Archive for the 'Apple Culture' Category

Santa’s Little Helper 2011

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Mentioned on the air

Here we are once again in the wonderful Christmas season where love and good cheer reign supreme… or maybe not so much as the news reports of violence and other mischief roll across the wire from early Black Friday sales… so as I make this years gift recommendations, remember that everything here can be commandeered online… perhaps not the safest place in the world, but safer indeed than your local Walmart. As always, we have one suggestion for those of you with a little more to spend… a second recommendation keeping things more middle-of-the-road… and then bringing up the rear are some stocking stuffers in the under $30 range.

Yamaha CP33 88-key Stage Piano ($1,000) • This year for the most expensive spot on my list I’m going considerably cheaper than the 10k Mac Pro tower I featured last year… but with good reason as this keyboard was one I’ve gotten to know over the last 9 months. Obviously a gift limited to those amongst us with musical tendencies, but if someone on your list fits this bill, this is one amazing instrument that can be used by professional stage performers all the way down to parents looking for a good alternative to the higher priced acoustic pianos for teaching their children how to play the piano. Having been the purchaser of literally dozens of keyboards over the last 3 decades, it boggles the mind what kind of quality you can get these days at such an affordable price… and yes, even though a thousand dollars may feel like a lot, you more than get your moneys worth with the CP33.

Yamaha CP33

The feature to note right off the top would be that this is an 88-key ‘graded hammer effect keyboard with authentic resistance’. In other words, this is as close as you can come to the feel of a real piano in an electronic instrument. I’ve really beaten the heck out of mine over the last three quarters of a year and it’s holding up just fine. If you find yourself with some interest here… check out the following video featuring Yamaha’s Tony Escueta demonstrating the sounds and features of the keyboard… and if you think you might want to hook this board up to a computer and get into some digital recording, continue reading below the video and I’ll show you what else you need…

MOTU Audio Express ($395) • So where I went a lot cheaper on my big ticket item this year, I’m going a little more expensive on my middle-of-the-road suggestion because that’s what I feel is necessary for this particular piece of technology as I stick with the musical theme. You’ve got the computer, you’ve got the keyboard controller, now you need a way for the two to talk to each other, this is where the audio interface comes in… now as far as audio interfaces go, you can find much cheaper than the Audio Express… in fact for the most basic of interfaces you could go as low as $70 or so… but the durability, versatility and reputation of the Audio Express makes it worth the extra money, particularly if you consider the recipient more than your basic tinkerer. I’ve owned and used the cheaper models and I now swear by the Audio Express which has been steadily working in my studio for over two years now meeting all my varying needs and desires for audio input/output along the way.

MOTU Audio Express

I use a CP33 along with an Audio Express to interface with a Mac running Logic Studio Pro, which is a software app that’s basically just a super-souped up version of Garageband which comes for free on all new Macs, in fact I’m guessing that many of you have messed around with it at some point… well now imagine you were controlling all those ‘virtual instruments’ within Garageband from the external keyboard… that’s the versatility and functionality this combined $1400 set-up would bring to the computer-owning musician on your Christmas list.

Stocking Stuffers Under $30

Lynda.com

1 month of Lynda.com ($25)  As their webpage states, “Give the gift of knowledge”… and knowledge is exactly what’s delivered at Lynda.com… What is it? Lynda.com is an online archive of technology training videos geared towards those looking towards teaching themselves software applications and techniques. Lessons are presented in pretty much the same format you’d expect from a book. There’s an overview and a table of contents for every title as the user consumes the content either as one continuous movie or as dozens of smaller more focused ‘chapter’ videos… as the website allows you to bookmark your progress through any given lesson, I’d guess that most users split the learning process over several days watching the smaller movies in sequence. Also noteworthy is that most every lesson comes with downloadable exercise files so that you can follow along at home using the same files as in the video.

For the person in your life passionate about making things with computers, you can’t go wrong with this gift… plus, if your recipient had never heard of Lynda.com, you’ll get the credit for turning them on to it for the rest of time… Courses in 3D, animation, audio, business, design, developer, home computing, photography, video, web and interactive software packages represented… and even some Garageband training sessions to keep the theme rolling here… five of ’em in fact… so have it.

