The 'Book Review

DisplayPort Copy Protection, Trackpad Update, Netbooks Not to Be Taken Lightly, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.11.21

This week's MacBook angst is over HDCP digital copy protection in the October 2008 MacBooks. We've already looked at the issue twice on Low End Mac: No High Definition iTunes Video for You and Apple Caves to Hollywood with DRM on iTunes Videos.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

General Apple and Mac desktops is covered in The Mac News Review. iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review.

News & Opinion

Reviews

Apple Updates

Tech Trends

Products

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Apple's DisplayPort Includes Digital Copy Protection

Mac Observer's John Martellaro reports:

"Apple's new MacBooks and MacBook Pros, which use the new Mini DisplayPort connector and protocol, appear to include an industry standard digital copy protection system, HDCP, according to ars technica on Monday.

"The High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) technology has been in use with high-definition TV systems for over a year now. It's included in every modern HDTV that uses the HDMI connector as well as source devices, like Blu-ray players and advanced Audio/Video receivers with HDMI. It establishes a secure, encrypted connection between the source and the HDTV to prevent the theft of HD digital content.

"It appears that Apple is now including that protocol on its new MacBooks that include the Mini DisplayPort connector...."

MacBook Owners Enraged as Apple Blocks Some Displays

Cult of Mac's Ed Sutherland reports:

"MacBook fans are in an uproar after discovering the new laptops contain hardware-based copyright protection that prevents the viewing of iTunes movies on some external displays, such as a second monitor or a projector.

"'This movie cannot be played because a display that is not authorized to play protected movies is connected,' is the warning MacBook users receive when using an external display that doesn't support the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) protocol.

"The HDCP technology is part of Apple's Mini DisplayPort Content Protection built into MacBooks. Hollywood studios looking to protect their movies appreciate the 128-bit copy protection measures included in DisplayPort, according to reports."

What You Need to Know About DisplayPort

Macworld's Peter Cohen reports:

"Apple didn't just introduce new laptop . . . it also introduced a new term to the vocabulary of Mac users - DisplayPort. The Mini DisplayPort found on new MacBooks, the refreshed MacBook Air and 15-inch MacBook Pros replaces the DVI and mini-DVI interfaces found on older models. But is this another proprietary debacle like Apple's failed Apple Display Connector (ADC) interface? No.

"DisplayPort is, in fact, an open industry standard...."

Apple Set for Record Mac Sales Despite MacBook Criticisms

Macworld UK's Mark Hattersley reports that investment bank Piper Jaffray believes that Apple is on course for a record quarter of MacBook sales, notwithstanding that Apple has come under criticism for its latest refresh to the MacBook line, with many Macworld readers claiming that the laptops are too expensive while others have panned Apple's decision to remove FireWire from the MacBook range and to offer a glossy display on the MacBook Pro.

If Piper Jaffray's figures hold true, Hattersley observes, it would appear that none of these criticisms have stood between Apple's customers and a purchasing decision.

MacBook Trackpad Update Problems

MacFixIt says:

"Yesterday, Apple released a firmware update for the glass trackpads on the new MacBook and MacBook Pro computers to 'address an issue where trackpad clicks may not be recognized.' For most users this update has been a welcome solution the ongoing problem of glass trackpads periodically losing functionality, but some users are having trouble with the update.

"Some users are experiencing installation failures, accompanied by the error message 'The Firmware update did not complete. Communication with the device failed.'"

Activate 4-Finger Gestures on Original MacBook Air

Hardmac's Lionel reports:

"One of the most practical things of the new trackpad of MacBook Pro, MacBook and MacBook Air, is the support of 4 fingers gestures that allows the use of expose and is very practical on screens of small size.

"Alas, this is not possible on the old MacBook Air. Members of the forums discovered that this limitation is not due to hardware, but software. By forcing the installation of certain system libraries on MacBook Air V1, they succeeded in activating this function...."

Major MacBook Surgery Not for Amateurs

The Baltimore Sun's David Zeiler reports:

"I replaced the optical drive in my MacBook the other day.

"And to my surprise, it still works. Replacing hardware inside a laptop is not a task for the easily deterred, and I recommend it only to the most daring.

"Now I'm the type of guy who has never been afraid to open up a Mac tower for anything from a memory upgrade to a CPU replacement. But until this week, I had never performed a major hardware upgrade on a laptop, wary of the complexity of getting the case open and the fragility of the components within.

"My apprehension - despite my success - turned out to be justified...."

