Ted Leung on the air: Open Source, Java, Python, and ...
Several days ago I alluded (obscurely) to the possibility of 8 core Mac Pro's based on an upcoming quad-core Xeon. Tuesday, Anandtech demonstrated that the existing Mac Pro hardware is capable of the feat (memory bus speed notwithstanding). Their benchmarks also show that many applications are not able to exploit 4 cores very well, never mind 8. Now, where did I leave that Erlang disk image....
[via Apple - Pro - Tips ]:
The Apple Pro Tips are really good. I've learned a bunch of things that I never would have learned another way. This one is that if you hold the command key while copying to another volume, OS X will make the copy and then delete the original. I've been using Mac OS of one form or another since 1984, and I never knew about this one. Works in PathFinder, too.
Here are some thoughts on what we've seen at WWDC so far...
Ordinarily I wouldn't pay much attention to the tower announcement because, I've been reasonably happy with Apple's laptops since I've been back on OS X. However, RAM and fast disks are really a necessity for big photo work, so all of a sudden I kind of care about the towers, since it still seems that MacBook Pros that can hold 4G of RAM are some ways off. The MacPros seem very reasonably priced for what you get. I like the new drive trays, and Macintouch claims that you can use stock disks in the trays, so upgrading without paying through the nose is an option. I'm surprised that there is no eSATA support, but you can get cards for that -- eSATA bandwidth is much better than Firewire, even 800. Apparently the Xeons are not soldered in either, so that would allow for do it yourself upgrading. The machines look pretty attractive, at least until you consider the prospect of quad core CPUs later this year.
I"m not that impressed by the 10 Leopard features that made the cut for the keynote. They are all solid, but none was particularly earthshatter to me personally. Time Machine looks very interesting, but there have been hints of this idea in Windows world, and as Miguel points out, Linux has had dirvish for some time now. Neither of them has the cool UI of Time Machine, so I think Apple gets a little credit. I have to say that I'm a bit concerned about the performance impact of Time Machine, especially given the poor performance of Spotlight in Tiger.
Spotlight is getting some improvements, but there was no talk about improving it's performance -- it would be bad form to highlight Spotlight's poor performance in a keynote, but Spotlight is pretty unusable unless it gets quite a bit faster. Fortunately, MacFixit claims Spotlight (and Intel Mac) performance is dramatically improved in the Leopard developer preview. That would be very welcome.
It's nice that Apple is going to do some work on iChat -- it could use a lot. Screensharing would be a great feature to have assuming you can share any app, not just iPhoto and Keynote as shown. Unfortunately, Apple innovating in iChat doesn't help when you need to communicate with the rest of the world that is running Windows and Linux. I've still never gotten the iChat to AIM (on Windows) video conferencing to work. I am hoping that the Skype people can make this work in the near future.
I have to say that I am disappointed in the features shown for Mail. None of them look like they go any way towards helping people who are dealing with large volumes of e-mail. No tagging, no improvements in threading or display. Nothing. The todo management stuff is interestiing, especially because it's a special case of the stamping feature in Chandler. It's nice to see that other people are thinking along the same lines that we are. Still, that's not quite enough to make up for the lack of e-mail overload assist. MailTags 2.0 here I come...
People at OSAF abuse me because I have my machine set to talk to me a fair amount. I"m willing to take the abuse because I need the voice interrupt to make sure that I pay attention when necessary. I was definitely happy to see that there will be improved text to speech in Leopard.
As far as stuff aimed specifically at developers, there seems to be plenty of interesting stuff - short takes:
- Apple has clarified their position and support for open source, including an open source CalDAV server.
- Ruby on Rails to ship in Leopard - nice coordination here with Apple. The Ruby guys get the marketing and adoption thing.
