Monthly Archives: October 2013

Still no new Mac Pro but Mavericks is free

Yesterday evening (UK time) Apple held their Autumn event which has traditionally (if you can call the last couple of years “tradition”) been where they unveil the latest iPad.

The release of the iPad Air (for “Air” read iPad 5) is welcome. It certainly looks the part but although it’s much faster than all previous generations I’m going to stick with my 3rd generation iPad because it has the main feature I want, namely a retina display. I don’t play games on it so that extra speed isn’t something I crave.

It was great to see the iPad Mini finally get a retina display. I think that makes it well worth buying if you’re in the market for a smaller tablet.

Despite this being an iPad event (normally) this year’s Apple Autumn get together covered Macs too. The new version of Mac OS X, version 10.9 “Mavericks” named after something to do with surfing in California (which means nothing to anyone outside of the USA, but they were running out of cats…..) was released to the public. The really big news is that it’s being given away for free.

More specifically, Apple have moved their desktop OS to work a bit more like iOS. If you have an iPhone or iPad that is capable of running the latest and greatest version of iOS then you can download it for nothing. That’s what Apple has now done to OS X. It makes no difference at all what version of the OS you’re currently using, if your Mac can run Mavericks then you can fire up the Mac App Store and download it for no cost.

This is great news and makes lots of sense if you stop and think about it. Apple are clearly playing to their strengths here. They make money out of people buying Macs and from a user and security point of view it’s good for everyone if they keep their OS up to date. So they made it free removing the main hurdle (other than compatibility) that could stop someone from upgrading.

After less than 24 hours, reportedly 7% of users have already made the switch.

I can’t because my Mac won’t even run Mountain Lion (the previous version) so I’m stuck on OS X 10.7 Lion until I can get my hands on a hardware upgrade. Which moves us nicely on to the other bit of news from the event: The Mac Pro.

The Mac Pro
For those who don’t know, Apple have been neglecting their Pro users for some time now. The Mac Pro last got a serious update over 3 years ago and hasn’t even been on sale in Europe since April because the current model doesn’t meed modern safety standards.

In June 2012 Apple CEO Tim Cook replied to an angry Pro user whinging about lack of updates to the Mac Pro at that year’s World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) saying that an update would be on the way “later next year [2013]”. At WWDC 2013 the new model was unveiled. It’s a round “trash can” looking device that has no internal expansion but packs some serious processing power. At the time, it was reported as being available “later this year” and a brief page about the new device went up on the Apple web site.

Yesterday at the Autumn event, Apple gave out more details of the new beast. We now have much more detailed specs, prices and a (still slightly vague) release date.

The detailed specs show that the base model will include a quad core 3.7GHz Intel Xeon E5 processor, 12GB 1866MHz DDR3 RAM and dual AMD FirePro D300 cards with a total of 4GB VRAM. This will retail for £2,499 which is more than the old model’s base price but still less than many of us feared.

There are configurable options in the new Mac Pro. You can specify a beefier processor, GPUs and more RAM but we have no prices against these options yet. The only price shown on the Apple Store at the moment is for the other, higher spec starting unit. This has a 3.5 GHz 6-core Intel Xeon E5 processor, 16GB 1866MHz DDR3 RAM and Dual AMD FirePro D500 cards with a total of 6GB of VRAM. This costs £3,299.

Both units come with a 256GB PCIe-based flash storage device which will fly. If you think SSD is fast, it’s a tortoise compared to one of these babies.

If you want to go the full hog, then you can specify right up to a 2.7GHz 12-core processor, 64GB RAM, two AMD FirePro D700s with a total 12GB GDDR5 VRAM and 1TB PCIe flash storage. That will be a serious bit of kit with a wallet busting price to match.

My thoughts
Personally, the base model is fine for me, although I can see me opting for 512GB of PCIe storage. I have a 250GB hard drive in my Mac Pro 1,1 and it only has 23GB of free space with all my data on different drives – the 250GB unit only has the OS and software. So anyone thinking of buying a new Mac Pro better only get the base model if they’re really really sure that they can squeeze all they need on the boot volume into 256GB. Good luck with that if you decide to do it!

