​A blog/journal about my life and the stuff I like. Popular subjects include music, guitars, gear, books, movies, video games, technology, humor.

Filtering by Tag: Computer Hardware

I'm (re)Macified...

Just about finished with the transition from WinPeaCe o' junk to iMac Pro. Two 2 TB SSDs to handle sample libraries and scratch disks with two 6 TB SATAs for archive and non performance sensitive storage. I finally managed to get all four monitors working and the external cd drive is ripping "Bad Music for Bad People" and "To Pimp a Butterfly" (no, I'm not abandoning rock, good music is good music) as I type. QOTSA reminded me of Bad Music, not sure why I didn't have that in my collection.  Now I can finally get back to some real, uninterrupted work. Not to worry, Ear Training for Live Performance is monopolizing all waking hours so new songs/videos for a few months at least.

Not a review as such…

…but a reflection. I made a recommendation to a potential Mac buyer on the Native Instruments forum (software synth makers, among other things) based on my positive experience with the Mac so far. It resulted in a flame from a fervent winsciple about how NI products (and software in general) run so much better on Windows compared to OSX (Mac). He quoted several "tests" that supported this notion by demonstrating CPU efficiency improvements with the same products under both operating systems.

He even admitted to owning a Mac Pro, but stated that he bought it to run Windows because the Mac Pro is "just a windows pc with mac labeling" or words to that effect. He had told the potential buyer he should get a Win pc because of the so called improvements for NI products. Oddly, he didn't state that buying a Mac would actually be the best solution if you truly believed the numbers since you could have the option of running either OS, unlike Win PCs which can't run OSX.

To make a long story short, although I doubted his claims I attempted to load the programs in question into my Windows drive on my Mac (yes, I do run Windows under my mac, but mostly just for a couple of games I can't run on OSX). Scratch a perfectly good Saturday out of my life for that. I spent most of the day loading the programs, and then found I couldn't get my audio interface to work for more than a few minutes before it quit responding and resulting in three BSODs before I called it quits.  I think there may have been an eventual solution and I should add that I have Vista which isn't fully supported yet.  

It just demonstrates the amount of additional hassle that any Windows related operation involves. I had truly forgotten what it's like to need a regular tweak of various components in your computer just to keep it running. I have been using the Mac for a couple of months now, and with the exception of a program update every couple of weeks, I don't have to do anything except turn it on and use it. It's really as simple as turning on a television or other appliance.

The bottom line is that my personal experience with the Mac has mostly lived up to the hype. The thing works, and it works well. It's not perfect, and I have had a few hiccups along the way, but they all were sorted out in very short order.  I can't see ever going back to a Win PC except to run work related stuff if I can't avoid it at home or the odd game that isn't released on Mac.

Innovation - Touchscreens

Microsoft has been making the rounds with a new touchscreen technology (article & video) that will debut later this year, mostly in commercial applications. It's somewhat reminiscent of the interface shown in "Minority Report" a few years ago, where they would manipulate images and video with their fingers on a screen. It will eventually make it to the home user (good luck guessing how much it will cost) although it will probably be several years. This is going to be a much more intuitive way of using a computer, much like the way you would handle items on your real desktop such as a pen, paper or photos. It also allows multi-user access so that multiple peope could sit around a surface and interact whether it's playing games, ordering food at a restaurant or something more creative. Very cool.


Mac - So Far, So Good

After 3 days of migrating files, installing updates, downloading new programs that can't be transferred to the Mac from Windows, etc., I am finally getting close to functionality with my new system. I type this post from Wordpress running on my new Mac, and it was relatively painless. As is typical for me with computers in general, I can't describe the exact steps of how I got here in that I think most of the web server specific installs were already completed the first time I started using wordpress, but I did install a couple of programs that were necessary for me to interface from my Mac. I think it was MAMP and XAMPP that did the trick, although other than downloading, installing and turning them on, the actual functionality was lost on me. I'm guessing they were necessary for me to be able to actually run Wordpress from within my Mac browser (Safari) but anything they do is essentially under the hood as far as I'm concerned. The beauty of Wordpress is that once you get it installed, it's really no more difficult to use than a word processor/web browser. Which is nice.  Now that I'm getting close to having all the programs I had previously (whether using the same program for OSX like my Native Instruments soft synths, or using an equivalent like Transmit for FTP in place of Cute FTP which I used on the pc)  I can start delving into the Mac specific stuff as well as getting back to my routine of practicing guitar and writing music. My initial experiments with my music programs have been promising as they have installed with ease, and so far they have sounded better to my ears (with a nod to subjectivity) while putting absolutely no load on the quad core system I'm running now. More to follow. 

Mac - Anticipation

For all my fellow circuitheads, today is one of the more geektastic days that comes along every once in awhile. My new desktop computer is in a Fedex truck as I type this and it should be on my doorstep sometime today. Even more exciting is that it's an Apple Mac Pro which is my first Mac ever and it's basically geekmas in May. I know I'm going to suffer some sort of letdown because I can only think of all the great things that will come along with this system and I'm not concerned about any serious technical hurdles. In fact, my hope is that it's going to run so much smoother than my Windows PCs have that even if there are some glitches or temporary problems they will seem inconsequential compared to all the advantages of speed, efficiency and ease of use. 

