Apple's MacBook Air support docs reveal one-of-a-kind solutions

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Without a built-in optical drive or a user-replaceable battery, the MacBook Air requires several unusual solutions that may stymie experienced Mac users -- including special tricks for resetting the SMC and installing Boot Camp. Apple's new support documents reveal these and more.



The sealed-in nature of the MacBook Air's battery prevents Apple from simply asking users to remove the battery pack and hold down a power button to reset the System Management Controller in last-ditch troubleshooting, according to Apple's support article on the subject. Instead, users have to issue a unique keyboard and power button combination and are encouraged to plug in into AC power where MacBook and MacBook Pro owners are cautioned against the same step.



The Mac maker nonetheless sends mixed news of what's possible with the Air's currently unique Remote Disc feature. Significantly, users can not only run Apple Hardware Test from data stored on the new MacBook itself but also from a Mac or Windows PC using Remote Disc: the installer application for Mac OS X includes a keyboard shortcut to run the test, with results appearing on the MacBook.



However, those hoping to use another computer as a complete substitute for an optical drive will be disappointed. While it's already known that Remote Disc can't be used for playing music CDs or DVD movies, a new support document confirms that a USB CD or DVD drive is absolutely essential for Boot Camp: though the Air can boot or install Mac OS X over a network, neither Windows XP nor Vista can recognize anything but a USB drive on the MacBook Air, Apple notes.



The company also cautions that the remote installation feature for Mac OS X won't work with WEP encryption enabled on a wireless network. Owners must either use WPA or switch off security altogether to install the software.



Other information revealed by Apple's new support documents:

The Migration Assistant reveals a numeric passcode system similar to the secure media sharing interface from the Apple TV or on Macs using Front Row.Apple highly recommends using the USB Ethernet adapter, rather than Wi-Fi, for the Migration Assistant; the wired connection is "significantly" faster, the company says.Ejecting discs from a Windows Remote Disc PC is no different than for a Mac; in fact, the Windows PC provides no warning when this happens, creating a potential surprise for anyone using the Windows system.Some potential technical problems have also surfaced. In extremely hot environments, 3D performance may slow down as the Air throttles or shuts down one of the CPU cores to reduce heat.Owners who haven't yet installed QuickTime 7.4 may experience jittery video in Photo Booth.Some speakers and other audio devices may not fit the headphone jack due to the small space afforded by the swivel-out port hatch.Lastly, the user guide (PDF) notes that the system's mono speaker is hidden underneath the keyboard, and that the display should not be opened past 125 degrees.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 72
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 2,033member
    I have been a defender of the MacBook Air, but after reading this article, I'm a bit disappointed about some of Apple's decisions. For them to repeat a mistake, such as not fully supporting all 3.5mm audio jacks (as was the case with the iPhone, as well), is such a shame. A slightly different shape of the flip-out ports would've avoided that.



    Does the first-generation iPod shuffle fit into the USB port?



    Introducing new keystrokes to do tasks that have been consistent on all modern Macs until now is a bit worrisome.



    Shutting down a CPU core due to heat issues... another tradeoff of form over function.



    We'll see how this plays out.
  • Reply 2 of 72
    Quote:

    Does the first-generation iPod shuffle fit into the USB port?



    Hmm, you never seen a first-generation shuffle before? My sis has one and it fits into a USB port.



    Like I said the MBA is form over function. Those who thinks want to do stuffs that requires high pc usage should forget about the MBA and go for the MB or MBP. If this is the drawback of being ultra thin, I dont mind the MB or MBP become thinner (the only way I can see them being thinner and not comprimise in function is by apple using LED screen for MB or MBP)
  • Reply 3 of 72
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 2,033member
    I own the USB shuffle. It never fit into the eMac USB ports, which was a widely-reported issue, and the MacBook Air has restricted space around the USB port, so I was wondering if the same applied to it.
  • Reply 4 of 72
    sounds to me like its a lot of trouble for this "thinness"....



    is it worth it???



    i am beginning to think its no longer worth it. It is more like a toy laptop than a work laptop...



    dont get me wrong, i think its an awesome product.. but its not for working...
  • Reply 5 of 72
    Dont mind the battery, cause i dont use it more than 2 hours.. but all this restriction about usage is really off-putting..
  • Reply 6 of 72
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by coolfactor View Post


    Introducing new keystrokes to do tasks that have been consistent on all modern Macs until now is a bit worrisome.



    Shutting down a CPU core due to heat issues... another tradeoff of form over function.



    Who resets the SMC often enough to REMEMBER the old key command? I've never done it in my life. If fact, the change with the Air is a change for the better: now it's only a key command, not a key command plus removal of the battery.



