The New MacBook – Partial Retraction

I published a blog post yesterday expressing my dissatisfaction with the new MacBook I purchased several weeks ago. My primary cause of concern was that I just wasn’t enjoying using the new keyboard.

I also mentioned the fact that I’d had some problems trying to get iOS recording working on a recent trip, and mentioned that I was using the latest El Capitan beta on the new MacBook.

In retrospect, it was unfair of me to mention the problems I had been having with iOS recording, as it could well be a problem with the El Capitan beta and not the MacBook – a rookie mistake, and one I should not have made.

Once I realised the folly of my mistake (prompted by @timbo_baggins on Twitter), I decided to revert the MacBook back to OS X Yosemite to see if it was El Capitan that was the culprit.

As it turns out, once I reverted to OS X 10.10.4, I was able to get iOS recording working in conjunction with an external Mic using the Anker 4-port USB – USB-C hub.

The original (and overriding) issue of disliking the keyboard remains, but I should not have included my frustrations with the single port in the original posting. I’ve updated the original posting to remove that section.

Sorry Apple/Anker.

Thanks @timbo_baggins.

I’m still replacing the MacBook though!

The New MacBook – Pivot

macbook-box-hw-silver-201501.jpegI’ve published a couple of blog posts and a couple of articles in the ScreenCastsOnline Monthly Magazine about my first impressions with the new MacBook.

The screen is beautiful, the performance is more than adequate and the form factor is sublime.

It’s almost the perfect travel computer.

I’ve had it for about 10 weeks and although it’s not been my daily machine, I’ve used it at home and on several trips, most recently on my trip to Dallas for the Podcast Movement conference.

Each time I’ve used it, there’s been one thing that’s been bugging me – the keyboard.

Try and try as I might, I just can’t get used to it.

Whether it’s the size of the keys, the reduced travel or just the feel of it, I really don’t enjoy using it. Even though I’m not a touch typist, the number of typos I make with the keyboard have shot through the roof.

It’s never taken me this long to get used to using a keyboard, and each time I use it, I kept saying to myself, I’ll get used to it soon.

I never did.

It actually became a source of annoyance and prevented me from enjoying the machine.

This annoyance was compounded by a spate of mysterious cursor jumping. I’d be typing away making more typos than normal, and the cursor would suddenly jump to another part of the screen. I’m not sure if this was caused by the latest El Capitan beta, unexpected touches of the trackpad or what, but it drove me insane – this does seem to have stopped now, but it was infuriating at the time. I’ve been contacted by at least two other people since publishing this original post, and thy both are experiencing the jumping cursor problem on OS X Yosemite, so it’s not an El Capitan issue.

I persevered, but still wasn’t enjoying the experience.

[Update – 11th August 2015] I’ve withdrawn a paragraph from the original post as some additional issues I was experiencing were due to issues with the El Capitan beta – it’s unfair to include these in the overall summary] 

So although the MacBook is the ultimate in portability, my dislike of the keyboard has resulted in my decision to abandon using the MacBook as my travel Mac, and order a 13” MacBook Pro.

I’ve settled on a new 13” MacBook Pro with the following spec:

  • 3.1GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7
  • 16GB 1866MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM
  • 512GB PCIe-based Flash Storage
  • Intel Iris Graphics 6100

It has a larger Retina screen and is approx .6kg heavier with a much faster processor. The 13″ form factor still makes it a great machine for travelling with, and the extra weight isn’t really that much. The icing on the cake is that it comes with 2 x USB 3 ports, a HDMI port, 2 x Thunderbolt ports, a full HD FaceTime Camera plus an SDXC card slot.

There are rumours that Apple will be releasing updates to the MacBook Pros with the new Skylake chip sets, possibly as soon as October. I could bide my time and wait until the release date of El Capitan and see if new Macbook Pros are released, but the danger there of course, is that the new MacBook Pros could come with the new MacBook keyboard!

So I’ve ordered one of the current 13″ MacBook Pro models.

