the Mac Pro upgrade that Apple forgot

talk about the past calling… it looks like Apple intended to upgrade the Mac Pro a while ago and FORGOT! an article from [forgotten and dead news site] lists XEON processors that speed bump the Mac Pro into “the new” category as the W3565 and E5645. these CPUs were released in 2009 and 2010. here are the exact release dates according to the wikipeidia page on the XEON family of CPUs:

W3565 released 2009-11-01
E5645 released 2010-03-16

links the Intel processor specs…

W3565 4 core XEON
E5645 6 core XEON

making the iPhone camera better revisted


the coolest thing about the iPhone camera is that it’s the only camera that we have that gets better as time goes by. just about every other camera is feature complete when it comes off the assembly line. the things it can do are the things it does and that is it. there may be a firmware update to fix things that don’t work but we don’t see them often. and we do it’s unlikely that there would be a new “mode” to try out. the iPhone doesn’t work that way. there are thousands of camera apps extending the camera into something more. things like panoramas, high dynamic range, visual effects and 3D are all apps that take a normal snap to extend it’s interpretation.

making your iThing a better camera is not really as simple as downloading a new app and pressing the shutter. to say that everything is different is an understatement. for example the first time playing with 360 Panorama made a horrible image. the second time wasn’t much better. it took some practice to get a panorama that was something worth sharing. all of the apps below are like that. it won’t take you long to get the hang of things but you don’t want to have your first experience with your new “camera” to be the time of important event.

here are some of our favorite iPhone and iPod Touch applications.

Camera Plus vs Camera+ is two different cameras.

360 Panorama is a very free form pano tool. it’s like painting. hold snap move repeat.

DMD Panorama from Dermanda forces the camera to be vertical. as you move to the next stitch watch the two ghosts come together and then it snaps (how zen).

Plastic Bullet and Classic Insta have two very different goals. one of these is slow. the other is fast. one makes gorgeous printable snaps. the other is classic crap cam emulator.

Plastic Bullet from Red Giant is 2 bucks – err 1 buck for a limited time. it’s very slow but makes a nice effect. use it after the snaps are taken for better results.

CIassic INSTA simulates crap cams from the 70s. it has the same 19 effects but put the snap on the different borders is based the “camera” being used to snap. the looks are are frameless, polaroid LAND camera, 90 something and square framed. it’s fast enough so you can just shot and go.

related to the INSTA is the Classic SAMP which emulates a LOMO Action sampler or LOMO Super Sampler. you simply must know this film cam! pull the cord to prime the shutters. snap, snap, snap, snap! unlike the film cameras with the SAMP you get all the cams in one: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 9 taking almost full rez shots!

HDR FX is a very simple HDR photo taker. click to take the scene then choose the processed look from three modes: sneery, sky, ground. it’s to you to save the image when you are finished. there is also a free version.

HDR Photo Camera is a SLOW! or maybe SLOW-ISH! it is an ad supported (how iWeird) HDR maker that makes you save your processed shot. there are no post processing choices, you just get HDR. remember to save.

Camera Fun FREE is a free fun house camera that offers Mirror, Pinch and Sketch modes that the kids will use until there is no more power left in the battery.

other things mentioned:

the story of the making of Glif is a fun read.

make your pocket Canon do more with CHDK.

cover photo is the pigeon taken with a iPhone 1.

corrections: John got the flip cam reference wrong from the show before. 1080HD wasn’t the norm. neither was 720HD. it was standard video (640×480). HD Flip cams didn’t ship until some time later.

the END of the Mac Pro

so my friends have posted the above which challenges when (and if) the world will see a new Mac Pro.

kids, Apple has been “getting out of the high end business” for a long time. the handwriting has been on the wall for this product for more than a year. but it goes back further than that. first the xServe RAID was axed, then the Xserve line, recently training programs for IT professionals were discontinued, Final Cut Pro Server was dismantled… you can see the trend. there isn’t easy money to be made from this section of Apple’s business so it’s as good as goners.

when you are charging hundreds of bucks an hour the workstation in front of you better look expensive. I’m very careful about hiding what tools I use from my clients. for years I made sure that my clients did not know that a MacBook Pro was the thing I was editing their video on. especially since they were using the zact same Mac. it’s a perception thing. it’s why I kept an old Mac G5 tower around. as nobody questioned it’s bigness, or what it was. stick a second display on the desk for a more “Pro” look even if you don’t use it in dual mode.

