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OS and Life in General…">On iMacs, Chrome OS and Life in General…

My disorganized thoughts about my new iMac 27" i7, Chrome OS and why I haven't been updating my blog...

Man — it’s been for­ev­er since I updat­ed my blog! I’ve want­ed to write more fre­quent­ly, but here’s the sit­u­a­tion: I write on aver­age between 8 and 10 blog posts a day between my full-time job at Mash­able and my side-gig with AMC The­atres (check out the Script to Screen blog here), that’s a lot of words per week. By the end of the day, I’m usu­al­ly just gen­uine­ly too tired to write more. Plus, I want to be able to enjoy my evenings with Grant and what­not.

Giv­en that I’m actu­al­ly able to call writ­ing my career — which is amaz­ing — I’m pret­ty OK with the fact that my per­son­al blog gets neglect­ed. But that’s why updates are few and far between — because I’m get­ting to write about tech­nol­o­gy and movies every day as part of my job.

OK, so since I last post­ed, a few things have hap­pened in the world of tech­nol­o­gy, let’s go down the list:

  • Apple announced its new prod­uct line, includ­ing what I have been wait­ing for: a Quad-Core iMac, and at 27″ wiht an LED IPS screen no less!
  • I ordered said 27″ iMac i7, wait­ed 18 days of deliv­ery, was in love and beside myself with excite­ment — until I tried to hook it up to a sec­ond mon­i­tor and found out the mini­Dis­play­Port was bro­ken. So my beloved beau­ty must go back to Apple and they are send­ing me a replace­ment. I won’t get the replace­ment until around the 4th of Decem­ber because the demand is high (and as I said, they did­n’t even ship the machines until a good three and a half weeks after they were announced, for the i5/i7s any­way). Apple is let­ting me keep the defec­tive one until then, but I won’t be able to be ful­ly com­fort­able with my new toy for almost two more weeks.
  • Google final­ly unveiled it’s much hyped Chrome OS and the whole tech­nol­o­gy world has got­ten itself into a tizzy over what it is and what it isn’t and what it could be and all kinds of oth­er shit.

So before I talk about Chrome, let me talk about the iMac.

27″ iMac i7 Review, Take One

As I said, I could­n’t help but be like total­ly, total­ly dis­ap­point­ed that I have to send my beau­ti­ful machine back, espe­cial­ly after wait­ing for it for so long. I bought the 27″ i7 as a 27th birth­day gift to myself and got it just one day after my birth­day.

Aside from the mini­Dis­play­Port issue, the machine is amaz­ing. The screen is beyond com­pare — and the thing is fast. How fast? Let’s just say that com­ing off of my two-year old Black­Book, I’m sim­ply amazed at how much faster cer­tain tasks are. If a pro­gram has been opti­mized for mul­ti-cores AT ALL, it real­ly shines. For instance, doing screen­casts of live web video used to be a labo­ri­ous process. Like, it would take hours to export the result from either Cam­ta­sia or Screen­flow. On the i7 it lit­er­al­ly flies. It’s amaz­ing. I can’t wait for Adobe to come out with Pho­to­shop CS5 that actu­al­ly takes advan­tage of this stuff. Like­wise, I can’t wait for more and more apps, espe­cial­ly mul­ti­me­dia apps, to real­ly take advan­tage of mul­ti-cores, hyper­thread­ing and oth­er awe­some stuff.

I opt­ed to install an extra 4 GB of RAM myself in the machine (I paid $60 shipped to get the RAM from Newegg, where­as it would have been anoth­er $200 or so if I got Apple to do it) and I have to say, the instal­la­tion process could­n’t have been sim­pler. Before I even turned my Mac on for the first time, I put the new RAM, giv­ing me 8 GB of DDR3-1066 RAM. I’m in heav­en.

I got a Mag­ic Mouse a week before I got my new iMac, so I was famil­iar with that — but I have to say, the com­bi­na­tion of the screen and the mouse is real­ly nice. I can’t wait for more ges­tures to get writ­ten into the Mag­ic Mouse. I know that a lot of peo­ple I respect have panned the mouse, and the Log­itech MX prob­a­bly is a bet­ter point­ing device, but the Mag­ic Mouse is sexy, easy to use and feels good in the hand. Plus, I have my Wacom tablet if I need to do any pre­cise, pre­cise stuff any­way.

