Posts Tagged ‘iCloud’

What You Need In Your Next Computer: More Horsepower, Less Storage

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

I recently bought a new computer system, primarily for work. I was surprised at how difficult a decision process it was, but I’m very happy with the end result.

My previous work and home machine was an early 2008 iMac. It’s been a workhorse, but I found myself dealing with long wait times for it to wake and free itself of whatever it was up to so that I could work. It served me well to work on at my desk, but it was also our home media server, hosting our nearly 20,000 song music library and a growing TV and movie collection, and over 30,000 digital photos (and the photos are of increasing size and resolution). Because of this it’s also the machine that we sync our iPhones, iPods, and iPad to.

Add to that the fact that sitting at that desk and working at that computer has been making my back and neck pain increasingly worse. I needed more power and more flexibility with how and where I work.

Here’s the problem boiled down: I needed a powerful machine I could move around AND I needed a home system that stayed put.

I’ll spare you the long process of considering virtually every combination of Macs, iOS devices, and even desk configurations and tell you how I ended up: I’m keeping the iMac, which I’ll soon rebuild to be only an iTunes/iPhoto repository and sync station and I bought a brand new Macbook Pro 13″ with Retina display.

And it is, without a doubt, the best Mac I’ve ever used.

It is wicked fast. Applications launch in barely a breath. I can switch between tasks with no lags or pausing. There have been no crashes or even frozen applications. And the Retina screen is a thing of glory.

But I hesitated to buy it. Why? Because of the very limited internal storage options.

For my entire computing life I have always operated by one rule: you can’t have enough storage. My first Mac, a Mac SE, had a 10 megabyte hard drive. The old iMac I just demoted has a 250 GB internal hard drive and I have two 1 terabyte external drives connected to it.

It was very difficult for me to envision having less than a terabyte of internal storage for my new machine.

But as I debated and discussed this problem with friends I realized this: I don’t need to carry everything with me all of the time. But I struggled with that idea. Could I really buy a new machine that I’d use for years with less storage than I’d had in my previous machine.  I asked everyone, even Apple Store sales associate (though it was clear that I’d been using Macs for longer than he’d been alive).

So I asked myself: What do I really need?

I need access to my stuff. I don’t have to carry it with me. Here was the list that I made: I use Dropbox for all of my work and current personal creative projects. Since I’m a writer, that means lots and lots of really small text files. I would not migrate my old iMac over to this new machine. I would only install the applications that I really need. That includes Microsoft Office, Final Draft, and Scrivener.

I selected the Macbook Pro with 120 gigabytes of flash memory.

And when I was done I still have over 90 gigabytes of available storage. That’s a very comfortable amount of space.

I can temporarily fill it with things if I choose to travel. I can bring over movies and music, then dump it all when I’m home. And by using iCloud and iTunes Match virtually all of my music is available to me anywhere I can get online.

By not worrying about massive storage, I could select a more powerful and faster machine. I like having lots of home storage, but I’m finally comfortable in having less in my portable devices. When I trade in my 1st generation iPad which has 64 gigabytes of storage I’m going to happily purchase one with just 16.

It may seem ridiculous, but I somehow feel lighter.

So Much Music — iTunes Match & Life In The Cloud

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I’m completely giddy over iTunes Match.

I love music. As soon as iTunes was first released in January of 2001 I started ripping all of my CDs into an online collection. I also borrowed CDs from friends, libraries, and anywhere I could get my hands on them. Both of my daughters are musicians and music lovers, the older is a professional jazz bassist. And over the years we’ve put together a pretty big music library. If you started listening to Take On Me by A-Ha and listened straight through to ZZ Tops My Head’s in Mississippi working your way through rock, pop, classical, opera, jazz, blue grass, blues, world music, ambient, and dozens of other types of music, you’d spend fifty six and a half days.

I call that a good start.

Recently I’ve purchased music from the iTunes Music Store, Amazon, and sometimes, but rarely, on physical CDs. And I’ve been in a constant state of worry about losing the whole damn thing. I do backups, but you can never be too paranoid about that. You’ll lose something, eventually. As my library creeps toward 200 gigabytes it becomes increasingly difficult to back it all up, especially to maintain multiple, separate backups.

I’m breathing a bit easier today. I’ve paid Apple $25 and let iTunes Match do its magic. It scanned my music library and did two amazing things. It recognized nearly 14,000 songs/tracks already in the iTunes Store AND it uploaded virtually everything it didn’t match to Apple’s iCloud. I can now access my library on my iPhone or iPad, and so can the other members of my family, and we can do it anywhere. My music is safely backed up. All for just $25 per year.

Here’s the thing that tickled me most: of the tunes that iTunes matched on my machine, I was able to identify over 13,000 that Apple had higher quality versions of (higher bit rate, better format, etc.). I’ve updated my library with these files.

All for $25 per year. The music is mine. I own it. It’s safe on my hard drive (and I back that up separately). There’s no DRM.

Sweet.

There is a downside, but it’s the same one as always: it still takes too damn long to download files and if I want to download songs or albums on my iOS device away from home, I either need to be on a wifi network or burn precious and expensive cellular data. Pay attention to that, and everything else is copacetic.

My dream? Access to every commercially recorded and released album and song since Edison began selling them in 1889. Yes, there’s lot of bad, obscure, and weird stuff. But think of it. EVERYTHING accessible with just a click. I’m not talking about free — just cheap, easy to find, and one click away from being a part of my library at home and in the cloud.

The End Of Updates

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

I recently updated my Mac, my iPhone, and my iPad. I also did the same for my daughters’ Macs and iPhones, my wife’s, and my mother’s. I also advised my brother, my brother-in-law, and a score of others.

I’m hoping that will all soon be a thing of the past.

This last series of updates, along with the launching of iCloud, takes us one giant step forward to the point were we no longer have to update our devices at all. Or rather to the point where they update themselves, quickly and quietly, when they’re not being used, and without us sitting there staring at them.

We’ve already gone past the point where we have to go out and buy updates on discs. Now we download and update. And soon your device will update itself as it sits unused.

For some this may be frightening. We need to think long and hard about trusting all of our data to others. We need to think seriously about maintaining our own media and backups.

But I’d gladly give up sitting in front of my computer, waiting for downloads and stepping through installation. Over and over again. Yes, I want the latest innovative feature and I require that I be notified when something has changed, but I don’t need to sit and wait. This move to the cloud is promising.And I look forward to a time when we don’t have to talk about backups and losing data.

Perhaps after one more update.