The Great Escape Artist

Jane’s Addiction – The Great Escape Artist ($12) > Only their 4th album in 23 years, its been an 8 year wait for the Great Escape Artist… and although there’s a couple misses, by and large this is a sometimes textural, sometimes all out rocking album that may not be a repeat of the bands seminal works of the late 80’s, but instead a representation of where they are today as both individuals and as a band. The album begins with ‘Underground’, a brilliant choice to start the album as it rises from harmony over dissonance and quickly finds a groove… breaks loose at the two-thirds mark into a tribal beat that then gives ways to a volcanic Navarro solo just to let you know he’s still in the house. Other exceptional tracks include the tribal, harmonic ‘Irresistible Force’, the departure from the typical Jane’s sound that is ‘Twisted Tales’ and the step back into the classic Jane’s sound embodied by the albums closing track ‘Words Right Out of My Mouth’.

I’ll conclude this year with a sampling of ‘End to the Lies’, 1 of 3 songs you’d consider radio singles from the Great Escape Artist… be forewarned before clicking play that this is an R-Rated video to be sure… I usually save the racier content for theScroll but as this is such a great piece of film-making, I thought I’d make an exception ;-)

A Merry Christmas to all and a healthy and prosperous New Year!

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Remembering Steve Jobs

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Wired’s Gadget Lab goes around the office to get the Apple/Steve Jobs stories… sort of fun if you’re a regular reader of Wired…

Hell Hath No Fury Like An Editor Scorned.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Apple Culture

I’d like to start by putting my association with Final Cut Pro in context. I believe that’s an important thing to do in front of committing words to the topic in a public forum… for instance, Josh Mellicker was apparently present at the genesis to impregnate the FCP egg, you should definitely take his opinion most seriously… but for me, I make about 5% of my yearly wage using Final Cut, all the projects I currently have lined up for it are solely of the home movie variety… what I think this means though is that I’m the ideal practitioner of this new software in its current state. I come to the table with just a modicum of baggage.

Final Cut Pro X Logo

Unfortunately for Apple (although they most likely knew what they were getting into and have good reasons for doing what they did), they’ve seriously pissed off a small (3-5%) but extremely vocal portion of the FCP user base… the professional editors… this tweet says it all I suppose… and as things stand right now, I promise you that if I were one of those people, making my living using Final Cut Studio each and every day within a complex workflow utilizing the talents of dozens of different professionals… I’d be pissed too…

Editor Frustration

But I’m not a pro editor… I’d most likely be best described as a prosumer, an aficionado of learning cool new software… but I don’t have an everyday need for XML or EDL exports, I have no particular urgency to garner multi-cam functionality, I also don’t care that much that FCPX won’t import legacy FCP projects. Even though I have probably a dozen projects authored with FCP7 over the last few years, I’m content to just open them up in the old software if I need to edit them… and the reason for this is because I view FCPX for what it is… a tremendous (64-bit) foundation for what will become the gold standard in video post over the next 3 years or so, mark my words. Small solace to those that make their living with this program on a daily basis but Apple has been all about workmanlike iteration over the last decade. This article by John Gruber for MacWorld perfectly describes what I mean by this. I’m willing to get on board now and see where this leads… Expect version 10.1 within the next 4-6 weeks, that’s how Apple does it… many of the most important omissions will be addressed. But I still can’t figure out for the life of me why Apple wouldn’t continue to sell and support Final Cut Studio 3… at least until the new FCPX achieves some level of feature parity to what the pros are used to today. Seems like a decision dripping in nothing but downside. But that aside…

Don’t believe everything that you read, this is some very cool software, especially at the $300 price point. I’ve only had time to get midway through Chapter 5 in the FCPX manual here over the past week but I’ve already encountered more cool features than I have time to describe here. Omissions? Yes… but that’s the price of tearing something down and starting all over from scratch. I have faith in Apple to make things right, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Most Interesting Commentary from the Blogosphere

Always a great source for Apple commentary is David Pogue writing currently for the New York Times… here’s his initial review of FCPX from 06/22… here he debunks several myths and offers several workarounds… and his latest post from 06/24 sums things up as he tries to get all the pro editors off his back.

More proof in the pudding, Serenity Caldwell takes a look back to ’08 when Apple did this same sort of thing to iMovie… she makes a comparison and speaks to how this may inform the ongoing development of Final Cut Pro X while surmising that it might not be such a bad thing…

Jeffery Harrell is just unconsolably pissed off… and he makes a lot of valid points.

