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Inside Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: AirDrop limited to modern Macs

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 
Mac OS X 10.7 Lion introduces a new feature in the Finder named AirDrop, designed for easy file sharing between nearby systems. However to use AirDrop, you'll need a Mac incorporating hardware support for the new feature, which involves Mac models built no earlier than late 2008.

Supported Macs

Apple lists a series of Mac models that support AirDrop in a knowledge base article on the subject. Supported models include:

13 or 15 inch MacBook Pro models starting with Late 2008 (MacBookPro5,1) models (aka the Unibody design)
17 Inch MacBook Pro starting with the Early 2009 (MacBookPro5,2) model (aka the Unibody design)
11 or 13 inch MacBook Air from Late 2010 (MacBookAir3,1) models (the revised version offered in two sizes)

13 inch aluminum MacBook models from Late 2008 (MacBook5,1) (aka the Unibody design)
13 inch White MacBook models from Early 2009 (MacBook5,2) (aka the plastic Unibody design)

iMac Early 2009 (iMac9,1)
Mac Mini Mid 2010 (Macmini4,1) models (new flatter case design)
Mac Pro Early 2009 with AirPort Extreme card or Mid 2010 (MacPro5,1)

Earlier models can run Mac OS X Lion, but do not support AirDrop because they lack the WiFi hardware features to discover other machines. Apart from using AirDrop, these Macs will have to use Bluetooth file transfers or simply join the the same IP network (using Ethernet or WiFi) as the other systems they want to share files with, and use conventional file transfer protocols such as AFP, FTP, WebDAV, iChat file transfers or email attachments.

How AirDrop works

As noted in an earlier article, AirDrop has nothing in common with DropBox, a cloud-based file sharing service more akin to iDisk. Instead, AirDrop allows users to discover nearby users and share files with them directly, without needing to configure a common WiFi network.

For users who are already on the same network, it's long been possible to set up File Sharing, exchange account information and then perform file transfers. However, this involves some relatively complex technical understanding that many users find confusing, despite Apple's efforts to simplify things.

The concept of infrastructure mode networking is similar to meeting people on Facebook, where everyone logs in and can exchange messages easily, even with new people. The problem with this kind of networking, however, is that it requires a sophisticated central entity managing the network, accounts, and all of your shared messages (the job FaceBook does).

If you don't have an established network, you're now in the position of being at a party in a room full of strangers. You'll need to approach people and exchange pleasantries in person, something you won't need the infrastructure of a system like FaceBook to do. Of course, to do this, you'll need to all speak the same language, you might need an introduction, and others will have to want to talk to you.

That type of "ad hoc" networking can already be done between systems using a protocol like Bluetooth, which can introduce two devices and support simple file transfers. Bluetooth is rather slow however, and involves a layer of security that involves a PIN exchange. WiFi is much faster, but users typically use it in "infrastructure" mode, which assumes that you have a central base station negotiating the network transaction for you (and, like Time Capsule, perhaps also providing a shared disk).

Lion's new AirDrop makes basic file exchange between nearby users as simple as Bluetooth, as fast as WiFi, and as easy as drag and drop, with layers of security and personalization that combine with Apple's easily understandable user interface to make a conceptually complex task easy to initiate even for non technical users.

Three similar solutions

There's already a couple emerging standards aiming to do what AirDrop does. The developers of Bluetooth (which functions like a wireless USB link) have released Bluetooth 4.0, which speeds up Bluetooth file transfers by initiating a connection over Bluetooth and then switching to WiFi to actually send the data.

The developers behind WiFi (which is expressly designed to provide wireless networking rather than being intended to support wireless peripherals like Bluetooth) have codified WiFi Direct, a new protocol that allows a WiFi enabled device to act more like Bluetooth on the side: finding other devices, establishing a temporary secure link, and then supporting direct file transfers or printer connections, for example.

