Thursday, December 22, 2011

NFL Puts Super Bowl Online

The Super Bowl will stream this year for the first time (legally) on the Web sites of both the NFL and NBC. NBC has been streaming their coverage of the Sunday night games on their website throughout the year so this really is little more than an extension of that service but seems to be making a lot of news right now (for example, ).

This is great but my English friends have been watching the games online for years using a site that might be of questionable legality (I'm not a lawyer, let alone someone well versed in international copyright law so you'd be better off doing your research on the subject).

I know a lot of people in my area that would love to be able to choose which games they watch instead of watching the local team. The Lions might be fair this year but we've had many, many years when they sucked.

How to Get Apps for Free (Legally)

I know that you've all been very good this year and so as to help Santa out and give you all a little gift, here are a few apps that you can download to determine which (other) iPhone apps have been made free for (typically) a short period of time. These include (and in the order I find most useful):


In addition to apps, there are a few sites online that record some of the same information. These include:


The only downside is that there isn't really a single source that will record all temporarily free apps so you would need to check them all if you want to make sure you don't miss anything. That's a lot of work to save somewhere between $1 and $10 typically so I'd recommend tracking which one provides you with the best links and just track that one.

And a heads up on an app that is free (rather than one that identifies free apps) and has just been ported to the iPhone. The app is the beautiful Flipboard. This app was named Apple's iPad App of the Year and the new port to the iPhone shows why. Flipboard lets you generate a custom newspaper that is filled with articles of interest to you as well as your social networks. The app is almost worth having for the GUI itself.Awesome for free.

Sorry for all of the brackets ((((())))((((())))))(((((())))))

Sunday, November 27, 2011

iRoadAlert Vs. Trapster

I may be becoming obsessed. Here's another review about an app that helps identify where those pesky speed traps are hidden. You'd think that I had a lead foot or a number of speeding tickets given my obsession with these apps but both couldn't be further from the truth. I think it's more to do with wanting to know when the man is watching.

Anyway, iRoadAlert (FINE BUSTER!) (sic.) works a little more slickly that Trapster. It's also free through CyberMonday (my guess is that it will most likely to revert back to it's 99¢ price-point after that). The iOS only app will work in the background so that you can continue to use the phone as intended and give both voice and sound signals when you are in close proximity to a trap. The app does not detect where speed traps or cameras are located, rather it works off a database so be sure to keep that database updated.


Which brings me to the only big negative associated with using this app. The database is limited to a few US States and Canadian Provinces, namely:
  • US states covered: New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington.
  • Canada provinces covered: Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan.
For me, this is a pretty good list as it covers the State in which I live and the two Provinces I in which travel most. However, the few States covered by the app is a serious limitation making the app of less use to many. Still it works very well and is great for free (for right now).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pixelmator 2.0: A Viable Alternative to Photoshop?

If the price point of Adobe's Photoshop ($699-999 MSRP), Lightroom (MSRP $299) or even Elements ($90 MSRP) has you a little gun shy about pulling the trigger (okay, I'll stop with the gun metaphors now), but you still need something to touch up your photographs, then perhaps Pixelmator might fit the bill. At a current $30 price point, it certainly should be more acceptable to your pocket book than any of Adobe's offerings.

So what do you get for $30 (which will rise to $60 soon)? Well you get a truly beautiful GUI that allows for easy creating, editing, and enhancing still images. But the GUI isn't everything and it hides a powerful engine designed to utilize many of the features of Lion such as  full screen and autosave. It does it very nicely too. Pixelmator has always been a good option for the budget minded or budget restricted image manipulator but version 2.0 has added a lot of features, namely:

  • New look and feel
  • Drawing Tools and Shapes
  • Healing Tool with Content-aware fill
  • Smudge, Sponge, Burn, Dodge, Eyedropper, Pixel, and Red Eye Tools
  • New Type Tool
  • Auto Save and Versions
  • Red Eye Tool
  • Pixel Tool
  • Column and Row marquee tools
  • New Gradient editor
  • New Brushes editor
  • Shadows and Highlights
  • New, easier color choosing
  • Numerical input for palettes
  • Content-aware Fill for selections
  • Improved Quartz Composer support
  • Improved Transforming tools
  • Support for PSD text layers
  • Mac OS X 10.7 UI support new scrollers, gestures, buttons, menus, and more.
  • Many more improvements

