The 'Book Review

Adobe Tweaking Flash for MacBook Air, Recyclable Laptop Designed, USB 3 Mac Benchmarks, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.11.22

General Apple and Mac desktops is covered in The Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion


Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Adobe Testing Optimized Version of Flash for MacBook Air

AppleInsider's Slash Lane reports that Adobe's CEO Shantanu Narayen revealed at the Web 2.0 Summit that Adobe is currently testing an optimized version of Flash built specifically for Apple's newly released MacBook Air, with the objective of improved improve battery life, responding to recent test findings found that running Flash decreased battery life of the new MacBook Air by two hours, which is presumably why - along with Steve Jobs' contention that Flash is the number one reason for crashes on the Mac platform - Apple chooses to ship them without a Flash plugin preinstalled.

Stanford Students Design Recyclable Laptop

A concept that has intrigued me for a long time is the idea of notebook computers that would be easy to take apart and repair, one composed of modular components. In my ideal laptop, not only the hard drive, but all of the major circuit board components and other internals would be easy to replace, and it would have a removable device expansion bay - or even two. With such a machine, one could upgrade their laptop's performance capability as needs and technological advancements warranted, without having to replace the case, chassis, or display - a much more environmentally responsible and sound solution.

Now something like what I envisioned has arrived, at least in prototype form.

The Bloom laptop is the project of a team of students from Palo Alto California's Stanford and Finland's Aalto University who were tasked with creating a recyclable consumer electronics product that makes electronics recycling a simpler, more effective, and more engaging process for consumers. The students used Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Inventor Publisher software to help develop and refine the innovative laptop during the school year. Creating 3D digital prototypes of the hardware components inside the laptop aided in creating a readily accessible laptop design that is also easy to disassemble.

When separated into different material types - such as plastics, metals, and circuitry - the Bloom laptop's modular design makes it easy for consumers to decrease the amount of electronic waste added to landfills. For example, 1.9 to 2.2 million tons of electronics became obsolete in 2005, with only 345,000 to 379,000 tons being recycled. The Bloom can be disassembled in just two minutes, without tools, and in just 10 steps. By comparison, a commercially available laptop takes about 45 minutes to disassemble, requires three separate tools, and involves as many as 120 steps.

"We used Autodesk Inventor software often during the ideation phase to experiment with the design," commented Aaron Engel-Hall, a Stanford student and team member. "We created 3D shapes to represent the hardware we had to design around, and the parametric design of Inventor software let me put in different parameters so that all the model dimensions would update immediately. I was also able to experiment with various thicknesses for the case enclosure, making it as thin as possible while maintaining structural integrity."

Autodesk Inventor Publisher software helped the student team create 3D technical documentation materials directly from the Autodesk Inventor digital prototypes. Interactive product manuals and instructions for the Bloom laptop - including a 10-second animation showing the entire laptop being disassembled - make electronics recycling a straightforward, user-friendly experience. Autodesk, Inc. has named the Bloom development team "Autodesk Inventor of the Month" for October 2010.

As I noted above, the benefits of modular laptop design transcend easy recyclability, and Bloom delivers other benefits for consumers. The team used the easy-to-disassemble modularity of Bloom to develop a keyboard and trackpad that detach and allow for improved ergonomics. The ease of disassembly also makes it easier to repair and upgrade components over the lifetime of the product, so that buying a computer is no longer a singular investment, but a longer-term relationship between the consumer and the service provider. For more information, visit the Stanford University ME310 course:

"Consumer electronics waste is a significant and growing problem," says Autodesk Manufacturing Industry Group senior vice president Robert "Buzz" Kross. "These students are facing that issue head-on with their innovative Bloom laptop prototype. It's encouraging and exciting to see college students embrace Digital Prototyping to tackle the sustainability challenges of our times."

Autodesk, Inc. develops 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software. Customers across the manufacturing, architecture, building, construction, and media and entertainment industries - including the last 15 Academy Award winners for Best Visual Effects - use Autodesk software to design, visualize, and simulate their ideas. Since its introduction of AutoCAD software in 1982, Autodesk continues to develop the broadest portfolio of state-of-the-art software for global markets.

