Case Study: Removing regionalization from your business

I was talking to a single person business today, and the subject of de-regionalization came up. This individual has clients all over the nation, primarily corresponding by telephone and mail with those outside of the Des Moines metro. He has a three year old Windows PC, which is used as the sole computer for his business.

I quickly defined two ways that a Mac would improve his ability to communicate remotely using iChat, which is built in to Mac OS X.

First, I started up a video session with my wife, showing the fact that you can embed virtually any file within the video stream, making it very easy to share concepts; whether they are easily spoken about, drawn, presented, or written.

Second, I showed the built-in ability to share screens via iChat. The nice thing about this is that it automatically creates a voice chat session at the same time, so the two individuals can talk about what is happening on screen. This is useful for both my clients as well as those that are teaching computer-based concepts to remote clients.

Finally, I demonstrated what is quickly becoming the greatest benefit of utilizing Macs in business- Automation. I will talk about my general automation demonstration later.

I realize there are third-party solutions available to do all of this in Windows. However, the tools that I demonstrated were built in Mac OS X, and do not incur additional costs for software.

The individual in this case study is now considering how he might afford to replace his HP a couple years early, given the benefits of using a Mac, and the additional revenue opportunities it provides in de-regionalizing his business.

iChat Video Freezing in Snow Leopard

Since buying a MacBook Pro for my wife (which also serves as a backup machine in case mine disappears) I’ve had the opportunity to use the video chat feature more often than I have before. However, it seemed to not work nearly as well in Snow Leopard as it had in earlier version of iChat. The video on both of our ends would freeze, with the only remedy being to end the video chat and start over, only to have it freeze seconds later. To add insult to injury, iChat seemed to have an eye to always pick an inopportune frame to freeze on. Needless to say, this issue makes iChat video unusable.

There’s a fix for that.

First, you need to find iChat in your Applications folder. I usually tell people to click on the desktop, then go to the ‘go’ menu, and select ‘Applications’ from the options. Single click on iChat.

Next, either select ‘Get Info…’ from the ‘File’ menu, or press ⌘-i on your keyboard to open the Information panel.

In the information panel, there should be a checkbox next to “Open in 32-bit mode”. Put a check mark in that box and close the window.

Finally, quit iChat and open it back up again.

Your video problems should have gone away.

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.

Bollocks.

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.

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.