It looks like Apple has been doing a lot of work on XCode. I'm very interested to see what the garbage collection support for Objective-C looks like. Better late than never, I suppose. The biggest news in XCode is the incorporation of DTrace into the XRay performance tools. DTrace is one of the killer features of OpenSolaris -- and the one that is most appealing to me as a developer. Bryan Cantrill's post has a bunch more detail and useful links. I've seen Bryan demoing and working with developers at open source conferences, and there's been a great interchange between the DTrace team and other parts of the open source community. Congrats to Bryan and the DTrace team for a great design win! Just don't be mad that I won't be looking at trying OpenSolaris now -- I know there's a bunch of other cool stuff in there (ZFS and Zones), but I'm don't want to be running servers.
Of course, it figures that a few months after I shell out money for Parallels, VMWare announces their product, which won't be available till the end of the year. That move scared Parallels into releasing a new beta. Parallels was doing good at revving its product before it went 1.0 and then things slowed down. Hopefully competition will keep them on their toes. Too bad Microsoft decided to sit out on the virtualization wars. If the VMWare product turns out to be solid and Mac-like, then I will probably switch over, because of virtual image compatibility with other platforms.
It was notable to me that no third party developers were showcased on the stage at the keynote. I'm not sure if that's a sign of anything, but it felt to me like somebody should have been up there. Even more interesting (for those who like to speculate), was the absence of "One last thing". Couple that with the "Top Secret" features and the relatively lackluster keynote content, and you have a recipe for rumor churning from now till Macworld in January. But of course, we would have had that anyway...
I've been following the switch off the Mac conversations involving Mark Pilgrim, Tim Bray, John Gruber, and others. The major theme is around being data portability / lock-in, with open source applications being a minor theme. Like Mark, I've been through the data locked in proprietary application jail, both on the Mac and Windows. I don't like it, it doesn't taste good, and it's a real problem.
The thing that's bothered me as I've been reading is the focus on the data lock-in problem as the only problem. I expect my computer to help me work better and faster, and for that I need good applications, and some of the applications are one of a kind or in a category for which there are no standardized data formats. I'm just not going to stop using those apps and start managing that data as text files in Emacs. Sometimes in order to support the application, you need a richer file format. I don't think that is evil. But I agree that for common data types, Linux is ahead here.
I've been using Ubuntu since early 2005, and I've used Debian for many more years prior to that. When my Powerbook was stolen earlier this year, I switched to using Ubuntu as my desktop productivity environment (I was already using it as my primary development environment -- the Ubuntu box was the fastest in the house, at least until the Core Duo machines showed up). As I wrote previously, I just couldn't stomach it. I had access to most of my critical data, but I felt that I was significantly less productive on the Ubuntu box. Part of that was because I didn't attempt to port some of my productivity infrastructure to Ubuntu, but part of it was also the lack of applications and application integration infrastructure. I'm not averse to switching platforms. I went from Apple II to IBM PC to Classic Mac to Windows NT (while I was working at Apple, no less) and most recently to Mac OS X. I am averse to taking a major productivity hit, which is what happened for the months that I was on Ubuntu.
The fact that the operating system and (almost) all the apps that I was using on Ubuntu were open source didn't really make much of a difference. The last thing that I want to do when I am pressed for time is fix problems with my desktop apps, especially when there are superior alternatives. In theory, I would prefer my desktop apps to be open source, but unless I get really annoyed, it's unlikely that I am personally going to fix any problems with those apps. Many of the problems that I have with apps are issues that affect a minority of users, and for that reason, Apple, or any large vendor would prioritize those bugs way down. It's the same issue with long standing bugs with the JDK which Sun prioritizes way down. In either case, open sourcing the software would allow people outside the vendors to address the bugs. My experience on the Mac is that my problems getting bugs fixed is a large vendor problem. I use a lot of applications that are written by small independent developers or software houses. In general, I've found these developers to be as responsive or in some cases (Brent Simmons) more responsive than your typical open source project. It also is conveniently the case that the small developers are the more innovative ones. No, the apps aren't open source, but I get some (not all) of the benefits that I get from open source software.
What would it take to get me to switch to Linux/Ubuntu?
Fix the fonts - I run my monitors at microscopic. I was literally getting headaches from trying to use Ubuntu at the same resolutions.
