EOS Multi-room wireless iPod Speaker System

 

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I had a very specific need to be able to hear the music coming from my iPod in 3 rooms at my photography studio. So I set out to find the best solution without spending a fortune. At home my solution is to use the AirTunes technology built-in to the AirPort Express and Apple TV units. However, that solution was overkill for my studio and more than I wanted to spend there. Plus AirTunes is for your computer/Apple TV and not your iPod. 

 

A quick Google search lead me to EOS

 

The EOS system was EXACTLY what I was looking for! EOS is a multi-room wireless speaker system for your iPod. The base unit resembles all the other iPod speaker systems out there where the iPod docks in the middle and you have stereo speakers on the sides. However, the EOS base unit has a built-in antenna that can broadcast the music wirelessly to up to 4 additional stereo speakers (5 rooms total). The base unit ships with one wireless stereo speaker. So out of the box you get a two room system. I wanted three rooms, so I ordered one additional speaker. The system doesn’t rely on wi-fi or any other network. It has it’s on 2.4GHz wireless setup. EOS advertises a range of up to 150′ feet. Think of it as a cordless phone like speaker system. So I’m sure the 150′ is under best case scenarios. Real world range is probably less.

 

How well does it work?

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The EOS system works exactly as advertised! Once you plug in the base unit all you have to do is take the additional speakers to your other rooms, plug them in and turn them on. The first speaker I turned on wasn’t detected automatically. I returned to the base and pressed the scan button and it detected it and paired to it right away. The second speaker paired automatically the minute I turned it on. The next thing of course was to dock the iPod and try it out. I docked my 3rd generation iPod nano, selected a playlist and started playing a song. The music was crystal clear. There was no distinction (to my ears) from the music coming out of the base to the music coming out of the wireless speakers. No static, no drop outs, no lag, no distortion!

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The power adapter is integrated into the back of the remote speakers so that they can actually hang right from the wall outlet OR you can separate the adapter and plug it in while the speaker is on a shelf.

 

The EOS system touts what they call SRS WOW!™ digital sound enhancement technology, which aims to more bass and a 3D surround sound like atmosphere. In all honesty I can’t really tell that this is making all that much of a difference and since there is no way to turn it off I can’t really tell if it makes a difference or not. The system I’m replacing with this was the original Bose SoundDock which sounded really good to begin with. The EOS ships with an IR remote to adjust the sound volume, pause, advance, etc. the tracks. The EOS comes in your choice of Black or White and also ships with various iPod universal dock adapters for the older iPods.

It’s also not just for iPods! Although there is a built-in iPod dock, there is also an auxiliary line-in port on the back of the base unit. So you could plug in just about any audio source including your computer. This would also help iPod shuffle users. They even supply the cable you’d need to plug in another audio device.

 

The Bottom Line

If you need to hear your iPod in multiple rooms in your home, office, etc. then it’s hard to go wrong with the EOS system. While I was prepared to pay their retail price, I was very happy to see that they offered refurb’d units at much lower prices. I got the base unit (which includes one extra speaker) and a second speaker (3 rooms in total) for only $218 (free ground shipping). That’s less than cost of a new base unit alone (at their retail price of $229). I do have a couple of issues with it though. The first one is that it’s not able to power the latest iPods/iPhones. If you have a 4th generation iPod nano, 2nd generation iPod touch or iPhone 3g, then you’ll see a message that “charging is not supported by this accessory.” You can solve this with the addition of the Scosche passPORT Dock. Hopefully, they’ll come out with a newer model that provides power over the proper pin in the dock connector for the newer iPods. The other issue I have is that while the additional speakers have an on/off/volume knob, I don’t see a way to turn OFF the base. Granted I never turned off my Bose SoundDock either, but the EOS base has blue LED lights on it that stay lit all the time and I don’t want others trying to figure out how to turn it off. So I just unplugged the power when I was ready to leave. I thought it was odd that the wireless speakers had the ability to be turned off, but not the base. To learn more or place an order, check out their site.

