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Blade Runner 2049: image and inconsistency

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First, the real motive for this is to avoid finishing a piece on three or four Canon p/s cameras from the 1990s and 2000s that you must try.

Let me start by saying this is a fantastic movie. Definitely worth 3 hours. If you liked the original, this is a distant continuation that is within bounds for narrative. And if Roger Deakins does not get an Oscar for this, there is no God, and many of us therefore will be able simplify our planning for the future.

But… I can’t resist taking Villeneuve’s masterpiece to task for some of its strange inconsistencies, not the least of which have to do with photography and technology. I am going to avoid discussing things I have seen elsewhere. Don’t read this if you want to avoid spoilers. Or if you want to read something coherent and not written in a sinus medication fever dream (thanks, autumn weather…).

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Where are our black-border Polaroids? A central reference point of the first Blade Runner was photographs: Leon’s pictures of his friends, Rachael’s snapshot with her mom, and Deckard’s oddly anachronistic picture with an (iced tea? beer can?) and his ex-wife (or maybe that was his dad and mom?). Of course, the hard copies were all Polaroids with black borders and really cool red imprinting. The Blade Runner Curse, of course, would drive Polaroid out of business some 26 years later. Ok, not.

Photographs played a central role in the original movie – so much so that characters like Leon would risk death to retrieve collections of them. They stood in as a proxy for history – and a past. Replicants used them like holy cards. These elements are completely missing in BR 2049; the past is prepackaged – so much so that its consumers like Officer K even know it is fake. That seems to defeat the purpose of fake memories, does it not?

One of the coolest pieces of “not-quite-yet” technology you see in BR 2049 – related to the Sapper Morton scene and visible just for an instant – is a printed still photo with motion. That comes up but once. This would require one of the thinnest and most elegant power sources ever invented. Despite this super-cool print technology, photo drones are somehow larger than they are in backward old 2017, except for Niander Wallace’s vision drones, which looks like a combination of massage stones and every cheap electronic device sold on Ebay in 2003. The one constant is the massive and invasive image advertising; in the original, it was made up of blimps and Jumbotrons; now it is enormous holograms that know you’re looking – and interact with you. They even managed to jam a Frank Sinatra hologram into a Sony bottle. But by far the most incredible use of images is in the flickering holographic slugfest that Officer K and Deckard have in Las Vegas. This a perfected version of the distraction technique used by Scaramanga in the Man with the Golden Gun. And by “perfected,” I mean that Hervé Villechaize is not providing color commentary over a loudspeaker.

Through an eyeball scanner darkly. This whole thing at the beginning is actually absurd. Officer KD6-3.7ABCDEFGHIJK (no wonder Joi wants to call him “Joe”) goes to a remote location, the last known location of Sapper Morton. He sees a photo of Morton’s face on his car computer. Police procedures then (weirdly) require him to get close enough to a heavily-built, military-model, killer clone to scan a serial number on his sclera with a UV light whose bulb has to pulse for some reason. The clone will display this number this voluntarily, of course. Right. Then K has to cut said eye out and put it on a little scanner. To get paid. After killing a guy three times his size, of course.

The problem is that none of this is actually necessary. Morton is a manufactured product, and if there is no other way to identify him, facial recognition computing should have identified him within a reasonable doubt. And K should have aired Morton out as soon as he saw him.

But why the eyeball cutting? LAPD is coming out to close out the crime scene anyway (remember how Officer K comes back to a sealed scene – which he then violates?) Presumably a digital photo of a dead Morton would suffice until backup arrives to provide reinforcement. Except that we need the visceral thrill/horror. Because Chew’s eye shop in the first movie.

Also, did you notice that police body cameras don’t exist in this universe? I would think that if you have humanoid slaves running around with guns, you’d want to make sure that Miranda rights are being read and that no one is getting killed for a broken taillight on a Spinner.

Wood. We learn late in the movie that wood is so valuable that you could trade a small amount of it for a “real” goat. Niander Wallace’s office is full of it. So why didn’t we see Officer K strap Sapper’s tree to the top of his Spinner and take it? Ok, maybe a stretch, but somebody would have taken it.

