Author Archives: AJClayton

Vlogging My Way To 5K: Week 7 “Changing Challenges”

It’s week 7 in my bid to finally reach 5K and this is a huge week for me as if the times add up I’m in with a great shout of finally achieving that elusive distance.

Watch the video to find out if I finally make it!

Thanks so much for your support. Please don’t forget to press the ‘like’ button on YouTube and also subscribe to the channel for more content.

New Mac Pro 2019 Preview

At the time of recording the above video in May 2019 we could be less than a month away from discovering what Apple’s revamped top of the range desktop Mac will look like. In this video I talk about what we might see and why not everyone is likely to be happy. Make sure you watch right to the end of the video because I offer a couple of opinions on the new Mac Pro that you probably haven’t heard.

When Apple released the first Mac Pro in August 2006 on the outside it looked very much like the Power Mac gee five it had replaced, however inside it was a totally new machine. It used the traditional tower format that most computers came in at the time but in a modern solid all metal chassis. It felt and looked premium. This computer would become affectionately known as the cheese grater. Outside it had plenty of ports five U S B two , 2 firewire 400, 2 firewire 800, optical, audio in and out and a dual layer super drive, It was a fully featured top of the range machine.

For professionals at the time, alarm bells rung because despite the Mac Pro being a great computer it was the last Mac to be transitioned from Power PC to Intel processors, the Mac Pro having two dual core Xeon chips at its heart. This was unfortunately a sign of things to come as the machine received little attention over the next few years with just a handful of spec bumps and generally unimpressive updates until even those stopped in 2012 with that update being barely noticeable from the version that had shipped in 2010.

This lacklustre support led many pro users to suspect that Apple didn’t care anymore and was only interested in selling phones and to a certain extent despite what the company says, there’s probably an element of truth about that. However at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013 a replacement machine was finally unveiled.

The new Mac Pro resembled a bin which is why it’s unaffectionately become known as the trash can. This computer has modern specs, internal SSD, fast RAM, thunderbolt 2 as well as USB but it has no internal storage and apart from RAM you’re pretty much stuck with how it leaves the factory, However that’s not the worst of it. Inside, the trashcan has 2 GPUs (that’s graphics cards to you and me) with Apple banking on software developers using the second ultra fast card for processing data – which is precisely what didn’t happen. In development terms it’s made much more sense to have a CPU (the processor) with lots of cores. It’s easier to program and has less of an overhead meaning that the expensive second GPU sits in the trashcan acting merely as part of the elaborate cooling system. Which incidentally does work rather well.

I bought a cheese grater Mac Pro in 2006 and upgraded to a trashcan in 2013. Well 2014 as it took weeks to get here.

In 2017 Apple admitted that they had got it wrong and the trashcan’s second graphics card is not the way to do it. But worse than that the architecture can’t cope with faster CPUs with more cores. In their own words they’d engineered themselves into a thermal corner.

Which is quite an achievement when you work in round building.

They said that a new totally revamped modular machine would follow in 2019. And although nothing can be certain, June’s WWDC seems a fair shout for a sneak peek at it.

But what exactly does modular mean?

Some commentators have speculated that a modular Mac Pro will be like some kind of lego computer made up of different boxes that you can slot together like some kind of silicon jenga. You want a faster Mac Pro, buy a CPU upgrade box. You want faster graphics, but a graphics module. For a while I thought there may be some merit to that argument even if I didn’t think that it would work quite like that, however the release of the 2018 Mac Mini gave me serious doubts. After all, why release a pro oriented mini when an entry level lego Mac Pro would probably be the same kind of machine? 

It all seems a bit far fetched to me, to be honest, I feel that it’s far more likely the modular refers to the factory assembly line, how Apple put together and build the machines and later change elements of it without having to re-tool large parts of their production line.

At the other end of the scale there are vocal supporters of bringing back something akin to the cheese grater. It’s certainly possible that this will happen, although if it does I feel it’ll be far more compact and I also think that the one big thing that cheese grater supporters often want, which is to be able to plug in just about any piece of internal update that they want to into the chassis just won’t happen, Not on your nelly.  No. No No. You won’t be able to plug an nvidia card into the new machine. It just won’t happen. It’ll be upgradable, for sure, however it’ll be with a limited set of Apple supplied components. Perhaps that’s the modular element after all?

