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!

Sandy Bridge iMacs this week?


Rumours are rife that we will see new iMacs with the Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs released as early as 4 May. With desktops now making up around only a quarter of Apple shipments (compared to more than half just 5 years ago), it has seemed to many that Apple has been neglecting this sector of its business in favour of the iPhone, iPad and Macbook Pro devices.

Certainly, a refresh is about due (9 months is a long time in this business) and with the new processor range recently featuring in Macbook Pros, it was expected that the desktop range would do so too.

Apple's iMac computersI have already posted my thoughts on what the new models may contain in terms of features and specification, so we are only days away from knowing how right (or wrong) I was. certainly, as well as the new CPU we should see the introduction of Thunderbolt and it would be strange not to see faster graphics, so expect AMD Radeon 6000 series GPUs. Whether of not we will also see changes to the screen size is uncertain and I am not expecting this with any degree of certainty.

Versions of the company’s hot-selling MacBook Airs are mooted as due to receive Thunderbolt while adopting Intel’s latest low-voltage Core i chips. So, there is plenty to keep the Apple fan happy over the next few months. What with the iPhone 5 and iOS 5 due later this year, the rumoured iCloud replacement service for MobileMe and the arrival of an updated Final Cut Pro its turning into a bumper year for Apple and its customers.

Expect the new iMacs to be available by June, though some are indicating they may well be available as early as 3rd May.

HDRtist bonus app in MacLegion Spring Bundle


HDRtist Pro graphics software

If you are thinking of buying the MacLegion Spring Bundle of Mac apps then time is running out if you want to get HDRtist Pro along with the other ten apps. That’s because only the first 9,000 purchasers get the app and already the number of purchasers is up to 2239 (when I just checked).

HDRtist Pro allows you to create HDR or Exposure Enhanced images easily. High Dynamic Range (HDR) & Exposure Blending make it possible to create highly detailed and ultra-realistic photographs with your digital camera. HDR works by combining exposure information using complex mathematics, while Exposure Blending works by simply selecting and cutting out the best parts of each photo.

With its complex mathematical algorithms, HDRtist Pro can handle 128-Bit floating-point images (that’s 16,843,009 times more precision than a JPEG photo) to produce images that look hyper-real. HDR images can be something of an acquired taste and are something that is easily overdone. However, when done well, the results can be nothing short of superb.

Below is an example that exemplifies what is possible:

HDR example imageTo read the full feature list of what HDRtist Pro offers check out the Ohanaware site.

Blender 2.57b Stable available


Blender 2.57 available

Blender 2.57b is the second 2.57 update release from the Blender Foundation. You can download it from the official Blender site.

Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License. Don’t think that because Blender is open source that it is some amateur piece of software. It isn’t. In fact, it has been used to produce several films and is used by professional studios around the world. Check out www.sintel.org as the latest example.

You can also see a list of other films made with Blender on the Blender movies page.

Here is a list of Blender’s features (the short version!):

  • Rigging
  • Animation
  • Modelling
  • UV Unwrapping
  • Shading
  • Physics & particles
  • Rendering
  • Realtime 3D/Game Creation
  • Imaging & Compositing
You can read the full version on the Blender Features page.

Flare


Flare logoFlare for Mac from Iconfactory is available from the Mac App Store for £5.99 and there is a 15-day free trial. It’s a photo-editor that comes with lots of features and built-in effects. Features available include:

Colour effects:

  • Exposure
  • Midtone brightness
  • Saturation, Brightness, Contrast
  • Tint
  • Duotone
  • Color filter
  • Color gradient
  • Black & white
  • Cross-processing
Flare effects

Editing an effect in Flare

 

Lens effects:

  • Gaussian blur
  • Motion blur
  • Zoom blur
  • Sharpen
  • Glow
  • Vignette

Creative effects:

  • Grain
  • Texture
  • Lightleak
  • Frame
  • Border
  • Rounded edges
  • Barrel distortion
  • Rotation
  • Scaling
  • Halftone
  • Pixellate
  • Scanlines

I have been using the trial for a few days now and on the whole the software has a lt going for it.

Negatives so far:

  1. Slow – I am using a MacBook Pro 2.26 GHz with 4GB 1067 DDR3 RAM so I expected it to be quicker when applying effects (using clear all effects option)
  2. Screen refresh – I don’t like how the whole screen refreshes when you switch between the different modes
  3. Also, the undo doesn’t seem to work (for presets) and its only accessible from the menu rather than an on-screen button (like in edit mode using
  4. No levels editing or curves

Positives:

  1. Simple interface – even novices shouldn’t get lost!
  2. Nice set of presets with extra ones downloadable from the vendor’s site
  3. Ability to layer effects
  4. Snapshots feature – save at any point to create a snapshot that can be (re)applied later to the same or other images
  5. Ability to export to Flickr, your Mac or in an email
  6. Availability of textures which can be edited

Snapshots feature in Flare

So on the whole its an interesting piece of software and if you don’t have a basic photo-editor then I can recommend it. Hopefully the developers will sort out the minor bugs and improve the interface in those areas where its lacking somewhat.

Visit http://flareapp.com/ for more info.

 

Web Designer Resources


Apple has always had a strong presence in the graphic design industry, especially amongst web designers. If you are web designer and looking for some of the best quality resources (open source and paid-for) there are plenty of great sites out there.

However, finding and bookmarking more than a handful of sites can be somewhat tedious. I find its best to use sites that already trawl a batch of sites for the latest resources. One such site is designnewz which has this to say about itself:

Design-Newz is a site that features articles, resources and tutorials written by designers and developers just like you! We hope you’ll find this site useful – all articles featured on this site have been hand-picked by us to ensure the highest quality and usefulness! Simply click on a link to visit the source article or browse this site by tags. We try our best to update the site daily with at least 10 new articles!”

It looks pretty cool too, which always a good thing with design-orientated sites! Other sites worth checking out from the web designers perspective are:

Another way to obtain excellent design resources such as actual files (icons, templates, psds etc) is to sign up for a subscription to the like of WEGRAPHICS. For a small monthly subscription (in this case $7 each month, or $49 per year or $69 one-off payment). This has to be one of the best value subscriptions going! For your money you get access to all their current and future resources. Why not check them out now by clicking on the graphic below:

Premium resources for designers

So, that’s all folks, for now. I will highlight some excellent design resources for graphic artists in a future post.

Win a 13-inch Macbook Air!



MacBook Air 13-inch

Check out this competition to win a Macbook Air at http://stylishwebdesigner.com/anniversary-giveaway-win-a-brand-new-13inch-macbook-air/ and check out the great design resources and articles whilst you are there.

Stylish Web Designer is a platform for Webdesigners by Webdesigners. The main motive of this Website is to share the tutorials, resources and ideas of webdesigning.

Examples of articles include this one: 50 Sensational Examples of Emotive Portraits Photography