Tag Archives: Mac

It depends on what your definition of “Pro” is

For well over a year now the Apple nerdery have been rending their garments and gnashing their teeth over the lack of an updated Mac Pro. They blog it and podcast it till their fingers are numb and their listeners’ ears bleed. The story is that Apple no longer cares about Apple “Pro” users because they’re too busy with watches and iPhones and iPads. It hasn’t been updated since 2013! How are these pros to get anything done? Being forced to work on such old machines is practically like being forced to use a horse drawn carriage or a Mac Color Classic.

Pros need faster machines they repeat over and over and over. No, really. But then today I came across this image in a tweet by Federico Viticci about a new series of interviews being done for Club Mac Stories. Their first guest is developer Steve Troughton-Smith:

And something caught my eye. Steve Troughton-Smith, supposedly a professional who runs Xcode to develop apps is still using a 2012 iMac as his primary machine. 2012. iMac. Obviously somebody needs to talk to Steve. He is either a poser or terribly uninformed about the computer he should be using.

Now, I myself am not real professional either. I’m not a programmer or developer. I’ve not used Final Cut Pro since 2004. I don’t edit audio and didn’t do special effects in the last Star Wars film. My primary machine from 2011 to 2014 was a MacBook Air! Since then I’ve been using a 2012 Mac Mini. How do I get anything done without a Mac Pro updated within the past year? Funny thing, somehow I’ve been able to run everything from Adobe Illustrator to Indesign to Panic’s Coda to Affinity’s new Designer and Photos apps. I’ve done the layout for two community newspapers, ads, billboards, brochures, websites, signs, and product labels with those two non-pro machines.

Okay. Okay. Seriously though. I realize there are plenty of people that can use the power provided by monster machines with 65 GB of ram and the latest, greatest graphics cards. I get that the current Mac Pro IS long in the tooth. It is due for replacement. But folks, really, first world problems.

I’d bet my left testicle that there are many professional users, power users even, of Apple computers of mid-range power be they current or older iMacs, MacBook Airs, or Mac Minis. Get a grip on yourselves Apple nerds. Please.

Work at Home: My Setup

After years of using only Mac laptops, the most recent being a 2011 MacBook Air, I made the decision in the winter of 2014 to transition to a desktop Mac. Kaleesha was writing her first book and needed a better laptop so I took the opportunity to make the move. My reasons were for choosing the MacMini (late 2012): price and my decision to begin sitting and standing rather than working in a reclined position. I’d tried this with the laptop but it just didn’t take. A MacMini would leave me no choice but to be at the desk.

I’d been using an iPad since the first iteration in 2010 and was pretty confident that it would serve well as a laptop replacement for my off hours browsing or any tasks that didn’t require a Mac. This has been the perfect set-up for me.

iPad Air 2 and Logitech K811 Keyboard

iPad Air 2 and Logitech K811 Keyboard

Most of my work on the Mac is either graphic design or html/css coding. All design work is taken care of with the usual Adobe apps and the web work via Panic’s excellent Coda. Other usuals: Safari, Mail, Wunderlist, Fantastical, Byword, iBank, Paperless, Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Oh, and iTunes which not only serves me but the whole house.

On the iPad 3, recently upgraded to the iPad Air 2*, my main apps are Feedly, Transmit, Byword, Drafts, Twitter, Numbers, Fantastical, Wunderlist, Scanner Pro, Kindle and iBooks. As an amateur astronomer SkySafari gets alot of use along with Numbers for recording observations with the iPad that are later transfered to FileMaker Pro on the Mac.

With Mavericks and iOS 7 the convenience of always in sync everything has been a fantastic feature making switching between devices mostly frictionless. It’s only gotten better with Yosemite and iOS 8 both of which have performed exceptionally for me. Practically everything seems to sync in one way or another. Some examples: Transmit and Coda bookmarks, Wunderlist tasks, iWork documents, Byword documents and practically everything else.

One possible change to my workflow: Pixelmator. I’ve used it a bit on the Mac but now with a new powerful iOS version I intend to become more familiar with it. That I can now do real image editing and design work on an iPad with this much power (and finally 2 GB of RAM) is a potential game changer. When combined with apps such as Transmit and extensions I anticipate that I now have a device which will make on-the-go web work that much easier as my ability to use and share files between apps and devices is a fantastic new feature of iOS8. For example, a photo emailed to me by a client is easily saved to photos, edited with a Pixelmator extension and then opened in Transmit for upload to a server.

Of course, having said all that, I don’t want to go back to my former portable-based workflow. I’m VERY happy with my standing desk and intend to continue working there but it is very helpful to now have the option of getting more work done when I need to be away from my desk.

Two other bits of gadgetry worth mentioning.

The iPhone 5C has been great for keeping up with email, twitter and RSS as well as reading books. Other tasks for the iPhone usually include scanning documents with Scanner Pro, remote control for iTunes and AppleTV. The hotspot feature has also been a real plus for getting things done while on the road.

My newest office kit is a Logitech K811 which I’ve only had for a few days. I think this is the best keyboard I’ve ever used. Bluetooth pairing with multiple devices was super simple and switching between them as fast as hitting a single button. The keyboard turns off automatically when not in use and turns on instantly when my fingers are placed on it. The slightly concave keys feel great and unlike the Apple keyboard (my previous favorite) this keyboard has backlighting. It’s not super light but light enough that I won’t mind taking it out with me. The iPad/keyboard combo is still far lighter and more compact than a MacBook Air. As I write this Kaleesha is creating a sleeve for the iPad/keyboard combo. Sweet.

