One Year On

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Around this time last year I moved to Sydney and started my new job at Atlassian.

That was a turning point in my life.

At the time, I was still unsure if it was the right thing to do. I was leaving behind a city that I had lived in for 8+ years, the familiarity, the friends that I had made there, my brother who was living with us and still at uni. On the other hand, I've had the burning desire to try something new, something different, do something that scares me. I was craving new experiences, new challenges.

I had been on several short visits to Sydney in prior years. I told myself that Sydney is a fun place to visit but I'd never live there. After much deliberation and discussion with Anthony, I decided to put my prejudices aside, take up the job and make the interstate move and give it a fair shot.

The job offer at Atlassian was a fairly major deciding factor. At the time, all of the jobs I applied for were in Melbourne. When my job hunt was going nowhere, I made up a shortlist of the companies I do want to work for, and made a more targetted effort in my applications. When I got offered the job in Sydney, suddenly it all became real.

12 months later, I have no regrets with that decision. Working at Atlassian is challenging, but at the same time rewarding. It has been quite interesting working on Atlassian Stash, a brand new product, using tools and technologies I'd never had much experience with previously, and a devleopment process that is very different from the way things are done in a digital agency. The culture here is definitely of Shipping, not Production. I'm pretty chuffed that some of the things I've made during our "20% Time" and "ShipIt (formerly FedEx) Days" have actually made it into a shipping product or is used internally.

Aside from work, I've done a few trips outside of Sydney, seeing parts of the state I've never been to before. Been up to the Hunter Valley a few times, the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains. Also checking out markets and festivals, trying out new restaurants and bars, doing lots of photography.

I've found it a bit harder to make new friends in Sydney, but then again this seems to be typical of a big city, and these things take time. Having said that, I've met a few people I've been following on Twitter, either locally or visiting from overseas, which is always fun when you put a face to the name.

Just yesterday I voted in my first ever election in Australia. Granted, it's only a local council election, but I've now begun to exercise my right (nay, obligation) as an Australian.

Time does seem to speed up as you get older, and just looking back on the last 12 months, there have been so many things that's happened and changed, I can hardly believe it. I'm absolutely certain there's more to come, and I'm ready for it.

Clarity

Transient

My new Macbook Pro arrived on Friday after all, and I couldn't wait to unbox it at the office. I had a couple of software updates to install (10.8.1 and a SMC firmware update to enable support for Power Nap) as soon as it started up.

My initial impressions pretty much matched what many others have already said, but one thing that still surprised me was the Retina Display. It is like getting glasses for the first time after thinking the world was always blurry, and now everything is sharp and clear. Like the iPhone and iPad before it, text is crisp and beautiful.

Rather than using the Migration Assistant to move my data over from my old MBP, I decided to spend the weekend setting my apps up from scratch and manually moving my documents, app data and prefences across, leaving behind any cruft that had accumulated over the years, and taking the opportunity to reorganise some of my data, putting some things on Dropbox, and archiving others on my Drobo.

I loaded up my Aperture Library and the photos are jaw-droppingly good. There's detail and colour I'd never seen before, subtle textures and flecks of dust that were captured by the camera's sensor but never before reproduced on screen. There's also a downside to this, I'm also noticing flaws in my own photos that I had never noticed before, sensor noise, aberrations and fringing.

I've found that even with a quad-core i7 and 16GB of ram, you CAN still bring the machine to its knees when dealing with 18 megapixel RAW photo files in Aperture. I've managed to get it hot enough that the fans run at full speed (which is still audible, despite Apple's claims). Still, it doesn't get as hot as my 13" MBP when the CPU is under heavy load. On that older machine it actually gets physically uncomfortable using it on my lap.

I installed Lightroom but it's not updated yet for the new display, it's practically useless as the photos are pixel-doubled and it looks even worse than before.

The size of the computer will take a bit of getting used to, and I've heard some creaking coming from the casing depending on how I hold it or where I rest my palms, which is unusual given Apple's attention to build quality. This makes me wonder if QA is slipping a bit as they rush these machines out to customers.

