LaCie unveils USB Type-C Porsche Design HDD for ChromeBook Pixel and …

14 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Good Luck Trying to Fix New MacBook Air, Pro.

The new MacBook is supposed to usher in a wire-free future for laptops, but Apple left out technologies that could have saved road warriors a few ungainly wires. “The only intelligent vision for the future of the notebook is one without wires, where you don’t have to plug up cables to connect to things,” Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said as he introduced the MacBook on Monday.Apple’s MagSafe charger is a wonderful charging technology that has saved my MacBook more times than I can count, but if the cord frays — or if you lose or break it — you’re left with no choice but buying a new one from Apple.

Perhaps we should have read it as an omen that the MagSafe 2 adapter for older, original MagSafe connectors was listed as discontinued on the Apple Store in the U.S. and Canada last week. But while he crowed about the IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 built into the laptop, Schiller never mentioned that Apple passed on emerging technologies to make a USB connection over the air or wirelessly link peripherals at 7Gbps (bits per second).

Instead, he praised the single, solitary USB-C port on the MacBook, which can serve as a power, a video and a data transfer interface—and will have to, for the many peripherals that can’t use Apple’s AirPlay and AirDrop. Both MacBook Airs boast the same basic specs: fifth-gen, dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Intel HD Graphics 6000, 128GB of storage, 4GB RAM, Wi-Fi connectivity, Thunderbolt 2 port, and dual microphones.

The first notable difference: The 13-inch Air got a boost from a faster, flashier SSD, while the 11-inch model still features the same SSD found in Apple’s 2013 computers. If you want to, say, plug in your MacBook, charge your iPhone, access an external hard drive and use a big screen without an Apple TV all at the same time, you’ll probably need an adapter or two.

Inside, the iFixit team finds Intel Broadwell chips. “Broadwell shrinks the MacBook Air’s previous architecture (Haswell)—meaning not a lot has changed performance-wise, but a new manufacturing process makes the transistors smaller, and the entire chip more power efficient by up to 30 percent,” iFixit noted. “Once you get past the outer case, all the major components are fairly easy to access for replacement,” the teardown said. Stand on it, trip over it, yank it—the force of the smallest effort pulls it free. …the surface area of two magnetically attracted halves determines the number of magnetic flux lines and therefore the holding force between them because the holding force is proportional to the contact area between the two magnetically attracted halves… A USB Type C (or USB-C) cable has no such advantage.

It has two distinct differences: first, a USB-C male end, such as the tip of a cable, is plugged into a port, very much like larger and deeper Type A and Type B USB connections. A pre-certified version of the WiGig high-frequency wireless protocol is already available in some wireless docks, and a completed specification called MA (Media Agnostic) USB brings that popular interface to WiGig, Wi-Fi, and other kinds of networks.

Second, while MagSafe was optimized to help with “non-axial” force—any direction except straight out—the USB-C style plug and jack suffer the worst from that. As astrophysicist Katie Mack said, “The genius of the MagSafe connector is that if you apply a force in any other direction it breaks the magnetic seal very easily, and then there’s virtually no force required to remove the connector entirely.” But how likely is a cord-tripper to yank a new MacBook off a surface versus the USB-C cable coming out first? The usual Apple obstacles are there: proprietary screws and SSD, glued-in battery, soldered-in RAM (leaving no chance for an upgrade), and a fused-in Retina display, with no separate, protective glass.

My calculations, vetted by Mack and a variety of engineers, show it’s almost certain the MacBook will move a bit or a lot unless all your stars perfectly align. Because an object under acceleration continuously increases its velocity, an object travelling at rest that is moved at 1m/s2 traverses 0.5m (1.6 feet) in the first second, 2m by the second second, and 4.5m by the third second. Sometimes even Apple can’t generate that kind of whirlwind in the market. “It’s one of those things that Apple probably is interested in, but the time frame is not quite right,” Gartner wireless analyst Mark Hung said. Cupertino this week also revealed an Apple Watch launch date and prices, as well as an exclusive deal with HBO to be the launch partner for its new streaming service.

After 10,000 connection cycles, no fewer than 6N should be required. (To compare with something you’re already familiar with, USB Type A connectors sold as parts typically note a minimum 10N force for extraction.) The MacBook exerts a pull of its own, just sitting there. Qualcomm and Intel already sell WiGig chips, and WiGig will be included in Intel’s Skylake platform that’s coming in the second half of this year. We multiply that by 0.92 kg to get our force in newtons, or approximately 9N. (Aerospace engineer Bradley Grzesiak cautioned me to avoid too many decimal places: earth’s gravity varies enough around the globe.) But we have to factor in friction. A standard friction coefficient for rubber on wood, the closest comparison I could find, is 0.70 for static friction (sometimes called stiction), or friction at a standstill.

As with any technology, it will take more products to make WiGig cheap enough that manufacturers start putting it in displays and other peripherals, eventually making a dock unnecessary. That probably won’t happen until 2018 at the earliest, Grodzinsky said, though things might speed up a lot if WiGig got into a high-profile product—like a MacBook. “That is the kind of key win I’m talking about,” Grodzinsky said. Drang—the nom de Internet of a consulting engineer who writes exceedingly clever things about science, software, and engineering—suggested via email that 0.70 is optimistic for many surfaces, and 0.40 more reasonable. The idea behind a wireless USB standard is that it’s compatible with the drivers that devices already use, which can save testing and development time.

About 10 years ago, the USB Implementers Forum approved a standard for putting the popular transport protocol over UWB (ultrawideband), a technology that ran into obstacles to wide adoption, including different spectrum rules around the world. However, Grzesiak pointed me to a 1942 National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) testing report on rubber (see above) that looked with more detail into the initial point of overcoming static friction at various rates of initial acceleration. A jerk from a cable could accelerate a laptop so rapidly that the initial coefficient factor of rubber on a glass table could be as high as 5—meaning you’d need force on the order of five earth gravities (50N) to get the MacBook moving. But recall that force involves mass and acceleration: an abrupt yank by a heavy weight (like a human’s leg intersecting with a cable) could briefly produce force on that order of magnitude!

After the laptop has overcome static friction, kinetic friction comes into play, dramatically reducing the force necessary to keep it in motion and accelerate it further. In that scenario, we know you need to apply an initial force of between 2N and 50N depending on materials and assumptions to cause the MacBook to reach an acceleration rate of the magical 1m/s2, but then less force thereafter.

Assuming the USB extraction force’s upper end, 20N, is the static friction and 8N is the kinetic friction, it’s possible that the cable pops free in a fraction of a second before the laptop moves much, if at all. Because the USB Implementors Forum describes a wide range in the spec, until and if Apple’s specific USB-C adapter is tested across multiple computers for extraction force, it’s impossible to know the necessary acceleration. If you’re pulling at any angle other than straight on, it’s quite difficult, as the force is now directed in a direction that would increase friction a lot.” Dr. Greg Koenig, an industrial designer in Portland, Oregon, and a principal at Luma Labs, examined Apple’s logic board images and other photos of the MacBook at my request.

If the laptop is loose on a surface, pulling obliquely on the cable will almost certainly bring the laptop with it more reliably than in our “perfectly straight-out” thought experiment. At some level, I’m trying to reverse engineer Apple’s thinking around design and testing, both in its larger engineering participation in shaping USB-C, and in its particular implementation.

All the calculations and exercises above have certainly been performed a thousand times in simulation and prototyping internally, shaping the development of the socket, logic board, external cables, and more. I’ve heard it said since Monday morning that MagSafe was the single best hardware feature Apple invented for its laptops, and I’m hard pressed to deny that—although extra-long battery life is nice, too.

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