June 6, 2007


I call this: computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 9:54 pm

I’m having fun playing with the new (to me) software on the Macbook Pro. Front Row is pretty, although I’ve only really used it for music so far. I’m more excited about the remote’s ability to run Keynote presentations, but I don’t think I’d trust it to run a show. I will have to test it from distances longer than the walls of my apartment and see if it could be useful for rehearsals.

I was really hoping to get a new Mac with iLife 07 or whatever they plan to call it, but since I never shelled out for iLife 06, I was looking forward to those small improvements. I can’t believe iPhoto still doesn’t have subfolders or sub-albums, or sub-something (then again, I’ve been saying that about iTunes for so long I gave up years ago). Like for instance, I’d love an album of “Reagle Players” photos, which would contain thousands of pics, which could then be broken up by show. I swear I must have literally a thousand photos from the photo call of The Sound of Music and not enough time in my life to sort through them with that interface. I just watched a nice podcast from TUAW about Aperture, Apple’s pro photo managing app, which looked like an overpowered version of what I would like. And then I said, three hundred dollars, are you f%#$&*#)@ kidding me?!? If it was $100, I’d consider it expensive, but worth the convenience. I’m not a professional photographer, it’s not a business expense that will be subsidized by the income I’ll make off of it. While I do occasionally use iPhoto to organize photos for work, I will never need a tool like Aperture. It’s bad enough that I actually pay for legitimate copies of Photoshop, and I even sometimes use that in my job (not in ways that fall into my job description, but I sometimes do side work designing logos, paper props, etc.) And hey, I occasionally dabble in the Photoshop contests at Fark. I’ve actually won three of em. I’m still using Photoshop 7, but I just ordered the upgrade to CS3 to go with my new Intel Mac. After paying a little less than a month’s rent (I live in Manhattan, remember), I plan to be sticking with this version for an equally long period of time.

I’ve downloaded the trial of Parallels to play with, using my disk image from Microsoft’s Virtual PC. The key here if you’re going to try to do this is to first go into VPC on your old computer and remove the Virtual Machine Additions if you have them installed, as they can cause conflicts with Parallels. Then shut down your VPC and transfer its disk image to your new Intel computer. After that the transition was completely painless, as Parallels can recognize VPC images and convert them quite quickly. I haven’t spent that much time with it, but it definitely runs Windows as well as a real computer. It’s nothing at all like the slow-motion experience of VPC. It looks great (if Windows can be said to look great) in full screen mode. Coherence mode, where you get a floating Start button and taskbar and Windows windows appear intermingled with OS X windows, is somewhat nauseating as a concept, but it’s really incredible that it can be done. It also works like VPC where you can have a single window in OSX showing your entire Windows screen. When I get some time in the next couple days maybe I’ll try some games and see how they do, though I guess any serious gaming still has to be done with Boot Camp, which I haven’t looked into at all yet.

One app I found in my Applications folder that I was confused by is called ComicLife. I don’t know how long this has been bundled, but I’d never heard of it. When I said, “What the hell is this?” and opened it, I was surprised and amused to see it’s a comic book maker, with an insanely intuitive interface, direct access to the iPhoto library, and the most hysterical sound effects for clicking and dragging any app has ever had. You can see I threw this together in about 2 minutes without ever using the app before.

I can’t think of anything particularly brilliant to do with it at the moment, but having done this kind of thing the very long way in Photoshop, I’m sure it will come in handy.

First Impressions of the Macbook Pro

I call this: computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 9:21 am

UPDATE: Check out the Mac topic for more recent posts about my new Macbook Pro.

I’m not going to call this a “review,” since I think it should take more than a few hours of use to come up with a real opinion, but here are my thoughts about my new purchase:

First of all, after staying up until 4AM last night to make sure everything was transferred over so that I could begin using it as my primary computer at rehearsal today, my first reaction is that it looks just like my Powerbook. I haven’t installed the haxie to make the dock black yet, and I’m not sure if I want to. I’m trying not to install anything that screws with the system too much, so if any bad behavior shows up I can rule out that sort of thing.

Other than that, though, there are few things to remind me that I’m using a different computer. I’ve never been a fan of the wide trackpads that have always been on the 17″ Powerbooks, and also the 15″ Macbook Pros. It’s mostly a matter of not being used to it, but that huge button just feels harder to press. I’m also having a hard time adjusting to the tracking speed (more the acceleration, as I’m used to making it faster with SideTrack — again, I don’t want to mess with haxies just yet). Interestingly, when I went to the Sidetrack site to make that link, I saw a notice saying it’s not yet compatible with Macbook Pros made after October 2006. So there. There’s a post saying they’re working on it, but since the last update was in November 06, I fear it may not be in development anymore. I mainly used Sidetrack on the Powerbook because it has no built-in scrolling feature. Now that Apple has introduced the two-finger scroll it’s less important, but it also does some other cool stuff, like letting you assign extra mouse buttons to things like tapping the corners of the trackpad. It also allows greater control over pointer speed and acceleration.

Two-finger scrolling has always felt a little weird to me, but once I figured out that I have a tendency to put my fingers too close together, that helped. I also needed to uncheck the option in System Prefs to ignore accidental trackpad input. My experience has always been that it ignores more good input than bad. The trackpad itself has more friction than I’m used to, but I’m sure that’s just because it’s new.

