Want to get featured? Just contact me at teohyc at gmail dot com

Monday, May 12, 2014

Joachim Holler, Mac Pro (Late 2013), Photo Editing

Here's Joachim Holler, sales manager and photographer, talking about the Mac Pro for photo editing.

Some security issues are also covered.

​​Qn: What's your computer specification?

  • Computer: Apple Mac PRO 6.1 late 2013
  • Processor: 6x 3.5 GHz / Turbo 3.9 GHz (Intel Xeon E5-1650v2)
  • RAM: 32 GB DDR3 ECC 1866 MHz
  • GPU: Dual D700 (aka FirePro W9000) each 6 GB GDDR5 VRAM with total 7 TFlops
  • Internal drive:1 TB PCIe SSD with > 1 GB/sec read and write (fully encrypted)

Setup around the computer:

Main software used:

  • Adobe Web and Design Premium CS6 Suite
  • Lightroom 5
  • iTunes
  • GoLife CS2
  • Keynote
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Turbo CAD MAC PRO 5.1
  • Garage Sale
  • Delicious Library
  • Mail and Safari
  • Audacity

​​Qn: What do you use your computer for and can you talk about the performance and your workflow?

I use my computer mainly for photo retouching and office applications (desktop publishing) as well as for music.

In the future also more for 4K video. My previous Apple Mac Pro early 2009 was not fast enough for 4K video work.

(Beside my Mac Pro I also use a MBP 13" late 2013 for mobile use with the same use case for lean traveling)

Photo Editing and Workflow

I shoot currently all my photos in RAW (CR2 from Canon). In the past I've been shooting analog and I've been scanning the large format slides (5x7" in 3200 dpi) resulting in 2 GB Tiff files. The files are stored on the Pegasus Promise J4 Raid and managed entirely by Lightroom. When importing the files I convert them into DNG format.

Most of the basic workflow is then done in LR 5. I try to stay as close as possible to the original view of the image that I had in mind when shooting it. I also try to avoid harsh contrasts and manipulating changes. The goal is always to get the purest possible look and the least possible manipulation. That's easier written than done.

With all the possibilities it takes a lot of discipline to use only the settings that enhance the initial idea rather than to overdo the image.

In cases where I do four images with my Tilt & Shift lenses I also use PS CS6 extended to stitch them with repositioning together. Also for focus stacking and for harsh retouching (stamping, seamless carving... ), I use PS CS6.

Normally the end result is a FineArt print on Baryta paper. Luckily the color workflow on Macs is straight forward and working extremely well these days and thus the end result has enormous depths and contrast while maintaining subtle details and a clean analog look without digital artifacts that would disturb all the cautious work before.

The main reason for getting the Mac Pro 6.1 was to have the ability to work in a near silent office while leaving room for further new activities like 4K video editing. Also the power consumption is including the display now roughly ⅓ of the previous electrical power consumption for normal work.

The sheer computation power of the previously used Mac Pro 4.1 (early 2009) was already exceeding my needs in terms of speed. PS and LR worked flawlessly and more thnn quick enough.

The new Mac Pro 6.1 is in every respect even faster. The user interface is snappy and fast and the response time after clicks is just a joy. PS CS6 opens in just 2 seconds and browsing through the ever growing LR library is responsive and fast.

As said before - my previous Mac was fast enough but the new one leaves nothing to be desired in any respect while reducing the CO2 footprint immensely.

Printing from Lightroom is a joy especially with the print menu and output sharpening. For Web usage the export function does a great job and even 100s of images are exported in no time (faster than I need the results -- getting a coffee while waiting for the results is unfortunately a matter of the past).

Office Work and CAD

Well with 10.9 Mail has gotten a bit worse in MS Exchange compatibility and thus I am not so happy with the current stability. That said it is absolutely o.k. and better than my company Laptop based on Windows 7.

I still use Office 2008 and it does what it's supposed to do. The built in PCIe SSD does a fine job speeding up the otherwise slow work environment in the Mac adapted Microsoft programs. Nothing to complain about and also nothing to freak out about.

