Month: July 2012

Pride

As the clock ticked down to Friday I have to admit to getting quite excited about the Olympics. I’m a massive sport fan so love the Olympics but there was so much buzz building over the last couple of weeks that the Opening Ceremony was essential viewing.

Could Danny Boyle pull it off? Could Britain pull it off?

Course they could.

From a shaky start the whole show was a success. Visually impressive with some fun along the way and rooted with an immense soundtrack it was an opening made in Britain for Britain. It left almost everyone bursting with pride. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee tweeted, “this is for everyone”. And it was. No matter who you were there was a hook in that ceremony. Some tried to politicise the ceremony and class it as left leaning. Utter nonsense and looking back, all Olympics and sporting events of this size have a political edge. Some critics also said that much of the show would be lost to international audiences but previous opening ceremonies would have been lost on me if it wasn’t for the commentator reading from his or her crib sheet. Danny Boyle and his team crafted a show that galvanised a nation and set the tone for the next two weeks of competition.

A few of my favourite moments below. Ok, lots of my fav moments lifted from the BBC broadcast. Far better photo’s from the ceremony can be found at The Big Picture.

Sir Kenneth Branagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In amongst the chaos he stood out.

Forged rings looked incredible

I loved the light reflected in the welders mask

Great arial shot of the rings and the stadium

That’s not really the Queen is it?

It is the Queen!

She can act

Classic Bond

Celebrating the NHS was a masterstroke – nice to see it trend on Twitter too

Bean – unexpected but fun

Jasmine Breinburg – star of the show?

Digital revolution celebrated with Sir Tim Berners-Lee

This is for everyone

Emeli Sande – what a voice

Sir Chris Hoy leads out the Great Britain team

The BBC cuts to the Queen who looks bored (or looks on with pride according to the BBC)

By day the Olympic stadium looks ordinary but at night it comes alive

Sir Steve Redgrave brings in the torch with a guard of honour from the builders of the stadium. Great touch.

The cauldron – great camera shot from underneath

Olympic flame

There’s always fireworks but ours were real

The rings from space

Even during the endless athletes parade while we waited for Chris Roy and the GB team the music was such a breath of fresh air. Switching to David Bowies “We Could Be Heroes” when GB came out gave me goosebumps. If you loved it as much as me then the Isles of Wonder Soundtrack is a no brainer. Thankfully Hey Jude isn’t included!

Sharing the experience on Twitter was great. Initial worries and anticipation turned into tears and joy…until Hey Jude! It also meant that the killjoys out there were ruthlessly outed. Step forward Aidan Burley, Conservative MP for Cannock Chase.

What an arse. Seemingly he was misunderstood and today he’s said it was because there was too much rap music. Looking at the soundtrack there’s hardly any. The guy has form though, last year being demoted due to some nazi quotes. But one idiot can’t spoil it.

To close of with a couple of high points. Danny Boyle’s forward in the official program (and soundtrack) is inspiring.

Danny Boyle’s program forward

A final highlight was Boris the day before the opening. I don’t often agree with him but from time to time he is (comedy) gold. Enjoy.

Mac Apps

So a new Mac and a couple of questions about what Mac apps I use has lead to this post. Scarily I looked back to when I last did a Mac app list and it was 2007. Thought it was only a couple of years ago – time flies when your having fun. So, on with the list in no particular order.

Alfred
http://www.alfredapp.com/
Free, PowerPack for £15

For a longtime I used Quicksilver and then Launchbar as a keyboard launcher but I recently moved to Alfred for a number of reasons. Quicksilver died from a development perspective and I moved to Launchbar as it covered much the same features as Quicksilver but a lot more too. However I found it bogged down from time to time and didn’t index as I would like. Alfred launched last year and I loved the features, the extensions but also the openness of the developer. Alfred allows you to drive your Mac fully from the keyboard – launch app’s, search the web etc. Buy the PowerPack and you can extend via scripts from the Alfred community or ones you write yourself, control iTunes and access a full clipboard history and also snippet library. A lovely app that will become your most used app if you let it.

Dropbox
http://www.dropbox.com
Free with paid options

I think everyone has a Dropbox account so there’s not too much to say with this one. I store all my documents in Dropbox so I can get them anywhere – Mac, iOS or on the web. Its great for sharing podcasts and files with the folk I work remotely with. Although there is only 2GB free, you can earn up to 18GB free and with so many app’s plugged into Dropbox via it’s API’s it’s a great way of sharing between desktop and mobile.

SuperDuper!
http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper
$27.95

Still my goto app for backups. What do you mean you don’t backup? Criminal. SuperDuper! creates a fully bootable backup on a drive of your choosing that should your drive or computer fail allows you to fully restore from that point in time. As it’s a bootable backup you can also boot from it should you find yourself in trouble. I’ve certainly needed it a couple of times and it’s never let me down. Backups can be scheduled and once the first backup is complete daily/weekly incrementals take no time at all.

