2013 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

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.

CES 2013 – the implications for Apple


Samsung Introduces World’s First Curved OLED T...

Samsung Introduces World’s First Curved OLED TV at CES 2013 (Photo credit: samsungtomorrow)

 

CES 2013 has generated a lot of press, as always and as usual Apple has not been there, at least officially. However, there have been rumours that Apple has its spies at the giant technology show and if they didn’t, quite frankly they’d be incompetent!

 

My bet is that there are several things that caught the eyes of their spies and here are my top three:

 

1. Curved TV  – both Samsung and LG showed off what each of them claimed was a world’s first, a TV with a curved screen. However, there was  mixed reception of this idea as, if you think about it for a moment, there is only one sweet spot to be sitting when you are watching anything on a curved screen. Everyone else will have a less than ideal viewpoint. So, why will Apple be interested in this development, you might well ask? Well, it’s a perfect example of what to avoid, namely trying to be too clever by half. Someone (well an awful lot of folk really) must have thought it was worth investing an awful lot of money in research and development to get these prototypes to CES. Trouble is a bit of basic science would have shown that it was a bad idea. So Apple needs to remember that when they get around to (if ever) releasing their own Smart TV, they are better off sticking to what they know best (great design, solid build and fantastic GUI) rather than come up with something that is so far out there that its just a bad idea and will never catch on.

 

2. Panasonic 56” OLED TVnow here is a TV that has a future! Panasonic make great TVs and their OLED TV is a real beauty by all accounts (sadly I can’t afford to actually go to Las Vegas for a holiday even, never mind a jolly to CES). If Apple do indeed intend on releasing a Smart TV then my money is on it being an OLED version and maybe, just maybe, they will get Panasonic to build the screens for them. Certainly, if they want my advice they will avoid altogether LG’s and Samsung’s crazy curved screen idea and go with Panansonic on this one.

 

3. Sony Xperia Z – Now Apple make great smartphones and I am sure the next iteration (iPhone 5S or iPhone 6) will be an object of desire and full of great features and of fantastic build quality. However, they need to be constantly looking over their shoulders at the opposition and rather than Samsung, my advice is keep a close eye on Sony. The Xperia Z is a great-looking smartphone and by all accounts it  has a great chance of helping Sony to compete with Samsung and therefore with Apple. It is water resistant and can survive submerged for up to half an hour. Its also dustproof and also has a screen that’s beautiful and a 13 megapixel fast-capture camera.

 

You may be wondering why I didn’t highlight 4K TVs – well I believe that as there doesn’t exist the programming yet to provide material to watch on these gorgeous screens that it will be another 2 or 3 years before these become mainstream. Think of 3D and how that has basically flopped and you will begin to see that it takes more than great technology to make a success of this sort of stuff.

 

So, event though Apple didn’t exhibit I am guessing that some of the stuff that was revealed at CES 2013 will inform what we see coming from Apple in the next 12 – 18 months.

 

 

Life without a Mac


Apple iMacLife without a Mac – not something I anticipated any time in the past. However, when my daughter started sixth form I decided to donate my lovely MacBook Pro to her as my previous donation was now on its last legs. So, I got a new one for myself to replace it – well actually, no. I decided that as my iPhone 4S works really well as a substitute for carrying around a somewhat bulky laptop that instead this time I would get another iMac.

Dilemma – new iMacs were in the wings so I didn’t want to buy one and then find myself frustrated that Apple had just brought out a new line. So, here I am having spend the last couple of months using a PC laptop for my day job and my iPhone as a replacement for my Mac laptop.

So, how has it been? Well, surprisingly (to me certainly) I have not really missed my MacBook Pro as much as I thought I would. I am writing this post on a PC laptop, which though its nowhere as pleasant to use it does suffice for most tasks and certainly copes with writing documents for work, emails and blog posts etc. Of course, browsing the web these days is pretty much the same what OS you use.

I am using Windows 7 and its an improvement on XP but only just. I doubt I will upgrade the PC to Windows 8 anytime soon though. iOS 6 works great on my iPhone and I can do much of what I need to do day to day on it when out and about.The rest of the time I use the PC laptop. In fact, the only time I use my (daughter’s) MacBook Pro is to open documents that I haven’t copied to my Dropbox folder or the odd program that does something none of my PC ones can do.

I guess all this goes to prove how close the two operating environments are these days and that’s a good thing. Both can provide what is needed for most tasks you would need to do in everyday situations. However, I am hooked on the Apple way fo doing things and I love the reliability and sheer design perfection of Macs so I can’t wait to get a shiny new 27-inch iMac. All I need to do is find a way of financing it!

 

Will we ever see an end to the Patent Wars?


Tim Berners-Lee at a Podcast Interview

The news that Apple and HTC have agreed to end their patent war and settle is good news for the industry (but maybe not for lawyers!). However, Samsung have said that they are not prepared to come to a similar arrangement. Now we have seen how bitter the relationship has become between Samsung and Apple in recent years and the court battles are still raging in various courts around the world. Now, to me and to many others, this all seems a great pity. Here we have two great companies known for innovation and creativity who both manage to produce some of the most desirable products known in history. However, they are spending hundreds of millions on lawyers dragging each other through the courts. That’s good money that could be better spend on research and product development.

What makes the whole thing between Apple and Samsung even more bizarre is that Samsung supplies plenty of key components in Apple’s products and presumably they must work closely on developing these products. Seems something like a crazy situation if you ask me. Why they can’t agree to cross-licence each others technologies and get on with creating something excellent and useful instead of paying lawyers is beyond me.

According to one source, the cost of these patent wars in the past two tears is $20 billion! According to the New York Times this just in the smartphone industry (mainly between Apple, Samsung and HTC). Apparently Apple and Google are now spending more on litigation over patents and in buying up companies to bolster their position in these patent wars than they are on Research & Development. Crazy!

Now I am not against patents per se but this situation can only hamper future developments and innovations. Cast your mind back to when these companies started out – if someone had slapped a huge patent infringement case on them then they may never have grown from a small start-up in a garage into great companies.  I am talking about Apple, Microsoft and HP here. All of them started off small and grew because of their founders’ innovation and creativity. All that patent wars have done is stifle innovation and creativity, make lawyers rich and one could argue that the problems the likes of  HP, IBM, Dell and Nokia have had in recent years is down to this very issue.

So what’s the solution? Maybe its time to think the unthinkable and abolish patents – yes abolish the lot of them and replace the whole caboodle with a different system. After all, if we look at open source we can see immediately that the lack of patents here has not stifled creativity and innovation, rather the very opposite. Open source produces progress much quicker and leads to greater creativity. Yes it is largely software but there is a lesson to be learned here. Think of the world wide web. Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented it and gave it away, to the world and so we owe him a great debt. he could have patented it and where would be then? Not here for sure.

If you think this is a stupid idea then check out this article. It may change your mind.