It’s all about software…

Screen shot 2010-03-23 at 1.07.18 PM  I recently had another experience that confirmed for me anything to do with computers always comes down to software.  You can argue hardware (MAC, PC), you can argue operating system (OSX, Windows "X" choose your flavor, Linux, Chromium, whatever), you can argue manufacturer (Apple, Dell, Toshiba HP, Sony, etc.) you can argue platform (Desktop, Laptop, UMPC, Tablet, smartphone) you can argue all you want, but for me it all comes down to software. (and access…)

Here is the story.  At my school we were having this amazing event to raise awareness and funds to fight childhood cancer.  If you have not heard of St. Baldrick's I encourage you to spend some time reviewing their site, and perhaps in the future helping in their fight.  As part of the presentation we had 8 faculty members and 8 students shave their heads throughout the assembly.  Another part of the assembly was to be a Windows Movie Maker video that displayed the other 140 students who participated in shaving their heads as a sign of support to all of the children afflicted with cancer.  It truly was an inspiring day.  

Overall, the preparations for the lead up to the assembly went well, however, the students who were attempting to create the video leveraging Windows Movie Maker were experiencing nothing but difficulties with freezing and crashes.  At one point we were less than 15 minutes away from the start of the assembly and still could not get the video to render past 6 minutes without crashing the entire machine(s).  They had tried it on everything from a 09 HP Tablet 2.12GHz dual core 4GB of ram to a 3.06GHz Dual core, 4GB ram desktop and both crashed on a movie file consisting of photographs only at 5 second intervals… Sad.  As the sponsors were discussing whether to cancel the video part of the presentation, I asked them for a copy of all of the photos.  When they inquired as to why, I simply told them that I had an idea.

IPhoto-2  What I received was 200+ images on a jumpdrive.  Nothing sorted or properly oriented, just a mashup of images from the shaving sessions.  While to them it appeared magical, I simply plugged the USB jumpdrive into my MacBook Pro and pulled the images into iPhoto as a single event.  Then I clicked on the event and selected "Slideshow". [image example to the right]

 From there, iPhoto offers 6 different "themes" and your choice of music and other options.

Then I chose the theme and because we were going to be having an MC as well as various other sound related information going over the gymnasium PA system, I unchecked the music option and we were set to roll.  iPhoto took care of the automated slideshow that would be running when we were not live streaming the assembly shaving sessions.

What frustrated multiple students and sponsors all day in attempting to use Windows Movie Maker, I was able to create in less that three minutes in iPhoto.  This brings me back to my original thought.  It wasn't about the power of the machine. All of the Windows based boxes they tried were as powerful or more powerful than my MBP.  They were all from highly regarded manufacturers (Dell and HP).  It really was all about the software.  My students, sponsors, and I have used WMM for years… fighting through it's limitations and occasional misbehavior.  Frustrated with the multiple steps necessary to create a media file file to present in class only to have "saved" the project file instead of the actual video to a disk, etc… iPhoto and iMovie just make this process drop dead simple, and they "just work…" 

If you follow me at a consistent basis (and I always hope people do) you know that I just started using my MBP at Christmas.  Since that time I have learned many things (some Apple fan-boys hate): overall it is just a "laptop" albeit a high quality laptop but a laptop none the less… OSX, at times, can be as frustrating or more frustrating of an operating system to work in… many applications that would/could be amazing on this platform as only written for Windows systems… I have had to hard reboot and force shutdown my MBP… the "spinning ball of death" can be as frustrating as the "blue screen of death"… However, that said, as Steve Jobs put it "It just works…" the software that comes as part of the iLife suite is what the end user needs.  Simple, powerful, consistent. The pre-loaded software on OSX handles all or almost all of a typical user needs. Sure there are other pieces of software you need or might want to add functionality (i.e. I love Skitch for screen capture – but screen capture and screen casting is built right into OSX – Skitch just gives me some options that are not found in the base OSX screen caps…

But, it really is all about the software.  Apple's support doesn't hurt either (wink).


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