Apple removes claims of virus immunity

Hamish Barwick, for PCWorld:

In the wake of the Flashback botnet which targeted Mac computers, Apple has removed a statement from its messages on its website that Mac operating system X (OS X) isn’t susceptible to viruses.

Apple removed the previous statement “It doesn’t get PC viruses” and replaced it with “It’s built to be safe,” and “Safeguard your data. By doing nothing” with “Safety. Built in.” A comparison of the old and new messages is currently available here.

I always found it risky for Apple to make such a bold claim, especially because it was never true.  Malware on the Mac is (extremely) rare, but it does happen.

Microsoft just obsoleted every Windows Phone 7 ever sold

Lynn La for CNET:

Well, it’s official.

Although Microsoft’s newly unveiled Windows Phone 8 boasts exciting features like more customization options and integration with voice-over IP, one unpleasant suspicion we had about the new mobile OS has been confirmed: current Windows Phone devices won’t be able to upgrade to WP8.

Meanwhile, when iOS 6 ships this fall it will support every iPhone currently for sale, including 2009’s iPhone 3GS.

Desperate to love Microsoft’s new tablet

Slate’s Farhad Manjoo really, really likes Microsoft’s recently announced tablet.  He calls it “the iPad rival the tech world desperately needs.”

I love the Surface. And that’s true even though I know very little about it. At a top-secret press event in Los Angeles on Monday, I was allowed to spend only about 90 seconds with Microsoft’s new tablet device. Even that brief time was circumscribed. I was only permitted to touch the device while the machine was powered off. Microsoft representatives were happy to show off the device, but they didn’t let me actually use the new tablet.

Sounds great.

What’s more, much about the Surface remains mysterious. Microsoft won’t tell us its price; it will only say that the cost will be “comparable” to that of other tablets. We don’t know when it will go on sale (the company suggests sometime later this year). We also have no idea whether developers will create cool apps for it, we don’t know if the tablet’s build quality will hold up once Microsoft begins manufacturing it in large quantities, and we don’t know if—like many would-be iPad killers that have been released so far—the Surface will prove to be a buggy mess.

I understand that there’s a desire for a strong iPad competitor in the tech community, but this is crazy.  Microsoft is all in with Windows 8, and I have to give them some credit there.  They are trying something radically different for them by stepping outside their comfort zone and upending the traditional Windows platform.  But to hold a press event to show off a tablet device with no price, no release date, and no true sense of why a developer would want to develop for it feels like a desperate attempt to remain in the headlines while the market runs away from them.

Apple’s Mac Pro mistake

This past Monday, June 11, I was able to attend the Adobe CS6 Roadshow in Washington, DC.  I spent the day in training sessions for editors considering a move from their current editing platform to Adobe’s offerings of Premiere Pro and After Effects, along with a whole slew of Final Cut Studio-like tools that come in the package.

The event was sponsored by HP, so it was not surprising that the day had a decidedly PC slant.  There was much talk from the presenters about throughput, processing speeds, expandability, and performance.  But when the first instructor asked for a show of hands from those of us who use PCs in our workflow, less than 10% of the hands went up.

Coincidentally, June 11 was also the day of Apple’s WWDC keynote, and Tim Cook and company spent several hours talking about their wildly successful lineup of Mac and iOS devices.  The signature unveiling was the new MacBook Pro with a Retina Display, slimmer form factor, and a simplified design that removed the optical drive and many ports.  The runner ups for the spotlight were OS X Mountain Lion and iOS, both of which show off some very nice features and move closer to each other in terms of look and feel.

What was not mentioned in the keynote was any improvement to Apple’s long-languishing Mac Pro desktop, whose current model is about to hit its second birthday.  The rumor mill was fired up just prior to the event after some new model numbers for the Pro were leaked, prompting many to wrongly assume that big changes were coming.  Instead, Apple quietly bumped the specs on the two year old model with slightly faster processors and adding a server configuration in the same form factor.  The Mac Pro still stands alone as the only Mac without a Thunderbolt port.

After a day of training sessions at the Roadshow, I took a spin around the exhibitor hall to see what the vendors had to show.  Most presentations were running on PCs (don’t forget who the event’s primary sponsor was) but virtually everyone working there had an iPad or a MacBook Pro behind the table with them for their use.  That’s when it really hit me: many pros running Windows PCs do so because they have to, but use Macs because they want to.