iPhone App of the Week – Keynote Remote

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I give presentations all the time and while I’m not a big fan of slides, when I do have to give a slide presentation Apple’s Keynote is my app of choice. Prior to my iPhone I used to use Salling Clicker on my Palm Treo 650 to remote control my slides via Bluetooth. I do miss that one aspect of my old phone. As you know, I’m a big fan of Apple’s “Remote” app that allows you to control your iTunes app or Apple TV via your iPhone or iPod touch. The app is very well done and feature complete. So needless to say, I just figured that when Apple announced that they were releasing another Remote app that allowed you to remote control your Keynote ’09 presentations, it would be just as good.

 

Basic Functionality

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The Keynote Remote app pairs with your iPhone/iPod touch and your Mac running Keynote ’09 via Wi-Fi. So both your iPhone and Mac need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. That in and of itself could be an issue depending upon your presentation venue (more on this later). Once you have the two paired you can open a Keynote presentation on your Mac and then start playing it on your iPhone. Once Keynote is in “Play” mode you can see the current slide right on the iPhone’s screen including your speaker notes. To advance to the next slide you swipe your finger across the screen. You can also go back to the previous slide. There is a few second delay from the time the slide appears on the big screen until it appears on your iPhone’s screen. That’s about it!

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My slides displaying on the iPhone complete with the speaker notes that were keyed into Keynote.

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What’s missing?

Although this app does what it advertises, there is so much more that it could do. The first thing that I missed was a configurable slide/presentation timer. In other words, I’d like to see how much time I have left while doing my presentation. I’d like to configure a 10 minute and 5 minute warning beep or vibrate. While I appreciate the coolness of a finger swipe to advance slides, it would be more practical to have a large forward/back onscreen overlay button. If your thumb is at the top of the screen it would advance the slides forward, if it’s at the bottom, it would go back a slide. These are simple fixes that Apple can add. However, the big thing is that this App works over Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. Bluetooth is such a natural fit for this kind of app. Granted the range wouldn’t be as good, but there’s no reason why the app couldn’t work over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Since it only works over Wi-Fi this means that you would either need to have a Wi-Fi connection in your presentation venue OR you would need to setup an ad-hoc network between your Mac and iPhone. Another concern that presenters shouldn’t have to worry about. Although the app allows for controlling your presentation in portrait or landscape orientation of your iPhone, you have to set it in the preferences. I would have expected Apple to take advantage of the accelerometer and simply allow you to tilt your iPhone to change the orientation.

 

The Bottom Line

The Remote app for iTunes/Apple TV sets the bar for remote apps on the iPhone! Unfortunately, the Keynote Remote app doesn’t live up to this standard. I was also stunned that Apple charged 99¢ for this app. Considering that Remote is a FREE app and the Keynote Remote app requires Keynote ’09, you would think it would just be included in iWork ’09 or FREE. With these limits, you might be wondering WHY would I name this app, App of the Week? I chose this app because it does work, but more importantly it does have potential! The things that it needs (with the exception of Bluetooth control) are easily added! If Apple quickly follows up with a 1.1 update that adds the things I listed above, then this app would kick butt. Luckily this isn’t the only app that allows you to remote control a Keynote presentation. The favorite seems to be “Stage Hand.” $7.99

Apple’s Keynote Remote app is compatible with iPhone and iPod touch and of course requires a Mac running Keynote ’09. You can check out Keynote Remote here on the App Store for 99¢.

Adobe CS4 Stuff

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As an Adobe employee it’s my job to tell customers about our products and what’s new. However, I can’t reach everyone all the time. So I was quite pleased to see that my friends over at NAPP (The Photoshop Guys) helping out by showing digital photographers (and others) what’s new in Photoshop CS4 and more importantly reasons why you’d want to upgrade?

Be sure to check out Scott Kelby’s 4 Part Series on the subject complete with videos. 

