Oh crap. I think I am in trouble… (GarageBand edition)

I was cleaning up some programs that I am not likely to use on my new MacBook Air (iPhoto, iMovie), and I figured I would also blow away Garage Band. 

Garage Band is actually a lot cooler than I thought. Damn
Garage Band is actually a lot cooler than I thought. Damn

Before I deleted it, I thought I would open it up and see what it was all about. Then I found the Lessons part.

Damn, that is cool.  Really cool. Now I need to buy widget to get my guitar plugged into my Mac.

I bought the Artist Lesson of Alex Lifeson teaching how to play Working Man. 

Damn, I am going to waste a lot of time with this.

First impressions: the 2013 MacBook Air – 13″

I took a plunge and went for one of the new MBA’s that were announced this month. (I am claiming that my boys got it for me as a Father’s day gift.  Shhhh, don’t tell anyone).

Of course, the design, the fit and the finish are outstanding. I got the 13” version, and I opted for the 8G memory on the system, so I had to wait until it built and was shipped from Foxconn. I gently unboxed it and fired it up.

Since I didn’t want to just migrate my user files from my current MBP, I have been selectively installing software, and copying files over. I am mostly done now, but I am sure there will be a few things that I set up and get tweaked.

Impressions:

  • This is fast. I worried that stepping down from a quad core i7 in my MBP to the dual core in this MBA would be a disappointment.  It isn’t. It is very snappy and instantly responsive.  I really haven’t been able to tell the difference.
  • Integrated Intel graphics. It has the HD5000 graphics built in. I am used to the discrete graphics on my 15” MacBook Pro’s, and I was worried about crappy performance.  Not an issue. It just works.
  • The battery life is superb. While I burned a charge with an external DVD drive plugged in (and USB powered to boot), after I got the big data migrations, and the software mostly installed, I am now expecting to get ~ 12 hours before I need to charge it again.  So far so good with that.

I took a big risk in going ultra portable.  I have historically favored the 15” MacBook Pro models, as it was a good fit for my lap, convenient to work with, and plenty powerful enough to drive anything I need. I know that I can’t fit all my data (mostly my huge music collection which with videos are ~ 140gig) and have enough room on this thing to be useful.

There are a few things I am worried about. Going from nearly a TB of disc space to about 1/4 of that will take some discipline. I did a good grooming of the essentials on my MBP before this arrived, and I am going to rely on DropBox to keep my “active” files synchronized between my systems. That said, I have nearly 200G free, and I will keep an eye on it, but not worry to obsessively.

I thought I could live with iPhoto for when I want to quickly dump photos off my camera. No can do.  I forgot how crappy iPhoto was (or my workflow has evolved to where I need Aperture), so I moved Aperture over to my new MBA, and I am sure I will not look back.  Perhaps the limited disc space will give me discipline to clean up and delete bad pictures. Now to delete iPhoto and reclaim 1.5G of disc space.

My goal is to use this as my everyday machine and keep my MBP hooked to the big screen on my desk.  I am very optimistic that this will be a successful strategy.

Product Review: Canon G12 camera

I have long been a photographer. I began back in high school with my grandfather’s old Canon from the ’60’s.  I shot a lot of B&W film in high school (it was super cheap, and we learned how to process it ourselves, so it was a no brainer.

I have stayed true to Canon over the years, with several film cameras, and not I am fully in the digital realm.

Last year, on a whim, I bought a Canon Powershot G12. My wife had one of the compact cameras that she loved, but I wanted a little more versatility. I talked to a couple friends who have the predecessor of the G12 (not surprisingly the G10 and G11) and they spoke highly of the platform. So I took the plunge (I used my AmEx points to buy it.)

I wasn’t sure of what I expected, but it is a viewfinder camera with the option of looking at the LCD screen to compose pictures as well.  It has a reasonably fast lens (F2.8) and a pretty large optical zoom range. It is snappy and easy to use, and it actually takes gorgeous pictures.

An in between camera that can be a great addition to your kit.
An in between camera that can be a great addition to your kit.

One huge benefit with this camera is that it has one of the HS sensors that greatly improve its performance in low light, so you can get clear, blur free pictures without a flash. I can attest that this really works, and that it does lead to some gorgeous pictures.

Since I often use this camera to grab quick pictures at work of small parts, and our tools for the documentation and manual, it is good to note that it can do a pretty reasonable job of focusing in the macro realm.

Other things to note: You get a fair amount of flexibility with the system.  A series of auto programs for portraits, landscapes or action pre-set conditions to make the shot easy to get, but you also have the ability to go to aperture, or time over ride and get your creative on. In these creative modes, you also have the option of saving the pictures as RAW files, that facilitates post processing quite well. The battery is pretty beefy, and I find that I don’t have to charge it too often. I haven’t felt the urge to buy a second battery to swap with. There are some optional mounts that let you add filters to the camera. Not as flexible as a DSLR, but it does give you some options. (note, I haven’t bought these yet)

While it isn’t going to replace my 5D and the L series lenses, it is a convenient knock around camera that nicely fills the void between the point and shoot variety, and the full on prosumer DSLR. I can highly recommend this for your everyday camera.