Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Harder to drink the Mac Kool-Aid

It's just after Christmas 2007 in my household, and the graphics card that I bought my daughter (an NVidia GeForce Ge7300) won't run in her pre-Intel Mac (which is not that old). This is yet another disappointment of the Mac platform that I keep encountering. Usually, I have to keep a watchful eye on the operating system, sorting out in my head the non-intuitive three-decimal system with the counter-intuitive feline imagery, to make sure that I can run a compatible program.

But now, the pre-Intel G5s seem like persona non grata of the computer world, and I'm fast losing patience with the way Apple keeps revamping its platform at my expense. Speaking of expense, it's getting harder and harder to justify the cost increase of Mac computers over their Windows counterparts, especially as more and more core programs (MS Office, Adobe CS, browsers, Digidesign Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase, etc.) become cross-platform. Sure, I'd love to learn Final Cut, but not enough for me to buy a Mac. I use Sony Vegas, and it's just fine.

I was an early-adopter Mac user. I still think the Mac is elegant and technically dazzling. But over time, you will eventually become victimized by Apple (witness the current price-drop fiasco of the iPhone). Windows can be infuriatingly slow to adopt commonsense upgrades (the Start menu in XP is just one example of woefully out-of-date interface design), but you can use machines that are several years old without incompatibilities. And more and more, I'm coming to respect that. And my bank account is too.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Just got back from the "Las Vegas" of gear shows: the Winter 2007 NAMM show, in Anaheim, CA.

I hadn't been there in three years, so it was quite a shock to see just how much the show has evolved and honed its technique. The exhibitors are largely manufacturers, and they display all their new gear (sometimes the ship date is months way), as well as highlights of their product line.

All the big guys are here: Roland, Yamaha, PRS, Gibson, Fender, Korg/Marshall/Vox, Taylor, Martin, Peavey, Crate, Mackie, Washburn, Apple Inc., Digidesign/Avid, MOTU, Steinberg, Cakewalk, Sony, DigiTech, Tascam, AKG, Audio-Technica, Shure, Blue, etc.

It's probably easier to name the companies who were not there.

One of the highlights of the show were the performances. Sure, there's a lot of "in-booth wanking," but there are world-class performances and concert experiences at night, in the ballrooms and makeshift venues. I saw Johnny Hiland twice, and was just blown away. A few years ago he was a delightful Tele-picker. But as amazing as that was, it wasn't that uncommon.

How far he has come. He now plays and endorses Paul Reed Smith guitars, and he's playing rock and roll with the best of them. His sound is steeped in the humbucker sound, and he's gone way past the lickety-split chicken-pickin' stuff. Rich, emotional, and lyric lines pour forth from his fingers. He's staying close to his southern roots, for sure, but his rock vocabulary has expanded, and he's now emerging as one of the pre-eminent voices in that genre -- right up there with Warren Haynes.