I work on a laptop, with an external display. Undocking from the external display is a pain because all the windows move into stupid places. Same thing happens when I hook back up. Make the machine do something intelligent when this sort of thing happens. (No, OS X doesn't do this - but you're trying to get me to switch, right?)
Give me application integration/extension capability. Give me scriptable applications. Unix has plenty of scripting languages, but it has very few applications whose internal functionality can be accessed via those languages. I create custom workflows by using AppleScript and/or python to glue together GUI and command line applications to get the job done. This scripting capability allows me to use any application as a platform for developing my own custom applications using scripting. Also, OS X has services which can integrate into any application that uses the Cocoa frameworks. This means any Cocoa application can spell check or summarize text or look up the selection in the dictionary.
Color management. I never cared about this until I got serious about photography. Now I care about it a lot.
A system wide notification manager like Growl (I suspect this might already be in there). Make sure that those scripts can use it.
Working bluetooth synchronization between my phone and apps. When I can sync my address book and calendar to my phone and someone has written Sailing Clicker for Linux, you're done.
Lastly, give me good apps:
- Quicksilver - it works so well because apps are scriptable
- Aperture or Lightroom
- Equivalents to Mail Act-On!, MailTags - or a just plain better mail reader
- Good outlining and mindmapping
- An RSS Aggregator which provides a river of news style UI and can sync to a web based aggregator as well
- Ecto (none of the blog clients worked out of the box with pyblosxom) - integrated with the newsreader, so I can respond fast
- Rich del.icio.us client - integrated with the newsreader - so I can slam stuff into del.icio.us without messing up my browser state
- An IRC client with Snak style window/pane management
- Proxi - a good UI for taking actions based on system/hardware events
- Spell check in system supplied text fields
- A personal finance application that talks to banks and brokerages
- A small business accounting program that talks to the IRS directly
- Video IM
- Decent speech synthesis
As as my personal history goes (all the way back to the Apple II), the entire category of "thinking tools" for computers originated with Dave Winer's ThinkTank outline processor and it's marvelous successor MORE. I use OmniOutliner on the Mac, and while it has features that ThinkTank and More never did, it just doesn't feel as natural as MORE. Then again, you're reading a guy who has over 20 years of Emacs muscle memory jammed in there too. Good as outlines are (and they are very good), sometimes you need something different. I've found that drawing a mind map is a good way to help me split out issues when I don't have a clear conceptual picture of what's going on. The big problem with mind maps is that they are hard to draw and maintain, especially when you are splitting nodes and moving them around. It's a total loss on paper -- it's precisely the thing that computers are good for. For a while I was using FreeMind, which is open source, but the interface left a lot to be desired.
Yesterday, MindJet launched the Macintosh version of their MindManager application for mind mapping. I've been using it as a beta tester for several months (Disclosure: I got a free copy of MindManager as a result), and I've been putting it to work generating maps of various kinds. I'm very happy with it -- the interface is reasonable, and I now have no qualms about creating a mind map if I think it would be remotely helpful for a problem that I am looking at. There is file compatibility with the Windows version of MindManager - I verified this by opening some maps that were created at Seattle Mind Camp 2.0. If you're looking for a mind mapping program, and you are picky about the interface, I think that you should download the free trial of MindManager for Mac and see for yourself.
I'm to the point where most of the big migration tasks are done now. There are still a bunch of little ones but I'm going to them piecemeal, so I'm just going to do this big wrapup for now
(More) Native apps that I've installed:
Non-native apps I've installed:
- Google Earth - I'm not really sure why I installed this, to be honest.=
- Remote Desktop Connection (for talking to the Windows box)
New apps that I've installed:
- PodWorks is my friend! Not only did it get all my music from my iPod back into iTunes, it also recovered the ratings and playcount metadata
- FastScripts Lite - free version is good, wish you could walk the menu after popping the hot key -- otherwise too many hot keys. Has some good display functionality usable from scripts -- if I start using that, I'll but the full version
- lingon is a great editor for launchd config files, but unfortunately calendar based launching appears to be broken (still), so I guess I'll be going back to anacron, although the new version of NetNewsWire on Intel is so fast that I don't really mind the wait.
