Leaving Windows 8 to Return to OS X

It has been exactly three years since I wrote my last post on this blog. Those three years have seen many changes that have taken place in my life. Most of those changes will be discussed in other posts. For this post I wanted to focus on the latest change and that is changing back from Windows 8.1 to OS X Yosemite.

As you will recall from my previous post, I was in need of a new computer and decided to build my own machine after wondering about the state of Apple’s Pro market. I was planning on devoting much more time to working in 3D and motion graphics so I needed a powerful machine to replace my 6 year old Mac Pro.  I decided to build my own rather than continue with the Mac Pro due primarily to budgetary reasons and the perceived lack of direction from Apple. When I built that machine I was using Windows 7, but upgraded to Windows 8 as soon as it was released.

Fast forward three years and I am now working as a front end web developer primarily with some 3D and motion graphics thrown in from time to time. This change in my working habits has caused me to consider moving back to the Mac ecosystem for a while, but I really had no compelling reason to. The computer I had built was still working great and handling anything I could throw at it. I did have a MacBook Pro that I used while working on my Master’s degree, but really only used that when I needed to turn in a Keynote presentation or work from somewhere else. In all, I was happy.

That was until late last month when my computer decided that it was not going to work with me any longer. Things such as my mouse stopped working, hard drives went from being available to disappearing, and I began having computer lockups several times a day I ran checks on everything I could from the hard drives to the memory and they all came back fine. Before the computer totally died on me I made the decision to use my MacBook Pro as my primary computer until I could invest in something more substantial.

In making that decision I realized that I would need an external hard drive and another monitor to complete my setup so I purchased a 5GB  Seagate drive and an Apple Thunderbolt Display. I debated whether or not to just buy a new iMac or just the display, but in the end decided to save the extra money and use my perfectly fine MacBook Pro. I would really like to get one of the new 5K iMacs, but that purchase will have to wait.

Now that I have been up and running on my “new” Mac setup for about 3 weeks I can say that I am happy to be on an Apple system again.

My Home Office-No Windows 8

As you can see, I am currently rocking 3 monitors. I have my MacBook Pro, the Apple Thunderbolt Display, and a Wacom Cintiq. This setup is really nice and allows me to work efficiently when creating websites or editing video. But I could have created a 3 monitor setup with Windows, so why am I happy to be on the Mac again.

 

Fantastic Mac Apps

 

I will admit that the Mac just has some fantastic apps. There is an inherent difference in apps on the Mac and the PC. It could have to do with the OS design guidelines, the developers, or both. Since I don’t actively develop apps, I am not sure, but I do know that the Mac apps have a more “polished” feel and aesthetic to them when compared with those in Windows. There are very nice looking programs that were created for the “Metro” side of Windows 8, but in all honesty, I rarely used those. I will give you a few examples of programs that I am glad to be using once again.

 

Transmit FTP Icon

Trasmit Icon © Panic, Inc.

For my FTP program I use Transmit by Panic as I did for the 10 or so years before moving to Windows. Panic has done a fantastic job with Transmit and I will admit that I missed it when uploading files to remote sites. Yes, it is just an FTP program, but it is easy to use and looks great. Event their icon is well done.

 

Airmail Email Application

Image © Airmail App

I use email for everything. I don’t like to talk on the phone, but would prefer to send an email. Therefore, a well designed email client is important to me. I looked at several different clients before settling on Airmail. While the others were not bad, I just really like the look and feel of Airmail. It fits nicely into how I work and provides all the utility I need from an email client.

 

Affinity Photo Beta

Affinity Photo © Serif Ltd.

The last quick piece of software I am really starting to like is actually a beta of a new photo editor: Affinity Photo. You might have heard of its sister product Affinity Designer which was awarded runner up in Apple’s 2014 App of the Year. While Designer is a vector illustration program, Photo is a photo and raster based editor. These two can be considered competitors to Adobe’s Illustrator and Photoshop. I haven’t had a chance to use Affinity Designer yet, but I have been playing with Affinity Photo for the past few days and I really like it. It feels faster than Photoshop and so far has done everything I have needed it to do. Even though it is still in beta, I think this could become my image editor of choice of 90-95% of what I do. I would still have Photoshop on hand along with Lightroom for serious photo editing, but this is a fantastic app. Oh, and it is only available on the Mac.

 

Is Windows 8 Bad?

 

I don’t think Windows 8 was bad at all. I really actually applaud Microsoft for trying something new. We’ve all heard the stories about how horrible Windows 8 is and how difficult it is to use, and blah blah blah. In truth, it was just different. The new “Metro” interface tried to do some things in a new fashion and many people did not like that. I get it. But I think that the problem was that most people do not like change. I am not a big fan of change myself, but I do think it is necessary from time to time. I think that if more programs had been created to take advantage of the newer interface it would have been a better transition. Since most programs still worked on the desktop mode I can understand where the confusion was. I do think that OS X is a more streamlined OS, and I do prefer it to Windows, but I can’t honestly bash Windows 8.  I think they do have the right idea of trying to unify their OS across platforms and I hope they will continue to work towards that goal.

