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Comparing New to Old, Apple 17″ MacBook Pro is Sweet

Today the 17 inch MacBook Pro joined its younger siblings with a unibody construction. While many of the improvements were expected — based on the existing unibody models — and there are some worthwhile performance enhancements, Apple also had a couple of nice surprises in store. Let’s take a look…

Expected Unibody Improvements

First and foremost, for the same base price of $2,799 as yesterday, the new 17 inch model provides the following:

  • Solid unibody construction. We’ve learned the unibodies are indeed very solid and seem like tanks. The 17 inch takes that even a step further, as we’ll see below.
  • Dual core processor at 2.66GHz (up from 2.5) on a 1066 MHz bus (up from 800MHz)
  • Utilizes fast DDR3 memory at 1066MHz.
  • It is actually about a tenth of an inch smaller in width and depth, and also two-tenth of an inch thinner. Yes, these are pretty small improvements, but for a device so big any relief is better than none. (Recall that the 15 inch model actually got slightly bigger in unibody trim.)
  • The wonderful glass track pad with gesture support.
  • The improved 9600M mobile graphics with 512 MB video memory (same as the high-end 15 inch model).
  • 9400M mobile chipset and graphics for very good performance while saving an hour of battery life.

On the down side, the new model loses the separate FireWire 400 port, getting by with just the one 800 port (which supports 400).

Further, the new model uses the mini Display Port, which means to use it with your existing screen you’ll need to by a new adaptor.
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Californians Reject Energy Props, Could Get High Speed Rail

Californian’s have rejected propositions 7 and 10 which would have increased renewable energy targets and given incentives for alternative fuel vehicles, respectively. Meanwhile, the prospect of a high-speed train is getting stronger as prop 1A leads with more results still coming in.

A Voter’s Guide to California’s Cleantech Propositions

Election day is a week away, and voters have dozens of state and city propositions to acquaint themselves with before stepping into that voting booth. This year in California there are three state propositions that affect renewable energy and because they’re so important we decided to dig into the details and help you navigate the deceptively complicated language and make the greenest decisions. Why California? — the state leads the nation in cleantech investing, and, well, we’re based here, too. (So, we threw in a look at a San Francisco proposal for good measure).
Proposition 1A: Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond.
What it proposes: In 1996, the California High-Speed Rail Authority was created to plan and build a high-speed rail system linking California’s major cities. The total cost was estimated at $45 billion, funded by federal, state and local governments, as well as private sources. Proposition 1A proposes raising $9 billion to build the section of the rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco and another $950 million for other state and local rail lines.
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Picken’s Water Plan Dries Up, Blows More Steam Into Wind

After eight years trying to convince Dallas that it could only keep watering its lawns in a drought if it would pipe in water from West Texas, everyone’s favorite billionaire T. Boone Pickens has officially put his water pipe dream on the back burner. Instead, Pickens is focusing on his Plan, which calls for a combination of wind and natural gas, hoping that an increase in energy generated by the former will free up the latter for natural-gas-fueled cars. In recent weeks, he has spent $58 million on ads touting wind power and been photographed shaking hands with every Democrat in the country (much to the chagrin of Fox News).

In the late ’90s, Pickens took advantage of a uniquely Texan law that allows the state’s residents to buy up underground water rights — whether they own the land on top or not. He bought up enough water rights to establish his little corner of the Ogallala Aquifer as a fresh water district, which would have allowed him to invoke eminent domain in order to build a giant water pipeline from West Texas to Dallas. Read More about Picken’s Water Plan Dries Up, Blows More Steam Into Wind

T. Boone, Prop 10 and the Questionable Effect of Natural Gas Cars

The LA Times story that knocked the green halo off T. Boone Pickens’ head, with its spotlight on Pickens’ funding of California’s Prop 10, generated a lot of heated comments from readers. This morning the Wall Street Journal takes a crack at the story and points out some more interesting details.

The Prop, which would gives thousands of dollars in rebates to natural gas vehicle buyers, as well as spending on R&D, will supposedly cost California $9.8 billion over 30 years and would come from taxpayer money. The WSJ says, if the prop passes, it could lead to a million natural gas vehicles for California; if the Prop is defeated then natural gas vehicle backers will have to compete — against cleaner alternatives like electric vehicles — for the $840 million in funds under law AB 118. In a vacuum natural gas cars sound OK, but it’s hard to justify spending on dirtier-burning natural gas vehicles when those funds are directly competing with “zero emission” alternatives, like electric cars powered by a solar grid.
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Boingo goes flat. And that’s good

Looks like common sense is finally prevailing in the for-fee Wi-Fi business.

Boingo Wireless, a Wi-Fi aggregator is launching a flat rate Wi-Fi plan for the entire planet, which seems like a first step in Wi-Fi price war, and that is just great, repeat great news for the consumer at large. Boingo is introducing two tiered plans – 29 and 39 Euros a month that would allow travelers Wi-Fi Internet access on all Boingo-affiliate networks across the planet, according to The International Herald Tribune.

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Another 256 MB Tablet: HiPAD II

Hipad_ii Call me crazy, but I have a hard time getting jazzed about Tablet PCs with 256 MB of RAM. Having said that, the new kid on the block appears to be the HiPAD II, which looks more like an Etch-a-Sketch than any recent new product; at least the red model does. This is another AMD Geode LX800-based Tablet PC running on, you guessed it, 256 MB of RAM which is actually on-board. You can upgrade the memory to a GB, so all is not lost, but it concerns me that consumers might skimp on memory to add other features and then become totally disillusioned by a Tablet PC for all the wrong reasons. [Hint: don’t skimp on the RAM]

The 10.4-inch touchscreen is only SVGA capable natively, but the HiPAD does have a few perks that not all smallish tablets have: PCMCIA slot, Compact Flash, two USB 2.0 ports and an integrated fold-out stand. No word on price, but this looks geared for the Far East market so we may not see one in the flesh.


Intel Macs Going Into Production?

Quanta and Asustek will be the main manufacturers of Apple’s Intel based laptops, according to a news report in EMSnow. Apparently, the big ramp on production is likely to come sometime in the first quarter of 2006.

Quanta and Asustek are the main ODM notebook partners of Apple. Quanta is responsible to high level model, Power Book and Asustek is in charge of entry level model, i-Book. This working module for Intel ODM will maintain for next year. Asustek will work on the consumer type of products and Quanta will be in charge of high-level model M1.

How real this story is, its hard to say. You can read it and decide for yourself.