Slaves clones that have holographic AI girlfriends? Let’s get back to this “getting paid” thing. Officer K is a Replicant, and a Nexus-9 “obedience” model at that. The entire K story is weird because we are told right at the beginning that he is a Replicant. It is implied that Replicants are second-class citizens. And yet K:

  • Gets paid above his living expenses, hence the emanator.
  • Rents and inhabits human housing (and a fairly big place by Manhattan standards) with no supervision.
  • Has a full suite of home automation.
  • Gets to drink the same whisky his human boss does.
  • Apparently has enough leisure time to read books.
  • Gets to smoke.
  • Gets his 2 seconds of pure water in the shower, which is probably as much as anyone gets.

In light of this, you can only wonder what the legal status of Replicants might be. It would actually have to be pretty good. I guess they have to do what their bosses tell them to (“join the club,” said every 20th century office worker ever) and can’t reproduce. Given where we saw Replicants in 2019 in the previous movie, you know, in offworld kick murder squads, mining colonies, garbage collection, you would think Officer K should be living in the basement of police HQ, eating gruel, living like a monk, reciting his Nabokov and liking it. Right?

So K is basically a human for all external intents and purposes. But then his department apparently tells his colleagues that he is a clone (so much for HIPAA… thanks, HR) and his memories are baloney. Coco the Mortician even uses the term “skin job” in front of him. That’s pretty gutsy considering that K could probably kill him with his little finger. But somehow it also becomes known to K’s neighbors that he is a “tin soldier” (ahem, who leaked this?). Wouldn’t you want your hunter-killers to stay on the down-low? When you’re going to out your employee/slave, why would you even bother making blade runners look like average people? Other Replicants seem capable of detecting their own kind, so it’s not even good cover.

Joi but no Luv. Ok. Back to the point. Part of K’s home automation is his AI girlfriend Joi. Understand that in this universe, there has been a history of violent mutinies by past models (due in part to their emotional explorations…). Clearly this is such an issue that you have to put the Baseline Test on even the new submissive models. And yet they allow K and his friends to have a technological toys for which they might develop affection? Granted, there are many who would become clone slaves if Ana de Armas was part of the deal. But still. And speaking of which, what the hell kind of holographic technology would allow Joi to appear outside a vehicle, through an opaque door? There is technology. And then there is physics. And then there is the need to write in a touching scene when Ryan Gosling is knocked out and in danger?

Replicant escorts but no pimps. Okay, so Mariette (Mackenzie Davis) looks really weird and crazy-eyed all the time. Because Mackenzie Davis. And the idea of a Replicant-Replicant-Hologram (RRH) ménage-à-trois is only slightly more weird – because it requires a variety of wraparound projection that does not exist in our universe. But who is Mariette’s pimp? Remember, in this universe, all Replicants are (expensive) capital goods owned by someone or some company.  They don’t reproduce (I guess that saves money on birth control for the escorts?), and as far as anyone knows, they are never freed from their non-human legal status. If Mariette’s a Nexus-8, she should be on an, um, kill list. If she’s a Nexus-9, she should have never left her employer. And who is that? The government? LAPD?

Let’s back up a step. How does an AI hologram hire an escort for her owner (or licensee, I guess….)? The ability to enter commercial transactions, to live in your own house, and to associate with whomever you like are rights associated with humans. Or Replicants. But now computer programs?

And for all of her baseline testing, it doesn’t freak Chief Joshi out that her would-be sexbot is letting his virtual girlfriend spend all of his paychecks on cheap booze and hookers? Is she even detecting that? She’s pretty much the worst detective ever (where’s the eyeball of the child   But her outfits are good. Not as good as Luv’s, but still respectable.

Bald man in the yellow box. This dude is not a Replicant? He claims to have remembered the blackout as a child. But this is the most android-looking guy ever to show up in this film series. Also, can “born humans” actually see in this color light?I guess if you’ve worked in a Philippe Starck hotel in the early 2000s.

Optical memory. Ok, so a background assumption is that there was some massive EMP event that eliminated all electronic records. Which is fine, except for the fact that Tyrell (and now Wallace) apparently stored everything in optical format immune from electromagnetic pulses: cats-eye marbles. Shooters, from the size. Why not just say that everything was stored on magnetic tape and that it got wiped by the pulse? If Pan-Am and Atari still exist in that universe, I’m sure that 4mm LTO does.