Walter Biscardi’s long-winded kiss off of Final Cut Pro X… we’ll see you later Walter, so you say your going back to Premiere of all the nutty ideas.

And Larry Jordan, being a guy who makes his living teaching Final Cut, he must really feel like he’s between a rock and a hard place… but before you criticize Apple too harshly Larry, you might want to update the design of your blog, it appears it hasn’t been given a fresh coat of paint since the Clinton Administration.

And as it’s always good to leave them laughing, enjoy this from Conan last Thursday night…

Gift Ideas for Christmas 2010

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Mentioned on the air

It seems like just yesterday that we were doing this last year… hopefully 2010 treated you all well to the point where at least some of the following can be realistic suggestions. As always, we have one suggestion for those of you that are lottery winners, inheritance benefactors or willing to take out an equity line on your house… a second recommendation keeping it functional and under $200 for some of those more special on your list… and then bringing up the rear are some stocking stuffers in the under $30 range.

Mac Pro G5

Mac Pro G5 Dual 2.66 (12 Cores) ($10,550) • State-of-the-art is a term you’ve heard often that has probably lost all meaning to you over the years, but in this case… this is the fastest personal computer available for you to purchase… in the world… and to the right people, speed helps to enable some wonderful things, open fantastic doors. Truthfully, this machine most likely falls under the category of a gift you might buy for yourself if so inclined and financially able. This much speed and its associated cost will only be attractive to a small percentage of the computer buying public… but if you’re a pro photographer, film maker, video editor, sound designer or a recording musician… the power this computer brings to the table allows all these professions a tool unsurpassed. When you’re a practitioner of an art that’s “processor intensive” as the phrase goes, this computer allows you to work as fast as is currently possible, which considerably frees the artist to focus on the art.

Inside the G5

As configured this machine sports 16gb of RAM (32gb is the max) and (4) 2TB Hard drives (the max)… dual Super Drives for simple disc-to-disc dupes and (2) 27” Apple Cinema Displays that feed off of an ATI Radeon HD 5870 video card that has 1gb of onboard memory and will support up to (3) 27” Displays with no outside assistance. Also worth noting is that any of the 2TB drive bays I’ve already mentioned can be swapped out for 512gb Solid State drives adding even more speed to the world’s quickest PC… although those are $1,250 each (as compared to $300 for the 2TB drive which has 3 times the capacity). And to round out the dream machine configuration would be the software, this one comes with Aperture (pro photography), Final Cut Express (pro video) and Logic Studio (pro audio) pre-installed… and these all run on top of the world-class OS X operating system which of course ships with the machine. Good Hunting!

Airport Extreme ($179) • The term WI-FI has become ubiquitous in our collective vernacular over the last half-decade or so. Connecting our laptops, tablets and smart phones to home, office and classroom networks, most of us use WI-FI daily… never having paused to find out how or why it works, and that’s fine, in the end we find ourselves concerned with two factors; how fast am I accessing the internet? and how far can I get from the source before quality begins to degrade? Speed and Range. Those are the two aspects where Apple’s Airport Extreme and Airport Express excel. Having just recently upgraded my use of the stock 2wire Wireless Router that ships with AT&T’s DSL package to a combination of Extreme/Express components… the upgrade has been astounding. I’m sure the results are pretty much the same on a PC network, but for the record I can only vouch for performance on an Apple network.

Airport Extreme

In a nutshell, the Airport Extreme is the Base Station. If you currently use a DSL or Cable modem that also generates wireless, the Extreme, not a modem itself, would be connected to your current modem via ethernet cable and take over all functionality short of actually receiving the signal. The Airport Extreme supports 802.11 A, B, G and top-of-the-line N specifications. It also operates simultaneously on two different wireless bands to behave well with all sorts of devices… the slower 2.4GHz band used by iPod Touches and iPhones as well as the faster 5GHz band used by newer Macs as well as the AppleTV, a device where you especially want the fastest wireless speeds possible. Another cool feature of the Extreme is a USB port for the connection of a hard drive that can then be shared by all devices present on your network. If you have a MobileMe account you can even access this drive over the internet remotely. There’s a plethora of security options associated with the Extreme as well… if you’re interested, read about them here.