Apple's AirDrop isn't based on either protocol, but works similar to WiFi Direct. It allows Macs (and likely in the future, iOS devices) to discover nearby systems capable of AirDrop, negotiate a secure ad hoc connection via WiFi (even if both systems are already connected to different WiFi base stations), then presents a simple interface that depicts each discovered user, allowing for files to simply be dropped on an icon to begin a transfer. The receiving user only needs to accept the transfer. It's as simple as shaking hands with a stranger.



AirDrop vs Bonjour

Note that Apple's Bonjour technology (formerly called Rendezvous) does something different: it helps systems on the same local (infrastructure mode) network to advertise and discover available services (such as shared printers, iTunes or iPhoto libraries, or Apple File Server shares), without having to manually configure a centralized DNS to allow finding what's available.

AirDrop works a bit like Bonjour without an existing network, enabling discovery of non-networked systems available and willing to set up a temporary connection. AirDrop's technology is currently used solely for file transfers in the Finder, but it is potentially useful for a variety of tasks (including printing or trading contacts), especially on mobile devices.

It appears AirDrop acts like a Bonjour for SSID (WiFi network name) advertisements which other WiFi interfaces can browse and connect to, as opposed to the traditional Bonjour role of AppleTalk-like IP DNS advertisements on an established network.
post #2 of 55
And... what if you install a newer AirPort card into an older machine?

Originally posted by Marvin

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Originally posted by Marvin

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post #3 of 55
One day it will be very popular. For now, it just won't occur to people that you can transfer files just by sitting two machines next to each other. They won't even look for the feature, they will go and get a thumb drive out of habit.
post #4 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

One day it will be very popular. For now, it just won't occur to people that you can transfer files just by sitting two machines next to each other. They won't even look for the feature, they will go and get a thumb drive out of habit.

I think you're right about this being an afterthought.
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post #5 of 55
This was the one feature I was really looking forward to, but find out that it is only usable on new Macs. Of course, my Mac is not one of the ones this works on. It's a shame that when Lion was being demonstrated, the hardware limitations were glossed over.
post #6 of 55
Doesn't work on my wife's 2009 MacBook Air. That sucks
post #7 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazda 3s View Post

Doesn't work on my wife's 2009 MacBook Air. That sucks

huh
it should work



9
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beatles
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whats in a name ? 
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post #8 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by brucep View Post

huh
it should work

No, that MacBook Air isn't one of the models listed.

Originally posted by Marvin

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Originally posted by Marvin

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post #9 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by brucep View Post

huh
it should work



9

Nope doesn't work. Installed Lion on my wife's MBA (I was actually looking forward to this feature so we could quickly share files), and couldn't find her machine on my 2010 MBA using AirDrop. Then I couldn't find any references to AirDrop on her MBA.

That's when I did a Google search and found out her machine wasn't supported.

That's what I get for assuming that a relatively new Mac with 802.11n would support AirDrop
post #10 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazda 3s View Post

That's what I get for assuming that a relatively new Mac with 802.11n would support AirDrop

Macs from 2006 had 802.11n...

Originally posted by Marvin

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Originally posted by Marvin

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post #11 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Macs from 2006 had 802.11n...

Hence relatively new

All the other 2009 era Macs get Air Drop.
post #12 of 55
I used Airdrop on two late 2008 MacBooks. I tried to copy over a 1GB video file. It was slow as hell for some reason. It was going to take an hour. I cancelled the copy after a few minutes. I have no idea why it was so slow. I would assume it would use .11n to transfer, but it was slower than that. I would think it would take 15-30 minutes at most. The machines were literally inches away from each other.

Both computers are connected to the same .11n wireless network. I wonder if it was sending the data through the access point instead of directly?

*edit* Strange, I just tried it again and now it says it will take 22 minutes. Hmm.
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post #13 of 55
lets see what the community comes up with to see if there is a way to enable this feature.
post #14 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

lets see what the community comes up with to see if there is a way to enable this feature.

