Wacom Intuos 4 Video Review

It seems like it was only yesterday when Wacom introduced the Intuos 4 line of professional pen tablets at Photoshop World Boston. I did a first look on that day and promised to follow up with a more detailed review. Sometimes I’m finding that it’s just easier to show you rather than write paragraphs of text. So here’s another one of my video reviews showing some of the most important and my favorite features of the new Intuos 4:


The Bottom Line

The more I use the Intuos 4 tablets the more I just love them! If you spend ANY time in Photoshop or Illustrator, these tablets are a MUST HAVE! Both Photoshop and Illustrator’s tool sets take advantage of the pressure sensitivity of the Wacom tablets. I still love my Cintiq, but when I have to travel with a tablet or just want to use one around the house, I reach for either my Intuos 4 Medium or Small tablets. The Intuos 4 Small stays in my laptop bag and goes everywhere I go.

Intuos Small $199.99 (List Price $229)

Intuos Medium $335.98 (List Price $369)

Good quality memory card that doesn’t break the bank

transcend

I’ve really been getting into using my Canon VIXIA HF10 HD camcorder more and more lately. I only had one SDHC card which was 8GB in capacity. I wanted to be able to at least record up to two hours on one card at the highest quality setting. So that meant upgrading to a 16GB card. I usually buy name brand memory cards for my digital photography work. My usual brand of choice is SanDisk. I use other name brands too, but the SanDisk cards have all served me well with no failures to date.

hf10

I was pricing the Class 6 (the speed I wanted for HD video work) SanDisk cards when I realized that the 8GB card I had been using all along was NOT a name brand card. That got me thinking, do I really need to spend the extra $$ on a memory card to get quality? Usually I don’t chance it. However, the proof was in my hand that I might be able to break tradition this time. So I did a little comparison shopping and opted to get a Transcend 16GB SDHC Class 6 card. It was literally half the price of the SanDisk card! It was also getting decent reviews on Amazon.com (a site where people can be brutally honest and not hold anything back when writing reviews). So I took a chance!

The results so far

It’s still early in this game. I’ve only been using the new Transcend cards for about 2 weeks now. However, they’ve performed perfectly. Again, it’s early and ANY card can die at any time. However, that’s the point! Any card can die at any time! So if you have a decent not so known brand that works and is compatible and seems to have a low failure rate as far as the reviews go, why not save the money? I did just that! I bought TWO of the 16GB SDHC class 6 cards for the price of ONE SanDisk card. So far so good! If the card ever dies I will report back here.

Once I record my video footage, I simply pop the memory card out of the Canon HF10 and pop it into my SanDisk 12-in-1 card reader on my Mac Pro. From there I fire up Premiere Pro CS4 and edit right off the card in the native AVCHD format. I will never go back to tape again! This workflow totally rocks! See it in action here:

[flv:http://media.libsyn.com/media/cspodcast/podcast-PR-AVCHD.mp4 625 353]

Here’s what I can record at with a 16GB SDHC card on the VIXIA HF10:

17FPs FXP (highest quality setting) 2 hours 6 minutes

12FPs XP+ 2 hours 53 minutes

7FPs SP 4 hours 48 minutes

5FPs LP 6 hours 8 minutes

Check out all of my latest gear recommendations here.

iPhone App of the Week – Flixster Movies

movieslogo

As we enter the official summer blockbuster movie season I’m relying more and more on the apps on my iPhone to give the latest and greatest movie info and showtimes. I’ve choosen “Movies” by Flixter as my iPhone App of the Week this week because it seems to the closest app to offering all the things I want. You would think it wouldn’t be that hard to come up with a movie showtimes app, but I’ve got 3-4 of them on my iPhone at any given time. That’s because each one offers something that the others don’t offer or each one has a better user interface in one area or another.