My keyboard lights come on by themselves quite alot. Sometimes my hand passes over the light sensor in a slightly shadowy but flourescent-lit room, and they come on for a couple seconds. I don’t really want to turn off the sensor, but I may.

OK, so this new exciting screen. It’s bright. It’s pretty. I can’t say that there’s anything about it that would make me say “OMG I’m looking at a kind of screen I’ve never seen before!” even though that’s the case. Most new computers, certainly new Macs, have a brighter, prettier, and higher-resolution screen than my Powerbook, so I tend to have the same reaction to all of them. It definitely is a nice bright white, the kind of light you get from an LED. The backlighting looks pretty even. The side-angle viewing seems good to me. Here’s the inevitable side-by-side-with-another-computer-in-the-dark shot:

That’s the MBP on the right, of course. The other computer is a Rev. A 15″ Albook from Sept. 2003. Not exactly a current comparison, but there it is. Both on maximum brightness. It’s bright. I can’t imagine ever needing it to be brighter. The last couple clicks on the brightness scale are painful. There’s a moment, I think just when it starts up, where it kicks to full brightness for just a second before going to whatever level it’s set at, and it’s like a flashbulb going off. You’d only ever need something this bright in direct sunlight, I think. I don’t spend much time outdoors, but I’ll see if I can try it soon.

The two most important things about the screen to me:
1. No bad pixels (phew!)
2. The grainy/sparkly defect from the previous MBPs is gone. Sucks for anyone who has one, but I’m glad at least future models won’t come with it.

Santa Rosa
. Uh, OK. It’s fast. Of course it’s fast, it’s sitting next to a freakin’ 1.25GHz G4, and it has twice as much RAM. What am I supposed to say? I’ll leave it to someone else to post benchmarks and comment on performance relative to something more modern. Of course I’m very happy with the speed improvement. And the wireless seems faster, both for internet and file transfers, even though I’m using a wireless-g router. Not sure if that’s because the bottleneck was actually with my processor and/or RAM on the old computer. Anyway, better wireless makes me happy. PC users make fun of me too much when they can get a signal on a base station and I can’t.

One of my concerns was how do I get this thing safely to and fro. I carry my Powerbook inside my bag in a MacCase sleeve, which I love to death. When the MBPs were first released last year, I was kind of dreading having to buy a new case to account for the slightly longer length of the MBP. I was hoping the extra half inch of room in my PB case might save me the trouble, and indeed it has. The MBP fits in the case with about a quarter inch to spare. Maybe not as well protected as the PB, but it will do. The only thing that’s disappointing for any true Apple fan is that the Apple doesn’t sit quite centered in the window, but it’s close enough that there can be no mistake about what’s inside.

Speaking of size comparisons, here are the two side-by-side, the MBP on top:

A lot of the stuff I’m discovering is old news to anyone with an older MBP, so I’ll try to keep that to a minimum, but I still have a lot of things to play with that are new to me, like Front Row and its cute little remote, and Intel in general. Stupidest thing I did when packing for this summer: not considering that I would be wanting to install Windows on this machine and bringing along one of my existing Windows disks. I really want to try out Parallels, but I don’t feel like purchasing a new version of Windows, and I’ve got one or two XP codes I don’t even use anymore. Perhaps I can have one of those disks sent up to me with my mail. I also have my VPC disk image on the PB, I’ll have to research if something can be done with that. I’m not sure how much I’d really use it, but as a stage manager preparedness is key, and once in a blue moon it helps to be able to do something in Windows. I’d also like to try some gaming.

Well those are my thoughts so far, I’m sure I will be discovering lots of things as I actually start to use it.

Meanwhile, something about a show

I call this: mac,summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:56 am

I wasn’t the only one who thought my new Macbook Pro was the most important thing to happen at the Reagle Players yesterday. We have quite a few Mac users among the creative team, cast and crew, and many people were very excited to come back from dinner and see my new purchase. I had just enough time to drive up to Burlington, buy it, swing through Burger King and get back, so I didn’t have any time to start playing with it. In fact I didn’t even open the box until the first break. But then much oooing and ahhhing commenced.

I did basically one thing with it during the entire evening at the theatre, which was to set it up to use my Treo as a modem, and then download a small app to check the LCD for stuck pixels. It’s one of my bigger fears in life to spend lots of money on some wonderful computing device and find it’s got a bad pixel that I’ll have to stare at for years to come. I watched the white screen carefully as it booted up for the first time, looking for any signs of uneven backlighting, bad pixels, or other display problems. I am happy to report that this machine passed the LCD test with flying colors.

But anyway, in the midst of this important event, in the background we continued trying to put on a show. Last night we did a work-through of Act I, which was very exciting. It wasn’t quite a run, but moved fairly quickly. We were also able to have rehearsal on stage, which was very helpful for everyone. It’s definitely starting to look like a show, and it was the first time that the ensemble got to see a lot of the principals’ scenes and musical numbers, so it was kind of like having a real audience. “Good Mornin'” brought the house down.

As Singin’ in the Rain comes closer to completion, I was also greeted by this sight as I pulled into the parking lot before rehearsal:

The set of King and I under construction and being painted by the talented Matt and Jamie. A lot of Reagle’s sets are rented, or purchased from other renters, but this one is being built and stored in the back warehouse. A lot of it was already constructed when I arrived for the summer, and this week they have started painting.