Reviews

MacBook Apple's 'Best Consumer Portable . . . until the Next One'

MacUser's Dan Moren has posted a long but interesting dissertation of his observations and thoughts on Apple's latest (and greatest?) consumer portable:

"People keep asking me about my new MacBook. The machines came out about a month ago, but that clearly hasn't been enough time for people to get their fill of Apple's latest portable lineup. I have to remind myself that these are, for the most part, civilians: people who don't eat, drink, breathe, and immerse themselves in all things Apple. Still, I've fended off envious looks and an assortment of questions, ranging from whether the performance is a huge improvement to whether the screen is too reflective.

"In the week that I've been using the new MacBook, it's been my full-time all-purpose computer, just like its predecessor, and I've had to learn its ins and outs, collecting observations the whole while. What follows is a catalog of my assorted thoughts and musings on the experience. There are a lot of them. Like, 'brew a cup of coffee and settle in a for a long winter read' lot. You have been warned...."

Unibody MacBook Pro Full of Reasons to Upgrade

Canwest News Service's Murray Hill reports:

"When I had my chance to look at Apple's new line of notebooks, I had a couple of questions in mind. Sure, I knew they had new graphics cards, bigger hard drives and a new screen. I also knew about the solid piece of aluminum the enclosure is milled from. But is there enough of a difference between these new notebooks and the old ones to make it worth telling people they should upgrade?

"Yes - in spades.

"The new unibody enclosure is a wonder. I could see and, more importantly for me, feel how light and incredibly strong the frame is. I had to apply a considerable amount of pressure to get any kind of flex at all.

"The new backlit display makes a 15-inch notebook screen look a lot like a 17-inch screen because of the lack of a metallic bezel surrounding it . . . and is the best screen yet on a Mac notebook.

"The new NVDA GeForce video card renders intense graphics with absolutely no lag, so the MacBook Pro I have for a review is able to play games unlike any Mac notebook I've ever seen....

"And the speakers on the MacBook Pro have been ramped up in a major way...."

Apple Updates

Apple Releases MacBook, MacBook Pro Trackpad Firmware Update 1.0

Apple has released a firmware update that addresses an issue where trackpad clicks may not be recognized on MacBook (13-inch, Aluminum, Late 2008) and MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2008) computers.

There are two parts to this process: installing the firmware update application onto your hard drive and using the firmware update application to update your trackpad's firmware.

Note that if the trackpad firmware update process is interrupted, your trackpad may become temporarily unusable. See Recovering From an Interrupted Trackpad Firmware Update.

Apple Accepting Orders for 24" LED Cinema Display

On Tuesday, the online Apple Store began taking orders for the new 24" LED-backlit Cinema Display that was announced with the new unibody Mac laptops a few weeks back.

Targeted specifically for use as an external monitor for the new MacBook Pros and MacBooks, this 24" LED-backlit widescreen 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution glossy display also incorporates a built-in iSight video camera, mic and speakers in its thin aluminum and glass enclosure, as well as integrated MagSafe charger, three self-powered USB 2.0 ports and the new Mini DisplayPort, making it possible to quickly connect and power these notebooks as well as run peripherals while leaving your MagSafe power adapter in your travel bag.

It's more than a monitor, and was touted by Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing Philip Schiller as "the most advanced display that Apple has ever made."

Apple also brags that the new LED Cinema Display is "the greenest Apple display ever," made with mercury-free LED technology, arsenic-free glass and highly recyclable materials. The LED Cinema Display meets stringent Energy Star 4.0 requirements and achieves EPEAT Gold status, contains no brominated flame retardants, all internal cables and components are PVC-free and its foam packaging has been reduced by 44 percent.

The new 24" LED Cinema Display carries a MSRP of $899 and requires a MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro with the new Mini DisplayPort.

Ship date is still "November," but there's not a whole lot of November left, so it should be soon.

Tech Trends

Netbooks Not to be Taken Lightly

PC Mag's Dan Costa says:

"...can the netbook replace the notebook? Here at PC Magazine, we learn by doing, so I hit the road with netbook in tow. My test Mini 1000 weighed in at 2.5 pounds with a 10.2-inch screen and a 60 GB hard drive."

"Most netbooks run on Intel's 1.6-GHz Atom processor. When compared with traditional notebook processors, Atom is a lightweight but is fine for basic productivity apps. I had no problem running OpenOffice Writer or Calc, or browsing the Web with Firefox. Photoshop, however? Not an option.

"HP isn't the only player in the netbook space; everyone wants a piece....

