Epson Workforce 600 All-in-One Wi-Fi Printer, etc.

 

You might have noticed that I don’t review very many printers here. That’s primarily because I’m a printer snob and don’t change printers very often. My rules have been simple: If I want a fast network printer, I use a Xerox Phaser that has Adobe Postscript 3 built-in. If I want to print photos I use an Epson Stylus Color Photo Printer. Life is simple it works! 

 

What about Scanning and Faxing?

I’ve used both Epson and Canon scanners over the years and have no real complaints with either. I have always loved Epson’s scanner software, but I’ve also loved Canon’s portable line of scanners and the fact that they are more proactive about updating drivers when a New Operating System comes out. We’ve all experienced orphaned equipment before (equipment that is working perfectly, but will not work with a new OS because the company doesn’t update the drivers).  As far as Faxing goes, I don’t do enough of it to care. I have an older stand alone Brother fax machine for the 1-3 times a year that I need to send a fax and I use a free eFax account or Mac OS X Server to receive faxes directly to my email.

 

Why the Epson Workforce 600 may change all of this for me?

I was recently given the Epson Workforce 600 by Epson to put to the test (the very stringent no B.S. Terry White testing lab). At first when Epson contacted me, I have to admit, I said [sarcasm] "oh goodie, an all-in-one printer to review! I can’t wait [/sarcasm]. When the box arrived it sat in my garage for a week until I felt I had time to give it a spin. Keep in mind that I do take my reviews seriously and I didn’t want to do a half a$$ job on it. So I waited until I would actually have the time to give it a good tryout. I just wasn’t excited about this category. I always felt that stand alone devices were always stronger in their respective areas. Believe it or not, that all changed when I took The Workforce 600 out of the box. I was floored by how well this thing was designed. As I’ve said when reviewing other products, "it’s the little things and attention to detail that really turn me on." I actually started getting excited about this product the more I looked at it and just where everything was placed on it.

 

Very well thought out

I have to hand it to Epson on this one for creating a very well thought out product. First let’s talk about it’s features. It prints, copies, scans and faxes. It can be connected to your network directly via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. No lame external boxes or print servers required! It’s cross platform out of the box and works both on Mac and Windows PCs. It has an automatic document feeder and built-in memory card readers for CF (Compact Flash), SD, xD and Memory Stick (does anyone use these?). It even has a USB port for a thumb drive (albeit a little to recessed for my tastes, it’s there)! Yep it has it all. It meets all the requirements I would have If I were looking for an all-in-one device! No question!

  

Setup

Like most techies, I like to see how much setup I can do without looking at the instructions. I was able to unpack it, install the ink cartridges and make copies without ever touching the instructions. I probably could have sent a fax too, but um, I don’t send faxes (at least not often). Now it was time to print. At this point I could have simply grabbed a USB cable (not supplied) and installed the driver and printed. However, I wanted to see how well this thing worked on Wi-Fi. I love wireless technology and a Wi-Fi connected all-in-one device is very intriguing to me. Well it was time to reach for the instructions because I had no idea how to configure this thing to connect to my network. I knew that I either had to do it on the control panel or the from my computer. However, I didn’t know which. As it turns out, you do it from your computer. Although the Epson Workforce 600 has built-in Wi-Fi, you have to connect it to your network via Ethernet to set it up. Luckily they do supply an ethernet cable. I plugged it into my gigabit switch and installed the software onto my MacBook Pro from the supplied CD (later I downloaded the latest drivers from Epson’s site). The software walks you through the various setup options. I was given a choice of setting it up for Wi-Fi or as a network printer on Ethernet. I choose the Wi-Fi option. It found my network and I entered my WPA password. After a few moments the printer was configured and I was instructed to unplug the Ethernet cable.

 

Printing

 

Although the software installed the drivers and configured the printer for Wi-Fi access, I still had to "add" the printer using the Mac OS X System Preferences. No big deal as it saw the printer right away (after I walked over and woke it up) and I printed my first document. No surprises, it just worked. While the printer is rated at 38 ppm in draft mode (wow that’s FAST!) for both Black & White and Color, I was curious about it’s print speed for photos. After all thing has memory card slots built-in so that seems to me that testing photo print time would be fair game. I brought up a high-res photo in Adobe Photoshop CS4 and printed using Epson’s Premium Glossy 8"x10" photo paper. I used the borderless setting and I figured this would be worse case scenario. It was! The high-res print over Wi-Fi took 6 minutes and 7 seconds. While it certainly won’t win any speed contests for high quality photos, it did look great (must be those Durabright Inks)! The color was rich and although this is only a 4 color printer, it didn’t feel like it. Again, this printer is not billed as a photo printer, so you shouldn’t be discouraged by the longer print time. The fact that it printed so well at this price point and wirelessly to boot is a plus.

