Mike Becky

Tag Archive for ‘Computers’

The End of Computer Magazines in America ➝

Harry McCracken:

The April issues of Maximum PC and MacLife are currently on sale at a newsstand near you—assuming there is a newsstand near you. They’re the last print issues of these two venerable computer magazines, both of which date to 1996 (and were originally known, respectively, as Boot and MacAddict). Starting with their next editions, both publications will be available in digital form only.

But I’m not writing this article because the dead-tree versions of Maximum PC and MacLife are no more. I’m writing it because they were the last two extant U.S. computer magazines that had managed to cling to life until now. With their abandonment of print, the computer magazine era has officially ended.

I subscribed to Maximum PC just a handful of months ago because I wanted to support the existence of physical computer magazines and I wanted access to PC hardware news. I could have subscribed to one of the bigger site’s RSS feeds, but the signal to noise ratio isn’t great.

I got the email a month or so ago that the physical print edition was ending and I guess that’s it. The end of the computer magazine era.

➝ Source: technologizer.com

My Computing Hardware

Kev Quirk and ldstephens recently wrote about their collection of Apple devices and I, coincidentally, had already drafted a quick idea in Ulysses to document and share a list of my current computing devices. If only so I can better wrap my head around what hardware I’m using and what I use each device for.

iPhone 13 Pro: My true, primary, general purpose computing device. There’s very little that I can’t do from my iPhone, but it’s often more comfortable to perform the more intensive tasks from devices with larger screens. But it’s always with me, so it’s my main camera and gets used more often than any other device I own.

iPad Pro, 11-inch (3rd generation): Like my iPhone, but with a larger display. And that’s generally how I use it — for the majority of my computing tasks, but a little less mobile. It’s also my go-to device when I want to watch media outside of the living room — at the kitchen table during lunch or to have in the background at my desk during the work day, for example.

MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020, Four thunderbolt 3 ports): My work laptop. It’s used for a lot of writing, email, Slack, RSS reading, and app testing. I also have another user account on the machine if I need to do any personal tasks and don’t have another device handy. This is mostly with the intention of leaving my iPad at home when I travel for team/division meetups.

Mac Mini (2018): My main home server. It houses our Plex library, stores local copies of our photo library, runs Channels DVR, is used as a backup server for all of the non-iOS devices in our home, rips CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, archives a few YouTube channels for my son, and acts as a general purpose file server.

Mac Mini (Late 2014): The latest addition to my computing setup. I got it fairly cheap from OWC and it runs Steam on Windows for streaming games to our Apple TVs and Retroid Pocket 2+ using Steam Link. It’s not particularly powerful, so it won’t run the latest games at high settings, but it’ll run run plenty of indie games like Untitled Goose Game, Celeste, and older titles like Half-Life 2.

Mac Mini (Mid 2011): This machine serves a very specific and singular purpose — it runs TunesKit M4V Converter (still available under a different name) to remove DRM from iTunes purchased content. This software only works on older versions of macOS with an outdated version of iTunes. Since I still purchase content from iTunes, but prefer to watch through Plex, this bridges the gap.

Retroid Pocket 2+: Mostly used as a gaming device using Launchbox, RetroArch, Steam Link, and various emulators, but is also occasionally used for media playback — Pocket Casts, Plex, and Channels.

Google Pixel 3: This is a test device for work, which is used for trying out new builds and attempting to recreate user-reported bugs in our Android apps.

It would be great if I could simplify the home server setup a bit. I made an attempt at this with virtual machines, but gaming just wasn’t stable enough — I ran into a few games that simply wouldn’t run — and TunesKit M4V Converter requires that the system be able to playback the video it removes DRM from. Since there’s no way to use HDCP within a virtual machine, I was only able to remove DRM from standard definition iTunes content — running it natively is the only option for high definition content.

There will be some changes to my hardware soon, though. I’m expecting to receive a Retroid Pocket 3 soon to replace the RP2+ — I got my shipment notification yesterday. And I’ll likely be ordering an M2 MacBook Air in the next few months to replace my current MacBook Pro.

The Linux Desktop Is Hard to Love ➝

Bradley Taunt:

I want to love the “Linux Desktop”. I really do. But I’ve come to the realization that what I love is the idea of the Linux Desktop. The community. The security and core focus on open source. The customizable environments. Tweaking as much or as little of the operating system as I please!

I just can’t stick with it. I always end up back on macOS. And I’m starting to understand why.

I spent a lot of time nodding while reading this one. Desktop Linux is great and I use it regularly, but macOS is where I feel most comfortable.

➝ Source: tdarb.org

Keeping a Separate Creativity Computer ➝

My MacBook Pro is for work related to my day job while my iPad is for writing on Initial Charge and tinkering with other personal projects.

