New Retina Display MacBook Pro Looks Great For Photographers

The new MacBook Pro with the retina display looks to be a great device for photographers.

With a screen resolution of 2880 x 1800 pixels, plus up to 16GB of RAM, this seems an idea laptop for photographers. Seven hours of battery life, a fast processor and fast solid state disk space, plus two Thunderbolt and two USB 3 ports bode well for handling Photoshop well and gaining access to all those external hard drives we use. It is also only 1.8cm thick and weighs 2kg.

We look forward to using one.

Remove Duplicate Fonts to Speed Up Your Mac and Photoshop

Here’s another speedup tip for Mac OS X users – get rid of duplicate fonts.

I found my system was spending a lot of time running a process called fontd. Also Photoshop on startup would spend time dealing with fonts. Thankfully the fix is easy.

Use the Font Book application to find and disable duplicate fonts. I’ve done this on both my and my wife’s laptops and it has made a big difference. Photoshop starts up faster and certain applications (I noticed it with Powerpoint) become much more responsive. You’ll find Font Book in the Applications folder.

A Happy Mac Makes A Happy Owner

Well, so far my Flash free Mac is working great. I haven’t missed Flash at all. Since a web browser communicates back to a site what technology it supports, what I am finding is that sites that were really annoying with Flash enabled, like the local The Age newspaper and the News Ltd Australian site are much less annoying since, rather than serving up Flash content, those sites just substitute still image ads that are not intrusive.

An image I am working on for a Leonard Cohen themed exhibition. Still in progress.

I have been in the habit for some time now of using my iPad to explore more potentially problematic sites (sites that might host trojans and malware. This includes many of the smaller blogs I visit for articles about photography and writing, as well whenever I am googling for equipment or software suppliers, or indeed googling most things. The list of sites Google returns will sometimes include quite questionable sites. The ones I’ve encountered are often when searching for software and you land on these sites that supposedly offer software reviews but seem more to be a revenue raiser from ads with little really meaningful comment. Discussion forums can also be a problem from a malware perspective. So I use my iPad. It’s less likely to get infected with anything and keeps those problems away from my production systems.

My Mac is noticeably faster without Flash running and the extra memory I installed is also improving things substantially, Photoshop being particularly happier.

Now to continue my quest for a simpler, faster technological life.

Applications like Word and Photoshop are wonderful but frequently do so much more than you need. They also are large applications that hog resources. Now this is much less of an issue for those who tend to run one or two applications at a time, but for what I do it is not uncommon for me to have six apps on the go, sometimes more. So I am going to look for smaller, more focused applications that I can use when I do not need all the features of the big software.

Wordprocessing looks an easy solve. For some purposes TextEdit is fine. I have Pages and I already use Scrivener for my novel work. I will look at this and see what sort of footprint it has on the machine when running. There are also lots of other simple wordprocessor options out there.

An alternative to Photoshop may be tougher, but I will start looking.

I’ll keep you informed.

 

Adding More Memory to a MacBook is Easy

Since I was recently adding more memory to several MacBooks a friend has, and so had my anti-static mat out, I decided it was time to add some RAM to my MacBook Pro.

Over the years I used various RAM in my computers but tend to prefer Micron (Crucial). They make life really easy on you with a system scanner application (http://www.crucial.com/store/drammemory.aspx) that you download and run. It communicates back to the website and takes you straight to the right page for the memory that works in your machine. I’d order an 8G set last Thursday and it arrived on Monday morning in Australia. Quick install and now a happier Mac. As a bonus the RAM in my MacBook Pro is the same as that in my daughter’s white MacBook. So the 4GB that was in mine went into hers, replacing the 2GB it shipped with. So two upgrades for the price of one. Pretty recent MacBooks make the memory upgrade quite easy. Remove the screws on the back and there are the RAM slots waiting for an upgrade.

On the horizon is an SSD disk drive upgrade, making the boot disk the SSD and the hard drive will move into the optical drive bay. This seems a recommended setup for heavy Lion users. I may up the hard drive to a 750GB 7200rpm drive at the same time. This setup gives you the best of both worlds – system on the solid state drive for fast boots and wake from sleep, swapping, etc and a large pretty fast drive for all my files.