    As for the heat response--it's not a tradeoff if it happens only in very hot environments. It's likely a rare response. ANY laptop would benefit from some defensive cooling in that case. Shutting down one core in that case is a feature, not a trade-off. Just because something has a tech note doesn't mean it's a problem.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by coolfactor View Post


    Like I said the MBA is form over function. Those who thinks want to do stuffs that requires high pc usage should forget about the MBA and go for the MB or MBP. If this is the drawback of being ultra thin, I dont mind the MB or MBP become thinner (the only way I can see them being thinner and not comprimise in function is by apple using LED screen for MB or MBP)





    Really the Air is function-over-function. ALL Macs are pretty nice in the "form" department Air offers portability and speed instead of portability and lots of ports (like the competition) or instead of all 3 (like a larger notebook).



    And I do mean speed: the Air has CPU performance in the same league as a many dual-G5 towers. The tiny HD will load a bit slower, but 2 GB RAM is enough to keep the HD from running constantly. Dual 1.6 Ghz 64-bit Intel Core 2 processors is nothing to sneeze at. Most Macs out there working away in the world are slower than that. The Air is the slowest Mac now sold--but they don't make any slow Macs!



    Some people certainly need more (speed or ports) and sometimes carrying an external hub will do the job, sometimes not. Some people will therefore want a different MacBook. Some people want even MORE speed and need a Mac Pro tower. But I use my Mac for a lot of high-end tasks, and 1.6 Ghz dual cores with 2GB RAM is all I need. I'll even run some 3D games, at reduced detail.



    The MacBook Air's lost ports don't necessarily subtract any function. There's really just two things you can't get done at all with the Air's limited ports: you can't connect a high-speed RAID at full speed and you can't get footage off of a DV camcorder without using another computer to transfer. That's it. Everything else you can do via the USB port (hubs are cheap) or--better yet--wirelessly. If you need to carry a ton of peripherals everywhere you go, then adding 2 more (hub and optical drive) is the least of your worries: your computing is never going to be ultraportable.



    There are still people who cannot do what they need to do with an Air. (And a lot more who THINK they can't--and will never be happy with any brand of ultraportable--obsessed as they are with spec lists.) They are the minority, since most Macs (and PCs) out there have less power than an Air, and people are obviously getting done what they need. But the Air is not enough for some power-users and gamers. For others, a constant need for many peripherals adds inconvenience. Stick with a MacBook Pro. No question.



    But for the rest of us... the Air's trade-off, really, is price vs. portability. If the portability is not worth hundreds to you, then grab a regular MacBook. Ultraportables are just one small segment of the notebook market, and you're not in it.



    I am in it, and I'm not alone--that's why ultraportables existed even before Apple joined the market. That level of portability IS worth hundreds to me. (Especially since the Air costs less than many slower Windows ultraportables with smaller screens yet larger by volume.)



    If you're like me, be glad that Apple now has an option for you! If you're not the market, don't lose sleep over it: there are other MacBooks for you.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ros3ntan View Post


    dont get me wrong, i think its an awesome product.. but its not for working...



    It's got plenty of power for "working:" I'll be using it for 3D modeling, Photoshop, Flash, app development (Mac and Windows), office productivity, etc.--all things that I've done on machines slower than dual-1.6 Core 2s. As have many others. And even on my (slightly-faster) desktop iMac, I "only" have 2GB. It's plenty for most "work." In some cases 4GB is nice, but it's hardly a common requirement.



    PS: I assumed I'd get the Ethernet dongle and the SuperDrive. Then I realized I haven't used the optical drive or wired network with my current laptop in over a year! Guess I'll save some money instead. All these "limitations" may not sound like much if you really stop and think how often you really DO the things that are limited. If they're the exception, as with me, then the limitations may well be more than worth it. Enjoy the portability the rest of the time! No subnotebook is without compromises. If Apple released something like Sony's, we'd be moaning about the tiny screen, cramped keyboard/trackpad, and slow performance. Apple simple picked different compromises.



    And the port hatch isn't arbitrary: it lets the Air be tapered to nothing at ALL edges. That's a part of its small volume and easy portability. If a certain USB device is too bulky, that's nothing new: plenty of other laptops have needed short extenders for that reason. Bulky USB devices often come with the extender in the box for that very reason. I like the extender anyway: I don't want a rigidly-attached box sticking out of my USB port waiting to be broken.
  • Reply 7 of 72
    eckingecking Posts: 1,588member
    None of these are surprising, in fact most of that should be expected.
  • Reply 8 of 72
    More and more I think this is a toy for the the style over substance type.....



    Not for me. Give me a loaded black MacBook any day!
  • Reply 9 of 72
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by riversky View Post


    More and more I think this is a toy for the the style over substance type.....



    Not for me. Give me a loaded black MacBook any day!



    Subtle but ingenious. Two thumbs up!
  • Reply 10 of 72
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wheelhot View Post


    Hmm, you never seen a first-generation shuffle before? My sis has one and it fits into a USB port.



    I think you misread the post. He'saware of teh 1st gen Shuffle's USB plug. He's also aware that the MBA's USB port is very cramped, hence his question.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    Who resets the SMC often enough to REMEMBER the old key command? I've never done it in my life. If fact, the change with the Air is a change for the better: now it's only a key command, not a key command plus removal of the battery. <snip>



    Nice post. It's unfortunate that I've heard Macs users calling the MBA "too slow" while they are still using their antiquated PPC Macs. Is there any 3lb. notebook that even comes close to the MBA's performance? I haven't seen any.
  • Reply 11 of 72
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ecking View Post


    None of these are surprising, in fact most of that should be expected.