Reading and writing is a joy on this dispay, as is photo processing and editing. I'm really happy with the new machine so far.

Anticipation

I've ordered a new 15" Macbook Pro (with Retina Display) and I've been tracking it closely since I got the shipment notice earlier in the week. It appears it's arrived in Sydney today, and is awaiting customs clearance. Here's hoping that it will get delivered tomorrow so I can set it up and play with it over the weekend.

It took me a while to decide on this. Earlier in the year, I was considering going back to a two-machine setup. A large 27" iMac for the processing power and screen size for working on my photos and a bit of gaming on the side, and a tiny 11" or 13" Macbook Air for portability.

This recently released Macbook Pro really shook things up. It exceeds the performance of the iMac, and is even comparable to (and in some situation, beats) the venerable Mac Pro. I was initially hesitant in moving up to the 15" form factor, after getting accustomed to my 3-year old 13" MBP which to me is the perfect balance of size, weight and usable screen size.

Even though the new 15" MBP is thinner and has the same weight as my current 13" MBP, the bigger surface area plays tricks on your mind and it 'feels' heavier when I checked it out at the Apple Store, even when my rational mind knows this not to be true.

While I'm sure Apple would release a 13" MBP with Retina Display eventually, I suspect there will have to be some compromises. A smaller machine would mean a smaller battery, and lower battery life from the 7 hours rated for the 15" MBP. It is also quite likely that there won't be a dedicated GPU, instead relying on the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset to drive the Retina Display. While from most accounts it seems to perform reasonably well for desktop apps, having dedicated GPU acceleration for Aperture would be nice, as well as the ability to play the new SimCity when it comes out next year.

The 2880 x 1800 Retina Display is a sight to behold. I've been using both the iPhone and iPad equipped with Retina Displays for a while now, and love the clarity of text and photos on them. At this resolution, it actually exceeds the resolution of the 27" iMac (at 2560 x 1440) that I was previously considering. All those pixels squeezed into a 15" panel and enhancements in Mac OS X means everything is super sharp and clear. Well, not quite everything. Many apps would need to be updated with high-res image assets, and it may be years before the web catches up.

All these factors have convinced me that I don't really need two separate machines after all, and that the 15" MBP does everything I wanted the iMac for, but is completely portable. I can wait to get my hands on it!

Apple vs Samsung

The Apple vs Samsung patent lawsuit has come to thrilling conclusion, the whole incident has left me with mixed feelings.

While I'm glad that Apple won the case against Samsung, it does set a precendent and only reinforces the arguably broken US patent system, specifically where it comes to software patents.

Many software patents seem to be pretty vague and cover broad concepts, and it's become this arms race between Silicon Valley tech companies to build and collect patent portfolios to defend themselves against litigation, or to go after their competitors when they get a bit too close for comfort.

There are also the so-called patent trolls. Shell companies set up to hold patents, and exist solely to demand licensing fees or damages, but do not produce anything themselves. These bloodsuckers are a drain on the economy and resources of companies that could better spend that money on R&D or other more productive uses than paying lawyers to fight them or to settle out of court.

I believe that the decision on the Apple vs Samsung case was the right one, I really hope that this isn't a lose/lose situation for us consumers. Other manufacturers will probably have to go back to the drawing board and revise their hardware and software designs in a way not to fall afoul of Apple's patents, which might set back development by months or years, giving Apple unimpeded freedom to continue their phenomenal growth.

Companies like Samsung, HTC, LG and the like would have to change things for the sake of being different when certain touch-based user interactions have already proven to be effective and intuitive. It's hard to imagine right now how anybody else could do a 'zoom' gesture better than the reverse-pinch that Apple patented.

As I said at the start, I'm not sure that the ruling in Apple's favour is necessarily a good thing for everyone. I'm with Judge Lucy Koh that they should have settled out of court and just move on and everybody can get back to innovating and producing good products that we all love.