Bart’s newly revamped scripts to watermark images are now available at bartb.ie under the FreeBSD license, my thoughts on the two new Microsoft Surface tablets. In Dumb Question Corner, Alison from Scotland asks whether Apple is just being a big meanie discontinuing support for some older devices. Honda Bob comes back for a cameo appearance to talk about solving a Windows to iOS syncing problem with CompanionLink software. In Chit Chat Across the Pond Tim Verpoorten of surfbits.com gets back to his microphone to talk about why the MacPro is still important.
Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday June 24, 2012 and this is show number 372
I’m really excited about today’s show. I’m going to give you my impressions of the newly announced Microsoft Surface tablets, we’ll answer a dumb question from Scotland from another Alison, then we’re treated to a guest appearance by the Intergallactically Famous Honda Bob. Finally in Chit Chat Across the Pond we have none other than Tim Verpoorten from Surfbits.com to talk about why someone might need (or want) a Mac Pro.
But first an update. Last week on the show Bart walked us through the logical thought process he used for watermarking his images. In that discussion we talked about his scripts that he makes freely available, and he said that they were from 2008, and mentioned that he hoped to update them in a few weeks. He’s ahead of schedule, he did the updates and has them available at a link in the shownotes to bartb.ie under the FreeBSD license. Dorothy is already using them and mucking about with MacPorts and such so don’t let her be the only one to have all the fun.
Microsoft announced two new tablets this week called the Surface. You know I’m not a huge fan of Windows 8, but these new products look pretty interesting. To refresh your memory on Windows 8 – there’s actually two versions, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT. Windows 8 Pro runs on Intel processors and gives you both the new Metro UI (the live tiles) and a fully functioning Windows desktop environment that will run all Windows programs. Windows RT runs on the ARM processors and gives you the Metro UI, and a very limited desktop environment. You’ll be able to run Microsoft Office 15 on the desktop but third party developers will not be allowed to develop for the desktop environment.
The Surface comes in two models – Surface Windows RT and Surface Windows 8 Pro, matching the operating systems. The RT Surface is almost exactly the same dimensions as an iPad – .09mm thinner and 24 grams heavier. The Surface Pro is about 40% thicker than an iPad and weighs 44% more. The Surface is made of a made up material called VaporMg, some super special form of Magnesium, hence the Mg in the name. Sounds like a name Apple would make up, sounds super cool and like we should have heard about it before if we’d paid attention in those incredibly boring Chemistry lectures in college.
The Surface is a 16:9 wide aspect ratio, designed for better movie watching – no black bars. Steven Sinofsky, head of the Windows team for Microsoft, did the demonstration of Windows 8 running on the RT Surface, and while he tried to keep his cool, he did get frustrated when Internet Explorer crashed while he was doing the demo. He tried to cover it up by holding it towards his shirt while he talked and fiddled with it, but finally he had to run behind a table and grab another one. In a Steve Jobs demo someone would have been drawn and quartered for that. Not very impressive in my opinion, and I was very shocked to see that no one in the press even thought that was worth mentioning. Perhaps I enjoyed it a little bit too much. I was also pleased to see that every person demoing the surface had to tap the little sliver on the side at least twice to get a running application to come on screen – the same thing I’ve been complaining about with Windows 8. it’s too small of an area and it’s not responsive. Glad it happens to them too.
One of the things that excited Sinofsky the most was that there’s a kick stand built into the device. I guess that’s cool, I have invested in different covers and stands to make my iPad stand up at just about that angle. I had to take issue though when he said that the .7mm thick stand adds ZERO weight and thickness. Um, doesn’t it add .7 mm? What the kickstand doesn’t do for you is allow you to set the tablet at an angle comfortable for typing. Sinofsky also said that the 22 degree angle was perfect for video chat, that it would frame your face perfectly. Wouldn’t that be highly dependent on what surface you placed the Surface?
The coolest thing they showed though, and it actually overshadowed the device itself, was the Touch Cover. This is a very thin cover at 3mm that has a keyboard built in. The keys depress a mere 1.5mm. It was awesome. People who yawned at Windows 8, who checked their watches at the kickstand and the VaporMg material, audibly gasped with delight when they saw the Touch Cover. And I was amongst that group of gaspers. The cover snaps on and off with a magnetic connection, looks essentially like a laptop with the kickstand holding the Surface up. I can’t wait to get my hands on the Touch Cover to see how the typing actually is. Evidently they didn’t let reporters touch it which is a big concerning. I actually really like Microsoft mice, and if their keyboards had worked on Macs back when I used a separate keyboard with a desktop, I’m sure I would have bought them too. I think this Touch Cover could be awesome.
