So iPhone 5S and 5C mania has died down (although someone needs to tell the entrepreneurs on eBay), OS X Mavericks has yet to go gold master, and the new iPads won't be trotted out in all their magical unicorn glory for at least a couple of weeks yet. Obviously, only one thing will fill this gaping, Mac-news gap: luggage.
Boy howdy, luggage.
As someone who has schlepped a laptop and other assorted business paraphernalia to and fro betwixt office and home for nigh on 15 years (because such mobile devices were too expensive the first five years of my so-called career), I have developed a rather particular list for what I require in my personal technological man purse. In an era when eBags.com alone lists nearly 1,200 items in their "laptop bags" section, compromising form for function or function for form seems anathema. Yet, like most things used personally but produced en masse, it quickly becomes less about finding the perfect bag and more about finding one that's close enough. Which technically only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but since I can neither tan my own hides nor sew 1050 denier Cordura into shapes more complex than a taco, close enough will have to do.
The last time I went looking for a new laptop tote, I attempted to go a bit old school, opting for a leather shoulder bag with classic buckles. I imagined that, over time, the leather would patina gracefully and obtain a look not dissimilar to Ricardo Montalban's skin in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khaaaaaaaaaaan. Alas, my rudimentary knowledge of leather coupled with a desire to not drop several, as the kids from 1992 say, Benjamins led me to purchase a bag that only appeared to be of sound quality. If you know what bonded leather is, you know how this story ends—with me cursing the white backing layer that eventually began wearing through. And while said white backing was reminiscent of Mr. Roark's suit on Fantasy Island, it was not quite the look of rich Corinthian leather for which I had hoped. Instead of looking like something Steve McQueen would toss over his shoulder as he leapt onto a Triumph Bonneville and sped off into the desert sun in search of some unfiltereds, my bag would eventually look like something my grandma would carry to bunko night.
So, the search for a new satchel began. And, reflecting upon the times in which we all now find ourselves, I knew I needed more than just a bunch of Chinese textiles woven into a series of oddly shaped pouches into which my 18 random USB sticks would eventually get lost. I needed a bag capable of getting me, and probably at least one of my children, through the impending zombie apocalypse. I know there's a full-on 28 Days cycle of undead violence in the offing because I've seen it on the TV. And, obviously, the movies. And to those who scoff at the notion that the entertainment industry is an infallible prognosticator of future events, I point to the Great Dobie Gillis Outbreak of 1962.
Naturally, I turned to the world of tactical gear. In days gone by, that would have meant trekking down to Mickey's Surplus in lovely Kansas City, Kansas ("The Town So Nice They Put Most of It in Missouri to Confuse People"), where inhaling the dusty remains of K-rations before purchasing an authentic East German bayonet lovingly machine-stamped in Taiwan made perfect sense. Sadly, Mickey's is now 200 miles south of my current residence, and Omaha's selection of military surplus stores is, conveniently for my wordplay, running at a deficit. To the Internet!
After what my company's logs tell me were hours of online research, I settled upon the Messenger of Doom tactical messenger bag from Hazard 4. Yes, that's its real name. No, it did not come pre-loaded with any amount of doom or an actual messenger thereof. Not even a tiny Gollum figurine stabbing a Precious Moments angel. I will not bore you (more) with my imaginary unboxing video, especially when I can just direct you to this one.
As a laptop bag, the MOD works wonderfully. The laptop section is separate from other areas and very well padded, and it fits my 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina quite nicely. (Hazard 4 claims the section will fit a 17-inch MBP, but it looks a little tight to me.) On the storage front, there are plenty of pockets, flaps, and other cubbies to stash just about anything that may legally require stashing. The side panels are bereft of the water bottle pockets that seem to plague most bags these days. (I subsist off caffeine and bile, thank you.) The hardware feels a couple notches above the usual fare, with übertactical box stitching throughout and zipper pulls that won't yank off within a month. I'm pretty sure that, if I were to run out of shells for my boomstick, I could use the MOD as an impromptu mace and play Pop Goes the Zombie Head with it. At least after I add the spikes.
Which leads me to the best part of the MOD: the MOLLE/PALS webbing that covers much of its surface. With the main flap down, the MOD appears to be a clean, modern messenger bag. But just under the flap, a full panel of MOLLE/PALS webbing awaits for appropriate customization. Like, say, a carrier for three magazines that may or may not belong to the concealed carry weapon that may or may not be strapped in next to it. No, it won't carry an undead-dominating shotgun, but I wanted a laptop bag, not a tactical viola case. The MOLLE goodness extends to the main pocket area, as well, where I've already added an additional pouch to store vampire-repelling garlic and holy water (because the first word in True Blood ain't "fiction," Sookie).
