Category Archives: Computers

Should you get a Retina Macbook Pro…

Yes!

But there are some caveats… Not the ones talked about on other review sites. Who cares about the price!? It’s cheaper than what I would have predicted watching the keynote. It is an investment. I’m playing Skyrim on a 4 year old laptop (more on gaming in a bit). Other than the wine smell it will definitely become an awesome server and backup solution, that will work for years still! I paid that laptop 3000$ and it was worth every penny.

The main problem about the Retina Macbook Pro is the graphics chip. A non-GTX chip, with only 1GB of VRAM! Now I understand a Mobile GTX would overheat, and the VRAM is less important because of the SSD drive. Still, why would Apple mention Diablo 3 in their keynote? This games graphics’ aren’t impressive… Really. I have no trouble believing you can run it at 2880×1800. How about Battlefeild 3 at Ultra? How about Skyrim at Ultra? Of course without anti-aliasing. Forget it!

Anyways, that’s my main throw-down. The glued battery is also a serious problem. It means that in three years, you’ll need to replace the whole bottom of your computer since the battery won’t keep its charge. It will be VERY expensive to swap (think 1000$ more like 200$). I’m not worried about the soldered RAM though, just put 16GB in there and you’ll be good for a while. I’ve rarely experienced long-term RAM problems.

So, Apple still aren’t trying to cater to gamers (I’m being harsh here, playing at 1920×1080 is definitely feasible). But they have made this laptop a WOW device again. It’s been a while since I’ve been WOWed by a laptop, the Air didn’t interest me the least.

What really surprised me is the HDMI port. I would never have guessed that, and it’s just a great thing. Congrats on that!

Final thoughts: I’m waiting for mine, hehe. I just won’t be gaming as much as I wished ūüė¶

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Last minute thought before WWDC 2012

Tomorrow’s WWDC and something just crossed my mind while browsing the Mac Pro page. I really have to get it out there since if I’m right… I’ll be right! Hopefully like my 2800×1600 predictions I posted a while back here (and yes, MacBooks losing the DVD drive, you heard it here first!). So some rumors were floating around about a return to Nvidia for graphic chips. It might make sense on the portable platforms, but what about the Mac Pro (which hopefully will live on).

I’ve been doing a lot of hash cracking lately (don’t ask) and looking at many benchmarks, but also a lot of real world numbers. The GTX 680 really sucks at crunching numbers, but it’s not surprising though. At the GPU Technology Conference opening talk, Nvidia stated that GeForce cards were now solely aimed at gaming, and all efforts on data crunching would go to the Tesla lineup. We all know how Apple works very hard to promote gaming on the Mac… [crickets]… [more crickets]… [thousands of tumbleweed passing by]…

Aaaanyways, lets put 1 and 2 together, shall we? Apple loves OpenCL… They’re integrating that tech into most of their software… GeForce cards don’t perform as much as ATI on OpenCL… Tesla cards rock on OpenCL… Let’s puff some smoke in here and turn on the lasers!

P-R-E-D-I-C-T-I-O-N TIME!

Either the Mac Pro keeps ATI cards, or it gets a Tesla card! [even more crickets]…

That was it. No really, I hyped it up a little too much didn’t I? I’ll try harder next time. Have a great WWDC!

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OSX Application Remover Review

Some of you may know that applications leave files behind when you drag them in your trash. Most of these are .plist (preference lists) or caches located in the Application Support folder (in your Library). There are quite a few tools out there that hunt down these files, and deletes them for you when you decide to remove an application. I personally use AppCleaner, but I thought it would be interesting to compare the different offerings that are available.

Removing .plists is definitely not required when using OS X, but I like to keep things tidy. There is also a good reason to keep those files around though, since if you ever choose to reinstall an app, it’s settings and preferences will be intact if it can find its old plist file. Bear in mind that this is in no way an in-depth review, but is intended as a good overview. Without further ado…

I present the tools (I included the versions available when writing this overview and all pricing in USD):

     

Feature set

Almost all the apps offer to remove widgets, plugins and preference pane entries. For AppCleaner, AppDelete and AppZapper, it pretty much boils down to that. Amnesia adds an option to remove ScreenSavers and to back up/restore your apps.

To access these features in iTrash, you need to double-click on the trash logo (thanks to Atarikid for pointing this out). I would expect a more intuitive way of accessing these features in upcoming versions. iTrash also removes lost plists files, which is a great addition I have been wanting for a long time! It will also run in Ghost Mode, which is a very neat, albeit slow, way to automatically scan for related files when moving an application to the trash. I wish it would use more CPU processing so the window could pop-up faster (this seems like a design decision and not a problem per-say). Finally, there is an expert mode, which finds even more files (I did not use this mode during my tests).