 

In other CS4 news

InDesign CS3/CS4 users on the Mac will be happy to know that the Leopard Command-H (hide) bug has finally been laid to rest in Mac OS X 10.5.6. I want to personally thank the hard working people over at Apple and internally at Adobe that helped get this fixed.

 

Where can I learn more about how to use Adobe’s products?

I get this question all the time. While there are certainly some really good training partners out there providing quality online and lecture based training, there are a ton of learning resources that are FREE!

 

Here are just a few of my favorites:

Adobe Creative Suite Video Podcast – by yours truly – shameless plug alert

Adobe TV

Photoshop User TV

The Russell Brown Show

Julieanne Kost

John Nack’s Blog (Photoshop Product Manager – Must read)

Lightroom Killer Tips

Layers TV

InDesign Users Groups

Adobe Design Center

iTunes Store going DRM Free!

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Apple’s “one more thing” during the Phil Shiller keynote at Macworld Expo was that the iTunes store (which has 10 million songs) will go completely DRM (Digital Rights Management) free by the end of the quarter. This means that the digital copy protection on the individual tracks won’t be there any more.

 

What does this mean?

Apple calls their DRM free tracks iTunes Plus. At first Apple charged 30¢ more for iTunes Plus tracks. They were $1.29 vs. 99¢. Once Amazon launched their store of all DRM free MP3’s, iTunes dropped their price for iTunes Plus to 99¢ to be competitive. Apple’s iTunes Plus tracks are also encoded at a higher bitrate. The tracks are encoded at 256k instead of 128k AAC files. Since the tracks don’t have DRM they are also compatible with other devices besides iPods and iPhones. iTunes tracks that have DRM can only be played on up to 5 different computers you own. If they are iTunes Plus then there is no restriction.

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So I can now share all my music with my friends?

Well NO! Technically there won’t be a physical restriction anymore, but that doesn’t mean that these songs aren’t still copyrighted. I think what the music industry is finally getting through their heads is that DRM really punishes the honest people. People that are going to violate copyright and share songs are going to do it anyway. DRM doesn’t prevent theft. There are several workarounds. If you think about it Audio CDs don’t have any DRM on them. You can buy an audio CD, rip it and share the tracks (illegally). So why does the music you buy from an online store have DRM?

 

What about the songs I’ve already purchased from iTunes?

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When Apple originally came out with iTunes Plus they also offered the ability to upgrade your existing purchased tracks (based on availability) for 30¢ a track. This made sense at first because it was just the difference in price between the 99¢ and $1.29 that they were charging for DRM vs DRM Free. However, now that they’ve lowered the price to 99¢ for their iTunes Plus tracks you might wonder why do we still have to pay 30¢ for the upgrades. Apple has never really said why they still charge an upgrade price. My guess is that you’re still getting a higher quality track (256 vs 128 bitrate), and of course there’s the cost of bandwidth to download all those songs (which are bigger files). 

 

The cost of upgrading – sucks!

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Upgrading is totally OPTIONAL! You do NOT have to upgrade unless you want to. However, if you do decide to upgrade it’s all or nothing. Apple doesn’t let you pick and choose which of your tracks you want to upgrade and which ones you don’t. This kinda sucks! The reason it sucks is because you may have bought songs over the years that you really don’t care that much about anymore (that “Spice Girls Christmas Album” sounded like such a great idea at the time :) ). However, in order to upgrade the songs you do care about, you’ve got to upgrade them all. My initial iTunes Plus upgrade cost me $135.57! The reason I say “initial upgrade” is because Apple is hard at work converting re-ripping tracks every day. So the first batch I upgraded included only 489 of my over 1,800 purchased tracks. As Apple gets more tracks converted to iTunes Plus, I’ll be able to upgrade again. 

 

Variable Pricing Model

Apple also gave in on the “one price fits all” model. So now songs will vary in price from $69-$1.29. The record labels have wanted this for some time now and it was probably a compromise in getting the labels to give up on DRM.