"Where does the netbook fit into the market?"

"If you're not thinking about buying a netbook, you should be - they're powerful, portable, and inexpensive. Here's what you need to know before you buy."

"Netbook PCs are a triumph partly of technology, but mostly of smart packaging."

Give a Laptop. Get a Laptop. Change the World

PR: The recent US election has shown that ordinary citizens coming together can change the status quo. Now is the time to harness that goodwill and help the children of the developing world who have been left behind. Some of the world's poorest countries spend less than $20 a year on children's education and one in three children won't complete fifth grade.

Give a Laptop. Get a Laptop. Change the World

Participation in One Laptop per Child's Give 1 Get 1 program will help bring a modern education to these children and empower them to build a better future for themselves and their families and their communities and societies. One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a nonprofit whose mission is to provide laptop computers that are sufficiently affordable and connected to the Internet to every child in the world.

OLPC first launched Give 1 Get 1 in 2007, raising more than $35 million to fund the delivery of tens of thousands of laptops to children in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Mongolia and Rwanda. To date, OLPC has distributed more than 500,000 XO laptops in 31 countries and is on its way to delivering one million laptops by the end of 2008.

"The phenomenal success of last year's Give 1 Get 1 program created tremendous demand from both the public who wanted to give more and from countries that saw an opportunity to attack poverty through education," said Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of One Laptop per Child. "Renewing the program now will help us scale existing deployments and expand into many other countries as well."

How to Participate in Give 1 Get 1

Individuals can support the OLPC Foundation through two options:

  • Give 1 Get 1: By paying $399 for two XO children's laptops one to give, one to get. The laptop you give will go to a child in developing country. The laptop you receive can be used by you or a deserving child or friend.
  • Give a Laptop: For those people who want to give only, you can donate as many laptops as you want to give at $199 each. In order to participate:

PCMCIA Announces Release 2.0 of ExpressCard Standard

PR: PCMCIA, the leading technology trade association for PC Card and ExpressCard technology, has announced the newest release of the ExpressCard Standard 2.0. This version has been significantly updated to accommodate the faster speeds increasingly demanded by today's high-performance mobile technologies.

ExpressCard technology is the next-generation PC Card technology for high-performance expansion of desktop and mobile systems. ExpressCard and PC Card slots can be found in more than 95 percent of notebook computers.

"ExpressCard technology is closely tied to the PCI Express® and USB specifications, and the 2.0 release of our standard takes full advantage of recent advancements in both interface technologies," said Brad Saunders, chairman, PCMCIA. "Now that the new SuperSpeed USB specification is ready [see '10x as Fast' USB 3.0 Specification Finalized], PCMCIA can move forward to finalize the ExpressCard 2.0 release and make it available to members in early 2009. Consumers can expect to see new, innovative products that take advantage of the enhancements offered by the ExpressCard 2.0 Standard starting in 2010."

"SuperSpeed USB brings a whole new level of performance enhancements that will drive the next generation of consumer electronics," said Jeff Ravencraft, USB-IF president and chairman. "Having SuperSpeed USB support in the latest ExpressCard Standard gives developers an additional form factor to take advantage of these new features. ExpressCard technology is a natural extension of USB."

The new ExpressCard Standard will support transfer rates ranging from two to 10 times faster than ExpressCard Standard 1.2, depending on the data protocol used. Some of the applications that benefit from the improved performance are:

Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) 2.0 adapters supporting large file transfers between computers and various storage devices;

  • USB 3.0 adapters supporting large file transfers between computers and peripheral devices;
  • Very high-performance streaming media and video adapters; and
  • Very high-performance storage modules based on flash memory technologies, e.g. solid-state drive applications.

The ExpressCard Standard is based on the advanced serial I/O technologies, PCI Express and USB. The Standard is being updated to comply with the recent release of the PCI Express specification, Version 2.0, which offers transfer rates of up to 5 Gbps, two times faster than its previous version. The ExpressCard 2.0 Standard also supports the new USB 3.0 specification released today. SuperSpeed USB will support speeds of up to 10 times faster than Hi-Speed USB.

The ExpressCard 2.0 Standard supports backward compatibility with products compliant with any previous versions of the Standard. Any compliant ExpressCard product will work in any ExpressCard slot, regardless of which version of the Standard the product complies with. A new product compliance and logo program will be phased in once the ExpressCard 2.0 Standard is released.