Use of Pixelmator is intuitive and the potential is terrific but let's be honest, it doesn't match up to the feature set offered by the Adobe products (well, maybe Elements). But what Pixelmator does offer is a surprisingly rich feature set for a fraction of the price. Of all the software that isn't offered by Apple as part of the OS and fills a gap, this is one of the most Apple-like and I could easily see Apple buying this application and offering as part of a future OS; it's that good.

Very affordable, great value and highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

It is with an incredibly sad heart that I report on the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple founder, at the far too young age of 56. I feel like I've lost a family member. Of course I haven't and can only offer my condolences to his wife Laurene, and their family and all of Steve's friends and fans. Steve passed away after many years of battling complications from pancreatic cancer. Apple's web site announced the news today:
Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple. 


I am reminded of a quote that Steve made during a commencement address at Stanford University in the spring of 2005.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. 
Steve's work has and will continue to bring joy to millions.

His legacy is inspirational.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Apple iPhone Announcements Fail

Tim Cook's first announcements as CEO of Apple has to go down as a bit of a miss.

I don't think that there was anything announced in iOS5 that we hadn't already seen and essentially the only news of consequence about the iPhone 4s is that it breaks Siri for the rest of us.

Great......

Okay, there are iterative upgrades to the hardware that are all very nice but not a reason to dump the iPhone you just bought. Perhaps the deal with Verizon was that the phones they had wouldn't become obsolete in a matter of months. Perhaps of most use to Verizon users is that the 4s is a world phone (the Verizon iPhone 4 is CDMA only which essentially means US only). However, given the exorbitant rates that Verizon charges for overseas usage, it's not that big a deal. What happens if I put a SIM from a Japanese carrier in a phone tied to Verizon - which protocol controls the phone? Do I get to choose?

And the Apple web site after the announcement.... I've never seen this before.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Avoiding Speed Traps

Trapster is a free community collected listing of speed traps and other road hazards that installs onto a lot of platforms including both iPhone and Garmin GPS amongst others. Those others include:
  • BlackBerry
  • Android (the TMobile G1 and others)
  • Nokia N95, N96, N97, 5800, E71, and other Symbian s60 phones
  • Palm WebOS phones such as Pre and Pixi
  • Windows Mobile touch screen phones with 6.0, 6.1, or 6.5 OS and GPS
  • Unlocked J2ME phones with GPS (for example the Sprint Samsung Instinct)
Evidently, if you don't have one of the phones that support the service you can still get text message alerts with maps on any phone that supports text messaging.

Speed traps are identified by users who report back to Trapster. Trapster learns the credibility of traps based on how many users submit them and the credibility of each user over time. It seems to work pretty well although there are likely to be a lot of false positives given that the police are not likely to always be at every previously reported site. You can, of course, just use the alerts and not submit.

Although Trapster is free, the Trapster hybrid GPS/WiFi downloadable client does make extensive use of data services. It also eats battery life on the iPhone. If you have an unlimited data and text message plan, there should be no extra charges but I'd confirm that.

So, I use this on my Garmin by downloading the most recent database rather than using it on the iPhone. In any case, pretty good for free.

And if anyone is interested, my Garmin of choice is the Garmin nüvi® 1450LMT which I bought from Amazon for under $150. My earlier GPS of choice, the Garmin nüvi® 765T died during an upgrade. Much foul language was used that day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Do We All Want to be Hackers?

I read an interesting article recently about the popularity of the V for Vendetta mask. Evidently, it is the most popular Warner Brothers mask available for sale. More popular than such iconic characters' masks as those from the Batman, Darth Vader or Harry Potter.