It's a hardware capability. The community can come up with putting newer AirPort cards in older computers.

Originally posted by Marvin

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post #15 of 55
That's a pretty long article that never actually explains how airdrop works.
post #16 of 55
Thats too bad. I guess its like how the newer AirPort/TC hardware can run dual networks at the same time. Older models cant. Seems like the WiFi chips in Macs must have seen a similar upgrade at some point. Great software application for an obscure hardware feature, I must say!
post #17 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by l008com View Post

That's a pretty long article that never actually explains how airdrop works.

Though not in detail specifically to AirDrop it did however made comparison between existing technologies. BTW, this article was written to let people know the compatibility and not to explain in great detail. Perhaps you could do some independent further reading like smart people/intellectual would do. DED mentioned about WiFi Direct and Bluetooth 4.0. That would be a start.
post #18 of 55
Suck.
post #19 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by dcorban View Post

I used Airdrop on two late 2008 MacBooks. I tried to copy over a 1GB video file. It was slow as hell for some reason. It was going to take an hour. ..... The machines were literally inches away from each other.

You don't want the computers to be too close to each other. Have the machines a few meters from each other and see if it makes a difference.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcorban View Post

Both computers are connected to the same .11n wireless network. I wonder if it was sending the data through the access point instead of directly?
*edit* Strange, I just tried it again and now it says it will take 22 minutes. Hmm.

That could be part of the problem, but it was my assumption Airdrop bypassed the router. Another possible reason could be that Airdrop requires setting the hardware into *p2p mode in place of *infrastructure mode. If you were sending data on the internet the hardware might have been switching back and forth between the two modes. To test this, turn off your router and try again.

When working you should be able to maintain close to 10 MBytes/sec transfer rate. This results in the file taking 2 minutes to transfer. At 22 minutes something is wrong.

*Note, a lot has changed with 802.11 so this might or might not apply.
post #20 of 55
Two things came quickly to mind (well, three, but the third is a bit off-topic…):

1. My first thought was regarding AirDrop connections to iOS devices. Aside from file transfers, I use my iPad as a remote controller/instrument for composing/producing music… Apps like TouchAble to remote-control Ableton Live, and many others, most of which are dependent on having a "server utility" running on the desktop to aid in the connections. Since CoreMIDI support was added to iOS, many can now use an ad-hoc WiFi network directly via an Audio-Midi Setup session, no extra utility required… but it's still a few more hoops to jump through than I'd like…

Since AirDrop essentially emulates a 'temporary ad-hoc network', it seems it could do the same job as the current ad-hoc network arrangement, just minus all the setup part? I hope AirDrop support gets added to iOS, and we can replace the ad-hoc network setup steps… just "plug and play" networks as you need them...

2. Security. Bluetooth isn't too bad, I haven't heard of devices getting hacked over an open "invitation" port on Bluetooth. So maybe it isn't any less secure using Bonjour/AirDrop? I turn off the SSID broadcast on my WiFi network, and also run in stealth mode… I prefer not to invite casual hackers by revealing my network… maybe over-paranoid, but there it is.

I just wonder how long it will be before someone hacks open an AirDrop connection? Are there any potential "holes" there? I might not want to walk around publicly announcing my connected machine everywhere I go...
post #21 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

And... what if you install a newer AirPort card into an older machine?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

It's a hardware capability. The community can come up with putting newer AirPort cards in older computers.

True, but the modification may be cumbersome or costly just to get AirDrop

Quote:
Originally Posted by l008com View Post

That's a pretty long article that never actually explains how airdrop works.

Amazing, isn't it. The first question everyone is asking would be how the heck does it simultaneously access the infrastructure (base station) network while also making a "custom" ad hoc network.

The second question is what is the hardware that is required to do this? I think people will be rifling through the tear downs of all the models and maybe looking at the chips used.