My trusty old TurboCad MAC PRO 5.1 still runs fine and does it's job for basic CAD purposes including 3D modeling.


Transcoding a 720P Film with handbrake to Apple TV 3 runs with three times the frame rate compared to my previous Mac Pro and I am sure that handbrake does not even fully touch the capabilities of the new machine.

I have yet to work on 4K video to really be able to judge the quality of the software but I am sure I won't be disappointed.

This is an area of future work and investigation on my side and I am really looking forward to.

PCIe SSD and file encryption

All my backups are 256 bit AES encrypted.

Unfortunately software enabled RAID setups and PCIe SSDs from 3rd parties have not been supported by FileVault of Apple. Thus I was not in a position to encrypt my main drive in the Mac. This was one of the main driving forces behind the decision to acquire the Mac Pro 6.1.

The 1 TB built in PCIe SSD fully support booting from a FileVault 2 encrypted fast drive. Even with the encryption turned on the speed is still roughly 1 GB/sec measured with Aja Kona system test 4K video.

This is very important for the security of your privacy. If someone steels your computer the robbery is fully covered by the insurance. Yet your precious data is in the hands of the thief and all your data can be used to do crazy stuff. This weak link in my storage concept is now finally closed without compromises in speed and accessibility.

Too many cables on the desktop?

A commonly used assumption is that the Mac Pro 6.1 is not a workstation due to the limited "expandability" internally.

In the recent 10 years I've had absolutely no need for a 3 ½ inch disk drive and my usage of the BluRay drive is also lately going near to zero.

Other than that my Raid 0 works fine and since the MAC stands on it the consumed space is negligible.

Also the amount of cables is optically not present - as long as I view my desktop from the front.
The backside of my desktop is a bit more crowded (connections of the Mac Pro) but since all connections are on the back in one place it is absolutely fine for me and in total even less compare to my previous workstation.

The only difference is now that the Mac can stand on the desktop rather than collecting dirt and dust with the air intake on the floor - it was a yearly reoccurring tradition to do a great cleanup of the interior of my Mac Pro 4.1 to lower the noise again and to allow a better cooling with less dust on all internal components. This tradition is now fortunately gone and the audible noise of the new Mac Pro is near to zero - even beating the 27" iMac in the same office.

Qn: What monitor do you use? How’s the quality?

I use the Apple LED Cinema Display 27".

It serves me well and it is with the built in speakers and WebCam a very neat display.

Color reproduction, sharpness and color space are o.k.ish - yet I'd like to have such a setup with at least 4K resolution and an improved color gamut for photo editing.

The color gamut is my main criticism on this otherwise extremely well display. The color gamut is only sRGB. This is o.k. for most work and knowing the limitations I can work with it knowing that my printer has more subtle dark tones and a higher saturation in the RGB colors.

Unfortunately I don't see 100% of the final image and thus I need sometimes two or three iterations to get to the final FineArt print - especially when using the Baryta FB paper from Hahnemuehle. This paper is just gorgeous and offers unparalleled warm and rich tones.

That said the 4K displays are still extremely expensive and the full OS support is at least with 10.9.2 not fully covered. End of 2014 the situation might be different and I am planning to replace my LED CD by the end of 2014.

​​Qn: What’s your best IT purchase recently?

Beside the two new Macs it is the Synology DS214+ in combination with the enhanced bandwidth of my internet service provide going up from 100 mbit down and 5 mbit up to 150 mbit down to 10 mbit up.

Now I can host with the Synology NAS my own cloud while maintaining a low CO2 footprint and backing up all my data on the Synology NAS in a different room (always on and only 12 W power consumption).

The only thing that's missing is two 6 TB drives instead of the installed 2x 4 TB drives and then I can fully backup all computers I got. A great small and versatile NAS with an easy to use GUI and a low electrical power demand. Blends perfectly into my mobile life and the backup demand for my Mac Pro.

10 Mbit upload speed is good enough to stream all data I'd like to have while being abroad and it integrates seamlessly in my Mac environment.

​​Qn: If you were to upgrade your setup, what would you upgrade to?

