The Computer Blog

Friday, December 19, 2003

The Little Mouse That Roared

Maybe you’ve heard about Sun JDS. Maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, Sun JDS stands for Sun Java Desktop System. It’s a misnomer for a new Linux based operating system from Sun Microsystems, and you can read about it at Wired News.

Why would you want to? Well, some programmers and analysts believe that this may be the first stirring of a Microsoft killer operating system. Go look at the screen shots for the OS and you’ll see what I mean. If I hadn’t known it before I looked, I would have thought I was looking at a copy of Windows. And that does make me want to try it. It’s hilarious that Sun appears to be out-Microsoft-ing Microsoft; and it’s about time.

Realistically, I doubt if the release of this OS in and of itself will unseat Microsoft’s domination of the computer industry. But I think Microsoft has already seen its best days in this arena; and though they will diversify, it will be downhill from here. Apple will continue to make inroads in gaining market share; but unless and until their pricing becomes more competitive, they won’t become the market leader (as much as I like them). A world of mixed computing environments, one composed of mostly Unix based operating systems (Linux and Mac OS X or its successors) with some remnants of Windows, is on its way; and Sun may be quietly positioning itself to lead the charge into it.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

iMovie and iDVD vs Pinnacle Studio

A little while back I decided to pull my PC back into my video production flow since I didn’t have good tools on the Mac to convert video to Real Media or Windows Media formats. My best solution for the few times when I would need that capability was to use Pinnacle Studio 8 to perform the task. I also wanted to ensure I had DVD+R capability and I felt I had better support on my Windows PC than my PowerMac, so I upgraded the PC’s DVD burner from a Pioneer DVR-104 to a Sony DRU-510A drive. The last tweak to prepare the machine for the kind of work I wanted it ready to do was to upgrade the CPU to an AMD AthlonXP 2800+. That’s all done now, so last week I decided to give it a test.

Using my camcorder, I recorded a two hour TV show and dumped its footage into iMovie on my dual 1.25Ghz G4 PowerMac and into Pinnacle Studio 8.5.10 on my Windows XP PC. On the Mac using iMovie 3.03, I edited out the commercials, inserted chapter markers at each cut, exported the footage to iDVD3, and then timed how long it took iDVD to encode and burn the footage to DVD-R. On the PC using Pinnacle Studio, I edited out the commercials (Pinnacle Studio 8 has only basic DVD construction capabilities—it cannot build menus or set chapter markers) and then told it to render and burn the project to DVD+RW. On the Mac, the entire project was rendered and burned in 1 hour and 45 minutes. On the PC, the project took about six hours.

I rendered the footage to an mpeg2 file using Pinnacle Studio, and that was another half day or so gone. I still want to take the Pinnacle Studio rendered file (mpeg) and see how it long it takes to simply burn a DVD using Ulead’s Movie Factory 2. Hopefully, the PC will do much better.

The relative difference between the platforms performing this task is also validated by tests run by Macworld magazine in their December 2003 issue. Even using Athlon64FX CPU’s and Adobe Premiere, the PC’s trailed far behind a PowerMac dual 2.0GHZ G5 in encoding video. So, you can see why if you’re working video, you might want to consider switching to a Mac if you’re not using one already. Not only are the tools at both the consumer and professional level awesome, but the time you’ll save…even with a pokey dual G4…will be your own.

Going Back Again…Not!

Since I’m using the Windows machine more than I have in the past, I sometimes have moments of nostalgia, just like I used to have after I divorced my first wife. Sometimes, it seemed like my old life wasn’t that bad; and I started questioning the decision I made to leave.

Of course, with Windows, I haven’t quite left; and that’s a good thing. I’ve got a big investment in time and money in my Windows set up. Why let it go to waste? But, when I look at the rather huge investment I’ve made in Macs over the past two years, I sometimes feel like it was overkill and I didn’t need to do it. All that money! Of course, I had a good rationale for why I wanted this or that; but it will take me another six to nine months at a fairly high payment level to get all of it paid off. When I put the numbers down on a piece of paper and stare at them, it's easy to forget anything but a question: Why in the world couldn’t I do what I needed to on a single Windows PC?

A few weeks ago, I ran across this statement in a MacWorld article:
“…many researchers told him that Mac OS X allowed them to trade in three computers -- namely a Mac, a PC and a Unix machine -- for one computer, a Mac running OS X. Researchers can use Mac OS X to run their Unix applications, their commercial research applications like Mathematica and their productivity applications such as Photoshop or Word all on one machine.”

That is one of the things I love about Mac OS X, even though—in terms of general philosophy—I went in the opposite direction. I have a PowerMac I use only for video production; another for graphics, desktop publishing, web publishing, and a backup video production machine; and a flat panel iMac use for writing but that can be pressed into “backup” video service as well. I really do use all of them, often several at once. (If Apple produces a G5 powered flat panel iMac, then I’ll probably sell the iMac and my slower PowerMac, buy it, and drop back to using only three machines.)

But I digress.

I had started thinking it was all nothing but excess until I started burning DVD’s on my PC again. I got reminded why I had switched to the Mac in the first place. I realized that I hadn't been looking at how I feel when I sit down at either OS. I love and always have loved OS X. Using Windows is like living again with an ex-wife I divorced long ago. It works for a while, but then I suddenly realize the decision to leave was a lot wiser than I first thought.