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Posts Tagged ‘apple’

Performance Update

Day 2 of Rain: got wet going to the bus stop. Sunny on the way back.

Day 2 of Rain: got wet going to the bus stop. Sunny on the way back.

Today Apple released Performance Update 1.0 for a swath of recently made computer. Mine was one of them. Hopefully this update will fix the problems I have been having and trying to fix. After twenty minutes everything seems to be running better. Though it might be a placebo effect.

The update notes state that the issue was related to the hard drive which would explain why I had more hang ups while having Matlab process and save a bunch of data.

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It is easier to transfer files over for a new typewriter.

It is easier to transfer files over for a new typewriter.

Before I received my new laptop I had to make a decision: rely on Migration Assistant to move everything over or do it myself. I had a large library of photos so I decided to do it by hand.

With a large hard drive at hand I had to decide what to move over. Aside from the obvious such as documents, music and such I went through the Libraries (User and System) along with applications to see what I could move over. As well as what would actually help.

I grabbed what preferences seemed important and some application support files (Doom 3 keeps the save games in the User/Library/Application Support) and a handful of other I thought to be useful (RSS reader, Safari folder). What I forget to grab that turned out to be important: Keychain. I have a lot of useless websites with passwords saved and it is just easier for the computer to remember these.

Mail did not like being transfered over through a direct copy. In the end I just re-setup three of my e-mail accounts on the new laptop and archived the older folder. Luckily all of my accounts are IMAP so it just required a massive download (I don’t really clean or organize my e-mails).

The other tricky bit was Time Machine. I wanted to just plug it in to the new laptop and have it resume where it left off. No dice. I even tried to change the MAC address based on this Mac OS X Hints article and that did nothing.

I did find out that option-clicking on the Time Machine icon allows one to access other Time Machine’s on the give disk. This let me go into my Powerbook’s TIme Machine, delete some things taking up space and start a whole new Time Machine for my MacBook Pro. The only disadvantage of this system is that the Powerbook backups will not be deleted to make room so I need to keep an eye on it myself.

So far nothing was missed, then again I tended to keep an organized system to begin with, no personal documents outside the User file except for some save games in the applications folder.

We will see in a week or so if anything critical was left behind.

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There are a lot of windows out there.

There are a lot of windows out there.

With my new fancy x86 process I went and installed Windows on my MacBook Pro. I was unsure of how I wanted to go about doing this and in the end found a good method.

First my needs: I wanted a system that could run Windows programs alongside OS X and I wanted to be able to boot into the system to play games (Fallout 3). I thought that I would have to make two installs, one through Boot Camp and the other through Parallels. To my fortune I found that Parallels can run a Boot Camp partition as a virtual machine while still allowing a person to boot into it when the need arises. I was set.

The only concern with this is that it sees it as new hardware every time the boot method changes, luckily there is a workaround through Parallels to avoid this.

I created a 32GB FAT32 partition through the Boot Camp assistant for my Windows XP install. The only tricky bit is that when the XP installer asks if you want to format the partition you must say yes. The install failed my first time through.

Booting into the fresh Windows install I used the OS X install DVD to get the drivers and some boot camp software. Those helped as my resolution jumped quite a bit and the trackpad started to work better (though not perfectly). First thing I did was run windows update and install AVG Free Edition. With those completed and running smoothly I switched back to OS X.

Now the moment of truth, I started up Parallels. It instantly recognized the Boot Camp partition and started to convert it to one parallels could use. After what seemed like an hour it was ready and I started the virtual machine up. I installed Parallels Tools just to make things easier. I then booted into Windows to check if it still worked, it did! So back to OS X and the virtual machine, I installed a line of basic (free) software every computer needs:

  • AVG Free Edition – Anti-Virus, fairly non-intrusive and runs well
  • VLC – Video player
  • iTunes – Music player and internet radio
  • Firefox – A web browser to use instead of Internet Explorer
  • Lavasoft Adaware – For removing ad-ware when things start slowing down
  • Flash – To play all of those addictive flash games
  • 7zip – Unarchive .rar, .zip and all of the various archive formats out there
  • ImgBurn – For burning CD’s and DVD’s
  • Dropbox – A good way to keep files synched between computers and OS’s.

With those installed happily I moved on to customizing the Windows install to get away from the blue theme with rolling grassy hills in the background. For this I relied entirely on the Lifehacker article on customization.