The Workforce 600 has a built-in 2.5" tilt color LCD to view, edit and print your images. So you can just pop in your memory card or USB thumb drive, select, crop and print your images without using a computer. 

 

Copying

Copying is pretty straight forward and of course doesn’t require your computer. You can just put your material in the ADF (automatic document feeder) or right on the glass. You control all aspects of the copy process right on the front LCD control panel. Very straightforward and easy to use. You also have the option of copying in Color or Black & White. No surprises, no complaints. You can copy up to 99 pages at a time. The ADF holds up to 30 pages. 

 

Scanning

When I installed the software it also installed the software to scan with. I was wondering would this thing actually allow me to scan wirelessly? Unfortunately it did not! Although I didn’t find anything in the documentation that would suggest that scanning over Wi-Fi was not an option, the Epson Scan app wouldn’t even launch until I physically connected the Epson Workforce 600 via a USB cable. Once I connected it to my MacBook Pro, I was able to launch the Scan app and perform some scans. It’s a TWAIN compatible scanner, so I was able to scan right into Photoshop and Acrobat as well. Don’t feel like connecting your computer? You can actually perform a scan right on the device itself and have it save to a thumb drive. I tried scanning the same 8"X10" that I printed earlier directly to a thumb drive and it worked just fine. I was prompted with which format to save in and my choices were JPEG or PDF. Makes sense since this scanner is geared towards photos and documents. Those would be my two choices of format anyway. Although I didn’t time the scan, it was certainly fast enough for me. The Scanner is rated at 1200 x 2400 dpi and comes with the ABBYY FineReader for converting scanned text into actual text (OCR).

UPDATE!: Scanning over Wi-Fi via the Mac works after all! Epson lead me to the magic utility that gets installed in the Utilities folder for configuring the Scanner on your network. It took all of about 1 minute to set it up and bam, I could launch the Scan App and scan over the air! Freaky :) 

 

Faxing

Like I said, I just don’t do a lot of faxing. However, when I do need to send a FAX, I need to send a FAX. I don’t have time to mess around. It seems like when I need to send a FAX, it’s always urgent. So with that in mind, I decided to send a test FAX from my home office to my eFax account see how easy or difficult it would be. Like most things on this device, it just worked. I connected a phone line to it and I then pressed the Home button until it cycled through to FAX. I keyed in my FAX number and pressed the start button. I had two pages in the ADF and I like that it scans all the pages first before wasting time dialing. Once the pages are scanned, you can pick them up and leave if you have to. It will dial and send your FAX unattended at that point. It has auto redial and auto answer and can store up to 60 speed dials (I don’t think I know 60 people with FAX numbers, but good to know I could if I had to). If you’re out of paper you’ll be happy to know that it can hold up to 180 received FAX pages in memory. That would cover me for years.

 

 

The Bottom Line

I don’t really have any complaints (rare, I know). I’m not into this category of devices, but If I had to recommend an all-in-one device, this would be the one! It’s perfect for any small office or home office. It’s ideal for someone who is tight on space and doesn’t have the room or the budget for multiple devices. Most multifunction devices usually don’t do any one thing really well, however, the Epson Workforce 600 does a fine job at all of its functions. If Epson works out the Wireless Scanning on a Mac I would even be more impressed. Being able to scan directly to a thumb drive is sufficient for now and keeps me from having to directly connect my computer to the device. Anyone want to buy a Brother FAX machine cheap? Let me know. :) The Epson Workforce 600 retails for $199. Amazon has it for as low as $149.99! As with most printers, the real cost of ownership is the ink cost. This printer has 4 separate ink cartridges (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta & Black). Multipacks start at $35.86. Rumor has it that this printer will NOT allow you to print if one of the inks runs out even if all you want is Black & White. I usually don’t try to keep printing if my printer runs out of one color, but some of you out there do, so that might be a consideration. All-in-all I highly recommend this all-in-one! For more information about the Epson Workforce 600, please click here.

