Macworld 2009 Preview

Macworld, the expo for new Apple and 3rd party products, will be January 5-9th. As usual, everyone is speculating about what new products might be coming.


The new 13.3″ MacBooks and 15″ MacBook Pros arrived September 2008, leaving the 17″ MacBook Pro still to be upgraded.

The iMac is expected to get a big upgrade with the new Intel chips announced today. The Mac Mini should be updated as well.

There have not been many rumors about a new Mac desktop, but it is possible that the Mac Mini could be redesigned to better fit some standard desktop components and reduce costs. This could be a return of the Mac Cube.

Also not expected, an Apple netbook (small and relatively cheap) is a possible new product that has been speculated about. But with a MacBook Air already being so thin, the role of a small Apple laptop is taken. Apple does not typically try to compete on price in the low end of the market. Perhaps a small touch screen laptop (an iPod Touch-like device) could be on offer.

Operating System

The computer updates should be adding new dedicated GPUs (graphics cards) so that Apple’s entire line can take better advantage of the upcoming Snow Leopard OS X 10.6 which will allow applications to use GPUs for non-graphics tasks. Snow Leopard’s new capabilities, mainly under-the-hood improvements for stability and speed, are expected to be a big part of Macworld.


The iPod Nano, Touch, and Classic were updated in September 2008, so no updates are due. The Shuffle has received several color lineup changes, but has not really changed since September 2006. With many new small and cheap competitors, Apple could update the Shuffle or just continue to slowly lower its price.


There are rumors from case manufacturers that a new iPhone Nano with a smaller body will be coming out. This is a heavily debated topic, as many Apple fans believe this doesn’t make sense. But Wall Street analysts expect an iPhone Nano to be arriving soon.

The iPhone 3G has been at 8 and 16GB models since its July 2008 introduction.  A jump to 32GB would be logical in early 2009, especially since the iPod Touch can have 32GB. The sale of 8GB refubished models currently at $99 also supports the move to higher capacity models.

No Steve Jobs

A big concern among Apple fans is that MacWorld will not have a keynote by Steve Jobs. Instead VP of Marketing Phil Schiller will be keynoting on Tuesday January 6th at 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. PST. The unfounded speculation is that this is because Steve Jobs is having health problems, perhaps related to his pancreatic cancerous tumor which he had removed in 2004. This story was revived again today with a new “reliable source” saying that Steve’s health is a bigger problem than we realize.

Even if this is the case, we should remember that Steve’s personality and views are now a part of Apple. He made his return to Apple in 1996, when Apple purchased his company NeXT to use in their new OS X operating system. Steve Jobs setup an executive team that includes award winning designer Jonathan Ive, who created the iMac, aluminum PowerBook G4, MacBook Pro, iPod and iPhone. The executives share Steve’s vision and would be able to carry it out even if he had to step down as CEO.

Apple says that this will be their last Macworld. They appear to be trying to tamp down the fanfare and anticipation of new products, replacing it by regular new product introductions that better fit their schedule.

Acer Aspire One #1 Netbook

Our current favorite small netbook, the Acer Aspire One, is now the #1 selling netbook according to 3Q sales numbers as reported by DisplaySearch.

We expect competition to become only more fierce with companies continuing to flood the market with new models. Over the past week we just saw major price reductions from Lenovo whose IdeaPad S10 is now going for $349. HP similarly cut prices.

At some point, there could also be a response to the netbook market from Apple, either in a smaller screen laptop, a lower cost MacBook Air, or a tablet (a large iPod Touch?). While Apple has historically stayed away from cheaper products, this is the fastest growing part of the computer market.

Despite Acer’s loads of new netbook models released over 2008 (such as the recent Eee PC 1002HA), Asus gained market share with its simpler lineup with the Aspire One. See the full results below.

Acer Aspire One running Windows Vista

The Acer Aspire One is a fun little netbook, but it’s just not fast enough to run Windows Vista. That’s why Windows XP was included instead of Vista. Right? Well, I put that to the test and found that by modifying Vista as I described earlier, Vista runs great on the Aspire One.

It actually ran more fluidly than Windows XP did. I attribute that mainly to Vista’s support of:

  1. the Atom chipset’s hyperthreading. XP Home does not take full advantage of the chipset.
  2. ReadyBoost, a Vista feature that uses a flash drive to cache and speed up random reads that would otherwise go to the hard drive.

See this video of my Aspire One showing the speed of opening several applications:

Aspire One BIOS Update Version 3304

The Aspire One currently ships with BIOS 3301 even though there is a later version.  Unfortunately, they do not provide very good instructions on how to upgrade or exactly what the new BIOS fixes.  The rumor is improved fan control.  To install the update, perform the following steps.

Create a FreeDOS bootable USB flash drive

Once you have your USB flash drive, be sure it is formatted FAT32.  Then download the program UNetbootin.  Start up UNetbootin and select the Distribution FreeDOS.  Then towards the bottom select your USB drive letter and click OK.  The drive should now be bootable.

Acquire BIOS 3304

You can download the 3304 BIOS here.  Extract the contents of the zip file and copy them to the USB flash drive.

