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July 30th, 2013

Chrome OS logoFor a few years, so-called “netbooks”—small, light, inexpensive mini-laptops—were wildly popular despite leaving out optical drives, having minimal RAM, and reducing the number, size, and type of connections (except WiFi, of course). Some overeager early adopters thought they could replace laptop rentals for their field sales personnel and conference teams with netbooks, and quickly discovered the limitations.

Today’s netbook is a Chromebook, an entirely different animal. Google’s Chrome OS lets manufacturers build reasonably priced, hard-drive-free, cloud-centric, small-form laptops with decent screens and enough “oomph” to get work done. Chromebooks are no competition for our MacBook Pro rental, but they aren’t supposed to be. Still, only someone with modest computing demands—web, social media, email, basic office work—would make a Chromebook her primary computer.

Google’s success is no joke

As global PC sales continue their downward trajectory, media outlets are reporting Chromebook sales increases. The major stories indicate neither how much, nor who in the product chain is making any money. When trying to confirm technology rumors, you pore over shipping reports of touchscreen panel makers and other component subcontractors; in the absence of hard figures about sales and shipments, you make inferences from market share estimates and price tiers. The picture that emerges from them lately shows a company that has had its blunders, certainly, but which has steadily advanced toward its ultimate goal: Subjugation of the universe!

Chromebooks are cloud-based

In all seriousness, Google is creating wildly popular products and services that are changing the world. And how’s this for change: Gartner notes that worldwide PC sales dropped nearly another 11 percent in the second quarter of 2013, while NPD Group notes that Chromebooks grew to a new high and account for 20-25 percent of all units under $300. Of course, we cannot put that in perspective until we know (1) accurate sales figures and (2) margins. However, Google wants people to know that Apple is not the only tech firm that can create new PC paradigms, and that Google and its growing group of A-list manufacturers—Samsung, HP, Acer, Lenovo—have birthed a healthy niche in a dwindling market.

On the other hand…

Remember, it was Windows 8—which is either flailing about wildly or really stirring it up, depending on your choice of pundit—that was going to “save the PC industry.” Instead we have a continuing slide and another 11 percent drop in sales, while Google’s Chrome OS gets packaged by some of the same respected manufacturers in the CRE computer rental inventory, then grabs about a quarter of the sub-$300 U.S. PC business.

Estimates on numbers of Chromebook units that have been shipped, sold, or put to use are varied. NetMarketShare data from April 2013, however, showed total web traffic from Chromebooks at approximately 1/50th of 1 percent. ZDNet estimated earlier in 2013 that Windows RT had earned a larger share than that after being on the market a mere three months (Chromebooks began shipping in 2011). So, will Chromebooks succeed? There are good signs, like wide acceptance in the education market, and support from Google Apps resellers and CSBs (cloud services brokerages). If more big-name manufacturers sign on to make Chromebooks, that’s another giant step for Google—but it doesn’t mean you have to buy one, or help them take over the universe. Just don’t bet against ’em.

When you need just the right event production rentals, another mountain of mass storage, or high-end post-production gear, CRE is your smartest source. Give us a call at (877) 266-7725, send a short (or long!) message, or use the Quick Rental Quote page to reserve what you need, when you need it, 24/7/365!

December 4th, 2012

With every new smartphone, tablet or multifunction-Wi-Fi-enabled personal doohickey comes at least one prediction that this latest device is really—really!—the long-awaited laptop killer. In the early 2000s, before mobile processors evolved to be as powerful as the ones found in the typical desktop computer rental, the notion of  a “desktop replacement” laptop was only a dream. But now that high-end units like our MacBook Pro rental are more potent than many desktops, the battle is on to see which phone, tablet, or geegaw will emerge as the laptop replacement. As the frontrunner in the tablet race, Apple’s mega-selling tablet is first up: So, can an iPad replace your laptop?

Can an iPad replace your PC?

Early Tablets

When the original iPad debuted in 2010, it was the “Year of the Netbooks,” those low-priced 9-to-11-inch mini-laptops that were generally far less expensive than the iPad. When CRE stocked its first iPad rental, it was something like a netbook without a keyboard—but it was also like a supersized iPod touch. Had it been built to run OS X, it may have qualified as a “little computer.” But it came with iOS, which limited your installation options, abandoned Flash, and came up far short of being a full-fledged computer OS. (The current version, iOS 6, still isn’t one.) At the same time, this brought improvements in its simple and ergonomical ease-of-use. The Windows-based tablet PCs had some of the right puzzle pieces—touch capability, handwriting recognition, convertible operation—but were, and arguably still are, works in progress. (Microsoft’s Surface Pro debuts in January 2013. Is it a laptop killer, or a new paradigm?)