I lucked out, got a new MBP 13" 2010 model at a bit of a discount just as the MBP 13" 2011 models came out (hence the lower price on the 2010 models). Sure, only a 2.4GHZ Core 2 Duo but I got mah' Nvidia 320M not Intel Craphics and Lion 64bitness is purrrring along. And AirDrop too! Woot.
post #22 of 55
Oh, forgot the third …

I'm far from a great writer but… this post author has been posting quite a bit lately (a new writer for AI?)… his posts aren't bad, but there are a few grammatical pet peeves I have (pardon the OCD) that he triggers regularly. One of them so consistently, I decided to comment…

"There's already a couple emerging standards aiming to do what AirDrop does."

My old English teacher would've told me pretty directly, 'this is a horribly constructed sentence!' and sent me back to rewrite it…

So here we go. "There ARE already a couple…"

I notice he uses "a couple <item>" quite often in his articles… but please, it's "a couple OF…"

So rewritten, "There are already a couple of emerging standards aiming to do what AirDrop does."

Still not great, but less "lazy" feeling… and it doesn't trigger the "grammar marm" in me ))


I've noticed quite a few new contributors to AI lately. And a huge increase in fairly glaring spelling and grammar errors… quite a few articles look as though there has been no proofing or editing done at all…

AI folks? One of the reasons I come here first and most often is the quality of your writing, not just the topics. You need a good proof-reader and a good editor as part of a strong "journalistic" team… please keep the quality of your content AND delivery high! I'm sure I'm not alone in appreciating what you've been doing so well, for so long now…

sorry for the nit-pick… I'm done )
post #23 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by tribalogical View Post

Two things came quickly to mind (well, three, but the third is a bit off-topic):

1. My first thought was regarding AirDrop connections to iOS devices. Aside from file transfers, I use my iPad as a remote controller/instrument for composing/producing music Apps like TouchAble to remote-control Ableton Live, and many others, most of which are dependent on having a "server utility" running on the desktop to aid in the connections. Since CoreMIDI support was added to iOS, many can now use an ad-hoc WiFi network directly via an Audio-Midi Setup session, no extra utility required but it's still a few more hoops to jump through than I'd like

Since AirDrop essentially emulates a 'temporary ad-hoc network', it seems it could do the same job as the current ad-hoc network arrangement, just minus all the setup part? I hope AirDrop support gets added to iOS, and we can replace the ad-hoc network setup steps just "plug and play" networks as you need them...

2. Security. Bluetooth isn't too bad, I haven't heard of devices getting hacked over an open "invitation" port on Bluetooth. So maybe it isn't any less secure using Bonjour/AirDrop? I turn off the SSID broadcast on my WiFi network, and also run in stealth mode I prefer not to invite casual hackers by revealing my network maybe over-paranoid, but there it is.

I just wonder how long it will be before someone hacks open an AirDrop connection? Are there any potential "holes" there? I might not want to walk around publicly announcing my connected machine everywhere I go...

Bluetooth as implemented on mobile phones is quite insecure, I'm sure some of us have seen Bluetooth viruses being sent around in the pre-smartphone era. You have your phone on BT discoverable and bing! Somebody sent you something... Oh look, it's a virus! I wonder if that has changed. Anyway the range is poor compared to WiFi.

But yeah, quick Googling doesn't reveal how AirDrop might be enabled or disabled. Strangely it is not in the Sharing Preference Pane.
post #24 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I think you're right about this being an afterthought.

That's not what he said.
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post #25 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by tribalogical View Post

AI folks? One of the reasons I come here first and most often is the quality of your writing...

post #26 of 55
Lots of parentheses in the story, unnecessary ones. A lot of what is written in parentheses can be easily rewritten without them, or even dropping the parentheses in favor commas. Oh well.

