27″ iMac Hard Drive Replacement

Recently when I purchased a second hand ‘Late 2013 27″ iMac‘ I had a lot of trouble finding information online relating to certain aspects of the Internal Hard Drive Replacement Process. There seemed to be a lot of grey areas that weren’t definitively covered which was frustrating. So I decided to take a punt and go with what I thought might work. Now I’m going to run you through what I learned.

Topics Covered Include:

  • Alternates to the iFixIt ‘iMac Opening Tool‘ and ‘Plastic Cards
  • Do you need an ‘OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable’?
  • Alternates to the iFixIt ‘iMac Adhesive Strips’

The iMac Model that I will be referencing in this tutorial is the ‘Late 2013 27′ iMac‘. It’s Model Identifier is ‘iMac 14,2’ and it might also be referenced as ‘A1419’ or ‘EMC 2639’. The team at EveryMac give a solid overview of the model here.

While I will be discussing some alternates to the tools that iFixIt recommend, I still 100% support their work. I used the iFixIt Tutorial for this repair and I would have been stuck without it. The points I will be discussing here are more of a DIY approach to what is on offer at iFixIt.

iMac Opening Tool and Plastic Cards

One of the first friction points that I stumbled across is in the very first step, removing the display. On the iFixIt Tutorial it states this warning right from the get go ‘The hub on the iMac Opening Tool will keep you from pushing the wheel in too far. If using a different tool, insert no more than 3/8″ into the display. You risk severing antenna cables and causing serious damage’. What got me curious is the term ‘different tool’, what is a different tool? The only option discussed is the ‘iMac Opening Tool‘. iFixIt doesn’t ship to Australia and their Australian Store didn’t stock the tool, a few cheaper alternates existed on eBay but they were like $20 or required a three week wait for it to be shipped from China, expensive or delayed wasn’t an option.

Basically the tool that iFixIt offers is a pre-cut wheel that is a specific size so that when used like a pizza cutter around the iMac Display will cut just the right amount to remove the adhesive but not damage any internal components. The information that I had was that you couldn’t cut more then ‘3/8 of an Inch’ which equates to ‘9.5mm’, the information that I didn’t have was how thick their cutter was. This could be relatively easily solved by looking at the gap between the iMac Aluminium Chassis and the Display. I decided to put an array of various thickness plastics together and use them instead. I had offcuts from some A4 Laminating that I had done earlier in the week, I had a peek through the recycle bin and cut squares off some scrap plastic, this was in the form of old containers, strawberry punnet boxes, milk bottles, soft drink bottles, etc. The possibilities were endless. I then used a ruler to measure 9mm in from the edges of these plastic offcuts and then ruled them out as lines with permanent marker, this way I’d know how deep I could or couldn’t cut. This worked surprisingly well, you could grab the plastic offcut, stick it in and work it up and down cutting away at the adhesive. The laminating pouch offcuts were quite good particularly for going around the corners. I started with the thinner pieces of plastic and worked my way up to slightly thicker pieces of plastic. I experimented with various different grips, you could pull it up one handed or use a swivel two handed approach to move the plastic cutter, both worked well. Make sure you have a few plastic offcuts on hand as they will weaken the more you cut and may need to be replaced with a fresh bit before you move on to the next section to cut through.

PlasticOffcuts

Plastic Offcuts and Old Credit Cards that I used to remove the iMac Display.

Once you have completed the cutting of the adhesive you use an iFixIt ‘Plastic Card‘ to wedge open the display. I hadn’t seen these cards but my instinct was that an old credit card would do the trick, and so it would. I wound up cutting it in half so I had two sections as the iFixIt Tutorial requires dual ‘Plastic Cards‘ in ‘Step 17’. This credit card also worked well as a slightly thicker plastic cutter compared to the plastic offcuts that I discussed above, perfect for removing any stubborn bits of adhesive. Using some old pieces of plastic that you have lying around the home you can easily save yourself a couple of bucks and complete the first step of your upgrade without a worry.

OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable

There seems to be a lot of talk about whether or not you require the purchase of this Thermal Cable. In some versions of the iMac there is a temperature sensor cable that runs from the Internal HDD to the Motherboard to communicate the temperature of the drive so the system can decide if it should deliver cooling through the internal fans. Many users report that after swapping an Internal Spinning HDD for an SSD in their iMac their internal fans ‘go crazy’ and are wildly going off/on and behaving in all sorts of erratic ways.

There are two solutions to this:

  1. Purchase an ‘OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable’ and fit it while installing the SSD.
  2. Use 3rd Party Software (‘http://www.hddfancontrol.com/’ or ‘http://exirion.net/ssdfanctrl/’ to manually control the fans in your iMac.

I couldn’t find a solid yes or no to the question of ‘do I need this cable?’, some people said yes you definitely need it and others say it isn’t required. I can 100% Confirm that on my model of 27″ iMac that an ‘OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable’ is NOT required. There is no place for it within my iMac, I fitted the SSD and upon completion of my upgrade the iMac is running perfectly with no erratic temperatures or fan cycles. I have been monitoring these metrics in iStat Menus and have had zero issues.

iMacWithHDD

27″ iMac with Left Speaker Removed and HDD unplugged.

The only cable that plugs into the Hard Drive is the SATA Cable which provides both power and data transmission for the drive. The iMac Bracket in which the HDD mounts is depicted below next to the SATA Cable.

HDDArea

iMac Internal HDD Area with No HDD Fitted, SATA Cable to the Left.

Mounting the SSD

The original Hard Drive that was in my 27″ iMac was a 1TB 3.5″ Seagate Barracuda and I chose to replace it with a 500GB 2.5″ Samsung 850 Evo SSD. One important thing to note is that you will require a 3.5″ to 2.5″ HDD Step Down Bracket, these exist in all shapes and forms but it basically turns the 2.5″ Form Factor of your new SSD to the 3.5″ Form Factor that your iMac was designed for. I used a Partlist Metal Step Down Tray which I wouldn’t recommend, the pre drilled holes lined up in the correct position but they had the wrong thread and weren’t compatible with the Internal iMac HDD Screws that are detailed in ‘Step 34’ of the iFixIt Tutorial. This is either because it was a cheap 3.5″ to 2.5″ Bracket or because Apple uses some form of non-standard thread, my inclination based on past experience is that it was the cheap bracket that caused the problem. I managed to get by using the screws to cut a slight new thread in the bracket to get a secure hold. It’s solid enough and definitely works but there are better solutions in terms of Step Down Brackets out there.

SSDMounted

Samsung SSD mounted to a 3.5″ to 2.5″ Step Down Bracket and fitted in my 27″ iMac.

Adhesive Strips

Now that the HDD to SSD swap over was complete, the next step was to seal it all back up. This involves three micro steps to complete the task:

  1. Remove Old Adhesive
  2. Place New Adhesive
  3. Set iMac Display Back Into Place

Before I get too into my alternate solution to the iFixIt Adhesive Strips I just want to alleviate any fears that people may have in terms of actually removing the adhesive that you cut through before. Apple are smart, this isn’t cheap adhesive that requires copious amount of peeling off or chemicals to remove, it simply peels back with absolute ease. The video below shows you how simple that is:

Be sure to remove all adhesive from both the iMac Display and the iMac Chassis. You can use either a spudger or you finger nail to start the peel and once you have a bit which is big enough to grab onto peel away. Lovely!

RemovedAdhesive

Small Piles of the Removed Adhesive.

Now if you follow the iFixIt Tutorial they will advise you to use their iMac Adhesive Strips. Being in Australia the same problem occured, iFixIt doesn’t have it on their store, nor do they ship to Australia and the eBay Versions were either expensive or delayed. So I devised my own solution. The original adhesive that Apple would have used is the industry standard, 3M. Surely you can just buy stock 3M Adhesive? That would be correct, you surely can. I took to eBay and found a 3M 6mm Car Trim Foam Adhesive. It is a thin double sided foam tape very similar to the original adhesive that is used in the iMac. It seems to be unavailable from some online retailers but there seems to be plenty of stock on eBay. I picked a 3 Metre Roll up for $4 delivered, a lot cheaper then the $20-$25 that was the asking price of the 3rd Party iMac Adhesive Strips. The trim section in the iMac where the adhesive is applied measures in at 5mm, the strips that I purchased were 6mm in thickness. This was minor concern that was quickly debunked once put into practice. It’s only a 1mm Overlap which is near un-noticeable, that little overlap still gets picked up by the display later on and provides no downside.

3MAdhesiveTape

3M Foam Adhesive Tape comes in many widths. 6mm was the winner!

I found the tape very easy to apply. Just cut a section of tape that is the appropriate length and then line it up on the iMac Chassis. You do four sections, one at the top, bottom, left and right. If you place it slightly wrong it’s easy to pull back up and start over, just don’t apply too much pressure, once pressure is applied it’ll be near impossible to pull back up and re-position. On the right side of the iMac there are a few extra notches that require adhesive, it’s very easy to see where the adhesive was when you peel it off so you should have a solid idea of where the new adhesive should go.

3MRedAdhesiveApplied

3M 6mm Foam Adhesive applied to iMac Chassis.

The next step is to peel all of red protectors off the double sided adhesive and you will be ready to place the iMac Display back in it’s original position. This part was the hardest of the entire upgrade. You place the display at the bottom of the iMac Chassis closest to the Apple Logo but it needs to be placed close to flat so you can accurately judge the gap between display and chassis while maintaining a straight line and smooth join along the side. Once you have it lined up you place the display down where the adhesive will catch it, it’s a little tricky to pull up at this point if you made a mistake but still doable. I had to re-seat the display 3-4 times before I was happy with it. Then while it is elevated you need to re-connect the display power cable and display data cable as detailed in ‘Step 18 & 19’ of the iFixIt Tutorial. The display is heavy to hold in the correct position and the cables can be slightly tricky to reconnect. Once plugged in you can place the display down to its flat original position, if you are happy with the placement apply pressure around the edges where you placed the adhesive and voila, your upgrade is complete. I enlisted the help of a second person to ensure I could get this step done correctly and it made life much easier, I recommend you do the same should you have another pair of hands available and willing to assist.

3MRedAdhesivePeeledOff

The Red Adhesive Protectors are peeled off and ready to be reunited with the iMac Display.

Upgrade Complete

The final steps of my upgrade involved performing a clean install of macOS Sierra and getting my software and data back on the device. I re-used the iMac’s Original HDD in a Simplecom External USB3 Enclosure which I then drilled a few holes in and mounted to the back of my 2nd Display onto the VESA Mount, a pretty cool and neat way to add 1TB of extra storage to my new rig.

HDDEnclosure01

3.5″ HDD Enclosure Hard Mounted to my 2nd Monitor’s VESA Mount.

HDDEnclosure02

3.5″ HDD Enclosure Hard Mounted to my 2nd Monitor’s VESA Mount.

This process was part of my Home Office Revamp Project where I upgraded my iMac as well as my desk. The specs you can see below:

Old Setup

Early 2009 24″ iMac (iMac 9,1)
2.66GHz Dual Core CPU
8GB 1066MHz RAM
GeForce 9400M 256MB GPU
500GB Crucial MX100 SSD
1920×1200 24″ Display
USB2 and FW800
Worn Standard Office Desk

New Setup

Late 2013 27″ iMac (iMac 14,2)
3.2GHz Quad Core CPU
24GB 1600MHz RAM (2x 8GB, 2x 4GB)
GeForce GT 755M 1024GB GPU
500GB Samsung 850 Evo SSD
1TB 7200RPM Seagate Barracuda via USB3 Enclosure
2560×1440 27″ Display x2
USB3 and Thunderbolt
New Motorised Height Adjustable Standing Desk

HomeOfficeBeforeAndAfter

Before and After Home Office Setup.