Current ExpressCard "plug 'n' play" applications include memory, local area network (LAN), wireless broadband (WWAN), WiFi, memory adapters, parallel adapters, serial adapters, TV tuners, smart card readers, instrumentation, 1394A&B adapters, serial ATA (SATA) adapters and USB adapters.

PCMCIA) is a nonprofit trade association founded in 1989 to establish technical standards for PC Card technology and to promote interchangeability among computer systems. Already a feature in almost every notebook and palmtop computer, PC Card technology empowers users to configure systems and create unique, integrated solutions to meet their computing needs. Based in San Jose, California, the association has a growing membership of 150 companies worldwide. The PCMCIA also has a specification development and co-publishing relationship with the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA) covering PC Card and Smart Media technologies.

ExpressCard is a registered trademark of PCMCIA. PC Card is a trademark of PCMCIA. *All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their registered owners.

Backlight Makers Expect LED Backlighting Prices to Drop 40-50% Next Year

DigiTimes' Siu Han and Yvonne Yu report:

"While major notebook vendors continue to introduce models with LED backlighting into the market, prices for LEDs are estimated to drop by 40-50% in 2009 as clients will be in a better position to negotiate prices, according to backlight unit (BLU) makers....

"According to BLU makers, LED backlit notebooks only had a penetration rate of 5-6% in the first three quarters this year. But the penetration rate is expected to reach 25% in the fourth quarter this year, and 30-40% in 2009."

Products

Cricket Laptop Stand

Cricket Laptop StandPR: Props for your laptop! Cricket elevates your screen for cool computing and comfortable viewing. It's a flexible, height-adjustable stand which allows you to raise your screen to an ergonomic viewing height. Add a full-size keyboard and mouse to recreate the comfort and productivity of a desktop computer, or use Cricket to share your screen for presentations and meetings.

Cricket also enhances airflow around your computer, keeping it cool. Best of all, Cricket is extremely portable - it collapses to fit in your pocket or your computer bag.

Cricket adjusts to support laptops of all widths, and supports weights up to 12 pounds. You can even use Cricket with tablet PC's, by raising the screen to a more comfortable writing and viewing angle.

  • Height-adjustable - elevates laptop screen to comfortable viewing height.
  • Adjusts to support laptops of all widths, and weights up to 12 lb.
  • Enhances airflow - keeps your notebook cool.
  • Extremely portable - collapses to fit in your pocket or computer bag.
  • Compatible with notebooks as well as tablet PC's.
  • Sustainability: Cricket is composed of 70% recyclable materials.

Ideal for business travelers, students, and anyone who uses a laptop computer.

$39.95

Toshiba 500 GB 2.5" SATA Hard Drive

PR: The new Toshiba MKxx55GSX 2.5-inch hard drive series offers up to one half-terabyte in capacity with quiet acoustics and enhanced durability, providing a solid storage solution for high-capacity mobile PCs, game consoles, printers and external storage. Advanced servo techniques combined with mechanical design changes minimize noise emanating from the MKxx55GSX drives, making them nearly inaudible during operation, with the 300 GB, 160 GB and 120 GB models performing close to the threshold of human hearing.

Further design optimizations have boosted the durability of the MKxx55GSX series to provide industry-leading robustness against operating shock. An optional free-fall sensor (FFS) feature further protects user data against potentially hazardous external shock and vibration events. Up To 500 Gigabytes* of Storage Capacity 5,400 RPM Spin Speed

Serial ATA 3.0 Gbps and extended SATA features lightweight, standard 9.5mm, super-quiet seek technology, eco-friendly design in materials, and low power consumption.

Specifications

  • Storage Capacity
    • 500 GB
    • 400 GB
    • 320 GB
    • 250 GB
    • 160 GB
    • 120 GB
  • Interface: SATA 3.0 Gb/s (SATA Revision 2.6/ATA-8)
  • Rotational Speed: 5,400 RPM
  • Transfer Rate to Host: 3.0 Gb/s

nova media Drops Prices for PC Card and ExpressCard Devices

GlobeTrotter ExpressPR: nova media prepares for the holiday season with a price drop for its complete range of wireless modems for Mac OS X by an average of 16%.

"We offer wireless devices for every Macintosh", states Jan Fuellemann, PR spokesperson at nova media. "PC Datacards for PowerBook, ExpressCards for MacBook Pro and USB modems for every other Mac running Mac OS X 10.4.11 and higher. All devices offer fast download speeds with up to 7.2 Mbit/s and upload speeds with up to 1.4 Mbit/s, depending on the capabilities of the mobile network providers."