There are occasions when there’s some crossover — reading internal, work-related communication on my iPad or troubleshooting HTML/CSS on my MacBook Pro, for example. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

➝ Source: thenewsprint.co

Macintosh Garden, Celebrating Macintosh Abandonware ➝

Macintosh Garden:

Software featured on the Macintosh Garden have been discontinued by their publishers and are no longer commercially available. The Macintosh Garden aims to preserve these treasures for future generations, providing documentation and downloads of the original files.

I’m planning to setup my old 2008 iMac with Snow Leopard or Mountain Lion (I haven’t decided which yet). I’m going to install a bunch of software on it that runs locally and then disconnect it from the internet entirely. This will provide a more controlled environment for my son when he starts toying with computing in a few years.

He can play some games, use some creative and productivity apps, and my wife and I don’t have to worry about what he’ll find in a web browser.

Macintosh Garden seems like it’ll be an invaluable resource for the software I install.

➝ Source: macintoshgarden.org

Pop!_OS 21.04, a Release of COSMIC Proportions ➝

I haven’t spent a lot of time using Linux and it definitely has some rough edges still — typing special characters like the em-dash comes to mind. But this new release of Pop!_OS is really impressive to me. It looks slick. I have a feeling dual booting will be in my future.

➝ Source: blog.system76.com

M1 iMac

The iMac earns the distinction of being the first Mac in the lineup to be completely redesigned in the M1 era. This new iteration comes in seven colors, which is the first time the iMac has been available with colored housing since the G3 models in the late 90s and early 2000s.

I think the silver is actually the most attractive of the bunch. It’s possible I might change my tune after seeing them in person, though. I get the feeling the press shots and videos don’t really give a great impression of what they look like in real life — the colors all seems so pastel on the front. But it is worth noting, aside from the pink model in the audio testing room, the only models shown in the workspace behind the presenter were silver.

Before we get too much further, though, let’s address the elephant in the room. What is the deal with the chin? It’s been a part of the iMac design since 2004, but it’s not necessary anymore. Apple can build a sufficiently thin iMac with the computer components fully behind the display. Why won’t they do so? I can’t think of a single good reason not to.

Though, they have managed to give the iMac a much larger display — a 24-inch, 4.5K display — without increasing the overall size of the device too much. It has an anti-reflective coating on the glass and True Tone support. I’ve never been a fan of True Tone and disable it on all my devices, but I expect I’m in the minority with this.

They’ve improved the camera with a larger, 1080p sensor. I’m glad they’re finally making improvements on this front. They should have started years ago. And I hope this is just the beginning of a trend which will bring better front-facing cameras to the entire Mac lineup.

They’ve introduced a new, proprietary power cable with this model. It’s magnetic and allows them to add an Ethernet port on the power brick. It’s a little disappointing that the power supply isn’t integrated into the iMac anymore. And the proprietary cable is a little lame — it was kind of nice on previous models that you could plug in just about any standard three-pronged power cable and it would just work.

Moving Ethernet to the power brick is kind-of neat. Although, I always thought they would do something like this for laptops. The existence of USB-C and Thunderbolt seems like that would have been a bit easier to develop — since the cable is already capable of so much. Just imagine a power brick with an SD card reader, a couple of USB-A ports, a couple of USB-C ports, and HDMI. A lot of people would be really excited about a product like that.

Alongside the iMac, Apple introduce color matching accessories — Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard. The standard keyboard features more rounded corners and some new keys — most notably a lock button and an emoji key. But there is a second keyboard model that features Touch ID on the lock button.

My work laptop — a 13-inch MacBook Pro features Touch ID and I love it. Most of the time my Watch is used to unlock, but the times when I’m not wearing my watch, the Touch ID sensor is clutch. Although we all know that the inevitable introduction of Face ID is going to be where it’s at, Touch ID is a welcomed addition.

The M1 iMac is available to order April 30 and starts shipping in the latter half of May. The base model starts at $1299 and is available in four colors — blue, green, pink, and silver. It features an 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, 8GB of memory, 256GB of storage, two Thunderbolt ports, and the standard Magic Keyboard.

The higher end model starts at $1499, also comes in yellow, orange, and purple, adds two USB-C ports, an additional GPU core, the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, and Ethernet on the power adapter.

Despite my qualms about the chin and color options, these seem like excellent devices. And I do appreciate the return of color, even if I personally prefer the silver model. And it does have me excited about the future of the Mac. What will come to the Mac Pro, 16-inch MacBook Pro, and 27-inch iMacs? What is Apple capable of when they really put the peddle to the floor with their own chips?

