Flying meat acorn 6For years Adobe Photoshop was my image editor. I used it on a Windows PC. Then switched to the Mac version. Now my first choice image editor is Flying Meat’s Acorn 6.

Acorn only runs on a Mac. Last week the software updated from version 5 to 6. The upgrade brings a raft of new features, improvements and bug fixes.

Photoshop is a heavyweight image editor in every sense of the word. It has a vast array of features.

Designers and other professionals love its power. So do hardware makers. Photoshop chews through computing resources. You need a powerful processor and lots of ram to make it work. Even then it can be slow.

Acorn 6 compared to Photoshop

Acorn is the polar opposite. It has fewer features. Relative to Photoshop, it sips resources.

I found Acorn when I moved to a MacBook Air . Photoshop runs on the Air, but it isn’t pretty. After asking around I found and purchased Acorn 5. I wish I had found Acorn earlier.

While there is power in Photoshop, I only ever scratched the surface of the software.

As a journalist, my image processing is cropping and tweaking to make pictures clearer. Often that’s simple. It means applying filters or adjusting colours and contrast.

On the rare occasion I want to do more, Photoshop’s steep learning curve is, well, steep.

It means struggling for a few minutes. Then giving up by reverting to a less ambitious plan B. If the job has enough budget, then a professional can do the job.

Which meant I wasn’t getting value out of Photoshop.

The cheapest way to buy Photoshop is to pay a little over NZ$30 a month for a subscription.

At the time of writing you can buy Acorn 6 outright for about three weeks’ Photoshop. There is a limited-time US$15 promotion. When the price returns to US$30, Acorn 6 will still cost less than two months of Photoshop.

Everyday image editing

I use Acorn 6 every day. While I still only scratch the surface of the software, going deeper is less time consuming. It’s less daunting. Flying Meat software provides all the online help and tutorials you might need to solve problems.

The software never pushes against the resource limits of my MacBook Air. Acorn is snappy all the time, no matter what you throw at it. OK, that might not be the case if you try something heroic. That’s not somewhere I go.

I’ve yet to find any image editing task that I want to do, but can’t. If there’s something tricky and there’s a budget, I’ll still hire a pro to do the work with Photoshop.

Knowing when to walk away from time-wasting is a useful life skill for a freelance. So is knowing when to buy a low-joule image editing application.

Also on:

Apple’s 2013 iMac line-up
Apple’s 2013 iMac line-up

Apple updated its iMac lineup on overnight bumping graphics performance and speeds. The new models make use of the latest generation of Intel chips and wireless networking.

All the new iMacs come in versions sporting a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor. You can configure them with the faster Core i7 chip. They use the Intel Haswell technology that’s already in Apple’s MacBook Air.

According to Apple, the new Nvidia graphics chip is twice is fast as the last generation. It now comes with twice as much memory. The company says the Wi-Fi in the new models is up to three times speedier than before. It now includes 802.11ac support, but you need a new wireless router to get the benefit of this speed.

Apple also says the storage is faster in the new iMacs.

New Zealand prices range from $1999 for the base level 21.5 inch iMac while the top of the line 27 inch model with3.4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 775M is $3099. All models are now on sale in Apple’s New Zealand online store.

  • A feather in the cap for Telecom NZ which will set up and manage an access station for a global satellite broadband network being developed by British satellite company Inmarsat. The Global Xpress network plans to offer seamless global internet coverage with speeds of 50 Mbps. Inmarsat says the service can be used by airline passengers and people travelling by land or sea. The contract will see Telecom add a new antenna to its Warkworth Satellite Earth Station north of Auckland.
  • A link to cloud storage and automatic synching are two of the headline new features in the latest version of Adobe Photoshop Elements. Elements used to be the consumer version of the company’s heavy-duty photo editing software, but these days it’s pitched as the mobile edition. The software is sold as a download from the Australian online store at AU$129 for a new copy and A$99 for an upgrade.

