The Good 'ole Days, Apple Edition.

Let me start by saying that I am of the generation that grew up along side the personal computer. Apple IIe's and IBM PC's were not unlike an adopted sibling in my childhood. I saw the release of the 386, 486, Pentium Series on the PC side. I saw the Mac go from 68k to PowerPC, and then to Intel. I started using computers when you had to insert a floppy disk to do anything at all. I was all of 5 years old when Color Monitors became a thing. Let that sink in.

It's no secret that I am, and always have been, an Apple guy. I loved Macs back when it wasn't cool to love Macs. I read the magazines, I played with the Shareware from the MacAddict CD included with every issue on the family Performa. I was there when Apple had approximately 16 different product lines, all of which barely differed, except for price. I remember the clone wars, and frankly, miss the clone wars. I was there in 98 when the iMac came out, and a year later when the Power Mac G4 changed the game. The rise of Jobs, the iPod, and on and on. 

By now of course Apple is mostly known for two products, the iPhone and the iPad. Both products were transformative in the tech world, and have created an entire new ecosystem of products. The rise of Android immediately followed, even Microsoft tried and later conceded an attempt at a mobile OS. The world has changed, what was once sci-fi fantasy, is now reality. I can check an email, watch a movie, video chat, take pictures that rival any consumer camera, make a movie, and do so many other things, on a device that fits in my pocket. 

It's been a crazy 20 years in the tech world, and particularly if you are an Apple fan. Apple was creating new products every year, and we all waited in anticipation at what the new Powerbook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Power Mac, or iPod would bring. It was exciting. I would follow live blogs, several at once when possible to make sure I knew what was coming. Going to an Apple store and witnessing these products in person was an experience not possible with a Dell Laptop, or some other generic PC. 

I remember when I bought a MacBook Pro, my first Mac that I bought with my own hard earned money. It was an incredible machine, and lasted me for nearly 8 years. It never slowed down, and if it wasn't for the video card finally giving out, I would probably still be using it. It was an elegant and powerful machine, it almost gave you purpose using it. This sounds silly I know, I'm gushing about a laptop. But to me, it was an awesome thing. I learned how to make a website, do graphic design, and all kinds of fun stuff on that laptop. 

That was in 2006. At the time, there were still regular product updates, spec increases, the Mac world was thriving. Us desktop computing types were in hog heaven. The iPhone was going to come onto the scene the following year, though no one knew that at the time. On the forums there was still talk of a touch screen iPod, with countless different concepts created by fans. Apple was still largely considered a Pro Desktop brand. Things were good.

Despite the iPhone dominating the Apple world in the following years, we would still see mac updates fairly regularly, new iMacs, Retina displays, SSDs, all of these things would come into play over the next 7 or so years. I got a Retina MacBook Pro in 2014 when my 2007 version finally bit the bullet. It was like hopping into a Formula 1 car after your 98 Camry finally died. This laptop seems to be the last remnant of the Mac days gone by. And Apple's overall neglect of their MacOS environment has proven as much since then.

The Mac Mini, a great machine, and perfect for the everyday user hasn't been updated since 2014. Even after the 2014 update somehow made it worse than it's predecessor. You can build your own Mac nowadays (if so inclined) that will rival this in size, and perform at the level of a much more expensive machine, for the same price.

The Mac Pro remains untouched since 2013. We are nearing five years without a hardware update for a desktop that is meant to be used by professionals. It's not surprising that most movie houses have reported abandoning these machines, especially when you consider that recent year iMacs are out-benchmarking them. Yikes.

The MacBook Pro is still being updated, although in a somewhat uninspired fashion. Apple seems to be maintaining these mainly because they still sell well, not to mention they see a lot of air time on cable TV. But their pension for ruining peripheral support continues. How many USB-C products do you see nowadays? (not many) Although this will certianly change I'm sure. For now it's dongle land for new MBP users. 

The iMac is also being maintained to an extent. This is the sweet spot desktop machine for Apple. It can be purchased with a 4k display for a shockingly competitive price. And it packs a punch. (again, it can outperform the current Mac Pro)

This brings me to why I wrote this rambling agitated Mac User mess of a blog post. 

The iMac Pro. What a joke. 

Mac users have been begging for an updated Mac Pro for years. The last design was cool in concept, but severely lacking in real world usage. So they release a $5000 all-in one some five years later. Huh? Apple continues to claim that they have a fantastic Mac Roadmap. Not seeing it.

Pro Users do not want, or need, a souped up consumer all in one. Hmm, lets upgrade that hard drive, oh, it's soldered to the motherboard. Hmm. Oh, we should bump up the RAM for this new project. Oh, can't. Ok. None of this is desirable. It's like Apple said, "we hear your criticisms, and we ignored all of them and went the opposite way. Give us $5,000."

I want to see Apple release something exciting again. The iPhone and iPad were cool. The iPhone X is neat. But what makes the iOS world cool is isn't the hardware, it's the apps within. iOS is a software defined world, and we are all living in it. The only competitive hardware feature left is the camera, everything else washes out. All of the phones have OLED screens, and high powered processors. It's a level playing field. the OS and the Apps are what draws you to one or the other. Regardless, the feeling is gone. Nothing is Apple like anymore, and Think Different no longer applies. Apple seems to be, albeit slowly, distancing themselves from what got them to that fateful day in 2007 when they changed the world.