Admittedly, I have only tested my black MOD for half of its intended purposes—the toting of my office gear. But, assuming my background check checks out and the oracles of the airwaves don't let me down, I'll be set to start picking off slow-moving Dobie Gillises until the cows come home. Which is usually around 8:30.
Unless you're one of these people, you're probably aware that the entire Internet slowed to 300 baud modem speeds Wednesday as millions of First Worlders (We're number one, hey!) hammered Apple's cold fusion-powered data centers in hopes of being one of the lucky five to download iOS 7 or, as a consolation prize, a personalized scowl from Jony Ive. I was not one of the five.
Which was okay. Really.
I got through the disappointing day of no iOS 7 by trolling eBay for TI-99/4A speech synthesizer modules while occasionally working at my real job. And it was my birthday. Which would be more exciting if I had turned 21 and not 41. But at least I'm younger than Damage and Dr. Evil. Months count, people.
Anyway. In truth, I could not update to iOS 7 during the day because my iPhone 5 and iPad 3 were jailbroken. In their glorious and righteous benevolence, the Inquisitors of Cupertino wouldn't even let my devices recognize that an update existed. Now, I know what you're thinking: why on earth would I give up my sweet, sweet jailbreak for some skinny-fonted new iOS that will force its will upon me like some cool will-forcing metaphor I can't think of? Good question. The easy answer is that iOS 7 has incorporated enough features that used to only reside in the jailbreak community that I no longer feel it's worth the effort to maintain jailbroken status just for the couple of features I'll lose.
Also, skinny fonts, dude!
I was never a hard-core jailbreaker. I didn't download themes and abuse Winterboard like a 12-year-old from 2008 trying to decorate her MySpace page just right with the hearts and kitties. I liked SBSettings and Activator. And TV Tube Sleep, which made it look like my iPhone was an old CRT being turned off because I'm old-timey like that.
Did I ever use a tethering program? The world may never know. But if I did, it was only a couple of times a year, so no big loss.
To un-jailbreak a phone, one has to do a full factory restore of the scofflaw iDevice in question. When I did this to my iPhone, instead of upgrading it to iOS 7, iTunes upgraded it from 6.1.3 (the last iOS with an untethered jailbreak) to 6.1.4. Why? Because, I believe, I'm an idiot. I didn't upgrade iTunes to 11.1 before doing the restore. Since 11.1 is required for iOS 7, I got 6.1.4 and the chance to download 2.2 gigabytes of iOS data instead of just 900 megs. Glad I have the SuperTurboFireBlazerExtreme Internet package at home. However, restoring 360 apps via USB 2.0 is slow. So slow that I went to bed and finished updating the phone in the morning.
And then I had it: iOS 7 in all its mildly parallactic glory. And it was good.
Now that I've lived with the design for a couple of days, I must admit to really liking it. Cyril gives the new design a hearty "meh," but I'm a touch more enthusiastic than Mr. K.
While I agree that this new iOS doesn't break new ground in the seismic way the original iPhone/iOS combination did, I think that's expecting too much at this point. The original magic of the iPhone wasn't just what it did or that it did things simply—it was that it did such cool stuff on frickin' phone you carried around with you. I don't think any company is going to recapture that level of "Sweet Moses!" excitement without completely rethinking and reinventing the smartphone as we know it. I would suppose Apple and Samsung and Google are all heading down those paths, but who succeeds first (if at all) is still up for grabs.
Until then, we have iOS 7 (and the new iPhone 5C and 5S that I've yet to see in person). And it's better than what came before. More incremental than inspirational perhaps, but that's a bit like complaining your wife's new haircut only made her into a hotter version of her existing self instead of a Leather Goddess of Phobos.
From a usability standpoint, I'm enjoying the new elements like Control Center and swipe-mid-screen to search. The UI feels plenty snappy to me on my iPhone 5, but I do sense some lag on my iPad 3. Not surprising given the new level of graphics layering going on. Of course, I wish Apple would give us the option of turning off such things (you can turn off parallax in the Accessibility settings). Considering I've been railing against the lack of OS 9 window-shading in OS X for the past dozen years, I'm not holding my breath on this one.
I have run into a couple of odd niggles: While you can finally put as many apps into a folder as you like, the folders will only show nine apps at a time on screens that will clearly hold many more. It'd be nice if you could merge folders instead of having to move apps one-by-one to consolidate. Things like that.
