Friday, January 16, 2004

Apple - iPhoto 4.0 - impressions

[update 1/24/04: after much testing I recommend that iPhoto 2 users NOT upgrade to iPhoto 4 -- yet. iPhoto 4 is amazingly faster than previous versions, but it has serious quality issues. I'm seeing unmistakeable signs of integer overflows. There's some bad code in iPhoto 4, and with that comes an intolerable risk of losing your valued photographs (not that iPhoto 2 is necessarily safe to use either, but I think iPhoto 4 is worse at this time).

Wait for a bug fix release, then wait a few more weeks for news, then upgrade.]
Apple - iLife
1. iLife can only install on the boot drive. Bad sign right at the start. A boot drive restriction suggests a pretty bad architecture. You need to "customize" the install to select individual apps. (You can work around this, see a later post in this blog.)

2. iDVD still only works with Apple's SuperDrive.

3. There's minimal new support for consolidating libraries. See my later (separate) post on a possible technique.

4. Keywords are still worthless. Or almost worthless. Outstanding incompetence. You still can't sort keywords. You really need to stick to about 8 keywords at most. The ridiculous UI is unchanged.

5. You can't search directly on comments or titles anymore. You can only search directly on keywords. Basically, to locate things, you create a smart album and view the results. The smart albums have replaced most search functionality.

6. Because of the way iPhoto now does caching, the technique (see prior blog entries) of hosting iPhoto images on an SMB HFS+ sparseimage w/ 802.11b access works outstandingly well. If you try to edit you have to wait a while, but the thumbnails are cached locally. This is worth the price of the upgrade to me. We'll see what kinds of interesting file corruption I get. (The sparseimage file is journaled, interestingly. So maybe the library will survive network disruption.)

7. My iTunes library is on an SMB share, but it's stored natively (NTFS). iPhoto 2 would show the songs when iTunes was running, but it wouldn't play them. iPhoto 4 at first use showed them, but didn't allow me to select individual songs - they were grayed out. It did allow me to select a Playlist.

With a wired LAN connection I could play the music with my slideshow. With an 802.11b connection I couldn't - at first. Then I got the black screen of death (multilingual hard reset directions) on awakening with iPhoto running. After restart iPhoto relocated my SMB shared mounted sparsemimage. I tried again with iTunes running and my NTFS-native iTunes library loaded -- this time the Slideshow worked over 802.11b.

8. The UI for switching aspect ratio constraints on cropping between portrait and landscape is weird. It looks broken, but it still works. Some ratios (DVD) don't allow switching, others do. Switch by scrollling down to a checkable item that shows the aspect ratio that doesn't match the images current ratio. The default matches the image. You can still option drag to switch on the fly. Bad design.

9. In some testing iPhoto 4 appears to have spontaneously deleted an album. Fortunately I'm only working on my test images. If this sort of thing is mentioned by others I'll go back to iPhoto 2.

10. iPhoto 4 uses only a bit more space than iPhoto 2 in the individual image library when starting out. However the aggressive caching strategy uses substantial space on the system disk. I don't yet know where iPhoto is doing its caching, but we'll need a way to clean this out periodically.

Overall iLife fits the usual somewhat disappointing pattern of recent Apple s/w releases -- too early, unfinished, unMaclike and with some boneheaded design decisions. Apple is way short of quality control and testing resources.

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