Boot off the USB drive and install

Start up the Aspire One and hit F12 until the boot screen appears.  Choose to boot off of your USB drive and you will see a UNetbootin screen where you can select default.  You will then see 5 boot options.  Select #5 FreeDOS Live CD only.  Once booted, you’ll be at a DOS prompt on drive A:\.  Change to C:\ by simply typing “C:\”.  You should then be able to see the contents of your usb drive by typing “dir”.  Then type “cd ZG5_3304” if that is the directory where you put your BIOS files.  Then the last step is to type “3304.BAT” to run the install script.  A progress screen will appear.  The install should take less than a minute.


Once the flashing of the new BIOS is complete you can reboot.  You can remove your USB flash drive.  Press F2 at boot to get into the BIOS and confirm that System BIOS Version says v0.3304.


If you encounter any problems, the most likely cause is your usb drive.  You can try to reformat your drive or use a different usb flash drive.

Acer Aspire One RAM or Hard Drive Upgrade

Aspire One Upgrade Options

The Acer Aspire One comes with 1GB of RAM and a 160GB SATA Hard Drive.  For an idea of its performance, please check out this video.  RAM can be upgraded to 1.5GB by replacing a 512MB stick with 1GB. We recommend the Kingston PC2 4200 1GB Laptop Memory.  The hard drive can be upgraded with another 2.5 inch SATA hard drive such as the Western Digital 320GB 5400 RPM Scorpio.

Performing these upgrades are not a simple matter as you have to completely take the netbook apart.  Do this at your own risk.  It is also a lengthy process so be sure you set aside a good hour of time.


Once you’ve picked out your new RAM or hard drive, you’ll be ready to begin the upgrade.  In addition to a screwdriver, you will need a credit card.  You may also want some bowls to organize screws that get removed and enough space to place removed components.  It is also a good idea to use a towel to cover the screen during the process.  If you are upgrading the hard drive, you will be losing all the data on the included drive.  If you are installing from scratch, then you have nothing else to do.  If you want to duplicate the included OS on the original drive, you will need to run the dd linux command to copy it to your new drive.  To do this, you will need a 2.5 inch external USB SATA enclosure to put the new drive in to copy to.  If you are unfamiliar with this, it is a very similar process to duplicating the drive in a Tivo.

Step 1 – Remove bottom screws 

Flip over the Aspire One so that the bottom is accessible. There are 6 obvious screws to remove on the bottom of the Aspire One.  In addition to that, there are two hidden screws under the back rubber feet.

You will need to peel off the back rubber feet to get to those screws.  I used pliers to slowly peel up the rubber feet.  Try to not touch the sticky side so that they can be reapplied after.  When done, they reapply rather easily.  The 3 screws from the back and front are different sizes to be sure to organize them correctly.

Step 2 – Lift up keyboard 

Flip the Aspire One over so the keyboard is facing up.  There are three clips holding the keyboard down by the F2, F8, and Pause keys.  You need to push these clips back and down with a credit card so they are no longer visible.  After doing this, the clips may pop back up and need to be redone.  Once they are all back, you can slide the credit card under the keyboard to pry it up.  Do not put the credit card under the keys but under the keyboard.  You can then slide the credit card around the sides prying the entire keyboard up.

Step 3 – Unplug keyboard and remove more screws 

Lean the keyboard forward to expose where it is plugged in towards the center.  This cable is held down with a clamp that is on top of it.  You can flip this up to release the connector.  The keyboard should now be loose and can be put aside.  Right below the keyboard connection is a smaller similar connector for the trackpad.  In the same manner, flip up the clamp which will release the trackpad cable.

Step 4 – Remove top panel surrounding keyboard 

Towards the back left above the AC plug is the best place to start prying open this panel.  Push the credit card between the panel and the base to begin prying it open.  Then slide the card completely around the panel which will free it so it can be removed.

Step 5 – Unplug, unscrew, and remove motherboard 

The video cable is towards the upper left. It is held down with tape so first pull up the tape and then pull out the connector.  Towards the bottom middle is another cable held down with black tape.  Lift up the black tape and then slide out the connector leaving the cable dangling.  Towards the bottom right is the Wi-Fi card.  To the right of the card are 2 cables plugged into it.  Unplug these by pulling them directly up then leave them dangling.  The Wi-Fi card is held in with one screw.  Unscrew it and the card will be easy to remove so you can set it aside.  There is a main board to the left and a daughter board to the right.  The main board has just one screw towards the bottom and the daughter board has three screws.  All of these screws need to be removed.

Step 6 – Replace RAM and/or Hard Drive 

You can now flip up the boards to expose the underside where the RAM and hard drive are.  The RAM is on the left and is held down in the typical way with prongs on the sides.  Remove the 512MB card and insert your 1GB card.  It is in properly if the prongs fit into the notches on the card.  The hard drive is to the right and can be separately unscrewed to replace.

Step 7 – Put it all back together 

By this point, hopefully you’ve kept all the components and screws well organized because you just have to do everything in reverse.  When putting the boards down, be sure you have everything flush and tightened so there is enough room for the keyboard to go back in on top of it.  Don’t forget to plug all connectors back in so review the above steps to be sure you do.  The panel around the keyboard will snap in as will the keyboard itself by applying a little pressure.  Before screwing in the bottom screws, you might want to boot up to make sure everything is working.