Here’s what I want…

  • show times – this is the main reason for the app! So I want to launch it and get to the showtimes for the movie I want to see as quickly as possible. I hate it when an app makes you click through an ad to get to this info. I’d rather just pay for the app then to have to deal with ads that get in the way of functionality. Also only list times that haven’t happened yet for that day. Don’t show movie times that have past.
  • ratings/rankings – I need know what the movie is rated (G, PG, PG-13, R, etc.). It’s also nice to see how it’s rated/ranked by those who have seen it already.
  • Location based – of course the app needs to take advantage of Location Services. If I’m traveling, I want to know about the movies playing around me.
  • Favorite theater – when I’m not traveling, I go to the same theater about 99.9% of the time. So I really just need to know quickly what time is the movie that I want to see playing at my Favorite/Default theater.
  • Trailers – Movie trailers are nice if they are fast. Half the time I get bored waiting for the trailer to load. Chances are I’ve already decided on the movie I want to see anyway. So trailers are cool, but not a deal breaker.
  • Little to no Ads – Like I said above, given a choice of ads or pay for the app, I’d opt to pay for the app not to have to see the ads. I know that free apps are often subsidized by the advertising in them, but unless the ad is a banner ad that doesn’t get in the way of how the app works, I’d just rather not have them period. Whatever you do don’t make me have to watch a full screen ad before I can get to the info that the app provides. That really grinds me the wrong way!
  • Map to theater/directions – If I’m on the road, having a link directly to built-in Maps app is key. This way I can not only see the closest theater, but also see how to get there from where I’m at.
  • Buy tickets – oddly enough there’s only one app (Fandang0) that supports buying tickets at my closest/favorite theater. The other apps allow for ticket purchases, just not at my theater. Buying tickets via the app is nice, but what would really make me use this feature a lot more is if there was a way to buy the tickets online via the app and either print them or email them to my computer for printing. I would love to print the movie tickets before leaving the house and just go straight to the ticket taker person.
  • Add movies to my Netflix queue – Usually when I’m sitting there before the movie starts I’m watching the trailers for other movies that are coming out. Many times I’ll see a movie that I’d like to see, but know that I won’t see it in the theaters. So I like to add it to my Netfilx Queue right then and there while I’m thinking about it.

  • Bonus Features/Nice to haves – these are not deal breakers, but nice to have features:
  • email show times to friends – if you’re going to the movies with friends, it would be nice to either email or SMS the movie times so that you can all pick a time and meet up at the theater. If you’re going to have this feature, I guess you’ll also need the ability to email the map/directions to the theater too.
  • See upcoming movie/DVD releases – It’s nice to be able to see what movies are coming to the theaters or DVD/Blu-ray on which dates/weeks.
  • Facebook, Twitter integration – usually after I see a movie, I want to either tell people how great it was or how much it sucked! So having the ability to rate the movie and instantly post that rating on Twitter and/or Facebook is a plus.
  • Concession Stand Ordering – How cool would it be to also place your food order (fill out the mortgage app first) before getting to the theater so that you can just pick it up when you arrive and walk straight in with your printed tickets too.

So out of all the things I want above, Movies comes the closest and seems to be the one I tap on first most times. I just fired it up to see how quickly I could get to the show times for Star Trek at my favorite theater. The first thing it hit me with was the option to play the trailer:

moves1

When I hit “Skip” it took me to the Box Office Screen to show the list of movies Opening this Week. Star Trek was at the top of the list. Cool, but I already know the movie I want (Star Trek) and I know which theater I want to see it at.

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So I taped the Theaters button and my favorite theater is at the top of the list (good!)

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I tapped my favorite theater and then it showed the list of showtimes and I scrolled down until I found Star Trek.

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Mission Accomplished! However, call me silly, but shouldn’t I be able to set a default that just takes me right to this screen every time I launch the app? I mean after all, I’m usually going to the same theater when I do go to the movies. I usually know what I want to see and I’m really just launching the app to see what times the movie is playing? That’s how this app could be better! That’s how all of the movie apps could be better. Let me set my landing page and let me get there with one tap! Before these apps were available I used to use a Web Clip to the mobile Fandango site for my theater and son of a gun, it launched Safari and took me right to the page for my theater listing the current times. I want the native apps to do the same thing. Then if I want to do more like see trailers, see other theaters, see other movies, etc. I can choose to do those things. Just for kicks I recreated my Web Clip for my favorite theater and timed how long it would take to get me right to the times for Star Trek. It was on screen in about 7 seconds. I had to tap one more button to get to the next page where the Star Trek movie was listed. Otherwise it would have been more like 5 seconds.