In a very Apple move, and I mean this as a compliment to Microsoft, when you attach the Touch Cover to your Surface, the background color of the Metro UI changes to match the color of the Touch Cover. Now that’s the kind of detail Apple would do. Except…in the photo they showed, the color is not quite the same…
Then they showed off the Surface Pro. Like I said it’s around 40% thicker than an iPad, but this bad boy has a quad core Intel Core i5 – like what you get in an iMac for cryin’ out loud! They showed off how it had a cooling vent all the way around so that no matter how you held it, your hands would burn…no, just kidding, no matter how you held it you wouldn’t be blocking much of the ventilation. It will be interesting to see if that works. After all the excitement of the Touch Cover, then they showed a second keyboard case called the Type cover, which is essentially a “real” keyboard. Sinofsky said with the Touch Cover it was dramatically better than typing on glass, but then with the Type Cover he said he was as fast on it as on a full sized keyboard.
So they’re trotting around with this rather thick tablet by today’s standards, flipping around in the Metro UI, but what he did next almost made me wet my pants. He plugged it into display port to a big monitor…and opened LightRoom! It was crazy! At that moment I saw the future. No longer will we lug giant laptops around, we just carry this little tablet, plug it in to a real monitor and get to real work. Sorry but I loved it. I tried not to Chris, but I did.
I can’t keep the love fest going though, let me say a couple more snarky things to cleanse my palette. I loved it when the presenter went through this elaborate description of the screen resolution – describing it as have such small pixels that at a normal viewing distance you couldn’t distinguish between them. He had to use 128 words because he couldn’t just say Retina Display. I know it’s a marketing term invented by Apple, but I still thought it was funny how hard he had to work to not say it.
They demonstrated a pen stylus, which to me was a major fail. The presenter brought up a PDF and tried to write on it, but the tablet saw his wrist coming and started scrolling all over while he tried to write. Almost immediately after that, since his speech was memorized, he was forced to talk about the amazing wrist awareness on the Surface, that it knows what’s the pen and what’s your wrist. Yeah, that was really sad.
The punch line to the demo was that they didn’t have pricing, and they didn’t have a delivery date. They didn’t want to say when Windows 8 was coming out, so clearly they couldn’t say when Surface would come out. But they did say that the Pro version would be priced “like an Ultrabook” – so get close to a thousand dollars ready to spend on a tablet kids. Oh wait, I spent over 900 on my iPad after tip and tax and AppleCare…
The most disappointing thing in the presentation to me was when they said that the Pro version would not be coming out until three months after the RT version. That’s ridiculous! Why in heck would that be? They’re being cagey about when this year Windows 8 is coming out saying “in the fall”, which means it’s more than 3-5 months away, so we have to wait for 6-8 months to get our hands on the Pro model! ARGH. if you’d like to read some badly formatted specs with a horrible grammar error (they wrote antennae instead of antennas, everyone knows that antennae are on bugs), I put a link in the shownotes to the Microsoft Surface spec sheet.
Dumb Question Corner
Alison from Scotland writes:
My late 2006 MacBook Pro made the cut for Lion but misses out on Mountain Lion. It seems this is because I have ATI graphics and the next revision saw the switch to Nvidia. Are Apple just being meanies or is there a valid technical limitation? I don’t get ‘Save As’ and improved iCloud support because of my graphics chip, seriously?
On a related note, do you think it’s no longer possible to future-proof your devices? When I replaced my iBook with the MacBook Pro I opted for the most powerful model and resisted the very tempting Black MacBook. It was a good investment until now and after 5 and a half years and a gratis repair last year I can’t complain too much. On the other hand I have a 64GB original iPad 3G. It hasn’t worked well since iOS 5 so I’m not surprised iOS 6 won’t be available. That doesn’t stop me feeling a little aggrieved! I expected to get 3 years good use out of it before thinking about an upgrade. I’m considering an 11inch Air as a compromise for my two obsoleted devices but I find myself approaching the purchase completely differently to the past. I’m considering last year’s model and getting by with less storage than I opted to have nearly six years ago because I know I need to start planning and saving for a replacement. There will be no repairing and upgrading this time. Have we reached a point where we shouldn’t expect to have a useful machine beyond the end of AppleCare? Also, Mac prices might have fallen but is ‘The Apple Tax’ greater than ever given you have iOS devices and a Mac (or two) to keep functioning, up to date and compatible with each other?