- MenuCalendarClock - I have iCal open much less now that I am dogfooding Chandler, so sometimes I just want quick glance at the calendar.
- Service Scrubber - This is a nice tool for fixing the keybindings to services. OmniOutliner Pro's Add to Clipping service was bound to Cmd->, which is what Emacs uses for go to end of file, and which I hit a lot. I had been editing the Info.plist for the service, but Service Scrubber is a much nicer way to do it.
I also observed the yellow cursor problem in Intel X11.app. Fortunately, there is a patch for that.
PithHelmet now works with NetNewsWire. It didn't used to work on my old laptop, but both programs have advanced, and I'm happy to be able to kill ads out of my NetNewsWire browser tabs. Just one more step on the way to getting rid of my standalone browser.
The remote is cool. We used it to watch a Netflix movie the other night, and it really works pretty well. It seems that only Front Row causes the weird hangs that I saw with rcd.app. Actually I haven't been brave enough to try it since I updated to 10.4.6, so maybe that's all straightened out. I've also used the remote to hush up the sound from iTunes. So it's kind of growing on me. It'll be interesting to see what kind of hacks happen around it.
Wireless performance is much improved over the PowerBook. I picked up a whole pile of wireless networks right around my house. We never saw them with the old machines.
I am still waiting for Aperture 1.1 to show up so I can post the backlog of Flickr photos. I could use LightRoom or iPhoto to do it, but I'm going to be stubborn, at least until April 15th or so.
I've built all the Python extensions that I need for my system automation, libxml2 and egenix's mxTidy. On these dual core machines, make -j 2 is your friend. appscript and ipython are also working just fine.
Apple issued a bunch of firmware updates along with Boot Camp. The update installed fine, but unlike some people, it didn't cure the CPU whine for me.
That whine is really the only thing that I'm unhappy with. I am really happy with the performance, and this is the bottom of the line configuration. Aperture is probably going to be the real torture test, so I'll have more to report on that.
Those of you who are sick of reading about Mac stuff can relax now. I have some non-Mac stuff in the pipeline.
First there was Boot Camp.
Today, Parallels shipped a beta of their Windows virtualization product.
So now we get to compare things side by side. Between yesterday and today, I saw a lot of posts advertising blue screens of death on Macs. I haven't tried the Parallels product yet, because I don't want to activate a copy of Windows XP on it. The Parallels product shows that virtualization of Windows and Linux can happen on Intel Macs. There's only one Windows program that I need to run, so I'm not in a terrible hurry to get Windows up, and since the rumor mill says that VMWare is working on a Mac version, I think I'm going to wait until the final versions of each of those products appear and then make my choice. Who knows maybe even XenSource and Microsoft will be in the game at that point.
I want to run Linux this way as well, so that I can (among other things) do testing of Chandler on all three platforms. I"m surprised that Ubuntu didn't appear in the list of supported guest operating systems for the Parallels product.
Nonetheless a good week for people wanting to run Windows (and Linux) on a Mac. You can pretty much have it anyway you want.
Actually, it landed late yesterday afternoon, and I've been working to get it set up to my liking. I decided that the best thing to do was to rebuild the content from scratch, so I'm not just doing a big copy from my backups. Needless to say, this is the long road back.
I was fairly concerned because I have read a lot about noise related problems with the MacBooks, and I am noise picky, so I feared the worst. I don't have the whine that is associated with a bad display inverter, but I do have the whine that is related to CPU usage / power management. It only happens when the machine runs on batteries, and it's not as annoying as I feared. I'm not sure whether its worth it for the machine to go back to Apple to remedy the problem.
Other than the whine, my impressions are favorable. I haven't had any spurious reboots or other hardware related problems. The performance is pretty good, especially since this is a 1.83 GHz, 5400 RPM configuration. I did stick some more RAM in it, and it's been stable so far -- the RAM came from Other World Computing, which has done right by me in the past. I ordered their house brand, but they sent me TechWorks DIMM's instead. Either way, I had problems with OWC DIMM's in the old machine, and they cross shipped replacements which took care of the problems. Just Apple machines being picky about their RAM - par for the course.