 

 



Put your Blu-ray player on your Wi-Fi network

It's great that the new line Blu-ray players support BD Live and online content to compliment the movies. It's also great that their firmware can be updated over the internet. What I don't understand is why all the Blu-ray players I've seen rely on an Ethernet connection for internet access. I don't know of too many people that have Ethernet drops near their TV's. My bedroom is a perfect example. I have a Sony Bravia LCD TV and Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player connected to it. It's located in a nice wall unit and unfortunately there is no ethernet jack nearby. 

 

 

The Solution: An Ethernet Wi-Fi Bridge

I've used D-Link Wireless Ethernet Bridges in years past to connect older computers that had Ethernet, but not Wi-Fi. Once again I was in need of one of these bridges. My old one only supported 802.11b and I can't find it. I at least wanted 802.11b/g support. So I started looking at newer models. I was floored by how much these things have gone up in price. It appears that they are now geared towards gamers. Most hardcore gamers want to play others online. This means that your game console has to be connected to the internet and we're back to the same problem that most people don't have Ethernet jacks near their TV's. The Wii and PS3 have Wi-Fi built-in. However, some of the older consoles do not. So companies like Linksys and D-Link have come to the rescue with "wireless gaming adapters." These "gaming adapters" (Ethernet Wi-Fi Bridges) now go for close to $100. I can remember when they were half that price.  Well I needed one of these Bridges, but didn't want to pay top dollar for one. So off to eBay I went. I found a D-Link DWL-G810 Wireless Ethernet Bridge New in the Box for a winning bid of $51. This model is newer than my old one (which I can't find) and supports 802.11b/g.

 

 

How does a Wireless Ethernet Bridge work?

The concept is simple. The Bridge has an Ethernet jack on it and of course a power adapter. You plug it into your computer's Ethernet port long enough to set it up. This means setting it up to join your current wireless (Wi-Fi) network, network name (SSID) and network password. Once it's setup (about 5 minutes), you unplug it from your computer and plug it into your Ethernet only device. In my case this was my Sony Blu-ray player. That's it! Your Blu-ray player will connect to the internet wirelessly even though it only has an Ethernet jack. The Bridge will bridge your Wi-Fi connection to the Ethernet port on your player. 

 

The Bottom Line

Blu-ray player manufacturers need to either build Wi-Fi in or at least provide a low cost Wi-Fi adapter like TiVo does for the TiVo HD. In the meantime if you want to connect your Ethernet only device to your network and don't want to run wires your best bet is a Wireless Ethernet Bridge. If you shop around you can find one at bargain prices. Check out the latest offerings from D-Link, Linksys and Netgear, but don't forget about eBay. Also to the Bridge manufacturers, why are these things designed to be so, um, ugly?

 

UPDATE!

I wrote this 2 years ago and while not much has changed in terms of the need to put Ethernet devices on your WiFi network, the solutions have changed as well as my recommendation. Recently I've started using TiVo's Wireless N Network Adapter and while you would think that this is specifically for TiVo, the reality is it's NOT! It's a slick little 802.11n Bridge that connects to your device via Ethernet. The setup is simple and you first plug it into your computer to get it setup on your wireless network. After that is done (takes less than 5 minutes), you can then plug it into any device that has an Ethernet port to put it online via your WiFi Network. Once it's set up the TiVo Adapter has no idea whether it's plugged into a TiVo or Blu-ray player or computer. 

You can get the TiVo Wireless N Network Adapter here.

 

 

 

Apple iTunes

 



Migrate Windows Boot Camp Partition to a New Mac

Although I love getting the latest and greatest Mac notebook, one of the things I always dread is having to setup my Windows Boot Camp partition all over again from scratch. Apple makes it really easy to migrate your Mac to a New Mac. You just run the Migration Assistant and it will handle transferring all of you data, apps, settings to the new Mac. That’s it, you’re done! However, Apple does NOTHING to help you move your Windows Boot Camp installation over. As much as I have tried in the past, I’ve never been able to simply backup/ghost the Windows partition over to a new drive or new Mac. Yes, I’ve heard stories of people using Disk Utility to do it, but I’ve yet to meet anyone that has done it :) – urban legend… LOL

I have had my New MacBook Pro for a couple of weeks now and decided this past weekend that it was time to tackle getting my Windows XP volume setup. This time I didn’t have to start from scratch!

 

Winclone to the rescue

I had heard about Winclone months ago. It’s a Donationware/FREE Mac app that allows you to clone/backup AND restore your Windows Boot Camp Partition. I kept this utility in the back of my mind knowing that I would eventually be getting a new MacBook Pro and it would be worth a shot to try to use it to move over my existing Windows XP setup. I figured the worst that would happen is that it wouldn’t work or the restored Windows environment would be buggy/unstable and I’d just start from scratch anyway. So I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving it a shot.