CleanApp doesn’t remove plugins nor widgets, but catches up with a wealth of other features. It can find duplicate files, clean really old files, can scan your drive to display the biggest folders, it can scan all your apps for unnecessary language packs, scan for cache files and the list goes on (there are simply too many features unrelated to deleting applications to list them all here). For the purpose of this review, I will solely concentrate on cleaning app-related files.

Simply looking at the feature set, Amnesia seems over priced. It is the most expensive of the bunch, but doesn’t offer compelling features to justify its price… Lets test these out now.

Testing

I will be simulating an uninstall of pro apps Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and Digidesign Pro-Tools. In addition, I will test more common apps such as Skype, Chrome, Firefox and Steam (that should be interesting).

When scanning for related files, AppZapper and CleanApp were¬†extremely¬†fast (almost instantaneous results). AppCleaner, AppDelete and iTrash displayed results in a very reasonable time and Amnesia was slow… very slow…

  • For Lightroom iTrash displayed a whooping 63 results, offering to remove every single preference file for the whole Adobe suite… Wow! Amnesia reported 12 results including my Lightroom data folder! That’s simply unacceptable. AppDelete returns 8 good results, AppCleaner 6 (it misses the Application Support folder), AppZapper 5 and CleanApp 4 (both failing to detect .savedstate and .lockfile files).
  • For Photoshop iTrash again takes the lead with 68 results, and again would clear all my settings for the whole Adobe suite… AppCleaner displays 53, but these are mainly irrelevant, since they are all in the Photoshop folder. AppZapper shows 45, and just like AppCleaner counts every plugin inside the Photoshop folder as a unique item,¬†Amnesia 11, AppDelete 6, CleanApp 5.
  • Scanning Pro Tools was interesting. iTrash does it’s thing again and returns 16 results that are actually relevant this time around ¬†(it identified many log files and a cache folder). Amnesia’s scan took longer than all the other apps’ combined (including the time for AppZapper to crash and for me to relaunch it). It returned 5 results. AppCleaner, AppDelete, AppZapper (after the initial crash of course) and CleanApp all returned the same 3 results.
  • For Skype, Amnesia’s scan is still slow and it’s 12 results are questionable, since it identified 2 Skype installer .dmg files in my Downloads directory… AppCleaner, AppDelete and iTrash find 7 related files. AppZapper 6 and CleanApp 5.
  • Now onto Chrome, iTrash wins this one with 10¬†actually relevant results. Amnesia gets 9. AppCleaner and AppDelete 8, AppZapper doesn’t identify any of the Chrome folders and returns a mere 4 items as is the same with CleanApp and it’s 3 results. Amnesia, AppCleaner, AppDelete and iTrash all successfully show .savedstate and .lockfile items.
  • When testing Firefox Amnesia returns 8 items (it misses the .growlticket and includes 2 installation dmg files… I’m still not sure what I think of that). AppCleaner, AppDelete and iTrash return the same 7 files. AppZapper misses the .growlticket and returns 6 results. CleanApp only returns 5 results (it fails to find the .growlticket and the .lockfile).
  • Finally we get to Steam. Amnesia finds 7 items (including the installation dmg, plists and some logs). AppDelete identifies 3 items. AppCleaner, AppZapper, CleanApp and iTrash all report the same 2 results (the app itself and the Steam Application Support folder).

Overall feel and interface

As an AppCleaner user, I actually like how it works and its interface. It resembles AppDelete, AppZapper and iTrash in many ways. AppDelete displays it’s results in a separate black-styled window, which I didn’t like. AppZapper feels nice and it’s interface is clean, but it only shows you filenames (you have to mouse-over a filename and wait for a tool-tip for the file path), which I don’t like. iTrash is also pretty similar to the others, but uses an unintuitive way to display more options (double-clicking on its trash icon). Amnesia is ugly and hasn’t been updated to the Lion Aqua interface. It is also unbearably slow. CleanApp is a different beast. I really like how it displays a thermometer beside the files it found, displaying how confident it is about each result. Very useful. It’s window is unbearably large though.