Nothing with respect to the computers - I have exactly what I've been looking for and I guess it will take a looong time until I feel the pressing need for any kind of upgrade.

The only exception is the Promise Pegasus J4 Raid. It fulfills my current needs - yet a similar setup with Thunderbolt 2 instead of the current Thunderbolt 1 interface equipped with e.g. four 2 TB SSDs with totally 2500 MB/sec transfer speed and a hardware Raid 5 controller would be a nice thing - but I am dreaming here - it might take a while until such a setup will be in reach for a reasonable budget - Other than that I don't see any other computer with such a small physical and CO2 footprint while offering such a computation power in a perfectly fine tuned setup. The total power consumption of all devices on the USV is some 2 W and the wake-up time is purely dependent on the speed of the password typing.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Shiro, DIY Setup, Video Editing/Gaming/General Purpose

Today we have Shiro from VolTech Computing Services (Singapore) to share with us his rig.

Qn: What's your computer specification?

Qn: What do you use your computer for and can you talk about the performance and your workflow?

I use my computer mainly for quite a number of programs or processes such as Photoshop, rendering, converting and editing videos on high-definition and gaming.

I am happy with the performance of my computer so far. Of course, there are much room to improve on its capabilities. That is why I am always on the lookout for the latest graphics, motherboard and processors.

Qn: What’s your best IT purchase recently?

Recently, I purchased 2 items. First item, the ProRaid Box for data backup on RAID 1. I had a phobia of losing data since I have seen many of my customers losing them because of defective hard disk. I would not risk losing important data for my customers and myself.

Secondly, Kraken G10 and Antec 920 Kuhler for my graphics card. The performance based on water-cooling is simply awesome! Normally when I play games, the temperature of the graphic card can easily hit around 60-70 degrees Celsius. Using this setup, not only it stays cooler (around 55 deg C constant), but also enable me to overclock on higher speeds, as compared to air-cooled systems.

Qn: If you were to upgrade your setup, what would you upgrade to?

I would upgrade my CPU, motherboard, graphics card, speaker and monitor.

Logitech Z906

Qn: Do you play games on your computer? How’s the performance?

Yes, I play games on my computer; mainly to experience gaming on the maximum graphics settings possible. Games such as Battlefield 4, Crysis 3, NFS: Rivals. I sometimes use these experiences to improve via over clocking or obtain the latest graphics card model that is affordable on the market.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fitri, DIY Setup, Gaming PC

Fitri is a full time operation assistant for Schicida Method, and a musician in a band called Wormrot

Qn: What's your computer specification?
  • Processor: Intel i7 3820 @ 4.7ghz
  • Mainboard: Asus Rampage IV Formula X79
  • Graphics Card: EVGA GTX 780 Classified 3GB
  • Memory; G-Skill RipJaws X 1600mhz 16gb
  • Storage Drive: Crucial m4 128gb (O.S), Seagate HDD 7200RPM 1TB, Hitachi HDD 7200RPM 1TB
  • Display: Crossover Korean Monitor 2560x1440 IPS Panel
  • Audio: Creative T3 2.1, Audio Technica M50, StyleAudio Carat UD-1 USB/DAC Amp
  • Optical Drive: LG DVD Drive 24x
  • Power Supply Unit; Corsair HX850 80+ GOLD
  • Casing: Corsair Carbide Air 540

Qn: What do you use your computer for and can you talk about the performance and your workflow?

Mainly i use my computer for gaming, watching videos, entertainment purposes. But mostly, I game a lot on it, as it can handle any game i could possibly think of. Suits my everyday need.

Qn: What monitor do you use? How’s the quality?

Im using a Crossover korean monitor that I bought online. Taking a leap from a 1080p Samsung TN panel, to this, is an eye opener for me. IPS panel, 2560x1440 resolution, I will never go back to 1080p again!

Qn: What’s your best IT purchase recently?

I just bought myself a graphic card, just few weeks ago, an EVGA GTX 780 Classified, from Amazon. Took 2 weeks to deliver, but nonetheless, a BEAST OF A CARD. As i like to bench and overclock to its limit, this card is perfect for me. Upon receiving this card, I straightaway flash the LN2 bios to a custom-made bios. (shoutout to skyn3t from overclock.net for providing us Classified owner with this awesome bios!)

