Tech is so … wow

Think about it. We’re about to enter 2014. We have a world where you can stand in the middle of any major city — and, in many cases, places well-removed from any major city — holding a small device in your hand, with which you can:

  1. not just talk, but video conference with multiple people on the other side of the world, simultaneously, with high quality and sharing a screen if needed
  2. send or receive a digital file
  3. record HD video and play it back, plus manipulate and edit it
  4. take photos and manipulate and edit them
  5. browse the web, on which can be found a significant fraction of everything ever written by mankind
  6. pay your bills
  7. write a novel
  8. read a novel
  9. listen to music
  10. compose music
  11. draw high quality pictures
  12. see precisely where you are
  13. see what is around you, including terrain information, maps and details about surrounding areas / businesses etc
  14. touch a smooth piece of glass, and (ultimately) cause something to be sent to an address you nominate. That is to say, a few taps on a piece of glass  in your hand will set in motion a chain of events where money will be taken from one of your accounts, and someone will either make or (more likely) deliver something from their inventory to the address you specify, usually by engaging the services of at least one other company
  15. only have the above happen if you have your fingerprint recognised when you place it on a sensor pad.

Just think about it. Go back 10 years — to 2003, which feels like yesterday — and some of these things were possible. I remember the feeling of awe standing in the middle of a national park in New Zealand (while on holiday), without any signs of human presence visible save for the worn track on which I was standing, talking on my mobile phone with a friend in New York City.

Go back another 10 years — 1993, I remember you — and you could do parts of 1 (with a big bulky analogue mobile phone) and 7, 8 (e.g. on a Newton). Item 9 and 12, and parts of 3 and 4, were possible, with dedicated pieces of equipment.

Go back just 20 more years, to 1973, and the above would seem like magic. Arthur C Clarke’s  adage that any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic is so true.

And things are just getting faster, smaller, lighter, and more capable.


Ordering a new Mac Pro: some thoughts on what to choose

Having done quite a bit of research, and having given some deep thought to the possible options, I ordered one of the new Mac Pros within 20 minutes of them becoming available. I expected they would sell out, and that was proved correct pretty quickly.

There were a few judgment calls and predictions, all of which turned out to be right. Given the large number of options available, here are my thoughts on choosing the best value machine from what is available (note – prices are in Australian dollars, and inc GST except where indicated).


There are 4 configurations:

Don’t be fooled by the on-paper clock speeds. So long as there is adequate cooling, turbo boost will let the “slower” (on paper) processors ramp up their speed when fewer cores are being used. See this great article from Marco.

The bottom line is that the 6 core will (if cooled properly) run at the same speed as the 4 core. with two more cores to boot. The 8 core is about a wash, but the 12 core is slower (by around 0.4-0.5GHz). The 6 core is the sweet spot for performance, unless you need more cores. The harder choice is between  4 and 6 cores; i.e. whether  the amount Apple is asking (~$590 ex GST) would go further on other components.

I bet that the CPU, being a Xeon LGA2011 socket, would be upgradable in future; this turns out to have been correct. Once the price drops, and if needed, I may upgrade the CPU.

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