personally, I’m all too happy to see the Mac Pro go away. the box was way too expensive for starters. when you compare (yeah, yeah, yeah the whole Apple and Orange thing) high end offerings from other companies to the Mac Pro you’ll find much more from the price/performance curve “from the dark side.” dark side?! bah! this is where the true development is right now. if Apple is doing anything with USB3, SATA6, high end GPU it’s news to the world. yes, Thunderbolt (aka LightPipe) is pretty cool as tech goes but I’m thinking this is an eventual dead end unless the industry in general adopts it. it’s been a year… where are the machines from the other kids. missing that’s where.

the Apple Tax is not worth paying considering the primary tools of content creators run the EXACT same on other computers. the fact is, these tools run better on non-Apple hardware. don’t forget that the options for a high end video card for Mac Pro is a THREE YEAR OLD card which might have been “unquestionably number one” in 2009. but why is this the only option? there are at least 13 newer “workstation” class cards on the market that won’t work on a Mac. so there’s that problem.

the lack of upgrades over the last 2 years makes me question the long term of using Mac’s in my company. are Mac’s that I buy today going to go the distance like they have in the past? for some tasks this is easy to answer. yes. they will. a Mac Mini, for what it is, is a wonderful box albeit over priced by $200. but FireWire 800 is aging (meaning it’s slow) and the cases to support it are stupid expensive. and Thunderbolt things are stupider expensive. the freaking cable is $50. this matters when you have to buy 5 of something. I’d rather spend the money smart.

anyway, the nail in the coffin for me is the switch to Adobe CS tools for video and audio editing. I did this over a year ago after FCX was demo’d at NAB. and I cannot be happier. Premiere Pro and Audition have performed beyond my expectations. and if I switched to a workstation class Windows box it would go go even better.

so the only thing that holds me back from completely jumping is that one last wait and see. maybe, just maybe that new box will be the box that keeps me around for one more go. sigh. maybe it will be soon. eventually I’ll be disappointed and that will be the day I order a box of parts, I’ll say goodbye to the Mac and… laughs, of course I’ll still use a Mac, duh. I use all kinds of other tools in my day to day so it will be a long time before a Mac disappears from my desktop completely but it’s days soon to be numbered.

Mac Maintenance


if you look at the marketing for commercial and freeware “Mac maintenance apps” you see stuff like “Apple should bundle this!” or “it totally saved my bacon!” and finally “best app ever!” dubious marketing at best. the thing is most modern Macs aren’t in a “regularly scheduled program.” people just use them without doing anything special to them to keep them running.

the people of Know Tech are divided on the care and feeding. Chris has a Windows centric attitude causing him to rebuild and reinstall the System and all his apps twice a year. Kenji lived with a broken MacBook Pro keyboard for nearly 2 years before he bothered to get it fixed. Craig has a detailed backup system. Kristin just uses her Macs. and all the Macs that John takes care of just seem to work without any messing about.

so why do people have a need to maintenance their Macs? it’s something that is built into all consumer products. your car needs regular care, you have to put chemicals into the pool, the heater filter gets changed, the coffee maker needs de-liming and the refrigerator needs to be de-iced. maintenance is all around us and were programmed to accept doing it. some people actually like the peace of mind that they’ve “done something” and other people “just like doing” maintenance because it makes them feel good.
Continue reading “Mac Maintenance”

the last Macworld Expo


Remember when Macworld used to get 30k people coming to it? Well we have days were over 1m people visit our stores.
steve jobs

Macworld Expo has been “the tradeshow” for all things Mac for the last 25 years. there was a time when it was mandatory for anyone who had an interest in Mac to attend. companies came here to announce products, users came to learn, buyers came to do deals and the press could see all their contacts. it was all under one roof.

today it’s not the show that it once was.
Continue reading “the last Macworld Expo”

is a cluttered Desktop a recipe for slow?


the path setting has to be the full path. that is to set the screenshots in reference to your home directory such as: /Users/John/Desktop/clips/.

defaults write location_path

here’s the command line incantation to completely hide all the Desktop icons:

turn them off:
defaults write CreateDesktop -bool false
killall Finder

turn them on:
defaults write CreateDesktop -bool true
killall Finder

the freeware app called “camouflage” will give you more options compared the command line versions.