Qn: If you were to upgrade your setup, what would you upgrade to?

I would purchase another similar card to SLI, and slowly learn the ways to water-cool the whole system.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Richard Hum, HP Z800 Workstation, Photo Editing

Richard Hurn is a Press Photographer (Political & Stage) UK Print Media.

Qn: What's your computer specification?

  • HP Z800 Workstation
  • 2x Xeon 5660 2.8/3.2Ghz CPU (6-Core)
  • 48GB Ram
  • Geoforce GTX 760 Graphics
  • 2x 240GB SSDs (1 OSX & 1 Windows 8.1)
  • 4x4Tb Seagate Drives
  • 4x PCI SATA 6GB Sockets
  • 4x USB3

Qn: What do you use your computer for and can you talk about the performance and your workflow?

Photos are live streamed back from event by 4G or Wifi, then the editor on PC does basic adjustment to images in Lightroom/Photoshop before batch resizing and uploading to relevant News Desk, Picture Archive.

Photos are stored locally on four 4TB Drives before being backed up hourly to a HP N54L server which in turn duplicates to another HP N54L Server which is off site in real time for redundancy. No RAID is used but 3 levels of backup with 16Tb in the Workstation, and in each of the N54Ls.

Qn: I read that you switched from the nMP to the HP desktop. Why did you switch?

My workflow is not particularly CPU intensive, and I decided on the nMP as it was small and silent.

In real world use, the idea of having multiple external drives attached for backup are a risk to being disconnected by mistake.

Also the nMP I had would not load Windows via Bootcamp which causes an issue as the software I use for producing photo OD cards and programming have security chips on them and is compatible with Windows only and will not work via Parallels, so I need working Bootcamp for that to work.

Lastly, there's theft risk when external drives are in an office with access to other people.

Personally I see the nMP as a very pretty computer to sit on a designers desk but not 100% practical as a workstation in a busy office.

nMP Cost £4335 (6 Core, 16Gb, 512, D700)

HP Z800 Cost £879 (6 Core x2, 48Gb)

The HP Geekbench scores are 25% faster than the nMP, it runs smoothly everything I throw at it (I installed 2 Boot 240Gb SSDs Win8 and OSX). I can fit 7 Large drives inside it. No more externals and I have expansion again.

Qn: What monitor do you use? How’s the quality?

I currently use 2 Dell 27” 1440p U2713H IPS Screens, which when calibrated produce very reliable results.

I am looking to invest in a single larger 39” 4K Monitor shortly to replace the 2 screens

Qn: If you were to upgrade your setup, what would you upgrade to?

Once SSDs comes down in price I would love to replace the 16Tb Servers with a solid state system, but prices have to fall a bit for that to be practical.

HP Z800 Workstation

Also check out this Amazon review on the Z800.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

3.7Ghz 4-Core Mac Pro (Late 2013) vs 3.2Ghz 6-Core Custom PC


Mac Pro (Late 2013) - $3000
  • 3.7Ghz 4-Core
  • 12GB RAM
  • 256 PCIe Flash storage
  • Dual AMD Fire Pro D300 2GB RAM each

Custom PC - $3000

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Keith Wee, Macbook Air (2013), Photo Editing

Keith Wee is a teacher by profession and uses a Macbook Air for photo editing

Qn: What's your computer specification?

I’m using a MacBook Air (2013) with the following specs:
  • 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  • Intel HD Graphics 5000
  • 4GB memory
  • 256 GB SSD storage

I generally use iPhoto or Lightroom for photo-processing & MS office suite for work needs.

I do have a custom-built desktop that is much more powerful but I use It more for gaming and more intensive tasks.

Qn: What do you use your computer for and can you talk about the performance and your workflow?

The Macbook Air is my workhorse for work, travel and hobby (photo-taking). The only thing I don’t do much on it is gaming, which I’ve a desktop at home for.