All devices include a full version of launch2net, the internet connect wizard for Mac OS X. launch2net features a one-click connection to the Internet without the need to enter cryptic configuration details. The software already includes connection settings for most mobile network providers worldwide.

Price information:

  • GlobeTrotter MAX HSUPA for PowerBook: Euro 178.00
  • GlobeTrotter Express HSUPA for MacBook Pro: Euro 188.00
  • ICON 401 USB Modem for MacBook and other Macs: Euro 168.00

All prices plus VAT if applicable and shipping costs.

Bargain 'Books

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

PowerBook, iBook, and MacBook profiles linked in our Portable Mac Index.

Apple Store

  • refurb 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $1,199
  • refurb 1.8 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $1,399
  • refurb 1.8 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/64 SSD, $1,699
  • refurb 2.2 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook, white, 1 GB/160/SD, $949
  • refurb 2.4 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook, black, 2 GB/160/SD, $949
  • refurb 2.4 GHz Penryn MacBook, black, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,049
  • refurb 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200/SD, $1,349
  • refurb 15" 2.6 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,499
  • refurb 15" 2.6 GHz MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200/SD, $1,799
  • refurb 17" 2.5 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,799
  • refurb 17" 2.5 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $2,099
  • refurb 17" 2.6 GHz hi-res Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $2,299

Previous Generation - New

  • new 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $1,399
  • new 2.4 GHz Penryn MacBook, white, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,149
  • new 2.4 GHz Penryn MacBook, black, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,199
  • new 15" 2.4 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200/SD, $1,599
  • new 15" 2.5 GHz Penryn MacBook Pro, 2 GB/250/SD, $1,799

MicroCenter

  • 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200/SD, $1,399.99

ExperCom

  • 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 4 GB/200/SD, AppleCare, $1,789

Wegener Media - 12" PowerBook - 15" Aluminum PowerBook - MacBook

  • 12" PowerBook G4/867 MHz, 256/40/Combo, $489.99
  • 12" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 512/80/SD, $659.99
  • 1.83 GHz Core Duo MacBook, white, 512/60/Combo, 60 day warranty, $594.99
  • 2.0 GHz Core Duo MacBook, white, 512/60/Combo, 60 day warranty, $659.99
  • 2.0 GHz Core Duo MacBook, black, 512/80/SD, 60 day warranty, $719.99
  • 2.0 GHz Core 2 MacBook, white, 1 GB/80/SD, 60 day warranty, $769.99
  • 2.0 GHz Core 2 MacBook, black, 1 GB/120/SD, 60 day warranty, $799.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.25 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $599.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz, 256/60/Combo, $639.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 1 GB/80/Combo, $679.99
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 1 GB/80/SD, $729.99
  • 15" hi-res PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 512/80/SD $799.99

MacMall

  • 2.0 GHz Unibody MacBook, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,238.97
  • 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, $1,399.99
  • 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200/SD, $1,443.99
  • 15" 2.4 GHz Unibody MacBook Pro, 2 GB/200/SD, $1,964.96 - $100 rebate = $1,864.96
  • 15'' 2.5 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 4 GB/250/SD, $1,598.99
  • 15" 2.53 GHz Unibody MacBook Pro, 4 GB/320/SD, $2,308.97

Mac Connection

  • 17" 2.4 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, 2 GB/160/SD, matte, $1,849.95 less $150 mail-in rebate = $1,699.95

TechRestore

  • 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2 GB/80, $1,299.99

Baucom Computers

  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 1 GB/80/Combo, $645
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 1 GB/80/Combo, $719
  • 15" hi-res PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 1 GB/80/SD, $749
  • 15" hi-res PowerBook G4/1.67 GHz, 1.5 GB/100/SD, $805
  • 15" 2.1 GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro, 512/80/SD, $1,109

PowerBook Guy

  • 12" iBook G4/1 GHz, 512/30/Combo, $499.95
  • 12" iBook G4/1.33 GHz, 768/40/Combo, AP, AppleCare, $549.95
  • 15" PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz, 1 GB/80/Combo, APX, $799.95
  • 15" 2.16 GHz Core 2 MacBook Pro, 1 GB/120/SD, APX, $1,499.95

For deals on current and discontinued 'Books, see our 13" MacBook and MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, 13" MacBook Pro, 15" MacBook Pro, 17" MacBook Pro, 12" PowerBook G4, 15" PowerBook G4, 17" PowerBook G4, titanium PowerBook G4, iBook G4, PowerBook G3, and iBook G3 deals.

We also track iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle deals.

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