An interview with Stanford student and Bloom team member, Aaron Engel-Hall, is available on the Autodesk YouTube Channel.

A Laptop You Can Tear Down by Hand, Then Recycle

MIT Technology Review's John Pavlus notes that while AppleDesigns its laptops and other gadgets so that you'll never have to take them apart, the Bloom laptop, designed by Stanford University students concerned about e-waste, takes the diametrically opposite tack: You can break it down by hand into conveniently recyclable parts in 30 seconds.

Consumer electronics contain plenty of recyclable materials, but their tightly integrated manufacturing makes the various bits of glass, metal, plastic, and silicon near-impossible to separate by the average consumer. There are facilities that can accept whole computers for recycling, but that just kicks the can further down the road: "They spend 90% of their time prying 250 screws out of every device that comes in the door - it's very expensive and time-consuming," says one of the Bloom's designers.

The Bloom laptop "closes the gap" between consumers and recyclers, Engel-Hall says, by making e-waste recycling as simple any other kind. Just turn two knobs on the Bloom's 3D-printed plastic case, and the motherboard (borrowed from a MacBook), battery, and other mixed-material components drop right out. A postage-paid envelope behind the LCD screen will ship these "bad apples" to a facility equipped to handle them. All that's left to do is chuck the empty shell into the kitchen recycling bin with your water bottles.

So why aren't all laptops built this way? "People are not willing to sacrifice performance in their gadgets at all to make them green," quotes Bloom team member Aaron Engel-Hall Engel-Hall. The Bloom is slightly larger and heavier than a typical modern laptop, although Engel-Hall notes that if its case was milled out of aluminum it could be thinner and stronger, but it should be different aluminum alloy from the one Apple uses in order to make it more acceptable in a normal recycling stream.

Solid State Drives Not Expected to Replace Hard Disks Anytime Soon

iSuppli's Fang Zhang says that despite their increasing adoption by influential segments and recent incorporation into some Apple computers, Solid State Drives (SSD) are not likely to displace the longstanding dominance of Hard Disk Drives (HDD) in key storage sectors in the immediate future, according to the market research firm iSuppli

Mr. Fang says that during 2010, SSDs will see increased penetration in the enterprise server, desktop, and notebook segments - three traditional storage areas also served by the rival HDD technology. - and that penetration rates will roughly triple this year in both the enterprise server and desktop segments.

However, he says that SSDs will pose no threat at all to the dominion of HDD anytime soon. For some context, while SSD shipments will reach 7.2 million units in 2010, HDD shipments will total a whopping 662 million. SSD pricing remains at a premium, limiting adoption of the technology in personal computers to the low single digits, noting that the 40 GB X25-V SSD boot drive from Intel sells for approximately $100 - almost twice as much as the average $56 for OEM-produced 500 GB notebook hard drives.

Another example would be average OEM cost of a 256 GB notebook SSD of $395 compared with a OEM price of $47 for 320 GB notebook HDDs.

From this perspective, Mr. Fang suggests that given their competitive price points, attractive form factors, and faster NAND-enabled performance, the new SSD-only Apple MacBook Air arguably represents something of a bargain and poses a formidable challenge to HDD-based laptops, but overall, iSuppli doesn't anticipate the SSD seriously threatening HDD dominance within the next five years.

Editor's note: There is another category of drive coming to prominence, the hybrid drive, which includes a traditional hard drive and a small solid state drive. The drive tracks usage patterns and stores the most frequently accessed files in the SSD. Macworld recently reviewed the Seagate Momentus XT in both a MacBook Pro and a Mac mini, concluding "the improvements this drive offers make it well worth what it cost." A 500 GB Momentus XT currently sells for $130, making it a good way to get some SSD benefits without sacrificing storage space. dk

Intel's Sandy Bridge Won't Support USB 3.0 Natively

Hardmac's Lionel via Tom's reports that Intel's new Sandy Bridge CPU architecture is on track for release at the very end of the year - or more likely in early 2011 - and motherboard manufacturers are already showing their products supporting the new processors and therefore already using the Intel chipsets that come with it.