My workflow in general is:

1. Shoot photos -- transfer to Mac (it has a built in SD-card reader) -- Lightroom or iPhoto to post-process if needed (I am a firm believer in as little post-process as little hence iPhoto handles almost 80% of my images with post-process generally including cropping, exposure and contrast adjustments)


2. Shoot photos -- transfer wirelessly to the iPad -- process with the Photoshop express App if needed.

Performance wise, my setup more than satisfies my needs. In fact, I’ve managed to even deliver on the spot in events with my Olympus EM-1 and iPad and have images ready for sharing immediately during the event itself to their smartphones or emails. Instant gratification is the key here.

Qn: Did you consider other alternatives before going with this particular setup?

I did consider a Thinkpad X1 or X230 and Mac Book Air 11in in but in the end, the Macbook Air 13in’s overall balance between performance, battery life and portability won out.

I realized a 13-inch screen is really considered a minimum size for photo processing.

Main reasons why a Macbook Air was chosen as the balance between portability and processing power is important to me. The Air is only 1.4kg but packs sufficient processing power and battery life (very important!) for all my needs on the go, even to places as far flung out as Nepal.

Actually I've a Macbook Pro 13-inch (2013) too.

Off hand I can do a quick comparison and frankly the Air's 1400x900 (LED) is superior to the Pro's 1280x800 (LED) not in just resolution but also color.

Viewing wise, i do use the iPad mini if needed as it's a Retina screen and my preference is not for people to touch the Mac.

I prefer working on the Air more than the Pro. The Pro's weight kills it's as a mobile solution for me.

Of course the Retina Pro's 2560x1600 (IPS) will beat this 2 hands down but I'm just a hobbyist and the Air more than suffices, having the iPad mini is enough if I need a retina screen anytime.

Qn: What’s your best IT purchase recently?

An iPad Mini retina 64gb. I’ve a few cameras but the Olympus EM-1 is my main camera. Equipped with the Olympus app, I can even do a ‘mobile’ workflow where I simply beam the photos straight from the camera to the iPad, do a quick edit with the Photoshop Express App and on the spot, send the photos to my family, friends and clients.

Qn: If you were to upgrade your setup, what would you upgrade to?

A larger capacity SSD is all I wish for on the MacBook Air. Apple’s pricing per GB is really heart-stopping.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Backblaze article on hard drive performance and durability

Backblaze has just posted an article on the hard drives they use.

The article details the difference across brands such as Western Digital, Hitachi and Seagate. They compared the drives for performance and durability for the years they've been running.

If you want to know which is the best value hard drive, check out their article at

The winner? Hitachi HGST Deskstar.

Conrad Stoll, Mac Pro & Macbook Pro, iOS Development and Photo editing

Conrad Stoll is a full time iOS Developer at Mutual Mobile in Austin, Texas, and also a freelance Sports Photographer (500px).

Qn: What's your computer specification?

My main workstation is a 2010 Mac Pro with the 3.2GHz Quad Core Xeon processor, 32GB of RAM, and the Radeon 5870 graphics card option.

I was really drawn to the Mac Pro for its storage capacity. I've got 4x 4TB Hitachi drives in the 4 drive bays which are RAID-1'd in two 4TB mirror arrays for a total usable size of 8TB.

Recently I started using OWC's PCIe Mercury Accelsior SSD drives for my boot volume and scratch space. I'm using two of the 480GB drives in a RAID-0 stripe for maximum read and write performance. I'm happy to report that that system works quite well, which frees up my extra two drive bays for backup volumes.

On my desk are a SanDisk FW800 Compact Flash card reader, an Addonics eSATA card reader, Harmon Kardon Sound Sticks, and my trusty Logitech G5 gaming mouse. I have an Apple Trackpad, but it doesn't get much use I'm afraid. I'm just too addicted to the mouse. I also use an old Firewire iSight camera, since my monitors are old and don't include built in ones.

I also use a 2012 MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Its baseline 2.3 GHz Core i7 CPU turns out to be just as fast as the one in my Mac Pro, but I wish its RAM maximum was as high as the Mac Pro's. This is the machine I use when I'm away from home.