The alum­ni­um key­board is the same as what I’ve been using for a year with my Mac­Book hooked up to an exter­nal mon­i­tor and it remains a joy to type on.

Sound from the speak­ers is excel­lent, though I’m look­ing at get­ting a sep­a­rate set any­way. The machine is amaz­ing­ly qui­et for all of its horse­pow­er. I mean, accord­ing to the Geek­Bench results, this thing is very clos­er if not bet­ter than a base lev­el Mac Pro. So I’ve got a Mac Pro (minus the expand­abil­i­ty, yes, but I don’t care about that more than for RAM) inside one of the nicest dis­plays avail­able on the mar­ket.

I real­ly can’t say enough about the screen. I know that once I get my work­ing unit I’m going to real­ly be able to see the dif­fer­ence between my $220 HP w2338h and this beau­ty — which is why that dis­play will be rel­e­gat­ed to hold­ing my e‑mail, Adi­um and maybe Camp­fire. I’ll leave the big screen for every­thing else.

As for why I need two screens when 27″ is so big? It’s not so much for size, but because I like to seg­ment and sep­a­rate some of my tools. I like hav­ing my mail up at all times, but I don’t want to have to bat­tle with it and oth­er win­dows. On my old set­up, my Mac­Book screen sim­ply served as a place for Mail.app to live. Because the small­er dis­play will now be 23.5″ and 1920x1080, I can put a lot more on it and thus leave my beau­ty for Text­Mate, Pho­to­shop and web browsers, which are the three pro­grams I have open at almost all times (well that and Lit­tleSnap­per).

A lot has been writ­ten about the Apple Tax and the val­ue propo­si­tion and what­not, but I think that with the new iMac line­up, even at the 21.5″ lev­el, but espe­cial­ly when you look at the i5 and i7 machines — it’s hard to argue that you aren’t get­ting your mon­ey’s worth.

Yes, I paid $2600 for my com­put­er ($2660 with RAM), but I’m get­ting some­thing that I could­n’t get any­where else, and at Dell, two sep­a­rate pieces, with a mon­i­tor that isn’t as good, would cost me MORE mon­ey.

I’m in front of a com­put­er for at least 8 hours a day (10 is more accu­rate), hav­ing some­thing fast, reli­able and with a great, great screen real­ly makes the dif­fer­ence, I just wish there was a Blu-ray option already. I hate that I can’t use this to watch my grow­ing Blu-ray col­lec­tion. But that’s OK, I have the amaz­ing LG BD 390 Net­work Blu-ray Disc Play­er for that! Seri­ous­ly, if you are look­ing for a Blu-ray play­er this Christ­mas and you don’t have a PS3 (or don’t want one), this is the one to get. It has Wireless‑N, Net­flix, VUDU and YouTube sup­port (I think Pan­do­ra is com­ing soon), can con­nect to your PC or Mac or NAS set­up to stream media and has great, great qual­i­ty. $260 for what is almost a com­plete home enter­tain­ment hub.

I’ll do some­thing more in-depth after I get the final iMac in and I trans­fer every­thing over offi­cial­ly (I’m in this weird lim­bo space now where about 90% of my files and docs are trans­ferred, as well as my most-used apps, but most of my media files are still on oth­er dri­ves and I haven’t installed all my pro­grams. When I fig­ured out the first day I actu­al­ly was going to use this thing for work that the Dis­play­Port did­n’t work, I kind of stopped doing the big trans­fer. I mean, I have to do this again any­way so why both­er?

And here’s my unbox­ing gallery. For­give the qual­i­ty, I could­n’t find my dig­i­tal cam­era and so I had to use my iPhone which is just not good with my office’s light­ing.

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Chrome OS Thoughts

This should prob­a­bly just be a sep­a­rate blog post, but I real­ly just want­ed to dis­cuss in a non-Mash­able set­ting some of my thoughts on Chrome OS. The day it was announced, I quick­ly got my geek on and com­piled the source image (which first required hav­ing to down­load and install the lat­est Ubun­tu and run that in VMWare Fusion 3), which was­n’t dif­fi­cult, but was long and labo­ri­ous.