Although there is no USB 3.0 support in Intel's forthcoming chipset, "the support of USB 3.0 is allowed by NEC controllers...."

For more information on USB 3.0 performance, see USB 3.0 for Mac Pro and MacBook Pro below.


$999 11" MacBook Air 'Just a Bit Too Expensive'

T3's Hannah Bouckley declares that the new 11.3" MacBook Air has become an object of desire, but it's just a bit too expensive, noting that with its beautifully crafted unibody design, the Air is stunning and a true design marvel, the aluminum lid feeling strong, yet the whole device measures 0.3cm thick at the slimmest point.

Bouckley reports that despite its small size, the MacBook Air never feels cramped, an impression helped by the generously spaced, low-profile keyboard, that the Nvidia 320M graphics ensure there's none of the sluggishness typical of PC ultraportables, and while the original MacBook Air was definitely a luxury product, thanks to its portable nature, the extra USB port, and by switching to Solid State memory, the new 11-incher is infinitely more useful if you've got the money.

USB 3.0 for Mac Pro and MacBook Pro

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan notes that both Caldigit and LaCie have "cracked the code" on Mac support of USB 3.0, both firms offering USB 3.0 host adapters with Mac OS X drivers. Consequently, he says, FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 just became "so yesterday." So how much faster is it than USB 2.0 and FireWire 800? And is SATA still faster?

Large Sustained Read SpeedLarge Sustained Write Speed
Bare Feats compares USB 3 throughput to SATA, FireWire 800, and USB 2.0

27" LED Cinema Display: A 27" iMac Without the Computer

Macworld's James Galbraith says that if you admire the 27" iMac but don't want to give up the portability of your MacBook, Apple offers its new 27" LED Cinema Display, which he says is basically a 27" iMac without the computer, sharing the same aluminum stand, black border, curved corners, and edge-to-edge glossy glass cover, built-in speakers, and iSight camera, and, of course, its IPS panel with LED backlight, 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, 178° viewing angle, 375 cd/m2 brightness, 1,000:1 contrast ratio, and 16.7 million colors.

On the back of the display are three USB 2.0 ports, a Kensington lock slot, and connectors for power, as well as a captive cable with a three-headed multi-plug with Mini DisplayPort, USB 2.0, and MagSafe power connections.

The downside? It's pretty pricey.

Tech Trends

Walmart to Sell Sub-$200 Laptop on Black Friday

IDG News' Agam Shah reports that Walmart has revealed plans to sell a fully equipped laptop with a 15.6" screen for $198 on Black Friday as part of a promotional offering, marking one of the few times the $200 price barrier has been cracked. The Walmart laptop will be made by veteran cut-rate laptop vendor eMachines, with a pedestrian Intel Celeron processor running at 2.2 GHz, a 250 GB hard drive, and 2 GB of memory.

Editor's note: This appears to be the eMachines eME527-2537 notebook, which retails for $400. dk

Lenovo IdeaPad U260: First 12.5" Ultraportable Gunning for the MacBook Air

Lenovo IdeaPad U260PR: Lenovo has announced its new IdeaPad U260, claimed to be the world's first 12.5" ultraportable consumer laptop, giving users a 16:9 widescreen dimension in a 12-inch form factor for the first time.

The luxury-oriented IdeaPad U Series features a sleek, minimalistic design that includes a magnesium-aluminum alloy cover, leather-patterned palmrest, and glass touchpad - high fashion in laptop form.

Lenovo IdeaPad U260Designed for consumers who enjoy a sophisticated sense of style, the U260 highlights premium details and craftsmanship that can be touched. Inspired by the silhouette of a classic leather-bound journal, the U260's U-shaped outline and specially engineered one-piece magnesium-aluminum alloy frame make it stronger yet thinner and lighter. The exterior cover, which boasts a one-piece design without any breaks in the pattern, is made possible by the latest insert- molding injection technology.