Path Finder, which is Craig’s pick for Finder Enhancement that he can’t do without, has a “hide desktop icons” check box.

Hazel is a tool that will automatically file files using a rules based system. set it to load music into iTunes, put photos into iPhoto. and writing into a journal folder.

St Claire software make a tool called Default Folder which offers pretty much all the functionality that we wished for in the talk. it has a 30 day demo to get you hooked on it. we’ll give it another spin and decide if it’s $35 well spent.

essential apps for a new Mac


we got a message which came from google voice that read:

what the hell is an America Pro? it certainly isn’t anything running in DC (or AC)! meaning the robo knows something we don’t or it completely lost the translation. fortunately the robot captured the voice allowing everyone to understand the question.

as the caller stated, there are hundreds of “essential” lists of software that you should run on your Mac. but before I get to the list I want to suggest that you just use the Mac like it came out of the box. don’t add this or that and the other thing until you know what it does by default. it turns out that you can do lots with a Mac without adding a single application, do-dad, hack, or enhancer.

below is the list of stuff that we have to have on a Mac otherwise it feels like we’re missing an arm. keep in mind that this isn’t really a list of everyone’s essential. while Craig and Kenji like password managers John doesn’t. Kenji uses TextMate while John prefers Text Wrangler. so have a listen to the audio and follow the links below as they are in the order of the show.

turn on spaces then install hyperspace to make it even better.

move the dock from the bottom to the right or left. of you like the screen bottom get rid of the shiny dock using this command:
defaults write no-glass -boolean YES; killall Dock

some people like Craig have a hard time with the Finder either because it’s clunky, it’s weird or it’s missing functionality. pathfinder is an alternative that overcomes many of Finder shortcomings.

if you squint you can see that the three programs that make up iWork ’09 are actually the same program just retooled to do specific tasks. which the trio does very well. if you have a hate affair with Power Point than Keynote will be your new best friend. Numbers will roll very nice looking things that won’t much resemble spreadsheets at all even though it’s the way it works. and Pages does layout for ink on paper documents.

find out what app is phoning home with little snitch
who’s hogging the CPU? istatmenu will tell you.
get backed with cronosync, super duper, backblaze, and dropbox
Wacom Tablet
Shuttle Pro 2 Black
text mate
text wrangler
css edit
cyberduck or transmit

type and creator utility for Snow Leopard. there are two: LaunchCodes and Magic Launch

flux looks like something we will have to talk about in the future.

a batch renaming tool is better handy to have around. these can help organize your pictures, help you with animations, hard code dates or times to file names and other things you might need to rename. there are lots of renamer programs: renamer4mac, renamer, ABetterFinderRename, namemangler.

don’t forget that automator can do lots of renaming for you and it works well. it does most of the common renaming tasks. you can even stack renames to get more complicated renames. an example using it is to the right.

QuickTime 7 (for OS X 10.6) or update to Pro for other places

password managers like Password Wallet or 1Password can help your brain get around having to remember very secure passwords.

hashapass helps you make master passwords.

snap and drag is a screen shot tool that Kenji likes.
or upgrade the default Command Option 4 by setting a specific folder for screen shots to go to using this Command Line incantation:
defaults write location /Full/Path/To/Folder

xscope is a “tape measure” for the screen.
layers is a screen shot tool that captures every element putting each into a distinct Photoshop layer.

ROT13 use to translate:

guvf vf na rknzcyr bs EBG13 va npgvba.

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Practical Advice on Type


we often hear “designers” making fun of the classic typefaces. fonts (as they are mostly known as now) such as Comic Sans, Tekton, University Roman, Frankfurter, Souvenir, Bank Gothic and even good old Helvetica are the things we’ve grown to loath. thing is a just having your way with a font does not you a designer. it’s so much more than just a pretty face.

how you use type is what makes your presentation, report, brochure and even your website stand out. the “computer” is not a designer all by itself it has grown into a tool that is very good at type. but as good as it can be it’s normally setup to mimic a typewriter very, very well. and this the first thing you have to get over.

