Vonage is still my choice


I’ve been a Vonage customer now for several years for my home office line and for VoIP on the go. Lately I’ve been getting a barrage of ads from Comcast trying to get me to go to their Digital Voice service on my home line. Even if I were going to switch this line over, I would probably go with Vonage instead. 


What is Vonage?

Vonage is a service provider for Voice over IP (VoIP). This means that you can get telephone service over your high speed internet connection instead of standard phone service from the phone company. The advantage is typically around price! Vonage offers unlimited calling for a flat rate of $24.99/month. This is unlimited local and long distance calling to anywhere in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, plus unlimited calling to landlines in Italy, France, Spain, UK and Ireland. I also get the vast majority of calling features (25+) offered by the phone company (AT&T) including: Call Waiting, Caller ID with Name, 3-Way Calling, Call Forwarding, etc. 


How does it work?


Once I signed up for Vonage they handled the phone number switch as well as shipping the Vonage router/phone adapter I needed to connect up to my network to actually have something to plug my standard telephone into. The router can either be used as a router for your network or simply plug it into your existing router. On the back there are two RJ-11 jacks for (for two line compatibility). Plug any standard landline/cordless phone in you want to use. It’s amazing, when someone calls your number, your phone rings. When you want to make a call, you pick up the phone you’ve always used and dial the number. 🙂

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iPhone App of the Week – MobileMe iDisk


When Apple introduced the iPhone OS 3.0 update they also updated MobileMe to include the new Find My iPhone feature. One of the other things that wasn’t widely publicized was that they also introduced a new iPhone App to allow you to access your MobileMe iDisk from your iPhone or iPod touch running the 3.0 update. Well Apple delivered the app this week as a free download from the App Store.


How does it work?

The App itself is very basic in operation and easy to use. Once you launch it you enter your MobileMe username and password. After that you’re presented with 4 tabs: IDisk, Recents Shared Files and Public Folders.

The iDisk tab will show you all of your folders on your iDisk and let view any document that is viewable on your iPhone/iPod touch such as PDFs,  MS Office docs (.DOC, .XLS. PPT), images such as .JPG files and iWork documents such as Pages, Keynote and Numbers. 

idisk-folders     idisk-viewimage

Yes, it does work in Landscape mode too.

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Vent mount for your iPhone


Last week I reviewed the New Navigon Turn-by-Turn Navigation App for iPhone. During that review I didn’t have a mount for my iPhone in my car. I knew what kind of mount I would want and therefore I ordered it from Amazon. 

Here’s a short video on how the Arkon IPM129-ST Removable Air Vent Mount works.



The Bottom Line

If you need to mount your iPhone in your car and you don’t have round vents (like on the Mustang), this mount works great. It ranges from $8-$12 on Amazon and you can order it here.


Get a little more reach with a teleconverter


Yesterday, I had a rare moment where I saw deer in my backyard AND they stayed long enough for me to grab my camera and photograph them. Of course the problem is getting close enough without scaring them away. First I tried shooting with my Nikon 18-200mm VR lens, which was still attached to my Nikon D5000 from the photowalk. Shooting from the window (through the screen) didn’t get me close enough and just wasn’t cutting it.


I also figured if I was going to go outside, I might as well gear up with something better. So I ran and grabbed my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens and my Nikon 1.4x Teleconverter. Although I got this teleconverter as a birthday present last year, this was actually my first time using it.


They were still there

Luckily when I returned the deer were still there just relaxing in grass. I approached a little at a time. With my lens all the way out at 200mm, the 1.4x teleconverter effectively gave me a 280mm reach. The closer I got the more nervous they got and eventually decided to move along. 



The Bottom Line

Although you do lose one f stop with this teleconverter, it’s great for situations just like this one. Now that I’ve had a chance to use it, I plan to use it more often. The Nikon TC-14E 1.4x II Teleconverter for D-AF-S & AF-I lenses only, goes for $469.95 at B&H Photo. You could also go with this 2x teleconverter for $499.95.


