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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Chip Karma and the Computer Gods

Well, I certainly don't mean to provoke chip karma or the computer gods by saying this, but my transition to my new super-dooper computer went about as smoothly and easily as I can imagine. It's a little spooky how easy it is to upgrade Macs these days—the new computer simply becomes the old one, but with higher capabilities and lotsa software upgrades, and you don't have to do (or know!) anything at all. Just swap a few cables and wait.

That doesn't mean I wasn't worried about it beforehand, of course.

The only downside of the new computer is the monitor screen. The 20" size is nice, but LCD screens are just not as nice as CRT screens for photographs. The eMac's smaller monitor (the swan song of the deservedly famous 17" Apple Studio Monitor, I'm told) had higher image quality. On the good side, LCDs don't need calibrating every two weeks. Given everything that the new computer does better (not to mention how nice and quiet it is), I'll get used to it.

The first thing I did with the new computer was to try a bunch of things in Photoshop, Lightzone, and Acrobat. The new box cracks right along compared to the old one, and powers right through tasks that the old one choked on. I'm especially looking forward to doing more in Lightzone, which appears to operate transparently on the Core 2 Duo. The very first thing I did, however, was to upload a new book. I'm dying to tell the world all about it right this second, but I need to be patient and wait for the proof copy to get here before I make it public. That's supposed to take "10-15 days" plus shipping time. All in due course, as my father used to say.

Another upgrade question to throw to the Mob: does anybody own and use NHT M-00's? The "Moo," as it's known, is a high-quality powered loudspeaker (not insubstantially powered, either: 75 watts per side) that's optimized for nearfield listening (actually, it has a switch for nearfield or far-field positions). I find myself operating in a tethered rather than a standalone configuration most days, so most of my listening is done at the computer now. The Moo hits several of my hot buttons (it's sealed, and uses a paper woofer and a silk-dome tweeter, to name three). Just curious as to whether any of you are actually listening to these on a daily basis, and, if so, what you think.



Blogger eolake said...

Congratulations on the new Mac.

I agree about the astounding ease of upgrading. It's just connect to the old Mac with Firewire, click, and after it all has been transferred, 99.99% of everything works perfectly.
Even more impressive is that this is true also when migrating to the new Intel Macs. It's a completely different chip, and you never notice the difference! Everything runs perfectly.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"99.99% of everything works perfectly"

Exactly right. And do you know what the other .01% was for me? The software that goes with my MICROSOFT ergonomic keyboard!! That made me chuckle.


12:17 PM  
Blogger Elliot Kramer said...

Enough Microsoft bashing already.

I have to admit though, I just tried to upgrade to Vista and many of my programs did not work and the real problem was that none of my printers would work. i was told that the driver is in Vista by the manufacturers, but for some reason they were not found by Vista. My XP is so clogged after years of use that it runs slowly and I am sure its registry is somehow screwing with the Vista upgrade. I could do a clean install, but then it would take a month to get my computer back to its current functionality.

I have always used PC's. They seem more versatile to me and much less proprietary, but this is a problem.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

I'm not Microsoft bashing. Here is the ENTIRE text of my "Transfer Warnings and Errors" file after switching from my 5-year-old G4 eMac to my new Core 2 Duo iMac:

"The following application(s) may need to be re-installed:
- Microsoft Keyboard
- Microsoft Mouse"

That's it--100% of the document, quoted verbatim. I don't think it's "bashing" to mention it.

And I don't mean to be argumentative with you, but I might gently point out that your own message--with its [no doubt truthful] account of your switch to Vista--is more effective as "Microsoft bashing" than anything I wrote.

What follows may indeed be interpreted as advocacy: you should really try the OSX environment someday, somehow. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. In fact, I bought my eMac when it was just 3 months old from a PC user who had purchased it just to try OSX. He told me that he knew from about the second day he had it that he was going to switch to OSX, but he forced himself to use the eMac (before getting a top of the line tower) for a couple of months just so he would get SOME kind of use out of it.

In fairness, I've had good and bad Macs over the years. Discounting the 128k original 1984 Mac and several that followed, the best I've had were a Powerbook 180, the previously mentioned eMac (which was a really good computer), and a Quadra 604 that worked 40+ hours a week for six years without a single screen-freeze or crash. The worst was a mid-90s G3 desktop that was shoddily made and quite buggy, and the original "Blueberry" G3 iMac, which I think was also from sometime in the mid-90s, that I had all sorts of problems with.