Okay, so Alan Moore and David Lloyd's depiction of a disfunctional Britain has been amongst my favorite stories since it first appeared in the pages of Warrior in the '80s. It was a truly groundbreaking story when it was first published and still stands the test of time. It even withstood a pretty pedestrian translation to film and a truly awful record (yes, it was on vinyl). But that's not why the mask is popular, selling 100,000 compared to 5,000 of others.

In no longer pretty cities
There are fingers in the kitties
There are warrants, forms and chitties
And a jackboot on the stair

excerpt from "This Viscous Cabaret" with words by Alan Moore

Perhaps it's word's like this that led the hacker group Anonymous to adopt the mask during their protests. It certainly is a fitting choice. But why would that lead to so many sales?

I guess there must be a lot of wannabee's out there as it's hard to believe that Anonymous is 100,000 strong. The choice of mask, as a long time fan of the book, made me smile. And evidently I'm not the only one as Alan Moore stated in a 2008 interview with Entertainment Weekly, “That pleased me. That gave me a warm little glow.”

Me too. But I still have to ask, on a forum called MacBook Hacker, why so many want to be thought of as hacker's?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple, Named Chairman of the Board of Directors

Letter from Steve Jobs
To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community: 
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.
As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.
I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.
I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.
Steve 

And with that, an era ends.

As many know, Steve's health issues have seen him take leaves of absence from his duties at Apple and, reading between the lines, this might be what forced the issue. I hope I'm reading this wrong!

Tim Cook becomes the fourth (fifth if you count the two stints Steve has as being separate) CEO at Apple. We all wait to see what will become of the company remembering how Apple faltered under CEOs other than Steve. Wall Street responded with a fall in stock price.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Watching Blu-Ray on a Mac

It seems like Steve Jobs has something against Blu-Ray having in the past described implementing it on the Mac as being "a world of hurt". MacGo or the Mac Blu-ray Player  didn't feel the hurt and developed what they describe as being "the first universal media player for Mac in the world". As I can't find an alternative, I can't dispute that claim (it also works on PCs and likely isn't the first on that platform). In addition to playing blu-ray movies on a Mac it has support for many other movie, video, audio, music and photo formats. It's like it's trying to be a VLC alternative with Blu-Ray capabilities. The system requirements for the MacOsX software is 10.5 or higher on at least an Intel Core2 Duo 2.4GHz.

So how well does it work? I borrowed a friends $30 Blu-Ray player and plugged it in the USB on my MacBook Pro. The computer recognized the drive and the software ran the movie. The stability was questionable (it crashed a couple of times on opening) and you don't want to have too much running in the background (it's a bit of a system hog) but it worked. I also tested it on a ripped Blu-Ray file and it worked better on that data so the problem may be with the inexpensive external drive my friend bought - but that's the only drive I have access to right now so I have no way to confirm either way.

The software is available now for free for 3 months so it's worth having a look at if you have an external drive. It does work well (menus aside) when playing ripped ISO files so I can recommend it for that function (and I won't even judge you as to from where you obtained those files :D) but so does VLC and I found that a little more stable.

As far as I know this is the only way to play Blu-Ray disks on a mac so it's a welcome addition. It's free for three months so it's worth downloading and testing to see if it fills the gap for you. It's $40 after the trial period.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One Week of Google+

Playing around in Google+ has been fun this past week. Mostly because some of the conversations I enjoy partaking in have moved to this service and I've had access to some people that I usually wouldn't. But I don't think that Hanging out with the Dells and Zucks of the world is going to last. Maybe those that post to the Photography-on-the-Net forum will stick around a little longer.

So that brings us back to the service.

The Facebook killer.

The Twitter killer.

Well, maybe.

We'll get back to that.

Google+ (so far) is a combination of three services. Circles, Sparks and Hangouts.

Circles are different groups of people with whom you'd like to converse (Facebook?). They can be groups of friends, work colleagues, those who share a similar interest, etc. that you establish. People can belong to more than one Circle and you can choose to send information out to all Circles or just some.

