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Behind the Screen : April 2022


Stephen
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Behind the Screen : April 2022

 

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry" (Robert Burns) and he goes on to say "No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it". This saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,”.

 

April was like that...

 

In my last March "Behind the Screen" edition I documented the overhaul of my main X-Plane Windows computer to a new (faster) processor, and in readiness for X-Plane12, and the upgrade OS move to Windows11. The whole process was worked out, costed and put into operation with a military zeal, it came out as a perfectly executed plan in the transition from the old to the new, perfect and done well in time before X-Plane12 could hit the downloads. We only had to do a little (overclocking) tuning to hit the sweet-spot a week later, and I was as "Happy as Larry" as the system was operational ready and totally perfect in it's timing.

 

My set up comprises however of not one computer but two. The Brutal Windows runs X-Plane uncompromisingly, that is all it has to do, a sort of pure Simulator engine. My second computer does all the rest, the site editing, image editing,downloading, filing, storing, email, and general browser work, and the two computers are connected together by an ethernet cable. Press in the Simulator for an X-Plane screenshot and it pops right up Adobe's Bridge Application for editing in Photoshop on the other one, I am very proud of the idea and the system. It is also extremely and highly efficient when you are editing between 300 to 500 images a review.

 

The machine that does all this background work is a trusty workhorse in a decade old (2009) Apple Imac 27" the one in the Behind the Screen header above...  and you now have probably already guessed where this article is going.

 

It is not like the Windows upgrade had broken the bank account, but it was designed not to put much financial pressure on the ongoing year, as the problem with 2022 is summed up in one word "Chaotic".

What with currently in that we have just come out of a pandemic (sort of), Mr Putin has decided to invade Europe, and almost everything is going up in price as you watch the prices change as dramatically as you watch the change of the prices on a daily occurrence, with the petrol prices...  well just don't go there.

So again I was feeling smug in that I had done a perfect upgrade to a very good value price, and with not a lot of over due credit sitting on the system.

 

When you have a 12 year old computer they are like a 12 year old car, they still run very well, but they have their odd moments of idiosyncrasies, in the IMac's case it is the dropping out of the WiFi (at the wrong moments), slow, won't connect to your bluetooth mouse all the time, dropping out the connection to the bluetooth mouse all the time, dropping out of keyboards, even if the keyboard is connected by a wire and not airy fairy bluetooth, and so on.

I know the IMac is getting old and yes it was getting tired in it's own way, but for the day to day work it was perfect and believe it or not very reliable. To believe that how much better value you got 12 years ago from Apple, it had even for back then a 2560x1440 display which was impressive, certainly not in today's 8K era, but the quality is still very good. Apple Computer in their extinction ethics however had written the machine off years ago, So I was stuck on 10.11.5 or El Capitan, with no further upgrades.

 

If you have used a computer for years, you keep them because the applications will still work with that same era OS System, I have some old (2000 era) FCP (Final Cut Pro) software that works fine on the same computer (with the older but far better timeline version), which is far more efficient for editing on...  as sometimes the newer software will mean a worse workflow because they add in far to many helpers or duplicate too many of the same actions that counteract each other out.

So sometimes a clean and simple interface is faster in the busy work place, and not have a load of "bells and whistles" that you would barely use any. Okay I admit it is old school, but a lot of the modern software could learn from some of the great software ideas of the past, newer is not always better, certainly in Software.

 

Feeling my age...  in the old days you bought the software which even today was seriously expensive, but you owned it lock, stock and barrel. Once purchased it was yours to use, and for as long as you wished, which again is good for computers with old OS Systems.

 

The subscription model has been around since the 1600s by newspaper and book publishers, so nothing new there, but in the computer age software companies want to make more money by selling you more software. As noted the purchase of good quality software is (or was) extremely expensive, so the subscription model actually sells you the same software, but monthly in subscriptions, which is good as it is in affordable chunks, but they also throw in any new upgrade free (back then you had an upgrade price). It is a good model, but it also has one very serious cache, they also own and control the software and not you, and bit like Spotify.

 

I have a bundle deal with Adobe, mostly for Photoshop (with Lightroom) and the free Bridge, I used to have the full Creative Cloud series of tools, but the prices went stupidly expensive, and for to have all the tools I mostly didn't use. Adobe force you to take (for greedy more money of course) to have only all of the applications (Creative Cloud) or just very expensive separate packages of their software, which means you can't bundle the only applications you actually want to use and subscribe only for them alone, it is a totally unfair system, and it is designed to pull the most money out of their customers.