I've been installing apps slowly, and I've tried to keep to Universal Binaries where possible in order to avoid the RAM hit from Rosetta. So far I've got Adium, Chicken of the VNC, DeerPark (an unofficial Intel build of Firefox), iPulse, iTerm, the Lightroom beta, the NetNewsWire beta, the OmniOutliner Pro beta, Quicksilver, Snak, SubEthaEdit, and SuperDuper!.
Normally I build my own Emacs, but this time I am trying the packaged Carbon Emacs first. It's hackerly to say that you built your own Emacs, but mostly it's a pain in the neck, and the folks working on Carbon Emacs have included a bunch of nice stuff.
Performance is pretty good. I have been running lots of background copies and diffs, synchronizing IMAP mailboxes, and other background tasks at the same time I was trying to use other apps in the foreground, and I've been pleased. NetNewsWire downloads have speed up dramatically -- I know that Brent has been working hard on performance in the beta, so there's a nice reinforcing effect, I am sure. I can't use my PCMCIA compact flash reader anymore, so I'm back to using the USB cable to get RAW images out of my camera, and I was pleasantly surprised by the speed. It was a lot
faster than before.
I haven't had much chance to play with the new hardware bells and whistles. I used PhotoBooth to take a self portrait for my account picture, and Julie, the kids and I took one just for laughs. I think PhotoBooth will be worth some fun. The Apple Remote starts up Front Row, which is cool, except that when it exited it left rcd.app hung and not responding. I hope that this is just a software problem, but I haven't had much time to research it.
On the problems. So far, I've talked about the CPU whine and the rcd.app thing. I've also plugged in my external Keyboard, which is a 6 year old Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro. I've noticed some weird keyboard bounce problems. I haven't installed the Microsoft drivers (yet) because they aren't Universal (but I'm also a long way from being done installing).
The last "problem" area is non-Univeral applications. So far I have installed a few PPC apps: Path Finder, Ecto, Skype, xchm, and Aperture. Path Finder and Skype definitely plan to go Universal, and the Ecto support boards say Ecto will go Universal for Ecto 3.0. I need to mail the xchm folks and see what their plans were. Apple was supposed to release a Universal Binary of Aperture, (along with a bunch of fixes/improvements) by the end of March, but apparently, that's been delayed until April. I also built SSHKeychain from sources to get a Universal version.
That's my first report on the MacBook Pro. If anyone has an experience restoring an iTunes library from an iPod, or restoring the Address Book via Bluetooth (or other) iSync, I'd be interested in hearing from you.
There's another thing that I've learned (besides make more backups) from the theft of the Powerbooks. I used to think that I could switch to Linux whenever I felt like it. This incident forced me to do it, if only for a few days, and it turns out that I didn't like it much. Thankfully I won't have to do it because Paul and Jenny were so generous with the iBook.
I used Thunderbird before when I was on Windows, so I figured that it wouldn't be any big deal to go back to using it. I was wrong. In Mail.app I used Mail Act-On to fire an Applescript that would take a bunch of selected e-mails and file them in the correct folders. There's no way to do that in Thunderbird. I also had a combination shell and Applescript solution for killing comment spam on my blog. No way to do that either, because Thunderbird isn't scriptable. My workload is e-mail heavy at the moment, and even small hits to e-mail productivity are multiplied
I tried using GAIM for managing my normal IRC load. Once I got sounds working it was sort of okay. I normally put IRC on a separate display, and I use Snak because I can create multiple windows, and inside each window I can split the window into tiles, one IRC channel per tile. I haven't seen any other IRC program on any platform that will let me do this UI. And for watching several IRC channels at once, this can't be beat.
I tried using my Bloglines and Rojo accounts. I found both of these to be too slow, even when loaded with a much older version of my blog subscriptions. I was able to get a newer version of my feeds and upload them, but both aggregators didn't respect the grouping information that NetNewsWire left in the OPML.