Updating your system is not hard. Some small Philips head screwdrivers and I recommend an anti-static mat, but you can also just earth yourself by touching something like a metal tap that connects to copper pipes. There are videos and step-by-steps you can quickly find through Google for your particular model of computer that will show you exactly what is required. Naturally use common sense and take it slow. And I accept no liability for anything that goes wrong, as I’m sure do the step-by-step tutorial writers. But I have to say that it really is not hard for most people.

While you’ve got the back open gently blow dust out of the machine. I use a rocket blower that I have for my camera gear (big rubber squeeze device that shoots out a decent force of air).

Going Flash Free

This morning I got pissed off at my Mac.

I use a MacBook Pro 15″ for much of my work. It is a great machine that mixes suitable portability with a decent sized screen and can run a much larger screen when I’m in the office. Love it.

But there are times when it gets really slow and unresponsive. I’ve been investigating this for some time and have slowly removed things that were not helping. But still today my machine went really slow and I decided I had enough of it. Running Activity Monitor (Applications/Utilities) showed the culprit to be Flash, both in Chrome and in Safari, which were both open. I stopped the Chrome Plug-in (Window -> Task Manager) and closed the tabs that had Flash running. I also closed Safari. My machine came back to life, being responsive and fast. So there lay the problem, Flash. I am in the habit of leaving multiple tabs open in my browsers on content I want to look at later and this was killing me if there was Flash content on the page, usually crap I didn’t want anyway, like adds.

So I decided it was time to get rid of Flash once and for all. At the system level you remove the Flash plugin by going to Library/Internet Plug-Ins/ on your boot disk and removing them or (as I did) moving into another folder the files Flash Player.plugin and flashplayer.xpt. This removes Flash from Safari after a reboot.

To remove Flash from Chrome (or rather force Chrome to use the system plugin, which is now gone) you type About:Plugins into the Address field and disable Flash.

You may be asking how I can do without Flash. Well, much of the time I view the web on my iPad. That handles most things well, including playing Youtube videos. I don’t like Flash games and most Flash on normal web pages is ads, which I don’t want to be annoyed with anyway. If I have trouble with this approach I’ll re-enable the built-in Flash plugin in Chrome and simply use Chrome for viewing such content. At least I know now how to just kill the Flash plugin in Chrome anytime it is slowing my machine down.

I’ll report back on my Flash-free life.

 

What The Fuck Is Wrong With HP (and Everyone Else)

HP is a company I have always loved, whose products are well engineered and who have some of the brightest minds in Silicon Valley. So just what has got into HP and all the other computer makers, except Apple?

The recent news that HP has dropped the TouchPad a month after the US release and four days after the Australian one, the effective dropping of WebOS and the plans to follow IBM into a software and service future by offloading their PC business has amazed so many, me included.

If you believe the commentary going on, part of the blame is that companies like HP have very low profit margins on PC gear, whereas Apple does much better. And this might be the reason, but, if it is, no one has learned the proper lesson from this. I even read an article today saying that the right price for a tablet was US$300. And HP has sold well when dumping the TouchPad at very low prices. Now at this time the cheapest iPad 2 is US$499 and $579 here in Australia, and they seem to be selling all they can make. So something doesn’t add up here.

Historically Apple gear has always been more expensive than the competition. The iPod was more expensive than other MP3 players, the iPhone is more expensive than most other smartphones and the iPad is also more expensive than most tablets, including the HP one. The Macbook Air is likewise not overly cheap, and Macbook Pros, iMacs and PowerMacs are more expensive than superficially equivalent systems. Yet people buy them.

Apple has shown that people will pay more for superb design and excellent functionality. Apple has also shown a willingness to stick it out until products get accepted, as has happened with the Air. It was not always popular.

Yes, there is a very large part of the computer market that is extremely price sensitive, as shown by the run on TouchPads at $100 or so, but Apple’s experience has shown that there is a large segment that is not so price sensitive. Perhaps it would be better to say that there are customers for whom price is at or near the top of their priority list, and other customers for whom price is less critical and other factors count more.

Apple is not very reactive: it creates and makes other companies react to it. And any student of military history knows that you don’t win by giving your enemy the initiative. You must seize the initiative and make them react to you, and keep them doing so.

Oh what you could do with a company like HP and all that engineering experience. Rather than creating iPad wannabees, no matter how well they may be made, and undercutting on price, what about taking the opportunity to ‘Think Differently’ and do something unique, even if it takes several years for it to really catch on? Surely both shareholders and employees of HP should get the opportunity for some real benefit from the $1.2 billion spent all too recently on Palm?