Wallace’s phantom security video. One of the more screwy things in the original BR is the lack of security cameras. I mean, Roy Batty manages to smoke Tyrell by getting in through an elevator with no camera – and without ever being seen by a security camera in the Grand Poobah’s bedroom? Same with Leon and Holden earlier in the movie (where are the metal detectors?). We see video of the VK test, but apparently no one is able to track Leon on the way out of the building. And yet, when it’s time to research Rachael when K comes to corporate HQ, here are a bunch of security videos that were taken in Tyrell’s office. And conveniently, they are shot from the POV of the original Rachael-Deckard introduction scene. Not from the Voigt-Kampff machine, which only scans eyes.

Gaff. I am so glad that they fixed the color balance on Gaff. I mean in the first movie, Edward James Olmos must have had jaundice — or someone had swung the Lightroom tint slider the wrong way to “acting in yellow-face.” Also, it’s apparent that in the 30 years between the movies, they taught Gaff how to speak in accent-free English and got him that surgery to fix those weird glowing yellow eyes. The LAPD must have great continuing education and awesome health insurance.

Props qua props. In Vegas, note that the readout on K’s scanner says that radiation is “nominal.” Which means normal. So the fact that Deckard is there does not bear on people’s weird need for him to be an android. And when Luv & her henchmen show up, the henchmen, inexplicably, are wearing gas masks. Why? If they are replicants, they would not be bothered by anything on site (because humans would not). There is no reason for them to be human, since Luv presumably would not be commanding human bodyguards. If they’re human, they also would not need the masks at all. So this is just for optics, so to speak? To make the guys faceless?

Stelline’s lab and that Zeiss thingie. So we get to Ana Stelline’s office. It’s like the holodeck from Star Trek: the New Generation. She’s got this thing with dials. Not sure I got a good look at it, but the number of settings and third-stop increments mean that it must have been made by Zeiss. When K comes in, she is generating a memory of a 20th-century birthday party. Which she could not have seen. It gets weirder when you realize that she programmed the wooden horse memory in the third person. You know, like in Rocky IV when Apollo Creed died and Rocky remembered running with him on the beach (in a completely heterosexual way). How did Stelline know what she herself looked like? I don’t think the San Diego orphanage/dystopian Foxconn plant had a lot of mirrors.

Syd Mead! Las Vegas is pretty clearly either a Mead design or Mead homage. The influential industrial designer (exported from Detroit, FYI) left his fingerprints all over this movie. But a really nice touch is that the K’s spinner looks like a DeLorean (n.b., it’s a Peugeot, which supplied DeLorean with engines), but the bad guys drive spinners that look like 1963 Lincolns that would have been in design when Mead was at Ford. That said, I don’t want to be the one to say it, but the production design of BR 2049 is not very consistent with the original. The Mead/Scott design for the original involved recycling and retrofitting old buildings. So unless the original was all shot in the Fourth Sector, there is a lot of explaining to be done about where all the pipes and ducts have gone – as well as what happened to all of the Asian people.

The law. Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”….The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things, but they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet. The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper. The latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, “I am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” (Tr. Ian Johnston). 

It’s common knowledge (at least among people who pretend to have remembered college lit) that Joe K is like Josef K of Kafka’s Trial. What you may not have connected is that visually, K’s approach to Deckard’s casino is actually an homage to the cartoon short that opens Orson Welles’ adaptation of the Trial. Except that Welles is narrating from “Before the Law,” an unfinished short story. I don’t know who in the production is channeling Melville and Eco, but at some point you come to the realization that this story has cadged half of all religion and western culture (for starters, Moses; Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; Pinocchio; Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist; Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, World War II soldiers and aviators (“[GI] Joe”), tech moguls…)

The starsSo an image that appears early on is where Niander Wallace makes a statement that “we should own the stars.” Stars only appear once visually, in the peyote-and-are-they-eating-Deckard’s-dog? scene. But Ana Stelline is a reference to “little stars,” meaning that the key to this mystery is on earth.

Elvis! No comment on what went on in the casino, and it’s an awesome sequence, but are the holographic projectors of the future really a bunch of projection TVs from the 1970s with R, G and B lenses? Or are these DLP projectors gone really, really wrong?

Joi (the reprise). This is just a nerdy technical point – when Joi appears naked in the huge billboard near the end, did you notice that her color scheme is that of a person shot in 720nm infrared? Including the black eyes? It’s actually pretty impressive, when you consider that the scene was shot live and optically, not composited in with a computer.

