Nvidia to Launch Beta Mac Drivers for 10 Series GPUs

Nvidia made a surprise announcement this week. No, its not that TITAN Xp graphics card. Yes, it will definitely appeal to serious gamers with near unlimited budgets, but let’s be honest, Nvidia one-ups itself on a fairly regular basis. The real shocker is the other announcement that came with it: Nividia would be releasing beta Mac drivers for its GeForce 10-series chips based around its Pascal architecture.

Nvidia has released its own Mac drivers in the past. The MacBook Pro I’m currently using is using the Nvidia driver rather than Apple’s own. The interesting part is that the newest official Apple machines capable of using these cards are the 5,1 model Mac Pros released in the middle of 2010 and updated in 2012. These machines are nearing the end of their lifespan, have outdated I/O and honestly, the owners are not likely to upgrade them with modern video cards. These cards are not meant for the Mac Pro.

Where does this leave us? With two very grey markets. The first is Hackintoshes. While not a huge market, Apple’s lack of a up to date tower has left some niches of Mac users to take matters into their own hands and install MacOS onto DIY computer hardware. Since Intel’s desktop and mobile platforms usually share an architecture, and thusly drivers, its possible to make some fairly update to date and power homemade Mac clones. There are plenty of resources on the web, so I’m not going to tell you how. The one catch has been the graphics cards. Since Nvidia has fallen out of favor with Apple as of late, there have been no shipping Macs or graphics card beyond the 900 series. The Pascal drivers allow those Hackintoshes the latest and greatest 10-series cards in Nvidia’s stables.

Hackintoshes aren’t the only Macs the could benefit from the 10-series. With the advent of Thunderbolt 3, external GPU solutions for laptops are finally accessible. Not only that, but since the bus is bidirectional, TB3 can allow the eGPU to use your laptop’s own screen. There’s two catches. 1) The external enclosures tend to cost almost as much as the graphics cards themselves. This isn’t an option for the faint of budget at the moment. 2) Apple does not support external graphics options officially or otherwise. While there are options to enable external graphics support through terminal commands, if you fry your new $2500 MacBook Pro, you’re on your own.

All the grey areas aside, Nividia making these cards available to Mac users willing to live on the wild side is an exiting development. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes

Source: Nvidia

The Fuss over Thunderbolt MacBooks Is Much Ado About Nothing

There was a rumor that new MacBook Airs and Pros were slated to be announced on October 27th. That rumor became fact yesterday when Apple announced the first major redesign to the MacBook Pro line since WWDC 2012 and the first laptop to be completely rely on Thunderbolt 3 and USB-Type C. How will be the transition from USB Type-A and Thunderbolt 2 to the single connector of USB Type-C? Its not going to be near as difficult as the media may lead you to believe.

USB Type-C is just another USB

USB Type-C is NOT replacing USB. USB-Type C IS USB. its just USB that is smaller and more flexible. What that means is everything still works. You may just need a different cable for it. The USB standard has multiple different connectors: The two most common varieties are the standard Type-A and Type-B as they exist in USB 1.0 and 2.0. They are the rectangular connector on your computer, the smaller connector on your printer, and the cable that runs between them. Your Garmin has Mini-USB and your cell phone has Micro-USB. There’s also modified versions of these for USB3.0 that have more pins for faster speeds. In addition to connector types, USB is available in speed ranges from 12Mbps in USB 1.0 all the way up to 10Gbps in the newest USB spec USB 3.1 Gen 2.

That’s far too many connector types. the Type-C connector was designed to replace them all with a single connector that could be used anything from cameras to phones to computers to even You don’t need any kind of adapter, you can just buy a cable with USB-C on one end and your printer, hard drive, audio interface, etc will work as it always has. This is more akin to the transition from Firewire 400 to Firewire 800 or DisplayPort to MiniDisplayPort than legacy ports to USB.

Availability of Type-C

The USB Type C is nothing new at this point. Its available on two generations of the Retina MacBook, most middle to high end PCs bought in 2016. A quick check online shows Belkin, Apple, and other branded cables of various types of cables available from your typical who’s who of big box retailers. Online sources like Amazon and Monoprice go even further. Its also fairly easy to find a a USB power supply that will work with your MacBook or PC of choice. Yes, with USB-C being non-proprietary you can grab any power supply you want as long as it produces enough power for you PC.

Here is the one caveat: There are multiple reports of USB Type-C cables that do not meet spec. If ordering from from Amazon, make sure your cable is on Engineer Benson Leung’s List for full compliance. This isn’t an issue you should find in retail stores though.

Availability of and Need for Thunderbolt 3

If I have to be honest, this is where the sticking point will be. Cables are available, but devices are not outside of external graphics enclosures for gaming PCs. Complicating matters is that Thunderbolt 3 is essentially a new ecosystem. The only real devices prior to launch were a couple RAID enclosures, some docks, and a few rather pricy and bulky Thunderbolt 1/2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapters. Apple made it a bit easier with their own Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter which is far less bulky and half the price of third-party options at $50. The Apple cable is bidirectional so it can not only adapt your Thunderbolt 2 devices to a new MacBook Pro (and presumably everything else going forward), but also take future Thunderbolt 3 devices with the USB-C Connector and use then on your existing Mac.

Right now Thunderbolt 3 is nowhere near as mature an environment as the USB Type-C. Further more, in its latest form, USB-Type C has gained speed and computer to computer networking that were previously Thunderbolt’s territory. The number devices that need a Thunderbolt connection may not be as many in the future.

Apple is right to be pushing ahead here. The future is one connector to rule them all. All transitions have some degree of difficulty. Thunderbolt 3 has to exist in the wild before devices exist for it. Same with Thunderbolt, FireWire, SCSI, and whatever exited before that. You may not want to get into new I/O at this time and nobody is forcing you to. If you’re not ready to move on, there is no shame in that.