Adobe-Creative-Cloud

Adobe’s Creative Cloud looks a lot like Creative Suite 6. There are new features. Some border on revolutionary. Yet overall, the experience isn’t much different from what went before.

So why have almost 40,000 customers signed a petition against Adobe Creative Cloud?

The customer backlash is because Adobe has moved to a subscription-only model that makes already expensive software more expensive. It doesn’t help that the company has a near monopoly on the software used by design professionals.

Adobe Creative Cloud standard

Yes, there are alternatives, but they are often unsatisfactory and rarely as comprehensive. And anyway, these tools are the industry standard. Many people can’t work without them.

Adobe’s cloud pricing model is more expensive than being able to buy the software piecemeal as needed.

It’s not all bad.

A full Creative Cloud subscription costs New Zealanders A$50 a month or A$600 a year. Existing customers can upgrade for A$30 a month. That’s also the price Adobe charges students.

So for A$600 a year you can get all the software that would cost close to A$3000 if purchased the old way. The new cloud deal also throws in a few online storage options to sweeten the pot.

Staying up to date

What I like about this deal is the way it means you can always keep bang up-to-date with the software. That’s good for security and its good for staying compatible with everyone else.

On the other hand, it’s also what the complaining customers don’t like. With the old way of buying software, customers could save money by skipping upgrades. After all, many upgrades are not that necessary. Until Adobe offered a trial subscription of Creative Cloud, I was still using CS2 – that ancient version met my needs.

The other counter-argument is that the A$50 a month Creative Cloud subscription is all-or-nothing. Adobe does offer subscriptions to individual applications for A$20 a month, but you have to be an intrepid explorer to find these on the company’s website. What’s more, you don’t get access to some of the cloud services.

The more you need the cheaper it gets

There’s little question Adobe’s new price regime is designed to increase revenues and margins for the company. Let’s not forget this is the company that appeared to be the worst offender at the Australian price-gouging inquiry.

To be fair, there’s no price-gouging with its cloud offering. Exchange rates fluctuate, but at the moment Adobe’s Australian and New Zealand monthly subscription is A$50, that’s less than the US$50 being charged in America

And while many users are unhappy, Adobe’s cloud price scheme is a great deal for the company’s most serious users. Those who rely on multiple Adobe applications and need to stay current get a good deal. These people will be happy with the new price regime. So will start-ups and other less wealthy companies which could use the full suite but might struggle to find the $3000 a pop to equip users.

But is it a cloud?

Despite the name, Creative Cloud isn’t software as a service. Users download applications and use them locally. Once a month the software calls home to the Adobe mothership to check subscriptions are up-to-date. If the answer is no, they stop running.

Australia’s government wants technology companies to explain why Australians pay more for technology products than US customers.

Our government seems unconcerned that New Zealand gets the same raw deal.

This week Canberra summoned Apple, Microsoft and Adobe to appear before an inquiry.

To be fair, Apple’s hardware prices in Australia and New Zealand are close to US prices. After taxes we pay fractionally more. That’s reasonable given our market size and currency fluctuation. Likewise, most of Microsoft’s NZ prices are roughly in line with the US.

Adobe is something else completely. Some products sell for twice their US price in New Zealand. That’s hard to justify when you realise they are sold as downloads – Adobe doesn’t need to move boxes around the world.

Australia’s government can’t force companies charge reasonable prices – and anyway even attempting that kind of market control would be dangerous. That doesn’t make the inquiry pointless,  getting this information out in the open is good. The publicity puts pressure on companies to behave.

Of course, when they have monopolies – like the one Adobe has on design software – companies don’t have to behave.

Should New Zealand have a price inquiry? I’d say it falls into what Finance Minister calls the “nice to have category”. We particularly don’t need the expense and distraction of holding one when Canberra has already gone to so much trouble. Any benefits the Australians get from the shining a light on international prices will probably rub off on us.

After all, most of these multinationals don’t even recognise New Zealand as a separate market from Australia.