Fandango Mobile Site in Safari

Fandango Mobile Site in Safari

The Bottom Line

Like I said, Movies is probably the app I use the most. But it’s not the only App I use because there are other apps on my iPhone that do some things better. I do recommend Movies as it’s the most popular and closest to everything I want. However, I also recommend looking at iTV (more than just movie listing and offers Netflix management and TiVo scheduling too. iTV is a KILLER app and it would be my first choice if it were faster. I use it more for TV listings which is what it really excells at!), OneTap Movies, which was my first favorite movie app and Fandango, which has a ways to go in the interface and features department, but it’s the only one that actually lets me buy tickets at MY theater.

You can download Flixster Movies App here from the App Store. It’s FREE and works on the iPhone and iPod touch.

All of the Apps I mentioned above are FREE and therefore you should try them all out and see which one you like best. Perhaps at the end of the day I’d use a web clip to quickly get to show times and the Movies app for everything else.

MetaX completes me

In yesterday’s post I talked about my project to convert all of my purchased movie DVDs into MP4 format for streaming playback to any TV in my house (via Apple TV). I got lots of questions about the workflow and some of the questions revolved around Movie Poster artwork. When you rip your Audio CDs iTunes happily finds the missing album art for you and inserts it. It also looks up the track names and other info to help with the process. However, for movies iTunes doesn’t offer much help at all. I was quite content just having the name of the movie and the DVD artwork. I was manually looking up the artwork on the web and copying and pasting it in via the Artwork tab in iTunes Get Info area. It was working! However, the one thing I thought would be nice to have is the Movie Ratings (G, PG, PG-13, R, etc.). Even if I wanted to put these in manually, iTunes doesn’t allow access to this field. So I just decided to live without it.

MetaX rocks!

The one thing I’ve found out about blogging is that if you blog about a product or workflow, there’s usually someone out there reading that post that’s either done the same thing you’re doing or tried other products that do similar things. I’ve gotten some of my best tech recommendations from the comments area of my posts. Well my blog readers were very quick to offer suggestions to help with my project this time too. Blog reader “Noel” suggested an app called MetaX, which would pull in the Movie Poster art AND other data. Well of course I went to go check it out and I was floored by how well it works!

MetaX Interface, click to enlarge

MetaX Interface, click to enlarge

MetaX polls a variety of databases to grab not only the Movie Poster art, but the description, ratings, actors/acrtresses, chapter names and more! You can go movie by movie and tell it what you want from each database by checking off the boxes in the interface and then let it batch write those tags into your movie files. Be prepared as this process can take 5 minutes per movie on average. I ran it on all the movies I had already ripped and it’s still going as of this morning (almost done though). Speaking of Movie Art, this app even has the ability to allow you to manually crop off the annoying white background that some Movie Posters will come in with.

click to make larger

click to make larger

As you can see above the top two movies have no extra metadata and the bottom two have been run through MetaX to grab the rating, genre, year, description and the movie art (which isn’t shown here).

Believe it or not MetaX is free to download. The author requests a donation via PayPal, which I will be happily making today! It also works great for TV shows. MetaX is a Mac only App. I don’t have a similar solution for Windows users. However, if one exists I’m sure someone will chime in in the comments and let us know.

Thanks Noel for the suggestion! You’ve helped make this project even better than I imagined it would be. My workflow now puts MetaX right in the middle. I go from HandBrake to MetaX and then into iTunes.

Apple iTunes

Apple iTunesApple iTunes Apple iTunes

One rack down, three to go: 80+ DVDs ripped!

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About a month ago I started the process to rip (convert) all of my movie DVDs to my iTunes server (an intel iMac with a Drobo attached running iTunes). The idea is to basically create my own video on demand system so that any movie I have could be watched on any of my TV’s via an Apple TV.