And I would say that if you asked my fellow attendees, most would say they would want to be using a new Mac Pro to make their living.  The irony here is that the Mac software at the high end has never been stronger.  Autodesk just released the first Mac-only preview release of Smoke 2013, and both Avid and Adobe have bent over backwards to achieve feature parity for the Mac versions of Media Composer, Symphony, and Premiere Pro.

I see shades of last June in the headlines this week: Apple was expected to release something new for the professional market (last year it was FCP X, this year it was the Mac Pro), the “release” raises the ire of the faithful, and Apple backpedals slightly.  This year the backpedaling comes in the form of an email from Tim Cook, who assures a customer that great things are coming for Apple desktop workstations…at the end of 2013.

Apple must truly believe that a slim portable or iMac with a Thunderbolt port really fits the need of almost everyone who uses a Mac, and they are buying themselves some time for the rest of us to realize that.  As a result, Apple will probably lose an extremely small fraction of their user base, mostly comprised of people who bought their clunky (in retrospect) gear in the 90s in the hopes that Apple would stay afloat.  At the same time their worldwide market share looks poised for more explosive growth.  It’s Apple’s world now, and the pro market just lives in it.

FCP X, one year on

As a longtime FCP editor, I’m not alone in my quest to find the replacement(s) for the end-of-life Final Cut Pro 7 that Apple sent packing last summer with the release of FCP X.  I’ve spent a decent amount of time with X, and there is plenty to like, but in its current form I can’t use it.

Despite the great strides Apple engineers have made in updating this brand new application, the way X handles multi-user environments is almost a joke.  Apple has published a whitepaper outlining “best practices,” some of which are hilariously convoluted.  Because of the database driven nature of X’s Event Library, only one editor can connect to a particular event at a time.  The workarounds include lots of duplicating and importing, resulting in redundant media and alias files on a shared volume.  One or two editors may be able to handle this house of cards (indeed, the whitepaper’s examples never exceed two edit bays) but if you introduce more people into the mix things will get confusing, and fast.

This is not a dismissal of FCP X at all.  I really like it, and I eagerly look forward to what I hope will be an elegant solution to the problem I describe.  A “Final Cut Server X” that acts as a front end for checking projects in and out and managing an ever growing Event Library would be a godsend.  On both iOS and OS X, Apple seems determined to remove the tasks of Finder level file management from the user, so it seems natural that they would extend this philosophy to their flagship editing product.  We shall see.

PREMIERE PRO

In the meantime I have been exploring Premiere Pro CS6.  In many ways it feels like a natural extension of FCP 7, and most editors used to Apple’s legacy app could open Premiere and start cutting basic projects almost immediately.  As many have pointed out, Adobe even threw the FCP 7 keyboard shortcuts in as one of the layout options to ease the transition.

One key difference in the philosophy behind Premiere is how it handles formats as you edit. In FCP 7 your sequence is basically a container in a particular format (ProRes, uncompressed, etc.), and anything you throw into that container is rendered out in that same format.  Premiere truly mixes native codecs (and framerates) in the timeline, playing them back as smoothly as possible in real time without rendering.  It’s only when you are ready to deliver that you choose what format your finished edit will be.  The upside is much less rendering and transcoding before and during the edit.  The downside is you need to build in time on the back end for potentially lengthy exports.  There’s no quick solution for delivering a project that’s a mix of DNxHD, RED, XDCAM, and ProRes when the final approval comes in and the client wants to walk with a file or master as soon as possible.

Premiere’s media management could also use some work.  It’s way too easy to break the link between a clip in a bin and the source media on the drive.  A consolidate function that transcodes your final edit into a unified format to send to a product like DaVinci Resolve would be nice, but Premiere can’t do that.  To me, this is one of the shakier parts of Premiere in its current form, and I expect Adobe will be addressing this in forthcoming updates.

SMOKE 2013

Earlier today, Autodesk released a new batch of tutorial videos showcasing Smoke 2013 for Mac, and I have to say that everything I’ve read and seen about this latest iteration has me extremely interested.  We’ve had Smoke systems at our shop for years, but I could never get past the radically different way the software required editors and artists to work.  This new release has a traditional NLE timeline workflow that is surprising in its familiarity, but with deep and comprehensive tools just beneath the surface.  Everything looks clean and thought out, and the real world needs of the editor seem to be their top priority.  The prerelease build was supposed to come out today, but has been delayed as they iron out a few bugs.  You can bet I’ll be there when it’s released.