 

More drive space

Keep in mind that iTunes Plus tracks are going to be larger! This is because they are encoded at a higher quality bitrate (better sounding). While that’s not really a concern for me on my computer, I’m quickly finding out that it can cause problems on your iPod. Suddenly you could be in a situation that the same songs/playlists no longer fit on your existing iPod. You may have to do some pruning of your playlists in order to fit these larger tracks on your existing iPod/iPhone.

 

The Bottom Line

I’ll be happy to be DRM free! It will mean that I’ll get to use my music purchases in more places and on more devices without having to think about it. I wish that Apple was more flexible on the upgrade pricing/options, but it is still a choice and you don’t have to upgrade at all. All new songs/music videos you purchase will already be DRM free. Now if only Hollywood would learn from this, the world would be a much happier place.

Lastly don’t forget to BACK IT UP! One hard drive crash and all your purchased music could be gone. So backup your hard drive on a regular basis!

New iPod/iPhone, Old Speaker System, not charging?

If you have an iPhone 3g, 2nd gen iPod touch or 4th gen iPod nano, you may have noticed an issue with plugging them into your older speaker system. As I understand it, the newest crop of iPhones and iPods no longer allow charging over the Firewire pin in the standard 30 pin iPod connector found on hundreds of iPod accessories out there. They now only charge via the USB powered pin in the same 30 pin connector.

I first noticed this problem with my iPhone 3g. I noticed it didn’t work with the integrated iPod connection in my car. I could plug it in and play music through the car’s speakers, but the iPhone wouldn’t charge. Buy a new car? Not today! Some car manufacturers started offering a newer cable to correct the problem. Rather than wait for a new cable to be produced for my car, I was lucky to find out about the passPORT by Scosche.

 

passPORT to the rescue

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The passPORT is an adapter that goes between your car’s cable and your iPhone/iPod. Since older iPods and iPhones can be charged over USB too, this adapter is backwards compatible. There’s really not much more to say about it. You plug it in and it works. Your iPhone 3g and newer iPods will now charge via your older cable. The adapter goes for $29.99. Amazon has it for $27.99. The price seems a little high, but it’s a lot cheaper than a new car :)

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What about your speaker system?

If you spent good money for an iPod speaker system, then chances are you want to keep using it. However, if you bought your speaker system a while back, then you may be facing the same issue I did above. Your older speaker system may not charge or work properly with your newer iPhone 3g or iPod. While I was at Macworld Expo, I stopped by the Scosche booth while I was at Macworld Expo to buy a second passPORT for my new EOS Wireless Speaker system (a review on that is coming). Although this speaker system is not that old, it’s old enough not to work properly with the new iPhone 3g or iPods. When I got to the Scosche booth I saw a display on the wall for their new passPORT Dock product.

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This adapter is designed specifically for the Universal Dock connector found in most speaker systems. As a matter of fact even Apple’s own (now discontinued) Apple iPod Hi-Fi system. When this system was being sold it retailed for $399. If you spent $400 on an iPod Hi-Fi, then you probably want to keep using it with your new iPod or iPhone 3g. Same goes for the original Bose SoundDock ($299). 

The passPORT Dock is a $40 adapter that sits right in your speaker’s universal dock connector. It sits up about an inch and has it’s own Universal Dock on top which will accept the standard Apple dock inserts that ship with the various iPods and are available for the iPhone. The passPORT dock comes in either white or black to match your speaker system. Again, I think $40 is a little pricey, but considering what you may have spent for your speaker system $40 is not much to keep using it with your newer iPhone/iPod.

You can order the passPORT Dock directly from their site.

iPhone App of the Week – Amazon Mobile

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You may have noticed that I’m a fan of Amazon.com. I use Amazon quite a bit for my shopping needs. I like them because they are basically a one-stop-shop for just about anything. The prices are usually competitive and they have been very dependable for me. Now I’ve never tried to return anything or reach customer service, so your mileage my vary.

