I had planned to publish this on Thursday but somehow felt it inappropriate given the news of the untimely death of Steve Jobs. I feel ill-equipped to write anything of sufficient eloquence to relate the impact of such a lose. A great many people the world-round of greater writing talent then I have set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to both mourn his passing and, indeed probably even more importantly, celebrate his life. I, like so many it would seem, mourn the loss of a man who I never met, which while odd is a clear sign of his impact on the world. I share here just one of the tributes that has been produced over the last few days. This one really resonated with me and was created by Jonathan Mak.
With that said I’d like to talk about some of the things I dislike about my new iMac. Yes ‘dislike’ not ‘hate’. It seems a common practice in blogs recently that you must use numbered lists and you must use emotive words. The numbered list thing makes sense at times but the emotive words? Hmm, maybe its just me or maybe it’s just an Irish thing but I find it difficult to use the term hate or indeed love when referring to inanimate objects. Anyway I digress.
So I’ve had about a month with the new iMac and after discussing some of the background story and completing some performance tests I shared with you a few weeks ago I’ve now had some proper time to live with the machine in normal day-in-day-out type of activity. This includes full photographic workflow sessions. I feel I can now talk with confidence about some of the stuff I like (planned post) and dislike (today’s topic). This list is in no particular order and you will probably notice that many of them revolve around the one topic.
#1 A very shiny screen
Yup, this has been written about ad infinitum. A simple search on Google will uncover plenty of discussions about matte vs glossy screens on Apple products and the impact on colour sensitive work such as photography. I knew all of this before I purchased the iMac so I was prepared for it. However it is still worth mentioning that indeed the Glossy screen is a bad thing for photographers, and many others no doubt. My study is double fronted so I have windows at the front and back. I notice that depending on the time of the day I can find an image either brighter on the left or right depending on the sun’s position. I also find myself staring at my own reflection when working on darker parts of an image when its bright outside. This is both distracting and headache inducing, although not actually due to it being my reflection :p
In saying all of this I am under no illusions however that the iMac is aimed at the consumer and not the professional user. That is no doubt why they do offer a matte option on their MacBook Pro’s. It does however strike me as odd that they do not offer a matte option on their LED Cinema Displays?
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Where there is a problem there is also at least one solution! I simply manage the lighting conditions in my study – pulling the blinds tends to do the trick. I’m also toying with the idea of making a DIY cowl to manage reflections. This however doesn’t take away from the fact that I have to come up with workarounds because of a decision Apple has made.
#2 Lack of connections
Again something I was well aware of before purchase but now I have to live with it day-in-day-out. 4 USB2 connections but no USB3, only 1 Firewire 800 connection and no separate Firewire 400. Oh and 2 Thunderbolt connections which while offering plenty of promise has delivered little at this point.
Between a mouse, keyboard, colour calibrator, tablet, etc, etc I need a lot more than 4 USB connections. The USB side of things however is an easy fix, a cheap purchase of a hub will solve things.
The Firewire issue is a different story. A FW800 hub/repeater can set you back $100. My setup on the MacPro was a FW400 3.5″ External Drive for Time Machine, a pair of FW800 2.5″ External drives that I rotated offsite for my Aperture Vaults and a FW800 CF Card Reader. Now figure that one out when you have just 1 FW connection! I am rethinking this with a view to buying external drives that have a pair of FW800 connections like the ones from G-Technology so I can daisy chain. The other option is waiting a little longer and seeing what Thunderbolt delivers.
