Life with the MacBook Pro

I love my 13" MacBook Pro. There, I said it :-)

Seriously, this is possibly the best laptop I have ever owned/used. It ticks many boxes for me: It's very light, extremely portable, excellent battery life, and a gorgeous retina display. 

The MacBook will be pretty much exclusively used for photography work, so that means Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop CC and some 3rd party plugins will be the main apps that I use. With that in mind, I went for the 2.6Ghz Core i5 CPU, 16Gb of RAM, and a 256Gb SSD. Whilst it's not as powerful as my Windows based desktop PC, (Core i5-4670K & 32Gb of DDR3 RAM), it's no slouch! 

Processing RAW files in LR & PS is a breeze with no noticeable lag when editing. It multi tasks very well, as you would expect, running several apps (Spotify, Chrome, Evernote, are loaded ALL of the time) in the background. It pretty much zips along nicely with anything and everything I throw at it.

OS X is pretty much living up to my expectations too. It's very slick, responsive, and, for the most part, intuitive. I'm struggling with some of the keyboard shortcuts in OS X, as I keep looking to use the Windows key, but I'm sure I'll get used to them soon enough. 

More later ...

The Hackintosh Project - Update 15/02/14

Further to my previous post about this project, events have taken an interesting turn.

After discussing my intentions to create a Hackintosh PC with friends who already own Macs, I was informed that it would be an arduous, thankless task, and not one for the feint of heart. I was also advised to "just go get a Mac and be done with it" from several friends too, in order to save myself the pain of attempting the Hackintosh build.

Well, being the stubborn bugger that I am, this made me even more determined to try a Hackintosh build. In fact, I am working of getting OS X 10.6.3 (Snow Leopard) installed and running within a VirtualBox VM on a Windows 7 host as I type this blog post. Once I get a stable, virtualised installation of OS X completed, I'll post about how I did it later on.

Surprisingly, all of the advice from friends did make me go back to the Apple store to see if I could afford to get myself a Mac device. After all, I have been looking for a new laptop for photography usage for some time now. Revisiting the Apple UK online store turned out to be one of my better ideas, albeit a slightly expensive one!

You see, Apple's online store is doing a promotion in the UK at the moment, based around their financing. The bottom line is that they are offering 0% APR over 10 months on "qualifying" purchases, which just happened to include the 13" retina Macbook Pro (rMBP) range of laptops.

So, to cut a long story short, my new 13" rMBP arrives next week, and I am giddy with excitement.

However, until it arrives, I will push forward on my adventures within Hackintosh land, and continue to work on the virtualisation of OS X within VirtualBox. 

The Hackintosh Project

Mac_Logo_Begins_by_Chico47.jpg

As a professional IT geek of some 26 years, (and counting), it may come as a surprise, to some, that in all that time I have never once laid hands on a Mac OS PC!

The bulk of my professional IT career has been spent in the company of DOS, OS/2, Windows, Unix, and briefly, Linux. In that order. Professionally, Mac OS devices have crossed my path on occasion, but those occasions have been extremely rare. 

And as for home computing, well Windows has always ruled the roost.

However, that may be about to change ...

History

I've always been a fan of building my own PC kit for home use. I've been building PC systems since the heady days of the 80486 CPU. 

As processor technology progressed in to the Pentium era and beyond, the one thing that remained consistent throughout all of my home brew PC builds was the operating system (OS). Specifically, the OS was always a variant of Microsoft Windows. That trend remains through to the present day. The OS of choice for my current collection of home PC systems is Windows 7 x64. 

My home PCs are used for a variety of things, but primarily, I use them for my photography workflow. I use several Adobe products to help me with this, along with some other 3rd party tools. I also use my PCs for gaming, but only when I'm not working on photographs :-)

Now, to be fair to Microsoft, and, in my humble opinion, Windows 7 is the most stable Windows OS I have ever used. I can honestly say that I've never experienced any serious issues with it, nor have I ever had to fight with it in order for it to function for me. It just works.

So why am I considering a change of OS away from Windows?

Irreparable Damage?

The next logical progression, in terms of Windows operating systems, would be to migrate to Windows 8, or more specifically, Windows 8.1.

Sadly, to date my experiences with Windows 8 haven't been very positive. Most of my gripes are centred around the hideous, (Sorry, I do think it's pretty awful), Metro UI.

I suspect that if you are running Windows 8 on a touch screen enabled device, then the Metro UI experience is a whole lot better. Unfortunately, any time I have experienced the Metro UI, it has been on a regular PC with no touch screen interface, which has made navigation around the OS a bit of a nightmare quite frankly. The only way I have found to bypass the Metro UI, and to restore the Start button interface, has been to install a 3rd party utility. 

Now, I know that a lot of the issues that I have experienced with the Metro UI are addressed in Windows 8.1. Certainly, adding the start button back in as an option is a major step in the right direction. However, for me the damage has already been done. The initial impressions formed from the previous interactions with the Metro UI, I feel, cannot be undone. 

Which way next?

So, what to do?

I had looked at perhaps going down the Linux route. However, given that I am somewhat dependant upon Adobe products to assist me with my photography workflow, I had to discount Linux as an option. (Yes, I know GIMP is a great alternative to Photoshop, but 80% of my workflow is based around Lightroom.)

OSX seemed to be the next logical alternative. Everything I use within my photography workflow is available within OSX. However, when looking at alternative PC solutions to facilitate my access to OSX, I soon discovered that my budget would be hit very hard, given the cost of the hardware I had chosen to replace my hand cranked, Windows PC. You have to run OSX on Apple hardware, as you can't buy a copy of OSX and install it on your PC.