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Needless to say, when I saw that they had an iPhone app, I had to check it out. The Amazon Mobile app is a iPhone/iPod touch version of the store. You can search, price compare and even order all right from your iPhone. I actually used it to order my Logitech Playstation 3 Bluetooth keyboard. It was so convenient because of Amazon’s 1-click feature. I didn’t have to enter any credit card or shipping info. So far, nothing too exciting right?

 

An Amazing New Way to Shop

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Take a picture of the item you’re interested in! That’s right! Your iPhone has a built-in camera, so you can take pictures of stuff. Hidden in the Amazon Mobile app is a feature that allows you to take a picture of an item and have Amazon figure out what it is and therefore how much it costs. The reason that I say this feature is hidden is because it’s tucked away under the “Remembers” button. I’m not sure why they call this feature “Remembers” and I would have NEVER thought to look there for it.

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How well does it work?

Like I said you snap a picture of the item you want and that’s pretty much it. Once you snap the picture and confirm it, it is automatically uploaded to Amazon.com. I have to image that a human on the other end (probably under paid and in a 3rd world country) figures out what the picture is and then replies with a  link to the actual item (provided that Amazon carries it). Although one of mine was so far off that it may not be a human after all. Now they don’t claim to be 100% accurate. As a matter of fact they claim to find the “closest match.” My first 3 pictures were of simple things that were already boxed and clearly marked. It got all 3 within reason. Then I gave it more of a challenge by taking pictures of items laying around that I already owned. One of those items was my Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR lens and what came back wasn’t even close. It wasn’t even a lens. So that makes me think that it may be automated after all.

Out of the six items I threw at it, it got four of them dead on. The two that it got wrong, one was the lens which was not even close and the other was a portable hard drive and it came back with the desktop version. The results are sent back pretty quickly. In my case under 5 minutes (probably closer to 3 minutes). My buddy Dave tried this by taking a shot of something in the Skymall catalog and it came back with the right item. He was floored that it worked with a picture of a picture.

 

How useful is this really?

If you know what you want, then doing simple text search in the app is probably going to be faster and more accurate. However, I’m intrigued by the use of the technology and that’s why it’s my pick this week for the iPhone App of the Week.

Amazon Mobile is a FREE download for the iPhone and iPod touch. You can get it here from the App Store.

Macworld Expo: Toast 10

If you’re a Mac user and you burn DVDs or CDs, you’ve probably heard of Roxio’s Toast application. While you can burn DVDs/CDs right in Mac OS X, Toast just offers so many more features beyond the basics. I was very curious to see what the new version(s) had to offer so I caught up with the Toast product manager and asked him:

Macworld Expo: 17″ MacBook Pro

One of Apple’s big 3 announcements during the Phil Shiller keynote was the newly redesigned 17″ MacBook Pro. As you know I reviewed the 15″ MacBook Pro earlier and the 17″ has all of those same features but adds a little more…
The one thing that I find very attractive is the ability upgrade the 17″ MacBook Pro to 8GB of RAM!!! That’s unheard of on a laptop. Although I’m still not ready to carry a 17″ laptop again, I find the new very tempting. Apple also allows an “Antiglare screen” option which should make the professionals much happier. The use of a glossy screen has been a point of contention with many users. Although this will be welcomed, the NEW controversy will be the fact that the battery is built-in and not user removable or swappable. Granted the battery life has been drastically improved (Apple is claiming 8 hours!), it will be interesting to see if people buy in to the fact that they can carry an extra battery on long trips or to do work in the field.

Also check out Apple’s other New MacBook:


Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Macworld Expo: Leave it to Google :)

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that with thousands of Mac users in town for Macworld Expo, there would also be thousands of iPhones in use! As a matter of fact there are so many iPhones here this week that AT&T’s data network was brought to its knees on Tuesday during and after the keynote. You could make calls, but you could just about forget about using the EDGE or 3G network.

Google is showing how they think ahead by providing an iPhone charging station for up to 8 people to charge their iPhones in the Google booth at a time. Obviously you’re not going to leave your iPhone unattended, so what are you going to do while you wait? Check out the stuff that Google has to offer. Genius!

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