iPhone App of the Week – CardStar


I would guess that most of the folks reading this blog have some type of membership card either in their wallet/purse or on their keychains or worse, you have them in both places. My keychain was starting to look like the shoppers section in the Sunday paper.


Sometimes having these little tags do actaully help you out at check out time with discounts that appear right on your bill for that transaction. Krogers is good for this. Others add up your rebates and actually send you coupons that are as good as cash. Staples is good this. So using the cards do help you save cash. The one thing that always bugged me was having to have a different card for every single merchant. Why couldn’t their be ONE card that you get when you go to any merchant and it would have YOUR number on it? When you go to a different merchant, they just add YOUR number to their system. This way each person only has to have ONE card. Oh well, that’l probably never happen. The CardStar app offers the next closest thing!


CardStar can store all of your membership cards in one app

When I first saw CardStar I couldn’t download it fast enough! I was main interested in it because it looked like it would eliminate all those little tags on my keychain. The concept is simple. You choose your Merchant from the list of over 130 merchants and then add your customer/membership number from your little tag.


CardStar creates a barcode for that merchant just like the one on the tag. I was skeptical that this would work. However, I had to try it immediately. Since one of my errands would take me right next to a CVS store. I walked in and bought something just to try it out. The cashier was a little surprised when I whipped out my iPhone with the CVS logo on screen, but she held up the little wand and “beep”, it worked! I paid for my item and was on my way.


Next stop, Staples. I bought one item that I was kinda low on anyway and “beep”! It worked there too. That’s two for two. Now of course Y.M.M.V. It may not work at all merchants with all scanners. However, even if it didn’t scan the barcode, the number is displayed so that it could be keyed in manually in the worse case scenario. You might also run into a merchant that insists upon seeing your actual card. Your Gym may require this! However for the most part for me it’s goodbye little tags on my keychain!

What about your other membership cards?


I was totally content just eliminating the key chain tags from my life. However, after digging a little deeper in this app, I saw the Travel category. I saw airlines, hotel chains, etc. in the list. So I started entering those too. Now most of these type of entries won’t produce a bar code. For example, when I check in at a Marriott, they don’t scan my card. They do ask for my Marriott Rewards number though! I know the light just went on for some of you. Yep that’s right, you can enter all your other membership numbers too even if you don’t use a bar code with those places. When you need to know your AAA, Hilton, Blockbuster, etc. numbers you can just look them up quickly in CardStar.

Although CardStar boasts about 130 merchants, there are going to be merchants that you use that aren’t in the list. For me that was Olga’s Kitchen here in Michigan. No problem, there is a “Custom” entry option that allows you to put in any merchant you want. You won’t have the fancy logo, but you will be able to have the number and the generated bar code for any merchant you want.

The Bottom Line

CardStar is a brillant app that solves a practical problem. They are already promising updates with even more features like coupon support and of course more merchants. CardStar is available for FREE (Limited time before the price kicks in at 99¢) at the App Store here. So get it while the getting is good!

Anti-Phishing Tip

We all get those emails that look legit, but aren’t! It could come from a bank or your credit card company. Usually there’s a “problem with your account” and they need you to log in and give them some information or reset your password. My favorite is when they claim that through a computer mishap that they lost all my information, yet miracously they still have my email address. Also another dead giveaway is the first line that says “Dear Valued Customer.” If I was really your valued customer, wouldn’t you know my name and address me directly.

Even though the signs are clear in some cases, people get tricked into clicking the links, winding up on an fake site and divulging tons of private information.

Here’s a tip for Apple Mail users

If you’re an Apple Mail user (the mail app built-in to Mac OS X), then you’ve got a way of quickly verifying where a link goes without actually clicking on it. Take this “Bank of America” email that I got yesterday. Although I wasn’t even remotely tempted to click on the link, I was curious as to where it led to. So I simply hovered my mouse over the link to reveal a popup display that actually shows the REAL URL that you’d go to if you clicked on it. Needless to say, it wasn’t bankofamerica.com.


Although I didn’t click the link, I’m sure if I had it would have taken me to a website that looks just like bankofamerica.com.

This tip also works in Mail on the iPhone

As I wrote in my iPhone Book 2nd edition. You can do this same tip by holding down your finger on a link in the Mail app on the iPhone/iPod touch to see where the link is actually going to take you.


What if you don’t use Mail or are on a PC?