There’s one other thing to bear in mind about the new Mac Pro. The old machine was many things to many people. I’m an app and web developer and no other Mac was really up to the job for me, however that’s just not the case now. There are plenty of options out there if you use a Mac professionally. I now use an iMac Pro and think it’s wonderful, other professionals would find a laptop or the new pro oriented Mac Mini would do the job for them very nicely.

I think the new Mac Pro will be for the very highest demanding customers that Apple has. People who need such extraordinary processing power that mere mortals don’t need on a day to day basis, People in science or with multiple simultaneous demanding tasks. Most people just won’t think it’s worth it.

So why make it at all? They probably won’t sell that many, but McClaren don’t sell many F1s. That doesn’t stop them making them.

There’s one other part of this that is my own opinion and not one I’ve heard anybody else mention. What if the new Mac Pro is also a perfect machine to be a server? A modern day XServe? Why not get back into that market? Yes, MacOS server is a seriously crippled and basically useless update not worth getting out of bed for, but that could change? A powerful space grey Apple Server would be something to seriously lust after. In a totally non pervy way, of course. What do you think?

Another really off the wall idea is that the new Mac Pro will ship with Apple based ARM processors and be the first Mac to ship without Intel on board. It’s inevitable that Apple will shift to their CPUs at some point and now may be a touch too soon, however it’s got to happen at some point…!

If Apple do make an announcement in June then I’ll follow up later that month with my thoughts.

What do you want from the new Mac Pro, be sure to leave your comments on my YouTube channel and don’t forget to hit that subscribe and like buttons as that encourages me to make content for the channel.

Vlogging My Way To 5K: Week 6 “Within Touching Distance”

This is a huge week in my running journey where I wonder if I can finally make it to the elusive 5,000 metres. This is also a week where I introduce some fancy new graphics and music into my videos which strangely doesn’t have any impact at all on my split times.

I hope you enjoy the video. I encourage you to pop over to my YouTube channel where you can like and subscribe and click the notifications button to be advised when the next edition is published.

Vlogging my way to 5K: Week 3 “One Slow Step At A Time”

It’s another week in my attempt to regain any fitness I may have managed to acquire whilst doing the Couch To 5K programme last year.

This week I interrupt some golfers, realise that I’m probably talking to myself and decide to mix things up a little with a pre-run intro or two.

I know how to let my hair down. At least I would if I had any.

If you’ve decided to take the Couch To 5K or are interested in getting fitter, check out my first series of videos and this follow up series in the full playlist.

After posting this, I realised that I didn’t include my week 2 video on these pages, so just for completeness here it is:

Couch To 5K: One Year On

Unbelievably it’s been one year since I crawled off my sofa leaving behind a very nice plate of biscuits and ventured outside into the brightness to attempt the Couch To 5K programme.

Couch To 5K is a programme sponsored in the UK by NHS England and the BBC that helps you using structured lessons, 3 times a week to get you running for 30 minutes after just 9 weeks.

In April 2018 when I started Couch To 5K I could barely make it a hundred yards without wheezing uncontrollably and collapsing into a dazed huddle on the floor sobbing for those biscuits (and the sofa).

I’d tried running a few times prior to that, trying to make it to a new lamppost on each run, but didn’t really make it past a couple of them before I gave it up as a bad job and went back to the TV remote.

Couch To 5K gave me the structure I needed to finally make some real progress. After 9 weeks I actually was running for 30 minutes. 29 and a half more than I ever thought I’d make.

Unfortunately after that things went slightly pear shaped.

I went on holiday not long after finishing the programme and after returning I never quite made it back to 30 minutes. The best I managed over the next few months was about 20 and more often 10 or 15.

By the time the first anniversary of starting C25K was approaching I realised that I needed to do something about this sorry state of affairs before I threw the towel in altogether.

So over the first anniversary of me taking the C25K programme, I’m going to finally try to make it to the magic 5K distance, something that has alluded me up until now.

At my starting point, I’m on 22 minutes. I want to make about 35 minutes if I’m to get to 5K at my standard split time of around 7 minutes per kilometre, but likely a few more minutes as I’m sure to slow down!!