Airport Express

Airport Express ($99) • The second, smaller component that can be used to thoroughly enhance your Extreme-based wireless network would be the Airport Express. The Express is a much smaller wireless node that plugs directly into an electrical outlet, no cord. For me its most significant use is in conjunction with an Extreme as a wireless “repeater”. If your Extreme is set up in the basement let’s say… you can place an Express on the 1st and 2nd floors of your house to blanket the interior with a strong wireless signal… really handy if you’re using iPhone’s, iPad’s and Laptops as well. Another great feature is the analog/optical audio jack for connecting a stereo receiver or a pair of powered speakers. Once you’ve done that you can remotely play music from your iTunes library to any room in the house where you’ve set up an Express… and you can even remote control it wirelessly with a free app on your iPhone or Touch, beats tearing up the drywall… and rounding things out is a USB port. Connect a USB printer and then print to it from any device in the house, wirelessly.

Stocking Stuffers Under $30

Netflix

3-months of Netflix ($30) > I wrote about it last year, I’ll do so again as I believe it’s still a really great, economical idea that would really be appreciated by the uninitiated within your clan. The thing to consider is the ever-growing number of Netflix-enabled devices that are making their way into so many homes… Video game consoles, Apple TV’s, iPhones and Touches… just about every television monitor and DVD Player in production… how many of those on your list have the Netflix capability but are just unfamiliar with the Netflix service? Once you’ve found those folks on your list, a 3-month trial membership will be all that’s needed to prove its worth, especially at $10 a month… what price would you pay to watch Up In Smoke on your iPhone while falling asleep in bed? Sometimes I really love the times we live in.

The Lady Killer

Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer ($11) > At the end of a post this size, you wouldn’t think that picking a single album to recommend would be that big of a deal… but picking just one, that’s always next to impossible. But considering what the listeners to our particular show might enjoy… The Lady Killer is this years winner. Feeling on first pass as what you might label retro-R&B, repeated spins reveal the emergence of modern musical vernaculars that didn’t exist back in the Motown days. A big part of what makes this record great is that Cee-Lo has a phenomenal voice that gives you that righteous feeling, right up there with Luther Vandross and Al Green. “Love Gun” I can’t get out of my head… bits of Prince, Duffy, even Parliament… part Philly soul, part ghetto blaster anthem… and “The Lady Killer Theme” brings surf guitar and propulsion to the mix, sometimes reminding me of the English Beat before quick transitions to more of a Duane Eddy thing… this album covers a lot of ground and comes highly recommended for bringing a little warmth to an otherwise very cold winter.

A Merry Christmas to all!

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While My iTunes Gently Weeps.

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Apple Culture

As I do most nights for one reason or another, I stopped by Apple.com this past Monday night to find one of their famous countdown clocks to a BIG announcement… being promised was a life-changing iTunes related announcement for Tuesday morning at 9AM CST. My mind began to ponder the possibilities. For an application that I interact with on a daily basis… what could Apple change to improve the experience? What comprises the wish list for the average iTunes junkie?

Beatles on iTunes

So I hit Apple.com again in the morning to see what was going on and… damn… are they serious? The Beatles complete catalog now on iTunes… that’s what was going to change my life? Weird Al tweeted, “Thank you, iTunes! I’ve been very interested to hear these ‘Beatles’ that everybody’s been talking about…” And that about sums it up. Doesn’t everyone who wants a Beatles album already own them in one form or another? Not that Apple won’t be successful peddling the Fab Four… you know they will, every goose Steve Jobs touches lays a golden egg these days… but what about iTunes? That’s the bridge on the mothership and it’s in dire need of something, that’s for sure… so let’s consider the true candidates worthy of this recent hype?

A Number of Possibilities…

proposed iTunes logo

On the web I traverse every day I run into a fair amount of iTunes chatter. By far the biggest meme running is the general distaste for the new application icon that shipped with iTunes 10. Impassioned arguments against it, WIRED ran a contest to redesign it… the winner of that contest is featured at left, which is a nice effort indeed, definitely better than the current logo which isn’t so much terrible as it’s just sort of bland… but would a new iTunes logo have qualified as a ‘life-changing event’? Probably not…

Next in line are the complaints about the graphical user interfaces for both the iTunes app as well as the App Store. When I consider this I always wonder what more could be done? Perhaps a bit of tightening up the ‘ol TAB look-and-feel or maybe just another layer of polish for all the interface elements… but at the end of the day, the interface as it is now gets the job done well enough… wrangling 20k of my favorite songs into a cohesive, searchable library… that’s always been good enough for me. People forget that iTunes is part of the whole iLife suite of software with its ubiquitous dumbed-down interface… there’s a price to pay for that folks, most notably not a whole lot of headroom for innovation… but even if they did trick out the interface, that’s not a life-changing event either…