Ok. Back to writing up some Sure Shots. If you want to see a fantastic deconstruction of the original Blade Runner, check out Typeset in the Future. That article even shows you what is in the dummy text used in props.

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Configuring an iMac Retina 5K for photo editing: tips

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If you have been clinging to an older Mac Pro and are looking at potential upgrades, here are some notes on the iMac Retina 5K that might help you understand what to expect and what to order.

Processors. If you have been sitting on an older Mac Pro, you will simply want to go for the 4-core i7 at its maximum speed. The speed of photo editing software is much more dependent on simple clock speed than multithreading, and for this reason, the 4 x i7 iMac is probably going to be a better deal than the 2013+ Mac Pro. Let’s cut to the chase: the clock speed helps with Lightroom and Photoshop, and Adobe’s fear of multithreading means that you will want to go for the highest gigahertz figure. In addition, you cannot upgrade the processor later, so it is better to spend the extra $300 now.

Memory. The best configuration out of the box is 16Gb. This uses two slots and gives you the dual-channel speed you are paying for. Then buy two more 8Gb modules for $150. Then you are done forever. Hint: a child’s suction rattle is an excellent tool for removing the memory hatch, which is held in place by many spring clips.

Graphics unit. Don’t screw around on this part. A 5K screen requires a lot of capacity. Get 4 Gb of video RAM. This is another feature that cannot be upgraded later.

Screen: the most compelling feature about the iMac for photo editing is the 27″ wide, 5,000 pixel-width screen. It is like the Retina screen on an iPhone – just radically larger. The glossy finish helps blacken blacks (though it does sometimes show reflections). There are two effects of using a screen with this resolution, First, image files viewed 1:1 have an amazing clarity that makes it look like you are looking at the scene live – or looking at a good print. Second, you will need to look at many files at 2:1 to see what is actually going on in terms of sharpness, noise, etc. The screen on the 5K cannot be used as a secondary display for another Macintosh (and for good reason – they just don’t have the muscle to drive it). The system scales programs that are not optimized for 5K and manages to make everything work quite well.

Storage: unlike your Mac Pro, which could stash 12Tb on four internal drives (or a startup drive plus 3 drives making up a RAID 5), the iMac basically has two slots for storage. One takes PCIe flash memory; the other takes a 3.5″ desktop hard drive (or 2.5″ SSD with adapter). If you order the Fusion drive, you get a 128Gb card in the first and a 1-3Tb drive in the second. The two drives are linked as one logical volume via MacOS If you order straight flash memory, you get a flash drive that is 2x-4x the size (512Gb or 1Tb) and nothing in the HD slot (in fact, you don’t even get the connection cables). The problem with both of these arrangements is that PCIe memory wears out faster than hard drives, and the Fusion drive presents two independent paths to drive failure. Further, you are not really supposed to store your documents on the same flash/SSD drive as the startup disk and applications. All of this points to some kind of external storage solution. Consider using three drives:

  • Startup drive – this is the one in the machine. This should be an SSD, no question. Startup is 10 seconds; applications load and run immediately. This should contain a skeletal admin account so that you can start up the machine without any external drives if something goes awry.
  • User directories (really, documents). For reasons related to SSD wear and tear and general contention for resources, your user files should be an external drive – and preferably a bus-powered SSD. The bus-powered part is so that it can piggyback on a UPS serving the computer; the SSD part is so that it runs really, really fast (this makes a big difference with Lightroom’s Camera Raw cache and Mac mail). For backups, plan to clone the principal, mostly-static parts of your user account to the startup drive (or even documents other than space-intensive photo, video, and media files). The Library is the big thing you need, and you can exclude from the cloning files like web caches that change. Your main user directory should also be backed up via NAS to another device. The solid choice for this is the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt SSD. If you look on Ebay, you can grab the 512Gb SSD unit for about $300, which is a steal, since it hits 400Mb/second through its Thunderbolt interface. You can get a Pegasus J2, but they are not nearly as fast.
  • Mass Storage Option 1: main storage on RAID 5. If you are doing a ton of photo work, you are going to need some large, fast drives. You will also want them to be reliable. The conventional solution is to use a RAID 5 system, which stripes data across a number of drives and records sufficient parity information to reconstruct a missing drive. Although this is more reliable, it is no substitute for a backup. When a drive fails, it can take many hours (or even days) for the missing data to be reconstructed. A second drive failure in the meantime generally means that you’re toast. And the total failure of the file system will wipe out everything on there. Consider instead the two-drive LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt 2 in the 6Tb size – in the striped mode, it runs in the 300Mb/second range for reads and writes. There are some even faster hard-drive-based units, like the Pegasus and the LaCie 5Big Thunderbolt 2, but these are much larger units that are designed for real-time video editing. They are also 4- and 5-drive budget-breakers, at $1,000 and up.
  • Mass Storage Option 2: main storage on RAID 0; backup on a NAS. Currently, Thunderbolt runs much faster than the fastest hard drive, so RAID o (pure striping) solutions are generally the best way to take advantage of some of the speed. The difficulty is that in a simple striped set, the failure of one drive takes everything down – and there is no way to upgrade capacity, The failure mode can be addressed by keeping cloned (or Time Machine) backups. In terms of capacity, you have to offload everything and then put it back on – but if you do that, you will already have fresh copies of your data on the off-loaded drives and backup of the machine on NAS. For the backup, I went with the LaCie 5Big NAS Pro diskless, which like the Synology and Drobo competitors has an intelligent RAID selector (SimplyRaid, a rebranded Seagate system) that allows you to incrementally expand the system by replacing one drive at a time. This is a big deal, since to expand a straight RAID 5 system, you have to offload all the data and then reload it onto the new array. This is why you should not buy a unit like the 5Big Network 2 – which in addition to being much slower, does not have the same expansion possibilities. The 5Big NAS Pro can also crank 60-90Mb/second on a gigabit ethernet line, which is an important thing to consider when you are running big backups over a LAN.
  • Incidentals – for dead storage or using up spare desktop HDs, check out the Sabio DM4LH Smart Raid 4-bay USB 2.0/eSata enclosures (RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5, JBOD, Span). If you are sticking your Mac Pro in storage, you can yank out its 3.5″ drives and drop them in these well-designed enclosures and access them in JBOD mode. While the discontinued USB 2.0 version of this unit is not blazingly fast for massive transfers, you can get it for about $50 on Ebay and Amazon. Or you could plug its much faster eSATA connector into something like an Akitio Thunderdock. For more regular access, the USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt versions will be better. For single drives, MacAlly makes an enclosure that costs $75, looks like a mini Mac Pro (as if it’s a canopic jar…), and sports USB 3.0, Firewire 800, and eSata. It runs about $100. The version that has USB 3.0 and eSATA only runs $50.

Expansion: the typical silver Mac Pro has vast expandability, typically with (5) built-in USB 2.0 ports, (2) Firewire 800 ports, and (1) Firewire 400 port. It also has 3 open PCIe slots each of which can accommodate a card with up to four additional USB or Firewire ports or an eSATA bus. When you consider that the box itself holds 4 hard drives and 2 optical drives, the number of storage devices that can be connected to a Mac Pro without a hub is simply staggering. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Thunderbolt is far, far faster than anything hooked up to an old Mac Pro. Consider consolidating on larger devices with more storage. Yes, you could stick 15 Firewire drives on a single bus, but with drive sizes and RAID devices of today, you don’t need to.
  • Thunderbolt has a smaller device total limit than Firewire, and any device connected to the chain, however adapted (USB/eSATA/FW800) counts toward the total.
  • Some devices only fit the end of a chain (or chain plus adapter) – such as small external drives and some scanners (like the Nikon LS-9000).
  • You will eventually convert everything to SSDs and more modern devices. You might do this earlier than you anticipate.
  • Not all Thunderbolt interfaces are made equally. Some that have dual Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connections run much closer to USB 3.0 speed.

The USB 3.0 ports will be exhausted faster than you think – an external DVD burner, a CompactFlash card reader, your iPhone cord, and the connection from your uninterruptible power supply (UPS) will suck up all four ports in a heartbeat. One bonus of the iMac is an SDXC card slot in the back of the screen/main unit, and it is plugged right into the PCIe bus – making transfers to the computer much faster than any USB 3.0 card reader. That said, its location is extremely clumsy.