I was already doing most of my development work on Linux, so that's not taking much of a hit, but for all the productivity stuff, going to Linux would be a big step backwards. I guess it says something when I'd rather use a G3 iBook versus the 3.5GHz AMD64 box...
I'm really surprised by the furor over dual (or even triple booting) Intel Macs. It's perfectly legitimate to want to run some Windows or Linux (or OpenBSD, or GNU Hurd, or L4 or Plan9) on your Intel based Macintosh. It's just that rebooting into a different operating system is so 20th century. The only explanation I can think of is that people are forgetting about technologies like VMWare, VirtualPC, Xen, and Bochs. When I used an Intel box regularly (not that long ago), I had triple boot. It was a nightmare. Managing all the different partition types, figuring out how to layout the partitions so they could boot, and so on. That was bad enough. But rebooting?!
I think we've all become brain damaged by how bad computers are today, to the point that rebooting a machine to get access to a few Windows or Linux apps sounds like a good idea. In my normal working configuration, the machine has been running for weeks. I have tons of applications open, I have tons of windows open and spatially arranged. That represents a week (or more) worth of working context. There's no way I want to destroy all of that just so I can run Microsoft Money (the only Windows app we still use -- besides a tax program) to update my financial information from online.
Fortunately, I don't think we'll have to do that. Some number of the virtualization systems that I mentioned above will come to market, and then we'll be able to run those other OS's and their apps in virtualized processes that are accessible from the OS X desktop environment. Now that would actually be a productivity increase. The only reason I can think of for dual booting would be to play Windows games, and I don't have the time to do that.
According the the Aperture home page, Apple is going to do the Universal Binary crossgrade for Aperture at no charge. This is much better than the $50 for the other Pro apps. Maybe someone over there is listening after all. I suppose I should be thanking the Lightroom team for that.
I escaped from the Stevenote unaltered by the Reality Distortion Field. At no time did I reach for my wallet.
The software announcements were completely unsurprising. Last year I would have been excited about iPhoto improvements. This year, due to Aperture and Lightroom, it's a little harder to get excited. I did like the stuff about photocasting. It's nice to see the use of RSS to deliver pictures, although anybody using Flickr or any other such site will yawn. The more interesting thing is the way that an iPhoto that subscribes to the photocast can use the photos just like any other photo. Now that's microcontent for you.
If I were interested in podcasting, then the new features in Garageband sound really attractive. The only problem is that I barely have enough time to crank out blog posts these days, much less the additional work to do a good podcast. And somehow it seems to me that a lame podcast is much worse than a lame blog post.
Ok, on to the hardware stuff.
I think that the crossgrade stuff for the Pro apps is completely reasonable except for Aperture, which has only been out a month. It's hard to see this as anything but sticking it to your early adopters.
The iMac announcement was a big surprise -- almost all the rumor sites got this wrong, and from the point of view of keeping Apple in cash, this is probably a good decision. I almost always ignore iMac announcements, because I'm mostly interested in the "Pro" series machines.
So last week I wrote a post about what I was looking for in an Intel Powerbook, although at the time I wrote it, I firmly believed that Apple would not announce a Powerbook today. How did Apple do against my list?
- Dual Core CPU - Check. Except that the top clock for the MacBook is lower than the top for the iMac. Isn't this supposed to be a Pro machine? If you look at the Core Duo lineup, the MacBook models use the Core Duo T2300 and T2400 which are at the knee of the pricing curve. There are two clock speeds above these two models, but the price goes up significantly. I'm a little disappointed to not have the option to buy the fastest possible CPU.
- Big Fast Disks - Uhh. 100G 5400 RPM standard? Not really what I had in mind, although I had summer of 2006 in mind, and you can't get some of the drives that I was thinking of just yet. Still, you could have at least given us the 7200rpm disk standard.
- User service able hard disk - No way. The case is basically the 15" Powerbook case (more on this below), and that case is hardly what I'd call user serviceable.
- Higher end GPU - Radeon Mobility X1600 - I'm not sure about this, but I think the Radeon Mobility x800 is the top of the line (but probably also sucks battery). At least it can drive a 30" display
- Slimmer and lighter - slimmer, slightly. Lighter, nope - the same. The Lenovo T60 is 4.8lbs.