You can share your bad jokes with your friends without letting your work colleagues into your warped sense of humor.

You can discuss how to hack the Mac OS without your boss seeing that you like to do that kind of thing.

And asking you if you can do that to his PC.

Trust me, you don't want to have to have that conversation.

Circles is missing a few things but I must acknowledge that this is still beta software (whatever they call it nowadays) so there is hope that we'll see these functions added later. The obvious ability to cross-publish is missing (post once and it appears to Twitter and Facebook so this becomes the site you go to). The ability to manage and then share Circles would be nice. I'd like to create a Circle of my friends who like to take photographs using Canon cameras (for instance) and share that Circle with everyone in the group - rather than having to request that each member sets up and maintains the same Circle themselves. As I said, a couple of things missing but really good for a beta.

Sparks are those interesting bits of news that you'd like to have waiting for you when you have time to read about them (Google search?). This function allows the user to set up a series of custom searches that you establish to be regularly updated and available to browse when you have time. You can either browse through the list of topics or type in your interests to add them to your selection. Your interests will appear as a link under your profile picture. You get a page of information on your interest any time you want to see what is going on in that world. Hacking, Photography and Macintosh are interesting Sparks to keep me up-to-date with my interests (though Photography is a little too generic).

It works but I can type in the same search into the Chrome search bar and get there pretty quickly (0.13 seconds quickly).

The last feature is Hangouts which offers free group teleconferencing. It's a nice feature that will probably prove to be much more useful once my family and IRL friends get on the service. Right now, its a distant second to Skype. The ability to have multiple users teleconferencing and that the main camera switches focus to whoever is speaking are nice additions. Just make sure you don't have the radio playing in the background unless you want all of the attention on you all of the time (okay, it even handled that pretty well).

Will Google+ be the Facebook or Twitter killer?

I don't think think that the service will replace the short form capability that Twitter offers. Twitter allows the user to shout out an idea or a question and maybe get a response.

Facebook might have more to worry about. But any social network is only as useful as the network of people it attracts and keeps. If the people I want to talk with are here, then I'll be here. If the people I want to talk with move on, then so will I. If enough of us move on then the service will die (MySpace). The implementation of Circles where I can just share certain information with a particular group remains a draw.

So that's my take as one of the third tranche of reviewers. Post a comment with your e-mail if you'd like an invite to see what the fuss is about yourself.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Must Have Software for Any Mac Owner (2011 Update)

It might be a mistake to post this list just before Apple releases Lion but I've made mistakes before and its a habit I'm having a hard time breaking.

So, a while back I posted a list of must-have software for anyone running the MacOS (check it out so that the information isn't just repeated here).

You may recall that I avoided listing the obvious (and expensive) like Photoshop, Microsoft Office (yes Office which I still find to be required for a fully functional spreadsheet and to be full compatibility with my place of work), etc. and focused on free or low-cost.

Most of what was listed previously is still efficacious. I thought it due an update as its been about 18 months since that list was published so here are a few updates:

Security

CCleaner - A mac version of the popular Windoze program (still beta but works well).

Internet

Chrome - A fast web browser using Xmarks and LastPass (this replaces Firefox which became bloated, buggy and slow)
Frostwire - P2P (replaces Limewire for obvious reasons)
Google Notifier - Check email and events without having to open the browser

Video

EVOM - Convert video formats (replaces Visual Hub which is no longer being developed)

Audio

MAX - Convert audio formats (replaces Audial Hub which is no longer being developed)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

He's Trying to Focus

"What, all of us?"

I know, I know....a bad punchline to a bad joke but maybe a good way to introduce the Lytro Picture Revolution that is designed to help those who fail to focus an autofocus camera on the correct subject. This camera (still unseen) has received a lot of press this past week.

Mostly from the geek press rather than the photography press.

But still, a lot of press.

We've all done it as some time. That tremendous picture that would have captured that one moment in life when everything and everyone that matters was there and looking their best.....

.......and the camera focused on the house behind the group.

Image ruined.

Throw it away.