The Losers

You’ve probably guessed it by now. I would stay away, far away, from iTrash and Amnesia. Amnesia is the most expensive and it sucks. It feels like a Panther app, it is painstakingly slow and was going to delete years of pictures and personal data when removing Lightroom. Amnesia fails miserably.

iTrash is pretty good at finding stuff… too good actually! When I delete an application, I don’t feel like sifting through pages of false-positives to select the few real results. I want an app that always shows good results, an app that I can trust wont break my workflow. iTrash might be a good fit for control-freaks who want to spend a lot of time analyzing what applications are leaving behind, while running the risk of breaking your system. I am not that person.

I had high hopes for AppZapper, but it simply doesn’t live up to its price tag. At 12.95$ it is the third most expensive app, but fails to find many relevant files, and doesn’t offer any additional features to justify its price. I would definitely skip this one.

Honorable mentions

AppDelete is really good at finding stuff, yet is always on the safe side. It’s price tag is fully justified, and even though I don’t like how it displays results, I think it’s a great app. I trust this one completely. If finding more plists when removing an application is worth a few bucks for you, then this is the app you need!

I hesitated a long time if I were to include CleanApp as an honorable mention. This article focuses on identifying and removing left-over files from applications, which is CleanApps’ biggest down-side. It misses a lot of files… It is actually the worst at finding related files. The app itself is amazingly powerful though, and the price is right. If you don’t mind many files left behind when uninstalling stuff, and are looking for a great overall cleanup application (a great companion to Onyx for example), I would absolutely give CleanApp a go. It simply can’t be seen as an app remover in itself though. Some more work on its detection algorithm would make this an insta-buy.

The Winner

Nothing can beat free, especially when it works exactly as expected.¬†Don’t expect any bells and whistles here, AppCleaner does exactly as its name implies, and does it well. It doesn’t find as many files as iTrash or AppDelete, but it’s really close and every single identified file and folder during this test was relevant. It earns the SlowTech awesomest number 1 champion award of the best application remover app.

SlowTech recommendation: AppCleaner

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Spring cleaning your Mac

So I got up this morning and the birds were chirping, the sun was up full heat while I drank my coffee, and then I realized only 15 GB were left on my user partition! Time for spring cleaning, plus some well overdue backing up.

Every time it gets to this, I use the same set of tools (all free except for ChronoSync and iPartition, both of which aren’t necessary for an in depth cleanup). Here are the apps, in the order I use them:

               

  • OmniDiskSweeper will scan your drive and nicely display what folders use up the most data.
  • AppCleaner will help you uninstall apps completely. Most applications leave plist files and other logs behind, AppCleaner finds those and deletes them for you.
  • Onyx is the swiss army knife of OS X optimization and fixing. There is simply so much stuff in here, it is a must!
  • iDefrag¬†is a great tool to defragment your hard-drive. It will optimize kernel file placement for faster boot-up times.¬†Paid app.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner is a great tool for backing up your boot partitions.
  • ChronoSync is best at backing up, synchronizing and archiving data. Paid app.


How I go about it:

First and foremost, I launch my RAID 5 drive to store my backups and big/important/Document files (it’s a¬†OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2. It rocks!).¬†I back up my boot partition using Carbon Copy Cloner, just in case. Then, using OMNIDiskSweeper I will scan my partitions.¬†I don’t necessarily delete files with the app itself, I use it as a guide to help identify huge folders. It also helps find locations where you wouldn’t have looked, such as Adobe Encore’s Render folder using up 40 GB… I go through my Downloads folder and pretty much trash everything that is older than 2/3 months and that doesn’t ring a bell. I also move a of stuff to the aforementioned drive, using a great and revolutionary tool called cut and paste… Thank you Lion.

Next up is AppCleaner, which will help deleting old and unused apps. Finally, you can empty your trash… This will probably take a couple of days if you are removing a lot of files. You can spend the next few days swearing at Locum! See update…

If you haven’t decided to throw your mac away after realizing how daunting and painful it is to simply remove files… Congratulations, you win patience! Now the fun part, Onyx. Did I mention Onyx is great? It’s awesome! First let it scan your SMART status and your startup partition. It’s a pretty easy tool to use, but I’ll go through some of the steps. Oh wait, my startup volume is corrupted! Probably because emptying the trash froze my computer… Thank you Lion! Well if the same happens to you it’s pretty simple. Restart holding cmd-r, select the disk utility, select your main drive and click repair. Then select your boot partition and repair. While you’re at it you should repair your disk permissions. Do the same to all your partitions.

