The new iMac and Aperture: quite a difference

[singlepic id=70 w=480 h=360 mode=web20 float=]

Just before Christmas I received a new 27 in quad-core i7 iMac loaded with 8gb of ram. For those wondering about the performance gains in Aperture all I can say is: night and day. Working in Aperture 2.1.4 after the SL upgrade had become an exercise in frustration, making my work tedious and my temper… well… let's just say my vocabulary was becoming limited to very short words.

I took my time with this new machine and decided to forgo migration and re-install everything from scratch. With a Time Machine backup available I did everything manually, one piece at a time, verifying each addition before going on. When you do this there are a couple of important folders to know about:

  • Preferences and Application Support folders from the User library

  • Application Support folder from the computer level library

The great thing about OS X is how logical the file organization usually is. All application resource files are usually well identified in their own folder in these directories, making it pretty easy to copy them over and keep old settings intact - a pretty important thing when you want to hit the ground running with a new machine. Everything user related is in the User folder, everything that affects the app as a whole is at the computer level. In the case of Aperture for example, all user custom settings (custom metadata sets, adjustments etc) are contained in the Aperture folder inside User-Application Support. Plug-ins are at computer level since they're installed for all users on a machine. As I said, clean and logical.

Now some of you might be thinking: why not use Migration Assistant and be done with it? Because I'm a geek. And because I don't trust Migration Assistant with pro level apps. I also wanted an absolutely clean install without four years of virtual grime coming over to my new computer. My two main applications are Aperture and Logic Studio and I'd been upgrading Logic since version 5 - that's a lot of accumulated stuff all over the place believe me. Installing manually took a few hours (about 70gb of app files) but it now works perfectly and I know I don't have redundant files messing things up.


The method was pretty simple. To work faster, I bypassed the Time Machine interface and simply mounted its disk image in the Finder. This allowed me access to all my latest files (I had made sure to do one last backup before disconnecting my old computer) with quick and easy access. Basically, it was like having my old machine beside me - which was also available just in case. To do this you just click on the Time Capsule icon in the Shared section of a Finder window, open the folder and double-click the sparsebundle disk image. It'll mount like any other image -  after that it's just a question of navigating to the latest backup.

[nggallery id=12]

For Aperture it went like this:

  • Install from the trial and authorize.

  • Open the application to make sure it's working. At this point everything is configured at default.

  • Import a project to test further (before importing the whole library). Close the app.

  • Browse my TMachine backup and copy over the prefs and settings from the appropriate folders into their corresponding destinations on the new computer (I also label them as a way to quickly identify what I've copied over).

  • Open Aperture to check if it looks like home again (!): it does, everything is customized to my liking, just as I had left it on my old machine.

  • Re-install the NIK plugins. Test again.

  • Copy over my old library overnight.

  • The next morning open Aperture while holding option and select the library.

  • Done!


As I said at the beginning, Aperture flies on the new iMac like it never has before. There are no slow-downs. None. Even round-tripping to Photoshop - which was like bathing in molasses before - is now lightning fast. Every single task is now exponentially faster: importing, editing, exporting. I did encounter the stalling export bug at the beginning but for some reason it hasn't re-appeared… fingers crossed. I'm sure the amount of RAM is a huge asset on its own. And I have to mention that when I did my first tests using an imported project on a trial managed library, performance was much less impressive. So much so that I was disappointed  and dreading importing my main library. This means I/O is also a very important factor in AP's overall performance (my main library uses referenced files stored on external FW800 drives). Every little bit counts.


The elephant in the room is obviously the lack of a new version of Aperture, something that is becoming very serious for many -  myself included. But this new iMac has extended my patience a bit. The performance is that good. And I can't help but dream about an Aperture X version fully optimized for this multicore beast.


[singlepic id=72 w=320 h=240 float=]

A word about the Magic Mouse: I love it. It took me a few hours to get used to (my first reflex was to get rid of it to be honest) but I now wouldn't dream of using anything else. The only problem I have with it is in - you guessed it - Aperture. It tends to be very sensitive to side swipes and scrolling gestures. This is not the case in iPhoto 09. Sigh. Another thing that needs fixing.