While it may not have all the latest technological bells and whistles, my new setup is more then adequate for what it needs to be while only costing a fraction of what the latest and greatest would. As you can see it’s clearly a superior upgrade and I am ecstatic with my new screen real estate and speed.

I hope that many of the lessons that I learnt undergoing this process can be passed onto you, saving you valuable time and money in your DIY iMac Repairs and Upgrades. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out in the comments section below.

Thanks!

DIY Apple Keyboard Repairs

In this post I will show you how I fixed the keyboard mechanism on an Apple Keyboard with a toothpick and a metal twisty tie. I was pretty surprised when I MacGyver’d together this make-shift solution and it actually worked! But before we dive into the nitty gritty I must give you some context.

Scissor vs. Butterfly

The infamous Butterfly Keyboard Mechanism was introduced by Apple in 2015 in the New 12″ MacBook. Apple claimed many benefits of the new mechanism such as increased comfort and responsiveness as well as being thinner with a lower profile. But once it got into the hands of users the complaints started rolling in, mainly centring around keys getting stuck while typing.

This replaced the Traditional Scissor Mechanism which you will find in older Apple Keyboards. In this tutorial I will be dealing with the Scissor Mechanism and two older models of Apple Keyboards.

ScissorVsButterfly

Scissor Mechanism vs. Butterfly Mechanism. Image Courtesy of Apple Inc.

The Two Keyboards

The two keyboards that I will be dealing with in this discussions are as follows:

Apple Wired Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (Model: A1243)

WiredKeyboard

Apple Wireless Keyboard (Model: A1314)

WirelessKeyboard

If you wish to learn more about Apple Keyboards I suggest you take a look through this Wikipedia Article which gives you a very solid outline.

The Story

I recently purchased a 2nd Hand iMac during the eBay 20% Off Tech Sale and managed to snatch up quite a good deal. I was upgrading my Mid-2009 24″ iMac that had been retrofitted with an SSD for a Late-2013 27″ iMac that came with a Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse as well and providing specs that trumped my current setup. It wasn’t the newest and fastest setup but it was a significant step up for a reasonable price.

The 2nd Hand iMac came used from a facility that rents out Macs to University’s and then upgrades them for newer models down the line. Part of my process when I purchase any 2nd Hand Item is to give it a through once over when I get it. This iMac was in very good condition, it just needed a solid clean to remove some stains and make it feel new again. So I went over it with a combo of Isopropyl Alcohol, Shellite and Mineral Turps depending on the toughness of cleaning required. When I was doing a pass on the Wireless Keyboard I must have been a bit too rough and I broke the F10 Key, which provides the Mute On/Off Function, an important key in my opinion. I wanted it fixed but knew nothing about repairing a keyboard key so I dived in, got my hands dirty and learned a few things. This is what I discovered.

Lessons Learnt

The best way to remove a key from an Apple Keyboard is with a Plastic Spudger. You can use an expensive one similar to the iFixit Model or you can find numerous cheaper alternatives on eBay. The Plastic Spudger is good because it’s made from a material that won’t cause damage to the aluminium frame of the keyboard or the actual keys themselves. You can always use a thin jewellers screwdriver but the material, often steel, can dint the aluminium frame and damage the keys.

You basically wedge the Plastic Spudger underneath the key and lift it up. The deeper you get under the key the more leverage you will have the easier it will be to pop off.

Each key is made up of three seperate elements:

  • Keyboard Button

KeyboardButton

  • Scissor Mechanism

KeyboardScissor

  • Keyboard Key

KeyboardKey

The goal when removing a Keyboard Key from the Keyboard is to detach only the Keyboard Key with the Plastic Spudger and leave the Scissor Mechanism fixed in place to the metal lock offs on the Keyboard Button.

Once you have removed a key, these image will let you know if you have done it the Good Way or the Bad Way:

Keyboard Key

KeyboardKeyGoodBad

It’s bad when the Scissor Mechanism comes out stuck into the Keyboard Key.

Keyboard Button

KeyboardButtonGoodBad

It’s good when the Scissor Mechanism stays latched into the metal parts of the Keyboard Button.

Once you have successfully or unsuccessfully removed a Keyboard Key you will be able to examine how the actual keys function and understand how each of the elements interconnect with one another. Hopefully these images help to convey a certain level of understanding before you go pulling apart your own keyboard.

To fit the Keyboard Key back onto the Keyboard you first need to make sure the Scissor Mechanism is fitted in the Keyboard Button. If you removed the key in a good way then this is already fully sorted, if you unfortunately removed the key in a bad way, don’t stress as it’s easily fixed. You can remove the Scissor Mechanism from the Keyboard Key and fit it back into the Keyboard Button.

KeyboardButtonMetalScrewdriver

I found that it was best to use a small flathead jewellers screwdriver to lift the right metal flap on the Keyboard Button up (Green Circle – Above), then you can easily fit the Scissor Mechanism back into place. Use the same jewellers screwdriver to flick the winged notches into their respective metal holes (Blue Circles – Above). Then use the jewellers screwdriver to apply downward pressure to the same metal flap on the right that you lifted earlier, this will ensure it locks back into place. Then all you need to do is line the Keyboard Key back up and apply pressure down as if you were pressing a button. You’ll hear two clicks and this means that the key has been locked into place.

Tools and Materials

All I used for the repair of the Keyboard Mechanism was simple items that you could find around the home. They are both listed and depicted below:

Tools:

  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Cutting Pliers
  • Thick Pliers
  • Red Pin from QBond Set
  • Bench Vice

Materials:

  • Toothpick
  • Metal Twisty Tie
  • Super Glue

TheTools

Just to give you an idea of how small the Keyboard Mechanism is and how finicky it is to undergo such a repair, please see the image below of the part sitting next to my finger:

FingerWithMechanism

DIY Repair

I have a broken F10 Mute Key on my new Wireless Keyboard and a fully functional Wired Keyboard. Upon inspecting the broken F10 Key I discovered that the problem was a damaged Scissor Mechanism. I tired re-assembling it but it would just flick up on a weird angle and detach from the keyboard. No good.

I decided that I’d be using my newer Wireless Keyboard as my main keyboard when I setup my new 27″ iMac, the older Wired Keyboard would be put into storage as a spare. The Wired Keyboard has a bunch of smaller profile keys that matched my broken F10 Key located up the top that don’t get used, this is the F13 Key through to the F19 Key. I removed the F14 Key on my Wired Keyboard and transplanted the Scissor Mechanism from there to my Wireless Keyboard. I then put the F10 Keyboard Key back into place and the Wireless Keyboard was as good as new.

Now the Wired Keyboard was missing an F14 Button which I don’t use anyway, not a big deal but my mild OCD says otherwise. There has to be a way to fix it. You can purchase replacement Scissor Mechanisms from eBay and I’ve read of a few stories online where you could take it into an Apple Store and they’d most likely replace it for you for free, but I wanted results now. I thought the best way to achieve that was to repair my broken Scissor Mechanism from my Wireless Keyboard and fit it to my Wired Keyboard.

This is how a Good Scissor Mechanism should look, it consists of two parts:

ScissorMechanism

The ‘See-Saw’ and the ‘Winged Frame’, two parts that make up the Scissor Mechanism.

My Scissor Mechanism was broken in the two parts outlined below:

ScissorMechanismBroken

The first repair was to the See-Saw Part of the Scissor Mechanism. One of the notches which acts as a pivot point when it is placed in the Winged Frame was broken. It’s quite a small part but I was positive I could fix at least this part. What I ended up doing was using the Red Pin to poke a hole through the See-Saw where it was broken. Penetrating the plastic by hand wasn’t easy but it wasn’t overly tough. Eventually the pin went all the way through and I had a very tiny hole. I used a toothpick and forced it into the hole. The toothpick tapers in size as you get further from the tip, this meant that it wedged into place nicely. I used my Wire Cutting Pliers to trim any overlap that fell into the See-Saw inner circle which is where the button would sit, I also trimmed my new wooden notch to match the size of it’s counterpart. During this notch trimming process I clipped off a bit of thickness from the toothpick so that it would easily fit into the hole on the Winged Frame.

RepairedScissorMechanism

The second repair was to the Winged Frame Part of the Scissor Mechanism. One of the corner notches had snapped right off and could no longer clip into place on the Keyboard Button. It was snapped in a way that a simple toothpick wouldn’t do the trick as it still wouldn’t line up horizontally. I also had the problem of where do I put a hole to act as a mounting point. I ended up putting the Winged Frame into a Standard Bench Vice and using the Red Pin to poke a hole in the plastic vertically. This took a great deal of force but it worked and I managed to do it without damaging the rest of Winged Frame, having it mounted in a vice played a big part in that. Next I had to find something that I could bend to achieve the stretch and notch solution that was required, it also needed to be thin enough to fit in the little pin hole that I just made. It took a little bit of thinking but I decided metal would be the best material to use. A paperclip was too thick, a thin gauge nail was too thick and then genius struck. I’ll use a Metal Twisty Tie, you get them with almost every new cable that you buy or even sometimes with loaves of bread. I used my Wire Cutting Pliers to strip the Metal Twisty Tie of it’s plastic wrapper, I then put a tiny bit of super glue on the tip and threaded it into my pin sized hole being careful not to go too deep so that it overlaps the inside. I then trimmed the length of the metal and used a combo of my Needle Nose Pliers and Thick Pliers to clasp the metal within the Winged Frame and bend it into shape. I was done, I had successfully repaired a broken Scissor Mechanism with miscellaneous bits and pieces I had laying around the house.

I fitted it back into the Keyboard Button on the Wired Keyboard with no worries at all. I placed the F14 Key back on top, clicked it in and I was 100% good to go. The button works, it feels and looks normal. Repair Successful!

RepairedScissorMechanism02

I’m pretty happy with myself as now I have a fully working Wireless Keyboard and a fully working Wired Keyboard. Though the Wired Keyboard does have a DIY Fix to one of the keys, the key still works, it also looks and feels normal, plus it’s a key that never gets used so it’ll never have any negative impact. It’s a total win on the DIY Front.

There was a bunch of literature online about cleaning your keyboard under the keys but not a lot on what to actually do if you need to undergo a finicky repair like this. While I initially thought a replacement part would be required, I certainly proved myself wrong. I hope this guide helps someone out there who wants to do a cheeky little fix to their broken keyboard keys all while embracing their inner guerrilla repairman!

Please Note: All Photos for this Blog Post were taken on an iPhone 7, the quality is reasonable but I have since purchased a Macro Lens Kit for my DLSR so I’ll be able to provide sharper, higher res images for you in the future. Thanks!

Pro Labels for Alexa Mini User Buttons

The Alexa Mini has grown in popularity since it’s release in 2015, I would hedge my bets that it is now the camera of choice for most productions. That is if you measured it on a subjective scale, at least 70% of my jobs now are Alexa Mini.

Many 1st ACs like to program the User Buttons on the side of the camera to match commonly used camera features. This is great but it’s often left as an afterthought and done last minute. This leads to labelling on the camera that ends up looking like this:

AlexaMini_01

Or this:

AlexaMini_02

I don’t like it, I think it’s messy. I always strive for super neat labelling, printed text where possible and colour coding to make your brain think less and work instinctively. So it got me thinking, there must be a better way to do this. Thankfully there is:

AlexaMini_03

I made up this label that can be printed and stuck onto the side of the camera. The dimensions of each box are sized up to align centred with each user button on the camera as well as being an adequate size for reading. I find that most of the time the DP/Operator likes the user buttons to correspond to ‘ND Increase’ and ‘ND Decrease’, toggling through the Internal ND Filters. The other hot toggle is ‘SDI Exposure Check’, also known as False Colour or FC, so I set that up on the 3rd User Button. I also colour coded the NDs to Yellow and False Colour to Blue, that way at a glance you can easily identify with what you are pressing.