The Mac Pro Is Overpriced

I’ve seen a bit of chatter in the Apple scene claiming that the Mac Pro isn’t overpriced. I won’t point out anyone specifically, though, as it’s likely these articles are designed as clickbait and I’d prefer not to give them what they’re aiming for. But, those people’s opinions are misguided. The Mac Pro is overpriced. Maybe it isn’t overpriced when compared to similar PC workstations, but Mac users don’t typically decide between Apple’s offerings and those from PC manufacturers. Mac users like running macOS and Apple is the only game in town if that’s one of your requirements in a new computer.

But the Mac Pro is overpriced from a historical perspective — the starting price point is just so much higher than previous iterations of the machine. The most recent version, the trash can Mac Pro started at $3,000 — half the price of the new model. Even adjusted for inflation, that would be about $3,300 today.

Going back a little bit further, to the cheese grater Mac Pro, that machine’s standard model was $2,500. But you could even configure it with a lesser CPU option and purchase it for only $2,300. That’s just under $2,600 when adjusted for inflation.

I don’t care about the Mac Pro’s pricing on the high-end either. It’s a good thing that buyers can configure a Mac with premium components. I don’t know who needs a 28-core computer with 1.5 TB of RAM, but if Apple didn’t offer it, those people would have to go elsewhere.

The issue with pricing is on the low end — the starting price point is too high for an entire swath of users that used to use older iterations of the Mac Pro as their primary machine and many of those people would use one today if a lower-cost option was available.

When I bought my first Mac in 2006, many of the “influencers” in the Apple scene owned Mac Pros. And as a young adult who just graduated high school, I was always envious of them. The Mac Pro had so much to offer — the ability to upgrade and expand its capabilities with aftermarket components, it was more powerful than any other computers in Apple’s lineup, and all inside of a nifty looking, cool and quiet chassis.

I believe there is still a market for such a machine. There are plenty of hobbyists and independent pros that would love to use a computer that offered these attributes, but their budget might not allow for the current Mac Pro.

Could they use another computer in Apple’s lineup? Yes, they could. But the iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air all offer something a bit different in terms of form factor and compromises — there isn’t anything that fills the role of the Mac Pro quite like the Mac Pro.

Speaking personally, I’m in the market to replace the Mac Mini that we’ve been using as our home server. It’s a 2011 model and doesn’t support the last two versions of macOS, so it’s about time to upgrade. It won’t be long before some of the software I rely on won’t receive updates for the Mac Mini’s OS. Currently, the machine runs Plex, regularly rips and converts DVDs/Blu-rays, acts as our Time Machine server, and stores a backup of our photo library.

Since I purchased the Mac Mini, the rest of our computing setup has changed substantially. My wife and I use iPads and iPhones as our primary devices and I have a work-issued laptop. Neither one of us have a good reason to justify owning personal Macs anymore. We would be much better served with a machine that can perform the duties of our home server while also acting as a family computer for those rare times when we need to use a specific piece of software or perform a task that’s difficult or impossible on iOS — albeit a rare occurrence these days.

If it was 2012, the Mac Pro would be the perfect computer for the job. There would be no question about it. I could buy the base model at a relatively affordable price with the idea of upgrading it in a year or two to increase its lifespan and overall performance. I could load it up with a bunch of internal hard drives to store our photos, media, and the Time Machine backups from my work laptop — no messy external drives necessary. And it could handle just about any task we threw at it while performing all of its other duties. I wouldn’t even need an additional display because I could simply connect the one I already use for work whenever I needed to use the Mac Pro directly.

But because of the current Mac Pro’s pricing, I’m left having to make compromises. I either buy a Mac Mini and deal with the fan noise coming from the corner of my office and the messy rats nest of cables from the external drives or I get an iMac. And that would come with its own set of compromises — the iMac comes with a built-in display that I don’t need, restricting where I can place the computer, I’d still have to deal with external drives, and I wouldn’t have the option of a 2TB internal SSD because Apple doesn’t offer it in the iMac.

Neither of those options are particularly cost effective, mind you. The Mac Mini configured in the way I’d want it — with an upgraded CPU and 2TB SSD — would set me back about $2,100. And a similarly configured iMac would cost about $2,200. A theoretical $2,500–3,000 Mac Pro would give me even more power than the Mini or iMac, with plenty of room to grow through upgrades in the future.

There’s a huge hole in Apple’s desktop offerings between the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro. And I think it would be in their best interest to fill that void with a computer that featured iMac-like performance in a Mac Pro-like package. The iMac might be a good option for some, but it isn’t right for everyone. And I’m sure there are plenty of podcasters, developers, video producers, enthusiasts, hobbyists, and more that would love the option of a lower-cost Mac Pro like this.

In the end, I’ll probably end up with a Mac Mini, but I’m not happy about it. It might be the best machine for me when considering the alternatives, but it’s not the best machine for me.