Apple WWDC2020 – wow I was wrong

I always enjoy the Apple keynote speeches. The one everyone always remembers is where Steve Jobs introduces the first iPhone, but I feel this one may also go down in history.

The best thing about the Mac operating system is that is was always designed to be portable, ie could be recompiled to run on different architecture.

This has enabled the Mac to move from one system architecture to another.

PowerBook G4 12 inch

I started with a PowerMac, a lovely little 12 inch laptop for my portable photography needs. So I have lived with the transition from IBM to intel and the improvements that brought.

When Apple released the iPhone it was with an off the shelf ARM processor. Then over the years Apple has been buying up small ARM design companies, then became a full ARM licensee to enable them to start producing there own ARM designs. This has seen the iPhone and the iPad gradually pull away from the others in respect to battery performance, cpu performance and gpu performance. For nearly two years now there have been rumours that Apple would transition their laptops away from Intel to their own silicon but I have always thought the idea ridiculous.

Well I was wrong. I can certainly see the draw of something like a ARM powered MacBook Air. You could increase performance a little and greatly increase battery life, it would be the ultimate small laptop.

For the higher end laptops like what I am typing this article on, one I picked for its Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic performance, I am not sure if ARM can match what Intel can do. The other issue is will Adobe port over Lightroom Classic or use this to force us to move to the new Lightroom. For photographers like me with large libraries the new version still does not quite cut it.

Its going to be an interesting couple of years a head of us.

Apple True Tone and Night Shift

All new Mac’s for a while now have had True Tone and Night Shift, but what does this mean for photographers.

For my main office MacPro and NEC Pro Reference monitor I have it all turned off, I have the screen calibrated with an X-rite i1 Display and I monitor the light in the room and have the profiler device adjust my monitor as I work.

My old laptop had no True Tone or Night Shift but now my new MacBook Pro 16 inch has all these new features.

First can I say that you should definitely switch off Night Shift, it definitely colours the screen and makes it warmer and more pleasing at night.

When it comes to True Tone then it is a little more complex. True Tone attempts to keep the colours neutral no matter what the colour conditions around you.

For general editing and producing pictures for my blog or for customer edit reviews then True Tone is not going to make a lot of difference. For my final edits that are going to be published or I’ll print then the edit should be done with True Tone switched off; but then I should not be making those final edits on my laptop but in my office where I have the tools to edit properly.

Draft Music Streaming – Part 2 of 2: Streaming music round your home

Introduction

So you have a large music collection in iTunes, Media Monkey, etc, sat on you laptop, server, NAS – choose your poison.

How do you steam that round your home and integrate you Spotify into it.

Well, I had a bit of a mess, a mix of iTunes using Airplay to stream to old Apple Express units connected to systems via the 3.5 mm audio jack. Sonos in the kitchen and Sonos in the Lounge. Decent active speakers connected into the line out connection of my MacPro in the office.

So music all round the home and different apps to manage it.

My music library was iTunes, then moved to the Apple Music app. Not bad but not brilliant when you have various sources and different end points.

So is there a simple solution. Well if your starting from scratch you could just buy active speakers to place round you home that support Apple Airplay. Most hifi active speakers now support airplay and often their own proprietary solution. The Sonos system is hard to beat and there are many others.

But what if you are like me and have a mix of systems. I have three high quality budget hifi systems in the dinning room, my office and the music room, plus Sonos in the kitchen and the lounge. They were networked via my apple wireless network through the house but this was getting old and need replacing. I needed to bring it all together with something better that would work as a whole.

The Music Library

The music system starts with your library; according to a recent search of the internet the top budget players are:

Library software:

  1. MusicBee
  2. AIMP
  3. MediaMonkey
  4. foobar2000
  5. VLC Media Player

Many of these will work with iTunes or the inbuilt Windows alternative. The ones most often used are foobar, VLC and Media Monkey.

Systems like Sonos you can just point at your music library location and manage through the Sonos application. So manage the library in one app and play it through another.

Endpoints

Apple’s Airport Express, with a USB port for storage and a 3.5 mm audio socket were brilliant. AirPlay was lossy but they were convenient and gave you the ability to manage it all through iTunes and network your none streaming devices. They were also cheap.

Some wireless access points offer this but now if your a bit of a geek and want a cheap solution you can give high quality results with a Raspbery Pi, but how to manage it.

Bringing it all together

So far all this has been very bitty. The new Sonos devices now support airplay as do most speakers but we need a better solution.

So what is the answer: well there are two ways that come to mind. Standardise on a common system, Airplay, Sonos, Bluesound etc, or a software solution that supports the different types of hardware?

If your buying new then standardising is the way, but if your like me then finding a software server solution seemed the best option and one that supported the latest losses codecs.

The solution I picked was Roon. Many hardware devices are Roon ready, it supports Sonos, Bluesound, Airplay and can bring everything together. You can even make your own Raspberry Pi endpoints that are Roon capable to connect to your hifi midi systems and separate systems.