I understand that not everyone likes their camera setup the same, so here is the Photoshop File for you to adjust and tweak to your hearts content:

AlexaMini_UserButtons_Web

DOWNLOAD

Just encase you aren’t 100% competent with how to use Photoshop, here is a quick video tutorial of how to edit the PSD File to make your own custom Alexa Mini User Button Labels:

Once I’ve exported my label as a JPEG I create a Blank A4 Photoshop document and laid out the labels as so:AlexaMini_UserButtons_A4_WebThen I printed this on some A4 Adhesive Paper, I got mine with a matte finish. You should be able to source some at your local office supplies store. Then I unleashed it into my guillotine and cut them all up precisely with straight edges.

CuttingProcedure

Now I’ve got a neat little supply tucked away in my kit to use from job to job, there are so many there I’ll probably give some away, otherwise the camera may be redundant and outdated by the time my supplies diminish!

FinalProduct

I hope you’ve found this resource useful, if you like it, please let me know below in the comments section!

Data Management for TV Commercials

In this video I will run you through the basics of Data Wrangling on your ‘run of the mill’ TV Commercial. Steps that are covered include:

  • Hard Drive Labelling (0:11)
  • Formatting and Testing Hard Drives (1:14)
  • Tweaking macOS Finder Settings (7:28)
  • File Structure and Naming Conventions (9:27)
  • Optimum Shotput Pro Settings (10:48)
  • Using Shotput Pro to Wrangle Data (12:12)
  • How to Double Check Yourself to Avoid Mistakes (14:12)
  • Other Miscellaneous Data Management Principles

To find out more about specific products that are mentioned in this video please use the links below:

Lacie Rugged Drives
This is your standard on-set hard drive, they come in many flavours from USB3 to Thunderbolt.
LacieRugged

Onyx
A software utility that is used to run regular maintenance on your Mac as well as providing options to tweak hidden parameters. There is one version of Onyx per major macOS Version, be sure to download the correct version for your OS.
OnyxShotput Pro
This is simple and effective data management software. Highly customisable in terms of offload presets, quality checksums and a complete workhorse for on-set data management particularly for Standard TVCs.
ShotputProSilverstack
Think of this as a more advanced version of Shotput Pro, it offers a lot more features such as customisable reports, metadata management, playback within the software, transcoding, etc. but it does have a significantly steeper price tag. Great for longer form productions such as Feature Films, TV Series or Longer TVCs.
SilverstackKanex Adaptor
This handy little adaptor will turn your Thunderbolt 1 or Thunderbolt 2 Port into a USB3 Port. I use two of these units when I need to utilise 4x USB3 Ports on my MacBook Pro, each device has it’s own port which minimises speed loss.
KanexData Management Keyboard Shortcuts
These are my favourite and most used keyboard shortcuts when data wrangling.
Command + I = Get Info
Command + W = Close Finder Window (Or Many Other Windows)
Command + Delete = Send Selected Item to Trash

I hope you found this informative and helpful, if you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments section below!

Building a Hackintosh for Transcoding

At the start of 2017 it was a sad state of affairs for using a Mac on-set for heavy duty processing. The MacPro dated back to 2013 and the recently re-designed MacBook Pro Models didn’t come equipped with Intel’s latest Kaby Lake Processors nor did they exceed 16GB of RAM which has been a limitation for a long time now. The choice was to buy outdated technology, buy new inadequate technology or find another solution.

I had the privilege to use a Codex Vault XL for an Alexa 65 Job in January and got very well acquainted with the technology. When the Vault landed in Australia DOA (Dead On Arrival) the only option was to pull it open to see if I could get it running. Turns out it was just a connection on the power supply that had come loose in transit, but this process of looking inside made me realise that it was just a giant custom built computer. This got my brain ticking and I began to think outside the box. If a custom built computer can handle one of the most data heavy codecs in the world, 6K ARRIRAW, it can copy it, process it, transcode it. If you take away the proprietary technologies you just have a computer, which you can buy and build yourself which lead me to Hackintosh.

Alexa65_01_L

The inside of a Codex Vault XL, you can see a NVidia Graphics Card, Power Supply, PCIe Cards, Fans, etc.

I started researching and compiling information, delving deep into the Hackintosh World. I’d never even built a computer from scratch before but did have some background knowledge such as pulling apart iPhones and MacBook Pros for DIY Home Repairs. I knew there would be speed humps along the way but I had a vision and wanted to bring a new level of game to the world of on-set transcoding.

Below is my finished rig alongside the documentation that I put together to educate clients about the advantages of using this over a standard data management kit.

PREMIUM DATA KIT

Hackintosh_P1_01

SPEED

Over the past year I have seen requests for on-set transcoding steadily increase. It’s always a tricky service to deliver as the MacBook Pro in every Data Kit just can’t keep up with the workload and results in lots of unnecessary overtime. I see transcoding becoming a standard in the future as camera formats evolve and get more complex, it got me thinking, there has to be a better way to do this.

Designed completely from the ground up, the Premium Data Kit is the complete solution for on-set transcoding. Built specifically with quick turn around times in mind it offers transcoding capabilities up to 10x faster then a Standard MacBook Pro Data Kit.

ARRIRAW

Shoot high quality ARRIRAW and transcode at twice the speed of real time. Often avoided due to large file size and processing times, with transcodes this fast there is no reason not to utilize ARRI’s flagship format on your next production.

Phantom

Phantom .cine Files are anything but edit friendly and always require transcoding. 1 Hour of Phantom Flex 4K Footage can be transcoded in 30 Mins with the Premium Data Kit where as a Standard MacBook Pro Data Kit would do the same work in 5 Hours. Amazing!

ProRes

Shooting 4K or 3.2K ProRes 444XQ? It’s not the easiest codec to edit because of the large file sizes and drive speed limitations. Transcoding can convert your footage to a lower tier HD ProRes 422 to deliver your footage Post-Ready.

RED

RED is still RED and remains the most difficult format to work with. Unless you are equipped with a RED Rocket X Card that is not guaranteed to be future proof with new RED Formats, it’s near impossible to get amazing transcode speeds. That being said, the Premium Data Kit combined with the ‘New On-Set Transcode Workflow’ still offers a modest speed improvement and time saving.

WORKFLOW REINVENTION

Anything to do with processing data, be it transferring or transcoding, you are always at the mercy of the weakest link in the chain. 99% of the time the Achilles’ Heel rests in the hard drives provided for each job. This problem will take years to solve, so in the interim I have devised a solution that will boast faster turnaround times. All I had to do was reinvent the workflow.

Utilizing the Super Fast SSD in the Premium Data Kit I can offload cards to this internal drive very quickly, creating a separate backup of the footage solely for transcoding. I then set off the transcode from the internal drive and start the transfer of the data from the camera card to the client drives simultaneously. By running both in unison you save time, often transcodes are complete before the card is finished being backed up. Due to the high specs of the machine there is no risk of errors while multi-tasking so your data will be completely safe and secure.

TranscodeWorkflow

BUILD

Portability is key for equipment on-set and data equipment is no exception. I drew inspiration from the design of Apple’s MacBook Pro when crafting the Premium Data Kit, I essentially wanted to create a jumbo laptop with the speed of a desktop computer. Constructed around the smallest full sized computer case on the market with custom fitted brackets to mount the screen on the enclosure. It has a wireless keyboard and trackpad where you’d expect and the screen folds down for travel. As you’d expect with any piece of film equipment, it comes with a road case. I enlisted Melbourne’s Aerolyte to construct a custom case made specifically for the unique shape of the Premium Data Kit. This provides rugged protection making it suitable for Air and Road Freight within Australia and Internationally.

Hackintosh_P3_01

Example of the custom hinged bracket that allows the screen to fold down similar to a laptop.

Hackintosh_P3_02

A size comparison to a 15” MacBook Pro.

TECH SPECS

The Premium Data Kit is built upon the Hackintosh Architecture which means that is runs a fully operational version of macOS despite not being an official Apple Computer. This is imperative as we rely on Mac Software, ProRes Codecs and OSX Formatted Drives for all of our daily work. I made this choice so that I could employ the use of technologies not yet adopted by Apple, such as the newest Intel Processors and NVMe SSDs which give me Internal SSD speeds of 2000MB/s comparable to the 110MB/s of a Lacie Rugged Drive. When building the machine only the highest quality parts were selected, no expense spared, the best of the best to ensure maximum speed, reliability and less wasted time. The internals are all modular which enables incremental upgrading, which means I can continue to update the machine as new technologies emerge. This keeps the kit at the forefront of the Data Management/Transcode World, a feat that isn’t possible with a traditional Apple Computer.

Please see below for a full list of tech specs:

  • Quad Core Intel i7 Kaby Lake CPU Overclocked to 4.8GHz
  • 64GB of DDR4 RAM @ 3200MHz
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti – 6GB GDDR Graphics Card
  • 1TB NVMe SSD (Read/Write @ 2000MB/s)
  • 2TB RAID 0 SSD (Read/Write @ 850MB/s)
  • 2x Next Gen Thunderbolt 3 Ports
  • 2x Next Gen USB 3.1 Ports (1x USB-C, 1x USB-A)
  • 5x Current Gen USB 3.0 Ports
  • Highspeed 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 8x Low Noise Internal Fans
  • 21.5” Full HD Display
  • Silverstack and Shotput Pro Data Management Software
  • DaVinci Resolve, Codex Production Suite, Redcine-X
  • Various Other Data Management Softwares

Hackintosh_P3_03

That pretty much gives an outline to prospective clients of how the system works, why it differs to a normal setup and the advantages that is has to offer. I’ve been field testing this unit on-set the past 5 Months and can now say that it’s 100% reliable. More often then not transcodes are done before I’ve finished backing up the footage to the client drives, the system doesn’t crash any more or less then a normal Mac Computer and the advantages that it can bring to jobs that have quick turnaround times are paramount. Now, with all that being said, the R&D Period, the assembly and most of all the installation of macOS and all the other quirks of this process wasn’t as straight forward as one might think. I’m going to run through my setup process and all of the things that I learned along the way.

BUILDING A HACKINTOSH

First of all your two biggest resources when diving into the Hackintosh World are tonymac and the hackintosh subreddit. There is a wealth of information on the tonymac forums and all throughout reddit history, read long, read deep and you will be able to solve 95% of problems yourself. When you are absolutely stuck, reach out and the community will help, I had a bunch of trouble in the beginning and people were amazing in the troubleshooting process. But try to abide by my golden rule, don’t ask for help unless you’ve exhausted all options within your power. This basically means don’t go hassling people for assistance when you haven’t read the backlogs of forum posts and tried every last potential solution detailed online.

