New life for an old dog?


Apple introduces the Mac Pro 12 Core DesktopI have two Macs – a Macbook Pro and a Mac Pro (2009 4-core). My laptop is reasonably new (MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014) but my Mac Pro is  getting a bit tired, to say the least. I did update the graphics card with an AMD Radeon 4000 series pc card and boosted the RAM to 16GB. I also installed additional drives inc a SSD. However, I do see too much of the spinning beach ball these days. That may be to me running Windows 8.1 under Parallels but even when just running OS X alone I still see the beach ball spin far too often.

The question is, is it time to retire the old dog? Shall I invest in a shiny new iMac 27″ all-singing, all-dancing Skylake super computer? Thoughts anyone and if you know of a cost-effective to squeeze more life out of the old dog do let me know.

“Hey Siri, give us a hint.”


“Hey Siri, give us a hint.” So Apple has decided to tease us all again with a hint about the announcements to come on September 9 at 10 a.m. PDT.

Apple Event Sept 9th 2015

Speculation, as always, has been rife about exactly what is to come. Most commentators agree that it will be a new iPhone though no-one can agree if it’s effectively an iPhone 7 or an iPhone 6s. However, the reference to Siri may mean that Siri is going to get an update (none to soon either for some of us). Microsoft’s Cortana is impressive and Apple needs to pull something special out of the bag if it’s to regain its crown.

Other mooted announcements will an option to have the new iPhone in Rose Gold, along with Force Touch, brought over from the new MacBook. There are rumours too of an improved camera. Another expected announcement is an update to the Apple TV, which is also in need of an update. However, no-one really expects an actual Apple Television. Finally, the next big thing that is a possibility is an iPad Pro, with a larger screen, somewhere around 12″.

However, we don’t have long to wait and I for one will be watching the Keynote live.

Update on iPhone 6 Plus


Well, I was really enjoying my supersized iPhone 6 Plus, that is until the screen started playing up! The bottom third of the screen developed a fault and started displaying a striped pattern (similar to a barcode on acid!) that made if difficult to see the icons etc below. Straight away I was onto EE (whom I bought the handset from). After some discussion it was decided that as it was still under warranty and because Apple provide such good customer service (in my experience that is true), I range them. After going through some hoops (backing up, resetting the phone etc) they agreed to replace it and in a few days I had my shiny new replacement. A few days later UPS picked up the broken one.

So, now I am once again enjoying my iPhone 6 Plus. Lessons to be learned – make sure you regularly backup your phone (if its an iPhone then this easily done via iTunes).

iPhone 6 Plus User Review

iPhones

For a few years now I have been using the iPhone 4S as my smartphone. After my business contract with Orange came to an end I managed to negotiate a cut in my monthly bill by more than half for a better package. Instead of £35 pcm (plus VAT) I managed to get unlimited everything for just £15 pcm (plus VAT) for a 12 months contract. This was because I was keeping my old phone (2 years old by then) and had threatened to move networks for a better deal.

This was a pretty good deal but when the opportunity came round to switch I started looking around for a better deal. Truth is, I really wanted a new iPhone and the question was, ‘which one?’ Did I get an iPhone 5 or did I get the new iPhone 6, and if so, did I go for the Plus or not? Decisions, decisions, decisions! After checking all the various websites for the best deals around, inputting all the info into a spreadsheet (a must in my book) and checking was it better to buy the phone outright or get another deal where I paid something up front (but not the full price) but paid more per month. After several days of shopping around, talking to EE (Orange and T-Mobile are now part of EE – Everything Everywhere), I worked out I would be better off buying the phone outright and getting a 12 month SIM-only deal.

So, off I went to the Apple Store online and tried to order my new iPhone 6 Plus. However, there was a 3-4 weeks delay for delivery. I even rang them up and asked was that really the case but they assured me it was – no explanation given – so that was it. Do I order now and put up with the delay, or do I find somewhere to buy it in person. I decided to call into my local EE store and ask. Turns out I could get it that day (as long it was the 64GB Gold version) but it was £10 cheaper than on the Apple Store! However, I had to buy it with a SIM and £10 of credit! Even if I got a 12-month contract with unlimited texts and messages, along with 2GB Data (so-called double-data even) I still had to buy the other SIM with the £10 credit – crazy or what!

So, in the end I bought it with the 12-month SIM-only deal (and have kept the £10 SIM for an emergency) and walked out the same day with my shiny new iPhone 6 Plus. I still had to arrange to carry across my existing number (too much hassle to notify everyone of a different number), as well as order a nice protective case and screen protector (from ZAGG) – more of that in another post. However, I was happy and couldn’t wait to get home and set up my new brick of an iPhone.

How am I finding it? Well, its certainly big – very big! But, you know what, I like the fact that it is big. I am a middle aged bloke who has fat fingers (from playing guitar and arthritis!) and in comparison the iPhone 4S screen is tiny. This always gave me problems especially when trying to type notes on the darn thing. Now its so much easier with all the room on the larger screen – many fewer mishits it has to be said. Also, the new model is really light and I love the longer battery life – very noticeable in my personal experience. I also love the extra storage and I think, personally, the price is not too expensive considering I am getting 64GB compared to the 16GB of my old iPhone 4S, as well as a 4G capable smartphone

Well, in the couple of weeks or so I have had it I am very happy with my iPhone 6 Plus. It may be too big for most folk but I am not interested in my iPhone as a fashion accessory so size isn’t so much an issue as it might be for some folks.  In fact, I was thinking of getting an iPad Mini and an iPhone 5S but in the end I am happy with just the iPhone 6 Plus – I can do most things on it that I would have done on an iPad and this way I only carry around 1 device instead of 2.