The only negative right now is that where I live Fedex is consistently problematic in their deliveries.  UPS is like clockwork every time, delivering everything before noon without fail and that's with probably a couple dozen of deliveries in two years.  Fedex makes home deliveries in my area from about 40 miles away and it always seems like the driver is unfamiliar with the process (I live on a military base) and it usually adds a business day or two to the delivery because they often give up at the first sign of difficulty. There are multiple entrances to our base but they are not all open all the time. In the past, if a driver pulls up to a closed gate they usually just turn around and say they couldn't get in without trying to call and find out if another gate is open. Hopefully that won't happen today. If it does, I probably will have to wait four more days because of the holiday weekend. I don't know if it's because Fedex uses independent contractors (and therefore gets different drivers unfamiliar with the area more often) or what because they do seem to be the only carrier service that has this issue (DHL also has never had a problem).  

Mac Community?

Now that I have a mac on the way, I'm inclined to start behaving appropriately so that I can fit in once I get my system.  I'm going to have to grow my hair longer, slouch more and start acting superior (the latter won't be such a transition). :)  Don't sniff, you've seen the commercials as well unless you've lived in a cave for the last few years. I find the idea of a mac community somewhat laughable as it is just a computer, but considering the overwhelming popularity of even more trivial activities like some of the social networking sites, I guess it's not as irrelevant as it seems.

I see the value in most web based activities, but I don't understand the relative importance anything like this plays in someone's life. If you use a certain piece of equipment or have a hobby you want to share with others the web is really the best place to network with others. But, too often people need to separate themselves from others as a means to establish their individuality and a common result is a mac user flaming a pc user or vice versa. I think both sides can argue for their advantages, but it's really irrelevant in the grand scheme.

I think demographically the Mac community is usually a little more wealthy, educated and artistic. I'm not making that up, I've read it in several places and here is an example of one study. That sounds like I just called the pc users poor, ignorant, and boring to boot. I don't relate education directly to mac use, but I think it's established that with wealth goes education and the likelihood of artistic pursuits (not counting the starving artists out there, I think those with more money usually have more opportunities).  So, because Macs cost more on average, I think the other statistics follow, and that's making no value judgment on the mac vrs a winpc. 

If pc users are less educated, etc., then so am I because I have been a winpc user for the last 15 years with an Amiga 500 as my last non-mainstream computer system.  It's difficult to say if a large portion of the loyal mac users are just sticking with what they know as opposed to actually analyzing the pros and cons of a mac vrs pc.  I think that most mac users are more familiar with pcs vrs the other way around.  In the case of musicians, it's very true that they are usually less willing to change once they have a working system hence the overwhelming predominance of macs and the related hardware/software within the professional recording world. It's probably the same reason that Fender and Gibson guitars still have such large market shares, when there are dozens if not hundreds of great guitar companies.

There’s no going back

Well, actually there probably is, but it sounded dramatic anyways. I have somehow talked my better half into allowing me to purchase an Apple Mac Pro Desktop system which is due for assembly and shipping in the next week or so.  In the last two years my typical computer based activity has been predominately music and to a lesser extent, video centered.  That combined with the fairly recent change of all Apple processors to Intel (allowing windows to be run natively) has made the decision to change platforms more appealing and decidedly less risky. 

My main reason for change is the (by all reports) much more stable and intuitive operating system, and the same user friendliness of the major software programs.  I am looking at a couple of the mid level audio/video programs to start with since my needs are still fairly simple and because the full featured programs start to get prohibitive from a cost standpoint (especially if you're just a hobbyist like myself). One other positive aspect of the change is that my comprehensive software sequencer package from Native Instruments (Komplete4, Kore, Guitar Rig 2) will run on Mac as well as Windows, so I will be able to transfer all that software over, and most likely it will run as good if not better on the Mac. 

The majority of programs I use regularly for practicing, composing and recording will all run on Mac. The only major exceptions are my DAW (Sonar) and Video Editing (Premiere Pro) programs. Considering that I have been relatively unhappy with the performance of both, I don't think I will miss them even if I start off with less featured programs.  I hear good reviews of even the most basic programs (Ilife with it's packaged software that's targeted at consumers) so I'm optimistic that the starter versions of the standalone audio/video editors will suit my needs well.

New Gear, New Frustrations

We just upgraded our camcorder to the Canon HV20 and so far it has been living up to the mostly positive reviews it received. It has better low light performance than our previous Sony camcorder (an older model from 2001) and the high def footage has looked very good. My biggest problem with it so far isn't the camera itself, but trying to upload and manipulate the footage on my computer.

I have a fairly recent vintage (early 2006) Gateway XP machine with a 3.0 gHz processor, 2 gigs of RAM, and a Nvidia 7600 GS Video Card with 512mb RAM which is decent. However, the uploading and then processing within video software is very slow at best. I have jumped back and forth between Adobe premiere and the plain vanilla Windows Movie Maker, and for the most part I have had better luck with the novice friendly Movie Maker. I make sure not to run any other programs, but even then the process of encoding and then exporting the video and audio is very slow. I don't have a good baseline to compare it to and since the source material is HDV, it may not be unreasonably slow.

I am holding off on my next computer because I have decided to changeover to Apple now that they can run Windows pretty well with the Intel processors and boot camp.  I know they are due to release Leopard later this year and it seems like they will also be offering new hardware (quad core and higher laptops) as well. I am hopeful to finally have a system that will be fast (and stable) for music and a/v production, which (in my experience) the Windows machines haven't been.