We know that even an overpriced item will, due to Moore’s Law, come down in price as you get economies of scale and improvements in technology. So what about creating a truly drool-worthy tablet, laptop or some new category of device, even if the initial price will be US$1,000? Even if the production yields are quite low to start with it may not matter, as demand will be slow to start with. But as demand grows in line with better yields and lowering prices you have taken the initiative and others now have to react to you.

And beyond HP, what about all the other computer makers, phone makers and consumer electronics companies? All seem happy to innovate in little ways, a tweak here; a new feature there. Who is innovating anymore? Has the computer industry gone the way of Hollywood and will only rework old concepts or crank out more of the same in working franchises?

Apple has shown that you do not have to be the first in an area to win big. Apple didn’t release the first MP3 player or the first tablet. But they did release the best when they did. Let us be honest: the iPod is the best MP3 player, the iPhone is the best smartphone and the iPad is the best tablet, at present. Don’t let the annoyances that everyone feels with some of Apple’s policies and decisions get in the way of that realisation. Apple is the only real player in town and everyone else is following them.

How has Apple done what they have done? Two things. Stunning design for one. Secondly, they have taken all concepts to the extreme. The iPod eliminated almost all the buttons. The iPhone eliminated the keyboard and elevated the app to front and centre. The iPad also eliminated the keyboard completely, something many other tablet makers had tried to hang onto.

Apple has done some other things right too. Controlling both the hardware and software is a huge advantage. Though the gatekeeper role is annoying when apps that you really should be able to get are not approved, the controlled app environment for iPods, iPhones and iPads means that all the fear around malware is gone. And among less tech happy people fear is a BIG factor that holds them back from adopting new technology. I know many people who would never have bought another device, but have gone out and bought an iPhone or iPad and are buying and installing apps happily. Those same people would never have done that with Windows or Android.

It saddens me greatly to see an amazing company like HP walking away from an industry it helped found. Maybe the problem for HP is they have too many engineers and not enough dreamers. Because that is exactly what we need: dreamers in companies with the size and expertise to turn those dreams into reality.

 

Android Looking More Like a Good Platform to Develop For (or Has Apple Crossed to the Darkside)

An article from today on Fast Company presents some really interesting information about smart phone takeup rates and market penetration, so I recommend you go to the article and look it over. It has me thinking about many things to do with the iPhone and iPad.

What it shows is that while smart phones are still a small 19% of the total phone market, Android-based smart phones are doing very well in the market. Specifically, since third quarter 2009 the % of smartphones that use the Android platform has been rising smartly at exactly the same time that the % of smart phones from RIM (Blackberry) and Apple have dropped. Of course that does not mean that their overall numbers have dropped, or even stopped growing, but rather that as a % of all smart phones they have dropped slightly.

What this means for developers of applications is that they should not simply focus on Blackberry and iPhone development, but need to get behind Android too.

It would be speculation to discuss why the rapid rise of Android, and that is exactly what we will do. While I love my iPhone 3Gs, what I really love is the ability to easily use my phone to hold my music collection, apps that let me do productive work on the phone and the nice way it plays with my Apple computers and their software. There are things I do not like about my iPhone, such as only being able to put Apps on it that Apple has censored and approved, unless I am willing to jail break it. This seems too much like Stalinist Russia for my tastes.

Up until now Android phones have not been something I have paid much attention to, rather I’ve been concentrating on the iPhone and iPad and getting my head around app development for those and website compatibility with the iPad browser. That changes as of today.

While like everyone else in Australia I am awaiting my iPad arrival, I am considering my future relationship with Apple. I’ve been an Apple user since the Apple II, indeed I made some money writing games for it, and I love the present generation of Apple laptops and desktops. Mac OS is a joy to use. But I am worried about the direction Apple is taking with the iPad. Whilst I can understand major restrictions on apps on a phone, since in the end it is primarily a phone and so I really don’t want any apps to screw things up when I need to make a call, the iPad is more like a laptop, only better. Apple seem to be shaping up to treat the iPad the same way as the iPhone, and I do not believe this is appropriate. I don’t believe it is appropriate because I can see the iPad in future iterations taking over from the laptop. My wife, for example, could do all she needs to do on a computer on an iPad-like device. No problems.

