreme, but costs the consumer half as much.

Another unique feature of the OrangeWare driver is its compatibility with 802.11a networks. Not only is this the only 802.11a product available for Macintosh, but version 3.2 allows "Turbo A" mode.

Future Releases

OrangeWare's wireless driver currently supports the WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), and they are working on a future release that will feature the new WPA-PSK (WiFi Protected Access-pre-Shared Key) security so your network will have powerful safeguards against unauthorized access.

* Editor's note: This is a press release. Wireless range is usually measured in distance from the base station, not square feet. 10x the square foot coverage equates to roughly 3x the distance - hence our title for this press release. dk

SideTrack PowerBook and iBook Trackpad Driver

PR: SideTrack is a replacement driver for Apple PowerBook and iBook trackpads. With SideTrack installed your standard trackpad becomes a powerful multibutton scrolling mouse.

Leave your external mouse at home and take full control over your trackpad:

  • Vertical scrolling at left or right edge of pad.
  • Horizontal scrolling at top or bottom edge of pad.
  • Map hardware button to left or right click.
  • Map trackpad taps to no action, left click, left click drag (with or without drag lock), or right click.
  • Map trackpad corner taps to mouse buttons 1-6 or simulated keystrokes.
  • Extensive control over accidental input filtering.

SideTrack is multiuser aware and fully compatible with MacOS X fast user switching (FUS). Every user on your laptop can have different settings depending on their needs.

SideTrack supports most G3 and all G4 model PowerBooks and iBooks. SideTrack 1.3.1 does not yet support the MacBook Pro introduced in February 2006. A MacBook compatible update is planned and will be released as soon as possible.

Extended control over the trackpad button and tap gestures. Use trackpad taps for left click, drag gestures, or right click. Complete scrollwheel mouse emulation with customizable scrolling speed. Place your scroll zones on either side of the pad, or both sides simultaneously.

Turn the corners of your trackpad into independent tap actions. Use the corner zones to emulate up to a 6 button mouse or generate custom keystrokes. Customize SideTrack's sensitivity and accuracy. Calibrate to your own trackpad style and adjust filtering to reduce accidental taps while typing. Choose from several mouse acceleration options.

System Requirements

  • Apple PowerBook or iBook (for specific supported PowerBook models see the FAQ)
  • Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar), Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther), or Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger)

Leave your external mouse at home and take full control over your trackpad:

  • Vertical scrolling at left or right edge of pad.
  • Horizontal scrolling at top or bottom edge of pad.
  • Map hardware button to left or right click.
  • Map trackpad taps to no action, left click, left click drag (with or without drag lock), or right click.
  • Map trackpad corner taps to mouse buttons 1-6 or simulated keystrokes.
  • Extensive control over accidental input filtering.

New in version 1.3.1:

  • [BUG] Fix keyboard activity filter on October 2005 PowerBooks.
  • [BUG] Improve tap motion damping on all models for better tap recognition.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later.

System support: PPC

$15 shareware

Link: SideTrack

Tech Trends

Toshiba Tops 25 Million Shipped Milestone for 1.8" Hard Drives

PR: Toshiba Storage Device Division (SDD) today announced that Toshiba has surpassed worldwide cumulative production of 25 million 1.8" hard disk drives (HDDs), demonstrating the success of this small form factor, high-capacity storage solution as the driving force behind many of today's most popular consumer electronics (CE) devices.

Toshiba continues to strengthen its 1.8" HDD offering to provide CE manufacturers with a solid offering for high-capacity mobile devices. In January 2006, the company shipped its second 1.8" HDD based on perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology, delivering 80 GB of capacity for digital music, notebook storage, GPS content and more.

Toshiba's 1.8" HDDs provide storage for a variety of CE products including mobile entertainment devices, handheld computers, ultra-portable notebooks, portable GPS navigation systems, MP3 players, and other specialized digital products since their launch in 2000.

"The 1.8" HDD is well positioned to meet the burgeoning demand for smaller form factor, significant capacity drives," said Scott Maccabe, vice president and general manager, Toshiba SDD. "Since its introduction, Toshiba has more than doubled the capacity of the 1.8" platform, and PMR technology gives us an open roadmap to continue increasing capacity to meet the needs of the market. The 1.8" HDD will continue to be a key player in consumer electronics and an increasingly valuable component in mobile PCs."

Toshiba's 40 GB 1.8" HDD based on PMR was recently honored with the Grand Award from Popular Science as part of its annual "Best of What's New" issue in 2005. Toshiba currently offers a full line of 1.8" HDDs in 20 GB, 30 GB, 40 GB, 60 GB, and 80 GB capacities. The drives are available to OEMs and through distribution for systems builders and value-added resellers.

For design engineers interested in integrating Toshiba's 1.8" HDDs into consumer or computing applications, visit the SDD Web site at www.developer.toshiba.com to request a developers' kit, complete with detailed product specifications, mounting recommendations and photos.

Toshiba SDD, a division of Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., leads the market in the development, design and manufacturing of small form factor 0.85", 1.8" and 2.5" hard disk drives. Toshiba SDD markets high-quality peripherals to original equipment manufacturers, value-added resellers, value-added dealers, systems integrators and distributors in the United States. Inherent in the Toshiba storage family are the high-quality engineering and manufacturing capabilities that have established Toshiba products as worldwide leaders.

Bargain 'Books

Bargain 'Books are used unless otherwise indicated. New and refurbished units have a one-year Apple warranty and are eligible for AppleCare.

There are two different versions of WallStreet running at 233 MHz, the cacheless MainStreet version and the later Series II with a level 2 cache. It's not always possible to determine from the vendor's listing which is being offered, so we've included links within this paragraph to the two models. The same goes for the PowerBook G4/667 (VGA) and G4/667 (DVI), the titanium vs. aluminum 15" PowerBook G4 at 1 GHz, and 1.25 GHz to 1.5 GHz 15" PowerBooks.

PowerBook and iBook profiles linked in our Portable Mac Index.

Baucom Computers

  • used 12" iBook G3/600, 256/20/CD, $390
  • used 15" PowerBook G4/667, 256/20/Combo, $625
  • extra 512 MB, add $89

The PowerBook Guy

  • used 12" iBook G3/800, 256/30/Combo, $499.95

Apple Store

  • refurb 12" iBook G4/1 GHz, 256/30/Combo, $699
  • refurb 14" iBook G4/1.33 GHz, 256/60/SuperDrive, APX, $999
  • refurb 15" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 512/80/SuperDrive, APX, BT 2.0, $1,549
  • refurb 17" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 512/100/SuperDrive, APX, BT 2.0, $1,849

Power Max

  • refurb 12" PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, 256/60/SuperDrive, APX, BT, TFT Display, $1,229
  • refurb 17" PowerBook G4/1 GHz, 512/80/SuperDrive, APX, BT, $1449

Wegener Media

  • Lombard PowerBook G3/333, 128/4/CD, $319.99
  • Lombard PowerBook G3/400, 128/4/CD, $369.99
  • G4 processor upgrade (valid only with machine purchase), $179.99 installed

For more deals on current or recently discontinued models, see our best 15" MacBook Pro deals, our best 17" MacBook Pro deals, 12" PowerBook G4 deals, 15" aluminum PowerBook G4 deals, 17" PowerBook G4 deals, titanium PowerBook G4 deals, iBook G4 deals, PowerBook G3 deals, and iBook G3 deals.

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