I need a lens!



A few months back I took a trip to Page Arizona and I mentioned the fact that I rented the Nikon 14-24mm Wide Angle lens ($1,600). I also mentioned that I would tell you more about the company I rented it from. Well I’m finally getting around to it. I was reminded about this great service in two ways recently. One way was that it was mentioned on a recent episode of Nikon DTown TV and the other is that I have a family reunion coming up in a couple of weeks.


Sometimes renting is better


Let’s face it. You could go broke buying all the really nice lenses that are out there today. While I have no problem spending money on something that I’ll use and benefit from, there are just some things that I won’t use enough to justify the price of ownership. I have all the lenses I need for my day to day shooting. However, there are those special events that come up once or twice a year that you really need a specialty lens. For example, maybe you’re shooting a sporting event that will only happen once for you because you’re not a regular sports user. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice 200-400mm lens or maybe a 200mm f/2.0 lens? Well those lenses cost many thousands of dollars. So instead of buying them and only using them a couple of times a year, why not rent them for much much less?

To buy the Nikon 200-400mm lens would be $6,280. However, to rent it for a week would only cost $250.

To buy the Nikon 200mm f/2.0 lens would be $4,900. However, to rent it for a week would only cost $175.


LensPro To Go

These guys were great to work with! I met them personally at the last Photoshop World Conference and tried them out for my last vacation. Not only was the service very trouble free, I got to use the really nice glass that I really wanted to take and for a price that was really reasonable and well within my budget. You order the lens you want directly from their website. They offer insurance which I highly recommend, because it’s one thing to pay for a really nice lens, it’s another to pay for one that’s not even yours because it got damaged! My lens arrived in a really good Pelican case along with the Fedex prepaid airbill to ship it back. 


The Bottom Line

If you need a really nice lens but won’t be using it often, LensPro To Go is your answer! Check them out here.


AT&T FamilyMap vs. MobileMe Find My iPhone


A couple of months ago I reviewed AT&T’s FamilyMap service. This service allows you to track the location of the cellphones you have on an AT&T Family Plan. However, since that time Apple introduced the Find My iPhone feature, which works with iPhones and iPod touch devices as long as you have a MobileMe account ($99/year or less). After I posted my FamilyMap review, many of the blog readers here signed up for the free trial and many said the same thing. "It’s just not accurate enough." Now while I didn’t have a problem with the accuracy of it, I do have a problem continuing to pay for a service I may not need anymore. 


AT&T FamilyMap

This service works by giving you a website that you can go to and "Locate" your loved ones. Depending on the phone the accuracy and the ability to pinpoint the location can vary widely. For example, a phone with a built-in GPS is liable to be more accurately found than a phone without one as it would have to rely on cell tower triangulation. AT&T FamilyMap starts at $9.99/month for up to 2 phones and 14.99/month for up to 5 phones on the same family plan.


MobileMe – Find My iPhone

The MobileMe Find My iPhone feature only works with iPhones and iPod touch devices. You log in to the me.com website, click the settings icon and then click the Find My iPhone link. Your iPhone’s location will be pinpointed on a map. You have to have a MobileMe account to use this feature and MobileMe retails for $99/year (or less if on sale). In order to find more than one iPhone, you would need the Family Pack which is $149/year (or less if on sale). 

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iPhone App of the Week – Navigon MobileNavigator North America


When the iPhone OS 3.0 update was introduced, Apple opened the door to 3rd party turn-by-turn apps. They brought TomTom up on stage to show off the app that they were working on. I was impressed by what I saw and thought that this might be a chance to carry one less device when I travel. I'm very fond of my Garmin Nuvi 765T and the chances of a Garmin App for the iPhone are slim. It seems that Garmin would rather compete with a phone of their own (Garmin, look at the Palm Pre. You guys just don't stand a chance against iPhone and Blackberry). So an iPhone app would have to be really killer to make me give up my Nuvi. I'm also a fan of Navigon GPS units too. Actually it's not so much about their hardware that I'm impressed by as much as it is their software. I fell in love with the Navigon 3D Reality View, which pops up a photo realistic image of the road signs you're going to go under so that you're in the right lane. Not long after the TomTom announcement was made, Navigon announced that they would have an iPhone app too!