Now back in Onyx you can skip the verify tab, under Maintenance and Scripts, select execute. These are completely safe to run. Next up is the cleaning tab. I would run all the tabs before restarting your computer, but make sure to read what each option does. Most defaults are safe, but double-check to make sure. Once all the cleaning is done, reboot and voil√†! Of course Onyx has many more fun options, but they aren’t about cleaning so I’ll let you discover those yourself.

If you have the time, defragmenting your boot up drive would be a good idea, though beware this can take a¬†really long time. I really recommend Coriolis’ iDefrag. It works wonders.

OK, now I really prefer having clean and optimized backups, so I’ll backup my OS using CCC again (I delete the backup we did earlier). Then, I use ChronoSync for my document folder, my pictures etc… I like it because I can tell it to keep files I have deleted locally, and to archive older files which I’ve modified. Even though that might not be as relevant since Lion saves histories of file edits, but I prefer being safe than sorry.

Update: Well well well, just as I was going to send a bug report about Locum to Apple, I decided to make sure I wasn’t securely emptying my trash… Ouch! I was! I apologize for spreading false… hate-blog? on locum. So let’s make my horrendous mistake constructive at least! If emptying your trash is slow and takes up a lot of CPU, maybe your always securily emptying your trash. To make sure, go to the Finder preferences, to the advanced tab, and uncheck the “Empty trash securily” if it’s checked.

If you ever want to securely empty your trash, “command + right-click” the trash icon, and it will display the “Secure Empty Trash” button. Easy as that.

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2 simple predictions for the MacBook Pro 2800×1800.

For once, I have decided to put some predictions out, so hopefully if they confirm, I can be an ass about it and say: “Told ya!”.

So apparently, the MacBook Pro might get a retina treatment…¬†¬†Well, I was pondering the idea last night, trying to weigh-in the pros and cons, the problems this might bring up, and simply, if this is actually possible with our current technology. I came up with 2 solutions, which actually suit Apple pretty well. One of which I am now 100% certain we will see in the close future (maximum 3 years).

So, let’s assume this is true for a bit, what problems would a 2800×1800 display bring to the MacBook Pro? The new intel chips support even higher resolutions so that’s OK. The discreet graphics will have no problems with that (especially since PCIe 3.0 is around the corner). Well there is no problem is there!? That’s what you would think reading all these rumors! Oh yeah, Apple will be releasing a teleportation device that fits in your pockets soon, no problem!

There is obviously a problem (the main show-stopper), one that is crucial to Apple. Try to guess… Any idea?

Battery life!

Apple is obsessed by battery life (Yeah for us). They’ve been pushing it for years now. They have¬†remodelled¬†the MacBook Pro battery in the past, removing the parts needed for a swappable battery to make it bigger. They have tightened their battery tests. The Air can stay a month on standby… Wow. Apple diggs batteries and a HiDPI display like that would kill battery life. Plus, I haven’t read about any breakthrough in battery tech recently, please comment if I missed something.

So, how would Apple cope with this? Of course battery life is not going down, at least not significantly. We can ponder, but I made a nice drawing for you guys [cuddle]:

 

Before:

 

After:

macbook pro prediction 2800x1800

 

Yeah… Here’s my design document I would present if I worked at Apple (maybe it would be a lot nicer). We all know the Apple will not integrate BluRay, so then why keep DVD?

There is no doubt some people will cry out “But I need my DVD-ROM!!!”. Yes, go buy a USB one, they’re cheap. “But I neeeeeeed a BluRay burner!!!”. Yes, you can buy a USB one too, use Toast to burn data, and use Encore to burn videos… “But… I… NEEED… TO… COMPLAIN…!?”. Yes, go buy a PC.

Honestly though, I was a DVD-ROM activist not so long ago, but is it that essential on a laptop? I even got a faster burner from OWC. Guess what, I haven’t used it once in the past year… What a bad investment! I really do believe the Cupertino is headed that way, and I hope it’s soon!

2nd prediction will be quick. You know those neat little SSD drives in the MacBook Air… Well, when prices for SSDs go down, this will be the next step for the MacBook Pros. More space, and less power consumption makes for the perfect fit. A 512GB tiny little SSD would ease many headaches. Maybe a bigger form factor would be needed, but the essential design is there: remove every part that isn’t necessary. But the¬†industry¬†isn’t there yet (hopefully it will in 5 ¬†years). There is a reason why the MacBook PROs have an option for 7200RPM, 750GB dries, it’s because of the Pro thing. I do believe Apple will keep catering to us, the pros on the go, and that’s what I’m looking forward to!

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