So my challenge this time is to hit the 5K before I get to the first anniversary of finishing C25K and to achieve that I’m adding 1 minute per run over the next 9 weeks with 2 runs per week. So from my starting point of 22 minutes, that should take me to around 40. However, my main objective is to get to 5K, even if I don’t quite make 40 minutes.

You can see the first video in this new series above as I finally attempt to vlog my way to 5K! Come along for the ride(run) and see how I get on! You’d be most welcome.

A new video will be posted every Thursday from 4 April 2019. See my YouTube channel for the first season.

An introduction to Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto)

If there’s been something that’s never really worked all that well since the introduction of the smartphone, it’s how they integrate with your car.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise as car manufacturers work many years in advance and they want to control as much of how you interact with their vehicles as they can. However, customers have been crying out for them to add support for Android Auto and CarPlay, the systems written by Google and Apple respectively to enable their mobile devices to communicate with vehicles.

Gradually support has improved and most manufacturers now offer both Android and Apple variants. Some (I’m looking at you BMW) are trying to charge their customers an annual fee to access the service (do what?) but most simply include it as part of the package.

And it does make a difference!

Yes, on older cars without Android Auto or CarPlay, you can still plug in your phone via USB or WiFi and see your contacts and sometimes music on the in-car display, however the implementation has been pretty unconvincing. What Android Auto and Apple CarPlay give you is access to the apps you might like to use on your phone while you’re in your car using a familiar interface. They also support Google Assistant and Siri making the whole experience even better. Say what you like about Siri, but when it comes to natural language queries, it’s generally far better than Alexa and therefore much better for when you’re on the move. Google Assistant is also no slouch in this area and is the pick of the bunch for this kind of task.

In the video accompanying this post, I take a brief look at Apple’s CarPlay and discuss it’s merits (and those of Android Auto, although not being an Android user I can’t demonstrate it in the film). I’ve only just started using CarPlay so if you have any questions please post them to my YouTube channel (or below) and I’ll make a follow up film.

Thanks for watching, and don’t forget to hit that like button!

What Mac did I buy in November 2018?

When it comes to buying a new computer, it’s not something that I do every day! Or even every year. Or every 2 years. In fact sometimes I go almost a decade between purchases.

When I bought my first Mac, a Mac Mini, it was 2005 and some people thought I was bonkers as Windows was very much king in those days. However, I’d become a bit disappointed with the annual wipe-and-reinstall that seemed to be necessary to keep Windows XP running optimally. Plus my experience with Windows Phone (on a crappy Motorola filp-phone) had nearly sent me insane. It was time for a change!

I loved Mac OS X Panther so much that 18 months after my Mac Mini purchase I bought a first generation Mac Pro. This was the last Mac to receive an update to Intel processors.

My next Mac came several years later, in 2014. A “trashcan” Mac Pro.

As you can see, my Mac life has entirely consisted of the headless variety. I brought my own keyboard and mouse (in latter years, those offered by Apple were my preferred options). However, in November 2018 I suddenly found myself needing to buy a new machine. The Mac Pro has something of a disappointing recent history and this isn’t going to be fixed until a completely revamped model comes out at some point in 2019, so what was I to do?

In the video above, you can find out what Mac I bought next, and why.

Thanks for watching! Catch you next time.

Getting a water softener

I’ve wanted a water softener for many years and in the video above, I finally take the plunge!

In case you don’t know, there’s a very good chance that you live in a hard water area. I certainly do. In actual fact, even if you don’t live in a hard water area, your water is likely to have some element of hardness to it. Even if your water is deemed “soft” by your water supplier.

Installing a water softener will make your water completely soft, i.e. as close to 0% hardness as it’s possible to get. This means that your white goods (such as your dishwasher and washing machine) will probably last longer. You won’t have to use so many chemicals when washing your hair or your clothes and can even do away with some additives altogether (such as the salt in your dishwasher).

In the video, I talk about the challenges I had in installing a water softener as I needed to move my stop cock and that wasn’t going to be an easy task to accomplish. 

I hope you enjoy the video. I’ll try to answer any questions raised over on my YouTube channel so feel free to ask anything if you have any queries. I’m no expert, but I’ll help if I can.

By the way, I’ve uploaded a few videos to YouTube recently and haven’t added them all to my blog – I’ll catch up on these pages as soon as can! Note to self – write blog more often. 🙄