The first 80+ DVDs are done

So I’ve been using 3 Macs in my house to convert these DVDs at my leisure. I’ve been using HandBrake to rip these DVDs into .MP4 format. I learned a lesson about the Handbrake presets midway through the process. At first I was using the Apple TV setting so that I could retain the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track (a must!). However, the downside to this preset is that MP4’s created this way will only play on a computer or an Apple TV. This means that If I wanted to take a movie with me on an iPod or iPhone I’d have to rip a second version. Then one day it dawned upon me that when you buy a movie from the iTunes store it includes the 5.1 surround track AND it’s compatible with iPods and iPhones too. So that led me to take another look at the HandBrake presets.

hb1

I discovered that the “Universal” preset is the one I really want to use for the best of both worlds. It does include the 5.1 surround sound track and it will make an MP4 file that work on iPods, iPhones, Apple TVs and computers. One movie file that does it all.

hb2

I didn’t go back and re-rip the ones that I had already done with the Apple TV preset. I figure I could do this on an as needed basis. I did however, test the quality of the “Universal” preset and I was happy with it on the big screen.

Is it worth it?

rippeddvds

It’s a slow process! Even though I’m only a quarter of the way through this project, it has already paid off. I have rediscovered some movies that I bought and never watched. Some were even still in the shrinkwrap. Being able to pull up and watch any movie I own on any one of my HDTV/Apple TV’s is really cool. It’s just as gratifying as being able to listen to any song I own without having to dig out a CD. Last weekend we watched all three of the original Terminator movies to get in the mood for the upcoming Terminator Salvation.

The ripping continues! At this rate I should be done in July or August. Depending on the speed of the computer it could take anywhere from 35-50 minutes to 5-7 hours to rip one DVD. Intel Macs like my Mac Pro do it very fast. Older Power PC Macs take hours. I’m thinking of firing up a 4th Mac (iMac G5) that’s just sitting there for sale. Might as well use it until I find a buyer. Although it takes hours to rip a movie on this system, that’s one less movie I have to do on the other 3.

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Apple iTunes

Kensington LiquidAux in-car iPod solution: Review

Ever since I got the first iPod, I’ve been interested in having iPod integration in my car. With my newer car it’s easy. I open the little compartment under the arm rest and son of a gun there’s an iPod 30 pin cable just sitting there. I plug in my iPod, close the compartment and control everything from the in dash stereo and steering wheel controls. Apple has done a great job getting car manufacturers to offer iPod and now iPhone integration as factory options. This is great if you have a late model car or you’re in the market for a new car. However, what if you have an older car or a newer car that doesn’t offer an integrated iPod solution?

Do you have an auxiliary-in jack?

Most late model cars were starting to offer auxiliary-in jacks before they were offering iPod integration. My older car fits this category. There is no iPod connector available for this car. However, there is an AUX-in jack right in the glove compartment. As a matter of fact even the car I had before that one had the same thing and I went a full year without even knowing it was in there. The day I discovered it I almost passed out.

Having an AUX-in is half the battle! This means that at least your car stereo can accept a source other than what’s built-in. You could just simply connect a cable between your iPod or iPhone’s headphone jack and your AUX-in jack and play your music. If that’s all you want, then you can stop reading here and have a nice day. However, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a little more control than having to reach for the iPod to change tracks and playlists AND I wanted to be able to charge it too. Since my AUX-in jack is in my glove compartment, that presents an even more challenging scenario with cable management. I don’t want to drive around with cables coming out of the side of the glove compartment door. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to see any cables at all!

Getting Power!

The first thing I knew that I was going to have to do to be happy was to have a cigarette lighter adapter installed right in my glove compartment. This way I could plug in a charger for the iPod and close the door. Don’t even think of going to dealer with this non-standard request or they will just look at you funny. The good thing is that now many new cars that have AUX-in are doing it under the arm rest and they’re putting a “power port” there too! In my case I wasn’t that lucky. So I went to my local car stereo shop and had them install one for me. They still looked at me strange, but they did it. So now I have AUX-in and Power right next to each other.

I want CONTROL!

ken-remote

Having power and sound isn’t enough. I don’t want to have to reach across the car every time I want to change a song or pause it. There were all kinds of remote controls out for the iPod when I first started looking at this problem, but almost all of them required line-of-sight. Keep in mind this thing was going to be behind a closed door. I wanted something with RF or Bluetooth. When I first started with this problem I solved it with two things. I used a Griffin Techologies AirClick remote for my iPod mini and a Belkin iPod Charger that also offered line out audio. This solution has worked for me for the last 4 years. There’s just one problem. My iPod mini finally died! “It’s dead Jim!” I know, just get a new iPod right? I’ve even got older iPods just lying around. However, the problem is that the AirClick Remote model that I have (which isn’t even made anymore) only fits the iPod mini. Sure I can probably go to eBay and get another mini, but this problem is going to continue as mini’s just continue to get older and older. So I needed a new solution!

