So this week has been Adobe Max and they have been releasing their new products.
As is usual; I have not upgraded my main desktop yet, but have upgraded on my laptop. I have a catalogue of my recent shoots on the laptop and after backing it up and putting a copy on my desktop, just in case I need to edit V9, I had a go at editing in V10.
So far, it seems better, slightly faster, I am not seeing the blackout that used to happen for a second when switching to cropping mode, but the big change is the new colour grading section.
I use the split toning function a lot in Lightroom, and I use it in colour as well as black and white. Its in black and white where you can really notice it. Her is a simple platinum blue applied to the highlights and a warmer brown/orange tone to the shadows.
I would say its worked quite well. I’ll likely wait for a point release in Lightroom and for me to be more familiar with the new tools before I upgrade my main machine and risk upgrading my master catalogue, but things look good.
Its likely that Apple will announce their new iPhone this week, so it made me think; when should we upgrade our ageing tech.
I am now typing this on one of Apple’s latest 16 inch laptops, close to top of the range, I only upgraded once Adobe no longer supported the spec. So far in my computer upgrades, its always been newer software that’s driven me to upgrade. My last laptop lasted twelve years so I saw a major improvement in performance and usability.
I tend to upgrade my phones every three to four years. Currently in our family, my iPhone 6 Plus is still getting heavy use by my wife and it is six years old and working fine. My current phone is the iPhone X.
I am thinking of getting a new phone this year but its likely to be one for Caroline, she likes the larger screen so mine will have to last that little bit longer.
Upgrading cameras I tend to skip about to generations. I switched to digital with the Nikon D200. That was replaced by the D300 and then the D300s. I upgraded when the D800 appeared. So jumped from 10 megapixel cropped format to 36 megapixel full frame. We have now had the D810 and then the big jump to the D850, a camera that really tempted me, it was a significant improvement over the D800. I really hope the D850 replacement is another big jump. Either way I am really going to notice the improvement.
This is less about web services and more about functionality that does not need web services but uses it anyway.
I have a large amount of video media, photographic tutorials, the family favourite movies and TV shows etc.
They are sat on an external hard drive and a copy in Dropbox. We use the Plex app to service these to the TV, and the AppleTV app to our computers and tablet devices; much easier then finding physical media.
It used to be simple, the app on the TV talked to my main computer that had the Plex server app on it and access to the media. Simple and it worked.
But like many companies they have now web offerings and offer other functionality. So now the TV app has to authenticate to their servers out there on the web before it will connect to my server and play my media.
This means now that if Plex have a service outage or my internet is not working I cannot play my media on my TV, very frustrating. Over the last few days we have seen major outages with AWS, Azure etc, causing many online services to fail. Not sure where Plex host there servers but they were out too. So no watching Plex for me last night.
Yes I get it that many people like the extra functionality but the basic stuff, streaming media from a drive in my home to my TV in my home all on the same network should still work!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.