Tag: Apple

Late 2013 Mac Pro Real World Usage

By now you’ve likely heard of the new Mac Pro — whether you’ve heard to it referred to as a trash can or Darth Vader, you’ve likely heard of it.  If not, it looks like this:

Late 2013 Mac Pro

Late 2013 Mac Pro

That’s actually mine, from the unboxing photos that were taken.

According to Apple’s original specs — and many of the reviews you may read online — it’s a powerhouse of a machine.  The specs on this outdo my previous generation (from late 2009) Mac Pro by oodles and oodles. Yes, that’s a technical term.

Here’s the model I went with:

  • 3.5 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon X5 (the upgraded model)
  • 16 GB 1867 DDR3 ECC RAM
  • Dual AMD FirePro D500 3072MB graphics cards
  • 256GB Flash Storage (I added a 2TB external drive, via Thunderbolt, as well.)

Leaps and bounds above and beyond the last generation’s computer.

Many of the reviews I’ve been seeing online focus on how quickly the new Mac Pro can output, compress, or process video — which is kind of what it’s intended for.  I don’t do any real video work — mostly web development, web browsing, email, etc — so this machine is complete overkill for my needs.  But, if you know me, I always like to have the biggest, best, newest and shiniest.

Here are some of the things that you may be interested in, in a real world environment for the new Mac Pro.  Every day tasks that can be done faster with a machine of this caliber.

  • Startup time: 5.1 seconds.  That’s the amount of time between pressing the power button, all of my start up applications opening, and being able to do stuff.
  • Opening Photoshop CC: 3.1 seconds.  In fact, here’s a video I made this morning of me opening Photoshop CC
  • Reading and writing data:
    • Reading data to the internal Flash drive is pretty fast.  According to Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test (a widely used application to benchmark drive speeds), the write speed averages 775 MB/s and the read speed averages 950 MB/s
    • For the external drive (over Thunderbolt), it’s a bit slower, but still pretty quick: Write: 335 MB/s. Read: 390 MB/s (averages)
  • That means that you could copy a 4.7 gig movie file from the internal drive to the external drive in about 12 seconds. Give or take.  Impressive.

I picked my machine (named Pennyworth, as its predecessor was named Alfred.  I like Batman, sue me) on January 3rd after a bit of a snafu at the Apple Store I had it shipped to.  From what I’ve been seeing on Twitter, I’m one of the few every day people that has one of these.  Most of the other people I’ve seen with them are either people who work for tech companies who wanted to review them, video production companies, recording studios, or other industry professionals.  I’m just some guy with good taste, so I guess that’s good for me.

You’ve likely seen (or heard) people complaining about how expensive the machine is.  And you’re right, it is costly.  But if you’re complaining that $4000 is a lot of money, you’re not the target audience for this computer.  This isn’t a $400 Dell that you can keep for a year and not care if it dies.  This is a high end, professional, and extremely powerful machine.  It’s not for the faint of heart, nor the faint of wallet.  That said, you get every penny’s worth of your money.  I haven’t had a single issue in the 3 weeks I’ve had this machine (not that I had any issues with the previous Mac Pro, either), and have been very glad that I spent the money.

I haven’t upgraded my monitors yet for two reasons:

  1. Apple hasn’t released a new monitor in a while and their current monitor doesn’t support 4K, UltraHD or Retina resolutions.  Nor does it support USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt 2, both of which are important to me.
  2. There’s nothing wrong with the screens I have now.  I’m still working with a 30″ Apple Cinema Display (from 2009) and a 24″ Dell display as my secondary (in portrait mode) to my left.

Once a newer display becomes available from Apple, I’ll likely upgrade to get the new toys.  But for now, I’m a-okay with what I’ve got.

Why does this post exist? No real reason.  I love my new computer and wanted to help answer any questions about the performance of a machine so high end that anyone considering buying one may have had.  Hopefully this helps in some way.

iTunes Genius Mixes

As big of a music fan as I am, I’m horrible at using the “features” of iTunes.

I use it to rip music, and store it.  Between Christine and I, we’ve got just over 80 gigs of music, which is all digital now. (I’m sure there’s plenty more CDs I opted not to rip, when I ripped ‘everything’ we own.)

I have one playlist, and I only created that so I could sync it to my iPhone.

I’m a terrible iTunes user. I know.

I’m home alone this weekend, and just upgraded to iTunes and decided to give this “Genius Mix” thing a shot.  I’m usually too impatient to wait for it to finish “delivering” results.  After all, it takes a while for iTunes to index that much music.

I let it finish (it took about 6 minutes or so), and have to say it’s pretty accurate.  It created 12 playlists for me. 12 Genius Mixes, I should say.  Here’s what it grouped, based on the 4 albums it makes thumbnails out of:

  • Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Green Day, Nickelback
  • Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Aerosmith
  • Disturbed, Dream Theater, Metallica, System of a Down
  • Foo Fighters, No Doubt, Lifehouse, (more) No Doubt
  • Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, David Cook
  • Bon Jovi, Tesla, Firehouse, Poison
  • REO Speedwagon, Billy Talent, Waltham, Hits of the ’80s
  • Van Halen, Queens of the Stone Age, Journey, Guns ‘n’ Roses
  • Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit
  • Katy Perry, Jason Mraz, Howie Day, Teddy Geiger

Not bad mixes.  It’s certainly better than just playing all 13,000 tracks on random and skipping ten in a row, till I find something I like.

