App Store love: Pixelmator as a Photoshop replacement

I am not a professional graphic artist by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a programmer by nature and I happen to be pretty good at user interface design as well, but I am not a creative genius when it comes to creating my own images. I will claim some level of expertise in editing images just because I have used The Gimp and Photoshop for years. Let me go ahead and throw out there that if you are allergic to horrible user interfaces, you better steer clear of The Gimp alltogether, especially on a Mac. It is horrible. And if you don’t have the money for the very expensive Adobe Photoshop, then I might have an answer for you.

I really needed an image editing tool for my iOS applications, after all, this is what attracts people to a Web site or app…the pretty, professional images. I’ve used The Gimp for years, but on the Mac is is so bad, I just gave up and went looking for a replacement. The Pixelmator was the first tool that came up and by chance it was available on the Mac App Store, so I purchased. It was really cheap, we are talking about $29 here, which is an order of magnitude cheaper than Photoshop.

After downloading the program and launching, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the options were in the same intuitive places that Photoshop’s were, so I was off and running. I managed to create my icon for an iOS app within 15 minutes of installing. The interface is gorgeous, easy to use and it contains every feature that I use from Photoshop for the most part.

I loved this app so much that I have made it my permanent image editing tool.

Buy it Now from the App Store

Mac Mini with Snow Leopard Server computers are cheap nowadays, you can get one for a couple hundred bucks. The biggest drawback is that they are bulky, ugly and run Windows, which I loathe.

I decided to replace my huge desktop I had built with a Mac Mini, but I knew I wanted the server version for the power and hard drive capacity. I had no experience with Snow Leopard Server really so I didn’t know what to expect out of it. I gotta say, yet again Apple astounds me.

Not only is the little Mac Mini small and it only takes up a small corner of my desk, but it is gorgeous, powerful and simple to use. I’ll never understand why some folks prefer Windows over Mac, but this little thing is the showpiece for why folks should use a Mac.

The server version runs over $1000 usually, but I got mine on eBay for $800. The basic version is $600 and it has everything the average user needs. Mine has two drives at 500mb each, but I have two external enclosures hooked up to it with 2 1TB drives. I have the HDMI out going into a Samsung 32″ 720P TV and everything else links up with the Mini via Bluetooth or wireless.

The server version doesn’t have a DVD drive by design, so if I have a problem and need to reinstall, I would need to buy one. I have moved away from physical media like CD, DVD and Blu-Ray and I do everything digitally, so unless I have a major problem, I don’t plan on purchasing the DVD drive. It would be nice though if Apple would manufacture a USB drive restore like they did for the MacBook Air for the Mac Mini Server and just omit the discs that come with the device. It kinda seems silly to include discs in a device that has no reader.

Snow Leopard Server has a set of tools that are specific to it to configure the server, most of these are in the server folder in the dock. I have used some of them to configure the FTP Server, File Sharing and Web server. The server can also server as a Time Machine as well to backup other computers on your network, but it isn’t very practical since you have a 500GB ceiling of you are using the 1TB model. The other drive has to be dedicated to the OS. I currently have it set it to backup from one drive to the other with Time Machine. If something happens to one drive, I can get the other replaced and just do a restore, although, I am dubious in how this process would work. I would have to ship to Apple and trust that they would not touch the backup. At least I have some piece of mind though that I could restore individual files when I need to. I backup my MacBooks to a Time Machine on my network anyway.

I have had the Mini for a week so far and I am impressed with the power and speed. Mac OS X multitasks way better than Windows due to the Unix subsystem anyway, I never have problems with peripheral and device integrations and things just work when I want them to.

I am doing my mobile development for iOS between the Mini and my MacBook Pro. The Mini is a real inexpensive way to break into iOS development for iPhone and iPad for those of you out there wanting to get started. Just get the standard version of the mini. I promise that once you go Mac, you will never go back.

Product Review: Apple Magic Trackpad vs. Magic Mouse of you will find what I am about to tell you extremely ironic, but before I get into it, let me give you a little background. I have two Mac laptops and a Mac Mini and I switch between them depending on mood, location or task, so no matter what I am doing, I am real picky about what is productive for me.