Its The Era of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3

New MacBooks with New I/O isn’t something to fear, it’s just time. Apple isn’t putting an undue burden on its users, as I’ve shown here, unless you have a large Thunderbolt accessory collection, its not really much of a burden. USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are going to make your lives a lot easier. Let’s embrace that instead of wasting time resisting an inevitable change.

#CES2016 Acer Introduces Insane 2-in-1 with Thunderbolt 3.

Imagine a 12.5″ Windows 10 tablet with a 6th Gen Silverlake Core M CPU. Now imagine that that tablet has a dock for a keyboard. At this point you have a standard 2-in-1 with maybe a little more kick with the Core M instead of an Atom. Now add Thunderbolt 3 to that mix to make it compatible with high end storage & I/O devices. Next, let’s use some of that Thunderbolt 3 bandwidth for an external discreet graphics card. You have machine that goes from bit tablet to mini-workstation. This isn’t theoretical or a concept, Acer is actually nuts enough to build this and they’re calling it the the Aspire Switch 12 S. They have my attention.

As I said in the opener, the Switch 12 S has a 12.5″ screen with a pair of options: 1920×1080 Full HD or an option Ultra HD, yes as in 4K, display at 3840 x 2160. 4K on something that can be used as a tablet is utterly insane. Either option has Gorilla Glass 4 with further Acer enhancements to maximize viewing angles and reduce eye strain. They’re flanked with Dolby-Premium compatible speakers Acer is calling True Harmony. Power is provided by the aforementioned 6th generation Intel Core M though Acer did not specify which ones. For I/O you have two full size USB 3.0 ports, Micro-HDMI, MicroSD, and your standard 3.5m audio jack. Its also has a 720P front camera and a 3D Intel Realsense R200 on the back. Memory is either 4GB or 8GB and you can have 128 or 256GB of solid-state storage. Its super light too weighting under 2 pounds as a tablet and just over 3 with the keyboard dock. Speaking of said dock, it uses Smart Hinge gold connections that secure magnetically while providing 6gbps transfer speeds and charging the keyboard. In other words, its designed to be a tablet when its a tablet and a laptop when it’s a laptop. For other accessories, that afore mentioned optional external graphics haven’t been fully fleshed out as for as details, but it’s coming. It won’t make the Switch 12 S a gaming PC, but it will give it a boost for gaming and professional graphics work.

The next two questions are pretty obvious: When and how much? Its be available next month, February 2016. but the exact date has not been released. Pricing for the base model is a very affordable $999, but it’ll go up from there once you add the really intriguing options.

Acer has come with a really intriguing option that lives in multiple worlds. Hopefully The Acer Aspire Switch 12 S will live up to its great promise.

Source: Acer

Thunderbolt 3 Takes of the Best of USB Type-C and Turns it up to 11

I have to admit, with the invention of USB 3.1 Type-C, I wondered where Apple and the rest of the professional PC market was going to go.  USB-C took a lot of Thunderbolt’s advantages and put them into a connector that’s not much better than a Micro-USB or Lightning connector.  Intel made a lot of the ambiguity go away with today’s announcement of Thunderbolt 3.  Its faster, more capable, and completely compatible with USB 3.1 Type-C.  Apple’s future got a lot clearer.

The Mini-DisplayPort connector used by Thunderbolt is tiny compared to even HDMI and USB Type-C makes it look like a pig.  Thunderbolt had some advantages especially with professional customers since its direct to the PCI-E bus, but for consumers, the reversible connector of USB-C, 10Gbps data, DisplayPort and HDMI over a single cable, and gives you 100w of power.  In other words it takes every great great about USB 3.1, doubles the speed, makes it smaller, and combines it with both your display cable and your power cable.  USB-C is both more capable and more flexible.  Because of this, sooner rather than later you’ll see Thunderbolt 3 replace USB Type-A ports on computers, MicroUSB ports on phones and tablets, 12v power ports, and if I were a betting man even Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector.  It makes too much sense not to.  As for Thunderbolt, it features a couple of features that USB-C does not such as a faster data rate and lower latency with its own dedicated chip and peer to peer communication.

Thunderbolt 3 uses a combination of all of the advantages above and adds PCI-E 3.0 to the mix for up to 40Mbps of data bandwidth.  That’s double Thunderbolt 2 and Quadruple that of USB 3.1.  Its fully backwards compatible with USB 3.1 Type-C devices and gives the same 100w of power for computers and up to 15w for bus powered accessories.  It doesn’t stop there.  Thunderbolt has built-in 10gig-E ethernet in addition to the existing Thunderbolt peer to peer protocols.  It has a full 8 DisplayPort lanes that can drive twin 4k displays at 60hz.  It gets even better, while external graphics solutions were toyed about unofficially with Thunderbolt 1 & 2, Thunderbolt 3 officially supports external graphics cards for giving your laptop a little more umph.  This is especially huge if you have a laptop with Intel or AMD integrated graphics.

When will you see Thunderbolt 3 laptops, I expect later this year or early 2016.  With the USB Type-C compatibility,  there isn’t a whole lot of reason not to add it to the next revision of desktops, desktop replacement laptops, and (mobile) workstations that already use Thunderbolt.  For Apple, fully expect it to show up in the next revision of their computers.  It could also make sense to move Thunderbolt more mainstream.  PC gamers will appreciate the external graphics capability and people that don’t want to use Thunderbolt just have another USB-C port on their computer.  We have seen the future.  USB-C is the future with Thunderbolt evolving to become a higher-end version of that standard.  Its a commonsense solution that combined with much improved capabilities will benefit everyone.  I, for one, am excited about the future.

Source: Intel