When I knew that my New MacBook Pro was on the way, I fired up Winclone on my old Mac and cloned my Windows XP Boot Camp partition to an external Firewire drive. I used the Compressed option, which took my 60GB partition down to about 23GB (keeping in mind that there was only about 30-35GB’s used on the Windows partition). It creates a single Image file of your Windows drive. You can even mount the image as long as you don’t use the Compressed option.

According to the Winclone webpage one of the bullet items said: “Create a Bootcamp partition from within Winclone.” So I took that to mean that all I would have to do is fire up Winclone on my new Mac and it would not only do the restore, but also create the new Boot Camp partition. Sadly this was not the case. I looked everywhere in the app for the option to create a Boot Camp partition and it’s just not there. Since I was in no hurry to do this, I decided to send the guy an email asking about this and his response (very timely I might add) was that it was easiest to just use the Boot Camp Assistant (that comes with the Mac) to create the Windows partition and then quit the Boot Camp Assistant app and run the Winclone restore. It seemed simple enough and it worked perfectly. I fired up the Boot Camp Assistant and followed the prompts to create a new Boot Camp Partition. After about 5-10 minutes it was done and I just quit the app. So now I had an empty Windows partition ready to go.

Next I plugged in my external Firewire drive containing my Winclone backup image and then I fired up Winclone on my new Mac. I ran the restore of the Windows XP image and figured it would take a while so I went out and ran an errand. When I returned the restore was complete (I was gone for less than an hour, but I didn’t time the restore from start to finish). Fingers crossed, I rebooted my MacBook Pro, holding down the Option Key and there it was. I got the option to boot into Windows. Windows had to do some drive checking/repairing and I just let it do its thing. Once that was done, I saw my familiar Windows XP desktop. I was also being prompted to reactivate Windows (more on that in a minute). The next thing I knew I had to do was to update/install the drivers for all the things on the MacBook Pro such as the trackpad, iSight camera, graphics card drivers, Airport wireless, etc. Now instead of making you burn a CD, Apple includes these drivers on your Mac Installation DVD. This DVD is a dual format DVD, so when I inserted it, it did an Autorun and fired up the main menu allowing me to “Remote install Mac OS X on a MacBook Air”, “Install the CD/DVD Sharing app” for a MacBook Air, or install the Boot Camp Drivers. I picked the third option and it installed everything necessary to allow Windows to take advantage of the hardware built-in to the MacBook Pro.

 

What worked, what didn’t? Any gotchas?

For the most part everything worked PERFECTLY! During the first boot above I had to go grab an external keyboard. I have Windows XP set to require a login/password. In order to enter this password you have to press Control-Alt-Del. Unfortunately “Delete” on the MacBook Pro keyboard is NOT “Del” on the Windows keyboard. Apple takes care of this with their keyboard driver by mapping “Del” to the Delete key when you press the Function button. However, since I hadn’t gotten the drivers installed yet, the only way I was going to be able to login to Windows was to use an external keyboard that actually had a “Del” key.

I was stunned by how little I had to do afterwards. But there was one casualty. Although my Trackpad works, it doesn’t have all of the functionality. For example, I should be able to put two fingers on the trackpad and click for a right click. For some reason that’s not working now. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the drivers and it’s just not working. However, two finger scrolling works, go figure. I went into the Boot Camp control panel and verified the settings were correct, it’s just not working. This is no biggie and may have something to do with the OLD Boot Camp drivers that were already present. This is one of the potential gotchas of NOT starting from scratch. It’s one I can live with for now. Usually when I’m in Windows via Boot Camp I’m doing a demo and I’d be using a mouse or tablet anyway. I also have a free little utility for Windows called Apple Mouse that lets you do a right click by holding down the Control button and tapping the trackpad button. So I’m good for now.

The other thing I had to do (which I fully expected), was to reactivate Windows XP. Windows looks for hardware changes like a different Ethernet card address and different processors, hard drives, etc. I was able to reactive Windows via the web with no problem. Everything else I’ve tried (so far) works fine. I can get online. My apps are working. No weird errors, no crashes. Winclone saved me HOURS of having to install everything from scratch.

 

Ongoing use of Winclone

Once I get my Windows environment updated the way I want (for example, uninstalling Adobe CS3 and installing Adobe CS4), I will use Winclone on a regular bases to create a backup of my Boot Camp Partition. This way if my Windows installation gets hosed, I can just restore it.