Developments

Fast-forward now: The iPad 2 added cameras, the third generation debuted the Retina Display, and now the supply of iOS apps is in the zillions. Users are still quarantined behind the “walled garden” of apps, but web-based tools are proliferating – capitalizing on the user-friendly interface. There are any number of things that an iPad can do as well or better than a laptop (or desktop)—reading, managing e-mail, watching movies/TV, staying plugged in to social media, and gaming. These activities may also be work-related, though some people consider the iPad better for watching entertainment than producing it. Yet, with every new advanced app in every area of media expertise—content, production, PR, even event planning—this is changing.

For example, the newly updated iMovie and iPhoto apps are powerful enough for video and photo editing/management, capturing HD (stills, video), audio recording, and more. Media pros still use such advanced computer-based tools as our AJA IO HD, but can now integrate the iPad into their workflow, on-set and in the editing bay, for a variety of purposes.

The Conclusion?

Given its growing capabilities—running major office programs, leveraging cloud storage, doing lots of cross-platform tasks—the iPad can now probably be considered a replacement for that secondary laptop you use for traveling (or when the kids take over the PC). How long until it replaces your number one computer? Stay tuned…!

A single call or e-mail, or a simple visit to our Quick Rental Quote form, will get you exactly what you need to overcome every challenge and meet every deadline. We’re here for you, right now!

January 12th, 2010

NetbookThe only thing constant is change, right? This past year proved that the computer industry still had product niches left to develop and exploit. The rise of the “netbook” – a low- to medium-power, small-format computer with a bright screen, built-in WiFi, and basic productivity software that will never be confused for a rootin’ tootin’ laptop, like the new MacBook rental – proves the computer companies are still thinking about their product lines (and bottom lines, of course).

The move to “pocket computers” follows the trend to smartphones, of which the iPhone and the new Google-powered Droid are prime examples. The phones are truly pocket-sized, can run tons of “apps” that are easily downloaded for low or no cost, and are great for quick messages as well as long talks. The netbooks, most with keyboards between 60-80% the size of a normal PC laptop, offer real e-mail interaction, a normal Web experience with a real browser, memory card slots, USB ports, Ethernet — wow, just like a real computer!

Critical mass for netbooks

Interestingly, it was the niche players — companies like Acer and Asus that were more business- than consumer-oriented, and also sold motherboards and other components — that drove the development of netbooks. Soon enough, major players like Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard which makes everything from netbooks to high-power desktops (available as a rental), were in the game.

You won’t be doing Vegas Video editing on a netbook, and forget Final Cut Pro as Apple, despite persistent rumors, has steadfastly refused to enter the fray with a “Mac netbook.” The processors, although Intel, aren’t quad-core, dual-core or even hard-core (like some tried-and-true Pentiums). More powerful CPUs will not be possible until better battery technology is available, and dissipating heat is always a problem in small spaces where fans don’t fit.

“Phone-replacement” computers?

Businesses may find a use for netbooks as smartphone replacements, but they are simply not fast enough, and the screens are too small, to be true laptop replacements. If you need a powerful HP or Mac laptop in your line of work, an Atom-powered HP Mini is just not going to cut it. In fact, if you need a few laptops for your department to stay in touch at a conference, take notes, send e-mails and browse prospects’ (or competitors’) sites, you’d be pushing a poor little netbook into a nervous breakdown.

As always,  get the right tool for the job. If you need help figuring out just what that is, call one of our expert Account Executives today. If you like, explain your situation in an e-mail or, if you know what you need, just send us a Quick Rental Quote form. We will make sure you have exactly what you need to do the job right.

December 15th, 2009

MacBook Pro rentalsThe newly upgraded, 13-inch 2.26 GHz MacBook Pro (MBP) has amassed a number of rave reviews from the experts, including an Editors’ Choice award from CNET – as well as from PCMag.com, Laptop Magazine and ComputerShopper. Reviewers credit the many internal changes, and several important cosmetic ones, for making the entry-level MBP an excellent value for new Mac users.