In the realm of Apple Giveth and Apple Taketh Away, iOS 7 finally includes the option in Mail to mark all messages as read. Only took the seventh iteration of the OS to get there (this lack of functionality was another reason I jailbroke my iDevices). But to counter this, Apple removed the preference to limit your mail accounts to only showing the latest 50/100/200/etc. messages. At first I though I was just missing where the setting had been moved to, but the message boards told me otherwise. Silly.
All in all, I dig it. Of course it's not as magical or fantastical or orgasmic as the videos at Apple.com would have us all believe. But the new, unified look and feel is a winner. And the death of skeuomorphic tomfoolery has to be reason enough for some to upgrade. Although they didn't re-skin Find My Friends. I know it's not a built-in app, but still. The ghost of Scotty F. has yet to be exorcised.
For those wondering, I did not peck this out while in line at an AT&T store trying to snag a 5S. That's what interns are for.
FoxA hands-off quasi-review of the iPhone 5C and 5S
As expected, Tim Cook & Co. materialized this past Tuesday to confirm 98% of the leaks their supply chain "partners" had let fly over the past few months in regards to the iPhone 5C and 5S. The 5C (for "Cheap," "China," or "Charo") is basically the soon-to-die iPhone 5 with a polycarbonate shell, a slightly better camera, a larger battery, and 20 grams of extra poundage. The 5S maintains the 5's external trappings while sporting new innards and new colors, which I refer to as Space Silver, Space Gray and Space Grey Poupon. The latter of the trio is the gold/champagne version that got a fair amount of chatter flowing for no good reason.
I attempted to dub this version "The Continental," but that sobriquet has yet to catch on. A meme machine I apparently am not.
Anyway, back to the 5C. Prior to Tuesday's announcement, when leaks were as uncontainable as Miley's tongue (now try getting that image out of your head), the mass of tech punditry posited that the 5C was going to be a low-cost alternative for what polite econ wonks would dub "emerging Asian markets that rhyme with angina." While that may indeed be part of Apple's overall strategy, it doesn't really feel like it. After all, the 5C, in both 16GB and 32GB configurations, is just $100 less than the 5S. While I have no doubt that a number of folks just coming into the Wonderful World of Lifetime iPhone Upgrades would rather pocket the $100 than enjoy the 5S's biometric home button or new camera hardware, I don't think the 5C is really aimed at wooing the Chinese masses on price alone.
No, to me, it seems Apple simply grew tired of releasing an upgraded handset and then lowering the price of the existing model. It's as if they want it to be obvious that someone chose a lesser iPhone. Or, perhaps, more obvious that someone opted for the 5S. It reminds me of the white, plastic iBooks compared to the MacBook Pros. Only this new iBook is actually better than the current MBP. I don't know; it just strikes me as weird, but I've only had one cup of coffee as I write this and, not going to lie, I don't care a whole lot about the 5C. I'm sure my wife would love it, because she's still sporting a 3GS that she has come to loathe for its increasing slowness. But she'll never know. If we upgrade phones, I'll give her my 5 and get myself the 5S. I know that sounds selfish, but, slowness or not, my wife would use the 3GS until it self-immolated while trying to decipher Facebook's latest privacy changes.
The 5S, of course, is supernew, supershiny and, if certain pundits are to be believed, a massive superfail. Forget its new 64-bit A7 chip or M7 motion coprocessor. Or its upgraded camera with an f/2.2 lens and color temp-adjusting dual LED flash. Or its seemingly fail-proof biometric finger scanner of a home button. No, the 5S still fits in a normal pocket, doesn't resemble a small tablet (I refuse to use the word "phablet" unless I'm dropping mad beatz as my alter ego MC J-Fro), and still won't cure the heartbreak of psoriasis.
I get it. The new hardware, while a significant upgrade spec-wise, lacks any wowee-zowee, life-altering features. (Although I would argue that the biometric home button is rather astounding. I am one of the Apple-claimed 50% who do not passcode-protect their phones, and I'm sure the button's uses will expand over time.) And that's the rub. Ever since Apple split up the announcement of the latest iOS from the latest iPhone, the reveal of the hardware has been a bit anticlimactic. After all, most of the awesomeness of the iPhone is contained within iOS. Each successive hardware upgrade usually gives us better battery life and a better camera (and I am impressed with the 5S camera), along with one or two decently significant new items like the Retina display, wide-screen display, or Lightning connector. But as cool as such things are—yes, I believe the Lightning connector was a significant upgrade—they're all rather meaningless without the OS and apps. And since Apple lets most of the iOS goodness out of the bag at WWDC every year, those wow moments of new hardware running new software are more or less gone.