- More RAM - nope. The MacBook only takes 2G
- At least 5 hours of battery - ?? - This is looking scary. No battery life time appears in any Apple document that I could find. Not only that, the MacBook is using a slightly larger battery.
- Announcement of x86 virtualization software - nope - The datasheets for Core Duo say that the Intel Virtualization Technology is in there. It's still early, so no biggie
- Announcement of number of apps going Universal - no numbers were given, so we're still early here too. VersionTracker is now tracking universal binaries on a separate page
- At least 1 firewire port - yep, but it's FW400.
Kind of disappointing. There is huge pent up demand for a reasonably performing notebook, and the MacBook Pro is certainly that. It looks like Apple did the most expedient thing that it could, which is to take an Intel 945PM chipset and stick it into a PowerBook case, and add a small number bells and whistles (like the built in iSight and remote control). That explains the ExpressCard slot, and the FW400. If I didn't have to measure the MacBook Pro against something like the Lenovo T60 (see preview), which has 5 hours of battery life with a 2.16GHz Core Duo T2600 in a 4.8lb package, I might be happy. But this is hardly the top to bottom revamp of the pro notebook line that you'd expect for the Intel transition. And let's not even discuss the name.
There are a host of little details which swing either way. I'm happy about ExpressCard, because it's going to be better in the long term, and my next machine (especially if I'm paying) needs to last a bunch of years. I'm ambivalent about the FW400 choice -- reality is that most peripherals are probably FW400, and the amount of engineering needed to get FW800 working was probably more than could be safely done in time for a MacWorld launch. There's no modem, but I haven't used one of those the entire time I've had my Powerbook. If I really needed something like that, I'd be looking for EVDO, anyway. Odd choice to change the display resolution of the LCD panel -- was it just to get space for the iSight? There's no dual layer DVD burner, which is a regression from the Powerbook lineup.
There's no 12" or 17" - so this isn't the full pro notebook lineup, which leads me to believe that this is a transitional product that helps satisfy pent up demand on a high margin product. It's going to be interesting to see how the rest of the lineup shapes up. I'd really like to get something better, and while the 15" MacBook Pro is a lot better than what I have now, it didn't hit the wishlist, which means that I'll have to be content to wait a few more months. In the meantime, I'll be consoling myself with the thought that others will be blazing the way on the transition trail, and hoping that a 15" Merom based MacBook Pro is going to come earlier than Christmas.
Despite all that, I am pleased that the transition has begun, and that Apple thinks they can do it all in a year, well ahead of schedule.
Well, we haven't even had the Stevenote, and already MacWorld is interesting. So Adobe has released a beta of Lightroom, which is a direct competitor to Aperture. I've played around with it a little bit, and it's definitely beta. If I hadn't seen Aperture, I'd be impressed.
I suppose that if I were cynical I'd say that we now have two beta quality pro photographer tools to choose from. But I actually don't think that . I am not one of the many people (and there do appear to be many) who are having problems with Aperture. It is a little sluggish on my Powerbook, but other than that, it is fitting the bill. From the little playing that I did with Lightroom, some things are faster than on Aperture, but there are also some things which are kind of slow. The areas that are obviously weaker (at the moment) in Lightroom are metadata/keyword handling, and project style organization. The areas that are obviously stronger are in the develop module -- all the stuff related to adjusting an image -- and I have to same from a quick look, that it does look a lot stronger in this respect.
Lightroom puts a lot of pressure on Apple to improve Aperture and to do it pretty quickly. And the reverse is also true (that's why we're seeing a public beta). Unfortunately, I see Apple being at a disadvantage and here are some reasons why:
1. Apple has already released Aperture, so people have to pay a decent amount of money in order to get it, and it has some pretty widely publicized flaws. Lightroom is free until the end of 2006 (roughly -- and I wouldn't be surprised to see it slide into 2007 -- it's going to be interesting to see whether the introduction of the Windows version slows down the velocity of the Mac version). So this is probably going to blunt sales of Aperture unless Apple does a lot to address the problems in Aperture, and do it visibly, and continuously. People are going to see Lightroom visibly improve over the next year. Will Aperture users see the same? Let me put it this way. If I don't, that's going to play a large factor in whether I will be an Aperture customer on the day that Lightroom ships.