Even Photoshop or Lightroom (or even Aperture) can't help.

Well, the Lytro technology aims to help. Unfortunaetly, it doesn't work retroactively on pictures that you've already taken and likely requires that you buy a new camera. The camera may also give up something in resolution as a compromise.

But if you're willing to accomodate all of those requirements and limitations then the promise of unlimited focusing may be achevaiable. Lytro describes their process as capturing the entire light field that fully defines how a scene appears. The light field is the amount of light traveling in every direction through every point in space; it’s all the light rays in a scene.

Lytro have developed a light field sensor to capture this information. The sensor captures the color, intensity and vector direction of the rays of light. They report that most of the work is done by the processing capability rather than hardware. I wonder if this means that existing sensors may be able to use this technology with just a software upgrade.

And the benefits?

They allow both the picture taker and the viewer to focus pictures after they’re snapped, shift their perspective of the scene, and even switch seamlessly between 2D and 3D views. With these amazing capabilities, pictures become immersive, interactive visual stories that were never before possible – they become living pictures.

Confused?

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so here's a gallery of images that you can play with that shows off the technology.

I'm reminded very much of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Blade Runner, where Harisson Ford (Dekker) takes 2D photographs and explores the 3D world from which the images were taken. That might be a little beyond what Lytro promises but it's certainly a significant step towards seeing the subject of android dreams.

Here's hoping that this isn't vaporware and we see the capability becoming real.

And here's hoping even more that the rumors that this will be incorporated into future iPhones to also be true.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Steve Jobs Biographies

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Super Steve!

I know, a little obvious, right? You expected more from a panelologist.

Back to the topic. I reviewed a copy of the existing biography of Job's life a while back. As a book, iCon: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business was pretty dry (that's the kind review). Borrow the book from the library if you have to read it. But now there's a new book that Jobs recently authorized Walter Isaacson to write called iSteve: The Book of Jobs which is due to be published next year. I'm hoping for more with this book.

But in the meantime, Bluewater Productions has just solicited a comic book biography of Jobs in this months Previews. The $3.99, 32-page comic book will be published in August and released under the title Steve Jobs: Co-Founder of Apple. Bluewater publishes biographies of many famous people (politicians seem to be their main targets) and they're usually, well....they're usually not very good.

I'll be interested to see what the team of Cooke (writer) and Schmidt (artist) produce this time.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Updates Completed for Now

My apologies to anyone who's been trying to go through the blog over the last couple of days.

Things have been moving around.

A lot.

I've made a small change to the appearance (from black to grey and black) but chose a theme that I think highlights the posts a little better than before.

I added search and share features and removed the single Digg button from each post as it wasn't generating much interest.

Google's +1 feature was added as was the ability to mail, like, blog or tweet to each post.

I went back through all the posts to update images and ensure that formatting in the new theme worked well. I may go back and play with image size on some posts but that's just tweaking.

I also enable comments for all, not just registered users. All comments are still moderated and if I see to much spam, I'll switch back (I'm talking to the chinese spammers who like to add links to porn sites in their periods........).

The last thing I added was ads from Google (which should be on-topic) and Amazon (which should only show their deal's which I like to follow anyway).

If you don't like ads, you can remove them at the browser level (on your computer) using AdBlock which works on Chrome, Firefox and Safari (that covers 96% of the audience). I have AdBlock installed but have it disabled for the blog on my browser so I get to see what ads are being added. If I see too much junk coming through then I'll turn the ads off again.

I hope you like the changes and can make use of the new features.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Please excuse the mess.....

I must be crazy waiting until the weather turns good but I'm going to be playing around with the sites theme over the next few days.

My apologies for the mess over the next few days.

Working off-line didn't seem to work too well on Blogger.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Canon Lens Availability Update

As some of you may know, I shoot a Canon 7D. Its a wonderful camera and luckily, I have all the lenses I can afford rigth now.


Lucky because, due to recent disasters in Japan, supply has been heavily impacted with some lenses' delivery being delayed until the end of the year.