 

Before you say, "there are free cheaper versions out there". I have used Photoshop since CS was commercially released in October 2003 (version 8). The tools are my trade so to speak, but Photoshop does have one tool that is extremely important to processing 300 to 500 images in a review session. The "Actions" tools. This is a tool that can set up a set of actions, say crop, lighten, resize, brighten or darken an image with just one press of a button, so that means not doing the excessive repetitive single actions for each image...  it is an indispensable tool.

 

Without the Photoshop Application and the action tool the X-PlaneReviews site just can't function...  end of.

 

If you wanted bad timing, then this was the "Almighty god" of bad timing, on the 30th March Adobe pulled the subscriptions on Photoshop (my version was CC 2018) from older computers, Adobe were not going to support the software any more, even though I was still paying for the software that I now couldn't actually use...   worse was the software still worked perfectly on my IMac, but no I was out.

I actually got in an extra weeks activity by using a "Trial" of Photoshop (on four year old software?), but once the 7 Day trial was up, my software died or then became extinct, and in reality so was the time of the usefulness of my trusty IMac.

 

The only (expensive) option was to upgrade my Mac System, I Iooked at the new Mac Studio, but hey at AUS$3,000 that idea died on the spot, and at this point the site was not operating, sorry about that...  but my perfect system was now half-broken in two. Yes I can use the Photoshop software on the Windows, it is installed on there, but it also required flipping screens around consistently to process images. No the fix had to be long term and not a short band-aid solution with X-Plane12 sitting on the immediate horizon (no pun intended). 

 

Option was a Mac Mini. I had already had one a decade ago, and actually it was the first computer I ran X-Plane9 on when I first started in X-Plane. Second hand iMacs also were the same price as a new Mac Mini but were already five years old, so I didn't want to get clobbered by the same out-of-date problem again, and "ew" someone else had already pored their horribleness all over that computer.

The Mac Mini it was, but I would also need a monitor as well, I found one for AUS$200, the same model as I had on Windows, brilliant, but I was faced with a financial blowout of AUS $1200, on top of all my Windows expenses. The Adobe timing had stank, truly at the worst time.

 

I got the Mac Mini...  but it took two weeks to sort, as it wouldn't work well with the monitor? The problem is that it is a 1920 x 1080 monitor, yes it worked on the Mac Mini, but everything was like a child's toy set, Photoshop was scaled huge! and totally unworkable, my older iMac had the screen resolution fixed in, no problems. So that monitor was sold (more time) to buy a 4K monitor to get back the correct 2560x1440 display scale I had before, the cost? you don't want to go there...  but it really hurt the bank balance no end.

 

The system was thankfully now up and running again, I had Photoshop "yeh!", so I was back in business or reviewing. But ten years of working on the older Mac also mean't I had built up a large number of tools (font's and so on) and settings like my preset .psd actions and other Photoshop presets to move over, plus there was the huge amount of work of just setting up the Mac Mini to be a working computer with all the required applications with new really annoying Photoshop features (so everything had to set back to "Legacy Settings"), and their internet settings... worse problem was recalibrating the monitors to work with both computers.

 

I had refined the settings on the Windows for X-Plane over years of twiddling. There are two settings. Nvidia is a global adjustment, but xEnviro can be also adjusted for just the lighting with-in the Simulator, so you really have two sets of settings fighting each other for the same output. The balance between the two applications has to be totally correct or you can get really shitty images coming out of the Simulator. 

 

Again there are apologies....  sorry, but the problem was that the images coming out of the Simulator were almost black or darkened contrasty out, and you can feel the problem with the Thranda Caravan review, my skills dialed out most of the nasty lighting issues, but it was again a very drawn out process to make the images look even half-way realistic, and the all wasted time in between spent in twiddling settings to get better images out of the Simulator. I'm still twiddling, but I feel I have got the settings now closer to the earlier look and feel before the complex changing over the computers.

 

Overall I now have a complete new computer system(s), not only the flying Simulator machine (Windows), but the new not planned site and editing computer as well (Mac Mini). Nice to have but I still yearn for my old IMac, as the screen colouring is far better than the new starker 4K Monitors, and they really are harder to gauge the colour and brightness (I still check the images coming out on the old IMac via WiFi, wonderful thing is WiFi), but don't ask me about the total blowout of it all, once everything was finally under control, to myself to now be totally and absolutely burnt out by the past months events. It was a wild ride, as April 2022 is simply a month I don't want to relive again.

 

Life is like that... everything is at once "Hunky Dory" then it is not, but it affected the X-PlaneReviews site no end for the whole month, it is nearly two months with the Windows upgrade thrown in as well, but life happens and you have to deal with it.

 

See you all again next month.

 

Stephen Dutton

1st May 2022

Copyright©2022 X-Plane Reviews

 

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