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5/17/2006
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Apple Fixes Firmware, Leaves Users Confused

Although Apple said the update was to System Management Control firmware, it was up to MacBook Pro users to figure out that SMC is the specialized controller that manages thermal and power conditions and is in charge of running the portable computer's fans.

Apple Computer Inc. quietly issued a firmware update Tuesday for its Intel-based systems that users said fixed overheating problems in the MacBook Pro notebook, which has been plagued with heat and noise issues since it was introduced in February.

The firmware fix -- available directly from Apple's download site or retrieved automatically via Mac OS X's Software Update mechanism -- was released without fanfare and with virtually no details. The update's explanatory page, for instance, neglects to actually say what the update does or is supposed to fix.

That left Mac users guessing. The title of one thread on Apple's own support forums told the tale: "What the **** is this new SMC Firmware update for MBP?"

"Thanks Apple, nothing says we love our customers like posting an update, AND NOT TELLING US A SINGLE FREAKING clue what it fixes," raged one user identified as 'Cizer.' "Or would that just mean you'd have to admit some of the issues we've been having?"

Although Apple said that the update was to "System Management Control (SMC)" firmware, it was up to MacBook Pro (MBP) users to figure out that SMC is the specialized controller that manages thermal and power conditions, and is in charge of running the portable's fans.

Within hours of the update, users began reporting that the update seemed to increase the MacBook Pro's use of its fans, and using diagnostic tools, claimed that their machines were running up to eight degrees cooler.

"The fans are now working like they should," wrote another user, dubbed 'interval,' after he/she had installed the update. "Although the computer is much louder when being taxed, it's much much cooler. In fact, the area above the f-keys is just warm to the touch because the fans are actually forcing the air all the way out of the machine."

MacBook Pro users have been posting heat-related complaints to Apple's forums since early March, not long after the portable's debut, with some claiming that the computer got literally too hot to handle.

Other MacBook Pro complaints -- that the portable makes an irritating whining sound, which in some cases is joined by a mysterious "mooing" noise -- have or haven't been fixed by the update, depending on which forum thread one reads.

Earlier indications Tuesday were that the fix did silence some MacBook Pros' whining, but by Wednesday, the tide had turned, with most users claiming that they still heard the sharp sound.

Some Mac enthusiast sites have called for a massive phone-in by MacBook Pro users on Saturday, May 20, to voice their complaints to Apple support.

Apple did not respond to a request for details on what problem(s) the firmware update fixes.

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