The base model MacBook Pro retains the classy, aluminum unibody and the slick multi-touch trackpad of its predecessor. The positive additions include a SecureDigital memory card slot, full-size backlit keyboard, a FireWire 800 port, a color-enriched display and a permanent (non-removable) battery good for up to seven hours on a charge. These macintosh laptops are faster, have more ports and offer a longer-lasting battery!

Mid-range and top of line MacBook Pros

One rung up the MBP ladder is the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.53 GHz processor, above which there are 15- and 17-inch models available with CPUs up to 3.06GHz. All MBP models have a 1066 MHz frontside bus, 3MB of shared L2 cache (as much as 6MB for the 15- and 17-inchers) and run applications faster than ever. When you choose to rent a MacBook Pro or  iMac rental, you can be assured that you’re getting the state-of-the-art in desktops and notebooks.

The basic graphics subsystem is a power-saving NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, offering integrated graphics processing for solid, everyday performance with long battery life – the best choice for an MBP to rent for “cruising” conventions and conferences. The 17-inch MBP and certain 15-inch models have the NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT discrete graphics board, offering powerful performance for graphically demanding work.

Powerful, colorful (and green)

The MacBook Pro’s glossy LED-backlit widescreen display has 60 percent greater color gamut than previously, for richer and brighter colors. Everything you see – including the display itself – is spectacularly clear, with performance that is solid. With its seamless glass enclosure, this display is strong, durable, power efficient, mercury- and arsenic-free – and greener than ever.

Every MacBook Pro has a large hard drive, up to 500 GB, or you can opt for a 128 or 256 GB solid-state drive (SSD). The MacBook Pro also supports up to 8 GB of high-speed RAM, has the iSight webcam and a microphone built in, and ups the wireless ante to 802.11n for even faster communications. There are two USB 2.0 ports (three on the 17-inch model), a FireWire 800 port for speedy peripherals and a Mini DisplayPort that can easily power the new Apple LED Cinema Display.

Apple didn’t forget the entry-level MacBook laptop, either, giving it a unibody of its own (plastic, not aluminum), a new battery technology and a few other tweaks. Try MacBook rentals for an upcoming corporate event.

Curious about the new Macs and what they can do for your company? Talk to one of CRE’s expert Account Executives today – send an e-mail, make a call, fill out a Quick Rental Quote form – and find out everything you need to know about the new Mac laptops. You can also read our round-up of the latest Mac desktop computers, as well as an overview of other new Apple technology.

December 10th, 2009

With the pace of technological change seeming to accelerate all the time, how can SMBs (Small and Medium-sized Businesses) hope to stay current? It’s not just a matter of getting the latest equipment. You also have to keep your employees updated, trained and equipped. It’s not easy, but online education of various kinds may help you.

There are companies that run well-structured, highly organized online schools, and you might want to look into these. However, there are also many low- and no-cost ways to keep your employees up to date. If you work in digital media, with audio and video applications like Final Cut or Vegas—on powerful quad- and eight-core desktop computers like the Mac Pro or an H-P XW 8400 workstation—then you already know how much time it takes to stay current.

Training ClassFor your other employees, perhaps working with continuously upgraded software like office applications and operating systems, you can save money by locating some free tutorials online. Get a Macintosh and/or PC desktop like CRE rents, set it up in a spare office or corner of the break room, and establish a training schedule. This way none of your regular workflow is interrupted and you can upgrade skills without downgrading your firm’s productivity.

Use it or lose it?

Remember, too, that the software packages you’ve invested in usually come with tutorials, online help files, sample documents and other training aids. It may be that you are well covered for software training without knowing it. In that case, extend your horizons a bit and you will discover that there is as much, or more, business and marketing training available to help you grow and expand your company.

It should go without saying that most companies need a strong, compelling and (hopefully) original Web presence or “online strategy” in this day and age. Check out these excellent online webinars and seminars featuring search engine marketing topics that will help your organization “conquer” search.

Low-cost training/research station

One of the lesser-advertised benefits of a computer rental is training and research. In SMBs, most computers (like their users) are dedicated to certain daily tasks that are interrupted at your peril. Renting a wifi-enabled tablet PC, laptop, or desktop from CRE will keep your own assets invested in ongoing work, and allow you to keep skills updated as you rotate your computer users through a new training workstation—outfitted with free lesson plans that you’ve just learned about.