None of which will have any impact on sales, of course. I wish Apple would be a bit more adventurous in their upgrades, but the truth is that their form of a prevent defense actually works, in stark contrast to the Kansas Chiefs teams of the late 1990s. As much as I grow weary of incremental improvements—an issue that extends far beyond Apple in my world—the pattern will hold until someone like Samsung or, heaven forbid, Nokia does something truly game-changing instead of merely different or slightly better. (While the competitions' phones have improved markedly over the years and are, in some ways, probably better, there is a big difference between being a viable alternative and being a must-have.)
So, as the owner of an iPhone 5, will I lay down the cash for a 5S? I honestly don't know. I think it really will take a hands-on, thumbs-on demo to sway me on this one. But if I do, you know I'll be getting a champagne-tinged handset with a custom-printed Walken case.
FoxNetflix embraces profiling
It was a dark and stormy night when I first joined Netflix in January 2007. Or light and breezy. Who knows? I can't remember three days ago. The membership was a (requested) Christmas gift, and there was much rejoicing throughout the Fox household, which, at the time, was two-fifths its current size. Back then, you could set up separate DVD/Blu-ray queues for different family members and alternate which queue your next disc was sent from. My wife, the hottest of all Megan Foxes, and I took advantage of this feature. Meaning there was almost always at least one movie in the house one of us had no interest in viewing.
And then Reed Hastings drove a stake through the heart of marital movie bliss and banished this feature to the junk pile of Betamax tapes and HD-DVDs. Boo. Hiss. So my wife's profile sat there for years. Still clickable, but with nothing in the queue and no way to add anything to the queue (although now such additions would be of the streaming variety, as we had given up the disc rentals after the Great Qwikster Flambé of 2011). So lonely. So forlorn.
Eventually, my wife pulled a double and spawned two offspring at once just to prove she was still a tough, Iowa farm girl at heart even though she doesn't know how to take a pork tenderloin from piglet to deep fryer. These spawn were then followed by a third and surgically guaranteed final Fox, and our Netflix Instant Queue ranneth over with the evil that is the whiny, Canadian scourge known as "Caillou." Sigh, eh.
Then, earlier this very summer, Netflix announced that they were bring profiles back—up to five per account. They finally rolled out this much-requested feature beginning August 1, with the caveat that it could take up to two weeks for profiles to propagate amongst the user hordes. Naturally, my account was on the tail end of receiving the upgrade, but it did show up Monday evening. Which is when the fun really began. Which is sarcasm. Because while Netflix did add profiles with individual queues, they did not create any way of moving or copying movies between queues. It took me the better part of 90 minutes (I did save the best part for a chocolate bar) to re-look up every kids show in our main queue and add it to the new Kiddos profile. Because coding a way to move things between MySQL databases is apparently beyond the technical acumen of folks who figured out how to send "Tommy Boy" though space and time. Also, I have no idea if they use MySQL databases. Maybe they outsource queue-keeping to small, Nepalese villages where they write everything down by hand in between getting schooled in the art of shot taking by Marion Ravenwood.
Anyway, I'm happy the profiles are back and that my queue is now free of magical ponies. Although I did keep Pingu around because he's like an aquatic fourth Stooge. But the whole queue-shuffling experience led me to notice (or revisit) some of Netflix's other UI and UX shortcomings. For example, after creating the Kiddos queue and marking it as a profile for chitlins under 12 (an actual good idea), I still, while logged into said profile, received suggestions for adult movies. Like a documentary called "After Porn Ends." And searching for kids shows would also bring up adult suggestions. These occurrences are spotty, so maybe they're still working out the bugs. Let us hope.
Still in the kids vein, if you mark a profile as being for the under-12 set, you can't add movies to it that are NR, or Not Rated. Which nixes more than a few Discovery and NatGeo documentaries, as well as some hardcore Charlie Brown specials. Yes, Netflix, you may actually have to use a little human judgment instead of IMDB data to assess the ratings veracity of your content. So please do us all a solid and change "Horseland" to NC-17. Bunch of trollops.
Netflix.com doesn't work correctly with Chrome; it doesn't let us access the Instant Queue while in the Kiddos profile. It works fine in Firefox and Safari. I don't know where the blame lies for this one, but I'll go with Google since Sergey Brin sounds like a rejected Bond villain. So you're off the hook for now, Reed. Not that we stream much within a browser anyway not counting the nine hours I'm at work.