 

The Mac Experience

 

During my time away from the Mac ecosystem if you would have asked me if I missed it I would have told you that I really didn’t. It wasn’t until I started using Yosemite on a full time basis again that I realized that I do prefer it to Windows. There is nothing I can specifically point to to say why I prefer it , but I really do. The OS feels more polished than Windows. That is not to say it is better, but just different. I work in a creative field and I still think that is where Apple shines. Things just look cleaner on a Mac. The smaller apps are well designed and look like they are all part of the same family. Once you get to some of the behemoths like those from Adobe, that sense of design falls off. Where Apple has succeeded is in creating a great experience. They started first with their computers then expanded to the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. People wonder why customers pay the so called “Apple Tax.” It is because of the experience. You can argue about quality as well, but I believe that the experience plays a large role. It is why many customers prefer one brand over another. In this case, I can honestly say that I would rather have the Mac experience than a Windows experience. My problem from the beginning several year ago was the direction of the Mac Pro. I am still not completely satisfied with what they did, but at least it was something. I certainly hope they continue to innovate on the computer side and not just focus on the iPhone. I think Apple continues to make great computers and a great OS, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

So I guess that sometimes when you leave Mac you do go back.

 

 

Once you go Mac, do you ever go back?

Apple Logo

 

This is a really good question. Almost 10 years ago I switched from a PC to a Mac. For all that time I never second guessed myself. I knew how Windows worked, never got a virus, and built my own computers, but there was something intriguing about the Mac and its OS X operating system. My first Mac as a PowerMac G4 Dual 867 MHz. I was floored both by the performance and the design that went in to this machine. Since that time I have owned an iBook, MacBook Pro, and a Mac Pro, as well as an iPhone 3G, iPhone 4s, and an iPad. I even worked at the Apple store for a little over a year. Needless to say, I am a fan of Apple products. However, my Mac Pro is going on 6 years old now, and I am looking to upgrade as it is not keeping up with what I need it to do in regards to my 3D work. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a great machine for everyday things such as browsing the Internet, using iTunes, and a vast majority of everyday computing. However, I have found my render times rise over the past few years and the programs and scenes become more complicated. So the upgrade question remains. What kind of Mac should I get?

Well for the way I use my computer, nothing less than a Mac Pro will do. I need the RAM, the multiple hard drive slots, dual DVD burners, and upgrade-able video card. The thing is, I don’t know how long the Mac Pro will be around. Apple seems content on running with the consumer side of their business, which I totally understand, but,I need the Mac Pro, not an iMac. So the question remains. Is the Mac still the best machine for me? In all honesty, I don’t think so. I looked at what my money will buy if I went with a Mac, or if I went with a PC. In all honesty, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference if I bought from Apple or Boxx. However, if I build my own machine, I can save a substantial amount of money. Now granted, I won’t have warranty support, but before I purchased my first Mac, I used to build all my machines and never had an issue.

What about the operating system? I really do like OS X. It is now all I really know. I decided that I should try Windows before jumping feet first into switching back, so I purchased a copy of Windows 7 to dual boot on my MacBook Pro. I have to admit that from my initial impressions and about a week’s worth of Use, I am really impressed. The aesthetics are nice with the Aero theme, and things are running smoothly and quickly. It also seems as if the newest trend is moving away from the operating system and more into the applications, or apps, and really there isn’t anything major that I run on my Mac that is not available on Windows. In fact, the opposite is true. By staying on a Mac system I am missing the opportunity to use two rather large 3D programs, 3D Studio Max and Softimage. I cut my teeth in 3D with 3D Studio version 4 back in 1996 and got really interested in Plasma in the early 2000s, but never had the opportunity to try 3D Studio Max, especially since it is only available on Windows. Sure, I could just dual boot to use 3DS Max, but really, what is the point? Is OS X that much better than Windows 7? For some people, maybe. For me, I’m not so sure.

Like I said, I am really impressed with Windows 7. One thing I have noticed is that the application developers, for the most part, are not as concerned with aesthetics as the Mac developers are. I found some great programs on the Mac that I have yet to find an equal to on Windows. On the Mac you have great developers such as Panic and Macrabbit. Since I am a web developer, I have made use of their programs extensively and find them to be wonderful. They have an elegance to them that I just cannot find on the Windows platform. I don’t know if it is because of the way Windows is programmed, or if Windows designers just aren’t that good, but Coda, Espresso, and Transmit will be sorely missed. However, one that seems to look a little better than most is Intype. I do think design matters, especially in software development. If I am going to be looking at a text editor, it should look nice. I mean, the rest of windows looks nice, why can’t the applications? I love the look of Google Chrome, especially since it just gets out of the way. I think that maybe as Windows 8 gets closer to launch with its Metro interface, we might be seeing a shift to good looking applications.