when I taught at the Academy of Art I had to make rules about fonts. I had to forbid use of certain typefaces. it was intended to make projects look better. to force the idea that you should think about type in your movie. fonts by name displayed in their face. Chicago and Geneva where on the list. these were System fonts and had no business being used in production art. the exception to this was if you were using the typeface in the context of how it would really be used. thus if you designed around the pixel blocks of Chicago it could look really good. but I also banned a lot of common fonts that you’d find in everyday use like Courier and Times. I even banned Helvetica. again the thought was to force somebody to make it look better and make them consider something else besides the safe.

in the podcast I told a story about how my friend Brad had paid a designer friend of his to teach him to use three fonts. and how it paid off. everything Brad did look like it was designed. not because he was a designer but because he followed the rules that his designer had set up for him. the problem was that it looked like Brad. you could tell that he made it as it always looked that way. my friend Paul does stuff that looks like Paul. which is no coincidence because Paul incidentally met Brad who told Paul the theory of three fonts and Paul adopted it from Brad. and it didn’t matter if it was print, video or motion graphics both made things distinct and identifiable to them.

the push back from the art students was they didn’t like my rules. that they wanted to be lazy and not have to manage fonts. they didn’t want to have to install fonts each time they use a different lab machine. I might have changed my rules to allow Helvetica at some point just because I couldn’t take the whining. but that came with rules like kerning, tracking, size and weight. and surprise, they didn’t like that either. why? the multi-media track didn’t have a class on typography and they we’re allowed to take the classes offered to the designers. it was a generally refusal to learn type because it wasn’t offered. it was really odd.

nothing says “I don’t care at all about typography than using normal quotation marks.” those two “marks” next to the Return key (that’s the Enter key for most of you) are a left over from the days of typewriters. the “proper” quote marks can can be made for you automatically or by typing Option-“ and Shift-Option-” on your Mac (you’ll need to look it up on the other platforms kids). any doing that every single time is just a pain. so if the quotes make you lose your mind turn on Smart Quotes in your favorite werp.

there are a whole bunch of other practical rules for “doing type”. all of this is covered in a book called Mac is not a Typewriter written by the non-comedian Robin Williams. the book is old, but then so is type. get a copy if you don’t have this already. after you learn what there is to learn pass it on to the next type nerd to be. if you don’t want to shell for the dead tree book here’s the rules in a nutshell. don’t worry, this stuff is from memory not from the copy/paste. it’s rules we use every day:

    1. no double space after punctuation. period.
    2. use … for … use — for — use © instead of (c) meaning use the typography don’t make it.
    3. ruler for indention and paragraph formating. 
    4. space in both vertical and horizontal
    5. alignment
    6. kern
    7. italics
    8. better “quote marks”
    9. ding bats and other stuff
    10. style sheets and presets for formatting

lots of people have asked what we’ve done to learn type. one very simple thing to do is “use one font”. just one. okay you can use it’s whole family. but that’s it. use it big and small. use it every day for everything. this will help you very much know everything that it can do. but don’t stay this way forever.

usually when people do this experiment they choose HELVETICA. nothing says 19050’s Eurostyle like this typeface. and it should. it is the face of hundreds of company logos, it’s in the entrance to the New York subway, it’s every where. what is it about helvetica that gets everyone all gooey? sometimes there is no better typeface for the job. it’s bold, daring, simple and elegant. it doesn’t have any bad habits. and it’s often described as boring. somebody even made a movie about it ironically called Helvetica the Movie. it’s doubtful that Comic Sans would have made such and an engaging and interesting movie about a typeface the way that Helvetica did. if you check it out here’s the best part: when they go to the basement the old guy proudly says, “this is where Helvetica lives…” awesome.

another way to learn type is to open Notepad or your werp. next type your initials in lowercase and UPPERCASE and change the size to 72. now change the font. and keep doing it for everything installed. make notes of what you like. it’s the same thing that you have to do with learning about the 167 movie transitions. if you don’t see every one of them you won’t know what they do.

I have to some rules about type that I’d like to pass on to the class:

    don’t use fonts designed for screen display for print. these include names like Geneva, Monaco, Chicago. while they look unique they weren’t made to be used in a book. but worse is they will “date” your material. just look at the INXS album. yeah, there’s Chicago on that spine.

    don’t use type that everyone else uses. there are thousands of fonts ready to be your day to day. automatically picking Times or Courier is just being lazy.