I will post about my experience of using it long-term at a future date but I can’t honestly see me regretting my decision. Before then I will post about my experience of buying a case for the phone and a screen protector.

OS X Mavericks behaving badly (like a maverick!)


OS X Mavericks is a Stupid Name

OS X Mavericks is a Stupid Name (Photo credit: swanksalot)

Since I bought my new Mac Pro (old version – 2009 4.1) I have had a mixed experience. Soon after its arrival I upgraded to Os X Mavericks and right away started having various problems, mainly with iWork apps not starting up, or at least taking 3 or more minutes to start up. Very frustrating. After a support call to Apple, and after deleting start-up apps things improved a little. An update to Mavericks via Software Update also seemed to help. However, I had other issues with misbehaving my Magic Mouse and frequent Finder crashes. Although things have improved further after an upgrade to a brand-new SSD things aren’t entirely going smoothly as I would like.

Ironically, I have Parallels installed and am running the latest evaluation version of Windows 8.1 (the free version – at least for 30 days). I have to say that although the interface leaves me stone cold unimpressed, I am running WoT very effectively with no issues to speak of. Shame that my Mac apps don’t run as smoothly at times!

So, for now I am somewhat dissatisfied with Mavericks and hope Apple get on top of the issues. I am not alone in having problems and the issue over Google Drive is another example of how things can go so easily wrong with an update to the OS. Maybe next time I will a little bit longer before diving in and updating to the latest version.

New Mac Pro (the old one!)


Mac Pro unboxing photos, batch 1 #technopr0n

In case you are confused, I have recently purchased a Mac Pro, but its not the new one (its not out yet so how cool would that be!). No, its a Mac Pro 4.1 (aka the early 2009 Quad Core 2.66 GHz one). It came with just 3GB of RAM, 640GB HD and the rather old NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 graphics card. I managed to get a great deal on it from Albion Computers. Once it arrived I wasted little time in installing an old PC graphics card – the Radeon 4870. I had to first order 2 power cables on eBay (came the very next day – great job there 7systems!) before I could install it. Once it was installed and the external monitor was connected I fired it up and waited anxiously to see if it worked…. and it did! No need to install drivers or flash the card before-hand (it being a PC card and therefore not a specific Apple model).

As the RAM is a measly 3GB I decided to upgrade the RAM and after some research and online price comparisons I discovered it was cheaper to buy 16GB from the US than here in the UK. I also managed to get a deal on the latest version of Parallels and still save money, even after I pay the VAT once it arrives in UK at Customs. How mad is that! My only mistake was not to carefully check shipping times as I choose to ship via the USPS. I later discovered that this means my RAM etc may take up to 45 days to arrive! That’s the worst-case scenario according to the MacSales representative I had an online chat with to query why my order had yet to arrive. So far its been 10 days and counting. I’ll let you know when it arrives.

So, until it arrives I have been keeping myself busy trying out a few old PC hard drives in the 3 free drive bays. Two of them worked ok and I have formatted them as NTFS in readiness for installing Windows once my copy of Parallels arrives. I have also been busy plugging in old Mac ext drives to access my back catalogue of files created on earlier models of Macs (5 at least!). I am very happy to be back on a Mac (having donated my last MacBook Pro to my daughter for her college studies) and very glad (to say the least) not to have to work constantly on the HP laptop I use in my day job. All that time wasted with security updates, scans and trouble-shooting Windows issues.  I know I said I am installing Parallels (as soon as it arrives that is) but I will be g;ad to be using Windows on a Mac to be honest – it makes more sense than using a Windows laptop – believe me I know form experience!

Once I have the RAM installed and Windows (courtesy of Parallels) installed I will get to grips with Creative Cloud on the Mac. Having run it for a year on a PC laptop I am looking forward to getting back to the Mac way of doing things, I can tell you. I am also looking forward to Phase 2 of my grand plan – to install an SSD RAID to run Maverick from!

Waiting patiently for news of Mac Pro refresh!


English: Side view of a Power Mac G5 (left) an...

English: Side view of a Power Mac G5 (left) and an Mac Pro (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Its been a long time since we had a refresh to the Mac Pro range of workstations (leaving aside the minor tweak in 2012). many professionals working with video or 3d graphics have already deserted Apple and bought into workstations from the likes of HP and Scan. Who can blame them.
As it did with Xserve and some of its high-end applications, Apple seems to have treated the professional with a fair degree of disdain. If it wasn’t for Tim Cook saying that a new Mac Pro was in the wings I doubt anyone would be waiting with bated breath fro an announcement at the forthcoming WWDC.
So, will we see a new Mac Pro, made in the USA and if so, what form will it take? Will it be a full tower or some sort of mini-towers as some have been speculating. Here, for its worth, are my hopes (as I hope to be the proud owner of one at some point in the near future).

  1. Multi-core (x4, x8, x12)
  2. Upgradeable graphics
  3. Multiple Thunderbolt ports (at least two) and USB 3
  4. Multi-drive slots so that RAID can be internal on a high-speed bus

Other than that it doesn’t really matter what it looks like or what else it comes with. It needs to be fast and its needs to be upgradeable, otherwise what is the point? Price-wise it would be good if the cheapest model came in below the most expensive iMac so that buyers would have the option of a powerful Mac with a built-in screen or choose to use their own existing ones or just to have the option of specifying something more suited to their needs. This is especially relevant for video-editors and the like.
Will we actually see this announced at the WWDC? if not then there had better be something said about when we will see a refresh or all hell will be let loose, that I can guarantee.