My setup works something like this.

Sitting at a table with MacBook, I use the Magic Mouse

Using the trackpad on the MacBook isn’t very comfy if you are sitting and the laptop is on a table. It feels kinda scrunched and I also don’t like to put excessive wear on my trackpad as well by doing it. The Magic Mouse if also a wonder since it knows when I want to scroll or right click. It seems kinda silly to say, but you just rub it the direction you want it to go and it just works. The only thing it is missing is the ability to just tap it to click… you actually have to depress it.

Sitting on the couch with MacBook

If you are on the couch, it stands to reason, you may not have the ability to use the Magic Mouse. You can buy things that will let you have like a small table beside you, but why bother. Using the trackpad is the most convenient in this situation, plus it keeps your hands closer to the keyboard anyway.

Sitting at a desk with the Mac Mini

You’d think that I’d choose the Magic Mouse in this situation, but I don’t. I bought a Apple Magic Trackpad to test out and I ended up loving it.

At first the trackpad was awkward because your hand being out to the right gives the brain the signal that it is a mouse. It takes about 30 minutes to adjust and you definitely won’t miss the mouse at all. You have at your fingertips all of the gestures that you are used to from the laptop’s trackpad, which is sad to say, what I miss when I use the Magic Mouse. I do however tend to use a hybrid approach even when I am using the mouse with my laptop at a desk. Whatever is quicker and my mind just naturally does.

I’ll also say that the battery life on the trackpad and the Magic Mouse is awesome. My Magic Mouse lasted three months on the original batteries and the trackpad, I have been using for a week and it is still showing a full charge.

I recommend learning the gestures with your trackpad. It’ll mess you up when going to a Windows machine, but while you are on the Mac it is super productive.
I will also make a quick mention about the wireless keyboard. It is bluetooth just like the rest of the peripheral products which makes it a breeze to use and setup and you really have no clue just how small thing little keyboard is until you see it. It is just big enough for my hands. It took me a bit to get used to it since it is small and low profile, but now I prefer it over my giant Logitech wireless setup I had before.

Overall, I highly recommend all three of these user input products. Did I mention that they also look really cool?

Mac OS App Store Now Open

I’ve been on the App store all morning. There isn’t a whole lot out there but it is awesome. I automatically recognized anything I already had installed, with the exception of Evernote. I have downloaded two free apps and two paid ones at this point… The iPad already blew my budget this month, so I am being cautious…

If you have a Mac, update to the App Store now.

This create a real dilemma for me now, do I release an app for the Mac or for the iPad… Decisions….decisions.

Mac OS App Store Now Open: “

Yup, the App Store opened today, as predicted. Some quick bullets:

  • You’ll need to download an OS update to get access to the store: it’s a Mac OS X 10.6.6 party.
  • Once you’ve updated, you’ll find a new item in the Apple Menu. Click “App Store…” to open the Store window.
  • It’s not a page in iTunes. The Store is its own separate app, with a Dock icon and everything.
  • If you’ve seen the App Store app on the iPad, you’ve got a handle on the Mac OS X App Store. It’s practically the same browsing and shopping experience.
  • Pricing (which is set by the developers) seems to be a hybrid of desktop and iOS app structure. The familiar hits haven’t suddenly dropped down to $2.99, which is a relief; it means that we might avoid a “race to the bottom.” But there are many free apps and cheap games.
  • It’s a simple click-to-purchase. Sign in with your AppleID. The app downloads and the icon leaps from its spot in the store and directly into a spot in your Dock (Yes. With animation and everything). Apple couldn’t have come up with a simpler method of installing an app.

So far, so good. Now we just need to see how well this whole ecosystem works. It’s easy to get developers to get on board for the launch. It remains to be seen if, a year from now, the developer community decides that this is a great way for them to reach consumers and sell them software. The first sale is easy…but will the App Store help them to build a relationship with their customers that leads to ongoing paid upgrades?

I’d think about this some more. But my Cheerios are getting soggy.