I’m going to start with my final part list so there is context for what I am referencing here on in. My build is as follows:

  • macOS Sierra 10.12.3
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 5 with BIOS F20
  • CPU: Kaby Lake i7 7700K
  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U9S with Noctua NF-A9 PWM as an Extra Fan
  • RAM: 64GB Corsair Vengeance LED
  • Graphics Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • NVMe SSD: Samsung 960EVO 1TB
  • SATA SSD: Crucial MX300 1TB SSD x2
  • Extra: Gigabyte GC-ALPINE RIDGE (2x TB3 Ports via PCIe)
  • Case: SilverStone Grandia GD09
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM650i 650W
  • Inlet Fans: Corsair 120mm Fan x2
  • Exhaust Fans: Deep Cool 80mm Fan x2
  • Keyboard: Apple Magic Keyboard
  • Trackpad: Apple Magic Trackpad 2
  • Wifi and Bluetooth: OSX Wifi Card
  • Monitor: BenQ 21.5″ Full HD
  • Various USB-C and TB3 Adaptors
  • Brateck LCM CM (With Custom Modification)
  • 50cm HDMI Cable
  • Custom Y Power Cable
  • Custom Transit Case

Software for Setting Up a Hackintosh

You require certain software when setting up a Hackintosh, I know there is a lot of debate in the community over if you should use UniBeast/MultiBeast or do a clean custom install with Clover and the effectiveness of some of the other tools. Being that I installed macOS on my rig over ten times trying to troubleshoot various problems I found that having all tools readily at your disposal is useful for quickly trying fixes recommended by others online. This is what I have in my essential toolkit:

  • PlistEdit Pro
  • EFI Mounter
  • MultiBeast
  • Clover Configurator
  • IORegisteryExplorer
  • Kext Utility
  • MaciASL
  • Hide/Show Hidden Files (Paste Text from TextEdit into Terminal)

I built my Install USB with UniBeast and used MultiBeast for setup each time. Though based on my readings, if I were to do it again I would use a Custom Clover Install.

My Setup Process

When I completed this build Kaby Lake wasn’t supported in macOS and NVMe was still tricky so it was always going to be an uphill battle. I came across many bottlenecks in my setup process and it felt like an impossible slog at times. If one thing went wrong it’d have a snowball effect and it was often easier to go for a clean reinstall and start my process again then it was to figure out exactly what was causing the issue. Below I’ll share my installation and setup cheat sheet as well as explaining the speed humps that I had to cross.

NVMe on Install USB

As I was installing macOS to my NVMe SSD, I soon discovered that it wasn’t possible without some custom tweaks. Most of the guides online explain how to install macOS on a standard SSD but when NVMe comes into play, it won’t show up by default in the macOS USB Installer. I found that I needed to mount the EFI Partition of my Install USB using EFI Mounter, navigate to /Volumes/EFI/EFI/CLOVER and open my config.plist in PListEdit Pro. Here I would navigate to Root -> KernalAndKextPatches -> KextsToPatch and paste in the complete set of 17 Values for IONVMeFamily Pike R. Alpha Patches as seen below:

NVMe

I found the easiest way is to download my plist, unzip it and open it in PlistEdit Pro, then you select all 17 ‘KextsToPatch’ and then ‘Paste as Child’ on your plist ‘KextsToPatch’, then save and close. You will also need to paste IONVMeFamily.kext to /Volumes/EFI/EFI/COLVER/kexts/Other. Doing this enabled me to use my UniBeast macOS Install USB to boot from nothing into the macOS Installer and install straight to my NVMe SSD.

There are more guides online of cleaner and better ways to get an NVMe SSD working on your system, I tried them and they didn’t work for me, thus is why I reverted back to this method. That doesn’t mean they won’t work for you though so it’s worth looking into other methods and searching and reading about NVMe on Hackintosh.

My Cheat Sheet

*Please note these instructions work flawlessly for the hardware/software combination listed above, any variations of hardware/software could provide different results*

1. Install macOS via Hackintosh USB

2. Upon full install, run MultiBeast and install as follows:

MultiBeast

3. Use PlistEdit Pro to copy ‘KextsToPatch’ 0-15 from config1.plist to config.plist on your Boot Volume EFI. You can use EFI Mounter to mount your Boot Volume EFI Partition and PlistEdit Pro can have multiple plists open at once. While in your Boot Volume config.plist change RtVariables -> CsrActiveConfig to 0x67 and Change Boot -> Timeout to ‘1’.

4. Navigate to /System/Library/Extentions (referred to as SLE in the Hackintosh Community) and find IONVMeFamily.kext and copy it to EFI/Clover/kexts/Other which again is your Boot Volume’s EFI Partition. If you can’t find SLE you can use the ‘Go To Folder’ Command in Finder (Shift+Apple+G) and paste in ‘/System/Library’  and hit go or you can use the text above for Hide/Show Hidden Files to Show Hidden Files and navigate there manually in Finder.

5. Open config.plist from EFI in Clover Configurator and add FakeCPUID: 0x0506E3. This step is to spoof macOS into thinking you aren’t running a Kaby Lake Processor, with newer versions of Sierra and High Sierra you shouldn’t need to spoof the CPUID.

6. Reboot. You should restart and actually boot macOS off your NVMe SSD or SATA SSD this time rather then relying on your Install USB for booting. If you don’t, there is a problem.

SIDE NOTE:
My Kaby Lake 7700K CPU has an Integrated GPU called the Intel® HD Graphics 630. There are many documents detailing how to get this GPU working, I followed them all and every time it cooked my system in the way of a kernal panic and required me to reinstall macOS before anything would function again. I eventually gave up on the iGPU and disabled it in the BIOS and relied solely on my Discrete GPU.

7. Download the newest version of Clover EFI from the Official Clover Site. Update Clover to the newest version via Installer. Make sure to use the ‘Customise Install Option’ and select ‘NVRAM EMU’ kext and ‘RC Scripts’. Once installed open System Prefs -> Clover -> NVRAM and change ‘Save NVRAM Contents to Disk’ to ‘Always’.

8. Check that NVRAM is working via ’sudo nvram MyVar=TestValue’ and ‘nvram -p’. This process is done in Terminal. The command ’sudo nvram MyVar=TestValue’ will create a variable called ‘MyVar’ in your NVRAM and assign it a value of ‘TestValue’. The command ‘nvram -p’ will display everything currently in your NVRAM. After running the first command you should see the Variable and Value in your NVRAM. If you do then reboot and try ‘nvram -p’ again to verify that NVRAM is holding information through the reboot process.

PLEASE NOTE:
NVRAM is not working in BIOS F21 for Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 5 Motherboard, revert to BIOS F20 for working NVRAM.

8a. Copy FakeSMC.kext from /Library/Extensions/ (often referred to as LE) to your Boot Volume’s EFI/CLOVER/kexts/Other Folder. Delete FakeSMC from /L/E/ and run Kext Utility to rebuild permissions. Kext Utility will automatically rebuild permissions upon opening. Reboot to test system boots up. MultiBeast installs the FakeSMC.kext to /L/E/ by default which many members of the community argue is the wrong place to put it, this process moves it from /L/E/ to your Boot EFI Partition where it should rightfully belong.

8b. Install HWSensors App, Install the App Only.

8c. Copy Hacked ‘FakeSMC.kext’ with PlugIns to your Boot Volume EFI/CLOVER/kexts/Other Folder, Use the ‘Replace’ Option When Prompted by Finder. Right Click -> Show Package Contents of FakeSMC.kext in your EFI, navigate to PlugIns and delete CPUSensors.kext. Reboot to test system boots up.

FakeSMC

8d. Open HWMonitor to verify stats are shown. Install Intel Power Gadget and test that it works.

PLEASE NOTE:
I found that using a Fake CPUID to trick macOS into thinking your Kaby Lake CPU is something else will glitch out the ‘CPUSensors.kext’ within HWMonitor and cause a kernal panic on boot. Basically all sensors work except those relating to the CPU, I couldn’t find a way to get around this except for adding the Intel Power Gadget to the mix. I currently run my rig with iStat Menus which is great, it taps into information from HWMonitors and it’s kexts, but if I need CPU Stats for load and temperature I open Intel Power Gadget. Not perfect but good enough for me.

 

9. Open your Boot Volume EFI config.plist and navigate to ‘System Parameters’ and add ’NvidiaWeb’, BOOL, YES. This is pretty straight forward, alternatively you do it via Clover Configurator.

10. Install NVidia Web Drivers and Reboot.

11. Open System Prefs -> NVidia Driver Manager -> Select NVidia Web Driver and Reboot. Sometimes you won’t need to use this step as NVidia Web Drivers will be selected by default after you install them. The web drivers will work if your NVRAM is working which is why we sorted that out before. If your NVRAM isn’t functioning you’ll default back to Apple’s Drivers which make your High End GPU a slug. NVRAM needs to work for your Discrete GPU to work.

12. Run the ‘iMac 17,1 Black Screen Fix’, Reboot.

13. Use MultiBeast to Update System Definition to iMac 17,1. Check your Boot Volume EFI config.plist in PlistEdit Pro, it’s under Root -> SMBIOS -> ProductName. It should say ‘iMac17,1’.

14. While the config.plist is still open, navigate to ‘System Parameters’ and add ’NoCaches’, String, Yes. Save config.plist and Reboot.

15. Run Kext Utility and Rebuild Caches.

16. Upon completion delete the recently created ‘NoCaches’ Parameter from your Boot Volume EFI config.plist. Reboot.

17. Edit EFI config.plist. Boot -> XMPDetection = YES and SMBIOS -> Trust = YES.

18. Boot into BIOS and Enable XMP Profile. Reboot. Check System Information to ensure RAM is now reading and running at 3200MHz. Shut Down.

19. Remove NVMe SSD or macOS SSD physically from the computer. Install Windows 10 on a Different SSD.

PLEASE NOTE:
Installing Windows is a lot more straight forward then installing macOS on a Hackintosh Setup. It’s vital that you remove your SSD with the macOS Install on it before you install Windows, the two operating systems clash both at install time and afterwards. I initially didn’t know this and had a lot of trouble installing Windows. Once installed, the Windows EFI was present on my macOS SSD rather then the Windows SSD which was messy. Best to remove all other hard drives and just have your Install USB and your intended destination hard drive connected. I’ve done it this way twice now and it’s been flawless.

20. On Windows, install the Gigabyte Thunderbolt Driver. Then install the Gigabyte Thunderbolt FW Update Tool. Navigate to C:\Program Files (x86)\GIGABYTE\flashTBT and run the file “flashTBT_100.exe”. Shutdown your system and then completely pull power for 30 Seconds.

PLEASE NOTE:
I found that I needed to disable the option in my BIOS for ‘TBT USB3.1 Force Power’ in order for both Thunderbolt 3 Ports to work.

22. Test Everything

23. After installation of REDCINE-X  open you Boot Volume EFI config.plist in Clover Configurator and enable the ‘Shutdown Fix’ for proper shutdown. I’m not sure why REDCINE-X messes around with my shutting down procedure, but it did.

Now, I’m sure there are better ways to do what I did above, some of my steps could be redundant, there could be cleaner methods of achieving the same result. But in January 2017 I spent a solid two weeks messing about with my rig trying to get it working. It was stressful and a major pain in the ass. I’ve followed the above steps four times now when doing a clean install on my Hackintosh and haven’t had any issues, so I stick by it for me. For you, I suggest you follow one of the many other guides online but use this as supplemental information in combination with reading lots of forum posts to gather a good array of knowledge to solve any issue that you may come across.

ORIGINAL MOTHERBOARD

My original setup was built using a Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Designare Motherboard based on recommendations from the community. It seemed like the natural successor to the Gigabyte GA-Z170X-UD5 TH Motherboard and had a lot of good features. The main feature for me being at least two Thunderbolt 3 Ports.