 

What about Parallels or VMware?

It’s true, with virtualization apps like Parallels, you don’t need to partition your drive. You would just have a Windows “image” that’s a file on your drive. It could even be on an external drive. With Parallels or VMware there’s also no need to reboot! Windows (or whatever OS you’re running) just runs in a Window right along side your Mac OS. So why Boot Camp? Parallels actually offers several modes of running Windows right along side your Mac OS including the ability to have it seamlessly integrate right into your Mac environment so that when you run Windows apps they show up in your Mac dock. It’s like running Windows apps in the Mac OS without seeing the Windows “window”. Although I love the sheer convenience of Parallels, I love the horse power of Boot Camp. When you run Windows under Parallels or VMware, you’re sharing resources with the Mac OS that’s ALWAYS running in the background. So you won’t have as much RAM available to either environment and you may not be able to take full advantage of your graphics card/3D graphics acceleration, Open GL, etc. Parallels is GREAT for the casual user or the user that isn’t running demanding apps. I actually use Parallels too. I use it for those times when I need to pop into Windows to do a task and don’t feel like rebooting my Mac. Both Parallels and VMware can use your Boot Camp Windows installation as their source for Windows, so you get the best of both worlds! If I need full power in Windows, I reboot and use Boot Camp. If I just need to do something quick or less demanding in Windows, then I run Windows in Parallels. The best part is that no matter which way I run Windows, it’s the SAME Windows installation with the same apps, files and settings. 

 

Windows XP starting up in Parallels 4 while the Mac OS runs in the background

 

Parallels 4.0

I also took this opportunity to upgrade from Parallels 3 to Parallels 4. While this isn’t a full review, it works great too. Because of the way Parallels installs stuff in your Windows environment, it changes just enough that Windows will probably need to be reactivated again. Had I known this up front I would have waited until Parallels 4 was installed before reactivating Windows. Since I had just recently reactivated it after the Boot Camp install, having to reactivate it again in such a short time probably appeared to Microsoft that I was trying to install it on two different computers. I was not allowed to reactivate it over the internet. I had to call in this time. It was still done automatically via a computer, but I had to answer the “how many computers are you installing this copy of Windows on?” question twice. It gave the necessary key code and I was all set. Parallels 4 is definitely faster than version 3. Also my Trackpad works perfectly under Parallels with the right-click functionally and scrolling.

I’ll have to review version 4.0 when time permits. However, booting up into Parallels now is dramatically faster. However, keep in mind that no matter how much they speed up Parallels, it will never be as fast as running in Boot Camp because you’ll always be sharing resources.

My Windows XP Boot Camp installation running in Parallels 4 as a Window on top of Mac OS X

 

The Bottom Line

The Mac is more popular than ever because of these capabilities. If you use Windows XP/Vista under Boot Camp on your intel Mac and you need to backup (duh, you need to backup), then Winclone is an indispensable Mac utility. If you need to migrate your Boot Camp Windows installation to another Mac, other than starting from scratch, there is no better way than using Winclone. You can download Winclone from here (yes it works with Vista too). Although there is no charge for this app, he is asking for donations. I had no problem donating because this is an app that I would have gladly paid for anyway. Apple should either buy this and include it with the OS or build-in this functionality into their existing Migration Assistant. People will be more willing to go to a new Mac if there is less hassle in doing so.


It’s Cyber Monday! huh?

I must admit that I had never heard of Cyber Monday until this past weekend. I guess I’m just not that into waiting to shop on certain days. Apparently Cyber Monday has been around since 2005. What is it? It’s another way for retailers (or etailers) to compete for your holiday shopping dollars online now that you’re back to work. Is it a sham? Maybe, depending on how you look at it. Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are designed to get you to spend your money on certain days. However, if you’re in the market for stuff that you were going to buy anyway, why not take advantage of the deals if there are deals to be had? It certainly can’t hurt the economy.