I should also mention that my Parallels Virtual Machine settings are:

  • Half the System RAW (2GB)
  • One processor (at 2.8 GHz)
  • Half the dedicated video RAM (256 MB)
  • Assigned to Space 4 (I use a 2 x 2 grid for Spaces)

In the end when I am in OS X this is what my Windows space looks like:

My Parallels window of Windows.

My Parallels window of Windows.

Overall I am very happy with how Windows is running on my new computer. Planescape: Torment runs well in Parallels and Fallout 3 runs superbly in Boot Camp. Eventually I will try some other games and other programs. Until then I will enjoy a smoothly running system.

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Spotlight

The San Francisco Academy of Sciences, on the edge of the rain forest sphere.

The San Francisco Academy of Sciences, on the edge of the rain forest sphere.

Spotlight in 10.4 was an excellent addition to an operating system. Once used I utilized the quick search functionality for launching applications, finding documents and opening folders. I realized yesterday that I have stopped using it; slowly since my install of 10.5 I have been using Overflow for most of my programs and documents. Since then I installed Quicksilver and exclusively use it to launch applications.

This left Spotlight devoid of any use aside from the calculator and dictionary lookup. The main reason being it is now so very slow to operate. Typing immediately starts a search, that is fine, but continuing to type changes the search, on my system this does not work. Spotlight freezes up, goes slowly and if I mistyped something I have to start again since editing a word it too slow.

I procrastinated yesterday by looking into a solution; they ran from re-indexing to people saying how it works fine for them. I believe that it works for them, however I have a larger hard drive then the stock (I am using 190GB out of 250GB). It then hit me, Quicksilver is terrible at find documents and folders, Overflow I have stopped working: change what Spotlight searches.

I changed the privacy settings so only my home folder sans library are searched by Spotlight. While not the blazing speed I had in 10.4 (well maybe not blazing) it certainly has sped up searches.

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Rain is coming again to Santa Barbara.

Rain is coming again to Santa Barbara.

I just read that my laptop has been added to Apple’s vintage and obsolete product list. I believe I can still get parts if needed as I live in California and there is some state law or exception requiring parts to still be available. I think at least, to be honest the article is not really clear.

Overall though I am quite happy with the longevity and reliability of my Powerbook G4. When Apple shifted to the MacBook Pro line and left the PowerBook line my computer still felt new as the case did not undergo a change. That combined with taking good care of my laptop makes many people think that my laptop is new, they are shocked to find out how old it actually is (I love metal over plastic for that reason). 

Sure there are some missing parts, namely I don’t have two feet and I am missing a screw on the side. A bit of painters tape replaced the feet and a single screw is not that important. In the last year I maxed out the RAM and the upgraded the hard drive which really gave it enough to last until the end of this year.

I will have to upgrade though, not because it is not fast enough (well maybe a little) or because it is broken but because the processor is the wrong architecture. I need an intel processor so I can run various Windows only lab software like AutoCAD programs, FPGA programming software and probably MatLab.

Until the day I need to upgrade eventually comes my PowerBook and I will keep on going.

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Macworld 2009

 

Stacks would greatly help with HDR organization.

Stacks would greatly help with HDR organization.

I always look forward to Macworld, it one of the small bright spots in the sudden deluge of winter quarter. This year I was not hoping for much, I was not interested in a new Mini or iMac nor the new Macbook Pro.

What I wanted was a new iPhoto. A new iPhoto was released as part of iLife ‘09 but it did not go in the direction I wanted. I wanted a slightly more robust photo program along the lines of Aperture. A loupe feature, better editing (like being able to input numerical values), the ability to compare two photos side by side or more importantly stacks. If Stacks became available for the iPhoto I would buy it as soon as I possibly could.

But it does not. Instead iPhoto went towards online sharing with Facebook and Flickr (I use both so admittedly it would be nice). Some neat features sure, but not quite what I would use.

Something not really mentioned but I love is the small new feature of iWeb to upload to an FTP site instead of MobileMe. That tempts to buy iLife ‘09, except that I found a substitute through Flickr and even WordPress to some degree.

I can always keep dreaming.

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Good graveyards in Europe.

Good graveyards in Europe.

A little bit ago I did a review of iPhoto Print Service, Snapfish and Shutterfly. I mentioned how my first set of photos from Apple never arrived. Well they came today. They were printed on October 7th and took a month and a half to arrive.

Not the best of delivery times.