I had a lot of issues with this board and ended up canning it, please check out this thread in relation to my woes: GA-Z170X-Designare USB-C Issues

Basically I went through two boards, the first one got RMA’d with faulty TB3/USB-C Ports as detailed above, the second board had similar issues but not quite the same. All of the ports would work as USB-C from both directions, but only one TB3 port would work. I purchased my GC Alpine Ridge Card and tried connecting it to the Motherboard with the TB Header to get 3x TB3 Ports but it didn’t work as that GC Alpine Ridge Card isn’t officially compatible with the GA-Z170X-Designare Motherboard. I ended up returning that Designare MB and got my current Gaming 5 MB which was listed as compatible with the GC Alpine Ridge Card.

There are actually two different TB Headers on the seperate motherboards in this instance, the GC Alpine Ridge Card has both connections but it didn’t work with the Designare TB Header despite everything plugging up correctly. Weird but that’s the way it is. It all works a-okay now with my Gaming 5 MB, it’s great having 2x TB3 Ports.

TESTING

CPU Overclock Tests

I’d never overclocked a CPU before but after doing a fair bit of reading I learned that it isn’t all that hard. So I dived in and ran a bunch of tests to see what I could get out of my CPU with a bit of OC. This is my raw data:

OC.xlsx

In macOS I was using iStat Menus / HWSensors in combo with Intel Power Gadget to monitor my CPU Temperatures. Intel Power Gadget would display the actual CPU Temp and I would verify that with my CPU Heatsink Data in iStat Menus. I was using the Yes CPU Test (Unzip, Open Text File, Copy to Terminal and Press Enter) to run my CPU Stress Tests in macOS. As my CPU was 4 Core with 8 Threads, I need to run the yes command 8 times, one per thread.

In Windows I was running CoreTemp and Real Temp simultaneously to monitor my CPU Temperatures and they were delivering very similar results. I used AIDA64 for my CPU Stress Tests based on various recommendations.

What I discovered is that my CPU seemed to run hotter in macOS then it did in Windows 10, strange. It could be that HWSensors and Intel Power Gadget aren’t providing the most accurate 100% readings of my CPU compared to the various CPU Sensors that I had running on Windows. What intrigued me further is that I would get a solid overclock running in Windows but then I would boot into macOS and it’d crash on boot, the only way I could get macOS to boot would be to increase the Vcore Voltage. So seemingly macOS needs a bit more power to boot up then Windows. So could this justify the hotter temps in macOS over Windows or was it still potentially faulty sensor information? I never got to the bottom of that question, for me, I’d be running macOS 95% of the time, I got a stable overclock at 4.8GHz running at a Vcore Voltage of 1.315V and my CPU Temp usually sits around 83°C – 87°C. A lot of sources online said that you shouldn’t really run your CPU hotter then 80°C as it can degrade its life over time, but the life of a CPU is meant to be around 10 Years, if I’m still using my 4 Core Kaby Lake i7 4.8GHz CPU in 5 Years I’d be very surprised. The shelf life exceeded the use life that was required of the CPU so I was happy to lock in this slightly hot OC on my CPU.

TRANSCODE TESTS

The two systems that I would be comparing here are my new Hackintosh Rig and my 2012 MacBook Pro. Being that a MacBook Pro similar to mine is the golden standard for Data Management here in Australia I opted to use this for transcode tests as it’s pretty representative of what everyone else is using.

The MacBook Pro Specs are as follows:

  • MacBook Pro 10,1 with macOS Sierra 10.12.3
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3720QM 2.6GHz
  • RAM: 16GB @ 1600MHz
  • Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 4000 / NVidia GeForce GT 650M
  • SSD: 256GB SATA

When running the tests I took the exact same source footage direct from a camera card and put it on the fastest internal SSD both the MacBook Pro and the Hackintosh. I’d then open DaVinci Resolve which was operating on the same version between both systems, I’d setup identical projects and setup identical transcodes. I’d run them both, record the data and compare. Here were my findings:

ARRI Alexa Formats

ARRIRAW Open Gate -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 5.5fps, 6:55 Mins, No LUT
Hackintosh: 50fps, 46 Secs, With LUT
Notes: Hackintosh CPU at 50%, GPU Processor Maxed Out, GPU Memory at 10%

ARRIRAW 16:9 -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 8.5-9fps, 1:31 Mins, No LUT
Hackintosh: 68fps, 12 Secs, With LUT
Notes: Hackintosh CPU at 500% out of 800%, GPU Processor Close to Maxed Out, GPU Memory at 10%

ARRIRAW 4:3 -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 6-7fps, 2:54 Mins, No LUT
Hackintosh: 58fps, 20 Secs, With LUT
Notes: Hackintosh CPU at 50%, GPU Processor Maxed Out, GPU Memory at 10%

ProRes 3.2K 444XQ -> ProRes422 Proxy 1920×1080 w/LUT
MacBook Pro: 18fps, 1:25 Mins
Hackintosh: 58-59fps, 26 Secs
Notes: Hackintosh CPU Close to Capping Out, GPU at 50-60%

2.8K ProRes444 -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 16fps – 36 Secs
Hackintosh: 50fps – 13 Secs

3.2K ProRes 444 from Amira -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080 w/ LUT
MacBook Pro: 18fps, 3:01 Mins
Hackintosh: 58fps, 56 Secs
Notes: Hackintosh CPU Close to Capping Out, GPU at 50-60%

Phantom Formats

4K Phantom -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 5-5.5fps – 2:13 Mins
Hackintosh: 55fps – 13 Secs
Notes: Hackintosh GPU Capped Out, CPU at 50-60%

RED Formats

RED 8K 5:1 -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 2.5fps, 5:51 Mins
Hackintosh: 5fps, 3:31 Mins

R3D 5K 5:1 -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 6-10fps – 10:01 Mins
Hackintosh: 8-12fps – 6:11 Mins
Notes: Hackintosh CPU Capped Out (Not Overclocked, Running at 4.2GHz), Graphics at 10%

Since I ran these tests I have used the rig extensively on-set with constant monitoring of frame rate and transcode times to identify what exactly is causing the bottleneck. Based on these initial findings and my further investigation there is no deadset weak link in the chain.

ARRIRAW and Phantom Formats are heavily GPU reliant, both formats cap out my GPU which would indicate that the GPU is the weak link but transcoding these formats at over 50fps is double realtime and 10x faster then the equivalent on a MacBook Pro which I would hardly consider slow.

The ProRes Codec is CPU heavy for decoding and encoding which is causing the bottleneck here. The GPU is still being utilised but not capping out. ProRes Transcodes run at 3-4x speed compared to the MacBook Pro and can be benefitted further by the ‘New Transcoding Workflow’ that I detailed above.

RED is RED and still to this day sucks unless you have a RED Rocket-X Card or a 28 Core CPU. My CPU is capped out obviously and the GPU is barely utilised. CPU is the weak link in the chain here.

So basically, you get some pretty solid advantages unless you are working with RED. Most jobs these days I find are shooting on ARRI Alexas in either ARRIRAW or 3.2K/2.8K ProRes 444, the Alexa Mini is super common as well as the Alexa XT and SXT. So the lack of speed working with RED isn’t a deal breaker as it doesn’t get utilised all that often. I’ve had 6K Open Gate ARRIRAW from an Alexa 65 on my Hackintosh Rig and it plays back at full res in real time from Resolve no problems. Other transcodes that I’ve thrown at it from 2.8K ProRes to H265 to Phantom .cine Files, it’s performed admirably and facilitated fast workflows that just wouldn’t have been possible before.

ISSUES

Once I got past the initial setup of my Hackintosh there haven’t really been any issues, except one. If you have done your research you’ll know that when using Thunderbolt on a Hackintosh you can not hot swap Thunderbolt devices. On Windows, no worries, on a native Mac, no worries, but 3rd Party Motherboards in combination with macOS won’t allow you to hot swap / hot boot TB devices. This basically means that if you turn your Hackintosh on, boot in macOS and then plug in a TB Hard Drive it won’t show up. It’s not until you reboot the system that the drive will mount and appear on the desktop as normal. One other thing you’ll need to do once the hard drive mounts to the Hackintosh is to Right Click and ‘Get Info’, down the bottom of the window you’ll have permissions, unlock the lock if required and make all permissions ‘Read/Write’, you’ll only need to do this once per drive for the duration of it’s lifetime. For most people this isn’t an issue but it is a pain when using this rig in high pressure environments on-set. Keyword there being pain, it’s annoying but not a deal breaker. You can work around it, most of the time it’s only your hard drives that are connected via Thunderbolt, most card readers are USB3. You only need to connect your hard drives once per day if you’re in one location, that’s one reboot, if you have multiple location moves thats a few reboots but I build in the rebooting procedure into my setup time and it isn’t much of a worry.

Earlier on in the year I had an Alexa 65 Job, I was running the Codex Vault off my Hackintosh Data Rig and all was going well. The Vault interfaces with Hackintosh through a glorified 10G Ethernet to Thunderbolt Convertor in the form of a Myricom PCIe Card in a Sonnet PCIe to Thunderbolt 2 Chassis. This works fine, hook it all up, reboot as normal and I could interface with the Codex Vault. But then I needed to use 2x 10TB Lacie 5big Drives each setup as RAID 0 and this is where the trouble started. I’d hook up both drives daisy chained together through one Thunderbolt Port and the Codex Vault 10Gig Ethernet Network was through the other Thunderbolt Port, I’d then reboot the system and get this:

KernalCrash_01KernalCrash_02

This is what a kernal panic looks like. The system would start to boot into macOS, kernal panic as above and then restart itself. It’d stay stuck in this boot loop and just keep cycling through until you held the power button down and forced it to turn off. Funny thing though, if I leave the Kernal Panic Boot Loop going for say 5 Mins or so, eventually the system will boot as normal with both drives mounted and working perfectly.

Reaching out for help we identified that the kext causing the issue was called ‘com.lacie.driver.mvumi’ which comes from the Lacie RAID Manager software. I never got around to troubleshooting this actual kext as the job was moving too fast and I just dealt with an unpredictable 5-8 minute boot time each time I set the rig up. The problem would be that the RAID Drives won’t mount or be useable without the Lacie Software, though it was the Lacie Software that was causing the problem. The next time that I used the same hard drives with my rig I installed a new version of Lacie RAID Manager after uninstalling the old version and had zero issues, the drives worked flawlessly, hopefully Lacie had issues a fix. I’m yet to test it again in combination with the Codex Vault, we’ll just have to wait and see. If the issue did occur again I’d remove this kext temporarily and see if the system booted up, if it did and the drives were appearing it’d be sweet as, but if not a more serious problem would be at hand and I see no option but to stick with the current prolonged boot method.

THE FUTURE OF THE PREMIUM DATA KIT

One of the biggest bummers about anything to do with computers is the speed in which they get updated. I equipped my rig with a 980 Ti GPU which at the time was the 2nd best GPU that would work with macOS then 3 Months Later NVidia finally released Web Drivers for the 1000 Series GPUs and released the 1080 Ti GPU which would have been a much better candidate for my Data Rig. I’ve looked at upgrading to the 1080 Ti but have decided against it for the time being, the GPU is only capping out ARRIRAW and Phantom Transcodes which still run incredibly fast so until I upgrade my CPU the GPU is going to stay as is.

With recent updates to the iMac and MacBook Pro Line which introduce macOS to Kaby Lake CPUs things will get a lot easier in terms of setup. With new versions of Sierra and High Sierra there will be no need for FakeCPUID or disabling the iGPU which will be nice little bonuses. Which may even allow CPUSensors to work natively and bypassing the Intel Power Gadget Workaround.