Then I had to cre­ate the VMWare image — fig­ure out how to get the file from my VM to my desk­top (not as sim­ple as you’d think — I end­ed up just Drop­Box­ing it which was faster) and then cre­at­ed a new VM from that image.

After play­ing with it a bit, I did like 5 screen­casts, and sad­ly, this was the best take — despite my umming, uhs and actu­al tech­ni­cal prob­lems. What­ev­er, I was on a dead­line. I will say my ass-bust­ing paid off because we had a hands-on first look at least 6 hours before any oth­er major site (or minor site that I could find). I also got to flex my geek mus­cles (hey, com­pil­ing the ker­nel and build­ing the image was­n’t dif­fi­cult, but come on, that’s still total­ly geeky!), which is always nice.

So my first thoughts, which I shared on Twit­ter, was how dis­ap­point­ed I was that what we saw in Google’s demo was­n’t what the source was. It’s not that that isn’t com­plete­ly and total­ly typ­i­cal, but it just makes even con­tem­plat­ing devel­op­ing any­thing for Chrome OS hard if you can’t even get a true base­line of how stuff works.

But the bot­tom line is this, every­one calls this a big threat to the desk­top as we know it and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a big par­a­digm shift and blah blah blah, and you know, in anoth­er 10 years, that might be true — hell in 5 we might be clos­er to fruition, but as it stands right now, I can see Chrome OS suc­ceed­ing, but where it will suc­ceed will be in a com­plete­ly sep­a­rate and new class of device.

Gru­ber made a com­ment about how Chrome might be con­sid­ered as a bicy­cle that replaces that sec­ond, rarely used car — and you know, that would be a very Lar­ry Elli­son way of look­ing at stuff — and maybe some­day that will be true. How­ev­er, right now, I don’t see it as a bicy­cle replac­ing a car — I don’t think it’s robust enough to be a bike. I think it’s a VESPA you get to tool around in but that you don’t ever seri­ous­ly con­sid­er using for more than just cer­tain things. It isn’t going to give you the flex­i­bil­i­ty of a bike, in terms of where you can take it (sub­ways, wind­ing trails, var­i­ous ter­rains) or give you the exer­cise ben­e­fits, but it is a fun excur­sion and can often get you some­place faster than a car or a bike could depend­ing on where you are and what you are try­ing to get to.

For the fore­see­able future, I don’t think I see Chrome OS as some­thing — that at least as it exists now and as it will exist accord­ing to Google’s demo — as some­thing that even net­book own­ers — and net­book own­ers are used to mak­ing lots of com­pro­mis­es for per­ceived price/weight/convenience advan­tages — would be will­ing to com­pro­mise and use with any fre­quen­cy.

This is why:

First, while Chrome OS and Android are often com­pared and con­flat­ed (and maybe even­tu­al­ly they will even morph into the same prod­uct), they are very dif­fer­ent. Android, while deeply flawed (and I say that as some­one who was a strong advo­cate and wants it to suc­ceed if only to offer Apple real com­pe­ti­tion in the mobile space) in many of the ways it is exe­cut­ed, is still a ful­ly robust plat­form. I may not like the default UI deci­sions, I may think the deci­sion to basi­cal­ly take JIT, do some­thing in the com­pil­er so that it isn’t JIT by the legal def­i­n­i­tion, is stu­pid because I think Java is what is real­ly lim­it­ing a lot of the devel­op­ment ideas and inno­va­tions and I might ques­tion the already splin­ter­ing mar­ket of sub-Android brands, but Android is a plat­form.

Right now, Chrome is not a plat­form, it’s a thin client built into a Lin­ux ker­nel. It has the poten­tial to do web mul­ti­me­dia extreme­ly well — espe­cial­ly with Flash and Sil­verlight both get­ting more into uti­liz­ing GPU and hard­ware accel­er­a­tion — and the web in gen­er­al very well, but despite our reliance on the web, the web still isn’t every­thing we do with com­put­ing. Don’t get me wrong, I could not sur­vive with­out some sort of Inter­net access. I mean, I could lit­er­al­ly, but I could­n’t work and most of my com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods would be severe­ly lim­it­ed.