Fill out our Quick Rental Quote form now and our expert Account Executives will help you set up whatever you need to keep you on the cutting edge. Let the training begin!

September 1st, 2009

What we now know as Apple Final Cut Pro, now in version 7 while the Studio package is in version 2, was actually created by Macromedia. That’s the company that took over the venerable FreeHand vector drawing program way back when, and also brought Dreamweaver (née GoLive), Flash and a few other goodies along when Adobe absorbed them in 2005.

Long story short, Macromedia brought a beta version of a program called KeyGrip to the National Association of Broadcasters convention in 1998 (NAB1998) but found no takers. In somewhat of a strategic move, Apple bought up the KeyGrip code and the team that birthed it, added Firewire and DV support, continued developing the product and released it at NAB1999 as Final Cut Pro (FCP).

Meanwhile, its old code and low optimization took Adobe Premiere’s Mac market share steadily downward, to the point that Premiere Pro became a Windows-only product at about the turn of the millennium. Starting then, however, FCP began making serious inroads into the Hollywood movie scene, and by 2007 it had just about half (49%) of the domestic professional editing market, compared to 22% for Avid.

It began with a teen flick

Demonstrating the power and potential of a consumer (more like “prosumer”) product, the teen movie Rules of Attraction was edited on a beta release of FCP3 in 2001. This made the film’s director, Roger Avary, something of an unofficial spokesman for Apple’s editing software, which caused a few industry pros—editors, directors of photography, directors, producers—to take notice. The entertainment world as a whole then noticed, and FCP won an Emmy in 2002 for its “impact on the television industry.”

Mac Rental with Final Cut Pro (FCP)All the Macs that CRE rents—from MacBook Pros to the Mac Pro towers—are able to run FCP, so professional and amateur moviemakers alike can work on their latest masterpieces at home, on a soundstage or on location. Some of the heavy lifting for special effects may take some extra horsepower, additional time or both, but the fact is that FCP has democratized the filmmaking field more than any other product, service, or invention.

Gaining momentum still

There is no doubt that FCP’s involvement in the production of the 2008 Brad Pitt hit, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, sent a powerful “get on board” message to filmmakers still undecided about the software. The movie led the year’s Oscar nominations with a baker’s dozen (13, remember?) and was noteworthy for the excellent look and seamless special effects. Renting CRE’s Mac Pro with FCP gets you the same power that brought a bucket of Oscar noms to this well-regarded film.

Even before Benjamin Button, however, a long list of first-rate films attested to the growing power and popularity of Apple’s editing package (see Mac Movies List, below), including multiple Oscar-winner Cold Mountain, Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima and the Best Movie of 2008, No Country for Old Men.

Big help for small films

It’s not only big studios and bankable stars that benefit from the Mac’s creative muscle. Able Edwards, made in 2004 by director Graham Robertson and producer Steve Soderbergh, was shot on a small Hollywood green-screen stage in 15 days on a $30,000 budget. It was edited on a single PowerMac G4 with a mere 2GB of RAM, using FCP alongside Maya, QuickTime and Adobe Photoshop. Five years later, the iMacs that CRE rents have many times the power of that G4, so a low-cost rental can put you in the race for Oscar gold—assuming you have a great script, a talented cast and a distribution deal (YouTube may do in a pinch).

As far as a “movie on a shoestring” story, there’s an even better one. Johnatan Caouette made his a 2003 documentary film, Tarnation, on an iMac for a final budget of $281. If you think that’s impressive, he didn’t even use FCP, he did it all with iMovie. Incredibly, the distributor spent over 1,400 times more (nearly $400,000) promoting the flick and bringing it to theaters. Caouette didn’t even have an external hard drive for storage, much less a RAID array like CRE rents, and dealt with iMovie’s limitations by producing 15 minutes of the film at a time. He would then dump each segment onto his Hi-8 tape master, delete it from the iMac and start up on the next piece.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way—but where there’s a Mac, it’ll save the day. If you are thinking of giving Universal and Paramount some competition, and need a little extra post-production prowess, CRE is here with the right solutions. One of our specialties is supporting animators, editors and special effect pros in the entertainment industry, so contact us by filling out the CRE Quick Quote Rental Form , calling us toll-free at (877) 266-7725 or sending an e-mail for a quick, courteous and knowledgeable response.

