Tuesday, January 17, 2006

iLife '06 First Impressions

I received my iLife '06 upgrade yesterday and here are my initial impressions after a few hours of use:

I. Installation
took a good 20-30 minutes on my 12 " Powerbook G4. All said a little more than 7 gb of disc space are needed. I presume much of this space is needed for new iDVD, iWeb and iMovie themes. I didn't see a way to install these support files on another disc. Starting last fall I moved my iTunes and iPhoto libraries to a firewire drive because I was running out of space. If I hadn't done this, I wouldn't have had enough space to install iLife.

Some of the support files (roughly half of the 7 gb) can be installed elsewhere by choosing Custom Install and choosing another location for iDVD, Imovie and Garage Band support files

II. iPhoto
A. Upon launch iPhoto, as in previous upgrades, needs to update photo the iphoto library and update thumbnails. This takes several minutes (depending on the size of the library). The wait is worth it. The speed increases are as advertised. My 3,800 plus photo library scrolls "like butter".

B. Full screen editing is also a great addition. The first two times I tried it I couldn't get the Adjust panel to appear but that seems to have solved itself after a few relaunches. I don't why I like this feature so much, I just do. Maybe it allows a more emotional response to the photo. The compare feature is wonderful. It allows you to look at up to eight similar photos at once. This is a sorely needed feature for any digital photography work flow. After downloading images, you need to toss the bad ones and keep the better ones. This helps save time and disc space.

C. Photocasting
More bad news than good here. First the good. It's easy with dotmac. I don't however see a way to do this without dotmac. More good news: you can subscribe to Flickr or other photo rss feeds under File- Subscribe to Photocast. The bad news here (and it's really bad) is that Apples RSS for photocasts is non standard and most RSS readers won't even accept your feed. So people on the other end need to have iPhoto 6 or the Latest version of Safari to view the photos. This was such a great idea and such a terrible implementation. So much for sharing with Windows users (most of my friends and several family members). Here is my rss feed: http://photocast.mac.com/geoffhankerson/iPhoto/calendar2006/index.rss.
I tried it in two aggregators: Bloglines and RSS OWL and no love. Bad RSS the apps say.

http://web.mac.com/geoffhankerson/iPhoto/calendar2006/index.rss actually does work with Bloglines, My Yahoo and RSS Owl (these are the only ones I tested). So you can make this work with other RSS readers. The announcement email Apple provides doesn't state this in the most precise way, so you may want to edit the announcement email to say:

iPhoto '06 users use this URL: http://photocast.mac.com/geoffhankerson/iPhoto/calendar2006/index.rss

All others add this url to your RSS Reader:

D. Calendars
I threw together a calendar and saved it as a pdf. Works essentially the same as book publishing. Nice addition. I've been wanting to do calendars in iPhoto since version 1.

III. GarageBand
A. The podcasting features are as good as advertised. When starting a new GarageBand project you have the option to create a podcast. There is a dropbox for your id3 tag image, a track for chapter marker photos, presets for your voice, and dozens of high quality jingles, stingers and sound effects for intros, outros and transitions. I was able to put together a podcast intro in about 10-15 minutes much of which was trying out different sound effects.

The ducking feature (reducing music volume while speaking occurs) works well and is on by default in podcast mode.

B. I haven't yet tried the editing of iMovie soundtracks but I am excited about this feature as well.

C. The performance of Garageband is much peppier even on my 2.5 year old hardware. It was a bit of a dog before performance wise.

D. As a drawback - I can't see how to a podcast out of Garageband as an mp3 or aiff. I may be missing something, but it appears you are stuck publishing as mpeg 4 audio. This isn't the end of the world, but some mp3 players may not support mpeg 4 audio.

IV. iWeb
I am the least familar with iWeb because it is new and I have only used it for a few minutes. I looks like Page/Keynote for Website. Basically, you drag in photos, audio and video from the media browser (which look for in your iPhoto, iMovie and iTunes libraries). Then you type up your text, save and publish. You can publish to dotmac, or a folder on your Mac that can be ftp'd anywhere for hosting. Blogging and podcasting are supported.

As someone who does Web development, I appreciate an app like this because it makes everything quicker and easier albeit at the loss of some control (no html source editing). I tend not to work on a personal site because building it from scratch is time consuming.

You won't however be able to publish to an existing Typepad, Blogger, Wordpress or Drupal blog via the xml-rpc interface a la and app like Ecto. Bloggers and podcasters with an account with one of these services won't be able to use pages as far as I can tell.

V. I have yet to spend more than a few minutes with iDVD or iMovie yet.

VI. Conclusion
A solid upgrade even if you paid $79 last year. Remember to take advantage of educational pricing if you can ($59 via the online Apple Store). For me, the iPhoto speed ups, full-screen editing, and comparisons are almost worth the upgrade since I use iPhoto so much. If you've been itching to try podcasting GarageBand 3 makes this easy as well. iWeb makes web-publishing easier as well for those not familiar with the complexities of Web-publishing.

iLife '06 is not without its drawbacks. iPhoto Photocasting uses non-standard RSS so the claim that anyone with an RSS reader can view your photocast is false at this point. Garageband can't export as an mp3 file. iWeb lacks the ability to publish to exisiting blog services like Wordpress, Blogger. Typepad or Drupal.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Apple's iLife

I am a big fan of Apple's iLife software (iPhoto, iMovie, Garage Band, iDVD, iTunes). They make working with digital media much much easier, easier than any other software program I have tried. The integration between the apps is wonderful too. You can add photos from iPhoto and music from iTuens to your iMovie edited movie very easily.

Apple announced iLife 06 today which has some great looking features: podcast studio in Garage band, photocasting in iPhoto and several others.

There is one thing that dissapoints me in the iLife 06 package: all the automatic web publishing features require Apple's .Mac services at $99 per year. It's not a bad package and I am tempted, but I have 3 or 4 places I can publish to the web now via ftp, or otherwise including Flickr and the Internet Archive. So I am wondering if there is a hack or workaround to make iLife publish elsewhere.

Here is an article called Homemade Dot Mac from Oreilly's Macdevcenter site. This is a tutorial on how to set up your computer as a Web server with Web Dav as a stand in replacement for .Mac. This is close to what I am looking for but I don't want to run a server at home. Hope someone has a suggestion.

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