Currently I have the Roon core software on my MacPro but may later move it together with my video Plex server software to a new NAS, it pulls my media from my iTunes library and any other library and hard disk/storage device I have and my Tidal streaming service to present it as one logical view. The endpoint software I have on the MacPro and (MacBook Pro); for listening in the office, it supports the Sonos devices and I have the software on my phone, tablet and laptop so can listen where ever I am.

My Photo editing workstation (yes my office is still not decorated and the curtains are going), MacPro, G-Tech Storage, Epson Scanner, powered Ruark Audio MR1 speakers and a Schiit Preamp with Multibit USB import DAC

I intend to add the midi system and separates systems in soon as well as building a high end hifi headphone listening station into the mix.

There are other solutions but this works out the best for me with what I currently have.

Mac Rumours – Pro Mode for Laptops

I am hearing rumours of a pro mode coming to the Apple MacPro laptops; or at least the new 16 inch MacBook Pro.

https://www.macrumors.com/2020/01/13/pro-mode-macos-catalina-beta/

Laptops are always a compromise, we want light weight, long battery life, amazing bright screens and lots of power. As soon as you start to push the power the battery drops quickly, and the fans get noisy as the heat builds, limits have to be placed or people complain.

Rumour has it that Apple are planning an update where you can temporary take off the limits, taking your power to the limit, it will eat up battery and be noisy so Apple will have make it reset at the end of the day but for power users this could be useful.

New laptop – Apple MacBook Pro 16 inch

Well I finally pulled the trigger on a new Laptop. Adobe’s latest upgrades basically meant I could no longer use Lightroom or Photoshop.

The intention was to buy a cheap low end machine but with 16 Gb of ram but then Apple announced the new 16 inch. So yes, I am currently typing this on the new Apple MacBook Pro 16 inch model. I went with 1 Tb of SSD and 32 Gb of ram which should make it a good photography laptop.

Leica Fotos App

Most of Leica’s current crop of cameras can be linked to your mobile device of choice via wifi.

While I do not make use of the remote control features, being able to quickly download the photographs from my Leica M without having to take it out of its case, removing the bottom place etc, is useful.

We used to have an app for each camera but now Leica have released Fotos. A general gallery and remote control app that works with all their cameras.  With the latest firmware release for the Leica M, even creating an adhoc network became easier, as the camera just shows a QR on the back, which the app sees using the camera in your mobile device and your all paired and setup.  The app supports multiple cameras and is easy to use.

There is however an issue.  I could not get the app to download my photographs.  It turns out that the app has to create a custom album on you mobile device which must be called Leica.  I already had a album called Leica on my phone.  This the app did not like and kept crashing until I deleted my album.

Adobe CC

I took a lunch time walk with the Leica and then later tried a bit of experimentation. After taking a few shots, I popped over to a local coffee shop and downloaded the shots via wifi to my camera to upload to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Once at my laptop I launched the new Adobe Lightroom CC.  I generally use Lightroom classic but this was an experiment.  After a few seconds the photographs appeared and I started to edit them.

The combination of wifi in modern cameras, mobile phones with Adobe CC installed enabling some quick editing.  Then being able to grab any internet connected PC’s and use the web based Lightroom or your own laptop with Adobe Lightroom CC you can get on and edit quickly.  For power users like me who sometimes do more complex edits we can then return to our desktops, launch Lightroom Classic and again the photographs are there with the edits we have already done.

I still prefer Lightroom classic and its an issue that the short cuts between the versions are different, but the new shortcuts are a little more logical.

Shooting RAW & Jpeg

A tip I picked up first from a model who also was a photographer and also used by Thorsten Overgaard, was instead of just shooting RAW, shoot RAW+Jpeg.

With Lightroom set to treat the jpg’s as separate files you end up with two versions of each file, colour RAW and a Black & White jpeg.  You can then quickly see which one you prefer.  Sometimes you prefer the colour and go on to edit the RAW file, sometimes the Black & White.  When the Black & White looks fine as it is, no editing is required you can just use the jpeg, but if it needs a little or a lot of editing then you convert the RAW to Black & White and edit it.  Editing jpegs is not generally a good idea.

The need for more hardware

As a photographer we always want the latest toys; sorry latest necessary tools.

As a photographer I love my Leica M10, and I would love an Hasselblad X1D and Nikon D850.

On the computer side I have the latest MacPro, but my MacBookPro is now ten years old and I feel that my desire for a new laptop is justified.

Leica M8 sample – Boudoir

Now even an old Leica M8 can produce impressive results like that above, but having a modern laptop is extremely useful.

I was disappointed that Apple’sWWDC yesterday did not announce any new hardware but I will be looking out for a new laptop.

After ten years I think deserve one.

Apple WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference)

This Monday was the start of the Apples’s WWDC.  I always try where possible to listen to the CEO’s opening speech.   Sometimes we have new hardware but mainly new software.

As someone who is trying to be more private on the web, limiting their use of applications like Facebook to only a few times a month and stopping internet access after 9 pm at night, there was much to interest me.

I am a self confessed Twitter addict and in Apple’s iOS 12 it will be interesting if I can use the social media limiting side to control my obsession.  As we try to create the right balance of intake of social media IM and Skype interaction with work, and downtime with friends and family tools like this may help.