Sorry, I think I’ve ended up thinking out loud but it’s overwhelming how much it would cost to upgrade my Mac, iPad and iPhone so they’d all work with the latest OS X and iOS and work seamlessly together with iCloud.
I’m hope you can find someone who can answer my dumb question. It’s really bugging me!
Many thanks from cold, rainy Scotland. Ali
woohoo – Scotland! I hardly ever hear from anyone from your wonderful country.
Ok, enough gushing, let’s think this through.
I think there’s a couple ways to look at this, and I’d like to suggest an alternative thought process.
I think you’re torn between two worlds. You want to be on the cutting edge of technology and be frugal and smart with your money and get the longest life out of your hardware. Those two things might not be able to live in the same universe.
Let’s think about a few things:
When iOS 6 comes out, your first gen iPad will still work exactly as it does today.
When Mountain Lion comes out your Macbook Pro will still work exactly as it today.
So if you go with the frugal plan and hang onto your laptop, you’re in great shape! a laptop that is five and a half years will be able to run an operating system that is still under updates and secure. Is that really that bad? You can still run the productivity apps, have access to the nearly new Mac App Store, use your printers…you just can’t run an operating system 5.5 years newer than your hardware. In fact, I applaud your decision to buy top of the line.
Now I can’t for the life of me explain why a graphics card won’t let you upgrade, but it still is amazing you can still run Lion.
Now let’s see if that logic works with the iPad. You have a 64GB Gen 1 iPad, and you said it doesn’t run well under iOS 5. I’m thinking a wipe is in order. I gave my son my 64GB Gen 1 iPad and he wiped it and it works perfectly under iOS 5 for him. The basic steps (but read up on this to verify) you connect and do a backup first. Then do a reset to factory condition. and finally do a restore from backup. Or blow off the restore from backup and reload your apps from the app store (purchased items). Make sure your photos are in Photostream or pull them off using Image Capture before you do that though! Oh, and if you care about saved games there’s all kinds of juju you have to do to keep those.
personally I think a device we paid $839 for before taxi should be able to run the latest operating system, so this one is pretty tough to swallow. I don’t understand why the iPhone 3GS is able to run iOS 6 but the first gen iPad is not?
1st Gen iPad came out in April 2010
3GS came out in June 2010, just 2 months later
1st Gen iPad is a 1 GHz A4
3GS is an 933MHz ARM A8
1st Gen iPad has 256MB of RAM
3GS also has 256MB
So 2 years old, the same or better specs, and yet it’s not possible to run iOS 6 on the iPad 1st gen. So the answer to your dumb question on this is yes, Apple is being a big fat meanie. That would mean that the iPad is a terrible investment but the Macbook Pro is a great investment!
Honda Bob and His Syncing Problem
Hello, this is Honda bob, and I had a problem syncing my Microsoft Outlook calendar with iTunes.
On my IBM Laptop PC, I was running Microsoft Office 2010 Outlook. I-Tunes had just updated to version 10. I syncing my i-phone everyday like I usually do, and it was about a week later, after missing a couple appointments, I noticed that some of the appointments I had made on my laptop were not getting synced with my i-phone calendar app. Some of the appointments I had made using my i-phone were not making it to my laptop either. After experimenting with several settings on i-tunes, i-phone and Microsoft Outlook, it became clear that they were just not going to sync. I tried restoring the i-phone and also uninstalling and reinstalling Microsoft Office 2010 to no avail. Still not syncing.
A call to Apple help line offered several suggestions that I had already tried, so I made an appointment with one of the Genius employees of the Apple store in Cerritos. After patiently listening to my problem, they were stumped also, so I was referred to someone else in the store who was better versed in Microsoft products. After going through several employees there, it became evident that they didn’t know what the problem was either, but insisted it was not an Apple problem and referred me to Microsoft.
After returning home, I called Microsoft and explained the problem. John was very attentive and offered to allow me to download another updated version of Microsoft Office. This new version was supposed to get rid of this particular problem. After uninstalling again and reinstalling the new version, it still would not sync.
Calling back the next day, and explaining the situation again, Elennila there referred me to a blog reference to this particular problem she had heard about outside of Microsoft. This blog was referring to a program called “Companion Link” from CompanionLink software. This program was supposed to sync any device with any device, without going through i-tunes. So without anything to lose, I purchased the program for $49.95.
