Developing Perspective

Show 0.7


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a near daily podcast

00:00:04   discussing what's new and interesting in iOS, Apple, and related technologies. I'm your host,

00:00:09   David Smith. I'm an independent iOS developer based in Heron, Virginia. This is show 0.7,

00:00:15   and today is July 21st. It's a Thursday. The format of Developing Perspective is that I'll

00:00:21   cover a handful of links, articles, things that I found interesting in roughly the last 24 hours,

00:00:26   and then I'll have a more general discussion towards the end.

00:00:28   The show will never be longer than 15 minutes.

00:00:31   Without further ado, let's get started.

00:00:34   First a bit of follow-up from yesterday's show, where I mentioned that Xcode 4.1 is

00:00:39   now available as a free download in the Mac App Store.

00:00:43   I got a little bit of interesting perspective on that from Jeff LaMarche on Twitter, where

00:00:49   he described that the primary reason why they're doing that, which I had missed from WWDC,

00:00:55   is that it will allow them to do diff updates for you for downloads.

00:00:59   So when the next version comes out in gold master, which will probably be 4.2, the current

00:01:03   iOS 5 version, that will be distributed through the Mac App Store, and because the Mac App

00:01:09   Store is handling the download process, they can send only the delta, only what's changed

00:01:14   between 4.1 and 4.2, which will lead to a dramatic reduction in file size.

00:01:20   So rather than having to download a 4GB file, you should only have to download a few hundred

00:01:24   Definitely worthwhile.

00:01:25   All right, let's get started.

00:01:29   First link I have is there's a post over on the Cultured Code blog talking about their

00:01:34   Cloud Sync Beta for Things.

00:01:36   A little bit of background, Things is a to-do list manager for iOS and Mac.

00:01:43   And it's kind of been an ongoing saga about they're building their own sync system, they

00:01:48   apparently have done tremendous engineering to make this happen.

00:01:53   But it's kind of been taking forever and it's been going through beta.

00:01:56   And with iCloud and the related things happening there where Apple is essentially providing

00:02:01   a sync service free for all developers to use, there was some speculation about whether

00:02:06   they would continue to do that.

00:02:09   And basically their blog post says that's not for them.

00:02:13   They're going to continue using their own system.

00:02:15   And specifically it seems they have a concern of only being able to support Lion and iOS

00:02:20   which is a fairly legitimate concern given the size of their install base, but also I

00:02:25   get the impression that they just enjoy what they've built and would like to continue using

00:02:29   it and have it be a way to differentiate themselves against their competitors.

00:02:33   Just an interesting thing to take a look at.

00:02:36   Next I was going to recommend you looking at there's a page Apple put up about iOS line

00:02:42   recovery.

00:02:44   So this is how you, because the OS image was distributed

00:02:49   through the Mac App Store, it's a bit more complicated

00:02:51   to recover a system than previously.

00:02:53   Before you would just install the DVD that came

00:02:57   with your computer, run it, and it would handle the process.

00:03:01   Now the process has become a little bit more complicated

00:03:03   because there is no longer a DVD

00:03:08   that comes with your computer.

00:03:09   It sounds like you'll be able to purchase a thumb drive

00:03:12   with the OS image on it.

00:03:14   However, if that's the only way to get it,

00:03:17   not everyone's gonna have them.

00:03:19   And so Apple has done some pretty clever things.

00:03:22   The first thing they do is they create a small partition

00:03:25   on your hard drive.

00:03:27   It's a bootable partition that'll be used for recovery.

00:03:29   So essentially, rather than shipping you a DVD,

00:03:32   they took a DVD image and burned it onto the computer.

00:03:36   I get the impression this isn't exactly the same,

00:03:39   it's much smaller than what you would get

00:03:41   on a full install image,

00:03:43   It allows you enough to get back to the Mac App Store probably and then download the image

00:03:47   or something along those lines.

00:03:50   But perhaps most interesting from a technological perspective is their ability to recover the

00:03:56   computer remotely over a network connection.

00:04:00   And this is essentially a nice thing that looks like they're doing in probably the BIOS

00:04:04   or something along those lines, where it is actually downloading and installing the recovery

00:04:14   image from Apple's servers directly.

00:04:16   So if you take a new laptop that had Lion on it, take the hard drive out, destroy it,

00:04:22   put a completely blank one in, it will still be able to recover it as long as you have

00:04:27   an active network connection.

00:04:29   So that's pretty cool.

00:04:31   Next, there's an interesting article that I was reading over on the Red Sweater blog

00:04:37   talking about Allianz Hold Disk Encryption.

00:04:40   Hold Disk Encryption is just a new thing they're doing where rather than having it be file

00:04:44   system encryption being done sort of at the software level, whereby I think previously

00:04:50   it would just store your home directory in an encrypted disk image.

