The impending death of the Mac Pro

For those that don’t follow the Mac web, Ted Landau founded a little website called MacFixIt, which has since been sold to CNET. He now writes for The Mac Observer. In a recent article, he made the claim that the Mac Pro is going to be dead in a year. He then slightly softens his position in a follow up article that the Mac Pro’s market will get smaller and smaller until Apple decides that it is not worth being in.


The Mac Pro’s market is as solid as it was a year ago. The machine is not for the web designer, game developer, magazine editor, graphic designer, CEO, CIO, CTO, or your mother. It is definitely not designed for the gamer.

It is for the video editor.

They’re the ones that need RAID0 arrays for uncompressed HD. They’re the ones that need Fibre Channel to connect to even larger storage solutions, such as XSan storage pools.

These people require Mac Pros. No other machine will do what they want. In fact, if Ted’s prediction of the Mac Pro’s demise is to be taken seriously, I would expect the announcement of the discontinuation of Final Cut Studio and XSan on the same day, because neither of those products really make sense without the Mac Pro to back them up. Sure, you can run Final Cut Pro on a Macbook, but chances are that you have a Mac Pro sitting at home to do the real editing on. And the big shops have a couple hundred Terabyte XSan that won’t run on an iMac, Macbook, Mac Mini, or iPhone. Their editing bays are Mac Pro through and through.

In fact, the total number of the G5/MacPro towers that I have been involved in purchasing in the six years since the Power Mac G5’s introduction is one- a video editing bay. I know of several other ones being bought as well- all video editing bays. I’ve been putting iMacs and Macbooks/Powerbooks on business desks for years now, including web designers. In my experience, the market has already shrunk, and Apple is still playing ball in it.

Now with that said, will the MacPro change? Absolutely. I expect Fibre Channel over Ethernet to make an appearance at some point.

MacBook Pro Graphics chips

Apple makes all MacBooks with NVidia GeForce 9400M graphics chipsets, which is also the memory controller for the processor (an integrated graphics chip.) This is not new. The older MacBook Pros all had intel integrated chips as well, although they were disabled by the presence of a dedicated graphics chip.

Their higher end MacBook Pros also come with a Nvidia 9600M GT with 256MB. This is a faster graphics chip that also reduces your battery life by an hour when it is active. Since the Mac OS is utilizes a lot of graphics calculations in its normal operation, I have been a fan of faster graphics processors. As such, I have generally argued for dedicated graphics chips.

With the 9400/9600 combination, NVidia has done something interesting. They’ve made it possible to choose which chip runs your computer at any given moment. Doing so allows the user to balance between the lower power consumption of the integrated chip and the higher graphics capability of the dedicated chip.

However, for most users, I recommend not getting the 9600. The reason I recommend this is simple. I have a MacBook Pro with the 9400/9600 combination. I have never switched over to the 9600. I run video compression on the 9400. I play games on the 9400. I don’t feel like I am suffering by not using it.

Part of this is energy consumption, and the fact that I run on battery quite a bit. However, the majority of the reason I have never used the faster chip is that you actually have to log out and back in to utilize it, then log out and back in to switch back to the lower energy chip.

I was hoping that Snow Leopard would bring the ability to change graphics chips on the fly (or better yet, utilize the higher power chip for encoding only.) Alas, that has not occurred.

As I am writing this, I have 18 programs running, with files in various states of saved and not all over the place. It is a big deal for me to log out. However, if there was really a truly compelling reason to use the 9600, I would do it. A truly compelling reason would be like the difference between encoding video on a PPC Mac Mini, or a Intel Mac Mini. That transition took an H.264 encoding from 24 hours per encoding down to two hours for the same video file.

I haven’t had a compelling reason once in the year that I’ve had this MacBook Pro. Thus, once again, I have never used the 9600 in my MacBook Pro. I doubt that most users will either.

Mac OS X 10.6.2

Mac OS X 10.6.2 is out.

It fixes quite a bit of issues, including a long-standing issue that I’ve had with Apple Remote Desktop, and its daemon build_hd_index freezing my machine for fifteen to thirty minutes every night at midnight.

It also fixes a rather nasty bug that deals with guest user accounts. In fact, if you have guest user accounts enabled, you should update immediately. Otherwise, I recommend waiting a few days for your production environments, for any new issues to float to the surface and get squashed.

Managing Email Mailing Lists

I am an active participant in many mailing lists related to Macintosh computers, IT, and system administration. Because of this, I get a deluge of email from these lists, most of which is noise.

I say noise because, if it is not something that I am able to assist with or have an interest in, its presence distracts me from doing whatever else I am supposed to be doing. This has been a long term problem, and I have dealt with it differently over the years, most of the time by just allowing emails to build up unread, skimming through the subject lines to find ones of interest, then mass deleting the others, unread. This of course is a bad solution, especially if you, like me, don’t like unread counts in your email.

However, I have now migrated all of my list memberships to a single address, and have begun using Google Mail’s webapp to manage them. It provides a superior interface for dealing with mailing lists than any other interface that I have worked with. The primary passive benefit is it’s how it automatically cleans the clutter of replies from posts. However, to harness the real power of the interface, you need to setup and utilize a workflow for mailing lists.

