Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obsolete - absalom

After (bizarrely) coming into 2008 trailing what appears to be a small PROFIT (how the hell did that happen?), and with copious amounts of audio production and three new documentaries to produce, it began to dawn on me that the main workstation I’ve been using is running out of puff.

I wouldn’t mind so much if I was using some creaky old Dell heap that I’d got from PC World, but I’m talking about a 2.5GHz Dual G5 Mac, less than two years old. One of the big silver monoliths that they found on Mars, which I was assured I could use to take over the world... This thing was the first machine on which I could use Motion (which produced lots of ooh-ing and ahh-ing when viewing its preset templates), would generally tear through audio and video tasks in Nuendo and Final Cut Pro 5 respectively, and made working in Photoshop hilariously swift. Always used with two monitors (three when outputting to video), you felt that it wasn’t getting in the way of whatever arcane task you wanted to perform by simply hanging about.

In the run-up to the Twelfth Night gigs, when trying out Apple’s Logic Studio (more specifically the Main Stage component) versus the hardware/software combo of Kore/Komplete from Native Instruments, it became painfully obvious that Apple’s offering was asking way too much of the hardware. NI’s rig just about held it together, so was chosen by default to be the live setup. Even so, there were moments which, now I can hear the audio tracks in isolation, contain stuttering and dropouts where the two G5 processors were throwing their hands in the air and screaming “you want me to do what, you bastard?”.

The trouble is, when the G5 machine was new, Apple’s current shiny version of the operating system ate up a certain percentage of the power of the machine doing what it does (pretty pictures, little drop shadows on windows and things of that ilk). Updates and fixes come along (as they do with any operating system) which, erm, update and fix things. Then, before you know it, things seem just a little less responsive than they did on that first, glorious day when the machinery was kicked into life. This has hit many of my friends who made a change from Windows XP to Windows Vista - suddenly, what had originally been a pretty nippy machine felt like it was crawling through treacle just opening a window or displaying a list of files.

I like computer interface prettification, really I do. If the research teams at Palo Alto hadn’t come up with the basis of the interfaces we all now use, command-lines like DOS and UNIX would inspire much of the “take a gun to work/school and kill people” rage going on in the world. However, I’m damned sure that, given a choice between semi-transparent icons, bouncy little animations when opening files, visual representations of things that simply have to have a reflection underneath them or getting on and performing the task at hand, I really do need the task doing as quickly as possible.

Icons the size of housing estates, folders that sproing open and display little pictures of their contents, “cover flow” (ugh) and multiple “spaces” to enable me to keep making a mess of the desktop ad infinitum aren’t helping me in any really meaningful way to do what my computer is generally for - work. By that, I also mean some of the incredibly arcane little bits of utility software that seem to have incomprehensible interfaces designed by sadistic cryptographers...

Sadly, I know that the shiny, new 8-core thing that is now lurking under one of the desks here will be wheezing and struggling to do basic stuff in less than three years (and therefore getting in my way), at which point I’ll have to shell out for a new machine with a hundred processors and eleventy-billion gig of RAM that considers me obsolete. Hey ho, ’twas ever thus.

Enough with the window-dressing and bloat-ware already, I need to get some work done!


At 6:59 pm, Blogger Idris E said...

I feel your pain, dear boy, but I fear that built in obsolescence appears to be obeying Moore's Law as well. Quite agree about Billy and the Bloatware gang, wouldn't mind having an operating system that operates and applications that Idecide to install doing the jobs I want them to. I recently went through one of my XP machines disabling services to take some of the load off and wondered why I should have to do this in the first place. And Vista....don't get me started on Vista..Now where's that new MacBook work promised me......


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