The beauty about my Data Rig is that it’s able to be upgraded over time. My current plan is to hold out till the end of the year and see what happens in the Hackintosh Scene when the new iMac Pro comes out. It’s touted as having an 18 Core CPU which if replicated in the Hackintosh World would significantly speed up ProRes Transcodes as well as giving a solid speed boost to dealing with RED. Combo this with a new Graphics Card and it’ll be refreshed and ready to go. Other hot topics include Intel’s Cannonlake Platform which brings 6 Core CPUs to the mainstream. The problem is going to be finding motherboards that can run these new CPUs while having TB3 bundled in, as if you work in the film industry, Thunderbolt is commonplace be it hard drives or card readers. If you don’t have a system equipped with Thunderbolt it really isn’t going to cut it.

All in all, I’ve learnt a heck of a lot from this experience. I learnt how to build a computer from scratch, I learnt about setting up a Hackintosh and all the finesse that is required to iron out issues and lock down a fully working system, I learnt how to overclock, how to test overclocking and all about CPU Temperatures and CPU Cooling, I’ve expanded my transcoding knowledge along with a plethora of other skills.

If you are diving hard and fast into the world of Hackintosh then I hope this information serves you well and best of luck!

LASIK: A Patient’s Perspective

I’d been thinking about getting Laser Eye Surgery for a while. Looked up a bunch of testimonials online, people’s thoughts, facts and experiences. Most of them were positive and glowing with the statement ‘I only wish I got it done earlier’, others were saying they suffered dry eye for years afterwards and that there were a few surprises and complications. Heck, I didn’t even really know what dry eye is, the risks seemed risky even though they actually aren’t but in my head they were very real. So I put it down as a plausible option, but not for me right now, maybe in the future, but not now.

Then strolls in February 2017, the talk of Laser Surgery came up again one day with some friends, it re-sparked my interest and I thought fuck it, let’s take this seriously. I got back from a work trip on a Sunday Night, Monday I did some research and decided to book in a no-obligation assessment appointment for laser eye surgery. Come Tuesday I was sitting in the waiting room about to begin my examination. That same week on the Friday I was booked in the undergo a LASIK Procedure, Saturday I had my follow up and like a butterfly I spread my wings into a glasses free life. It all happened very quickly and I learnt a bunch along the way. I would like to pass my experiences onto you, others who are on the fence in regards to Laser Eye Surgery.

WHERE DO I START

I started where anyone living in 2017 would start, a Google Search. I found various clinics in Melbourne, Australia that offer Laser Eye Surgery and thankfully they have put in a solid amount of work in educating potential customers. Their websites host a wealth of information that you should all check out, you’ll learn the differences between LASIK and PRK, the recovery times of each procedure, what to expect, how much does it cost, etc. Check out any of these clinics to get a solid foundation of information:

After taking a good look at all the options I needed to pick a place to start. Being that it’s my eyes I wanted to go with someone respectable with a good reputation, that’s pretty hard to find in the world of Laser Eye Surgery. Some companies offer up their own client testimonials but I always take that with a grain of salt, they could be altered, or made up, you never know. After a solid session of internet research all that I could find was that some people had trouble with Medownick, that they had a reputation for being cheap and a few Reddit Posts that claim Dr. Noel Alpins of New Vision Clinics was a total professional. The four other clinics weren’t mentioned, Medownick was slammed and New Vision was praised. My choice was made.

INITIAL CONSULTATION

This first visit is important as it marks your first proactive action in getting rid of glasses once and for all. Though that was my goal, I did keep an open mind and wanted to keep a certain level of skepticism to ensure I didn’t get caught up in the allure of it all. On the phone I was told to bring a Medicare Card and Sunglasses, easy. I’d taken it upon myself to prepare a helpful medical history that would assist the optometrist and lay a foundation for good decision making during the appointment. I contacted Specsavers whom I had obtained my last 3 Sets of Prescription Glasses from to obtain records of my prescriptions over time, it was easy to do and could done over the phone, this is how they sat:

06/01/11 – Left and Right Eye: -1.25
30/01/14 – Left and Right Eye: -1.50
31/10/15 – Left and Right Eye: -1.75

So I went for my appointment at New Vision Clinics in Cheltenham in the morning. You get greeted by their reception staff, get asked to fill out a form and then take a seat. Shortly after you are taken into an examination room and you get evaluated by an optometrist. If you’ve ever got prescription glasses before you’ll know the drill, you look at a chart on the wall, various different lenses are trialled in front of your eyes and you’re asked to identify which option is sharper, 1 or 2, it’s a pretty easy task which I find quite enjoyable. They also take a close up look at your eyes under magnification with a light shining to evaluate the surface and general health of your eyes. My current prescription was sitting as follows:

21/02/17 – Left and Right Eye: -1.75 leaning towards a -2.00

Based upon this new measurement in combination with my previous prescriptions we could see that my eyes had only gotten slightly worse over time, jumping up one prescription level of -0.25 roughly every 1.5 Years and that it had pretty much stabilised over the past year and a half. The optometrist said that there is a very small chance that my eyes could naturally degrade over time even after laser surgery but being that I’m in my Mid 20s that it’s not very likely to happen. Being that my prescription is so low it’d be a relatively straight forward procedure with minimal likelihood of complications. She said if I was willing to accept the small chance of my eyes natural degrading over time then we’d proceed to the next step.

I went back to the waiting room and took a seat, shortly after the lady who was working at reception, who I assumed is a combo of Optometrist Nurse and Receptionist, took me to a different room where I undertook some extra tests. These are pretty straight forward and they walk you through what to do. One machine takes photographs of your eyes and the other does a 3D Scan of your eyes which details the thickness of your cornea and medical information about the eye’s underlying components.

Next up they put some special eyedrops in your eyes, these basically cause the muscles in your eye to relax causing them to dilate, aka open up and let more light in, which was the reason for needing to bring sunglasses, so you’re not bamboozled by the glare when you leave. They take about 20 Minutes to come in full effect so you watch a video with headphones on in the waiting room. It’s hosted by a well known Melbourne News Reporter and runs for around 10 Minutes. It basically covers everything that you should have read online in your initial research process, but I guess there are some people who aren’t as thorough as me and just booked in for an appointment blindly. Either way, it serves as decent revision and shows you a brief glimpse of what it will be like in the operating theatre when having the procedure done. That being said, this video felt like it was made 10-15 Years ago and didn’t really feel all that current and applicable. Once you’re finished watching you take a seat in reception and I noticed the weirdest thing, my eyes couldn’t focus properly. I was half freaking out but more intrigued by how my eyes we functioning. My glasses were off at this point, if I looked at my phone the screen was blurry and the closer I brought it to my face the more out of focus it became, but if I held it the right distance away it was okay, looking in the distance everything was blurry as usual due to my short sightedness. Upon putting my glasses on everything in the distance was sharp as a tack and felt a little bit bloomy, almost hyper real. When I looked down at my phone it was even more blurry then without glasses on, so weird. I was in this state of amusement with my eye fluctuations for around 8 Minutes until the optometrist came back to see me. I mentioned the sensation to her and she said it was totally normal, I would have loved to know about this beforehand, all I got warned about was my sensitivity to light would increase. Anyway, I was assured that it’d wear off after 3 Hours.

Back in the examination room we re-did our eye chart tests. This is because when our eyes are dilated or opened up to a greater degree our focus becomes more crucial or in photography terms, our depth of field becomes shallower. This is why at night our vision is often worse then during the day as our eyes have opened up to see better in the low light. These eye drops simulated extreme night time or darkness and lay the foundation for the perfect cross check of my eyes performance. I was told that it matched the -1.75/-2.00 Prescription that I had been given before and that I was a perfect candidate for LASIK Laser Eye Surgery. The cost was roughly $2500 per eye which was in line with my expectations based on what I had read online, there was availability for surgery this coming Friday, if I couldn’t do it then based on my schedule and Dr Noel Alpins Schedule I wouldn’t be able to get it done for like 5 Weeks. I felt pretty good about it and decided to pull the trigger and go ahead with the LASIK.

Next up was a one on one session with Dr Noel Alpins, the eye surgeon himself. He takes a look at your test results from the morning, your patient history and all other information the optometrists had gathered. He then personally evaluates your eyes under magnification and light and gives the yes or no if he’ll go ahead with the procedure. I got the thumbs up and was provided an opportunity to ask any questions. My biggest concern was my inability to focus my eyes right now but he assured me it’d be fine and that my LASIK Procedure would be a complete success. I did have some concerns about some of the side effects that were listed on the document that they get you to sign but he ensured me that they are mainly old side effects that haven’t been an issue for 15+ Years, they are mainly there just for legal reasons.

I headed off on my drive home and gosh it was a bizarre experience. I needed to wear my prescription sunglasses as it was bright due to my dilated pupils but the glasses were also required to focus in the distance to see the road. Their was a new vision factor in the mix though, I was unable to clearly see the speedo as my eyes couldn’t focus on it. I got home safely but it ended up taking like 8 Hours for my eyes to return to normal, a lot different then the 3 Hours I was told back at the clinic.

THE LASIK PROCEDURE

One of the many things that you are asked when you arrive on the day of your surgery is if you’d like a DVD Copy of your LASIK Procedure to take home at the end. It seemed like such a weird thing to ask but I embraced and said ‘yeah, why not’ and thus paved the way for this blog post. There is no better way to give a patients perspective of LASIK then to show you, so I’ve put together this little video to educate and entertain anyone considering LASIK in the future:

IMMEDIATE POST-OP

When you are walked out of the operating room the nurses have fitted clear protective covers over your eyes to keep them safe from touching. I took this photo of myself as record of how you look as soon as you exit:

DirectlyAfterLASIK_LowRes

The optometrist examines your eyes under the magnifying scope after 10 Mins of rest to see if the flaps are placed well and bonding, if all is good you are sent home with some instructions and a little bag full of medical goodies. They also equip you with some temporary sunnies as your eyes are sensitive to light after the procedure, I opted to keep these on for the afternoon as it felt better glare wise. You are advised to get driven home by a friend or family member and to take the afternoon pretty easy. I wound up just cruising out in bed listening to music and podcasts all day. The results are pretty instantaneous, it is tricky to see through the clear plastic protectors as they add a haze to your vision but I found if you peek through the small slit between you’re face and nose you get a clear view beyond and even 2-3 Hours after the operation I could see everything in focus in the distance. Amazing! This feeling of clear vision is something I hadn’t experienced in 6 Years and it was just a taste of what is to come.

EYE DROPS

If there is one thing that you are going to need to learn and get comfortable doing, it’s applying eye drops to yourself. I was always scared of it, I hated looking up and faltering in anticipation as I gently squeezed drops into my eyes. Now as part of my recovery I needed to use three different types of eye drops in my eyes, three times a day. It’s a lot of eye drops so you need to adapt quickly and learn to trust the drop. Know that it doesn’t hurt, get your aiming right, don’t blink and just let it fall. For me it took a few days to get comfortable with the constant application of eye drops, I even made mistakes one week on where I’d go for an eye drop and get my nose instead of my eye. Rest assured, you soon get the hang of it and embrace the feeling of a fresh drop in your eye. For a breakdown of the eyes drops please see below:

EyeDrops_LowRes

CILOXAN
This is an antibiotic eye drop used to prevent infection. It’s used three times daily and is applied 10 Mins before the Flarex.

FLAREX
This is a mild cortisone or steroid eye drop used to enhance healing of the eye after surgery. As with Ciloxan it’s applied three times daily and it makes sense to partner it up with Ciloxan so that you can knock them off simultaneously. It’s advised to apply Ciloxan first, then 10 Mins later apply Flarex so that each drop absorbs effectively into your eyes.

