Time for a rethink…

After struggling last week with the encoding process on my Mac Pro,  I think I will take the plunge and look at “ring fencing” my Mac Pro as just a video editing and encoding machine and do most of my general computing on the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro is just fine for virtually all computing tasks, especially with the SSD drive installed. 

The Mac Pro would benefit tremendously from a lean and mean build with the minimum of additional third party apps installed. I’ll be adding the Mac mini server into the mix soon and I’m hoping that will take a lot of the tasks away from both the MacPro and MacBook Pro.  It seems criminal to use the Mac Pro just for video editing and encoding, but it really is a critical production machine and should be left as stable as possible.

So I’ve no issues with doing a rebuild on the Mac Pro I’m going to have to re-consider my monitor arrangement on my desktop.

Currently, I have three monitors on my desk. 

On the left, I have a 20″ Dell in landscape mode. This is connected to the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Pro runs this as its primary monitor when on the desk.

In the center is a 30″ Dell connected to the Mac Pro along with a second 20″ Dell on the right hand side in Portrait mode, also connected to the Mac Pro as a secondary monitor. 

The issue is that I feel more comfortable with having my primary machine on the central monitor. The problem is the primary machine will change dependent on the task at hand.

I could just connected the MacBook Pro to the 30″ Dell, but when editing, I like to have Final Cut Pro on the big display. I’ve tried a monitor switcher before but that didn’t work for me – too distracting having to switch between both machines.

One option might be to revert to a two monitor setup of equal size, and dispense with the central monitor. But then I’m not sure how ergonomicaly distruptive it would be to have no central monitor? The mouse and keyboard isn’t a problem as Teleport handles having a single mouse and keyboard. 

So the options would be:

  • I could sell the two 20″ dells and get another 30″ Dell. The current 30″ Dell is a couple of years old now so they wouldn’t match as far as brilliance and contrast, etc. I’m also wondering if the 30″ is just a bit too big, never mind two if them. You can get a refurbished Dell 30″ for £900 plus VAT.
  • Or I could sell all three of my existing monitors and look at getting two newer 27″ Dells. The 27″ Dells work out at about £465 each plus VAT.
  • Or I could sell all three and look at getting two new Apple 24″ Cinema displays. The Apple tax means these work out at £552 each plus VAT, although they are stunning monitors. I’d also need to buy an displayport adapter for the Mac Pro. 

And before anyone suggests it, I’m not going to sell all three and get two 27″ iMacs just to use as monitors, that would be just silly! At £1200 each plus VAT this isn’t an option.

Now if Apple did Apple Cinema Displays based on the new 27″ monitors as used on the iMac, I might consider paying the Apple tax as they are truly magnificent monitors. The 2560×1440 resolution would be perfect as well as the true 16:9 aspect ratio. One has to wonder why they haven’t launched this configuration as a separate Apple Cinema Display?

Could it be they have stock of the older 30″ ACD they have to move before bringing this to market?

Surely they can’t be selling many of these older model? They are only £200 cheaper than the 27″ iMac for goodness sake?

I really can’t understand Apples policy on external displays.

Of course, the problem is (as always) do you act now or wait to see if Apple release the iMac 27″ display as a separate monitor.

Talk about first world problems!

24 hours later….

Well it looks like the rumour mill is in full pitch since I posted yesterday.

It’s highly probable that the new Mac Mini and new iMacs will be launched today but there is still some talk of a special event later on in the month. More goodies to come?

For some reason Apple always seem to slipstream product updates on a Tuesday following a fairly well established pattern. Being in the UK, it usually seems to mean that the US Apple online store goes off line either late morning or early afternoon building up incredible buzz within the Mac community. At the time of writing, I’ve just seen a tweet that the New Zealand Apple store is down (and now the Australia store) so it looks like we’re off!

I’m sure there is no technical reason why Apple need to take the entire worldwide network of Apple stores down to simply update a few HTML pages, but kudos to Apple marketing in that they do know how to build up the anticipation and fuel the rumour mills. Of course, this can lead to disappointment when the announcement perhaps isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A case in point was when they brought the entire site down, and when it re-appeared the only new product was an updated version of Aperture – nice though the Aperture is (circa Monty Python 1970 – The Architects sketch)

But this time round, there are some significant updates on the horizon especially for the MacMini, the machine people have often thought that Apple have given up on (and the one which has a special significance for me as my very first Mac)

It sounds like the MacMini will be given a significant performance boost all round with additional processor speed, faster graphics, more memory, lots more ports and an upgrade to 802.11n, along with DisplayPort support for the new Apple Cinema Displays (today or special event?) Some discussions about the MacMini revision not having a external redesign, but I can live without that. It’s current form factor and importantly its low heat and noise output, make it unsurpassed as a small form factor computer.

I really hope that Apple price the MacMini aggressively and look to turning this into a killer switchers machine for 2009 and beyond. With the downturn in the PC market, they really need to look at the price point for Windows users considering a Mac and price the MacMini accordingly. Belts are being tightened in all markets so they really need to take a hit on the MacMini and perhaps lower their usually significant margins on this particular device.

By all means keep the price premium on the MacBooks, iMacs and Mac Pros but come on, cut a little slack on the Mac Mini to let people try it out. And yes, I know the premium for Apple computers is hotly debated, and you get what you pay for, and the equivalent specified Dell is more often than not more expensive that the Apple machine. But for the average man in the street, walking into a PC World and seeing the crap PCs at bargain bin prices, Apple just can’t compete.

So come on Apple, take a profit hit with the MacMini so more people can experience the Apple experience. You know once they’re hooked, they’re hooked for life and you then start selling your premium products.

I know, that’s what happened to me!

PS – I might even go for two MacMinis if they are released today.

One as a new Media Center for the TV and one as a Snow Leopard training machine. My original G4 based MacMini has given me sterling service but it just won’t hack it as a media center.

DisplayPort – Implications!

It’s only just dawned on me what a big deal the inclusion of DisplayPort is in the new Cinema Display and new rage of notebooks.

DisplayPort is actually bidirectional allowing data to flow both ways.

The new 24″ Cinema Display only has three connections to the new MacBooks

  • A Magsafe power connector so you can power the notebook from the display

  • A USB Cable so you can access the USB hub in the display

  • A DisplayPort connector

But the Cinema Display has built in speakers, a built in video camera and a built in microphone, so how do they connect to the notebook?

Via the DisplayPort connector. It’s handling data to and from the Cinema Display.

This is a big deal people!

So to provide a connector to marry the new Cinema Display (s) Apple cannot provide a single connector. They would need to produce a mini dock with DisplayPort out and Audio IN, Audio Out, Video In and Video Out. Now with it being Apple, will they produce this themselves or will they just refresh the desktop range and let third parties produce a mini dock?