The Tube

It’s that time of the year again… It’s Apple‘s WWDC and aside from the usual updates to iOS and OSX, this time around of course the new Mac Pros are everyone’s favorite topic, so let’s have a little fun dissecting it as well.

On the After Effects mailing list I jokingly recommended calling it SLUF because, well, it just looks ugly. Gone is the shiny perforated aluminium casing that made PC users jealous (for a while, anyway; there are reasonably tasteful and equally easily accessible casings these days) and it has been replaced with what Steve Oakley called a round trashcan design and I would have to concur. It looks like a design student’s nightmare and reminds me of all those Bose or whatever HiFi speakers – by trying to be all to “tasteful”, the uniqueness is lost. Or if you want to see it the other way around, this is just the same as SGI‘s attempts of being all too different with their workstations in the 1990s (O2 and Octane looking like oversized toasters and the 320 with its oval front flap looking all too egg-like, if you care to remember) and merely looking ridiculous. As far as I’m concerned, it gets a big fail for overall appearance.

The tech specs are equally odd. Let’s start with the alleged magical data transfer rates. A slightly acerbic Bob Currier gave me flak when I commented on someone opening up the SSD can of worms and this being my usual cynicism about not getting my desires, but really, it’s not about that. At the moment, unless you buy a super-expensive FusionIO PCI card, you can’t achieve the promised data rates using conventional SSDs. In conclusion this means that if they have such a system it’s gonna be equally costly and in turn this means it will be limited in storage size considerably, impairing its practical relevance. After one and a half year this article is still one of the most popular on my dirty little blog and clearly in it I’m recommending turning of the disk cache because it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Now imagine what impact turning on the cache on your super-expensive new machine would have, when it eats away from those 512 GB or whatever? It’s that what worries me. Ultimately you might find yourself in a position where you have spent a lot of money on something you can’t use. It’s an old editor’s truth: You can stuff your Fibrechannel storage server with as many fast disk as you want, you’ll never feel like you have enough. This would be no different, but several times more costly.

Another point of concern is of course the graphics hardware, namely the move to AMD processors. It’s funny that as an outspoken skeptic of all that GPU processing nonsense and Adobe‘s atrocious GPU raytracer in CS6 exploding in everyone’s face I should stand here pleading for CUDA, but yeah, it is kinda important, which people using plug-ins like Turbulence FD in Cinema 4D or GenArts Sapphire in After Effects can attest to. Of course the more CUDA is being replaced by OpenCL, the less it will be a problem, but for now it’s something people have on their minds. Triple 4k output sounds nice on paper, but is once again going to be a pretty costly proposition, if you really want to make use of it. Is there actually even already a 4k monitor out there for people to buy? I’m not sure.

Don’t get me wrong: For all it is, these are merely random ponderings because in my 8th week with an infection I seem to have too much time to speculate, but the whole thing seems rather *naff*. The thing is that by now even an iMac or any other “normal” PC have plenty of juice and unless you are an extreme power user, you don’t actually need expensive workstations to get your work done. Or in other words: I don’t see where this is supposed to fit and Apple could just as well have the Mac Pro let die off for good and nobody would have noticed (except the most ardent Apple disciples). It strikes me as a deluxe iMac for editors that want to do 4k in FCP or something like that, but without the expansibility required to really take this to a new level (no, expensive Thunderbolt components don’t count; Who outside Apple uses Thunderbolt, anyway?)

Oh, and before I forget: Elsewhere E-on have come to their senses and restructured their product range for The Plant Factory. I guess users threatening to move over to SpeedTree en masse got them thinking. Still, the price just seems too high for a tool of this type…

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