That said, I’m writ­ing this entry in Mars Edit, not in Word­Press’s win­dow, because I both don’t like and don’t trust Word­Press not to crash on me. I write my Mash­able and AMC posts in Text­Mate (and Mash­able uses Word­Press, but the dif­fer­ent link­ing and oth­er stuff I like to do works bet­ter in Text­Mate, where­as I pre­fer Mars Edit for my per­son­al writ­ing) for the same rea­sons — and because I get added func­tion­al­i­ty that just isn’t avail­able in a web-based text edi­tor yet. Maybe some­day, but not today. I do all of my graph­ics work, even light stuff, in Pho­to­shop. I edit my pho­tos in Aper­ture or Light­Room. Grant­ed, I’m not the aver­age user, but I would still rather my moth­er use iPho­to than Picasa or Pic­nik.

Google actu­al­ly talked about sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty as a perk when it comes to Chrome, but as I said on Twit­ter, in the more than two years that I have used Mac OS X full-time, I can count on one hand the num­ber of times I have actu­al­ly LOST data when it was­n’t my own fault (like when I’ve delet­ed my iTunes library not once, but twice — or when I’ve incor­rect­ly closed a win­dow with­out sav­ing). How­ev­er, I can’t even count how many times I’ve had web browsers, be it Fire­fox, Safari, Camino, Opera, Inter­net Explor­er or even Google Chrome crash on me and take every­thing I was work­ing on with it.

Fire­fox is often the nas­ti­est cul­prit for that one — though that’s on the Mac, on the PC Fire­fox is much more sta­ble — but even Safari pre 10.6.2 was pret­ty crash-hap­py too. Even Chrome, which is designed to like kill one win­dow not the whole brows­er, often does­n’t do that — at least in my tests. So if I’m going to rely on any­thing to keep my data for me after a crash, it’s not going to be a web brows­er. Sor­ry.

Then there’s the issue of speed. Chrome is going to be fast because a) there’s almost noth­ing to it and b) they are going to require it to use SSD dri­ves in the begin­ning. Now that’s smart, but that’s only part of what defines speed for users.

It’s pret­ty much accept­ed that the iPhone 3GS is one of the fastest smart­phones on the mar­ket. The N900 may or may not be faster, the Droid is about the same speed, though the iPhone loads web pages faster when the net­work isn’t a defin­ing fac­tor. The iPhone 3GS is no slouch in the speed depart­ment, but even on WiFi, load­ing web pages can some­times take a bit of time. This does­n’t both­er me because I under­stand that my phone is not going to be as fast as my com­put­er. The small­er size of the screen and the com­pact nature make it total­ly easy to ratio­nal­ize and jus­ti­fy dif­fer­ences in speed.

Here’s where net­books end up caus­ing their own­ers prob­lems. The net­book has bet­ter hard­ware than the iPhone, but because it has a big­ger screen a big­ger key­board (and the screens and key­boards are get­ting big­ger and big­ger all the time), peo­ple expect it to be faster than it is. Thus, you get peo­ple want­i­ng more from the device than it can offer. That’s why net­books, at least Atom-based net­books are prob­a­bly going to dis­ap­pear soon­er rather than lat­er. On the low-end you’ll have ARM and on the high­er-end, you’ll just have low-priced, light­weight actu­al lap­tops. Grant has an Acer that has a Core Solo and can take up to 4 GB of RAM, that thing is great — and was only a lit­tle bit more (we’re talk­ing under $100) more than a net­book. And it came with Win­dows 7 Home Pre­mi­um!

Any­way, I think the push for ARM in net­book style com­put­ers is going to be met with utter dis­ap­point­ment from con­sumers — espe­cial­ly if Flash isn’t hard­ware accel­er­at­ed when they launch. Since this is Chrome’s tar­get, I think that tra­di­tion­al lap­top styled devices are not going to work.

This is what I see:
Some­thing like a tablet but with a more defined pur­pose: like call it a media pad. Some­thing you could use as a remote con­trol, for instance — an eBook read­er (that isn’t as good as eInk) and a visu­al TV guide. Yeah, you can watch online con­tent and surf the web, but it’s designed to sit on your sofa and be like what we use phones for now — but big­ger and with the under­stand­ing that you need to be online at all times.

In any event, as Chrome OS stands now, it real­ly isn’t use­able in any test form, oth­er than for shits and gig­gles, but the fact that it exists is pret­ty cool.

And yes — at long last, the mam­moth blog entry comes to a close.

I’m out!

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