Indie Record Store

And then there’s the people that are virtually clamoring for a subscription service along the lines of Spotify or Rhapsody so that they can listen to whatever they want, wherever and whenever… How big might this market be? Do you really want another (monthly) hand in your pocket on a recurring basis? As if the high-speed internet, the satellite TV, the Netflix and the cellphone bill weren’t already eating into the grocery budget every month… plus, isn’t half the fun the ‘collecting’ of the music? Or has that become extinct like the independent record stores in our culture? Granted, this development could reasonably have been dubbed life-changing… but I probably wouldn’t have considered it such as my personal library of music will already play for over two months continuously without repeating a song… do I really need more music?

Ping logo

And what about PING, Apple’s new musically-inflected social networking site? Still off the radar with nary a horse in this race from where I’m standing… A lot of potential and an immense installed base of users, but certainly not life-changing… not without a complete re-imagining of why it’s worthy of our time and input and an explanation for why it only engages our music collections… What about Apps? Wouldn’t it be cool to know what Apps your friends were using? Apple virtually has the market cornered on the streamlined App delivery system… why isn’t it a part of Ping? Huge opportunity being missed…

So what WOULD be a ‘life-changing’ announcement within the realm of iTunes aficionados? Well that’s real simple and I know for damn sure it’s what I was hoping to find when I visited Apple.com yesterday morning…

And the Winner Is…

The lifting of all draconian Digital Rights Management bulls#%t from the song files ‘for sale’ on the iTunes Store as well as from all of our individual installations of the iTunes software on our personal computers. No more needing to “authorize” a machine. No more limits on how many devices are allowed to access my ‘purchases’ at a given time… I want to OWN the song I payed $1.29 for, free to use it however I please… that’s the only true dent I’d be able to put in the whole iTunes ecosystem… other than that it works for me… which is why over the last 3 years I’ve spent about $40 buying music in the iTunes store while spending thousands through Amazon buying good ‘ol CD’s that I just turn around and rip into (free) iTunes. How many of you out there are the same way? I’m guessing a lot, especially if you’re over 30 or so…

But instead we got the Beatles and we’re all left wondering if the immense amount of time and resources Apple spent pursuing that Beatles catalog wouldn’t have been better spent trying to convince the hold-out record labels that copy-protection is a dead-end, shooting themselves in the foot kinda trip.

Ku-Ku-Ka-Chu.

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Buyer’s Remorse For Early Adopters.

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Apple Culture

On the radio I’ve said it repeatedly… there’s always something to be gained by not being the first on your block to own some new, hyped piece of gear. Whether it’s a product that’s brand new and thus genre defining, such as the iPad… or simply a generational upgrade to an already popular product such as the iPhone 4, something will always happen that causes you to say to yourself, ‘Damn, I should have waited’.

Such is the case with the latest iPhone apparently as nary a week after Apple set sales records with the release of the new 4th generation version of their wildly popular smartphone, reports littered the internet that Apple iPhones would add Verizon Wireless to its list of approved carriers breaking the 3+ year exclusivity that AT&T has enjoyed (reports here and here).

Will this happen? No way to tell for sure although there are hardware issues. iPhone in its current incarnation is based on GSM, a global standard where as Verizon and Sprints networks are based on CDMA, much more domestic and considered a weak architecture on the international stage… but in the end it comes down to how many units you can move and if Apple has determined that opening things up to Verizon would add significantly to those numbers, you can expect to see it happen. Apple had an Intel-based version of Mac OSX in production for years before Intel-based Macs were introduced… you can bet the same holds true for iPhone hardware that’s Verizon-ready.

If Verizon does get the nod though in January as has been reported… how do you feel if you had stood in that long-ass line at your local Apple Store, which concluded with your being locked in to AT&T for the next two years, just to hear this news now? I suppose the Verizon vs. AT&T debate might never have been an issue for you, especially if you’re satisfied with the service you’re getting from AT&T… but on the advent of the launch of Verizon’s well reviewed 4G network, early adopters of the iPhone 4 might find themselves in the lurch… at least for 18 months or so.