In general, the Netflix UI blows whether on a computer, iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. On an iDevice, forcing me to side-scroll through my queue while being subjected to dubious "suggestions" is not my idea of well-played proactive content pimping. It's just annoying. And as readers of this blog know, no one understands annoying better than yours truly.
And here's an idea, when A-level fare arrives, let me know. Most of your "new releases" are straight-to-streaming clunkers like "I Was a Teenage Teenager" that don't really qualify for front-page treatment. If you don't have enough quality new releases to push, well, get back to work on those licensing agreements. The "Backyardigans" are sorely missed in southwest Omaha, by the way.
In the end, I'm still fairly happy with Netflix. Hard to argue with spending eight bucks a month for so much content in spite of the exceedingly high signal-to-noise ratio. Their push into producing original content is a worthwhile endeavor, even if the new "Arrested Development" episodes were critically ravaged (we still haven't managed to watch them). After all, I managed to watch the entire run of "Battlestar Galactica" in about 10 weeks. Which is pretty frackin' awesome. I just wish they'd put a little more thought and polish (because I prefer thought to spit) into their interface. And figure out a way to stream Junior Mints.
FoxThe least-timely, shoddiest review of Final Cut Pro X
If you look at The Tech Report's main blog page, you'll notice a blurb describing each of the columns. In describing The MacHole (and more specifically its author, me), TR proprietor Scott Wasson wrote, "As TR's first self-described Mac blogger, Jason Fox joins us to cover the wonderful world of Apple products, with a focus on multimedia and video editing." As any medium-time reader of this sporadically published blog knows, I have pretty much ignored this specification and run roughshod over Scott's dream of having a moderately serious Mac blog on TR. But seeing as how I possess certain disc film negatives from seventh-grade homeroom involving an Atari ST and a marmoset, this arrangement shall remain.
My proclivities for ill-focused technological rambling aside, I do, in truth, enjoy video editing. My first exposure to real editing (as opposed to taping up broken splices on dad's old 8-mm reels) came in 1995 when I mistakenly entered the ad industry as a copywriter. This was during the big shift from online to offline editing. It was fun to watch and direct, but I was not allowed to play with the very expensive toys, even if I was technically the client. Smart move on their part.
In late 1999, Apple released iMovie and changed the way we edit poorly lit kids' birthday parties forever. It was easy to use and, thanks to the Ken Burns Effect, abuse. I used it at work to make a couple of new business pitch videos and rough TV spots (visual storyboards, if you will). But, as I often did, I craved more power, more control, more garbage mattes. So when Final Cut Express debuted in 2003, I ponied up the biggish bucks and went to town—if you consider being hunched over a Walmart computer desk with a dual-533MHz PowerMac G4 and a 16-inch LCD to be "town." A couple of years later, when I thought I was getting serious about shooting, I went all-in for Final Cut Studio, since I needed a version of Final Cut that supported 24p (FCE did not), along with DVD Studio Pro.
That was in 2005.
In 2011, Apple decided it was time to get the FCP editing community's collective panties (lion print) in a wad by introducing Final Cut Pro X. As in the Roman numeral for 10. Meaning, in theory, Apple skipped FCP 8 and 9, which isn't really accurate. It was more like they skipped FCP 8 though 23, because FCPX wasn't an upgrade to FCP7—it was a completely new program with new media management and, most importantly, an entirely new editing structure. Gone were the multiple video and audio tracks that pretty much every editing program extant had used since the dawn of computer editing. Gone were all your plug-ins until publishers released new versions for X. And gone were all your past FCP projects, because Apple didn't include a way to import old work.
Who wouldn't love that?
If you were paying attention to such things at that time, pretty much nobody who wasn't on the payroll in Cupertino loved Final Cut Pro X. Personally, I stayed out of the fray because I didn't (and don't) make my living editing. My editing needs were, as far as an FCP user goes, modest. I continued toiling away with FCP7, keeping tabs on updates to X that slowly, if not quite surely, assuaged the pro editors among us. At least those who hadn't bolted back to Avid or to Premiere in the interim. Yet I knew that some day I would have to give in and switch to X, hopefully before Apple forced my hand by including code in an OS 10-point-dot release that broke support for FCP7 altogether. Not that such a thing could ever, ever, happen. Never.