  • A note about the Air 2. It was gifted to me by my aunt and uncle and I mention them because until the release of the iPad they had no intention of ever owning computers. Like several others in my family (my mother, grandmother, aunt, and a few others) had previously only ever used their desktop computers for playing those old school card games. For various reasons they had not used the internet at all or only very little. All of them are now daily users of the internet in a variety of forms. For several of them their iPads were their introductions to Apple and they now own iPhones as well.

Excellence is not Perfection

imageThere’s been a good bit of hub-bub lately about how Apple has over-extended itself. Whether it’s complaints about iOS 8 bugs or a bendy iPhone 6 it all seems to be much ado about nothing. No doubt there are bugs but this is nothing new. No company releases a major new upgrade to any operating system without bugs, not even Apple. Go back through the releases of iOS or Mac OS and you’ll see that every release has bugs and most releases have at least one or two big bugs. This is nothing new so why pretend it is? Frankly, given the ever increasing complexity of the Apple hardware ecosystem, my hat’s off to them for keeping it together as well as they have. We expect excellence and I think that’s what we get. Excellence should not be confused with perfection.

The big bugs with iOS 8 that I’ve seen mentioned the most in my Rss and Twitter feeds? HealthKit needed an immediate fix so 8.01 was pushed out sooner than it should have which turned the just released iPhone 6s into iPods. No doubt a big problem which was rectified by 8.02 a day later. Aside from that I’m seeing the usual anecdotal complaints of instability. Another issue, not so much a bug as an issue of different timing for the different upgrades, are iOS 8 users upgrading to iCloud drive who were unaware of how this would effect their ability to access their iCloud documents from Mavericks-based Macs. Apple presents a warning for those choosing this option. Perhaps they could have done more? On my devices I’ve had no instability. My personal experience with iOS 8 has been nothing but excellent.

The critiques I’m seeing on iOS 8 seem to include the notion that Apple is rushing things and should slow down releases but this is a damned if they do, damned if they don’t scenario because it’s often said that they are not releasing enough. Not enough hardware, not enough software. Complaints about a lack of updates for iWork or iPhoto or iTunes being too bloated… the list goes on. I’m the first to admit that I often wish for new features or updates more often but that said I’m also usually very happy with what I have. Again, excellence not perfection. Most incremental updates have proven great. Major app rewrites such as iMovie several years ago or iWork last year have come with a bit of pain, no doubt. Not just in the adjustments needed for users to new interfaces and workflows but also in lost features (or temporarily missing features) and bugs.

With each new season of changes and updates there is a predictable outcry from the Apple using community about changes and bugs which is followed by a few weeks or months of bug fixes and, in the case of the major app rewrites, the return of many if not most missing features. The end result is that within a few weeks or a couple months everything is back to “normal”. iOS or OS X has returned to a stable state with it’s new features and everyone is happy. By January or February the end of the world has passed and by April Apple geeks are anxiously awaiting WWDC. By August they are beside themselves as they await the new iOS around the corner. The cycle repeats.

But along the way Apple has built an increasingly complex and collaborative ecosystem which is, increasingly, taken for granted. I remember the days of OS 8 and 9 and near daily crashes of my Mac. A week without a forced restart was nearly unheard of. I considered an uptime of 3 days amazing. Now? My Mac goes weeks without a restart, often months. Often restarts are only after OS updates that require it. That is absolutely fantastic. My iPad and iPhone? The same. Not only do my devices just keep running but they now work together in ways I would not have expected before. In just a few weeks even more so with the release of Yosemite.

But right now, even before Yosemite, my 2012 Mac Mini with 4 GB of RAM is my daily workhorse with 8–12 apps open at any given moment. An example: Safari, Mail, Wunderlist, iTunes, Illustrator, Photoshop, Messages, Calendar, Filemaker, and Coda. I bounce from one to the other with no crashes. None. This MacMini also functions as the household iTunes server. iTunes, often derided as bloated and somehow a problem, performs fantastically in our household. Always on, it serves 6552 songs, 170 GB of television shows, and nearly 1 TB of movies out to multiple iOS devices including 2 Apple TVs and a couple Macs. I wirelessly back-up my iOS devices to iTunes with no effort on my part beyond initial set-up. The only time I have to plug in an iOS device is to charge it or import photos into iPhoto.

I regularly open or create documents from iWork or Byword on my Mac which are then edited, seamlessly, on my iPad. Sometimes it is the other way around. Thanks to extensions in iOS 8 and apps like Panic’s Transmit I can easily use my iPad to access and edit an image or html file on my Mac Mini which I can then upload to one of my servers. With the same device and app I can share an image on my Mac’s desktop to Facebook or Twitter with just a couple taps. I can use my iPhone to control media on my AppleTV or stream a video from a Mac to AppleTV. These little sharing workflows are things we do in our household everyday, many times a day without a second thought and more often than not they work flawlessly. We just assume they will work and they do. The list goes on and will only grow as apps are updated or new ones created. With the release of Yosemite it will get better with Handoff and Continuity. I’ve already taken phone calls to my iPhone on my iPad, with Yosemite I’ll be able to take (or make) a call on my Mac.

It’s a fantastic time to be in the Apple ecosystem and I’m just as excited about the release of Yosemite as I was iOS 8. In the first weeks there will be bugs and the usual chorus of complaints will erupt on my feeds. I’m not suggesting that people should not mention the problems with Apple releasesd, be they OS, software or hardware, only that they keep a bit of perspective. Honest and factual critique helps us move forward, dramatic headlines and exagerated problems do not. Take a deep breath. Expect excellence from Apple, not perfection.