I downloaded the program and the first thing it directed me to do was download an app on my i-phone called “DejaOffice”, also from CompanionLink Software. After going through the setup process to get both devices to communicate through my wi-fi link, and telling it what to sync, the sync started. FINALLY. When it finished a few moments later, I found that it had synced EVERYTHING accurately: contacts, calendars, tasks, and notes! I was impressed.
Hopefully I won’t be missing any more appointments from now on.
If you’ve never gone over to the Bluemango Learning website and checked out their videos, you might want to do that. The reason I recommend them is because they’re not sales video, they don’t say “Clarify is neato!” or “ScreenSteps rocks!” Instead, they talk about great documentation. Two of my favorites are right on the home page at bluemangolearning.com. The first is called Docs That Rock: Scope and Detail, the second is more of a contrast video called “What if your GPS acted like most user guides?
which illustrates how bad documentation can really hurt cause huge problems. Even if you don’t think you need ScreenSteps, watch these videos and learn something for free. Check them out at bluemangolearning.com.
Chit Chat Across the Pond
Main Topic – What’s the big deal about the Mac Pro?
Remember Allison, I’m not an Engineer, I do not know tons of specs when it comes to performance, so keep the conversation to non-engineering subjects. It’s more about how you were brought up in computers. I started on PC’s back in the late 80’s and early 90’s building my own from scratch. I like the ability to add cards, memory, multiple hard drives and multiple optical drives. I like as many ports as possible and always work under the assumption that you never have enough memory or storage space. I think that this generation of new Mac users have never wanted or knew they might need to expand their Macs, they just assume you buy a Mac from Apple and thats the way you use it until it’s time to buy a new Mac. These users will never want, need or care about a Mac pro.
In the 6 years that I’ve had my Mac Pro, I’ve:
- Updated video cards twice
- Increased storage space from 250 gigs internally to 4 TB internally.
- Added an eSATA card
- Added Bluetooth and wireless support
- I have a Drobo and 2 external FW800 drives attached
- Just recently I added an SSD drive
- And I now have 16 gigs of RAM
Allison mentioned an external SSD brought to her attention by Steve Mindala, a 250GB external SSD from U32 Shadow for only $279 at Amazon vs. a 1TB HDD Seagate Goflex with Thunderbolt for $270 on Amazon.
Lots of angst about the fact that Apple only does speed bumps on the MacPros for the last couple of years, but why don’t people just get the iMac?
27″ max has:
3.4GHz Quad Core i7
16GB of RAM (32GB from OWC)
1 hard drive bay
single graphics card (1GB)
Mac Pro max has:
12 core 2.4GHz Xeon
64GB of RAM
4 hard drive bays
Multiple graphics cards (1GB each)
The Mac Pro is still Apple’s most customizable Mac. In an era where the company has begun using proprietary screws to keep casual DIYers from tampering with their own Macs, the Mac Pro has an easy-to-access case with three free hard drive slots, three empty PCI express card slots, and an extra optical bay. It has two gigabit ethernet ports, built-in Wi-Fi, five USB ports, four FireWire 800 ports, two Mini DisplayPort connectors, and a dual-link DVI connector.
So who needs this kind of power?
Obviously the video and audio and gaming professions. Not John Q Public that is using FCPX or iMovie to make YouTube videos of his home movies, but anyone making a living off of these needs the power of an i7 and Thunderbolt, and the expandability of a Mac Pro. Even hard core gamers, besides the game developers want to max out their video and their CPU’s in order to get the very best graphics, speed and details from their games. They’ve been doing that on the PC side of things for years.
When do you need 12 cores?
It is also the most powerful Mac hardware to run OS X Server on the market. When it comes to sheer computational ability — the ability to support up to 12 cores and 64GB of RAM — are the crucial complements that the Mac Pro brings to the table. The Mac Pro has never been a machine for every Mac user. The Mac Pro serves as a high-end and very configurable Mac, a high-computing solution, and a server. Most users won’t push it to its limits, but for those users or organizations that do, it’s crucial part of Apple’s lineup.
What software takes advantage of 12 cores?
CAD programs, video apps, Adobe’s suite, many if not most high end graphics, video and audio programs.
What would they have to do to the MacPro to make people happy?
Ivy Bridge , Xeon E5
Updated PCI slots and speeds
Faster graphics cards
Updated Optical Drives
Built in eSATA ports
That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, Blue Mango Learning at bluemangolearning.com makers of ScreenSteps and Clarify. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on twitter at @podfeet. I contribute a fair amount over on Google Plus nowadays so just search for me by name if you want to circle me up. If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.