If you need more storage and you’re willing to live with lower speeds, you can always plug USB drives into your NAS or your wireless router.

Keyboard and mice: the Apple wireless keyboard is compact, cord free (important given the USB port issue above), far more reliable than the old, full-size Apple Bluetooth unit, and very difficult to learn if your right little finger is used to touching the right side of any Apple Extended Keyboard. Consider whether you want to keep your old keyboard. The Magic Mouse is brilliant for photo editing because the gesture-based scrolling makes it easier to drag through huge Lightroom libraries, and the square edges make it easier to feel where to right click. Aside from that, the gestures do not help with Lightroom 5 or Photoshop CS6 – which do not support them. None of Apple’s current input devices will displace your Wacom.

Networking: for moving big pictures from networked storage devices, use the Ethernet port. Wireless is nice, but experience now demonstrates that not even AC1900 runs consistently as fast as gigabit Ethernet. One day, maybe. The actual connection speed is one issue – but the bigger one is these days, your computer is not the only thing competing for bandwidth on the router. With Ethernet, the detection, connection, and configuration of printers with their own IP addresses is much, much better.

Must-have software: aside from your usual image editing programs, here are three.

  1. The current version of Carbon Copy Cloner, which can be an important backup tool. If you have huge volumes of photos and use a nondestructive editor, Time Machine is dead-wrong as a backup method. The problem lies in a few things: (1) Time Machine is really designed to work with reasonable quantities of files that are changed from day-to-day (the largest thing with which you would trust it is your Lightroom catalog); (2) a Time Machine backup that contains terabytes of photographs will take days to initiate – and your main drive might fail in the meantime; and (3) Time Machine backups get screwy every so often and have to be redone from zero, which accentuates the risk in (b). With Carbon Copy Cloner, you simply clone your image file directories to another drive, either as directories and files or as sparse disk images. And if and when disaster strikes, you don’t have to try to do a selective restore from a Time Machine disk – you simply copy the files onto a new main drive and go on your merry way (actually, you could simply point your Lightroom library at the clone and keep working while you set up a new main drive).
  2. Mac Product Key Finder Pro. Migration assistant notwithstanding, many programs need to be re-initialized, re-installed, or re-registered when they are moved from one machine to another. It is also likely that you will not want to track every single box, sticker and serial number down from your software (this is an especially acute problem when your most recent Adobe product was an upgrade, and you can’t readily find the box for the original. This program scans your computer and shows you all registration codes and serial numbers.
  3. Contacts Cleaner. This is not imaging-related, but as you are getting your computing life in order in other ways, this will help rationalize, de-duplicate and generally improve the situations with your address book as stored on your iPhone and computer.

Migration advice: one advantage of using a dual USB/Thunderbolt device for your main storage is that you can consolidate all of your photos on that device. Your various SATA and Firewire drives’ data flows through your Mac Pro into the new box, which you then unplug from USB and plug into the new machine using Thunderbolt. Use Lightroom to effect the consolidation, and when you boot up your new machine, all you have to do (at most) is point Lightroom at the new mount point for your old drive.

As for the rest, expect some issues with Apple’s Migration Assistant. As noted above, losing product registrations is the big one. But also watch your permissions. The major reason to use Migration Assistant for your user directories is that it copies the unique identifiers to the new machine; it is a big trickier just to establish a user account on the new machine using your old user name. It is a very, very slow program.

In terms of how you move the data, it seems to be best to use the $29 Thunderbolt to Firewire 800 cable, with your old machine in target mode. Note that you may not be able to mount all drives in target mode, so think hard about other ways to migrate your big data collections on drives 3 and 4. If anyone tells you that Gigabit Ethernet is faster for these transfers, it is highly likely that he has not looked at the actual speeds that each protocol delivers. Firewire 800 on its worst day is better than gigE on its better days.

The bottom line: let’s not be indirect here – if you are replacing a pre-2013 Mac Pro, you can reasonably expect that making a meaningful improvement on its capabilities can easily hit around $5K total: about $3,200 for the machine; $300 for a secondary SSD drive; $150 for the extra RAM; 600 for primary storage; $500 (plus drives) for a NAS. It is still far less than buying a new Mac Pro with similar equipment, but wow. Once the credit card bills are paid, though, the Retina 5K is a great machine.