Railfan Slideshows and The Mac

Back in February I discussed my new computer and the fact I purchased a MacBook Pro instead of a Windows machine.  Now it is November and I am still very much thrilled with my choice.  The MBP continues to be a low maintenance, high availability computer.  I literally spend all of my time using and zero time maintaining it.

In September I began production on my first slideshow on a Mac.  I faced some choices.  Do I use ProShow through VMware Fusion or do I use FotoMagico (FM), a native Mac app?  I was already familiar with ProShow so using it would be a non-issue for me but running it through Fusion could pose some technical issues.  FotoMagico is a native Mac app so I shouldn’t face any technical issues with it however I knew nothing about FotoMagico and how it worked.

ProShow 5 running in VMWare Fusion on the Mac.

I downloaded the beta for FM 4.0 and went about creating my first slideshow.  FM uses a very similar interface to ProShow so I came up to speed fairly quickly.  In fact after a while there were a few features of FM’s interface which made setting slide timings and audio start and stop much, much easier than ProShow.  In the end I’m certain I spent much less time in FM futzing with incremental timing changes than I would have in ProShow.

After getting a show roughed out I produced some sample outputs to see what things were looking like.  This is where things started to go off track a bit.  FM uses Quicktime to build movie file outputs.  What I found is no matter how I set up the movie file setting the result would come out washed out.  I googled the issue and guess what, I’m not the only one with the problem.  In fact Quicktime outputs on both Mac and Windows have the problem.  There are ways to make it better but it seemed there was no way to make the output look exactly like the original.  I was frustrated because my plan was to create a movie file which could be played on Windows.  Just like ProShow, the very best output was produced using the executable created from the software and not a movie file.

FotoMagico running natively on the Mac.

I was at a decision point.  Compromises existed with whichever route I chose and no single solution worked perfect.  Sounds like normal life right?  I ended up going the route of FotoMagico primarily because it is a native Mac app and secondarily because I enjoyed the user interface just a bit more than ProShow.  FM also shares more smoothly with my iPhone (and iPad if I had one).  It seems I drank the Apple Kool-Aid (apple juice?).  Additional factors played in including the fact I have several other presentations I need to do in the next year and they will all be done using my Mac so presenting them using FM’s built in player would be no problem.  On top of that the Autumn Leaf team decided to go ahead with using two presentation machines so my show for that event was able to be played off my Mac.

I do have some wish list items to send over to the Boinx software team.  I do think ProShow does somethings well that FM does not.   They are not show stoppers for me but I am willing to ask for them because they do make life easier.  If I was to continue with ProShow I would probably send a few wish list items to them based on what I learned from FotoMagico.

In the end I’m pleased with my choice.  I think FotoMagico will work well in the long term and produce the results I need.

New Computer Time

I love getting a new computer. They are always so speedy and they have that new computer smell!

This week my new MacBook Pro arrived replacing a faithful Dell Dimension 9100 which has served me (mostly) well since October of 2005. Yes, you read that right, October of 2005. It was definitely showing the fact it was built for 2005 technology. The 2GB of RAM, Windows XP, and the slow hard drive were definitely reducing my productivity. Exports from Lightroom would take 30 seconds to 2 minutes (compared to 15 seconds or less on the MBP). It just would not play 720p (let alone 1080p) video without jerking and if I opened Chrome and Lightroom at the same time both saw a performance degradation. Technology had definitely passed it by. Such is the way things go with technology.

BNSF’s “Lost Local” (L MON8521 27I) stops at Stanford for a brief bit of work before heading to Moore to pick up a grain train.

I do believe I got my money’s worth out of it. I did have to replace a failed hard drive around 2007 but other than that I just did regular maintenance with CCleaner, chkdsk, and defragmenter. I probably should have done it a favor and installed more memory a couple of years after I bought it but by the time I realized that it was no longer cost effective to upgrade. Keeping that advice in mind I will probably double the MBP’s memory in a few years when the price for 16GB comes down a bit.

Why a Mac? Well, I want something a bit simpler to use than a Windows machine. From what I can see so far, simpler is what I got. Frankly things just work in OS X. The best example is plugging in my monitor. I plugged it into the MBP and literally all I had to do was start using it. No futzing with screen dimensions or bothering with which is the primary monitor. It just worked. Mac’s also have a bit of a cool factor that I can’t deny wanting to be part of. Most all Apple products have an elegance of design which is far superior to anything in the marketplace. I like that. I appreciate when someone does something right…really right. I also believe most Mac oriented software is thought out a bit more to improve simplicity and the user experience. I’m all about spending less time on things so I can focus on what I want to focus on.

What about software? Everything I used on Windows XP/Vista/7 is available for the Mac in one form or another. ProShow Gold could be the only exception to that statement. However Macs being Macs they will run Windows in a virtual machine (using something like VMWare Fusion) so the problem of ProShow can be solved easily. Everything else is no issue.

Today is my second day using my new machine.  So far all the only struggle I’ve had is remembering Command-C/V for copy and paste instead of Control-C/V.  I’m sure I’ll get over that soon though.  I guess that makes me a Mac.