As expected, the RAM and PCIe card are user accessible so can be updated and it’s good to see that the base model has a free RAM slot so if the 12GB that it comes with isn’t enough then this can be boosted to 16GB without having to pay the Apple “memory tax”.

Release date
Like many people watching the live stream of the event yesterday, I was really disappointed that the release date for the new Mac Pro is “December”. We don’t know when in December it will be but just the fact that Phil Schiller said “December” makes me think it’ll be later in the month rather than sooner. My current Mac Pro is just about hanging on so it really can’t come soon enough for me.

My suspicions about the release date are that just under a year ago Apple brought out a new iMac and quickly ran out of stock leaving some people waiting for their new computer for many weeks. I feel Apple will want to avoid that with the Mac Pro, especially as some of us have been waiting many many MANY months for this new hardware to arrive. I shudder to think what would happen if someone tried to order one on launch to be shown a “4 week” or longer expected delivery time.

Closing thoughts
Finally, my overall feeling (once I got over the “December” bomb shell) is that the price point is fine, the specs look good and it really won’t be all that long until I can get my hands on one of these so I’m taking positives from the whole thing. I just hope that it comes out on December 1st. Or they change their mind and release it earlier than that.

New Mac Pro imminent


Next Tuesday Apple are holding their annual iPad event in San Francisco. The iPad 5 will be unveiled (probably) as well as a likely revision to the iPad mini. However it’s other news from that event that is of most Interest to me.

it’s now Autumn which any quick glance out of the window of late will confirm (although I have to confess that it’s been quite pleasant walking the dog during the day recently, even if it’s starting to get dark much earlier). Autumn is the time that Apple announced recently would be when the new Mac Pro is finally released into the wild.

Unsurprisingly, the tech forums have been full of discussions about when Autumn starts and (perhaps more importantly) when it finishes. Let’s not get too wrapped up in all that, though. Suffice to say that Autumn is very much with us and even a worst case scenario means that the Mac Pro can only be a short wait away.

A couple of weeks ago rumours started circulating that Apple would hold their iPad event on October 22 and last week it was confirmed by The Loop’s always reliable Jim Dalrymple. True to form, the actual invitations for the event were sent out last Tuesday, a week before.

The invitation simply states “We still have a lot to cover” and contains colourful leaf shaped images that adopt the styling of part of the Apple logo (which itself is in the foreground).

Apple often use slightly cryptic clues in their invitations so taking it at face value may be a mistake, however on this occasion it may very well be just that – they have a lot to talk about. Not only the aforementioned new iPads (which are a given) but also the imminent release of the new version of Mac OS X “Mavericks” and, of course, our desperately awaited new Mac Pro.

There’s an outside chance that updated MacBook Pros could be announced, but the bet guesses are for iPads, Mavericks and the Mac Pro. Which suits me just fine.

Another rumour this week, this time from a less reliable source, is pinning the release of the Mac Pro on 15 November. This may be true, as I could see the announcements on the 22 October leading to iPad availability some time within the following week (say by the 29th) with Mavericks out in early November and the Pro following after that.

From a marketing perspective it makes sense to launch all these headline grabbing products on different days thereby increasing Apple’s chances of getting exposure on the web and in the press. Annoying for those of us waiting for one of the products that’s held back, but that’s just the way it is.

On the positive side, there is FINALLY light at the end of the tunnel and for once in the world of the Pro Apple user it isn’t an express train sized dose of disappointment coming in the opposite direction. Bring it on!

Leaving the Creative Cloud

It wasn’t that long ago that when you wanted a new piece of software you went out and bought it took it home and installed it to use for many months or years. Some time down the line you may decide to upgrade it which would mean repeating the process.

Times have changed and for Adobe that meant changing from a purchase-the-box-and-take-it-home model to a subscription model called the Creative Cloud. It launched in Spring 2012 and the idea is you pay them a monthly fee for the software and download it instead of paying a large up front cost and getting a physical DVD in a box.

From Adobe’s point of view this makes a lot of sense. There are no large ticket prices to scare people (just a more reasonable looking monthly fee) and they can update their software whenever they want. No distribution to worry about so less infrastructure costs and, therefore, more overall profit.

From the consumer’s point of view it also seems, on the face of it, a good proposition. You don’t have to fork out massive sums on a suite of software and then guard a physical DVD in case you ever need to re-install it. You also get any software updates immediately without having to wait for a new boxed version to come out.