SYSTANE ULTRA
This is a lubricating eye drop designed to keep the eye moist. After surgery your eyes won’t produce the natural lubricating film as readily as you are used to and you will be left feeling irritated with dry eye. You can use these drops as much as you like, the goal is to keep your eyes comfortable. You will most likely run out of this eye drop especially if you use it a lot, fear not, it’s a non prescription eye drop which you can pick up at the chemist for around $7.

To make it simple I called them ‘Antibiotic Drops’ instead of Ciloxan which I labelled yellow and ‘Steroid Drops’ instead of Flarex which I labelled red. I found the best way to use these eye drops in combination is Antibiotic and Steroid around meal time, so breakfast, lunch and dinner. Apply the Antibiotic Drops first, then roughly 10 Mins later which usually timed well with finishing a meal , you apply the Steroid Drops. This pattern continues for 1 Week after surgery. The Systane Ultra which I dubbed ‘Lubricating Drops’ were used in between meals. How often you’d use them depends on your environment, if I was at home I found I didn’t need to use them that much but aimed to use them at least 2-3 Times a day. Sometimes when I was at work in an air conditioned environment I’d need to use them 2-3 Times between meals to keep my eyes comfortable. I also made a practice of using the Lubricating Drops before bed so my eyes were well primed for a solid night of healing.

If you’ve never used eye drops extensively before you’ll be interested to know that the eyes and tear ducts are connected to the nasal passage and thus the throat. This whole sinus system is joined so don’t be surprised when you can taste a funny taste in the back of your throat shortly after using the Antibiotic or Steroid Drops. It’s just the flavour of the eye drops and will soon disappear.

POST-OP CARE

One day after the procedure you head back into the clinic where both an optometrist and the eye surgeon look over your eye. You’re eyes are one of the fastest healing organs in your body which means that the LASIK Flap that was cut the day before should be well and truly healed even just 24 Hours after the surgery. Of course it isn’t fully healed to 100% strength for a few weeks but it’s immediate wounds are bonded and looking good. They remove your Eye Shields for the first time since your surgery and it’s great to be able to bask in clear vision without glasses. The optometrist runs an eye test as per your initial consultation and my eyes were actually better then 20/20 Vision which is what they call a ‘bonus zone’. The goal is 20/20 Vision but if you can read lines under the 20/20 Line on the Eye Chart then you’re in the realm of bonus vision. Both the surgeon and the optometrist were extremely happy with how my procedure turned out and looking under the magnifying scope they said ‘you could barely tell I had LASIK yesterday’.

You now have a few sets of rules to follow but it’s nothing too crazy:

  • Use Medicated Eye Drops as directed
  • Wear Eye Shields while sleeping for 2-3 Nights after surgery
  • Do not rub your eyes
  • Wear sunglasses when exposed to UV Light
  • Do not wear Eye Make-Up or Eye Masks for 7 Days following the procedure
  • Avoid Soap and Water in your eye for 2 Weeks
  • No swimming or water activities for 2 Weeks
  • Avoid dusty or smoky environments for 2 Weeks
  • No contact sport for 1 Month

I chose to wear the Eye Shields at night for 7 Days following the surgery as I was paranoid about rubbing my eyes in my sleep. There are a few variations that you need to make to how you sleep so that you can lay comfortable with the Eye Shields on, mainly head position and weight distribution but I found it pretty easy to adapt.

As a general rule I decided that the only thing that should touch my eyes are medicated eye drops and my eye lids. You’ll need to be particularly conscious about soap and water while showering and cleaning yourself. In the shower I made sure my eyes were closed when doing anything near my face and always washed my hair with my head backwards and water flowing towards my back, away from my face. At night when I washed my face before bed I used a warm flannel rather then running water and splashing it on my face, this gave me control and allowed me to keep water out of my eyes.

As you’ll be using so many eye drops it’s not uncommon for gunk or goo to build up in the corner of your eyes, especially after you have been sleeping. The best way to clear this out is to soak a flannel in warm water, wring it out and then precisely wipe your eye. It works best in front of a mirror as you can see what you are doing, only go as close to your eye as you need to in order to wipe the gunk out. This only needed to be done once or twice a day.

The rest are pretty easy to follow. No swimming or water sports for 2 Weeks and no contact sport for a month isn’t a huge ask. Wearing sunglasses while outside and not rubbing your eyes are just general eye health habits that should be followed. This is a perfect way to instil the habit in your system so you can continue them long after the surgery recovery period.

One additional suggestion that I would make would be sure to utilise your diet to leverage your recovery potential. If you take a look at research online it’s well stated that Omega-3s have proven to have a direct correlation to eye health. Many people supplement with Fish Oil to ensure they are getting adequate levels of EPA and DHA while recovering from LASIK, I was no different. Pick a good brand of Fish Oil and start a daily routine of having it with your breakfast, even better, load up on Sardines, Salmon or any other fish that is high in Omega-3s. I have no comparison as to how effective this method is to healing my eyes after LASIK but seeing as 4 Months on my eyes are as good as new, I see no reason not to introduce a higher intake of Omega-3s into your diet especially with all of the other health benefits that they offer.

PROBLEMS

There were a few things that I noticed about my eyes in the days and weeks following my laser eye surgery. Thankfully these are common side effects and nothing to be overly worried about but I thought I’d run them by you anyway.

FLOATERS
Apparently everyone’s eyes have floaters but we never notice them. Floaters are little floating substances that you can see in the corner of your eye, but when you go to look at them they disappear. If I were you I would take notice of identifying them before your surgery so that you can compare it to after the surgery. I had what appeared as an increased presence of floaters in my eyes, I could see them in my peripheral vision and they were particularly noticeable when they were backlit while watching TV. They would seem very out of focus and again with a photography background, it seemed like bokeh floating around the corners of my eyes. Even my eyebrows and eyelashes would seem more prominent as out of focus elements in front of my vision. Now, almost four months later I don’t even notice them anymore and they have gone away.

GLOW/FLARING
I noticed a very intense glow or flare effect whenever looking at something that is backlit, be it a TV or traffic lights when driving at night or early morning. It would flare out quite a bit and I was confused if it was in focus or not as the glow creates the illusion of softness in focus. I was like ‘are my eyes not focusing properly, has the laser correction not worked or is it just flaring out’. I concluded that it was just flaring out as when I used my hand to cut the backlight I could see perfectly fine and everything in the distance was sharp. Again, almost four months on and this has settled down and is no longer an issue.

BLOODSHOT EYES
I never got bloodshot eyes during the day but every morning after the surgery I would wake up and my eyes would be red as. Not like exaggerated in one area type of red but general redness all over the white part of my eye. I found that if I put in my eye drops, be it Antibiotic, Steroid or Lubricating and then ate breakfast, by the time I finished eating my eyes were back to normal. This stopped being an issue around 4 Weeks after the procedure.

CLOSE FOCUS
Sometimes when looking at my phone I would find it difficult for my eyes to find close focus. Where I used to hold my iPhone or iPad to read it now no longer worked and I needed to hold it further away from me to see it in focus. I also found that it was easier to relax the muscles in my eyes and consciously drift them into a state of blurriness. This cleared up after a few weeks and now isn’t a problem.

VISION QUALITY FLUCTUATIONS
It is completely normal to have some fluctuations in your vision while your eyes a fully healing. I found that some days my eyes would be better then others, sometimes my right eye wouldn’t focus very well but the left would be fine. It went up and down over the weeks, I’d have back to back days of perfect vision, then a day of slightly out of focus vision but nowhere near as bad as when I needed to wear glasses. Some days I’d have great vision in the morning but find by the afternoon what would normally be in focus was a little soft. You’re eyes take time to heal and to adapt, it wasn’t until roughly the 2-3 Month Period that this had fully settled and I was getting consistent performance from my eyes. From time to time I’ll notice that only one eye isn’t performing as well as it should, so I’ll pop in a Lubricating Eye Drop and take a few blinks and my vision will generally back to peak condition.

RESULTS

I must say, I am so glad that I went forward with the LASIK Procedure. It’s now almost been four months and I have vision that is better then 20/20. I can see in the distance perfectly, often better then my friends. I no longer have to deal with the woes of wearing glasses such as cleaning them, swapping from normal to sunnies when going from inside to out, looking down when it’s raining to stop raindrops getting on them, steaming up whenever you open the oven, the list goes on. I now wake up in the morning and everything is super clear with no issues, from time to time I will need to use some Lubricating Eyedrops for comfort and clarity but my need for them is becoming less and less.

For the first time the other week I went to a theme park in Japan and was able to ride a rollercoaster and enjoy clear, focused vision of the thrillride that befell me. Amazing!

I also visited an outdoor onsen while in Japan and totally appreciated the fact that I could walk outside at night in the cold, make my way to the hot springs of the onsen and bathe there with my face inches from the water and not have to deal with any fogging or bluriness. Amazing!

Another nice moment is when you take a look at yourself in the mirror from a distance, I realised that I hadn’t been able to see myself clearly from a distance without glasses on for years. Amazing!

In day to day life the benefits are paramount, clear vision really is a blessing and it’s so great to see clearly again without glasses!

Hopefully this post has helped you and educated you in some way, shape or form. If you have any other questions about my experience with LASIK please hit me up in the comments below.

Thanks!

The End of Faulty Brake Lights

Have you ever been driving and almost rammed into the back of the car in front of you? Forcing you to slam on your brakes last minute and sending your shopping flying off the seats and crashing to the floor. Then moments after realising that it isn’t your fault at all, blame falling to the driver ahead for not having working brake lights. How can you possibly know they are slowing down without a keen focus on depth perception? After all, it’s a skill to manage the numerous other attention sucking tasks that all drivers must juggle. The brake light makes it easy, blatantly obvious, that we are reducing speed, but when one of them are out, or even worse, both, it’s a recipe for disaster.

This issue plagued my mind many years ago when I started out driving on my P Plates. During my daily commute back and forth from the suburbs to the city I would see people with faulty brake lights, left one out here, right one out there, sometimes both of them wouldn’t be working and I’d find frustration taking over. I’d swap lanes as soon as I could so I didn’t have to deal with the extra concentration required on judging distance between my vehicle and the one in front, leaving that burden to someone else on the road to deal with. It got me thinking, surely these drivers weren’t purposefully driving without working brake lights. Nobody would want to intentionally put themselves, their vehicle and other drivers at risk. No, it had to be that they didn’t know that their brake lights weren’t working. They don’t do checks on their vehicle often enough or they haven’t had a mechanics service lately that would cover all of these routine checks. Which brought me to me next question, how do we tell them so they can make sure the problem gets resolved?

Obviously this is a communication breakdown, it lives by my rule that 95% of problems can be solved or prevented with communication. Simple, but how do you tell a driver going down the road at 80km/h that their brake light is out, you can’t shout it out the window at speed, they’d never hear you and it’d be down right dangerous. You could try to tell them at the next set of traffic lights but the chances of traffic working in your favour so that you can pull up to their side is quite slim. If traffic was on your side then you’d need to wind down your window, get their visual attention, they’d have to wind down their window and then you’d have a very brief conversation before the lights turned green again. This is all very circumstantial and not very likely to happen, being further compounded by the communication barrier. Not everyone has the confidence to strike up a conversation roadside with another fellow commuter, most people would just take the easy way out and do nothing.

THE SOLUTION

So are we forever doomed to living with faulty brake lights on our roads? Thankfully not, as I have devised a solution that you can easily put together at home to solve this problem once and for all. The two things that you will need is an A4 Printer and an A4 Laminator.