- – - – - – - – - -

Major films edited with FCP:

Black Snake Moan
Burn After Reading
Cold Mountain
Corpse Bride
Full Frontal
Happy Feet
Intolerable Cruelty
Jarhead
Letters from Iwo Jima
Napoleon Dynamite
No Country for Old Men
Open Water
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Super Size Me
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Ladykillers
The Ring
The Ring 2
The Rules of Attraction
The Simpsons Movie
Zodiac

July 23rd, 2009

QuickTime (QT) has been part of the Macintosh Operating System (OS) for so long that some people think it’s always been there. Not so. It was introduced in 1991, toward the end of System 6’s life, so the first OS into which it was fully integrated was System 7. For those of you who go back that far with the Mac, like we do, System 7 will be remembered as a true milestone for Apple and its user base. Many of System 7’s features survive to this very day, in Mac OS X, the system that powers CRE’s rental inventory of Macintosh laptops, desktop towers and servers.

System 7 introduced cosmetic changes to the GUI (Graphical User Interface) as well as plenty of changes “under the hood.” That little right-pointing triangle in front of folder icons, the one that reveals and hides the folder’s contents? Introduced with System 7. AppleScript and aliases, both powerful tools and both still going strong, also debuted with System 7. Still, the major contribution that it made was QT. By version 2.0, it was available for Windows, too, where it found generally good acceptance.

The “Pro” debut

Way back when—Mac OS 8.5, when QT was at version 3—Apple developed a new QT distribution scheme. It would now come in two distinct flavors, QT and QT Pro. With the basic version, you get a basic set of A/V capabilities that enable watching QT movies and working with a few other sound and image formats. That’s about it, except for a handy QT plug-in for your web browser. QT Pro, however, empowers you to create and edit QT movies and sound recordings, as well as do a lot of handy tasks that have endeared it to A/V professionals everywhere.

QuickTime (Basic) QuickTime Logo

With the version of QT that is included with Mac OS X, you’ll get such solid if unsurprising capabilities as:

• Viewing all versions of QT movies both on and off the Internet

• Working with different audio and video file types

• Changing the resolution and display size of movies

• Printing movie frames

• Watching QT TV programs

QuickTime Pro

When you pay for the QT Pro upgrade, more features become available.  One of the most popular and powerful features is the ability to record and edit original QT movies (they’re called movies whether they contain audio, video or audio-and-video). QT Pro not only gives you all the capabilities of the basic version, but some very potent features such as:

• Full-screen video playback

• Viewing files from a greater number and variety of formats

• Recording original QuickTime movies (audio, video or both)

Editing and saving movies in multiple formats

• Copying and pasting material of different formats into QuickTime

• Enabling QuickTime movies to be streamed over the Internet

• Doing sharpening, color tinting and other effects and filters

• Creating a slide show from a sequence of still images

If you work with multimedia files, just the ability to save what you open into other file formats always made the upgrade worthwhile. However, it is not at all clear that Apple is continuing the two-tier QT distribution model. Today, as Apple prepares to release Snow Leopard 10.6, its new iteration of OS X, rumors are flying that “QuickTime X” will be one no-cost version with some, but not all, of the A/V bells and whistles that many media pros rely on every day. A lot of our creative friends, the kind who do a month’s worth of work in a week or two with a CRE PowerMac G5 plus Kona card, are going to miss QT Pro, and in a big way.

Not a sword, a Swiss Army knife

QT—whether basic, Pro, X or some version still under wraps—was never developed to be a full-fledged movie editing application like Final Cut Studio, Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas. It is not a four-foot, gleaming, razor-sharp battle sword with which to slay mountains of digital video. Aja IO HD RentalIt’s a pocket-sized Swiss Army knife for trimming, splicing, dicing and chopping up bits and pieces of images or sound files when you don’t have time to fire up the AJA Io HD and Final Cut.

Still, the final word has yet to be given on its fate. Apple is mum for now, but developers who are working with pre-release versions of Snow Leopard are leaking some details. The most leaked news concerns the apparent abandonment of QT Pro, and the migration of only part of its great tool set to the new QT X.

So, will this be another one of those “downgraded upgrades” from Apple HQ, like the recent removal of Firewire ports from the laptop line that has since been remedied? (Need Firewire ports? Rent a MacBook Pro laptop from CRE). It could be much noisier than that one, as there are more people using QT than use their Firewire ports. Whatever happens, we’ll cover it for you, although you just might hear the screaming all the way from the Apple boardroom.