Here are the expected dates on some lenses.

July
  • The Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens (msrp $1,399)
August
  • The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens (msrp $6,599)
  • The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM lens (msrp $10,499)
December
  • The Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens (msrp $9,499)
  • The Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens (msrp $11,999)

Dig out those unused lenses as the used market is about to go crazy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Death of the Bookmark?

Okay, maybe I'm having too many problems in life given that I entitled the last post "The End of Innocence?" and now it's "The Death of Bookmarks?" but it's still a valid question: are bookmarks going the way of printed internet registries (remember those from the early 90s?).

I had a collection of over 1,000, yes 1,000, bookmarks that I just spent an hour cleaning out. Dead links, dead sites, information in which I no longer have any interest (why did I ever?). Now it's whittled down to under 100 that I actually still use.

Maybe.

Sometimes.

On occasion.

I got through the task and thought "why don't I just get rid of all of them and use google to get to where I want to?" I can put links to sites I actually go to regularly in the Bookmarks Bar (I use Google's Chrome so your naming protocol might differ here but you understand what I mean) and get rid of the rest.

Well, I didn't.

There are a few work related topics that having a list of links helps me remember connections I need to go through and there are a few obscure sites that help me do my work. And  I don't want to lose them.

So, right now, I still have a use for bookmarks but I'm really close to getting rid of them all.

How about you?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The End of Innocence?

Search engine optimization is being exploited to exploit holes in Safari. These malware infested pages now use a pop-up, similar to the ones of which Windows users have become wary, identifying a problem with the mac (evidently test and image searches for piranhas are infected). MacDefender is the name of a fake AV that is identified as the solution to this problem and a link is conveniently provided.

Only, it's not a solution. The fake AV is malware.

But here's the good news: you actually have to be dumb enough to install the software for it to be a problem.

You have to download the virus.

You then have to launch the program.

You physically have to give it your administrator password.

Come on, you're a mac user. You're obviously not that dumb.

Perhaps this is another arguement for the Mac App Store (and I'll leave the conspiracy theorists to take that connection and run with it...).

Edit: If you are unfortunate enough that you cannot stop yourself from installing the malware, evidently the way to uninstall is not too dificult. E-week reports that "users should go to Activity Monitor in Applications/Utilities and disable anything that relates to the file. Users should look for any references to the scareware in Startup Items, Launch Agents and LaunchDaemons and quit running processes. Finally, users should drag the MAC Defender application to the trash and trash any other MACDefender reference found under Spotlight."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Death by iPhone

So Cisco announced that they wouldn't be making any more Flip video cameras last week. The wise money is putting the reason on the capabilities of smart phones even though smart phones (at least camera phones) pre-date the Flip by some time.

This got me thinking "what other gadgets do I no longer use because I have an iPhone?". There's a lot of stuff that never leaves my house with me anymore. The most obvious, after the dumb cell phone I used to use is the Palm (Pilot) that I used to have with me everywhere. But there's more than that. Here's the top 10 list of gadgets that I had to have but now no are very rarely used  because my iPhone has an app for that (and yes, at some point, I've bought them all):
  1. PDA
  2. Video camera
  3. Pocket camera (for taking snaps, not my DSLR for taking photographs)
  4. GPS (for walking around, I still prefer my Garmin for in-car navigation)
  5. MP3 Player (and the portable CD player before that)
  6. Portable DVD Player
  7. Hand-held video game unit
  8. Note pad
  9. Photocopier (I can pdf the document and take it with me)
  10. Pocket radio


Then there's the reference material that I no longer need to buy. The TV Guide is one that immediately comes to mind although there are many that I use for work (MSDS databases, CPR reminders, etc.)

Are there any other gadgets that lie unused in your drawers because of the iPhone?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Amazon Takes on iDrive ahead of Apple

The rumors have been strong for some time now that Apple will use their server farm in North Carolina to upgrade their .me account service. Well, Amazon may have beaten them to the punch today with the release of Amazon Cloud Drive.