And so that dive has been doven. A few weeks ago, I finally started in on The Fox Family 2012 Year in Review video. Yes, instead of piecing together little vignettes of events as they occur (or, like normal people, never bothering to edit video footage at all), I wait until the end of the year and hack together what is basically a chronological spewing of scenes set to a song that may or may not have any relation to said footage. It's fun but rather time-intensive. And, this year, quite late. But I digress. The point is, I finally started my biggest editing project of the year, and I decided it was to time to quit cursing at my Hackintosh and to start cursing a new version of FCP.
Here are my thoughts after about 40 hours of use. And only two years after the program's debut.
Media management and browsing is easier. You can actually see clips and scrub through them without having to double-click them and stick them into another window. This doesn't sound like much, but when you're making selects from 700+ raw clips, the speed benefits become quite tangible. Also, FCPX reads the metadata on my files, automatically lists their dates with each clip (which FCP7 did, too, but in a much less at-a-glance fashion), and groups them as such. Grouping media into Events seemed odd at first, but it now makes a lot of sense. Although you'll want to invest in Event Manager X if you end up with a lot of events you don't need hogging up your window.
You can also directly edit AVCHD footage if you're a masochist or have a 96-core machine with 16 SLI'd video cards. Or you can let FCPX convert such footage to ProRes422 as it ingests. Me, I stick with converting using Voltaic, because FCPX requires additional files off your SD card in order to keep things straight, and I saw no benefit in changing my workflow.
The Storyline paradigm of editing makes a lot of sense once you pull a Yoda and unlearn your dependence on multiple tracks. In a way, you still get multiple tracks, where what's on top plays over what's underneath. But with the Storyline method, all those tracks above and below the, er, primary storyline are connected to that backbone. Which makes moving chunks of stuff around much easier and keeps the assorted bits and pieces in sync as you go. Is it better than the traditional, multi-track way? The jury is still out for me. It's different. It's fast. But I can't say it's superior.
Apple still doesn't provide a way of importing old FCP projects into X. Fortunately, you can drop $10 for 7toX (made by the same folks who publish Event Manager X) and get a fairly decent workaround. It's not perfect. The way it imports old sequences as Events instead of Projects seems a bit counterintuitive. But it works well enough and, as far as I know, is the only solution currently out there. Best advice: keep FCP7 on hand if you have frequent need of opening past projects.
Sweet Moses, is Final Cut Pro X a resource hog. I'd never had any issue with playing multiple tracks of 1080p video with FCP7 using a 5400-RPM SATA 3Gbps hard drive. "Sluggish" barely begins to describe FCPX's performance with this drive. Depending on what mood the program was in when launched, things were either minutely slow or majorly dysfunctional. As in, thumbnails would never generate, scrubbing was aborted, and the SBOD took up permanent residence in southwest Omaha. Obviously, I was forced to upgrade to a 3TB, 7200-RPM SATA 6Gbps drive. Speed and space problems solved. Except that I really need a new graphics card to speed up OpenCL rendering. Emergency flares have been fired. Stay tuned.
Two years of X existence have also led to a ton of new plug-ins flooding the market. I can only assume, because I'm too lazy to research, that coding plug-ins for X is easier than previous FCP flavors. I don't recall there being so many high quality, relatively cheap plug-ins out there. Best of all, for me, the few plug-ins I did own for 7 were offered in their X variants for free. Sadly, I was unable to find a plug-in that would take six hours of raw footage and cut it down to fit the glorious melody that is Mr. Mister's Kyrie. No, I'm not joking. My kids fell in love that song for some reason last year. Hey, it beats the snot out of Raffi.
And that's about it for the moment. Aside from figuring out where certain menu options are hiding, I haven't encountered too much grief. Granted, there's now something called YouTube that makes life a lot easier when it comes to learning a program like this. I learned quite a bit in a very short time following the smooth mouse movements and even smoother voice of Larry Jordan. Not all of his content is free, but his free stuff was enough to get me started with a minimum of vulgarities.
And if you've ever edited before, you know that isn't faint praise.
FoxThe App Store heads to kindergarten
So Apple's iOS App Store celebrated it's fifth birthday this week, culminating 260 weeks that could be described as arduous, touch-and-go, and fraught with peril unlike any seen since season 4 of Battlestar Galactica when Edward James Olmos finally landed on a nuked-out Earth and stood and delivered a few choice fraks. Except, of course, you'd be wrong in that description. Because if there was ever a business venture poised for success, it was the App Store, which didn't hit for a full year after the first nanogerbil-powered iPhone hit the market.