I looked through the WiFi direct white paper, there doesn't seem to be anything in WiFi Direct that requires special hardware on a computer. I can't quite grasp what hardware feature this requires.
post #27 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by tribalogical View Post


One of the reasons I come here first and most often is the quality of your writing

LOL
Good one.
post #28 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by tribalogical View Post

Oh, forgot the third

I'm far from a great writer but this post author has been posting quite a bit lately (a new writer for AI?)

No, not a new writer. Quite the opposite actually. One of the most Pro-Apple at this! This post is actually pretty neutral! But look for in depth reviews of Apple products or technologies and you'll see he quite likes the fruit!

Not that I complain! That's why I read it!
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post #29 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by tribalogical View Post

Oh, forgot the third

I'm far from a great writer but this post author has been posting quite a bit lately (a new writer for AI?) his posts aren't bad, but there are a few grammatical pet peeves I have (pardon the OCD) that he triggers regularly. One of them so consistently, I decided to comment

"There's already a couple emerging standards aiming to do what AirDrop does."

My old English teacher would've told me pretty directly, 'this is a horribly constructed sentence!' and sent me back to rewrite it

So here we go. "There ARE already a couple"

I notice he uses "a couple <item>" quite often in his articles but please, it's "a couple OF"

So rewritten, "There are already a couple of emerging standards aiming to do what AirDrop does."

Still not great, but less "lazy" feeling and it doesn't trigger the "grammar marm" in me ))


I've noticed quite a few new contributors to AI lately. And a huge increase in fairly glaring spelling and grammar errors quite a few articles look as though there has been no proofing or editing done at all

AI folks? One of the reasons I come here first and most often is the quality of your writing, not just the topics. You need a good proof-reader and a good editor as part of a strong "journalistic" team please keep the quality of your content AND delivery high! I'm sure I'm not alone in appreciating what you've been doing so well, for so long now

sorry for the nit-pick I'm done )

LULz! u must b a n00b here! nobody in internets speak teh kingz english!
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post #30 of 55
Your old english teacher would be wrong to do so. A couple is a single unit, so is treated as a singular. Note 'a couple'.

One couple is two people.


Quote:
Originally Posted by tribalogical View Post

Oh, forgot the third

I'm far from a great writer but this post author has been posting quite a bit lately (a new writer for AI?) his posts aren't bad, but there are a few grammatical pet peeves I have (pardon the OCD) that he triggers regularly. One of them so consistently, I decided to comment

"There's already a couple emerging standards aiming to do what AirDrop does."

My old English teacher would've told me pretty directly, 'this is a horribly constructed sentence!' and sent me back to rewrite it

So here we go. "There ARE already a couple"

I notice he uses "a couple <item>" quite often in his articles but please, it's "a couple OF"

So rewritten, "There are already a couple of emerging standards aiming to do what AirDrop does."

Still not great, but less "lazy" feeling and it doesn't trigger the "grammar marm" in me ))


I've noticed quite a few new contributors to AI lately. And a huge increase in fairly glaring spelling and grammar errors quite a few articles look as though there has been no proofing or editing done at all

AI folks? One of the reasons I come here first and most often is the quality of your writing, not just the topics. You need a good proof-reader and a good editor as part of a strong "journalistic" team please keep the quality of your content AND delivery high! I'm sure I'm not alone in appreciating what you've been doing so well, for so long now

sorry for the nit-pick I'm done )
post #31 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by gari22 View Post

Your old english teacher would be wrong to do so. A couple is a single unit, so is treated as a singular. Note 'a couple'.

One couple is two people.

I will admit I slept through most of High School English, but as I recall, a couple was only a single unit when not modifying another noun -- in this cast though it would be an adjective.

noun usage -- A couple walked along the beach at sunrise.

Adjective usage -- A couple OF kids knocked on my door for candy last Halloween.
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post #32 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by a_greer View Post

I will admit I slept through most of High School English, but as I recall, a couple was only a single unit when not modifying another noun -- in this cast though it would be an adjective.

noun usage -- A couple walked along the beach at sunrise.