Why, for God’s sake, should:

  • I only be able to add applications to it from the Apple store?
  • Apple get to be the sole arbiter of what applications I can run?
  • I not be able to use my iPhone to provide Internet access to my iPad when away from a Wi-Fi hotspot?
  • I not be able to view Flash websites if I choose to? SUre if it is so bad given me a way to turn Flash off but leave the decision up to me if I am willing to suffer shorter battery life, etc.
  • I have to break the license agreement and jailbreak the iPad to do some or all of the above?

If the iPad were given away and Apple made its money solely off the services I would have no issue with the above constraints. But when I am paying an amount of money that would buy me a full fledged and open laptop, then it is different matter.

I am very concerned about the censorship issue inherent in Apple’s sole control over apps. While many Americans seem to have an issue with nipples (which is their right), this is not a mental illness that affects the whole world or even all Americans. If apps contains content you don’t like, don’t load it and use it. Surely it is that simple. And if Apple want to look after the young kid market put in an app rating system and let parents (or schools) set a level lock on content. The problem with censorship is that one person’s send them to hell pornography is another person’s healthy content. Sure, there is consensus among anyone with a brain that child pornography is bad news, but even there as the fairly recent controversy here in Australia over the photographer Bill Henson shows, there is not universal agreement about where the line is to be drawn. Censorship is a dangerous and steep slope, as Australia is finding over the government’s net censorship approach. And so Apple would do well to step away from this dangerous area and treat its customers as grown ups who are capable of making their own decisions.

It was an American, I believe, who said I may hate what you have to say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it. As long as Apple is the only way to legally put apps on an iPhone or iPad, surely they are violating the 1st Amendment right to free speech? One of the few things I envy the Americans for is their constitution that is also a great aspirational document.

Apologies for the long, wandering post. Perhaps my current reading of Stephen King’s Under the Dome has made me cautious of what too much power in a few hands can do.

Starting an iPhone Application Business for Dummies Book Review

Starting an iPhone Application Business for Dummies is part of the brilliant for Dummies series that covers pretty much everything. The book covers what you need to get your head around to setup a proper iPhone business and get it right from the start.

Starting an iPhone Application Business for Dummies
By Aaron Nicholson, Joel Elad and Damien Stolarz
Wiley Publishing, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-470-52452-7


The 390-odd page book is divided into six parts, with each part containing two to four chapters:

  • Surveying the Marketplace
  • Pinpointing the Business Offering
  • Lay the Groundwork
  • Assemble Your iPhone Application
  • Market to the Masses
  • The Part of Tens

Across these major sections and the contained chapters the book covers the process of identifying the business opportunities, planning the business, hiring programmers and other staff, managing the development and marketing process and much more.

For those new to ideas of starting a business on a sound planning basis, management and marketing this book is a God-send. For those with some business experience but not in the software industry it will also be hugely beneficial in spelling out a lot of things you won’t have thought of and helping you to avoid learning the hard way. Even those with software industry experience will gain something from this book.

This is an excellent book for those setting out on iPhone application development with the intention of making a successful business out of it. Whether you are doing the development yourself or using programmers to do the work, you will still benefit.

A great book that should be read by anyone undertaking iPhone (and iPad) software development.

Snow Leopard for Mac OS a Great Update for Photographers

I tend to be very conservative with software updates on my MacBook, as it is my main writing machine. But some software I wanted to run forced me to do the upgrade to the latest Mac OS X version. And a great update it is.

Snow Leopard brings 64-bit computing to the Mac core applications and a great performance boost it is too. Startup from cold or sleep is MUCH faster, as is shutdown or sleep at the other end. Things like Mail and Safari operate MUCH faster as well.

Interestingly, I have found my Mac generally much faster in all applications. Photoshop is faster to open up and opening files also seems noticeably faster, as are the other Creative Suite applications.

Now that 64-bit seems to be working well for the Apple core we can only hope that the soon to be announced CS5 includes 64-bit mode for the Mac, which was left out of CS4 because (according to Adobe) Apple had not sorted the 64-bit side out properly yet back when CS4 was rolling out. Given the apparent issues between Apple and Adobe over Flash and the iPad, I hope this does not impact on 64-bit for CS5. Many of us love both Apple and Adobe products and need them to play nicely with each other.