Naturally, every tech site had a least one article covering the event, with most offering a timeline of the App Store's growth. As of May 2013, over 50 billion apps have been downloaded and at least 33 developers have become semi-instant millionaires based solely on their ability to code realistic fart noises. (No, capitalism isn't always pretty, friends, but I shudder to think of life in a world where I can only enjoy government-approved fake flatulence.) The store also helped push software-as-a-download over the final hurdle, making it the preferred method of both distribution and consumption. Although users of Adobe CC may come to rue that development.
New terms, modes of business, and cultural touchstones also spouted forth in the wake of the App Store. Apple's marketing promised "there's an app for that" long before there actually was. The freemium model angered lovers of the English language everywhere (though not as much as when Kinko's—remember them?—turned "office" into a verb) and proved that giving your kid your phone for ten minutes could be a costly mistake. And ill-tempered fowl took over people's devices and their kids' birthday party decorations. Yes, the App Store even affected the crepe paper industry.
So while there is plenty of cause for honoring the App Store (and its Android, Windows, and Blackberry counterparts), getting all verklempt at little Appy turning five feels a bit forced. It was an accomplishment that my twins turned five last January without having once sent each other to the ER. It was amazing that my wife put up with me for five years (now almost ten) without feeling the need to go Full Oprah on me. Those things are impressive-ish because of the passage of time. The App Store is simply impressive. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
In other news, Apple was found guilty of violating federal anti-trust laws in regards to an e-book price fixing scheme. Those most relieved by this decision are those tech journalists assigned to follow the case. We'll see if this decision drives down any prices on the iBook bookstore. I would think the fact that I bought a Kindle version of a Final Cut Pro X training book from Amazon for 10 bucks less than it is on Apple site might be incentive enough. But apparently not.
My Hackintosh has a new home inside a Corsair Carbide Series 500R case. The USB3 front panel connections cause boot issues, so I've had to use the included USB2 adapter. And my Ethernet no longer works. What moving the innards to a new case did to cause this chicanery, I know not. But the case itself is quite nice, and the multitude of fans is keeping my plethora of hard drives, the SSD, and the CPU much cooler than my old Antec Sonata III 500 ever did. It's also less prone to slicing my fingers. So less fraks slip from lips.
Finally, I time-traveled to 2008 to master a DVD for a client. Tony Parker and Eva Longoria seemed so happy back then. Sigh.
FoxDemo'ing the future at WWDC
If there's one thing I learned from Monday's (June 10, 2013) keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, it's that demonstrations of technology are soooo much better than talking about technology. I know this because one of the main presenters, VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, told me so at least 39 times during his unveiling of OS X 10.9 Sea Lion. I can't argue with the man or his hair. Well played.
Nonetheless, the WWDC keynote contained much to be excited about, like the public debut of the Wozborg 1.0—a cybernetic unit in the mold of the emotionless LtCdr. Data. And much to puzzle over, like Al Gore's facial expressions. Yet, I doubt you've come here to parse nuanced analysis of this mixed bag of pronouncements. You've come because you value my subjective opinion. Or at least your subjective opinion of my opinion. No matter. Just click a banner ad, please.
So let's make this simple and roll through the keynote announcements in the order in which they were revealed. More or less.
Intro. Apple CEO and my new BFF Tim Cook kicked things off by talking about a lot of things I don't remember. I just couldn't focus on the content of his words because the sound of said words kept gnawing at my brain. I swear he sounds like a character out of Beavis and Butt-head, but not one that's actually on the show. Although I am pretty sure he was threatening me.
OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Leaving the world of giant kitties behind, Apple has decided to start naming OS X versions after their favorite places in California. While I hoped this meant we'd be treated to 10.9 Randy's Donuts, my dreams were not to be, as Apple opted to go with a famous surfing locale. Never mind providing Top Gun joke fodder for bloggers everywhere. Mavericks does not appear to bring anything groundbreaking to the OS, but it does promise some handy new features: file tagging, tabs for Finder windows, better CPU power management (which would've been even better in the days when Flash sites sucked up CPU cycles like Miley at a stevia festival or something else that makes more sense), an updated Safari that might actually get me to use it instead of Chrome, full-screen apps that are more multi-display friendly. Additionally, Apple is bringing iBooks to the desktop at last, as well as their Maps app. If the Maps app actually works well, it could be rather handy, since it syncs directions to all your devices. We shall see. And then I'll probably go back to my Navigon app.
New MacBook Air models. Not a lot going on here with, as Phil Schiller called it, "everyone's ultimate, everyday notebook." Haswell processors and pretty impressive battery life. Not that these things are bad, they just aren't great for ether the hype or snark machine. They are a touch cheaper, at least.