00:04:54   Now in Allianz, they do it at the sort of way down deep in the OS level.

00:04:59   So most applications will have no idea that it's even happening.

00:05:04   And the interesting thing there that he's talking about is he walks through how to do

00:05:09   that encryption on non-main drives.

00:05:13   So it's a way that you can access that capability if you have two partitions or if you have

00:05:20   two separate drives that you'd like encrypted, you can now do that using the instructions

00:05:25   that he puts in his article.

00:05:27   All right.

00:05:29   Our last thing today is over from the Backlaze blog.

00:05:33   Backlaze, if you're not familiar with them, is a company that does online backup.

00:05:40   I use them for all of my systems.

00:05:42   Basically you pay $5 a month or something like that and you get basically unlimited

00:05:46   storage of your data on their system and lets you back it up and easily recover it later

00:05:53   if you should you have any problems.

00:05:55   And this is a follow-up to an article they wrote, I think it was about a year or two

00:06:01   ago, where they talked about how it is that they are able to provide unlimited storage

00:06:06   for a relatively low cost.

00:06:08   And the primary way they get around that is rather than doing any off-the-shelf storage

00:06:14   solution, so buying a big data array or using Amazon S3 or something like that, which is,

00:06:20   for example, Dropbox does, they build their own system,

00:06:25   and this allowed them to be much, much more cost effective.

00:06:28   And in their latest discussion, they

00:06:31   talk about how they build these storage pods that

00:06:33   are 135 terabytes, and it costs $7,384,

00:06:40   which is a rather absurd ratio of cost per terabyte.

00:06:46   And it's just a fascinating thing

00:06:47   to read through how they did it, how they engineered it,

00:06:50   how they build all this custom stuff.

00:06:52   And one note that I thought that was especially interesting

00:06:55   is that they described that all the parts inside of it

00:06:58   are two years warranty.

00:07:01   So the hard drives, et cetera,

00:07:03   have a two year warranty on them.

00:07:05   And so whenever they build one,

00:07:07   it's cost to them is just that initial 7,300 bucks

00:07:12   because after that, all the replacements

00:07:15   would be hindered under warranty,

00:07:16   which is pretty interesting.

00:07:19   Let's see, and then this was one other note that I had

00:07:22   that I thought was especially interesting,

00:07:24   was that they were talking about how

00:07:26   the hard drive failure rates between different drives

00:07:31   and things don't vary in the ways

00:07:32   that you would necessarily expect.

00:07:35   They found that hot drives don't fail faster.

00:07:38   They did, however, find that drives fail mostly

00:07:40   in their first couple of weeks of use,

00:07:43   and so it sounds like what they actually do

00:07:46   is whenever they create a pod of hard drives, install it,

00:07:49   it doesn't actually go live for a while,

00:07:51   and it just sounds like they just run,

00:07:53   sort of testing load data onto it,

00:07:56   so they're just probably just throwing random data onto it,

00:07:59   then reading it off, throwing data onto it,

00:08:01   and reading it off, sort of exercising the drive.

00:08:03   And if it's gonna fail,

00:08:04   they found that it almost certainly will fail

00:08:06   in the initial period rather than later on,

00:08:09   which is interesting.

00:08:10   All right, so today I'm gonna be talking

00:08:13   for our more general discussion period

00:08:15   about the developer machine landscape.

00:08:18   And there's a blog post that goes along with this

00:08:20   over on my blog if you're interested

00:08:22   in sort of all the nitty gritty.

00:08:24   But yesterday Apple announced two new model revisions.

00:08:29   This was the MacBook Air line and the Mac Mini line.

00:08:33   Both of these were updated to the Sandy Bridge architecture

00:08:38   as well as being updated with Thunderbolt.

00:08:43   And specifically what I was interested after they made those announcements is I was trying

00:08:48   to then decide what is now the best developer machine.

00:08:53   And by best, I'm defining that mostly in terms of best value rather than necessarily best.

00:08:57   Clearly, if you want the fastest machine, you should go get a Mac Pro, get two Thunderbolt

00:09:04   displays and totally trip it out.

00:09:07   That will clearly be the best machine.

00:09:09   And if your goal is to find that nice sweet spot between cost and performance, and specifically

00:09:14   there your ability to upgrade it on a regular basis, then this is probably an interesting

00:09:19   place to follow along.

00:09:23   And so what I then did is I went through all of the currently available models and had

00:09:28   two basic rules associated with what I was putting together.

00:09:31   I wanted the cheapest version of that machine that was available with an Intel i7 processor.

00:09:38   In my experience, the i7 is exactly what most developers need these days, specifically because

00:09:43   it supports hyper-threading, which allows you to have more and more visible cores, which

00:09:50   things like compilation and development is very important.

