Tag Archives: mac

Review: 2015 iMac 27″ 5K

In early 2016 my 2008 MacPro still showed no sign of aging and already had been my ‘faithful assistent’ for so many years especially when it came to processor intensive tasks when doing music or video projects. For the sake continuity it nevertheless seemed like a good idea to make the move to a new MacPro computer and keep the old MacPro on spare. This upgrade was not so easy because in a moment of corporate madness Apple in 2013 decided to axe its powerful Mac Pro’s based around an all in one model. For some time I hoped Apple would return to form with a machine that you could easily expand and exchange equipment to suite your own needs, but by late 2015 it was clear that this was not gonna happen anymore for the foreseeable future. Instead Apple offered its professional customer base in 2016 as a MacPro a strange small, rounded model with little to none possibilities of expanding inside. In my all-in-one MacPro I could typically house 4 hard drives, 2 USB cards in the PCIe slots and an Apogee PCIe card to hook up my Apogee Symphony I/O. So without a suitable all-in-one model and because being locked in to the Mac platform, because of software and hardware, I choose to go for the late 2015 iMac 27″ with 5K Retina screen. Based on reviews I read that this Mac was more than capable for heavy music and video production and the advantage of the built in screen (less cables) was also of consideration. Because I have so many devices attached to my Mac I also had to invest in:

  • An OWC Thunderbolt dock, enabling me to connect more Thunderbolt and USB devices;
  • An Apogee Thunderbridge;
  • A G-Technology external hard drive;
  • a Thunderbolt to DVI adapter to connect a second monitor to the iMac.

Because the internal memory of the iMac is 8Gb, I also bought 2 16Gb modules, ensuring that the iMac can handle the music and video tasks with ease. Upgrading the memory is a task that you can easily do yourself and gives you the power you will need for more intensive computing tasks. Other than the internal memory there is nothing else to change to your iMac. So I guess, just hope and pray all components inside will still work for years to come.

Unboxing and installing the Mac went for the better part trouble free. I manually moved the essential data on the external hard drives from the old MacPro to the new external hard drive. Then I put the Migration Assistant to work (connected the Macs over Ethernet) and counted my blessings to what would happen. On a previous occasion (moving from a 2004 MacPro to the 2008 MacPro) I had some bad experiences with the Migration Assistant, forcing me to reinstall the MacPro from scratch. But this time it all went smoothly. Strangely enough my Mail was not migrated, so I had to trace that down by searching the Mac in the system file area and manually moved it. The thing for me is that I have lots of music software all with their own protection schemes and it is just so much easier if you can transfer everything from one machine to the other without reinstalling. And that really went well: I could transfer Native Instruments Komplete, U-he Zebra, Reveal Inspire, FAW Circle, Gforce’s Oddity and M-Tron, VSL with little to no effort.

The iMac itself is a wonderful machine. The Retina 5K screen is gorgeous, sharp and very rich of detail. The iMac is really quiet, although in fairness I should mention that I have not yet been putting it on a lot of stress with processor intensive music or video projects. The placing of the external ports (4 USB and 2 Thunderbolt) on the lower (curved) side of the back is cumbersome, especially if you regularly need to change cables.

With the iMac came the new Trackpad and the new keyboard. Both work over Bluetooth and the big plus is that they do not require batteries to work but can be charged by using the same lightning connector from your iPhone. The keyboard was a step down for me from the previous one which contained an extended numeric keypad. But to keep the number of cabled devices to  minimum I will give this keyboard some time to get used to. Especially the up and down keys are extremely tiny and takes some time to get used to. Also I noticed in some situations that the fingers from my left hand rested on the ‘esc’ easily causing in some cases a loss of data.

The iMac comes with Apple’s latest OS, El Capitan. I can only say it has been extremely stable for me: not one crash so far. Compared to Yosemite there have not been too many changes, so you will find yourself spending too much times on new functions. A big bummer for me nevertheless was that Aperture, the photo organising application from Apple was phased out and replaced by a new app named Photos. Photos already was introduced with Yosemite, but with El Capitan Aperture is not available anymore for download in the App Store. Although I only worked with Photos occasionally so far, it is clear that Photos is an application with a lots of features missing from Aperture. I probably will have to spend some time to see if I really can like Photos or have to search for alternatives. Another thing I do not like is that in Safari the ‘Top Sites’ option is not working anymore like it used to work in previous versions. Until I not have managed to get back the screen I came to like so much to navigate to favourite websites.