Kensington LiquidAux

liquidaux

My buddy Jack Beckman turned me on to the Kensington LiquidAux. I didn’t need it at the time he told me about it, but I bookmarked it because I knew that the iPod mini would eventually die someday. Well someday came sooner than I thought it would. The LiquidAux me everything I need in one package. The LiquidAux plugs into the dock connector of any dockable iPod including the latest and greatest iPods and iPhones. The other end of the cable is both Power and Line Out! Lastly it comes with an RF remote. It’s like they were anticipating my needs and designed a product to do exactly what I needed.

How well does it work?

ken-solution

The LiquidAux does exactly what it claims to do. It allows me to charge and control my iPod from my steering wheel while pumping the jams through my car stereo. Now of course there are a couple of caveats. The first one is that you have to choose the playlist on the iPod itself. The remote for the LiquidAux only does Play/Pause, Previous Song, Next Song and Shuffle.  Once you choose the playlist on the iPod, you don’t have to touch the iPod again unless you want to change the playlist again. If you hold down the Play/Pause button on the remote it will put the iPod to sleep. They also built-in a nice feature that senses when the iPod is fullly charged and then turns off the charger. This can help prevent a dead car battery if your cigarette lighter is constantly powered even when the car is off. The only other issue (actually two issues) revolves around sound level and engine interference. With my old Belkin Charger there was a volume control for the line level right on the charger itself. So I had it turned all the way up and the sound level coming from the iPod was great. The LiquidAux has no such control so the sound volume was much lower than I expected. Sure you can simply turn up your car stereo, which I did and that leads me to the other issue. With my old solution I could hear a distinct “hum” between tracks and while the iPod was paused. This hum drove me nuts at first. I solved it by getting a Ground Loop Isolator (don’t ask me how I knew that’s what I needed) from Radio Shack. Plugged it in between the iPod and the AUX-in jack (using the appropriate RCA to mini adapter cables) and problem solved. Because I have to turn the stereo volume up so much with the LiquidAux, I can hear a similar hum. So I plugged in the Ground Loop Isolator and it took care of the issue once again. I’m back in business with a New (actually refurbished) 4th generation iPod nano.

No Integrated iPod support OR AUX-in jack?

If your car doesn’t have either an integrated iPod connector or an AUX-in jack, then your choices are going to be very limited. If you have a cassette deck, then you could go with a cassette adapter that offers a line in cable. If you don’t have a cassette deck either, then your only other choice is going to be an FM transmitter. In my opinion FM transmitters in general SUCK! I haven’t seen one yet, that I would want to have to use on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, I’d get a new stereo put in that did have an AUX-in or iPod connection first before having to deal with an FM transmitter on a daily basis. I dislike them that much!

The Bottom Line

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If you have an iPod or iPhone (either the original or iPhone 3g) and your car has an AUX-in jack this is about the only thing out there that does it all. They make two models. I bought the basic model because I didn’t need the iPod/iPhone holder since mine is stuffed neatly (or not so neatly) away in my glove compartment. The Kensington LiquidAux goes for $43.78. The Kensington LiquidAux Deluxe goes for $57.45.

Of course the other option is to just buy a new car with built-in iPod support! The auto industry would really appreciate that right about now.

Travel Routers: Cradlepoint CTR500 vs. AirPort Express

Sometimes it’s easier just to show you rather than to try to explain it in print. So check out my video review of the Cradlepoint CTR500 3G EVDO Travel Router vs the Apple AirPort Express:

…yes the video shot in HD and was edited in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 (of course!)

A couple of additional features not shown in the video

The CTR500 not only shipped with an AC adapter (cigarette lighter) and multiple international plugs, but it also shipped with an Auto DC adapter. So in theory you could take that long car trip with the family and your passengers could have Wi-Fi internet access for their laptops, iPod touch’s, etc. while barreling down the highway. UPDATED INFO: Also the guys at the 3Gstore just alerted me to the fact that the latest Cradlepoint firmware now supports true Load Balancing. So if you do have the luxury of having two cards, you can use them together for increased bandwidth. They had me at “now supports”.