00:09:54   I then upgraded each of those machines to 8GB of RAM, which I think about as a pretty

00:09:59   standard amount of RAM for most developers, specifically looking at max sales to do that,

00:10:06   just because it's a little bit cheaper there.

00:10:07   The Mac errors obviously are deadoned.

00:10:10   That doesn't apply to them because they're only maxed out at four gigabytes.

00:10:14   And basically, I then went through and put that together and I definitely recommend looking

00:10:18   through the blog post in the show notes if you're interested.

00:10:22   But the thing that's fascinating from that is it appears that the Mac Mini is probably

00:10:27   now the best value developer machine out there.

00:10:31   You can buy a Mac Mini with a 24-inch sort of run-of-the-mill machine from Amazon – monitor

00:10:37   for Amazon for about – let's see, about $1200, which is pretty inexpensive considering

00:10:45   what you're getting.

00:10:46   You're getting a nice, big, fancy processor.

00:10:49   I think it's a 2 gigahertz quad-core i7, which is probably more than most people need.

00:10:56   You have 8 gigabytes of RAM, easily upgradable.

00:10:59   You pair that with a nice HD display, and that's a pretty low cost of entry.

00:11:06   It's almost as cheap as you can spend period.

00:11:10   The cheapest machine period would be to get a MacBook... actually, it is the cheapest

00:11:17   machine that you can get, even with a monitor, with the next cheapest being a MacBook Air,

00:11:21   which would run you about $1,350.

00:11:26   So definitely an interesting thing there that I was a bit surprised by when I did the analysis.

00:11:31   Previously I'd always recommended that you get the 15-inch MacBook Pro in matte, which

00:11:37   is currently runs right around $2,000.

00:11:40   So it's interesting that you'd be able to, for almost half the cost, get almost identical

00:11:45   performance out of it, and you have a lot of other benefits.

00:11:50   For example, a Mac Mini has the advantage of having two drives in it natively, which

00:11:55   which is a nice thing, and also because the actual computer is cheap relative to buying

00:12:00   the whole system, so you're not buying a display built into the machine.

00:12:05   If say in a year a new Mac Mini comes out, you can upgrade to that, and then at that

00:12:09   point you would have only spent about as much as you would have if you bought a MacBook

00:12:13   Pro to start with.

00:12:15   Whereas with the MacBook Pro, you're buying the display in as part of the cost of the

00:12:20   machine.

00:12:21   Whereas with the Mac Mini, if you have existing monitors or even if you just buy a couple

00:12:25   of $180 or $200 displays to go with it, those stay, those keep working, and you can just

00:12:32   keep replacing the machine out from under it.

00:12:35   In many ways, I think that's just going to be the way forward.

00:12:38   We'll have to see what happens when the new Mac Pros come out.

00:12:41   I think the expectation is sometime later this year based on Intel's roadmap.

00:12:48   But at least for now, that's what I would recommend.

00:12:50   An interesting note, if you absolutely need portability, is that, so previously I'd said,

00:12:57   well, the best bet is probably to get a 15-inch MacBook Pro.

00:13:02   The difference between that cost of a 15-inch MacBook Pro and Mac and getting a Mac Mini

00:13:06   with a run-of-the-mill 24-inch display is about $736, so about 58% more.

00:13:15   And interestingly, you can pick up a refurbished

00:13:18   late model 11 inch MacBook Air for $749.

00:13:22   So basically for the same cost as a 15 inch MacBook Pro,

00:13:27   you could pick up a Mac Mini, a display, and a MacBook Air,

00:13:32   which I think I would say is generally speaking

00:13:35   a much better setup and a much more powerful

00:13:38   and upgradable going forward setup.

00:13:41   Lastly, I just note, if you are in the market

00:13:44   to get some of these things,

00:13:45   I would definitely recommend you upgrade it to have an SSD.

00:13:49   Advantage of both the Mac Mini and the MacBook Pro

00:13:51   is it's very straightforward to do this.

00:13:53   If you've got an iMac of any kind,

00:13:55   it's almost impossible to do this yourself.

00:13:58   Taking off the glass with suction cups

00:14:00   and all those types of things is just not feasible.

00:14:02   So definitely look into that,

00:14:03   and those are running only about $200

00:14:05   for 115, 120 gigabytes these days,

00:14:08   which is probably enough to get going

00:14:11   for a developer machine.

00:14:13   All right, that's it.

00:14:14   Hope you enjoyed today's show.

00:14:15   I'll see you tomorrow.

00:14:16   I'm probably looking forward to things to look forward to today.

00:14:20   Looks like all the 5x5 shows are getting back in action to probably discuss lion and related

00:14:25   things.

00:14:26   So definitely check those out.

00:14:27   Otherwise happy coding and see you tomorrow.