2. I (who have had no major issues with Aperture) have been very disappointed with how Apple has handled the problems with Aperture. Yes, we got a 1.0.1 update pretty fast, and I hope that's indicative of what we'll continue to see. However, that's not enough. There are no Apple responses in the Apple support forums. Threads there have been closed/removed (which looks bad for Apple even if participants in the thread were violating the terms of service). There is no indication that customers requests/issues/etc are being heard. Contrast this with the Lightroom forums, where the developers are out and soliciting feedback and participating in the community. This is pretty important to me, and while we'll have to see what the Lightroom community looks like, the forums already seem to be going in a good direction.
3. Adobe is loudly saying that they are going to make an SDK available. This is also highly important, because it provides a way for Lightroom to grow. It will be interesting to see whether Adobe can provide the SDK in a way that allows for a user innovation toolkit.
4. It's going to be much easier for Lightroom to integrate with Photoshop -- something that some Aperture users are complaining about
On the feature, polish and implementation front Apple and Adobe are now racing against each other. But from where I sit, Apple is way behind on dealing with its user and developer (if there is an SDK or plugin API) community. I like Aperture, and from what I've seen of Lightroom, there are still aspects of Aperture that I prefer. But Apple really needs to work on the community around Aperture. As I've written in previous posts, I'm not opposed to the idea of paying for software. But when I do, I expect the producer to talk to me, to listen to my issues, and to do something about it.
Guy Kawasaki is blogging now and today he put up a post about new Powerbooks. Here's what I'll be looking for next (I don't mind if it doesn't get announced next week, but you never know)
- Dual Core CPU - because I'm tired of waiting for my machine - I want that second core to cut down those beachballs.
- Big, Fast, disks - because I'm stuck on a 4200RPM disk and that makes paging pretty slow, and because between my CD collection, IT Conversations, and Canon RAW, disks are just too small.
- A user serviceable hard disk - so that the machine can have a decent life time.
- Higher end GPU - for Aperture, and for that 30" display that I'll be needing as my eyes age. I have my 21" running at 1856x1392, and I'm not getting any younger. Thanks to Dell for putting some price pressure on Apple. Finally.
- Slimmer and lighter - because I have to lug the infernal thing all over the place.
- More RAM - because it hurts to page - Intel's 945PM chipset addresses 4G, and apparently the new IBM/Lenovo T60's can take 4G of RAM.
- At least 5 hours of battery life, preferably more -- After all, that's what all this Intel business was about, right? And I don't mean turning down the display to almost zero, and typing judiciously.
- At least one announcement of x86 virtualization software for Windows and Linux - and that's right, that means that the disks and RAM will be too small.
- An announcement about the number of applications to go Universal - a little confidence building there...
- At least one Firewire port - because of all those external hard disks
That's my wishlist. I'm not going to speculate about Intel Mac-Mini's, or iBooks, or iPods, or iAnything else.
[ After I wrote this, but before I posted, I read AnandTech's Core Duo review and T60 preview - Gives you an idea of what's possible. ]
[via The Seattle Times ]:
Good advice from Paul Andrews:
Hardly a week goes by that I don't hear from a friend or colleague with a monumental Windows problem.
I tell them I'm glad to help, on one condition: Next time they buy a computer, they agree to consider a Macintosh. A year ago, after a particularly trying week of spyware, adware, viral attacks, lock-ups and reboots, I changed my primary computer to a Mac. I've dabbled with Macs since the late 1980s but never felt a need to change from Windows.
It seems a little bit odd to me that I'd have to find out about support for additional digital camera RAW formats from some blogs rather than the Mac OS 10.4.3 updater release notes... At least Rob Galbraith thinks that things are promising for Aperture's RAW conversions.