Other than that, I really don’t see any compelling reason to stay with the Mac platform I do think Apple’s business practices are better, and I like Apple better as a company overall, but is there anything tangible that will make me stay with my Mac? In all honesty, no. When you put all the marketing hype aside, I really see no compelling reason to purchase another Mac. I am sad to say that, as they have served me well since 2002, but I think that Windows might finally catch OS X in the next few years. I will still have my Mac Pro and will use it as a spare computer, so I am not totally getting rid of my Mac systems. Of course, the transition to the Mac from the PC back in 2002 was more difficult than my transition back will be, but I  do anticipate some bumps in the road. Luckily there are some great people out there such as Chris Pirillo and the Gnomies that I can use to help me through this time if I have any trouble. With that being said, I don’t think I will have too much trouble getting up to speed with Windows 7 and Windows 8 when it is released. In fact, I already have my MacBook Pro set up to run Windows 7 and I am not having any issues at all.

So I guess the answer to the question is: Yes. Sometimes you do go back.

Using HDR Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro to Take Your Images to the Next Level

 

Hey everyone. I’ve just finished making the first tutorial under my photography company Double-Tap Photography. In this tutorial I show you how to take and ordinary image and really turn it in to something you can be proud of by using one of my favorite plugins HDR Efex Pro.. The image I will be using is the Trump Tower in Chicago. I was on a boat going down the Chicago River and only had a few seconds to capture the image. I wasn’t that impressed with the original when I returned home, but began playing around with all the various tools at my disposal to come up with a final image that is one of my favorites. I take you through the process of creating multiple exposures from one image, converting those images into an HDR image in Photomatix Pro, tone-mapping the image in HDR Efex Pro, and then using Color Efex Pro to tweak the final image. The video is recorded in 720p so make sure you watch it at full resolution so you can see all the text.

I hope you enjoy the tutorial and learn something from it. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them.

 

I've Been Busy

I won’t make excuses. I have been busy for the past few months, but that is changing now that things are starting to wind down a little. Just to recap, I’ve been in the process of buying a house since the end of January (don’t ask), starting a new business (Double-Tap Photography), working, and going to school. Unfortunately, the blog has been neglected. I apologize. There have been some faithful readers as I am getting new visitors every day, but I am going to try to keep up with my self imposed schedule to keep updates rolling along. I am excited about what is going to come soon and I hope you will continue to be faithful visitors.

Make Something Monday – Rolodex

 

3D render of Rolodex

For this edition of Make Something Monday, I actually created an object that I will be turning into a little website for a class I am taking. The assignment is to collect recipes from my classmates and then turn them into a working website. Many of my classmates are doing a cook book motif, but I wanted to go with something a little different. In researching ideas, I came up with the idea of using a Rolodex type device to manage the recipes. Since my drawing skills aren’t the greatest, I decided to use modo and Cinema 4D to design, texture, and render the object for use on the web.

Rolodex model in modo

I created the entire model in modo 501. It really didn’t take too long to get things like I wanted them. In all I would say it took me about an hour or so to create the model. I then took it into Cinema 4D for the lighting, texturing and rendering since I am still not as familiar with modo’s texturing tools.

Over the next few weeks I will be turning this into a fully working site, and I will be sure to post that link when it is finished.

 

Photography Friday – Blue Door

Blue Door

For this week’s image I decided to post a photo I took this past summer on the World Wide Photo Walk. I didn’t go any where fancy, but just stayed local to try to find interesting subjects. I tried to find different subjects other than the usual ones you would find in a small town. I shot the requisite barber pole and old theater building, but i really wanted to push myself to try to find something more out of the ordinary. I walked around the corner and found this old beat up door. For some reason it was painted blue and put on red brick. I really liked the contrast of the two elements in regards to both texture and color. I also wanted to get close enough to grab the detail, but I wanted to make sure I shot some of the brick as well.

The weathering of the door immediately caught my eye and I really wanted to emphasize this in the image. The colors were as weathered as the wood, so I decided to do some work to enhance them in Lightroom. While this is not a 100% representation of the door, I really enjoy this image because of the strong colors and textures.

Make Something Monday – Truck

A Truck modeled out of a box

For this installment of Make Something Monday I have decided to show you something that I have been teaching my video production students. We purchased a lab license of modo a few weeks back, and I have been teaching them the fundamentals of box modeling. To accomplish this, we have been working on making a truck out of a box.

