Tag Archives: mac

Mac or Windows – its upgrade time.

It’s almost decision time, but will it be Mac or will it be windows?

My original move to using a Mac was relatively indirect. I, like many people, had started my video editing with Windows MovieMaker. However soon upgraded to a basic budget priced editing package which did me for nearly a year. I could see it had a potential greater than what I was using it for, but there was very little support and virtually no tutorials around for it.

So time for something new. I hunted around on the web to find sites with good general video editing tutorials. Came across the IzzyVideo site where there was some excellent Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Express examples. FCP 7 was both a bit of an overkill for my uses plus too expensive, however the education price of Express was within my budget. Next, what did Express run on; OS X. This coincided with a need for replacement hardware anyway, but as I couldn’t afford a new Mac I ended up with a second-hand MacBook. So began my Apple adventure. I’ve ended up with a 3GS iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, and with an external monitor and keyboard attached, the MacBook used as a desktop machine.

However the MacBook is now seriously showing its age. One reason for using it as a desktop machine is that its battery is screwed. It has trouble running some programs and others won’t install because of its outdated graphics, its processor is constantly being hammered to death (cooling fan often freaking out!) and it’s got it’s fill of RAM but needs more.

Add to that my 3GS, as good as it is, is also showing its age. It’s battery still gives OK life however there are cracks creeping up its back cover, the On/Off button is missing, many new iOS features and more and more Apps coming out will not run on it… You get the idea.

So it’s decision time. Stay with Apple or move on? Apple does make some excellent products, but they are very overpriced (even after education discount). Are they worth the price premium?

The thing is Apple appears to be losing its innovative edge; at one time it was the undisputed leader in design an innovation, but now seems to be playing catch-up.
Going back a few years, the first iPod revolutionised the portable music scene (and helped to pull the company back from a very poor financial situation), the first iPhone showed what a difference a good interface can make, the iPad opened up the world of the tablet. The MacBook Air showed how to make a really nice portable laptop, iMacs had their own unique design.

However so many recent product releases have just been incremental rather than trend-setting. Android now more than competes with its smoothness of system operation. Many other screens give a better viewing experience that a Retina display. In numbers, Google’s Play store competes with Apple’s App store and is catching up in quality and range of Apps, Google’s Now voice search more than competes with Siri. A year or so ago Apple would never have released something like its Maps App in such a poor state of dysfunction.

My phone contract renewal time coincided with the Apple autumn announcement season, so I had been waiting with the proverbial bated breath to see what was coming up, and as a result I’m now the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

There were two ‘final things’ that made me not stay iPhone. First, I had hoped the iPhone 5 would have been something exciting and new, not just a slightly stretched screen and updated processor. Second, iCloud. Over the last year I’ve moved from just being an internet user to that of using the cloud for more and more for my data storage and services, and iCloud just does not do it for me. Google was born in the cloud and inherently seems to do this sort of thing so much better than Apple.

This leaves me thinking about what may happen early next year when I look towards a computer upgrade.

The new iMacs look very tempting, but at a price. However I find myself using Adobe’s CS6 photo products more and more, so for video moving across to CS6 or even Avid’s Media Composer (both Adobe and Avid are cross-platform and both have competitive education prices) would give me the option to stay Mac, but not the absolute need which staying with FCP X would require.

For less than an iMac I can get a similarly specified non-Apple machine, either Adobe or Avid software, and have money to spare for extras like external back-ups. So, as much as I like Macs it’s far from certain that I’ll stay Mac for my computing.

(One final thing, I’ve been surprised at how quickly Macs age. I have a 10 year old Windows laptop which is still in regular productive use. Ten years ago means G3 powered iBooks. I wonder how many of them are still as useful?)

Final Cut Pro X

 Final Cut Pro X

It’s now around six months since I got my copy of Final Cut Pro X.

A bit of history. My first video editing experience started off with Windows Movie Maker, but I soon wanted something that could do a bit more, and could also do HD. I mucked around with the 14 day trial versions of various programs and eventually settled on getting CorelDraw’s VideoStudio Pro X2. Cheap ‘n’ cheerful and did a competent job.

It didn’t take long to settle down to some basic YouTube video editing, and I could see that this, for the money, was quite a powerful editor. However it’s one thing to be a powerful editor, it’s another for the user to know how to use these powerful features, and perhaps its one biggest weakness was lack of availability of really good on-line tutorials.