Click the text below to download these two files:

DOWNLOAD -> Left Brake Light
LeftBrakeLight

DOWNLOAD -> Right Brake Light
RightBrakeLight

Now all you need to do is print these PDF Files. There is a little trick to it though, if you have a duplex printer, meaning print on both sides of a sheet of paper then it should be easy. If you have a regular printer like me then I find it’s best to draw an ‘X’ or a ‘line’ on the top of the next piece of printing paper, print something out and compare where your ‘X’ or ‘line’ started to where it is when finished so that you can understand where your printer prints ink and how the paper moves through the printer mechanism. Armed with this knowledge, print off the above ‘Left and Right Brake Light PDFs’. Run the ‘Left Brake Light PDF’ through first, then put the same printed piece of paper back into the printer as per our above experiment and print the ‘Right Brake Light PDF’. You should end up with something like this:

BrakeLightGIF

Final step is to laminate this badboy so that it’s protected from weather and can remain in good condition throughout all of it’s uses over time. Laminators you can pick up pretty cheap from your local office supplies store, alternatively places like Officeworks or Staples should be able to do A4 Lamination for less then $1.

You are now done, keep this laminated print out in your car and on standby, ready to use should you encounter a fellow driver with a faulty brake light.

HOW TO USE

You may have noticed that the Left and Right Brake Light Printouts are backwards, while this may seem a bit silly at first, I can guarantee you that it’s not. As discussed before, communication to the other driver is key, for it to be effective it needs to be as easy as possible.

If you are driving behind another motorist and notice that one of their brake lights is out, just stay driving behind them. Next time you pull up to a traffic light, grab your Brake Light Printout and hold up the corresponding Left/Right Side. It’s best to hold it next to your head so the other driver will see something move and then use eye contact and a wave to acknowledge that they see you. Because the text is backwards it reads the correct way when viewed in a mirror. So rather then the driver having to turn their head to read your message, all they need to do is give a quick glance to their rear view mirror and they’ll be well informed of their faulty brake light.

RearViewMirror

If both of their brake lights are out, they will get your message that one of them is not working and surely check both lights when they begin work to mend the issue.

This is a great way to communicate to your fellow motorists that their brake light is broken. It’s easy, requires little effort on your part and might even strike up a laugh or a good story for both you and your fellow motorist to tell a friend. ‘Hey, you’ll never guess what happened today. I was driving, got a red and stopped at a lights, caught sight of this woman in my rear view. She was holding up a sign telling me my brake light was out. A little bizarre but hey, she was right.’ Then when they stop to really think about it they’ll realise your pure genius, ‘how did I manage to read that text in my mirror?’. For all you shy people out there, take comfort in hiding behind the sign, no need to break free of your comfort zone if you don’t feel like it. Hold up the words and let them do the talking!

Hopefully you find this helpful and I truly hope that with all of our combined efforts we can finally get rid of all those faulty brake lights on our roads!

Apple AirPods

AirPods. Apple’s first real foray in wireless headphones, I have been lucky enough to pick up a pair on launch day, delivered right to my door thanks to an early pre-order. Being in Australia we have the advantage of the time difference meaning that even though the TNT Delivery Man didn’t show up until 1pm in the afternoon, I’m still one of the first people in the world to give them a try. I wanted to share my initial impressions with you all.

First of all, they arrive in the classic Apple packaging. Minimalist design, neat, clean, it’s all about the product.

airpods_02

Upon removing the plastic wrap and delving within, you are presented with a very straight forward instruction manual and the factory sealed product.

airpods_03

Having removed the Charge Case from the box it immediately presents itself as a well rounded, rectangular shaped box. There is a Lightning Port at the base which is used to juice up the ‘Charge Case’ which in turn charges the AirPods when they are docked. There is also subtle button on the back which Apple claims is used to sync to different devices.

airpods_04

Upon opening the hinge you will notice a little light indicator, this indicates white when it is in connecting mode, orange when the AirPods are charging and green when they are fully charged. ‘Hello, I am AirPod L and I am AirPod R’. Similar to the standard Apple Wired Headphone, the AirPods have a little text print indicating which ear they belong to just encase it isn’t obvious.

airpods_05

Almost immediately I got into playing with the AirPods and they were extremely easy to figure out. To sync them to your iPhone, all you need to do is turn Bluetooth On, mine was already on as I use it for my Apple Watch and also to sync to my car audio system with a Belkin CarAudio Connect FM. Once Bluetooth is on you simply open the AirPod Case and you’ll get a connect pop-up on your iPhone, click ‘Connect’ and then you are good to go. You can immediately start playing songs, podcasts or videos and you’ll be able to wirelessly hear them through the AirPods. Here is a little video I put together showing you how easy they are to setup:

I found that they can easily sync up to my iPad as well as my iPhone. Apple states in the instruction manual that the subtle button on the back of the ‘Charge Case’ is used to initiate sync mode but I found that this wasn’t necessary. I simply turned Bluetooth on for my iPad and then looked at Bluetooth Devices in Settings and was able to select AirPods and Connect.

This is super useful as I’m a Spotify Free User, meaning I still have ads/pop-ups in the Spotify App and that I can only Shuffle Play on my iPhone. I don’t really use Spotify on my phone mainly for data reasons when I’m out and about, I tend to use it mostly on my iMac or my iPad. Spotify treats an iPad as a Computer meaning you can play albums and playlists as they were intended without having to Shuffle Play. So now I can use my iPad when I am cooking dinner to play Spotify through headphones, I won’t need to be tethered as it’s a wireless setup, the AirPods are small and lightweight meaning my movement around the kitchen won’t be hindered and I’ll still have access to pretty much full Spotify except with a few ads here and there. This for me has unlocked ultra portable Spotify, which isn’t super essential but definitely nice to have.

While listening to music through my iPad I found I was easily able to hijack the Bluetooth Connection between my iPad and the AirPods. I did this by going Settings -> Bluetooth -> AirPods on my iPhone, this took a short moment and the AirPods switched connection from my iPad to my iPhone.

One of the coolest features that I noticed pretty quickly is that whatever you are listening to something and you remove a single AirPod the content will automatically pause. The moment you pop that AirPod back into your ear play will continue where you left off. This is quite remarkable as it takes a common action (taking earphones out of your ear when someone talks to you) and introduces an automatic behaviour (content pause and play). This essentially means you could walk around with AirPods in all of the time and easily flow in and out of conversations in the real world with very little effort or disruption from your music/podcast.

I had a play with how the charging works and it feels very similar to the way the Apple Watch Charger functions, wireless charging with a magnetic latch. You place the AirPods into the Charge Case and once they are close enough a magnet locks them into place, securing them and initiating charge from the case to the AirPods themselves. Interestingly enough you also have the option to charge a single AirPod at a time, if you just put one AirPod into the Charge Case you will be able to see on your iPhone or other connected device the battery percentage of each individual AirPod. When both AirPods are in the charge case they display in unison. Here is a little video I put together demonstrating the magnetic click in and the battery displays on iPhone:

For seamless access to your AirPods Battery Information you can swipe left from your iOS Home Screen you get access to your widgets. Enable the ‘Batteries’ Widget if it isn’t already enabled and depending on the state of the AirPods (In-Use, Individually in Charge Case or Both in Charge Case) you will see the corresponding battery percentages.

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One of my favourite features of the standard Apple Headphones was the hard buttons near the microphone. While listening to music I like being able to easily adjust volume up and down as well as play/pause. The middle button was also great for answering and hanging up phone calls. As discussed earlier play/pause is sorted but it’ll be interesting to see how I adapt to the new Siri Features of the AirPods for volume control and other miscellaneous tasks.

My initial impression in regards to audio quality has been a winner. I listened to some music and it sounded as good if not better then the standard Apple Headphones. I also made a test phone call and the audio quality was as expected, the people on the other end of the line could hear me loud and clear and I had no issues hearing what they had to say. I did a very basic Bluetooth Range Test and like many other Bluetooth Headphones it is indeed limited by proximity. I was listening to Spotify on my iPad through the AirPods and found I was able to walk approximately 10m around the house away from the iPad before I started getting a few audio drop outs. Though audio did drop out I didn’t notice any degradation in audio quality of the bits and pieces that were coming through.

I’ve had a great first impression of the AirPods, the seamless setup process and the quality of the product is exactly what I would expect of high end tech in 2016. Over the next few days and weeks I’ll keep using them and see if I notice any major disadvantages or hiccups that need ironing out. If you’re interested in hearing more please let me know in the comments section below.

 

FFXV: Ultimate Cactuar EXP

Hello Everyone,

My name is Brad and I’m addicted to levelling up. Since I first played Final Fantasy 7 the lesson of train hard, win easy was seeded deep down, I’ve recently been playing my way through Final Fantasy XV on Playstation 4 and this is no different.

When you first set off with Noctis and his companions you will be in the town of Hammerhead, not too far from here lies a Cactuar that will net you 6000 EXP per kill which is pretty insane for this early in the game.

Many players around the globe have posted various videos detailing it’s location and various tips and tricks for making the little bugger spawn. But for me, that was precisely the problem, it wouldn’t spawn and any map of the Cactuar’s location was in a YouTube Video that was annoying to pause and too small on my iPhone Screen. So I thought I’d share a Full HD Map of the Cactuar’s Location here:

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The Cactuar spawns around my location marker on the map, the best way to find him is to listen for little squeaks and keep an eye out for his green darting movements. To get there quickly you can park your car where mine is parked on the map, then it’s a short run over, alternatively you can head up directly from Hammerhead.

The wider community seems to believe that the Cactuar spawns between 04:00 – 07:59, I haven’t found this to be the case as I’ve had them spawn in the afternoon around 14:00. My strategy was to hunt in that general area between 05:00 – 18:00, when it got late, drive to a different town and do a hunt or collect some resources and make your way back in the morning to avoid any daemons that may show up.

I tried saving and loading a few times to assist with the spawn rate but that didn’t really seem to help. I’ve found that roughly 300ft – 500ft is a good distance to run away from the spawn spot and then head back, if you can slay a different pack of enemies before you head back that feels like it helps in making the Cactuar actually show up. When you return to the ‘Cactuar Spawn Point’, if different enemies appear, kill them and then run away again, there is no way a Cactuar will spawn right after another monster. If you get bored it’s worth a run to the nearby campsite to extract some magic elements for your spells.

At the start of the game the Cactuar sits at Level 15 and isn’t too tough to beat. The one move to watch out for is 1000 Needles as it’s guaranteed 1000 Damage and will definitely take you down to ‘danger’. I found Warp Strikes with Daggers to be the best best, strike hard and fast to stun the Cactuar and then get a few hits in, retreat to safety for a little bit and repeat.

Ultimate EXP
At the end of Chapter 1 you find yourself far south doing an errand for Dino in exchange for a boat trip, once all is said and done he will suggest you rest overnight before disembarking the next morning. This overnight hotel visit scores you 2x EXP Bonus, don’t be afraid that you’ll miss it as it’s very obvious, the game says something along the lines of ‘would you like to proceed, if you continue you won’t be able to return here for a long time’. What I would suggest is not sleeping for a few in-game days and slay as many Cactuars as you can be bothered to, then proceed with this and your EXP will instantly be doubled.

I followed this trick with 26,000 EXP which doubled to 52,000 EXP and my entire party levelled up from Level 15 to Level 28, highly recommended!

Anyway, I hope this helps out a few Final Fantasy Fans out there looking to get a decent leg up at the start of the game. And if not, well, it’s a good reference for me to look up shall I want to hunt the Cactuar again anytime soon.