Sunday, February 22, 2009

Power(ful) Mac is back!

For years I've been using mid to low end Macs. My days of 'everything must be latest and greatest' have gone with my youth and I got to learn to settle with whatever Macs I had at the time and get used to the speed and power ceiling of 3 to 4 year old hardwares. Not so much so anymore, for I got to be greatly spoiled by the latest and greatest of Apple machines. 

Power Macs were abandoned as a serious workstation quite a while ago, because of stalling performance of PowerPC and relatively under-optimized os X back then. The company I work for finally decided to give Macs another spin, and gave me the mighty mac pro for the new project. Two quad core 3GHz CPUs (so 8 cores), 8GB RAM (gulp), 1.5GB graphics memory (another gulp), and almost 1TB internal harddrive..+ gigantic 30 inch Dell monitor. (ok. not apple monitor, but does it matter?)  I did apple store config to see how much this would've cost me and it's almost$8600 before 30" monitor and tax. 

 I got to run latest Maya 2009 in 64bit glory and other heavy duty graphics apps, and it feels so great to be backed by strong muscle while using OS X. Beside it spoiling my patience and wisdom I acquired from using powerbook G4 or Mac mini, it made me realize how my view on Mac platform has been like. Pro Mac desktop machines seemed to be reduced to a small niche market product, and I was interested in consumer media technology like iLife more than Apple's pro offering. I was a lot more used to using Mac in a portable form, and I even prefered powerbook G4 over intel mac mini. 

I think I've been seeing Macs more like a toy, just not in a condescending way. A toy that works well and can do a good or better job to embarrass professional tools, but I'm still not used to a toy with this much power and a $9k price tag. 
 There is a chance that I'll treat this Mac Pro more like a Windows PC for a while, meaning that I'll use it for just work and nothing else much. For everything else I'll still prefer my 2yr old Macbook Pro, because when your machine costs this much it becomes a little too serious and less fun to use. A bit strange psychology I know but.. 
 But unlike WinXP workstations, which never grew on me, Mac Pro is still a Mac OS X computer with a inner toy intact. When I get used it and take advantage of its full power to work / play / iLife, I'll be in trouble of wanting everything latest and greatest and fastest again. I'm ok only if my youth comes back with it. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

iPhoto new face!

'Faces' is the most anticipated feature since the Macworld demo. Everybody was probably anxious to know if iPhoto would recognize their faces correctly and who it'd be confused with. 
As it turns out, at least in my case, iPhoto has been fairly good. At times its performance ratio varies, for example iPhoto nailed whenever my daughter's face came up, and next time it keeps insisting it's an unknown face. 

Anyway, it is more interesting when iPhoto thinks something that's not human as a human face. Here are some examples. 

Why on earth would that look like a face?

hmm.. ok maybe the big T shape  as eyes and nose. 

iPhoto loves smiling faces ;) 

or... a horrific face of a serial killer! 

Saturday, January 31, 2009

iMovie 09, animated maps!

iLife 09 is finally here and iMovie 09 is one of the most exciting upgrades, only next to iDVD. (just kidding). 


One cool feature of new iMovie is the animated map.  I only get to travel overseas once a year or less, but the animated map feature is cool that it makes me want to take a trip just to use it :) 

It provides 4 different styles which I like all, but the last one left me wanting a little more. It is the 'blue marble' one that uses satellite photo of earth for more realistic look than the first three. I wished it'd be little more realistic, with atmosphere and cloud layer. Also the lighting on these globe is just flat so I hoped for 'lit from side' look which we see often in real earth pictures. 

<- yeah, a little more like this. 

Now it was suspected that iMovie would use lots of quartz engine so I started digging. I opened up iMovie (right-click 'show contents'). Inside the contents/resources you see lot of images and icons used by iMovie. There were many files but I managed to find the quartz composer file that does the globe animated map (Extra - GlobeMap.qtz) and images used with it. 'Extra - BlueMarbleGlobeBackground.jpg' is used for background, obviously, and 'Map-BlueMarble.jpg' is the actual satellite image used for texture map. 

I had a 2k x 1k image of realistic earth texture, but Map-BlueMarble.jpg is an 8k x 4k image. Quite high resolution. For now I just enlarged my image to 8k x 4k in Photoshop and replaced the original after making a backup. It didn't automatically replaced the original bluemarble look, but after some more tweaking in Quartz Composer  I managed to get this. 

I am not a programmer and I only recently started to dabble with Quartz Composer so I'm not in a position to teach anyone about this. But when I get a chance I'll outline what I did to get that result. There are other things I'd like to be able to do but immediately I am challenged by my lack of experience and knowledge. Even if I had all the power I can't make animated maps do more things within iMovie, because there are more to it than just Qtz, but at least I'll be able to save it out as a standalone QTZ project and create custom animated maps. 

My personal goal with standalone version would be... (from less to more ambitious...)

- Manual input of location coordinates and names. 
- Animation time. (which is easy in iMovie, but in qtz file it is not geared to do so.)
- Export to Quicktime file

 (ok, so far it's not too insane) 

- To have the earth lit in realistic way, with astrophysical accuracy if possible. 
- To have dark side of earth to show the night light image. 
- Ability to input departure and arrival time, and have the lighting change accordingly so that you can see how the earth looked during your flight.