Evernote
http://evernote.com/
Free, Premium account £35 per year

I finally moved to Evernote last year as my digital filing cabinet. Notes, images, pdf’s, web pages, receipts, bills, contacts, recipes, lists etc etc etc all go into Evernote. The client finally allows for rich enough text editing, images are OCR’d to allow for some great searching and there are good options for notebooks and folders. The web clipper works really well and they’ve also bought a number of smaller companies like Penultimate to grow their portfolio and I can only assume improve their note and sketching functionality on iOS. I upgraded to Premium which allows for 1GB of uploads per month, secure notes, collaborative notes and also a history of changes. One niggle – exporting from Evernote still not great so I’m tied into the service more than I’d like.
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New Air

It’s been two years since my Macbook Pro said fairwell to this mortal world and I picked up an iPad to replace it. While a great device the iPad has never quite fully replaced the laptop for me. I thought about getting a laptop last year but upgraded the imac instead. This was to to be the year – all the rumours pointed to retina Macbook’s of some description. Hopefully an Air and I’d be set.

Macbook Air 2012

Macbook Air

It’s never quite that easy with Apple so I was left with a choice – updated Macbook Air or a Macbook Pro with Retina display. A nice decision to make, but one that I struggled with. Portability of an Air compared to heavier Pro with a Retina. The retina update to the iPad left older screens looking…poor. I visited the local Apple store and saw the screen. Amazeballs. Really really nice. But the weight and price of the Macbook Pro saw me stumping up for an Air but I’ve no doubt that when retina screens hit the Air line I’ll make the move. The screen makes such a difference to text and images. Within 2-3 years most pc’s (not just Apple) and monitors will be retina. Maybe not low end but like the iPhone and iPad, they are setting the standard to which others will follow. I thank Chris for keeping me on the straight and narrow – remember why you wanted the Air in the first place and he was right.

So my thoughts on the Air? What a great machine. Fast, light, cool and quiet. I bought the stock 13″ model but added another 4gb of ram. One of the downsides of the Air line (and the new Retina Macbook pro) is that you can’t upgrade then at all. Ram is soldered and I felt that while 4gb is fine today, I’m not sure about two years from now. It also allows me to run vm’s without any hiccups…but it’s an Air – surely you can’t run vm’s?

Macbook Air 2012

So thin and light

The screen on the 13″ is great. Clear and bright although I do notice a little smearing on scrolling which I didn’t expect. It’s a small complaint though as images pop nicely. The screen isn’t too glossy unlike the Macbook Pro’s which helps too. The backlit keyboard is comfortable and good in use – I hate using a laptop keyboard without a backlight. Must have feature for me. Connectivity is not too bad – two USB 3 ports, a thunderbolt port and a SD slot which is handy for me as the camera’s I have are SD. Not so great is the updated magsafe connector. It’s slightly thinner but seems to pop off with ease…too much ease. Looking online it also seems hardly any thinner than the previous design. But thats a small complaint.

Boot times are great and in use the Air feels so fast. 128gb of flash storage ensures that a machine with only a 1.8Ghz i5 feels much faster. I went with an SSD on the iMac last year and it made such a difference – don’t think I’ll have a computer in the future without flash storage. Finally it’s worth mentioning battery life – 5-6 hours on a machine this light is great.

Macbook Air 2012

Love the backlit keyboard

Setting up the Air was very straightforward thanks to the cloud. “The cloud” is such a cliché but it really helps setting up a new machine, and one that has limited space. On startup I entered my iCloud details and saw calendars, mail etc setup for me. I launched the app store, entered my Apple store details and downloaded/installed app’s without the hassle of visiting websites and digging out serials. I installed Dropbox and synced the folders I really needed – before long I had all my documents and active files on the Air with the knowledge that they are being shared without thought between the laptop and desktop. After 1Password was installed I could login to websites without having to remember passwords although Chrome sync had taken care of bookmarks, passwords etc for the common sites. All fairly straightforward and, well, easy. The final bonus was music as I authenticated the laptop against my iTunes Match account – I now have access to all my music, none of which is installed. Streaming works far quicker than on the iPad and has worked without issue so far.

I mentioned vm’s earlier. Windows 7 running through Vmware Fusion runs really well. Any thoughts that the Air couldn’t be used as a ‘proper’ laptop are dispelled when the vm is running and you can launch Lightroom as well alongside all the app’s that are usually running. Even then, the fan noise is pretty quiet compared to the memory of my old Macbook Pro.

So a great machine – I couldn’t be happier with it. One last thought though – it all feels a bit dull. Maybe I’m too used to OSX and the familiar software, but I used to get a kick out of getting a new computer and setting it all up. I’m not sure if it’s the familiarity or if it’s due to iOS or maybe I’ve just too many devices that overlap. I love my gadgets but sometimes you can have too much? Not sure – the laptop certainly helps with blogging, coding and the podcast which I struggled to do on the iPad and meant I was chained to the iMac. I’ll keep a track on my usage over the coming months – be interesting to see how it pan’s out across devices.

One things for sure – the Air is a great computer.

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