The Bottom Line

I’m always setting up ad-hoc Wi-Fi networks when I’m on the road. I love the convenience of coming back to my hotel room and just opening my laptop and being on the internet (just like at home). It’s also great to be able to share the same internet connection with colleagues in the next room or family that I’m traveling with and to have Wi-Fi access on multiple devices like my laptop, iPhone and Vonage VoIP Wi-Fi phone (great for calling home from overseas). Although the AirPort Express is GREAT (and I still use them extensively at home because of their AirTunes abilities), the Cradlepoint CTR500 gives me the ability to not only share an Ethernet connection over Wi-Fi, but also either of my 3G (EVDO/HSDPA) cards. It even works with some 3G cellphones via USB tethering. There was no software to install. Like most routers you configure it via your web browser. I’ve also never seen a router (let alone a travel router) with so many options to configure it just the way you like. Even my home D-Link router doesn’t have that many options. Speaking of configuring, there was one annoying default. After I set the router up with WPA password security, I noticed that I was still being routed to a web page, which required entering an additional password before being allowed access to the internet. I couldn’t find that way to turn this off fast enough! Once I turned off “Require User Login“(apparently one of the most frequently asked questions), I was totally happy with the setup. The CTR500 only came with a quickstart guide to get you setup with a basic setup. I wanted to dig a little deeper with the settings and therefore had to go to the website to get the complete user guide.

The Cradlepoint CTR500 goes for $179.95 (retail list price $199.99).  There are less expensive models (one of which even has a built-in LI-ION battery) if you don’t need both an ExpressCard slot AND USB. If that’s the case you might want to go with the USB model CTR350 at $129.38. The CTR500 has direct support for over 100 3G cards and cellphones. See the list and specs here. If all you need is to share a high speed internet connection via Ethernet then the AirPort Express ($94.61) is the way to go. If you’re in the market for a 3G data card/service, router etc., the guys at the 3G Store rock!.

I can’t wait to go on my next trip!

iPhone App of the Week – Zillow

zillowlogo

Have you ever said, “gee, I wonder how much the houses cost in this area?” Well if you have, you will LOVE this app. Zillow is a real estate data app that simply blew me away. It’s location based, so you don’t have to enter addresses. Simply fire it up, wait a few seconds for it to acquire your location and you will start to see the houses in your immediate vicinity appear on the map with little price tags above them. Now of course this data is only as good as the real estate databases out there and don’t take into account for any recent modifications, renovations or disasters. However, it will definitely give you a feel for whether or not the houses you’re eying are in your price range or not.

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WARNING: Depression Alert!

I live in Michigan, which has one of if not the worst economies in the country. So I don’t recommend running this app on your own house/neighborhood if you live in this area (or a similar area) or you just may wind up on the floor in the fetal position or reaching for your gun. Houses all around me are going for a fraction of what they cost a year or two ago. It’s definitely a buyers market. Sigh…

How well does it work?

zillow2a

Since I’m on an iPhone 3G with an actually GPS in it, my location was very accurate. In most cases it put me on the map exactly where I was in my car. I drove to a relatively new development (built in the last 4 years) and I was really curious to see what those homes were now going for. Again, not pretty, but good info.

The Zillow app has both standard Map and Hybrid (satellite) views. There’s also a handy List view for viewing the properties by address. As you might expect the app will also tell you if a house is for sale or not (aren’t just about all houses for sale if you offer enough money?). Once you find a house that you want to drill down on you simply tap right on it and you’ll see the address and basic specs like number of bedrooms and baths as well as the estimated value. Tap again and you’ll get a more detailed listing including charts and price range that that house has fluctuated in. You can also see when the house was built, square footage of the lot and the house, and the property taxes. I was also impressed by how the map scrolled as I drove and the GPS updated my position. Pretty neat.

You can also simply enter an address in the search field. I’m surprised that there is no tie to the Contacts app for a quick look up of your friend’s…….never mind.

zillow3a zillow4

The Bottom Line

This is simply a cool app! Even if you’re not in the market for a house (I’m not), it’s still fun to play with. Who knows, if the right deal were to come along it may change your mind about staying where you are? Although this app works both on the iPhone and the iPod touch, I can’t see it being as useful on the touch in situations when you wouldn’t have a wi-fi connection to look up the data.