Essentially the same as iDrive but with a few added benefits. Any media you buy from Amazon is added to the service but does not count against your cap (of 5GB for free, then a dollar a GB in junks of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000).

The main benefits that they tout are:

  1. Upload files from your computer.
  2. Your files are securely stored online.
  3. Access your files from anywhere.

These benefits are the same as many others offer and perhaps Apple will also offer. iDrive has been my service of choice for sometime and works flawlessly. One that many forget is that Windows Live SkyDrive also offers this service at 25GB for free.

I have not found one service to be significantly better or worse than another so choose the one that's right for you and if 25GB is all you need, Windows may offer the answer.

Even for Mac users.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tango: A Better Facetime

I've been using Tango as my sole iPhone video chat application for a while now. The app allows you to have free, high quality video calls over both Wi-Fi and 3G. Most importantly though, you are not limited to calling family and friends who own iPhones as it is works on other smart phones (read: Android) as well.

Set-up is simple. The app pulls in your contacts automatically and searches it's database for which of them is on Tango. You can, of course, invite your friends to join if they are not already using the service.

The only drawback...this software is designed for phone to phone communication. A desktop app that also ties into the service would be a nice addition.

Free app, free service (beyond cell phone costs and service plan) so a nice addition at the right price. Great for free.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why I Won't be Buying a New MacBook Pro Just Yet

The new MacBook Pros were released today. This update is iterative rather than revolutionary. As always, the new version of MacBook is faster for the same cost as the older version.

There is a new Thunderbolt/Lightspeed drive (wasn't that a Clint Eastwood movie?) but nothing to use it with yet. There's a better camera built in but I can count the amount of times I've used the existing camera on, well, no more than a number of hands.

I like that the audio in and out are split into two ports again. Nice for musicians. The unit still has firewire (good for family videos) but it also still had a crappy Matshita DVD drive instead of a Blu-Ray player.

The lack of Blu-Ray is getting to be ridiculous.

But the biggest disappointment is that the MacBook Pro still uses a single hard drive. No instant on with a dual drive SSD. I can put in an SSD drive replacement and double the cost of the unit but that's hardly satisfying.

If one was in the market for a new MacBook, this is a nice unit. But there's not enough here to dump an existing recent unit.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Verizon iPhone 4 Review

A couple of years back I wrote and article detailing 10 reasons why I wouldn't buy an iPhone. Most of the issues I had expressed have been fixed with time. The last issue, and my number one reason for not buying an iPhone (or at least one under contract as I did buy a used 2G from a friend) was that it was tied to AT&T. I had described the AT&T service as being pathetic in the area in which I live. It hasn't changed. If I go north from where I live (north is beautiful, south is Detroit - which way would you go?), service is even worse. Anyway, No Service is all you'll see on the phone. Well, those days have changed and now the iPhone can function as a phone.

I ordered my iPhone at 3am on February 3rd along with 250,000 other Verizon customers (this number came from the Verizon customer service rep I chatted with last night, it may not be correct). I got the phone yesterday after chasing down the UPS truck that had it on board. Unlike most others who could activate the phone at home, I had to go into the store. This trip was not a fault with the phone or Verizon, it was because we were switching phone numbers between the family. I almost want to go back to the Verizon store just to see how long the lines are going to get. I know the local store is going to have extra security on hand.

Okay, back to the phone. It's an iPhone 4. Every review you read of the AT&T version still applies (yes, it is that beautiful) but with a couple of ammendments. I have absolutely no antenna issue. I tried my darndest to make the phone drop a call. Isn't happening. My office at work is in the middle of a steel and concrete structure. I get 4 bars of signal strength.

The other evident issue that some have discussed is that it isn't possible to make a call and browse the web at the same time. Well, that's not entirely true. I can make a call and browse the web if I'm on wifi. Given that wifi covers most of the town I'm in, my home and my place of work, I'm not seeing this as an issue for 99% of the time. Of course, I'd prefer that it wasn't an issue ever, but it's not really that big of an issue.