Here’s a site that seems to have cornered the market on listing Cyber Monday Deals. There’s also Dealighted and Dealnews. Let us also not forget one of the biggest etailers of them all, Amazon.com. Amazon is always competing for your dollars and today will be no different.


iPhone App of the Week – Google Mobile App

You might be wondering, “why do I need a Google app on my iPhone? Isn’t Google built-in?” I wondered the same thing. The first time I downloaded the Google Mobile App a couple of months back, it was because the built-in Contacts app was soooooo slow at searching Contacts that I used the Google Mobile App instead. Once Apple brought acceptable speed back to the Contacts app via software updates, I deleted the Google Mobile App. Recently I put the app back on. I was intrigued by the New Voice Search. Although I love voice recognition technology, it usually doesn’t work very well for me. It usually takes 3-6 tries to get the device/app to recognize what I’m trying to say. I have voice recognition in my car and almost never use it for this reason. So I decided to give this App a try just for fun. Although it’s not perfect with my voice, it does work more times than not. Of course you don’t have to use the voice feature at all. You can just key in your search words as you would expect.

 

Why do I need the Google Mobile App? Isn’t Google built-in to the iPhone?

Beyond the new voice recognition capabilities, you’re probably still wondering why you need the Google Mobile App? It’s simple. The built-in Google search in Safari and Google maps are good! I use them all the time. However, they only search the internet. The Google Mobile App searches your iPhone data (Contacts) and the internet at the same time. Beyond that it offers suggestions and word completion for what it thinks you’re searching for. Although Apple did speed up Contact searching, the Google Mobile App is still faster. The Google Mobile App also keeps a history of your searches to make it easy to do the same searches again. Another thing that sets the Google Mobile App apart from the built-in Google search in Safari is that it’s Location Aware. This means that you can do searches for things around you. Yes the Google Maps can do this for businesses, etc., but it’s not as comprehensive as all that would be available to you searching the full Google Search Engine.

Searching for Showtimes in the Google Maps App that’s built-in to the iPhone just brought up a nearby theater.

If you’re a user of other Google services such as GMAIL, Notebook, Calendar, etc. You’ll have quick access to those services too.

Don’t get too excited. These apps are Google’s web based apps and open in Safari. They are not native iPhone apps.

 

How does the voice feature work?

Google recorded this cool demonstration. See it for yourself:

 

The Bottom Line

I like this app a lot. I really like the voice feature although it’s not perfect at recognizing my voice. It’s really cool just to speak your search and have it done. I like that it searches my Contacts at the same time it searches the web, but I wish it also searched my calendars too. It would be MUCH faster than having to scroll through looking for an appointment. As a matter of fact the Calendar app should have its own search feature like the Contacts app. It would be great if the Google Mobile App could search both at the same time. That being said, this app is FREE so it’s hard for me to complain about it. It does what it was built to do and does it well.

The Google Mobile App is FREE and available for both the iPhone and iPod touch. Download it from the App Store here: Google Mobile App


Happy Thanksgiving & Black Friday ’08

With all that’s going on in the world, I’m very happy with my life. I want to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Black Friday 2008

Well it’s here again! The day that retailers compete for your business. I do my best to avoid this madness at all costs. Last year was the first year that I went out shopping on Black Friday in YEARS! I just could resist the deals on GPS units at Staples. However, this year there is nothing tempting me. Nothing at all. So I plan to sleep in. I do know that many of you like deals and like gadgets (after all, that’s probably why you’re reading this right?). Before we get to the deals you might want some recommendations on cool stuff to bet. So check out my Holiday Gadget Gift Guide and my recent appearance on The MacJury. Now let’s get to the deals. Here are a few random Black Friday deals/sites you should check out:

First of all here’s a site that does a pretty good job of accumulating many of the Black Friday deals in one spot. It’s called Black Friday Gotta Deal.

The next one is Amazon.com. Since I HATE standing in lines, nothing pleases me more than to get good deals from the comfort of my chair. Check out Amazon’s Black Friday Deals.

Of course Apple products are always hot items on anyone’s list. So check out Apple’s Black Friday deals too.

Here are some deals at one of my favorite local computers/electronics stores – Micro Center.

I’m a Nikon shooter so I received a mailer with Nikon’s Black Friday Deals.

If you’re a video enthusiast then you probably want to check out The Video Guys.

 

Lastly, be sure to check out the Consumer Reports Electronics & Computers Gift Guide.

 

Enjoy!


Schedule TiVo recordings from your mobile phone

As an iPhone user, one of things I have had on my wishlist since the iPhone 2.0 software update was a “native” TiVo scheduler. While there still isn’t a native iPhone app for scheduling recordings remotely, TiVo has created a mobile friendly version of their website (finally).

That’s right, you can go to http://m.tivo.com from any mobile browser (or any browser period) and get a very streamlined mobile friendly version of their site. This mobile version is geared specifically for scheduling recordings on your TiVo Series 2 or TiVo Series 3/HD. 