Qn: What do you use your computer for and can you talk about the performance and your workflow?

I use my computer primarily for iOS development and digital photography.

When I'm working on an iOS app I spend a lot of time bouncing between various tools and websites, so having plenty of RAM helps speed up my workflow. Having a fast processor and fast storage also help speed up compile times in Xcode.

I do most of my digital photo editing work in Apple's Aperture.

My Aperture library is absolutely massive, approaching 300,000 full size RAW photos. That ends up consuming nearly half of my internal storage system, and it fills up faster and faster as camera resolution climbs higher and higher. Having a lot of RAM and fast storage is key to performance with Aperture.

When I come back from a shoot I'll import all of my photos into my library via a very fast FW800 Compact Flash card reader. I'll keep the images stored on the fast SSD while I'm working with them, before moving them off to the RAID mirrors for archive. I used a referenced-master library configuration, so this allows me to keep the main library file stored on the SSD, and all the master images off on the RAID mirrors. This speeds up performance significantly since all the thumbnails, previews, and metadata are stored on fast storage for maximum performance.

Qn: What monitor do you use? How’s the quality?

I love having multiple displays, and so for my workstation I use three identical Apple 20" Cinema Displays. I like these monitors a lot because they're all the same size, so its pretty easy to move windows between them. They're also small enough that you can still see information on all three screens with just a glance, yet large enough that you have plenty of working space when you make an Xcode or Safari window full screen.

Having multiple monitors is a key benefit to my development and photography workflows. As a developer, it allows me to have Xcode open in one full window, Safari with requirements or documentation open in another full window, and another tool, such as a terminal window, Git client, chat client, or simulator open in the third window. This dramatically speeds up the efficiency at which you can work. For photography it allows me to have a photo browser in one window, and full size images in another. Aperture has pretty good support for this, which is one reason I continue to use it.

Qn: If you were to upgrade your setup, what would you upgrade to?

If I were going to update this setup the main thing I want to add is a 4k monitor.

I love my three monitor setup, but I really want a super high resolution display for my photography work. This isn't an easy upgrade to make though, because 4k display support on OS X is basically non existent right now, but I'm hoping by the end of the year I'll make the switch. Doing so will also require the purchase of a new video card, but the good news is that there are plenty of video card options out there for previous generation Mac Pro owners that will support 4k video.

Qn: What’s your best IT purchase recently?

The best IT purchase I've made recently has got to be my Slingbox. My home office and cable box are in different rooms, and sometimes when I'm working I just want to have a football game or tv show on in the background on one monitor. Slingbox makes that super easy to do. The quality is very good, and it works well in a full screen browser window. As a bonus, it allows me remote access to my TV content from anywhere in the world. Slingbox has been one of the greatest home entertainment purchases I've made in a long time, and I consider it a great addition to my workstation.

Here's some additional articles I've written about my tech setup if you're interested.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Akitio Neutrino Thunderbolt Edition with Intel SSD 120GB

Akitio Neutrino Thunderbolt Edition is another external Thunderbolt SSD storage that Mac users can check out.

Akitio has packed an Intel 330 Series SSD in it.

The whole package consist the case with SSD, Thunderbolt cable and the manual. It's basically plug-and-play.

There's nothing much to the aluminium enclosure design.

The PCB uses a Marvell 9182 SATA 6GB/s controller, and there's the ARM Cortex 32-bit microcontroller (50MHz), and a Intel DSL2210 2-channel Thunderbolt controller.

Yes, you can swap out the SSD if you need a larger capacity. Check out Crucial, Samsung or Intel.

Read/Write speed

The default Intel SSD can has read and write speeds around 280Mb/s. An Amazon reviewer swapped his Intel for a Samsung 840 Pro SSD and reported speeds to 500Mb/s.

It's a small and fast drive.

It might be especially useful for those iMac users with Thunderbolt, who might want to have faster storage and boot, but not want to replace their internal drives.


Check out more reviews on Amazon at www.amazon.com/Akitio-Neutrino-Thunderbolt-Edition-Intel/dp/B00DCAYYSE/.