It's a race!

In many cases first to market can definitely get you a leg up on your competition. If you have a really good app, then it makes it that much harder for your competitor. It's pretty clear that Navigon wanted to be first. Why you ask? Two reasons: for one they are offering their app for an introductory price of $69.99 until August 15th. Then the price goes up to $99.00. This of course creates a sense of urgency. The second reason is that they state right on their App Store page that a free update is coming with additional features. I would argue that a few of those features should have been in the first release. What was the hurry? Oh yeah, right. That whole get it out first thing. I remember now.

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Do anti-glare films for your display work?


Back when I got my New 15" MacBook Pro with a Glossy Display, one of the first things I wanted to try out was an anti-glare film. I was sitting at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store with an unrelated issue and the Mac Genius asked me if I had tried one/reviewed one yet. When I answered no, we all kinda looked at each other and decided that there was no time like the present.

The key to installing/putting on one of these films on any display is that the display has to be as clean as possible of marks, finger prints, etc. This way you lessen the chance for bubbles/air pockets too. So the tech took my MacBook Pro to the back room and did a meticulous installation job. It was flawless. No marks, bubbles or other problems. It looked like it had been done at the factory. 


OK, does it work?

The first thing I could tell right off the bat in the store was that the glare was cut down quite a bit! Although I was happy with what I was seeing, I really wanted to see it under my lighting/working conditions at home. So that I night I did my normal work which included a little portrait retouching in Photoshop. This is when I realized that the film had to come off! The problem was that the film adds a bit of grain to the look of the what’s being displayed. Most users probably wouldn’t care in non-image critical apps such as a web browser, email, etc. However, in Photoshop it was VERY DISTRACTING! It pained me to peel it off after the Mac Genius did such a good job putting it on, but I couldn’t take it anymore. Every time I would see the grain I would have to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t in the image itself.


The Bottom Line

If you’re not a photo retoucher and the MacBook Glossy screens bother you, then this Anti-Glare film may be worth a try. If your work is color critical and you rely on the display more than the average person you may want to pass on this film. I’ve gotten used to the Glossy Display and it doesn’t bother me at all. There are only rare occasions that I even notice it and even then I can just move it a bit. Rumor has it that Apple is going to offer more displays in a Matte finish. The collective creative community can rejoice if that’s true.

The Power Support Anti-Glare film goes for the 15" MacBook Pro goes for $34.95

My DVD to MP4 Media Conversion Project is Done!


You might remember my post from May when I was in the middle of converting my Movie DVDs over to a hard drive. I have successfully converted my DVD movie connection to .MP4 H.264 format! This means that I can now enjoy any movie I own on any HDTV in my house via Apple TV or I can take the movies with me on my laptop or iPhone. I actually finished the conversion a couple of months ago, which was much earlier than I anticipated.


How did I do it?

I have over 380 standard def Hollywood DVDs. Painstakingly one-by-one I converted each one over to an .MP4 file using Handbrake. All 440 movies total (some were already digital or home movies) were imported into iTunes and reside on a Drobo connected to an intel iMac. This iMac serves as my iTunes server. It’s the one that all of my Apple TV’s are sync’d to and it’s the one that I use to sync my iPhone to for media ( you can sync an iPhone to more than one computer for data and media separately). I also use this iMac to sync my iPods too. So it has it all, music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, best of the best photos, etc. 

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Another Successful Photowalk




Not sure how all the other cities did, but my Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk – Detroit was a big success! We had an absolute perfect day weather wise and a great group of photographers.  We went on a 2 mile walk throughout downtown Detroit snapping shots of some great landmarks and interesting landscapes. I can’t wait to see everyone’s shots.


I got a couple myself that I liked, but nothing really outstanding. I was too busy enjoying everyone else that was there.

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