 

Good start, but needs a little work

Let’s start with the fact that I think the main TiVo site needs some work. So I’m not surprised that the mobile version is less than perfect. On the main TiVo site you have the ability to log in and actually see a full blown “Guide” of all the channels you receive and what’s coming on several days in advance. From the guide you can either schedule one-time recordings or setup a Season Pass to always record your favorite shows.

Of course if you know the name of the show you want to record, you can just do a search for it. The Guide is a good thing to have, but it’s very cumbersome to navigate, and even worse on a mobile device. The biggest problem that I have with it is that you don’t get to narrow the selection down to just your favorite channels (although this is allowed on the actual TiVo hardware). So I end up have to scroll hundreds of channels that I will never watch/use. 

The mobile version doesn’t have a Guide at all. So the only way to schedule a recording is to do a search, pick from the Daily Picks or the Most Popular. This works well, but it brings up another issue (actually the same issue). Let’s say I do a search for “The Unit”.

It comes right up (very fast performance so far), however, since I can’t limit my search/account to just my favorite stations, it comes up with “The Unit” on channel 14. Channel 14 in my area is the old analog/basic standard def cable channel for CBS.

The channel I would rather record this show on would be channel 233, which is CBS HD in my area. I can choose to “view upcoming episodes” and it will then list the one I want on 233. This isn’t bad as an extra step.

However, I ran into a problem trying to do a Season Pass this way. I did my search and then chose to create a Season Pass. I saw that it was using the standard def station, so I then chose to View Upcoming Episodes, selected the same show on the HD channel and then completed my Season Pass. However, when I checked my TiVo HD, it had in fact created the Season Pass using the standard def channel. So for now I will not be using the mobile version of this site to do Season Passes. I also expect this problem to go away one way or the other by February 2009 when all stations are required to broadcast in digital. I expect those old basic cable channels to go away and this this won’t be an issue. The ultimate though would be for TiVo.com to just allow me to limit searches to my favorite channels. 

On a good note, I’m very happy that this mobile version seems to do a good job of keeping logged in. It’s a pain having always key in a user name and password. The desktop version of the site can’t even keep me logged in, so I’m pleasantly surprised that the mobile version can. I’m also happy that the mobile version allows me to choose which one of my TiVo HD’s to record to.

 

m.tivo.com added to the Home Screen

 

The Bottom Line

In all fairness, this mobile version of TiVo.com is listed as a “Beta”, so perhaps they will take my feedback and make improvements. If you have a TiVo Series 2 or Series 3/HD and a mobile phone (doesn’t require an iPhone), then you can’t go wrong with giving it a try. Although I can pull up the full version of the tivo.com site on my iPhone, this mobile version is sooooooooo much easier and faster. As good as the Safari browser is on the iPhone, I wish that ALL companies would offer mobile friendly versions of their websites. It’s just makes it easier and faster to get to the info we need. Less is more.


iPhone Software Update 2.2

On Thursday night last week, Apple released the iPhone 2.2 update. I’ve had it installed and have been playing with it over the weekend and thus far no issues. The official list of new features is as follows:

 

 

Enhancements to Maps

 

  • Google Street View
  • public transit and walking directions
  • display street address of dropped pins
  • share location via email

 

Enhancements to Mail

 

  • resolved isolated issues with scheduled fetching of mail
  • improved formatting of wide HTML email
  • Improved stability and performance of Safari

 

Podcasts are now available for download in iTunes

Decrease call-setups and call drops

Improved sound quality of visual voicemail

Pressing the Home button from any Home screen takes you to the first Home screen

Preference to turn off auto-correction in the Keyboard settings.

I’m really impressed and happy with the additions to the Maps app. Apple did a great job in implementing Google Maps Street View. Here’s how it works:

You can access Google Maps Street View (in areas where it’s available) by either using the Drop Pin feature or search for an existing Address/Contact. If Street View is available, the little orange guy/icon on the left of the address will be highlighted so that you can tap it. Once you tap it, the iPhone will go into a 360° Interactive Street View. You can use your finger to navigate around and see the area. It’s really pretty cool!

 

 

You can also get directions now using public transit and walking directions! This is really handy in places like New York City. I’ll never forget years ago following a set of directions that had me walk all the way around the block avoiding one way streets, arggghhh!