    Maybe someone with more than passing knowledge about PC would expect that, I know I saw a whole hornets nest of issues with the AIR and have been saying so since. The problem is not everybody has the background to evaluate something on technical terms and are often lead astray by Apple marketing. In this case it wouldn't have been to difficult for Apple to be up front with respect to the performance limitations of the product. In the end it would prevent the coming lawsuits that some idiot will use to make up for his ignorance.



    The AIR biggest problem is that it is a bundle of compromises and as such one needs to be careful when buying as there is a high likely hood it might not meet your needs. It is not a single compromise that is the trouble causer here but rather the sum total of all the limitations. $1700 is a lot of money to throw out for something so marginal.



    Dave
  • Reply 12 of 72
    ytvytv Posts: 109member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by riversky View Post


    More and more I think this is a toy for the the style over substance type.....



    Not for me. Give me a loaded black MacBook any day!



    Nice hand =)
  • Reply 13 of 72
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


    Maybe someone with more than passing knowledge about PC would expect that, I know I saw a whole hornets nest of issues with the AIR and have been saying so since. The problem is not everybody has the background to evaluate something on technical terms and are often lead astray by Apple marketing. In this case it wouldn't have been to difficult for Apple to be up front with respect to the performance limitations of the product. In the end it would prevent the coming lawsuits that some idiot will use to make up for his ignorance.



    The AIR biggest problem is that it is a bundle of compromises and as such one needs to be careful when buying as there is a high likely hood it might not meet your needs. It is not a single compromise that is the trouble causer here but rather the sum total of all the limitations. $1700 is a lot of money to throw out for something so marginal.



    Dave



    It's common knowledge that smaller computer tech offers less performance and costs more, just as it's common knowledge that computer tech get more powerful, smaller and less expensive as time goes by.
  • Reply 14 of 72
    This story is one big "yawn" if you're in the market for something like the MBA.



    You are required to use WPA rather than WEP? "...tricks for resetting the SMC and installing Boot Camp" or "....users have to issue a unique keyboard and power button combination blah blah" are problematic? So, ".....neither Windows XP nor Vista can recognize anything but a USB drive on the MacBook Air"? ".....mono speaker is hidden underneath the keyboard, and that the display should not be opened past 125 degrees."



    This is such "inside baseball" esoterica for most MBA buyers.
  • Reply 15 of 72
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by riversky View Post


    More and more I think this is a toy for the the style over substance type.....



    Not for me. Give me a loaded black MacBook any day!



    What is the substance in this story for most typical Mac users?



    And, I suppose a white Macbook does not pass muster with your style considerations?

  • Reply 16 of 72
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post


    What is the substance in this story for most typical Mac users?



    And, I suppose a white Macbook does not pass muster with your style considerations?



    I think he was joking with inclusion of "black MacBook".
  • Reply 17 of 72
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


    In this case it wouldn't have been to difficult for Apple to be up front with respect to the performance limitations of the product.



    What "performance limitations" has Apple not been up front about? Nearly everything we know about the Air, including the items in this article, comes from Apple. Including the speed of the CPU: 1.6 or 1.8.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


    The AIR biggest problem is that it is a bundle of compromises and as such one needs to be careful when buying as there is a high likely hood it might not meet your needs.



    That is indeed what an ultraportable is. You buy it for portability, and that has always been a trade-off.



    Some people may think Apple should not offer any model for people who want an ultraportable. Why not? I want an ultraportable, and I'm glad Apple now has an option for me.



    It's like saying there's a high probability that a 17" MacBook Pro is not the best choice for you. Does that mean Apple shouldn't offer such a model to anyone?
  • Reply 18 of 72
    adjeiadjei Posts: 738member
    Again if you don't like it, don't buy it, some of us like it the way it is and will be getting one, we don't need to hear your constant complaining about it.
  • Reply 19 of 72
    pomopomo Posts: 51member
    2GB of RAM is too slow?



    Honestly, it was about 2 years ago that 512 was the norm. Heck I thought that was a good amount of speed at the time. I would use my PC to render 3D and film footage at a good speed, and this computer wasn't even a dual. It's funny to me that people think that dual 2GB or RAM is enough for emailing, browsing the web, or listening at music while writing a paper on word.
  • Reply 20 of 72
    I think this iteration of the laptop is probably going to mostly be used by a lot of road warriors and people that want to be seen with it, as with any first generation Mac product.



    Apple is still fixing and adapting iPhone technology as more people use it.



    But I swear to God Apple, pick a connector and stick with it. If I hear about another version of a connector that's introduced on a machine I'm going to scream.







    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ros3ntan View Post


    sounds to me like its a lot of trouble for this "thinness"....



    is it worth it???



    i am beginning to think its no longer worth it. It is more like a toy laptop than a work laptop...



    dont get me wrong, i think its an awesome product.. but its not for working...



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