Initial Thoughts – Mac OS X 10 – Yosemite

I have been using the latest OS on my MacBook Air for about a week now, and in general I really like it. Not Earth shaking, but solid, and the improvements really add up to a better experience all around.

The UI – briefly

The first thing that you notice is the flat visuals. Bowing to the contemporary design trends, the windows, the visuals, and all the other decorations are devoid of shading, gradients, or any other visual eye candy. Naturally all the skeuomorphic bits are long gone. Neither good nor bad.

Of course, with it comes a new typeface for the UI, Helvetica Neue replacing the long time OS-X typeface Lucida Grande. Unlike a lot of geeks on Slashdot who wailed like they were having their hands lopped off, I don’t really mind. In fact, with such a large change of the UI, it would seem de rigueur to go all the way.

Of course, these changes alter the look and feel to better mimic the experience on iOS 8. So it is not a surprise that many of the changes are to applications that will help unify the experience.

Read moreInitial Thoughts – Mac OS X 10 – Yosemite

The Mac Book Air – One Year In

Last July, I splurged and bought me a Macbook Air. The product line was refreshed, and brought faster, more energy sipping processors. I had been using a monster MacBook Pro (still have it) 15″ that was loaded. Max memory, SSD boot/spinning rust extension disc, and the high resolution screen. But lugging it around was tiring.

The factor that tilted me in favor of the air was the lightness, and the battery life. Purported to be 10+ hours (I regularly get 12 or more hours on a charge), was the key point. I was honestly considering a chromebook (the google one with the retina level display), that was about 3/4 the price, but when I went to see it at the local Best Buy, I was underwhelmed.

How has it held up to a year of daily use? Quite well. It is my main home PC. I write on it, I do some light web development, and of course consumption of media. It is comfortable to use, and even when there is 10% of battery left, it isn’t a mad dash to find an outlet to charge it up (once my 15″ MBP hits 15% you get really nervous). I have taken many trips with it, so I can say that it holds up well to the rigors of travel, and it is a joy to use even on a cramped fold out table on a typical airplane seat (nb: I am a million miler on United, so I get complimentary economy plus seating).

Read moreThe Mac Book Air – One Year In

The Day of Reckoning: Apple abandons Aperture

Not quite yet, but the winds are blowing that Apple will end support and sales of Aperture, their “pro” photo application. A recent story on Wired gives a brief outline. “Photos” will take the lead, and it will be all about getting all your images into iCloud, and managing them there.

I had smelled this stink coming for a while. The updates to Aperture have slowed down, and the last major one definitely turned into the wrong direction, more integration with iOS, and iCloud, your photostream, and all that. Sigh.

About 6 months ago, I started migrating to Adobe Lightroom. I looked at it way back when I moved from iPhoto to Aperture, and at that time it was almost 2x the cost, and it pretty much lacked capability.

But in version 5, Lightroom has become a lot better, and it comes free with my CC subscription to Photoshop. I have installed it on my Mac’s and on my work PC, and am getting the feel for using it. In many ways it is similar to Aperture in capability, but it also has some significant differences, particularly around storage and file handling. Where Aperture created large libraries and buried the images and version inside them, LR seems to use the native file system. A bit confusing, but in the long term it will be better I am sure.

I can understand Apple’s strategy shift, and their migration away from the pro applications that really brought the power to their system. The all unified, iOS/MacOS world is a good goal, but I will be taking a pass at the upcoming Photos application.

Apple- What Happened – iTunes

For years people, knowing I am an Apple fan, have grumbled about iTunes and how much of a POS it is. And for years, I have responded back that “It’s way better on the Mac”, because the Windows version has been a veritable homeless abortion in all its incarnations. Yes, by the time it was in version 9, it was getting cumbersome to navigate, but at least it was solid and reliable on the Mac.

Version 10 fixed a lot of the navigation, and capabilities, particularly for those of us with 17K songs or more in our collections.

Version 11 was fine too. But then the iOS 7 launch happened, and iTunes was updated to support it. Now it is a crashy, bug ridden, processor hogging program, especially on my Mac’s. Sigh. Now I have to apologize to my Windows friends who I have been telling that iTunes works fine on a Mac to.

Because it fucking sucks even on the mac now. I find myself force-quitting it 2 – 3 times a day it seems. Grrrrrrr.

Another plus for Apple Support

A while back, while we were on a trip, my wife dropped her 13″ MacBook pro. It was not the first time she dropped it, but it was enough to kill it. (it was a short distance on to a carpeted floor in the hotel).

She got home and I did some diagnosis. The hard drive wasn’t recognized. I used all my tools, and assumed that it was just a bad HD, and that we could replace it easily enough. But to be sure, I dropped in a spare I knew to be good. No dice. Still not visible to the system (but it would boot from an external enclosure with the original drive I thought was bad.

So I was stumped. My wife was crushed and sure it would cost a fortune to repair, so she suffered without it for a few weeks. Finally on Monday she scheduled a visit to the Apple store with their Genius bar. I got dragged along, and gave the helpful tech what I tried, and what I suspected next (HD cable (low probability) or logic board (most likely)).

We were informed that it was 163 days out of warranty (the three year AppleCare plan) so the laptop is 3.5 years old.

I got to watch their testing process, and I was impressed. They plug into an ethernet cable and start a network boot. That boots a series of tool to diagnose the system, and confirmed what I told them.  They used a few other tools, and decided to try to replace the HD cable. Told us to give them a phone number and that it would take probably 30 minutes.  Fortunately there is a kick ass Gelato shop about 100 yards away, and a Total Wines so we had Ice Cream and bought some tequila.

Turned out that replacing the cable did the trick and it booted right up. Parts were $17, and a $39 charge for the labor, $56 + tax and we were out on our way home.

Compare that with the broken display on my work HP laptop. It took 3 months to figure out how to order it, then 2 weeks to get it, and when the tech put it in, it didn’t work, so it became a warranty issue. I ended up with a new logic board, new display and new RAM after 3 days of their “next day service” dicking around (to be fair, their tech was helpful and friendly, much better than the shitheads that work for Dell.)

(Another benefit, with their CRM system when I go in with a dead iPhone, even long out of warranty, they look me up, and all the products I have bought from them, and they have always fixed/replaced my iPhones without charge. I went through 3 iPhone 3GS’s in the 6 months before I upgraded to my current iPhone 4s. They do take care of loyal customers.)