Airport Extreme Base Stations. The AEBS has gone phallic for better signal distribution (as the owner of two current-gen AEBSes, I find that to be a good thing—the signal bit, not the phallicness.) Now sporting 802.11ac, the new AEBS/Time Capsule units pair up with the new Wi-Fi capabilities of the updated MacBook Air. I just hope they've finally fixed the Internet connection dropping issue that has plagued the AEBS for years. Some samples are fine forever, others develop the flakiness later in life, and some are spotty from the get-go. I've got one unit that just began flaking out on me. A downgrade to a previous firmware seems to have fixed it for now, but still. At least Apple is sticking with the three Ethernet ports. I wouldn't want my router to be too expandable. Good thing I won't have to find a recycling center for my secondary hub.
Mac Pro. Schiller kicked off the big reveal of a new Mac Pro with a teaser video and the comment, "Can't innovate anymore, my ass." And I must admit that I agree with Phil the Shill. I know that no small amount of complaining will be heaped upon the new Pro, mainly due to its lack of internal expandability, but I don't care. It's gorgeous, it's powerful, it has fast I/O out its diminutive wazoo, and it's chock-full of innovative sweetness of both the evolutionary and revolutionary kind. Ditching a mid-tower form factor that really stretches back to the first G3 Power Macs, the new Pro is a roughly 6 1/2- x 10-inch aluminum cylinder full of Jimmie Walker's favorite dyn-o-mite. Ultra-fast PCIe flash storage (although they don't say how much), fast RAM, massive throughput via Thunderbolt 2 and enough graphics power to simultaneously push three 4K displays. The thermal management makes me drool—perhaps because I just moved the Supreme Hackintosh to a new case with five different fans. Also, it (the Hack) is now ginormous. While the thought of buying a Thunderbolt chassis for my HDs or one for PCI cards isn't particularly appealing, I don't believe it will be a real hindrance to the people who will actually use the new Pro. Most post-production houses don't rely on local storage anyway. Although many do like to tweak their machine's hardware, so we'll see how that plays out. Nonetheless, a stunning bit of industrial design that, shape aside, is light years away from the Cube.
iWork on iCloud. Potty break.
iOS 7. The unveiling of iOS 7 was probably the most anticipated segment of the keynote, and to my eyes it did not disappoint. I'll leave the feature lists to others; I'm more excited about the design. We all knew this would be the Jony Ive-ing of iOS, but I didn't think they'd put him so front-and-center when talking about it. While he didn't appear on stage (he was in the audience shading himself in Al Gore's penumbra), he did open the iOS 7 segment with a video discussing the design philosophy behind the changes (as well as demonstrating some new features). Personally, I really like Apple's new emphasis on explaining design. Doing so has its risks—it can come off as too boring, too instructive, too condescending and even (given Apple) too hyperbolic—but it's worth the attempt. My favorite bit is on the iOS 7 design page at Apple.com. There's a subhead on one section that reads "You know good design when you use it." I think that sums up just about everything there is to know about good design. It is not enough to look good or act well—the two must be joined. It's the type of thing that Apple has excelled at in the past, yet hasn't pushed forward enough in recent memory. Is the design work a breakthrough? No. That rarely happens. The fonts and iconography are contemporary and will probably stand the test of time (we'll see in a few years, won't we?), but they're not 180 degrees from what others are doing. I haven't had a chance to use a Windows 8 phone, but that OS's visual design at least looks decent. Apple's ability to combine style and substance should keep them ahead for the time being.
On a side note, I saw a lot of angst on Twitter about the new look, which struck me as odd. Not because design is subjective, but because the folks grousing were grousing about the flatter style being too childlike—I just didn't get that sense at all. The makers of Camera+ (@TapTapTap) were whining so much I had to unfollow. First, don't damn the design without having interacted with it first. Second, it's not as if Apple dropped Fajita and Papyrus all over the place like pootastic font bombs.
Also, Eddy Cue needs to cash in some stock options and take a presentation course. Or give me a million bucks for this advice: pause when people applaud, not when you expect them to.
iTunes Radio. It's Pandora built into iTunes. I doubt it'll really be much different that, although integration is often a good thing. I suspect this is more of a tactical play—something Apple felt they had to do versus really wanting to do. Although, knowing Apple, they'll end up making hordes of cash off the advertising and funneled iTunes purchases. Being an iTunes Match customer keeps it ad-free, which is nice until the day I write an iRadio ad for a client.
I could go on, but I already have.
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