Daniel Eran Dilger
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New Unibody MacBooks get new CFL, but not QuickTime X

Daniel Eran Dilger

The Energy Saver icon in System Preferences has changed from a light bulb to, appropriately, a CFL on the updated software that ships with new MacBooks. However, the slight update is not a significant operating system change. The system reports itself as still being Mac OS X 10.5.5, albeit build 9F2114 rather than the 9F33 that shows up as the latest update on other machines.

Rumors say Apple has slipped portions of QuickTime X into the build of Mac OS X shipping on the new laptops in order to unlock GPU hardware codec acceleration, but that’s not the case, here’s why.
New MacBook Pro H.264 decoding improved via plugin, not QuickTime X.

The new MacBook’s NVIDIA 9300M chipset controller supplies a GPU core that can accelerate H.264 in hardware. Taking advantage of NVIDIA’s “PureVideo HD” support for H.264 GPU hardware acceleration is not at all dependent upon QuickTime X however. It only requires a plugin to QuickTime that replaces the standard software codec with code that spins the work off on the GPU. There are several hardware accelerators already being sold that do just that.

QuickTime X is a cleanly rewritten media playback-only software stack based on code originally developed for the iPhone. It does not really have anything to do with H.264 hardware acceleration on GPUs, and certainly not NVIDIA’s, which is not even similar to the PowerVR MBX 3D GPU embedded in its ARM processor.

QuickTime supports extension through a “component” plugin architecture to support virtually any codec, so writing a codec that optimized encoding via available GPU features shouldn’t come as a surprise.

A closer look at Apple’s move to NVIDIA chipsets, DisplayPort
iPhone 2.0 SDK: Video Games to Rival Nintendo DS, Sony PSP
WWDC 2008: New in Mac OS X Snow Leopard

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  • x23

    i noticed the CFL icon earlier today and got a bit of a laugh out of it. thought it was pretty clever of Apple… even *icons* of lightbulbs should be upgraded to environmentally sound CFLs.

  • droughtquake

    If Apple had been consistent, they would have used an old-fashioned fluorescent tube for all previous iBooks and PowerBooks and non-LED MacBooks. There’s still time to make the change…

    (Would it be possible for a hacker to do this by editing resources?)

  • Shunnabunich

    @droughtquake: You certainly wouldn’t have to be a “hacker” to replace the icon, as it isn’t embedded in the preference pane’s binary or anything like that. :) You can do it very easily yourself, assuming you have a replacement icon handy.

    In Finder, navigate to /System/Library/PreferencePanes, right-click on EnergySaver.prefPane, and select “Show Package Contents” from the menu that appears. In the new window that opens, go into the Contents folder, then Resources (much like any app), and find the EnergySaver.icns icon. This is what you’d need to replace to customize the preference pane’s appearance on System Preferences’ “home screen”.

    It looks like the preference pane icons have image resources for 16×16, 32×32 and (presumably to gear up for resolution independence) 128×128 pixel sizes. I’m not sure how effective an icon of a straight fluorescent tube would be, though, as it would essentially just look like a line unless the user made the effort to look closer. The incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs have a distinctive shape that cues the user in as to its meaning without them having to study it.

  • gus2000

    Interesting that OSX is sharing the benefit of iPhone development. Where are all the pundits that insisted the iPhone OSX wasn’t really UNIX and couldn’t possibly have anything in common with the Mac?

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    They’re busy crying over $800 Macs.

  • talonhawk

    Did anyone else notice that trackpad preferences have been spun off into their own pane?

    I haven’t used any new MBs in person, so I’m curious to know if its more/less intuitive to have trackpad setting not under Mouse/Keyboard.

  • nat

    @ talonhawk,

    I’d suspect Apple wants to draw more attention to the new MacBook and MacBook Pro MultiTouch trackpad gestures, which might otherwise be ignored if hidden under the Keyboard & Mouse pane.