However, even with my sorry tale, I wouldn’t dissuade anyone else from trying the MacBook. Many people I know who have also bought the MacBook are delighted with it, and consider it the best Mac they’ve ever owned. Some even think the keyboard is the best keyboard Apple have made.

But despite trying so hard to like it, it just didn’t fit with my use case or sensibilities.

Shame really!

My Macbook experiment didn’t quite work out, but at least I tried! I just wished I’d have realised it sooner like Marco

Apple__United_Kingdom__-_MacBook Pro_with_Retina_display_-_Design

The Underpowered MacBook?

Fcp

I’ve been using the new MacBook for various tasks – nothing too arduous, just general computing tasks and it’s been well up to the job.

Recently, I had the opportunity to record the local Dance School show at a  local theatre, just to allow parents to keep a record of the show. As I have a Panasonic GH4, I decided to record the show in 4K – as you do!

So after two hours, I had a fair bit of 4K footage to edit.

During the performance, rather than trying to pan and zoom and keep up with the action, difficult with a dance performance with so many different groups and routines, I basically just framed the stage, used a small aperture to ensure a deep depth of field and made sure the focus was spot on. The idea being that I would import the footage in 4K and do the zooms and pans in FCPX on my Mac Pro. As the final output was intended to be a DVD (!), I had plenty of scope to zoom and pan without losing any quality.

Once all the 4K footage was imported, I went through and removed all the dead space/gaps and decided to create a new 4K master track by exporting in ProRes 422 LT. I could then re-import the video as one continuous clip – much easier to add keyframes for the panning and zooming. I ended up exporting as two clips, the first and second half of the show. The files were approx 200GB each and the Mac Pro handled the export with aplomb.

Then I had a thought.

I wonder how the new MacBook would handle the 4K footage?

You may think I’m joking following all the negativity surrounding the performance of the new MacBook, but I thought I’d give it a go.

I’d already bought a fast SSD external USB3 drive to use with the MacBook so I had plenty of disk space. The drive is a Samsung Memory 1 Terabyte USB 3.0 Portable External SSD Solid State Drive from Amazon.

I connected the USB3 drive to the Mac Pro and copied the files across. Unmounted the USB3 drive and connected it to the MacBook via the USB-C adaptor.

I created a new 4K project in FCPX on the MacBook and imported the two master 4K clips into FCPX, leaving the original files in place.

The import happened almost instantaneously as no data needed to be moved.

I selected the first clip in the browser and hit the space bar to play it.

It played the 4K clip flawlessly.

I skimmed the clip in the browser and again, no playback issues whatsoever. Don’t forget, this is a 200GB ProRes 422 LT file.

I dragged the first clip to the project and skimmed the primary storyline effortlessly. Playback from anywhere on the timeline started instantly.

I changed the Project properties to 1080p and still playback was fine.

As I started to add keyframes to pan and zoom I had no issues what so ever. FCPX remained responsive and I completed editing the first segment in exactly the same time as it would have taken me in FCPX on the Mac Pro.

Now obviously, once I’ve completed the edit, it would be foolish to export the entire project and transcode on the MacBook when I have a Mac Pro sitting here. The Mac Pro should export much faster.

To test the relative speed of export I tried exporting just the first 5 minutes of edited 4K footage in H.264 format at 1080p resolution on the new MacBook – It took 13 minutes 20 seconds writing to the same SSD drive as the project and source files. Obviously, performance will be an issue when doing heavy transcoding and exporting – not really unexpected with the class of processor in the new MacBook. Although it’s just the extended time – it still works, just not as fast as the Mac Pro.

I then unmounted the SSD drive containing the Project and source files and mounted it on the Mac Pro.

I ran the identical H.264 export on the Mac Pro and as anticipated, it was much, much quicker – only taking 5 minutes and 20 second – pretty much transcoding and exporting in real time.

It’s a bit of an unfair comparison as the Mac Pro is a 3.5 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 with 64GB RAM.

Of course, I could have run the entire export from the MacBook, it just would have taken longer – much longer, but the resultant exported file would be identical on both machines.

