Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006 4:46 pm
iPhoto 6 is good stuff

I’m very impressed with what I have seen on iLife ’06. However, the application most essential to me is iPhoto, and has it managed to score some major new advancements. Oh yes. For me, speed is key, and is pretty much the only feature affecting me.

Even though Steve Jobs was touting “speed” in previous years, the true “speed” only arrived in this release. In fact, it has pissed me off knowing how many hours I have wasted using the previous versions of iPhoto, now knowing the potential speed on the same hardware. Some software tweaks have been done under the hood–why begs the question of why it takes Apple several years to optimise an important Cocoa application?

Yes, it does “scroll like butter” even on a PowerBook 15" 1.25 GHz/768RAM (My photo library is stored on an external 7200 RPM 3.5" drive). The telling thing is that I am no longer fearful of launching iPhoto; whereas in the past, the very thought of using it made me look at the clock and wonder whether my next couple of hours were free. And one more thing™: I no longer envy those Picasa users on Windows. Especially now that I know that the Macs are receiving a kick up the rear with the Yonah adoption.

More speed is always a good thing, and if that was the only new difference that would be OK. There are a few more “evolutions” though.

iPhoto has also adopted the “iTunes-look” which is not quite brushed-metal (Safari), and which I guardedly do like. It does look “lighter” than true brushed metal, and the border-less look works. The colours: dark grey title bar, light grey bits and the light blue album area do clash though.

Full-screen editing builds upon the editing capabilities in previous iPhotos. Now, palettes are not just translucent: some get out of the way when not needed—and quickly too. Images can also be compared side-by-side. Thankfully. there is no fade-to-black when entering/exiting full-screen mode. The usual “some may still need Photoshop” disclaimers apply.

The calendars/photos/book printing “features” are a continual slap in the face for those Macintosh users, who do not live in North America, Japan and Europe, since these features are not available to us. That would be not too bad, since surely we can disable their respective buttons at the bottom of iPhoto window. Nope. Even though the ability to customise that particular toolbar has been present since the last version… those particular buttons… can… not… be… removed. Personally I suspect this to be a simple oversight, although an Australian service would be nice. I don’t think I’d be keen on printing a custom-designed gorgeous calendar on my home inkjet.

It would be easy to just focus on these new features. iPhoto does still have the old faithfuls. My favourite features: the calendar, keywords, smart albums, enhance and adjust features are still there (and work faster too). And… even though iPhoto’s proprietary filing system is sometimes disparaged, I am a big fan and a convert.

Finally, and coming back to the new speed improvements, the Media Browser in other applications is now workable. Previously launching the Media Browser (which hooks into the iPhoto database) was as bad as launching iPhoto itself.

So, iPhoto: You’ve had the features. But now you’re fast enough to no longer be embarrassing to use. Woot!

[posted with ecto]

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Friday, January 13, 2006 10:10 am

It’s that time of month again—when I exceed my download limits, and my ADSL connnection slows down from 1.5 Mbits/s to 64 kbits/s. Better than the old 56 kbits/s POTS modem, and with much less latency, but still slow as.

Most sites I visit are so graphics heavy that it’s a real hassle to use Safari or FireFox to browse. And so despite wondering what in the world Opera’s long term strategy is: I’m glad there is a version on Mac OS X. Simply because Opera, has a single toolbar button that toggles graphics on and off.

I also took the opportunity to better get to know Lynx—which is a cross-platform text-based browser. I used DarwinPorts to get my OS X version a while ago, but of course had little incentive to use it at the time. Surprisingly, it’s very usable in this age of complex web pages. In fact I think it has given me a new appreciation as to how unimportant much of the data on most pages are. I just scroll through and ignore the lots of image tags on each page. The speed is refreshing. Even forums that require signing in work well.

Navigation is keyboard based, with each key having some function—reminds me of the old days of playing Ultima 3 & 4. Out of habit, I find myself reaching for the mouse, and then realising that it serves no function. In fact, maybe Lynx would be useful in those aggravating times when one forgets to charge their wireless mouse.

There is no tabbed browsing either—although I can just open a new terminal window and type lynx apple to get to the Apple site. So each Lynx window is a separate application. I quite like this feature, since ocassionally some graphical browsers (e.g. Safari, Firefox) provide me with the spinning pizza of death (similar to the hourglass in Windows) preventing me from switching between any browser window/tab of that application.

So, Lynx… my browser of choice for the next 3 days—until my next Internet billing cycle.

[posted with ecto]

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Thursday, January 12, 2006 11:25 pm

The Macintels are here, and on paper look tremendous. Debate rages about the FireWire 800 issue, the modem issue, the missing 86400 pixels, and the ExpressCard issue.

There’s also the single vs dual DVD writer issue

And the price issue

I’m a heavy user of the FW800 port, and think there is a noticeable performance increase, when using a daisy chain of FW800 devices. I have noticed that plugging devices into both the FW800 and the FW400 port on my Rev A aluminium 15" PowerBook slows both ports down—which probably means there’s only a single bus on the motherboard to start with. If Apple wasn’t going to rectify this, maybe removing a FW port was a good idea.

Perhaps Apple should have removed the FW400 port instead.

The PowerBook is extremely tempting. Of course I am concerned that it is a Rev A product, but… my biggest reservation is compatibility with 3rd party hardware.

I expect storage and display devices should work perfectly, as should Postscript printers. But what about scanners, tablets and other printers, e.g. inkjet printers? The built-in GIMP printing should help somewhat, but my Canon i865 isn’t on the chart of supported printers. Less likely to work would be my Canon ScanSnap, my Epson Perfection 1670 scanner, and my Wacom tablet—in the short term at least. All those devices need a driver of sorts, because unfortunately there isn’t an industry standard. My HP LaserJet 2300 which uses Postscript requires a PPD and should work—although I suspect some printer plug-ins are also required.

Some 3rd party hardware manufacturers make an effort to release Macintosh drivers, and then let them languish without updates. Canon did this for some of the early USB scanners they released. So does HP apparently—although I don’t own one personally, the reason for this is that I have been scared off for that reason. Palm does this to a lesser extent—their official stance at one time was Mac users would do better to contact Markspace for Macintosh support. However since then they released “Revision D” of an existing driver. Who knows what that company is up to.

There’s an advantage of being a computer novice—fewer hardware compatibility requirements.

I know lots of Macheads have already plonked down their $ for a Macintel, so I’m sure there’ll be the tales of sorrow soon enough—hopefully eased by some updated Macintel drivers. Thank goodness for early adopters—saves the rest of us the trouble.

[posted with ecto]

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