Or so I thought.

Enter the Hackintosh

After searching for alternative ways to get access to OSX, I discovered Hackintosh. This interesting concept of hacking your existing PC hardware in order to run Mac OSX intrigued me greatly.

Initially, I was somewhat sceptical about doing this to one of my own PCs, as there is a very small risk of damaging your PC hardware. However, the more I researched and read about hacking OSX to run on "regular" PC hardware, the more I seemed to understand the processes involved, which, in turn, made me love the idea of trying it.

Now that I have a good grasp of what's involved, and that I already have pretty decent hardware to build upon, I will be starting on the journey towards creating my own Hackintosh PC.

This makes my inner geek sqee with delight at the prospect!

The Road Ahead

I should point out that I actually, and genuinely, do not have any objection to purchasing a Mac/Macbook. From what I understand, Apple's hardware is very well manufactured, and offers great value for money/return on initial investment. I suspect that at some point in my future, I will take the plunge and purchase a retina Macbook Pro to give me some scope for mobility within my photography workflow. 

However, I still want to try a Hackintosh build. With that in mind, I will endeavour to keep this blog updated with my progress, and, undoubtedly, my failures. It will be an interesting challenge!

Portrait - Rob Worrincy

Workshop portrait of Rob Worrincy.

This is a portrait shot of Halifax RFC winger Rob Worrincy. Rob very kindly modelled at a workshop run by the Über talented Glyn Dewis, way back in September 2013.

The workshop was 2 days of fun learning about lighting, how to pose models, and, most importantly, how to post process the RAW images in Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop. 

Glyn is a superb teacher, and on the 2nd day of our workshop our class processed an image similar to the one you see above. I hadn't looked at the RAW image I had shot of Rob for months, and recently I figured that it was time to see if I could remember what I learned from Glyn that day. 

I may not be in the same league as Glyn, but I am pretty pleased with the results you see above. If anything, it's a testament to how brilliant a teacher Glyn is! All processing was done in Lightroom & Photoshop, with a sprinkle of NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.


Dropbox integration FTW!

I'm already a big fan of Squarespace's very easy to use content management system (CMS), but I'm an even bigger fan now that I have discovered how to link to, and publish from, my Dropbox account.

At the moment, it's only images that can be published via this method, but I live in the high hope that the very lovely peeps at Squarespace HQ will expand this capability to other file formats.

For me, this is going to help immensely with my Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop workflow. Essentially, I can now save and export images to a Dropbox folder, and then immediately publish them to this site so that they are ready for inclusion in to blog posts.

The images within this post are an example of how this is done. No more faffing about with uploading images directly to the site any more!

 

Speed Dial 2

This is my homepage. There are many like it, but this one is mine ... 

This is my homepage. There are many like it, but this one is mine ... 

If, like me, you are mildly obsessive about keeping things organised/tidy when it comes to your browser's homepage and bookmarks, then you will love Speed Dial 2 for Google Chrome. 

It's a great extension that allows you to create pictorial bookmarks to your most frequently visited sites. For those of us with multiple devices, you can also sync your Speed Dial homepage with other devices for the paltry, one-off sum of $2.99.

Talking of Epicness ...

Following on from Friday afternoon's epicness post, I started thinking about where & when I discovered that I loved music of the "Epic" genre. 

I suspect that it started "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ..." , (Roughly when I was about 10 years old!), and has been with me ever since. 1977, it seems, was a hugely influential year in my life!

Admittedly,  throughout my adolescence I was a blues/rock/metal head, which drove me to learn the ways of the guitar, but the love of the OST and orchestral compositions always stayed with me.

Fast forward to the present day, and I now find myself very immersed within the "Epic" genre of music. There is an abundance of excellence to be found within this musical space, championed, I feel, by the magnificent creation from Thomas Bergersen & Nick Phoenix, known as Two Steps from Hell

Compositions from these chaps, and other sublime composers, are always on extreme heavy rotation. I have taken the liberty of sharing one of my favourite Spotify playlists, which includes some of the best (IMHO) epic music to be had at the moment.

Click on the play icon of any track on the left, and enjoy!

Feeling Smug(Mug)

Yes, I know. It's a terrible play on words, but in this case, it is appropriate.

Having been a SmugMug user for some time now, I was delighted when they announced that they were updating their photography website hosting services.

SmugMug, for me, has been brilliant. It's a place where I can store my photographs and share them with friends, family and the world in general. I know that this has been possible with the likes of Flickr and 500px, but I wanted something that I could have creative control over, whilst retaining the ability to share to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc,. After trying out various hosting offerings from other providers, SmugMug seemed to fit my needs perfectly, with one minor exception - customisation.

Prior to this recent update, it was a royal pain in the (you know where) to customise my site to make it look the way I wanted it to look. Without intimate knowledge of HTML & CSS, customisation was limited to what you could do with their restricted choice of site templates, and the helpful support of the wonderful folks on the Digital Grin customisation forums.

Fast forward to July 2013, and the launch of SmugMug 2.0. What a difference! The new SmugMug is fluid, intuitive and easy to customise. The new site templates are very 21st century, as is the new content management interface that comes with them.  Template and content updates are now a breeze compared to the previous iteration of SmugMug.

Overall, I would say that the update of their hosting service has breathed new life in to many photographer's websites, including mine. If you are interested in hosting your photographs with the SmugMug guys, then have a look here.