But as far as the actual editing process is concerned i.e. the responsiveness of FCPX whilst cutting and editing clips, adding keyframes, browsing clips, etc., – it’s virtually impossible to differentiate between the MacBook and Mac Pro.

My take away from this…

If anyone says  “of course you wouldn’t use the new MacBook for video editing” – you most certainly can!

With correctly encoded video and enough fast storage, it’s really not an issue.

Just so that no-one gets the wrong idea, I really wouldn’t suggest anyone gets a new MacBook as a primary video editing machine. But I could easily use mine to edit fairly hefty projects whilst on the road without any issues when working in tandem with my Mac Pro. With the screen resolution pushed to its maximum Retina option of “looks like” 1440 x 900, I even found I had enough screen real estate for a minimum FCPX window layout.

The perfect travel laptop!

 

My First 3rd Party Apple Watch Strap

Apple Watch Band JETech® Genuine Leather Strap Wrist Band Replacement w Metal Clasp for Apple Watch 42mm Leather Black Amazon co uk Electronics

I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago that I’d ordered a Black Leather 3rd Party Apple Watch Strap (or Band) from Amazon for the princely sum of £19.99 . Several people asked me to post my thoughts when it arrived.

I’ve been using the Steel Milanese loop with my 42mm Stainless Steel Apple Watch.

Well the 3rd Party strap arrived today!

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The packing is fairly basic but functional, and there are no markings to indicate that it’s Apple certified  – I don’t even know if that’s available yet. The packaging also indicates that it was made in China, surprise, surprise.

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The lugs fit into the Apple Watch just fine, although you do need to make sure they are the correct way round.

Finish is good, although the band is just stamped out – no stitching, but the leather feels quite soft and supple.

The stainless steel lugs are a perfect match for the stainless steel watch, although the buckle is more of a brushed metal effect.

It feels comfortable to wear and there is plenty of adjustment in the number of holes on the strap.

IMG 0257  1

So yes, it feels fine.

I’ll wear it for a couple of days and see how it goes. Mind you, the Apple Sports Band I ordered weeks ago is out for delivery today – Typical!

And yes, I’m still wearing the Apple Watch reverse crown style.

 

 

Photos – Faces Data Update

NewImage

Following on from my blog post yesterday, I’ve been informed by several people that the Faces UI is not syncronised between any Photos Library regardless if it’s optimised or not. In other words, if you go to the Faces panel of any synchronised Library except for the “Master” library, it looks like there is no Faces data available.

This seems totally nonsensical, so I thought I’d do a bit more digging.

It transpires that although the actual Faces UI presentation and bubbles are not synchronised, the actual Faces data is.

So although you can’t see the assigned faces in bubbles in the Faces panel of the other Library, you can still search for previously assigned faces using the search panel. So your Faces data is still accessible even on the optimised Library (and also iOS).

You can also set up a Smart Album based on an assigned face or a combination of faces and other attributes, and these will be synchronised across both types of Libraries. The full list of assigned Face names is available when setting up the Smart Album on either type of Photos Library.

This is where it starts to go a bit wacky!

If you start assigning face names on a second machine, it will start to create and populate the Faces UI bubbles with the names you assign on that machine. You can use the same names as you’ve used on the “Master” Library, but only those photos of faces that you assign on the second machine will appear in the bubbles. Any photos you’ve added names to on another library will not appear in the bubble results.

However, the face names from all Libraries are consolidated in the search or Smart Album results.

So in the Faces UI bubbles on the first machine you only see faces assigned on that machine.

In the Faces UI bubbles on the second machine you only see faces assigned on that machine.

But search results and Smart Albums for names on both machines will show consolidated results across both machines.

So for now, if you like using the Faces bubbles, I’d recommend only assigning Faces on your Master iCloud Library, but you’ll still be able to access all your faces data in Smart Albums on other Mac Libraries.

On iOS, the Smart Albums and Faces panels are not available although it is still possible to use Search on Photos on iOS to access and search your consolidated Faces information.

Ideally, it would be much simpler if Apple decided to replicate the Faces UI and bubbles across all Libraries. Version 2 perhaps!