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You can download Zillow for FREE from the App Store here.

I have to give credit to my Twitter follower @TareqAlrashid for turning me on to this app. Follow me on Twitter and tell me which Apps you love!

Replace that stranger with a stick

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We’ve all been there at some point. You’re out and about either alone or with that special someone or family member and you want to be in a picture with. The problem is that if you didn’t bring a tripod, you’d have to rely on a stranger to take your camera and take the picture. While this seems like a relatively simple task, I’m always floored by the way people act as if they’ve never even seen a camera before. Let’s face it, the shutter release has been in the same spot for the last thirty years. Yet we always hear “what do I press?” Next there’s the whole auto focus, press the shutter down half way thing. I don’t even want to go there with that one.

You might want to get an XShot

xhotsample

I was at my Mac User Group meeting a couple weeks back and one of the members (Wanda) came up to me and she was showing off her XShot. The concept is so simple, it makes me think “now why didn’t I think of that?” Basically the XShot is a telescoping arm with a tripod mount on the end that can swivel. The idea is that you set your camera to use the built-in timer feature, extend the XShot arm and press the shutter. You have a few seconds to pose or look natural while you hold the arm of the XShot out of sight. Being a gadget junkie, I had to order one of these and try it out.

How well does it work?

takenwithxshot

The XShot works as advertised. I mean there’s not much to it. I was taking pictures with it within minutes of taking it out of the packaging. It took me longer to figure out how to set the timer on my Canon Powershot 850IS than to actually get the XShot ready. Although the XShot does exactly what it’s designed to do, there are a couple of things you might want to think about. The first thing is that whole framing issue. Since you can’t see the LCD screen, you’re totally guessing on how to frame the shot. However, you’ll probably still do a better job blindly than the average stranger you were using before. The next thing is the auto focus feature. My Canon has Face Detection, but when I reach out to press the shutter and start the timer, I’m not quite in the frame when the camera focuses. In my testing with two people this wasn’t an issue, however, taking a picture of yourself might require you to bring the camera in closer to get the proper auto focus.

The Bottom Line

xshotanim

For the $19.95 ($29.99 list price) price, it’s not bad. It’s cheaper and smaller than most other solutions I’ve seen. It’s also can offer a huge improvement over the typical Myspace/Facebook profile pictures that I see out there so much (you know the ones where you see the person’s arm in the shot as they try to take their own pictures? Or worse the ones taken in a mirror in the bathroom?). The XShot folds down to 9″ and extends up to 37″. It weighs only 5 oz. Amazon has it for only $19.95.

Another great evening! Thanks!

click to enlarge

astart

Once again I want to thank all of you who attended my "Evening with Terry White – My Photoshop Lightroom Workflow"! I’m very pleased with the turn out and the enthusiasm that you all expressed. We also had people attending from Europe and it was after midnight their time. So thanks for hanging in there.

 

The recording

If you couldn’t attend live, I did record the session and you can watch it here.

Polling questions/answers. Click to enlarge

 

Some follow up Q&A

Q. How can I learn more about DNG?

A. Check it out here on Adobe.com.

Q. Are there any good deals on Lightroom 2?

A. Yes, here for the full version and here for the upgrade.

Q. You mentioned a 3rd party web gallery that you use for showing client proofs. Which one is it.

A. I use The Turning Gate Client Response Gallery. Check it out here.

Q. You showed how to upload pictures form Lightroom to Flickr, Facebook, etc. How is that done?

A. I use third party plugins. Here are a few: Flickr, Facebook, Smugmug, iStockPhoto.

Q. Which GPS do you use with your camera?

A. I geotag my photos with the di-GPS Pro for Nikon cameras.

Q. Where can we see the Arizona shots you took?

A. Right here.

Q. Where can I see more of your videos, presentations, etc.?

A. Check out my Adobe Creative Suite Video Podcast.

Q. When you were retouching the photo, you said you were using a Wacom tablet. Which one was it?

A. It was the New Wacom Intuos 4 Medium Tablet. See all my gadget and gear recommendations here

 

Retouched shot from the seminar[

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