I’m gonna give the Genius Mixes the benefit of the doubt and let them play for a while.

Switching to Mac – The Journey Continues

We’re now a mere 54 days away from my birthday/Mac Pro Day,  and I’m getting more and more excited.

Over the last month, I’ve gotten so reliant on using my iMac at the office, that when I get home, I’m discouraged having to use Windows.  I often press my mouse button down, expecting Expose, and am saddened when that doesn’t happen.

I’ve also begun finding more and more applications for the Mac to perform things I do on the PC.  While I’m more comfortable than I was at the time of my last post, I’m still not convinced I can switch to OSX without at least having Parallels installed on my Mac.  There are still a few things that I need to do that are PC only.

However, I’ve also found a few new applications that I’m in love with, that are Mac only!  I know, right?!

For starters, I think MailPlane is a godsend. Especially since I’ve started converting all my domain mail to Gmail.  MailPlane is just like any other mail client, except that it’s like having a bunch of Gmail accounts open at once, for all your different email addresses.  No more logging out and logging back in to another account. MailPlane keeps you logged into them all, and gives you a notification when you’ve got a new message.  The UI for the app is identical to Gmail itself, and has all the same features (keyboard shortcuts, searching, labeling, etc.)  Very handy.  Weeding addresses out of my Thunderbird inbox at home has never been more satisfying.

Another app I’m loving is Adium.  It’s like any other IM client, but better because it’s Macified.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I much prefer Adium to Digsby (which I use at home.)

I feel like once I get the Mac at home I’m going to want to switch all of my hardware to Mac.  Router, keyboard, mouse, external hard drives, etc.  It’s not unlikely.  Everything would look stellar all white and shiny.

As we get closer and closer to Mac day, I get more and more excited.  I can’t wait to make the switch.  Once I do, I plan on documenting the things I find that are hard for someone who’s used PCs as long as I have, in hopes that I can help other switchers along the way.

Switching to Mac – The Journey Begins

It’s been about 7 or 8 months since we picked up a MacBook for Christine, as an early Christmas gift.  Seeing how easy the transition was for her inspired me to make the transition myself.  I’ve always wanted a Mac, and seeing as how I’m a “designer” or “coder” or whatever you want to call it, it seems fitting that I have one.

After getting her MacBook, Christine never turned on her Windows laptop again, except for me to reformat it to give to her little brother, Ryan.  Was it that simple? It couldn’t be. There’s no way switching could be that easy.

Important files are kept in some form of Google docs, or an external hard drive. E-mail’s kept on web-servers.  Could it be that easy? Turn off old computer, turn on new computer?  For Christine, it was.

For me? It’s going to be a little more complicated.

For starters, I’m just about 30 years old.  I started using PCs when I was about 5 or 6. That puts me at 25ish years of PC experience, primarily with Windows. (Albeit I started with DOS, but I don’t think that counts.)

Can someone who knows Windows as well as I do switch to Mac and OSX so easily, as my wife did?  I’m going to find out.

I plan on buying myself a Mac Pro and 30″ Cinema Display.  Pretty big for a first personal Mac, right?  I think I’ll survive, and here’s why:

As you may, or may not, know, I’ve been contracting for a local University the last 6 weeks or so.  When I first arrived, they gave me a pretty old under-powered PC to use.  I quickly outgrew it, and had to seek something else.  There were no “better” Windows machines around, so I grabbed a 20″ iMac.  It’s a few years old, and has its problems, there’s no question about that.  At first, I was lost. I didn’t know what did what, or how to do the things I’d grown so comfortable with over the years on Windows.  I got angry quite often (still do, in some cases), and had to look things up.  Simple things, that most Mac users would laugh at you for.  But I’m learning.

Here’s how I know I’ll survive when I get my own Mac at home: when I go home, and turn on my monitors to look at something on my PC.  I dread it.  I won’t be one of those “I’ve switched, now I’ll bash Windows” types.  But I legitimately dislike having to use Windows at home.  I like the Mac.  I’d probably like it even more if it was newer, and didn’t have hardware problems that cause it to freeze and crash a bunch of times (4 reboots required thus far, today.)  I don’t hold that against the Mac though, it’s fairly old, and probably on its last leg.

I’m going to try to document the things I learn as I make the transition from part-time Mac user to full time, as well as photograph my new set-up once I get it.  I’m pretty excited, and much more at ease now that I’m sitting at a Mac most of my days, while doing work.  I’ve been learning by immersion. It’s a good way to learn, and I’m lucky I get to do it without having to spend money on a Mac, to learn I didn’t like it. (Which, thus far, is not the case.)