So Apple definitely has had its ups and downs. My experience is that right now the line is experiencing a big-time "up"--that's the bottom line from here.


1:16 PM  
Blogger Carl Dahlke said...

Hm - I've had noticable problems moving from version to version of the Mac OS. Actually using a stable installation is fine, but moving between versions hasn't been.

On my first move (G4 running OSX1.2 to G5 running OSX 1.) The version 1.3 OS was corrupted so badly by plugging in the G4 and moving over accounts data and apps that the service shop had to do a clean install to get the Mac to recognize any printers, and all old account info was lost.

On the second move from 1.3 to 1.4 on the same box I found that Intego backup and virus software and a disk utility suite would not run (upgrades were required), the WACOM pen tablet required a new driver. The codec for Final Cut Express was lost and had to be reinstalled and a few other odds and ends went wrong.

This is not to bash Macs - I still prefer them to PCs, but I don't think that using Macs is a guaranteed passport to a troublefree paradise, especially when doing OS upgrades. You may well have a trouble free experience doing Mac upgrades or you may not. But I've had enough problems to be very reluctant about upgrading.

2:24 PM  
Blogger hydropneumatic said...

Congratulations! I've been meaning to get a 20" or 24" iMac for myself, but haven't gotten around to buying one yet.

Anyway, I just wanted to nitpick a little. The eMac had a crappy shadow mask monitor with the brightness level turned up straight through the roof, just to make the picture look good for a few months before the mask starts burning away. It had absolutely nothing in common with the 17" studio display, which had a high-grade Mitsubishi Diamondtron tube. Hopefully that will make you feel better about your upgrade, noone should have to mourn that horrid excuse for a monitor.

6:11 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

The monitor on my eMac was excellent.


7:07 AM  
Blogger dasmb said...

Kudos on the new machine.

As for Apple's ups-and-downs, I advise all non-Appleheads thusly: never buy the first generation of any new Apple product. It is almost guaranteed to have some unrepentive engineering flaw that will bite you hard.

With my first-round 1.83 Core Duo, I've already had two batteries go, the chrager go, had the touchpad replaced, had the mainboard replaced and had the "power circuit" replaced. Furthermore, my latch was busted as part of the touchpad repair and I'm going to have to send it back to have it replaced.

That said, this is a computer that gets about 12 hours of abuse per day , all this stuff was fixed for free under warranty and the turnaround was two days, over the Thanksgiving holiday no less.

9:23 AM  
Blogger stephen pace said...

As to the other question, the NHT Moo, I've listened to them and will be picking up a pair soon along with the Soo sub. I've been out of the hifi world for a while (DACs and tranports were a new idea) and too much time in front of the computer got me wanting some good sound again. I saw the same advantages you do and, in Salt Lake City at least, I couldn't find anything to come close to it. The review from The Absolute Sound gushed over it as well. Lots of recording engineers like 'em too.

I'm a PC guy and using winamp, ASIOforall to get 24 bit output, and Izotope's OzoneMP analogue (read tube) modeling EQ effects DSP plugin. All of these are free.(!) The sound is wowie zowie with a Klipsch promedia sub and sb-1 speakers. I think the Moos will bury anything I've ever owned. Or anything to be had today for 2k at least. I think the nearfield switch will also make sitting in frot of them all day even more of a treat.

And there is always those chinese DACs....


1:31 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Thanks Stephen.

I've been heavily into researching USB DACs too. I'm torn, though, as to whether to aim for running AIFF through the computer to a USB DAC and then to powered nearfield speakers or to my main rig. I'm sort of attracted to the idea of the former, just for the sake of neatness and compactness, and I think it would be good for me to get rid of my turntable. I haven't listened to it in literally years, but it sits there accusingly and makes me buy new vinyl....


2:04 PM  
Blogger stephen pace said...

You're welcome.

If you want to replace your tonearm compulsion with another one, there is this:

He's got some really interesting ideas (was an engineer for intel), the admission is a little steep for me.

I'm looking at ripping everything as wav and maybe a stello 100 DAC to keep it simple. I like the benchmark dac with the gain pot and balanced output. The issue is the usb interface. I'm not going to use a $30 berringer multi usb goodie to feed a $1100 DAC.

This does seem to be the big bottleneck now. There are plenty of good sounding DACs, but how to get the signal (or data) to them best is the thing I'm concerned about.


PS I'll let you know when the moo's show up and how they sound in my studio.

2:23 PM  

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