#3 All the connections are around the back
Sticking on the topic of connections, now we are getting into the meat of the topic, the real annoyances. There is no doubt that the iMac is a piece of industrial beauty. The combination of aluminium and glass, clean uninterrupted lines all lead the creating a highly desirable object that, at least in today’s world, only Apple can do. However form should never win over function for a device such as a computer as far as I am concerned. To offer no connections on the front, heck even the side of the case is just plain stupid. Need to connect a USB stick, yep no problem just stand up there and reach behind the screen to fumble about. Oh you want to plug-in some headphones, yep no problem just stand up… you get the idea. The designers saw fit to add an SD Card reader along with the DVD Drive on the side, why could they not have added a USB and Headphone socket? Grrrr 🙁
#4 Headphone Socket
While we are talking about the headphone socket, which is around the back if you recall; there is apparently some kind of hardware switch that detects when something is attached. What does this actually mean you ask? Well I tend to start my day very early and like to listen to music when I work. As my wife is asleep I will use my headphones so as not to disturb her. So I standup reach around the back… yeh yeh I’ve already explained this. But why not leave them plugged in John, and then simply choose whether you want to use the speakers or headphones in the System Preferences in OSX? Yup that sounds logical and indeed the first thing I thought of. But remember that hardware switch thing I mentioned, yup you guessed it once something is detected in the 3.5mm headphone jack there is no way to select the speakers. Doh! 🙁
Of course like everything there is a way around this. I have a USB to headphone/mic dongle I got with a headset. Using this dongle to connect my headphones to the Mac allows me to leave them plugged in all the time and then switch between the internal speakers and the headphones via System Preferences. Win 🙂 oh but wait that means I end up using one of my precious few USB connections 🙁
#5 Bootcamp, gaming, heat and random crashes The last of the five is in relation to gaming under Bootcamp. Lets face it the iMac is not a gaming machine, it has a mobile graphics chip after all. But that’s ok I’m not a gamer, per se. I do however enjoy playing the Online Game called Lord of the Rings. This is not a graphically taxing game and the iMac can handle it comfortably, even running at native resolution. But boy does the iMac run hot, burny burny hot! I’ve installed MacFan under Windows to allow me to speed up the fans to improve cooling. My main gripe though is the stability of the game on the iMac. On the MacPro it ran without a hitch but under the iMac I get random but regular crashes. What’s causing it I don’t know and I am not finding any info on the web. If I were to guess I would reckon it is heat, or more likely a drivers issues most probably graphics. So while not a iMac issue per se and certainly not a deal breaker it is blinking annoying.
So there you have it, the five things I dislike about my new iMac. No deal breakers, mainly just little niggles. Enough though to make me notice them and have them impact me in some meaningful way as I go about my daily business. Indeed enough apparently to drive me to writing a 1400 word article! Yes I’ve developed, or have in mind, workarounds for all of them but as mentioned already the simple fact having to come up with workarounds so the iMac meets my needs is annoying. There is no perfect solution or product out there. There will always be compromises. However I admit to struggle with some of Apple’s design decisions and feel workarounds should never have been called for.
Next up and with balance in mind will be the 5 things I like about my new iMac. Stay tuned.
After writing this post I found out the problem I talked about as item #5 had in fact nothing to do with the iMac. It looks like it was an issue with some plugins for the game clashing with the latest Rise of Isengard expansion. So I have retracted it.
However I have another one. This is not an iMac issue but a Lion issue but it is all wrapped up in my new iMac experience, hence why I am adding it hear. Lion introduced a thing called Fullscreen that apps can support. In the main I like it as it can create a distraction free environment to work in, I especially like it for reading long documents or PDF’s. However… I run a multi-monitor set-up; I have a small 20″ connected to the iMac. I use the monitor for a couple of things; like having my Mail open on it so I can see it all the time. In PhotoShop I have all my tool palettes on the 2nd monitor leaving a completely clean space on my main monitor to work on the image. However Apple Aperture’s Fullscreen model is borked. The way I used to use it in Snow Leopard days was to move Aperture into Fullscreen and have a Thumbnail display on my 20″ monitor allowing me to quickly jump between thumbs to see the full-size image on the main screen. You could also float the HUD etc to the 2nd monitor. This did not work out of the box but I waited for an update assuming it would be addressed. However after Lion 10.7.2 and Aperture 3.2 were issued this week I found that they have not addressed it.