I'm sure there's other blogs out there that will give you a MHz by GB tear down of the phone. I wanted this review to be that of a real user who couldn't use an iPhone before but can now. I've tried all the apps I had on my 2G. They all work exactly the same on the new phone as they did the old phone. One I use a lot is Pennytalk to call back to my family in England (at 2¢ a minute). It works like a charm. There are no junk apps from Verizon included as only Apple apps appear on the phone. I also downloaded Apple's free Find iPhone app that ties into a (free) mobile.me account. That, as with everything else, works like a charm.

I guess we all now know that any shortcomings of previous iPhones were all due to the bad service to which it was tied (yes AT&T, I'm still talking about you). Those shortcomings have gone with addition of Verizon as a service provider.

I wonder what kind of hit Android phones are going to take now that the iPhone is available on reliable network?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Canon Loyalty Program

I'm not sure how well publicized the Canon Loyalty Program is but I just used it and am very pleased with their service. You can trade in an old Canon camera against a refurbished model. I traded my 20D for a 7D for a little over $1,000. Not bad for a camera that lists at $1,699.

I got more off the price of the new camera than the price I could get for my old camera from e-bay and didn't have to go through the hassle of listing. The refurbished unit comes with a 90 day warranty. The one I got looks brand new.

Just thought I'd pass on the information if you are thinking about an upgrade. Tel. 1-866-443-8002 for the program.

They also do a swap on printers but I haven't tried that program. Yet.

Friday, January 14, 2011

About.me: The On-Line Directory

About.me is an interesting concept. Some worry that Facebook is become the telephone directory of the web. Much less scary is the ability to create an on-line business card that points to all of your activities on the web. About.me allows you to do just that.

Now many of the sites are much more attractive than mine but the simplicity of the site is quite refreshing. It's much cleaner than Google's offering, if a little less informative. Great for free.

As an aside, I was once asked by a younger colleague of mine that "if they can't find you on Facebook, do you exist?"

"Yes, I do" I replied. "Otherwise you'd be stood here talking to yourself."

Edit: To answer those that asked why my card only shows a few links. Obviously Grendel Khan is not my real name. It's a name I use for the purpose of this blog. Many of the services I use to share other information with my family could also be linked to using this service but I have a separate card for that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Five Key Points from the Verizon iPhone Announcement

Well it finally happened. After years of rumors (and disappointment that they were just rumors), Verizon announced that they will be selling a CDMA iPhone. The phone is not exclusive to Verizon so may appear on other CDMA networks at a later date. Here are the important facts:

1. Verizon will get the iPhone4 to run on their CDMA network (same phone as ATT has had for a few months, no LTE).
2. Pricing is $199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB model with a 2 year contract and a data plan.
3. Pricing for the data package has not been announced but will include tethering for up to 5 devices.
3. There is a tweaked antenna design. This is supposedly to make the phone work on Verizon's CDMA network but one could imagine that it is also to counter the problems seen by some ATT customers with the existing design.
4. Existing Verizon customers can pre-order on February 3rd, others can pre-order on February 10th.
5. www.verizonwireless.com/iphone for more information as it becomes available.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Mac Store Opens: Will the Mac ever be the same again?

The Mac App Store opened it's virtual doors today and I worry that this means that the Mac becomes a less innovative platform. With every bug fix and every iteration in software development now needing approval, will this be the day that the Mac platform becomes significantly less stable and more vulnerable.

Okay, what is the Mac Store? Apple described it as being "just like the App Store for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. So it’s as easy to find and download Mac apps as it is to add your favorite magazine to iPad or a new game to iPod touch. You can browse Mac apps by category, such as games, productivity, music, and more. Or do a quick search for something specific. Read developer descriptions and user reviews. Flip through screenshots. When you find an app you like, click to buy it."

Other than this being on Mac's servers, I'm not sure what the innovation is here. AppFresh and MacUpdate already tell me which applications I have installed have updates available.

If you want it (and probably, knowing Apple, even if you don't), get it from Software Updates or MacUpdate.