Instead of being the smallest possible (4×6) these are the larger 5×7 prints. I did not think that an inch in each direction would make such a difference but it really does. Of those that I ordered and liked in the smaller format they looked a lot better slightly larger. One of the ones that turned out alright on a 4×6 really improved as a 5×7 since more details could be made out.

It tempts me to order a set of 10×14 photos from one of the three services.

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An interesting design appeared in the bluffs.

An interesting design appeared in the bluffs.

I wanted to buy some prints of my photos because my photo only exist on my computer and I want to see what they look like on nice glossy paper. I looked into different ways to print and found that the cheapest and easiest way would be through iPhoto.

My first order was for about ten 5×7 photos. I placed the order and it shipped within a day or two. I then waited for two weeks for it to arrive. It never did. So I contacted Apple and they refunded the order without any disputes. Once the order was refunded I placed a second order, this time for 27 4×6 photos which came out to be the same price ($0.12 each). I hit submit and left as it uploaded.

A week later I went to close iPhoto and noticed that it froze during the upload so the order was not actually placed. I should have noticed that I did not get a confirmation e-mail from the other, but I was busy and did not. So I placed the order again and made sure that it transfered. This was two and a half weeks after my initial order.

During these weeks I looked into the cost of just buying myself some photo paper and printing it myself. Everytime I do though I see the price of the paper compared to the price of the prints from Kodak (through iPhoto) and decide to stay with iPhoto. 

Last Friday I finally received my prints. These arrived on Halloween and I placed the order on the Sunday before (so six days from order to receipt). Except for 3 they all turned out beautifully. Two had a lot of black in them coupled with high levels of noise which resulted in an odd patterning in the black sky, but this noise was in the original photo as well. Another photo came out a bit darker then I expected but still acceptable.

There was slight cropping done to some of the photos to get them to fit in the 4×6 format. I suppose if I cropped them first myself this could have been avoided. Also overall the color did not match that of my screen, for this I blame my lack of a fully calibrated screen. But that is why I wanted to print them out in the first place.

So it only took twenty-seven days from my first order to me holding my photos. Admittedly if it went smoothly the first time around it would have only taken six days.

For my next batch of photos I think I will try Snapfish as they offer twenty free prints for new users. Now I just need to get a fresh batch of photos.

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The rusted foundation on Campus Point

The rusted foundation on Campus Point

In the end I don’t think I am ready to use Aperture full time. While there are some features in it that I would love to have on a daily basis I am hampered by performance. On my Powerbook G4 it does not run as smoothly as iPhoto 7, if I had a newer computer and speed was not an issue I think I would move all of my photos over to Aperture.

I could switch back and forth between the two depending on task, but I prefer having all of my photos in one nice location instead of worrying about which library the photo is in.

Price is not an issue since I can buy a student version of Aperture 2 from my campus bookstore for $89 instead of the $189 on the Apple store. I will continue using it until the trial runs out and then I will make the final decision. Speed may not be an issue in day to day usage and it may just be slow when doing photo editing or manipulation.

I suppose I should try Lightroom to give an even perspective but I feel that many of the issues (like speed) would be the same.

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UCSB's Campus Point

UCSB's Campus Point

Aperture has features that just do not exist in iPhoto, I already talked about Loupe. Three others are comparison, light table and stacks. There are many more feature but these are the ones I found while trolling around the interface.

Comparison does what it says it does, it lets you compare two photos and choose the better. I tried using it for some photos but my processor was either too slow or I just did not understand how it works. It would also serve me better if I took, say, six photos of a particular subject and wanted to the best of the six. And I am just not there yet.

Light table is a really neat feature without any designated purpose. It allows one to pull photos out onto a virtual table and move them around as if they were on a table. They can be resized, rotated and pulled forward or back. I think the initial purpose was to do mock-ups of publications, I think it would work great in designing posters. The results can be printed (on a home printer) or saved to a PDF and sent to a poster printer service. Once I get the inspiration I plan on using it to design a poster for my dorm lounge.

I now desire a much larger screen.

Stacks are a feature that would make HDR processing in iPhoto so much easier. Stacks gathers up the selected photos and presents them as a single photo. The photo shown on top can be selected from the group. For HDR this would let me stack together the photos to process, export the component RAW files to Photomatix, process them and send the result back to the top of the stack. So in one Stack I could have the result and the source RAW files. 

This is compared to iPhoto where I have the final HDR image amid a sea of slightly varying RAWs.

There are more features of Aperture that I probably missed. If I missed them it is because I don’t feel that I need their function or I am blindly unaware that they exist.

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