This all sounds fine from both sides. Until, that is, you start to work out how much it’s all really going to cost you.

If you buy every update that Adobe releases then you may find that the subscription model works out about the same price. This assumes an upgrade cost of around £1,000 every year. The subscription is £46.87 per month making an annual cost of just over £560 per year. However most people don’t do that. They skip versions. I bought CS3 and then skipped CS4 going instead for CS5 when that came out. I didn’t bother with CS 5.5 either. By timing your upgrades correctly you could go from (for example) CS3 to CS4 with a free upgrade to CS5. The overall cost worked out at about £20 a month, give or take a few quid. In other words, in practice the monthly charge for the complete Creative Cloud is significantly more than a “real world” purchase of boxed CS software.

I signed up straight away, lulled into a false sense of worth by the cut price first year cost of £27.34 for access to virtually every product Adobe makes. The novelty saw me trying out lots of their software and although I’d settled in to using just a small number by the time my annual renewal came up I didn’t really pay that much attention to it.

Until, that is, I realised I was now paying £46.87 a month.


I thought I’d missed the boat and would have to pay this huge fee until May 2014 when my first full price year of Creative Cloud membership ends. It made me sick in the wallet department, especially as I’d stopped using most of the Creative Suite because the tools either didn’t work for me or I’d found better alternatives (and crucially, these alternatives aren’t based around a subscription model). I’ve dumped Dreamweaver for Coda 2. I wasn’t getting on with Adobe Premiere very well so have gone back to Final Cut Express 4 with a view to buying Final Cut X when I get my new Mac Pro (FCX won’t run on my current Pro).

It’s only Photoshop that I find I use every day, with InDesign and Acrobat relegated to occasional projects and, to be frank, InDesign CS 5 and Acrobat X both of which I have licences for “boxed” versions that will do all I want them to just fine thank you very much.

Hack attack
In early October 2013, Adobe announced that they had been subjected to a sophisticated hack and they emailed affected customers of which I was one. My debit card details have been compromised, although Adobe maintain that all card details were encrypted. It doesn’t make me feel too comfortable, really, and already being a bit miffed at paying nearly 50 quid a month for mainly just using Photoshop, I’d had about enough.

I decided to cancel.

In the small print, Adobe say that they charge 50% of your remaining contract with them if you cancel before your year is up. I already knew that, and when I contacted them that’s what they told me. When I pointed out to them that they lost my debit card details they agreed to let me cancel without paying the fee saving me £165. Well, it’s saving more than that because I would’ve paid Adobe well over £300 for the remainder of my year and then £46.88 per month for ever after that.

What about when you retire? Do you need to take money out of your pension to continue to pay Adobe for software that isn’t earning you money any more?

The future
I feel that the subscription model, while it has some merits and will work for some people, isn’t perhaps the best thing for most small businesses and one-man-bands. If you use lots of their products you may be able to justify it, however if you’re like me and find yourself using a small number of Adobe apps then it may not be worth while.

For now, I’ll go back to CS 5 as I can use that for free having paid for it already. It’s possible that I’ll take out a subscription for Photoshop CC at £17.58 per month although having just whinged about the subscription model I’ll go back to Photoshop CS 5 and see how I get on. I hardly ever need to use the most recent additions to Photoshop and although I may miss some of the tweaks that found their way into the more recent version I’ll see how I get on.

I can certainly survive with the earlier versions of InDesign and Acrobat and although I have licences for them I probably won’t even re-install Illustrator or Flash.

I very much hope Adobe re-think things going forward as there are many of us less than happy with our recent experiences with the company. It’s a shame, because Photoshop is great and deserves to be available in a form that makes sense to people’s wallets.

Mavericks getting closer

Apple has just seeded another preview of OS X Mavericks. This has no number so is either Developer Preview 9 or has finally reached Golden Master (GM) stage.

The best guesses at the moment are for a launch of Apple’s new desktop OS sometime in the middle of this month.

The only reason I post this is because it’s possible that Apple could announce the availability of the new Mac Pro when the date for Mavericks is revealed. It can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

Will write more next time as I still intend to talk about my recent network changes in case that’s of any interest to anyone (unlikely, but you never know).