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New MacBook

My hated PowerBook G4’s drive inexplicably died this week… what I thought was some rogue process pounding the disk turns out to have been the death rattle of a three-year-old HDD. Not that I mind too much; the ridiculously poor wi-fi and the rapid obsolescence of the G4 CPU had me planning to replace it this year anyways.

So, thanks to the modest ADC Select discount (10% off consumer Macs, 20% off pros), and fairly speedy free shipping, my travel machine is now a 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook.

My new MacBook

The install in this picture is Final Cut Express… with lots more hard drive space, it’ll be nice to have FCE and Soundtrack, and a machine fast enough to run them, while I’m on the road.

MacIntel-only arriving sooner than expected

Our DV camcorder is eating tapes when rewinding, so at some point soon, I’m going to need to just dump everything we have from tape into the G5, give up on it (no way would a repair make financial sense), and get a new camcorder. I think this might be a good time to get out of tapes and into hard-drive (or flash memory?) cameras, considering I’ve got a couple hundred gig of free hard drive space available.

The hard drive cameras don’t do DV, though. They largely use new codecs like AVCHD. Fortunately, Final Cut Express 4 supports AVCHD, but look at the little footnote:

* AVCHD video requires a Mac with an Intel processor.

Isn’t that interesting? This is one of the first Intel-only things from Apple, just over a year after they sold their last PowerPC Mac. They’re not the first of course: Cider-powered games are Intel only, as is Adobe Soundbooth. And Soy Latte, the open-source port of BSD Java to Mac OS X (I also expect Apple’s JDK 6, if they ever release one, to be Intel-only).

The move to Intel-only on the Mac is happening faster than a lot of people expected. Even me. Even though I was flamed for predicting it would be fast. In late 2005, I wondered aloud if it was worth waiting for Intel, and speculated that Leopard would be the last version of Mac OS X that ran on PowerPC. This was based on a prediction that Leopard would come out in 2007 (correct), and that Mac OS X 10.6 would therefore hit in 2010, four years after the Intel switch.

The Mac zealots ripped into me for offering “dumb advice”, even though my predictions have proven better than theirs. ianragsdale wrote:

You seem to be assuming that within 4 years, the number of Intel Macs will outnumber the installed base of PowerPC Macs to such an extent that it would make sense for Apple to stop development of the powerpc version, despite the fact that the hard part is pretty much all done. I think that’s a pretty big assumption.

According to browser statistics, Intel Macs on the web started to outnumber PowerPCs in November of this year, less than a year and a half after the last PowerPC Mac shipped. Give it another two whole years and the ratio will be wildly lopsided in favor of Intel. Part of this might be because the Mac is picking up market share even faster than optimists expected, so along with PPC owners trading up to new MacIntels, you have switchers plugging in new MacIntels.

nbh wrote:

A couple of things occured to me reading your article. There’s no guarantee that an Intel laptop will be released first, so how long do you expect someone to wait. And would you really suggest that someone buty the first rev of the Intel machines? You also assume that everyone immediately jumps on a new release of an OS, and that’s not the case, especially for home users. I think you should reevaluate what you’ve written. You’re offering dumb advice.

I didn’t assume that Apple would get a laptop out first, but they did, and in retrospect it makes perfect sense: Apple needed to go Intel to get better performance-per-watt than PowerPC offered, as evidenced by how badly the G4 PowerBooks were languishing. The other surprise, I think, is that Apple started the Intel switch in January 2006, just half a year after announcing the move to Intel, starting with an iMac and the MacBook Pro. I kind of thought they’d start the transition in mid-2006, but they were actually done by then. Also worth noting: these first Intel-based Macs did not generate complaints about being flaky 1.0 models.

Neil_McG wrote:

Is having a faster processor going make my iTunes music play faster? Will it make my word processor typing faster? Answer, No it will not. I don’t need it to.
[…]
I think if you are hanging waiting for any machine that will not date – you will never buy one.

On the first point, what we’re seeing from the faster processors is resolution independence, seamless backups, animation, faster media processing, etc. Also, the Intel-only software seems to primarily involve cases where there are existing Intel codebases, mostly written for Windows, that can be run on MacIntel, but are not cost-effective to rewrite and recompile for the totally different PowerPC architecture. So what you get from the new machine is new software that was never going to get PPC versions.

On the second point, that’s a strawman argument that many of my readers made, accusing me of saying “wait forever, something better’s coming”, when in fact the real issue is that the architecture change represented a unique and substantial change with atypical consequences. It’s not that the Intel CPUs are just faster, it’s that a) they enabled applications that would never come to PPC, and b) the expense of developing for two architectures is such that dumping the older CPU as soon as practical is highly desirable for software developers.

al_bickers predicted:

It will be years before anything is released just for the Intel Macs. I wouldn’t expect to see Intel only versions until at least 2009.

As I noted above, Intel-only Mac software is here in 2007.

OK, that’s enough slamming the Mac zealots of 2005 for one night. Time heals all wounds, after all.

All I want for Christmas

Is one of these Final Cut keyboards

I hope the jog/shuttle also works in QuickTime Player. That could be really useful for logging… setting aside, for the moment, my long-standing but unrealized dream of adapting DDR dance pads as foot controls for a media player.

Next creative project: editing an AMV

So, I just ordered a Final Cut Express book, Final Cut Express HD 3.5 Editing Workshop, Third Edition, because I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anywhere close to using the full power of Final Cut, and I want to understand it better.

As I’ve said before, developers should be content experts, and for me, that means getting deeper into media production so I have a better affinity to what clients want, and to what the current state of the art is.

Plus, I don’t mind having an excuse to indulge my love of anime. Specifically, I think this is going to be the year that I try to put together a good anime music video. For those of you outside this bizarre little bit of fandom, this is the subculture of combining video from one or more anime series with music from an external, unrelated source.

The effect of a good AMV can be thoroughly delightful, turning you on to a new series or musician you weren’t previously aware of or interested in. The textbook case of this, as recently pointed out on the Ninja Consultants podcast, is the AMV “Hold Me Now” (high quality | YouTube), which may have done more to promote the series Princess Tutu in the West than any marketing by its US licensee. Back when O’Reilly was doing a podcast, I did some preliminary work on a story about AMV’s, spotlighting the international nature of this particular video: an Italian woman takes a Swedish pop song, combines it with video from a Japanese cartoon, and wins the grand prize at Anime Boston. That’s awesome.

Anyways, the current state of the art in AMV’s makes heavy use of compositing, multi-layer effects, timing tricks to achieve lip-synch, etc. If I can figure out most of that, I suspect it’s going to allow me to shake off some assumptions in my programming and push me to more advanced techniques.