Adjective usage -- A couple OF kids knocked on my door for candy last Halloween.

I usually dodge that problem by rewriting it:

Two kids knocked on my door for candy last Halloween.
post #33 of 55
Regarding the grammar: It's only wrong to you if you think it's wrong. Inkswamp said it best (see my sig).
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post #34 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by gari22 View Post

Your old english teacher would be wrong to do so. A couple is a single unit, so is treated as a singular. Note 'a couple'.

One couple is two people.

An Old English teacher would have thought it all incorrect and likely felt that modern English was, in fact, woefully degraded from the pure English of the 8th century.

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post #35 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Regarding the grammar: It's only wrong to you if you think it's wrong. Inkswamp said it best (see my sig).

If one is constantly stumbling over the bad grammar then it is both wrong and poorly written. They're not arbitrary rules, either.
post #36 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hudson1 View Post

If one is constantly stumbling over the bad grammar then it is both wrong and poorly written. They're not arbitrary rules, either.

1) I stumble over the other 6000 active languages I don't know, but that doesn't make them wrong or poorly written, it just means my comprehension and understanding is poor.

2) Rules are made up. There can be some universals between man that decides what is natural or right the way kiki and booba are universally understood but that's not a rule, that's psychology. If you don't think so tell me why there is an additional letter on 'wake' for the 3rd of these sentence: "I wake up", "They wake up", "She wakes up". It feels wrong to use "She wake up" but it's arbitrary.
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post #37 of 55
I actually thought my on-topic observations were more interesting… but instead I started a long grammar discussion! Oi vey!

I agree, "couple" can indeed be used as a 'singular noun', as in "they are a couple"... and it can also be a verb, "trains and humans often couple". In this article, it's being used more like an adjective, e.g. "a couple OF trains (coupling discreetly…?)". In this case, "of" is the 'standard' separator… it's omitted pretty commonly in spoken (U.S.) English, but not typically in the written form.

It's personal preference mostly, but I really don't care for "spoken English" being applied informally to "written English" (unless it's creative fiction, and advances the story, e.g. "A Clockwork Orange")… there's a differentiation there that keeps the written word more readable and understandable. When it lapses into mirroring the spoken word, it looks and feels (and simply IS) sloppy… especially in a journalistic context…

That's all I'm sayin'… :P


So, how about Airdrop security? Will it hold up? Bonjour seems to be pretty solid, so maybe it's "safe" enough to use out in the wild? Ya think?
post #38 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

Lots of parentheses in the story, unnecessary ones. A lot of what is written in parentheses can be easily rewritten without them, or even dropping the parentheses in favor commas. Oh well.

I looked through the WiFi direct white paper, there doesn't seem to be anything in WiFi Direct that requires special hardware on a computer. I can't quite grasp what hardware feature this requires.

To quote that feeble smartass:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Splash-reverse View Post

Perhaps you could do some independent further reading like smart people/intellectual would do.



You want to know what hardware feature this requires?

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4783

MacBook Pro (Late 2008 or newer)*
MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
MacBook (Late 2008 or newer)*
iMac (Early 2009 or newer)
Mac Mini (Mid 2010 or newer)
Mac Pro (Early 2009 with AirPort Extreme card, or Mid 2010)
* The MacBook Pro (17-Inch Late 2008) and the white MacBook (Late 2008) do not support AirDrop.

post #39 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

An Apple logo?

I guess. But Airdrop doesn't appear to be or use WiFi Direct. Not that I'm sure about that part.
post #40 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by a_greer View Post

I will admit I slept through most of High School English, but as I recall, a couple was only a single unit when not modifying another noun -- in this cast though it would be an adjective.

noun usage -- A couple walked along the beach at sunrise.

Adjective usage -- A couple OF kids knocked on my door for candy last Halloween.

I believe the above is correct. At least for British, Australian and "proper" English taught in the colonies and ex-colonies of the British Empire.
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