MacBook Air’s super fast disk speeds come from Samsung SSDs

12 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 things the MacBook needs in the next generation.

Now that you’ve seen Apple’s new MacBook from all sides and read all the commentary, are you ready to hear the story of how it was first presented to Apple CEO Tim Cook?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 for Mac users, the biggest news probably has to do with all the ways the new MacBook diverges from what we’ve been used to over the past few years.

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. In the original video, Spanish actor and comedian Juan Joya Borja or el Risitas (Spanish for “giggles”) is giving a TV interview on Spanish TV — he’s actually talking about his work at a beach restaurant. 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.

USB and Thunderbolt are everywhere. (It’s never been easier to be someone who brings a Mac into a room to do a slide presentation, since every Mac can use a Mini DisplayPort connector.) All of Apple’s keyboards, desktop and laptop, have been the same exact design for quite a while now. 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. And while buyers of new desktop Macs can opt for a mouse, they can also buy a Bluetooth trackpad that more or less matches the one found in Apple’s laptops.

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 2010 MacBook Air refresh didn’t bring back everything we’d lost, but Apple did ditch the trap door, beef up the storage, and re-illuminate the keyboard. 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 acceleration is an exponential function, 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. That seems reasonable, but when Apple extolled the virtues of the new keyboard on Monday, they raved about the increased size and stability of its key caps, the clever design of the butterfly keyboard switches, the stainless steel dome switches. Here’s what I’d like to see in the second generation. (And I’ll skip such obvious gimmes like another USB-C port, faster processor, and lower price.) Adding Touch ID to a laptop would fix that, plus let me unlock the computer itself biometrically. So is this a compromise keyboard specifically designed for the MacBook, or does Apple feel this keyboard design is so great that it’s going to make sure that all its future Mac keyboards are exactly the same way?

It’s a much sharper screen than the MacBook Air (13-inch) which has a 1440 by 900 pixels resolution or even the 11-inch MacBook Air which has just 1366 x 768 pixels. 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. I type around 110 words per minute and write for a living, so keyboards are very important to my livelihood, though I would not remotely call myself a keyboard snob. I’m not ready to render any final judgments—I’m going to need to live with a MacBook for a few days before I can do that—but I can attest that this new keyboard is going to take some getting used to.

Jony Ive and his design crew could team up with some furniture designers to make the most beautiful wireless charging station the world has ever seen. 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.

There’s also a new gesture called Force Click, which is essentially a click followed by a deeper press, and can be set for specific tasks like checking the meaning of a word or seeing a map, etc. It’s like a cross between those current Apple keyboards and typing on an iPad screen, if that makes any sense—it’s got the physical feel of a real keyboard but the hard landing of hitting that glass screen. 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. 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. Apple claims that the keys are far more stable than previous keyboards, and that seems right, though I admit that I’ve never really had a complaint about the keys on my keyboard feeling unstable.

Each key cap is larger, which means they should be easier to hit—but the space between keys has been reduced, which would seem to me to be a decision that would increase the chances that your finger will hit the wrong key. My Mac laptop is for work, and I work online, so I would pay a premium for the peace of mind of knowing I could connect anywhere I can find a cell signal. Perhaps a prepaid Wi-Fi hotspot like Karma is the way to go since that could get my iPad or my Mac online, but that’s another thing I have to carry and keep charged.

Each key is individually LED lit. (Can each LED be controlled separately, so we could turn the keyboard into a bunch of blinking Christmas lights?) The Escape key has been elongated and the function keys narrowed. USB-C supports higher wattage charging, USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) data transfer and DisplayPort 1.2 all in a single connector that’s one-third the size of a traditional USB port. 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. It’s too soon to know if the changes—the keys are larger and have a new butterfly mechanism instead of scissor switches—will make it easier to type on. 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.

Also as this Mashable post notes no MagSafe charger means your precious MacBook will no longer be saved from crashing to the ground in case someone trips on the charging wire. 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. I remember being distinctly bummed that the first-gen MacBook Air released in 2008 didn’t have the light-up keyboard that I loved in my big ol’ 15-inch MacBook Pro.

It’s too early to say for sure, but if I had to make a judgment right now I’d say that I hope this keyboard stays with the MacBook and goes no further. It means that even though you’ll spend $1299 on a new shiny laptop, your Skype calls will have a terrible resolution because Apple didn’t give you a good enough camera. 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. But what Apple has implemented—a series of force sensors underneath the trackpad surface and a Taptic Engine that can vibrate the surface on demand—is a remarkable simulation of the real thing.

I’ve taken a second to look around the crowd when covering big tech events and press conferences at CES, and I always get a little thrill to see a sea of glowing Apple logos perched on the laps of rows and rows of journalists. (Especially if the press conference is, say, Samsung’s. If I hadn’t known how the thing worked, I would’ve sworn that Apple had gotten its own announcement wrong and that this trackpad was just like all of the other trackpads on other Apple laptops. That’s close to Rs 80,000 and Rs 1,00,000 for a machine that is underpowered and will definitely require adapters if you want to use say a charger and a USB drive at the same time.

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. Your brain interprets the vibration and the pressure as a downward click, even though that’s not what’s actually happening. (The vibration from the Taptic Engine is from side to side, not up and down.) This is all presumably to drive a little more thickness of out of the MacBook, but it has a fun side benefit: Now the clickiness of the trackpad can be controlled by software. A new slider in the Trackpad system preference pane lets you adjust how much force is required for a click, so you can tweak it to fit your preferences. If you pull on the cable with constant speed, or with any acceleration less than 4.8 m/s2, the connector will never come out, and you’ll dump the MacBook on the floor.

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. As a proof of concept, Apple demonstrated a version of QuickTime Player that allows you to adjust the fast-forward speed based on how hard you press on the fast-forward button.

On the version of OS X running on the MacBooks in the demo room, I could click extra hard on a word on a web page in Safari, and it would open a floating palette with a dictionary definition or a link to a Wikipedia page. (In technical terms, Apple has wired its Data Detectors technology to the Force click feature in Safari. Even if Apple does move Force touch into every trackpad it makes—which I think is likely—it’ll be awhile before a majority of Mac users can take advantage of those features. 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.

It remains to be seen just how many of its innovations make it across to the rest of the Mac product line, but Apple rarely does things halfheartedly.

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