I have come to the realization that I'm the old guy on the lawn of technology, yelling at Apple to come back to their senses, and keep the Mac alive. Call me crazy, but I still think desktop computers are important. Apple has had every chance to evolve the Mac with the times, and has seemed to ignore it instead. I guess I can accept that Apple will never truly be "Apple as I remember it" again. It kind of sucks in a way. I just haven't wrapped my head around the world where we all just use tablets yet. 

I am probably looking way too far in the future, but my history with Apple is what leads me to believe what the future holds. 
On the other hand, they are charging 5 grand for an all in one desktop (yes, it is quite powerful, I get it), so I guess things haven't changed that much. Yet.

Maybe 2018 will be the year that they come to their senses. That would be awesome. At least I know it would be for a bunch of 30-somethings like me. 

Remote Scripting with Powershell without Remoting. Kind of.

I am in the midst of a project at work where we are deploying NCache as a replacement for AppFabric. NCache has some tools to help automate the administrative side of things, but they all must be run locally on the server. 

I have been using the wonderful PowerShell workaround known as Invoke-WMIMethod to sneak a  process onto a remote server, allowing me to execute local commands on remote servers. Neat. (This is a great tool, and can be used for a laundry list of things, there are examples all over the internet.)

I created mine to activate the client license for NCache on all of the clients. One thing on my wishlist for NCache is a more mature central administration toolkit. Everything is designed to be done one node at a time, a little streamlining could go a long way. Anyways, this license script actually copies a bat file and runs it on the remote server, and then removes it. Fast and efficient. 

$servers = gc C:\scripts\txt\list.txt
$install = "C:\temp\NCache_Activate.bat"

forEach ($server in $servers) {
    
    if (test-connection $server -Count 2 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue) {

    Copy-Item \NCache_Activate.bat -Destination \\$server\c$\temp

    $Process = Invoke-WmiMethod -class Win32_process -name Create -ArgumentList ($install) -ComputerName $server
    If($Process.ReturnValue -eq "0"){write-host  "$server - Completed successfully"}else{write-host  "$server - Completed UNsuccessfully"}

    Sleep 4

    Get-ChildItem \\$server\c$\temp\NCache_Activate.bat | Remove-Item
    }
    else { Write-Host "$server is offline" }
}

And the contents of the bat file are pretty simple too: (names changed to protect the innocent.)

"D:\Program Files\NCache\bin\NActivate\NActivate.exe" /k licensekey /f firstname /l lastname /e noreply@email.com

This alone saved me about 2 hours of work. I'll take it.

 

New things that don't suck are good.

Modern Jazz. It seems that as of late, there is a lot of jazz coming out that doesn't suck. Granted, I kind of tuned out of music for a good 10 years after college, but there is a lot of really amazing stuff coming out as of late. 

Two of the guys I have really been into recently are Ben Wendel and Walter Smith III. Sax players, kind of similar in style but still very different. This is an amazing video of the two of them. If you like jazz, this is primo stuff. Enjoy.

Hello 2017

As is always the case, I mean to update my blog more regularly, with the best intentions, and then life steps in, and I end up not having time (or, forgetting as some call it.)

I have, for years tried to come up with some kind of method by which to organize myself. I often tell myself I need to set a schedule to do things. I have seen this approach be effective for many. I believe Merlin Mann, the great guru of productivity himself got himself together using this concept along with some index cards. 

Things I need to schedule, are things I need, or want to, work on. 

1. I need to force myself to practice my sax at a set time at least 3 or more times a week for an hour. I have made it up the same hill a couple times since I made the switch to Tenor, and instead of repeating the same climb, it would be nice to build on that. It's such a simple goal, that it seems silly that I haven't been better at making myself do it. 

2. I want to spend some time reading. Again, I was doing this for a time, and it faded off. I have a little back collection of sci-fi that I'd love to get through. This could be accomplished again, by simply setting a schedule. I could simply say, I read from 8-9 on x days. Something like that. 

3. I want to spend more time working on adding to my professional skill set. As time goes by, I add a lot of different skills just by working. However, I often find areas where I have an opportunity to learn, and I need to do better at making myself do that.

4. On top of all that, it would be nice if I could make myself get to the gym a few times a week too. 

5. We are looking for a house. The hardest part of buying a house, I have decided, is looking for one. It seems so easy. "Oh, that one looks nice, I'll buy it!". Ha. No, because that house's taxes are high, or someone else has a better offer, or it's flat out way too expensive. It would be awesome to just build a house, but I don't have that kind of money. Those sweet 240 grand computer drawings always end up costing 450 grand when you add things you need like floors, and windows, and heat, and the upgraded porch and other such nonsense. 

So, in 2017, lets hope we find a house that we can actually buy. Lets hope I do better with time management. Lets hope its a good year. Lets hope I can find more input for this blog. 

Talk to you again soon blog. I swear. This time I will.