Here’s how…

  1. Get an email address just for mailing lists. Why is this important? Mailing list traffic is different than normal traffic, and by routing it to a second email address, you aren’t forced to change your normal conduit for email. I still use Apple’s for normal communication. But I can now use gmail for mailing lists. Furthermore, this workflow is all that I do in this email account, so
  2. Get the Google Labs extension “Send and Archive”. This saves a couple clicks for every topic you decide to converse about.
  3. Get the Google Labs extension “multiple inboxes”. This allows users to have inboxes based on a search parameter. I create one inbox, using the parameter. “is:starred” which creates a second inbox that lists all starred conversations, archived or not. I know that you can do the same thing with the starred label, but that is a second screen that I have to maintain, which I don’t want in this workflow.
  4. Don’t be afraid of the Archive button. It just means “I’m done until there is more traffic on this subject.”
  5. Don’t be afraid of the Mute button. (It’s located in the more actions menu.) This means, I’m done with this topic, and I don’t want to see followups.

So, with those items in mind, my workflow for an incoming email is to do one of five things..

  • Archive – I am watching the conversation, but not an active part.
  • Mute – I have no interest in the conversation, it’s noise.
  • Reply and Archive – I am taking an active role in the conversation.
  • Star and Archive – I am thinking of taking an active role, but have not done so yet.
  • Forward to non-list email address, archive – This is a special action for when I have received an individualized email from another list member, so I need to re-route it to my normal address, where I deal with it using my non-list workflow.

Now, I do realize that I could do very similar things with my non-list traffic as well if I were to switch to gmail. However, I do prefer for normal traffic, which doesn’t quite lend itself to this format.

Quicktime and friends

In general, my default installations add two different free plugins into Quicktime to handle files which Quicktime cannot handle by itself. Both of these plugins are very well implemented and tested, and both are rock solid in terms of stability.

  • Telestream Flip4Mac Player – This application/plugin allows the user to view unencrypted Windows Media Files within Quicktime. This is especially important, as Microsoft no longer makes a Windows Media Player for Mac OS X. Unfortunately, Microsoft has not shared their DRM with Telestream, so any WMF file that is encrypted cannot be played on the Mac.
  • Perian – Perian is a open-source application that installs as a System Preference, and extends Quicktime to read “everything else.” Basically, if it isn’t supported by Quicktime or Flip4Mac, Perian will.

I’m sure there are a few formats out there that this trifecta doesn’t support, but I haven’t found them (Encrypyed WMF excluded.) Furthermore, by having them installed by default, my users have to worry less whether a particular video will run or not, allowing them to be more flexible in how they perform their job.

About me

I realized that I should put some information about myself and Evolve on this blog, so here we go…

Jon Thompson is the owner, and currently the sole employee of Evolve. He started in IT in 1998, when he joined Dymle Construction, where he managed the IT infrastructure for that company. In 2001, he formed Jon Thompson Consulting, which was very similar to Evolve in that it was a Macintosh consulting company. In 2005, he sold that business to work for Great Ape Trust of Iowa, which was a once in a lifetime opportunity to provide IT services to not only humans, but bonobos and orangutans as well. Now, in 2009, he is re-building his consultancy with a new name -Evolve.

Evolve is a company dedicated to providing the best IT support to companies that money can buy. We specialize in Mac OS X-based solutions, and pride ourselves in working within mixed Windows, as well as entirely Apple networks. We have a particular fondness for Windows to Mac OS X migrations, which more often than not will result in a lower overall cost for IT. However, we do so with a careful eye on whether a Mac solution would indeed be more beneficial than the existing one, and will recommend staying with an existing solution if we perceive that

We have experience ranging from the smallest, one-man shop, to a multiple-server XSan solution. We’re adept in Open Directory, OD-AD Integration (Golden Triangle), MCX, Portable Home Directories, Network Home Directories, and some of the more obscure technologies as well.

One of the things that we tend to do is to assess your IT infrastructure during the initial consultation. This allows us to determine where weaknesses lie, whether they be in the network infrastructure, backup strategy, upgrade schedules, or elsewhere. Long term, this results in lower costs for the client, as I no longer have to spend countless hours chasing inadequacies that had been part of your IT prior to my arrival.

If you are interested in having Evolve handle your Mac IT needs, please contact us at jthompson <at> dmevolve <dot> com.

Memory and Apple

When I buy a new Mac, I don’t generally configure it build to order, unless one of two things are such…

1) The feature involved is _only_ available through a BTO configuration.

2) The organization’s purchasing procedure is so difficult, that I want to minimize the time it takes to actually order something, which offsets any savings that I would have had otherwise.

Now, many people know that I like the faster 7,200 RPM drives in my MacBooks. I also like to upgrade the RAM. Both of which are now user serviceable parts, meaning that you do not void the warranty if you replace these parts.

Furthermore, it is most often the fact that you can replace your RAM and hard drive cheaper than it takes for you to upgrade them from Apple. Which means that you can often purchase an external enclosure and have a time machine backup as well, for about the price that Apple would have charged for the expanded BTO computer itself.

Finally, a minor issue is that Apple has a no return policy for all BTO Macs. They’ll fix any problem that you might have, but if you have buyer’s remorse, possibly because you just read this article, you are stuck with the BTO. Next time, give me a call and I’ll recommend what exactly to purchase, as well as organize how to purchase the RAM and hard drive that you want.

For those that still would like to do it themselves, I recommend purchasing the RAM from I have always received items promptly, without expedited shipping, as they are located in Illinois.