Final verdict:

The iMac is a beautiful machine and fun to work with, largely because of the wonderful 27″ 5K screen. But I will not easily forgive Apple for taking away the choice of an all-in-one machine, because my set up has definitely become more clumsy and messy with cables going everywhere and adding an extra price tag to the computer .

==The Hague, February 14th 2016==

A nightmare named “Apple’s Music Connect”

Yes, let’s start the year with a ‘good’ rant…

Over the past days I had a look -again- at Apple’s Music Connect. As displayed in short as  ‘Connect’ in your iTunes menubar, Music Connect is a way in which artists can connect with listeners on Apple Music, Apple’s service for audio streaming. Artists can use Connect by uploading their music, pictures and videos. In theory this should be nice addition to the standard streaming service for more insight into the creative process and development of the artist, it might even have the potential to become a competitor of SoundCloud, that for many years offers similar possibilities to artists to upload their music for the interested listener to hear.

Unluckily I found out Connection is among the worst designed and executed ideas I  encountered. Around July soon after the start of Apple Music I claimed my artist profile and had some initial uploads, that I remember from that period were very troublesome, I remember I had to get my music from my Dropbox account in order to upload it to Connect. A few months down the road I decided to give Connect another chance, thinking that most issues would be worked out and solved by now. How wrong could I be.

Although Apple promised somewhere down the road that you should be able to upload content from your Mac instead of only your iPhone, I could not find anything to substantiate that claim.  The most obvious place would of course be iTunes on your Mac. Maybe it is somewhere deeply hidden, but haven’t been able to find it until this day (which reminds me that I could another rant blog about the cluttered mess they call iTunes, the most serious crippled application Apple ever dared to release to its customers).

OK, back to the iPhone then, assuming by now it would be possible to choose a song from the most logical place, your iTunes library. Wrong again. Maybe it was a sign of things to come but I already noticed that if you press the ‘+’ button to upload content that the first choices are to choose from your Photo library or take a picture (wasn’t this supposed to be all about MUSIC?). So as option three (upload music) Apple wants you to pick your audio from…your Voice Memos. Yes, you read that well. So obviously Apple wants me to hold my iPhone in front of my speaker to upload some audio… Kindly Apple also provided another option: ‘Record Soundbite’, so it is back to the speaker procedure here also I guess. As far as I could tell there is no way to work your way around this limitation. iTunes does not allow you to drag regular audio files into your Voice Memos playlist for example.

The only reason I can imagine that Apple build this ridiculous  limitation is because of fear that people upload content illegally, creating some sort of ‘alternative free service. But SoundCloud should be facing similar issues and it never stopped them from offering their services.

But I found out that things could get even  worse… After some googling I found that Logic Pro X offers a ‘Share’ functionality from within the Logic Pro X application, so that potentially and finally looked like an easy way to get your stuff onto Connect. Because I still use Logic 9 for most of my work I had overlooked the option so far in Logic Pro X. This looked promising: Logic bounces your audio, add some picture add some notes and you should be done. It only turned out to be a step into another nightmare. During the export process iTunes would crash. iTunes? Yes, for some reason iTune seemed to be used as a bridge between Logic Pro X and Connect. Googling again learned that this ‘behaviour’ was not too uncommon, although I could not specifically could find anything about the combo Logic Pro X > Connect, exporting from Logic Pro X to iTunes is a well known crash party. Something really went wrong with iTunes, because it will now even crash on a regular launch of the application (so without any export/ share action). So I hope a re-install of iTunes will fix this.

All these experiences go to show that Apple Music Connect is pretty much useless in its current state and makes you wonder how seriously Apple is about providing a platform for artists to connect with people who want to be updated about artists.

= The Hague, January 2nd 2016 =