The laptop's black leather-patterned palmrest is soft to the touch, providing comfort and support for the user while giving a luxurious look. The stainless steel frame around the chiclet keyboard is the perfect complement to the leather-textured exterior. A glass touchpad with matte exterior etching gives the right resistance for multitouch functionality, such as pinch-to-zoom photo browsing and web surfing. The U260 is available in mocha brown or clementine orange.

Lenovo IdeaPad U260"The U260 is a design one can truly touch and feel that showcases the extreme attention our team places in every aspect of design, from mechanical to human interaction to color, material, and finish," says Yingjia Yao, Lenovo's Innovation Design Center vice president. "Our philosophy is that idea product design should be simple, unique, and provide value, and the IdeaPad U260 delivers just that through the high-quality selection of materials, advanced ergonomics, and a signature design concept."

Targeted at mobile users and executives who enjoy a classy laptop away from the office, the IdeaPad U260 weighs in at less than three pounds and measures just over a half-inch thick. Ergonomically designed with sleek curves, proportions, and hinge mechanics for maximum comfort, the U260 is can be easily opened with one hand.

Lenovo IdeaPad U260The U260 is powered by up to an Intel Core i7 processor, and can be configured with up to 320 GB of hard drive storage or up to 128 GB of SSD flash-based storage, and up to 4 GB of DDR3 memory. Additional features include a Breathable Keyboard - an Intel Advanced Cooling Technology that allows the PC to run cooler and maintain spill resistance. Ambient Light Sensors on the U260 help protect users eyes by automatically adjusting screen brightness based on lighting conditions, and Lenovo's Active Protection System acts as an airbag for the hard drive to cushion data stored on the laptop in the event of a fall or drop. The U260 has Dolby Advanced Audio™ surround sound speakers, HDMI output for streaming high definition to an HDTV and an integrated web camera for Skype and video calling, and ships with Genuine Microsoft Windows 7 Home Basic or Premium plus Lenovo Enhanced Experience for Windows 7, a unique Lenovo certification that delivers speedy bootup and shutdown times, rich multimedia capabilities and easy system maintenance tools.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U260 laptop is priced to give the MacBook Air a run for its money starting at $899 and will be available November 15, 2010 on

Products & Services

Intel Lowers Prices on Solid-State Drives, Adds 120 GB Version

PR: Intel has made its Solid-State Drives (SSDs) more affordable with new pricing in time for the holidays and introduced a new model of its award-winning Intel Solid-State Drive (SSD) product line. SSDs can replace hard disk drives to provide a substantial performance boost for notebook or desktop PCs, making SSDs one of the hottest new waves in personal computing.

Intel SSDFor shoppers looking for the latest high-tech gadget for that intensive PC user or gamer, Intel SSDs can help improve overall system performance by up to 56%. SSDs can replace or complement a traditional hard drive in a notebook or desktop PC and deliver noticeably faster computer performance when booting up, opening files and running software applications. With no moving parts, these SSDs deliver greater reliability and consume less power than conventional hard disk drives (HDDs).

"Every Christmas, consumers are looking for the latest tech gadget; this year, with prices dropping, the solid-state drive is becoming more mainstream and can make the single greatest improvement to PC performance," says Intel NAND Solutions Group director of product marketing Troy Winslow, "With an SSD, tech shoppers can give the gift of a technology makeover that will help speed up, or breathe new life, into a current PC by just swapping out the hard drive for an SSD."

New suggested US resell pricing for the Intel X25-M Mainstream SATA SSD is now $199 for an 80 GB drive, which provides plenty of space to store the operating system, multiple office and personal applications, as well as thousands of songs, photos, video, and other data. Users can double the storage capacity with a 160 GB X25-M drive for $415. The company has also added a new 120 GB version of the Intel X25-M for $249, which offers the best dollar-per-GB value in the Intel X25-M SSD line.

