Aperture 3 (1): A Dubious First Day

By Graham K. Rogers


Aperture 3, a long-awaited update, was released in early February with over 200 additional features. Aperture 2 had begun to creak and this worsened after the Snow Leopard update last year: a 32-bit application for professional photographers on a 64-bit operating system. As soon as the online store for Thailand was back online, I ordered my update which arrived at my office on Monday morning. The update was 3,690 instead of 7,290 baht for the full version ($99 and $199). After lunch I opened the box.

I was taking a risk in updating a major application with a hard disk approaching usable capacity, but this sort of thing does not usually deter me. Testing or reviewing, after all, means finding out what can go wrong as well as what is right. With Aperture 3 I had a fair dose of both.

The upgrade is installed from within the Admin account. It took only a short while and when I restarted the computer, I had a quick look around the new version. The inclusion of several brushes and some presets as well as a number of changes to icons on the toolbar looked good: the toolbar can be easily changed to suit the user with a generous selection of tools.


The metadata panel is also changed and there are some refinements to the Adjustments panel. Two features already available in iPhoto are also included: Places and Faces. The one is for geotagged images; the other for grouping photographs of individuals.

I started Aperture in my user account. As expected my image library needed to be upgraded. Aperture warns this may take several hours or overnight. Mercifully my library was not massive and when I returned from the shops at the end of the soi, all was done.

As I started to look around, a panel appeared asking if I wanted to put images on a map. Several of my photographs are geotagged: coordinates are included in the metadata. Some were taken on the iPhone and have geodata entered automatically. I added this data to others using a plugin called Maperture. Within a few minutes a map appeared with pins in three countries. The accuracy was not perfect in some cases, because of the way the iPhone sometimes picks up its location data from antennas, but the map panel allows a user to move pins if necessary.


Then, Faces started to process images without asking. I presume that this is because I have this turned on in iPhoto and later found that this was also on in Aperture's General preferences.

Everything ground to a halt. When I accessed the Activity panel (by pressing on the gearwheel at the bottom of the main panel), I saw that zero images from 473 had been processed, so tried to cancel this activity. Nothing happened and bit by bit, other processes on the computer stopped responding. Slowly, I managed to quit each and then restarted the computer. The regular applications, like Mail, Safari and GarageBand all worked fine, but when Aperture was restarted, everything came to a halt and I went through the application shutdown process again.

With hundreds of changed files, Spotlight joined the party to update its database and at one time showed 65 hours to completion. I went to bed and left the machine on overnight. Spotlight was done when I awoke, but still Aperture would not play ball.

During the morning, I again tried the same approach but each time there was a series of cascading disasters -- a virtual domino effect -- and even the reliable TextWrangler gave up on me. Processing required the creation of several swap files and I was just running out of disk space.

Working while Aperture was trying to process images was getting me nowhere fast, so I shut down again and started Aperture only. After a few minutes, I saw the figure zero (out of 473) change to 1. I left Aperture to do its work and when I retured, all was complete and I had my computer back. Just for luck, I shut down again and then was able to start work, fully 24 hours after the initial upgrade.

I had read several messages on the Aperture forums concerning the problem afflicting many users. One user reported no problems after running a Consistency check when starting Aperture 2 before the installation and then (if needed) a repair. These use the Option + Command keys when starting Aperture. When I tried this with Aperture 3 after the problems, all was well.

Starting from a new installation, such as on a new computer or in my case, testing in a separate user account, are reported as giving no problems. Those experiencing the great slowdowns may have had corrupt image data. The number of alterations made to some images may also have been a factor. Apple is apparently working on the problems.


Next Time - Aperture 3 (2): Light at the end of the Tunnel



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