Now I know that I am supposed to make something new every Monday, and for the most part I do. I usually spend Monday afternoons working on my lesson plans for the week, so I model the truck on Mondays so I can lead my students through the process the rest of the week. I was inspired to do this truck by a 3D Studio Max tutorial I saw on the web, but since I don’t have 3DS Max I decided to adapt it to modo. So far I am really happy with how this is turning out. Of course, it is not a photoreal truck, but it gives the students a good modeling foundation and practice with many different tools.

We have pretty much modeled the main body of the truck. The next parts we will focus on will be the wheels. Once we have finished the wheels, we will start adding details such as the body panels, door handles, lights, and a roll bar. Hopefully we will complete this soon so we can move on to something else.

Photography Friday

Happy Friday everyone! I really do enjoy Fridays. Usually Friday means work, then home, then looking forward to a relaxed weekend. However, that was not the case last Friday. I actually had last Friday off because of the weather here in Houston, and instead of looking forward to a relaxing weekend, I was thinking about a rare weekend that would be filled with activities. On Saturday we would be attending the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam in Houston while Sunday would be spent shooting a local volleyball game and then watching the Super Bowl. Needless to say, it was a busy weekend.

One of the things I noticed about my shooting is that most of my shots happen during the summer months. I guess it is because I am off from school and work for two and a half months, but I wanted to make the time to shoot more during the school year as well. Now that my blog has been designed and is running smoothly I have decided to implement Photography Fridays. I am intending to shoot something during the week to post on Fridays, but if I can’t do that I will go through some of my older shots and discuss them, perhaps talking about what I did to capture the shot, or what type of post processing I used. For this first Photography Friday I have decided to post a few of the shots from last weekend’s Monster Jam. This was the first time I attended and I must say that I really had a great time. I went with some good friends, the wife, and Junior, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, except for the massive traffic jam getting out of the parking lot afterwards. I think this might be one of the yearly events we try to attend from here on out. So here are the images. I hope you all have a relaxing and stress free weekend.

Ice Monster monster truck

Madusa monster truck

Madusa monster truck jumping

Blue Thunder monster truck jumpin

Monster Mutt monster truck taking a large jump

Stone Crusher undercarriage

El Toro Loco jumping

Maximum Destruction monster truck

Grave Digger monster truck jumping

Grave Digger Jump 2

Monster Mutt rounding the corner

Grave Digger hard landing

It’s been a busy two weeks.

Yes, I know. I haven’t posted in a while. It’s been a busy few weeks, but now that things are somewhat back to normal I will be resuming my posting schedule. I haven’t forgotten about Make Something Mondays, and I have been working on something. I will post that soon.

The new semester for school has started so I have been working on that and getting everything under control for a nice orderly semester. This semester I am taking Web Technology 1 and Crossing Border, a type of art history course. In all honesty I am not really looking forward to it. I think the web technology course will be fun and will help to fill in some gaps of my web programming knowledge, but I really don’t like art history. I understand its importance and all, but I just don’t care for it.

I used to have the Double-Tap logo here, but took it down due to many people STEALING it and using it as their own.

If that wasn’t enough, I am also a founding partner in a brand new sports photography company: Double-Tap Photography. We specialize in action shots of sporting events. It has been a dream of mine to shoot sports and I am finally able to begin to make this a reality. We had our first shoot this past Saturday and it went really well. I hope to have some images to show soon.

If that wasn’t all, I still have my other company: Linear Liquid. This is a design firm that I am a partner in, and it is really starting to pick up steam, so I have been working on those projects as well. We will be doing a complete site overhaul soon, so I am trying to get everything in place so it goes smoothly.

This is to say nothing of my “real” job which is teaching video production to high school students and my family life, so needless to say, it has been busy lately. Luckily, I am able to manage my time well so it’s not too much of a problem. Now that things are sufficiently manages, I will be updating regularly, and I will be adding more regular weekly content. Look for more on that this Friday.

Make Something Monday – USB Rendering

USB cable rendering

Well, last week I modeled the USB cable so today I thought I would texture and render the model. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the render and had to re-render on Tuesday. I think that texturing and lighting my models are two skills I really need to work on. The render I finally ended up with is okay, but it is not as good as I would have preferred. I textured and rendered the USB cable in Cinema 4D 12 because I have not really used modo’s texturing and rendering features. I hope to study modo’s features because it would be nice to stay in one program for simple scenes like this. I must admit that I am reasonably pleased with how this turned out after only 2 hours of work. No, it is not the best, but I am not a full time 3D artist. I am hoping to devote a lot of time this year to honing my skills and bringing them to the level I want them to be.