 

 

It’s also cool to be able to download podcasts now directly to your iPhone via the iTunes Wi-Fi store. One less reason to have to connect your iPhone to your computer to do a sync. So go ahead and check out an episode or two from my Adobe Creative Suite Video Podcast :)

 

Although these are cool features, the one that I’ll probably use the most is one of the smallest ones. Now when you’ve scrolled to a second, third, forth, etc. Home screen, you can tap the Home button to get back to the first Home screen without having to go back, back, back. I have 6 home screens so this will come in extremely handy. The iPhone Software Update 2.2 is now available through iTunes. Just plug your iPhone in and it should prompt you to do the download/install.


iPhone App of the Week – iChoose

Having a problem making a decision? Thinking of flipping a coin and going with chance? If that’s how you roll, then iChoose is your app. This isn’t just your basic coin flipping app. iChoose has got it all: Coin Toss, Yes/No, Dice Roll, Card Choice, Boy/Girl, Weather, Quit/Stay (in these economic times STAY!), Loves Me/Loves Me Not, and even Rock, Paper, Scissors. The latest version even comes with a random number generator, which you can set the range for in the preferences. 

Does this app solve the problems of the world? No, but it does make being on the fence regarding a decision a lot more fun. Check it out in the App Store. It’s FREE and works on the iPhone and the iPod touch. Download it here.

 



Reading SDHC cards via the ExpressCard slot

I’ve been using ExpressCard media readers for about as long as I’ve been using a MacBook Pro (years). I’ve used ones from SanDisk, Griffin Technologies, Synchrotech and now Belkin. Hands down my favorite Compact Flash reader/writer is the Synchrotech CF Express Card Reader. This is one of the only ones that takes true advantage of the ExpressCard slot’s speed when reading high-speed UDMA enabled Compact Flash cards. Read my earlier reviews of this card here and here.

 

What about reading SD cards?

My point and shoot still camera and consumer HD camcorder both use SD cards. So what about those? Although I love my San Disk 12-in-1 memory card reader, it’s really overkill since I’m only dealing CF and SD cards these days. Also since I don’t want to read CF cards at USB speeds, then I would only be using that reader for SD cards. So my answer is a very small ExpressCard Media Reader. I actually have a couple of these. However, I recently realized that the ones I have are older models that don’t read the high capacity SD (SDHC) cards. I ran into this problem just last weekend while doing an Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 demo. I needed the read the 8GB SDHC card from my Canon HF10 HD camcorder. My old Belkin ExpressCard reader wouldn’t mount the card. Luckily there was someone in the audience with a newer model and he let me use his.

Knowing that I was going to need to use one from here on out (SD cards continue to grow in capacity), I stopped by the Apple Store while I was in San Francisco for Adobe MAX. I was looking for the same brand that he had let me borrow (SanDisk). Unfortunately, I could only find ONE model and it was the Belkin. As a matter of fact it was the last one left and it looked just like the one I was using already. However, on the side of the packaging it did specifically show the SDHC logo, so I took a chance and bought it. When I got back to my hotel room, I compared the two and there was a difference in part number. So apparently Belkin had upgraded it. It worked like a charm!

Although these ExpressCard readers from Belkin and others (not counting the Syncrotech CF reader), go in the ExpressCard slot, they operate at USB speeds. So you really don’t gain anything speed wise (until someone develops a native ExpressCard slot one for SD), however, you do gain on compactness. When this Belkin reader is in the ExpressCard slot it’s flush with the side of my MacBook Pro. So nothing sticks out. You could even leave it in all the time if you don’t use your ExpressCard slot for other cards.

These readers read/write: SD/SDHC, MMC, MMCplus, MemoryStick, MemoryStick Pro, and xD-Picture Card without the need for an adapter. There really is no functional difference between the Belkin, SanDisk and Griffin Technology (although the Griffin reader doesn’t specially call out SDHC. It may not be updated yet!) readers. However, since they they all do the same thing and both the Belkin and SanDisk readers specifically list SDHC, you’re probably better off going with the SanDisk. Why? Because it lists for only $17.29, while the Belkin reader lists for $29.99. Had the Apple Store had the SanDisk model for that price, I would have gotten it.

If your Mac or PC notebook has an ExpressCard slot, then having one of these adapters is a must. They will fit in just about any pocket in your laptop bag. If you need Compact Flash support and you have an ExpressCard slot, then go with the Syncrotech. It will be way faster than your USB reader. If all you’re going to use is SD/SDHC cards, then you might be better off going with SanDisk’s very clever Ultra II SD/SDHC Plus Cards. These cards fold in half to expose a USB plug that goes right into your computer. No card reader necessary. They are my FAVORITE SD cards hands down!



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