    Kern your letter pairs. the other thing that screams I don’t care about typography is not kerned type.

    really big type looks cool but does it have to be so big?

    mind your negative and white space.

    don’t forget to speel check your work.

other Links:
Non-Designer’s Design Book, The (3rd Edition)

the 10 20 30 rule

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Mac Mini circa 2010

it’s a total work of art. really it is. but there’s lots more than the stark nothing look of it to like. or is there?

pretty much everyone is going to sing “HDMI port! about damn time!” but lack of HDMI port is only a problem if you are using a Mac Mini as the center of a Home Theater. and lots of LARGE screens can be driven using an DVI cable converted. I know it works because I set one up to do that. given the tasks that I would employ it to do this port isn’t a boon. but maybe someday I’ll want to watch content that is protected visually and I’ll actually need this feature. but I seriously doubt that will happen anytime soon.

I was curious about how small the motherboard has to be as the new case is totally short. the old mini has lots of risers and formers allowing parts to get stacked. so I printed the bottom case image as seen on and placed real objects on it. it looks like there is lots of room until you consider there is also a power supply inside that case. the PS likely takes out the space to the right of the hard drive from front to back. if the optical media wasn’t in the case the height could be lowered by 15mm.

going by the dimensions of the Mini (which are 7.7″ by 7.7″ and match the AppleTV size) the motherboard would be approximately 7.5″ x 4″. this really packs it in there. although the mobo for the MacBook Air is even smaller. the older Mac Mini is actually an 1.2″ smaller. and it had 1 more USB port.

the video card will always be an issue especially with the Windows crowd looking in. when you look at the Mini (or any of the MacBook line) you see there just isn’t room for anything else. one could argue that there would be room if you lost the Super Drive. but if that happened the case would get thiner not full of another feature. the other complaint that people will make is that 2.5″ drives are not as speedy as 3.5″ drives. but in what context is the complaint? because if you are looking at pure benchmark data those numbers are no where close to how you interactive with your computer. it’s really tough to notice the difference between your favorite app loading on various Macs. in fact I challenge you to feel the difference. you can’t so it doesn’t matter how fast an app loads.

Apple has finally learned that RAM upgrades shouldn’t require a trip to the hardware store for putty knives to crack open the case. after removing the round rubber cover the RAM is right there. interesting is that it looks like a same dual SO-DIMM connector that plagued the aluminum PowerBooks. hopefully this fatal flaw of the G4 won’t be an issue with this version of the Mini.

it’s really easy to be critical of the price but even more so when you start poking around the BTO options. this little computer can even more very expensive very quickly. but there are places where this Mac is the perfect thing. where what why? so my aging MacBook Pro)totype is long out of AppleCare. I’ve thought about the next Mac that will replace it. it’s possible that Mini could fill the bill. especially considering that one could by 3 of them for the price of on MacBook Pro.

  MacBook Pro)totype (2006) Mac Mini 2010
2.16 GHz
2.4 GHz
2G (or 3G if mix max’d)
2G (8G max)
640 G (self upgrade)
512 G
ATI X1600
GeForce 320

having two more USB ports would be awesome. it would mean not having to unmount to swap. and getting back FireWire 800 would certainly seem like an upgrade even though I’ve lived without it for so long. I guess I never really noticed. odd huh? the GPU isn’t something that is going to affect my day to day. I do so little with Motion and I’m not doing any 3D work at all.

90% of my job is typing centric. and I’m pretty much very happy with my current setup. which is the MBP connected to a large display that has a aluminum keyboard in front of it. which makes it exactly like running the Mini. there are three tasks that I do where I would like much, much more power: working with video from Final Cut, exporting audio from Sound Track and compressing final content. these are the places were a Octo would rock my work. but I have to question if spending 4X more is worth it in the long run?

and maybe there is for one single reason: perception. clients don’t need to know that the jobs they are asking me to do can be done with the smallest Mac ever made. they might question the rate or my talent because of the tiny Mac. it’s always a good idea to prop up that the things we do are hard and need powerful equipment. it makes everyone feel better. after all, they are the ones paying for it so bring on the Octo!

oh yeah, one more thing. it’s probably a good idea to check out similarly shaped systems just for comparison purposes. Like the Dell Zino HD which makes everything above seem like a pretty good deal.

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