Intel SSDs can be purchased at Best Buy or Fry's Electronics nationwide or online from Internet outlets such as or An entry-level 40 GB Intel X25-V "boot drive", at a suggested US resell price of $99, is another option for desktop users that allows the operating system and favorite applications to be installed on the SSD for faster performance while keeping the HDD for further storage.

To begin enjoying the high-performance world of solid-state computing, users can install their own SSD, have a computer technician install it for them, or purchase a brand new system from HP, Lenovo, and others with an Intel SSD already preinstalled.

To make the process of copying or cloning data from a user's old hard drive to a speedy new Intel SSD, Intel includes a free cloning utility called the Intel Data Migration Software. The easy-to-use Intel Data Migration Software will help transfer information from the old hard drive, including operating systems, applications, documents. and personal settings, in just minutes. It can be downloaded free of charge at [Editor's note: The software is Windows-only.]

Buffalo MiniStation Stealth Hard Drive

PR: Buffalo's MiniStation Stealth is a high performance portable storage solution in a compact and lightweight contemporary form factor. Plug it into any available USB port on your PC or Mac and instantly add capacity or store files to take on the road. MiniStation Stealth's compact design occupies minimal space, and it's USB bus-powered, so there are no additional cables to manage and no need for a separate power source. The MiniStation Stealth's compact footprint occupies minimal desktop space.

Not for Macs, but if you run Windows, included with the Stealth is Buffalo's multipurpose Buffalo Tools utility suite designed to enhance performance and user experience. It features TurboPC, a utility designed to enhance PC performance for up to 2x faster file transfers. Also included, Buffalo's Backup Utility protects your important files and documents by backing up your PCs to your Buffalo external hard drive and it provides an easy-to-use data restore function. Store, back up and transport your content instantly with plug and play connectivity. (Mac users get this built into OS X with Time Machine.)

Buffalo MiniStation Stealth HD-PCTU2 Hard DriveFeatures:

  • USB 2.0 powered connection
  • Preformatted in FAT32 for compatibility with both
  • Attractive blue LED lets you know when the drive is active
  • Compact and Lightweight: Super slim, lightweight chassis saves space for ultimate portability with a stylish, sophisticated design
  • Connect and Go: Preformatted hard drive is ready for immediate use with Windows and Mac Works with PC and Mac:
  • Connect to your computer for additional storage or backup of your music, photo, video and data files
  • TurboPC with Turbo Copy: Enhance the overall performance of your PC and increase file transfer rates up to 2x compared to other USB 2.0 hard drives • ECO Manager (Windows only): Eco minded power management tool regulates power usage, conserving energy and battery consumption
  • Back Up Your Files: Buffalo's Backup Utility for automatic backup of your Windows PCs and Time Machine support for continuous backup of Mac computers

Available in 320 GB, 500 GB, and 640 GB capacities.

NuGuard Keyboard Covers in 4 Colors for Protecting & Personalizing Your MacBook

NuGuard Keyboard CoversPR: Newer Technology, Inc. (NewerTech) has expanded its accessory line for Mac portables with NuGuard Keyboard Covers. Featuring a silky smooth silicone surface texture to provide the fastest touch typing possible, NuGuard Keyboard Covers protect MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air models against key wear, food/drink spills, and dust/hair clogging, while adding personal style via four color choices: black, white, pink, and red.

NewerTech NuGuard Keyboard Covers are available immediately for $17.99 MSRP from NewerTech's exclusive distributor, Other World Computing (OWC), as well as through the retail channel.

"The NuGuard Keyboard Covers are a great way to add personal flair to a Mac notebook while protecting the keyboard from wear and tear," says Grant Dahlke, Brand Manager, Newer Technology Inc. "They're smooth to the touch for fast typing and easily peel off for simple cleanup to keep looking like new while keeping your Mac notebook working like new."

Bargain 'Books

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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