I must have had it about a year (6 months of getting to know it, then 6 months of getting frustrated with it!) when I decided it was time to move on, with the priority on not just finding a good video editor, but an editor with good tutorials!

It was then by chance I came across Izzy Hyman and his www.izzyvideo.com web site. Here was a place with some really well presented tutorial videos on 1) making videos in general; 2) using Final Cut Pro 7; 3) using Final Cut Express. This was exactly what I wanted. The cost of Final Cut Pro 7 was way out of my budget, but Final Cut Express, at student price, was affordable. This also meant a shift from Windows to Mac (which was something I’d been thinking about anyway), and through the help of a friend I got hold of a 2nd hand MacBook Pro. This MacBook was a couple of years old and not exactly ‘high spec.’ but ran Express quite nicely.

It was about 7 or 8 months after this that Final Cut Pro X came out – and met with a very errrr…. ‘mixed’ reception! The pre-release press comments had been quite favourable, however when it came out they gave it a serious slagging. A lot of this was because they had thought that all the new features in FCP X would be in addition to / on top of all the existing Final Cut features, but on release they discovered that quite a few features considered important by the film making community were now missing. However for my use these missing features were not important and Apple had priced it very competitively. Izzy Hyman very quickly got onto his site some really good Pro X tutorials, so upgrading for me was an obvious thing to do.

The install went without a problem and it appeared to run smoothly, however the window that displayed the actual video stream only displayed it in what looked like 16 colours (the editing & other windows were still in full colour). After a bit of investigation it turns out that my MacBook had a compatible graphics card, but Pro X wanted 256 meg of RAM minimum where my machine only has 128 meg. Though a pain, this was not the end of the world, I was surprised though that the Apple app store / iTunes had allowed me to install it on a below spec. machine.

After using Pro X for a while I also realised another reason why some of the ‘professional types’ didn’t like it – it was too easy to use! Here was a powerful bit of software that had, with it’s new drag ‘n’ drop interface, taken out a huge amount of the mystique of video procuction, and at a cheap price too. It really has speeded up my routine of processing a video. Selecting which bits from different clips and adding titles and effects has not just become easier, but so much quicker.

I have since upgraded to a MacBook Air which runs it very nicely, this now means I can get most of my editing done on the train journey back from things like YouTube gatherings, which is nice.

So if anyone is thinking of a move from their basic editing software to something a bit more powerful, check it out. I certainly have no regrets, even though I had to change operating systems too.

Kindness of maintenance.

A bit of kindness of maintenance on your computer really is a good thing.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve done three Windows 7, 32 bit, and one Windows 7, 64 bit, installs. Two of the machines with the 32 bit installs were about 4 or 5 years old – not the newest kids on the block, but all went pleasantly well.

I can’t get round the fact that over the years I have found Windows a decently stable operating system. Windows NT had its roots in IBM’s OS/2, a rock stable system, with each version of Windows since then being that bit more stable than the one before. People complain about Vista (and so do I), but that was (for me) more towards its overall speed and interaction with the user, not stability factors. My Vista-powered lap-top never once crashed or locked up on me. As well as knowing others with Mac lap-tops, I also have one and have found them no better (or worse) than my Windows machines. (Once upon a time I was a very keen advocate of Linux, but that has become such a fractured community it has lost any appeal to me.)

However I do make an effort to look after my machines. A bit of basic maintenance is carried out when I’m in the mood for it. A cull of all those crap programs that get installed happens, and a general emptying of TEMP directories and tidying up of files. Occasional back-ups and running of defrag. Updates are applied, both to the operating system and to programs.
So if I wanted something that is relatively simple to use and is just going to work in the format that you get it and you don’t want to use it for much more than that, then I’d probably be happy with a Mac. But what I’m after is a versatile, flexible system that can be used in a variety of different situations, and work almost any bit of hardware I can throw at it.

As much as I do like Macs, they just don’t do that for me. I’m quite happy to put in a little effort to my systems, they are complex bits of machinery, and like anything of this type, benefit from a bit of routine care. Maybe it’s a case of so many people in our throw-away society aren’t willing to make the effort. I guess it’s partly a matter of attitude.

Not just computers, but we all work better with a bit of love and attention. So why not give a bit of love and attention to someone yourself. A simple message through Skype or MSN, perhaps a comment to a video or picture. Do that bit of occasional ‘social maintenance’. To the receiver it could make all the difference between stumbling along not working very well, or finding their way in life.

A little bit of kindness can go a long way.