Even if you aren’t an Apple Mail app user, there’s a simple tip for you. DON’T CLICK ON LINKS IN EMAILS! If I thought that this email was legit, the safer thing to do would be to fire up my browser manually and key in the URL myself or use a bookmark. That way I’d know for sure what site I was headed to. Even if you are a Mail user a clever programmer can create a link that spoofs the original site. So bottom line, don’t click the links. Chances are if you get an email requesting that you go to a website, login and give them information, it’s an attempt to gain access to your information, passwords, user names, etc.

Be safe!

How I upgraded my MacBook Pro


It’s not unusal for me to go a couple of years without upgrading my main notebook, the MacBook Pro. As a matter of fact before getting the latest 15″ unibody, I had skipped the last two revs. The updates just weren’t significant enough for me to go through the hassle of upgrading. This time I timed it right and I love my “Late 2008 15″ MacBook Pro.” Granted there’s the Glossy Display debate, but I’ve gotten used to it and have no problem with it. Seeing how I will probably be using this computer for at least another 18 months (unless some major breakthroughs happen), I wanted to max it out. When I got it, it came with 4GB of RAM and a 320GB 7200 RPM drive. Although I knew that I would eventually want more hard drive space, I wanted to wait until the 500GB hard drives came in a 7200 RPM model instead of 5400 RPMs. Well that day is today!

Seagate 500GB 7200 RPM 2.5″ Drive and MORE RAM!


I checked with my good friends over at OWC and the NEW Seagate 500GB 7200 RPM 2.5″ Momentus drives were readily available. I thought the price was reasonable enough, so I ordered one. Since I was already going to be under the hood, I also wanted to take this opportunity to upgrade the RAM. Although Apple originally sold this MacBook Pro with a max of 4GB of RAM, it can actually address 6GB of RAM (the 17″ and the early 2009 models can do 8GB of RAM). I originally had two 2GB DIMMs installed, so this would mean replacing one of them with a 4GB DIMM to get to 6GB of RAM, which again is the max that this MacBook Pro will address. So I orded the 4GB DIMM also.

My installation procedure

I have 2-3 utilities that I rely on when it comes to upgrading to a new hard drive. If I’m upgrading to a faster drive of the same capacity or larger capacity, but not partioned I use CopyCatX. CopyCatX “duplicates” the drive to the new drive sector by sector. This is much faster than traditional cloning and creates an EXACT duplicate of the drive. The app has the technology to expand the duplicate to take into account the space available on a larger drive. However, if the original drive is partitioned AND the new drive is larger, you’ll end up with the difference in space as an unusable partition. So in my case since I have a BootCamp (Windows XP) partition AND I was going to a larger drive, using CopyCatX was out of the question.

I installed the new drive and the RAM


I took the cover off the bottom of my MacBook Pro and there it was! The battery and the hard drive are right there in plain sight. Asside from the original MacBook, this has got to be the most drive accessible notebook that Apple has ever created. All my previous drive upgrades were a pain in the neck. I was able to easily figure out how to take the drive out. It was actually only one very small phillips screw holding the bracket in place. I then had to remove the 4 pins from the drive itself that Apple uses to hold the drive in securely. These require a very small torx screw driver. Luckily, I had the necessary tools.

What I didn’t see was the RAM! Apple usually does it the other way around. Usually the RAM is in plain sight and the hard drive is buried. However, this time the RAM was no where to be found. Rather than guess at the location, I remembered seeing installation videos on the OWC site. So I went to another computer and watched the short clip to discover the the RAM was under the main cover which was held in place by 8 screws. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was did it matter if the new 4GB DIMM was in the lower slot or the upper slot. I didn’t think it would matter, so I put the 4GB DIMM in place of the 2GB DIMM that was in the upper slot. I then put it all back together.


SuperDuper! was next

I took the original 320GB drive and put it in an external OWC Mercury On-The-Go Firewire 800 case and connected it. I also had my bootable backup drive. I decided that it would be cleaner to boot from the backup drive and clone the original drive to the new one. Since the 15″ MacBook Pro only has one Firewire 800 port, I had to daisy chain the two externa drives. Just to be on the safe side I plugged the OWC drive into the AC outlet to make sure there was enough power to run both external drives. I then ran Disk Utility from the backup drive to format the new internal drive. Next it was time to clone over the Mac partition onto the new drive. I fired up SuperDuper! and cloned over my Mac partition on my original 320GB drive (the drive I just took out) onto the new drive. This clone took about 3.5 hours for close to 240GB of data. I then booted from the New drive and everything was working so far.

Time to run the BootCamp Assistant and Winclone


Now that I was booted from the new drive it was time to partition it again for BootCamp. I fired up the BootCamp Assistant and partitioned the drive slightly larger than the old partition I had (64GBs for the new one). Now in order to get my old Windows XP partiton over to the new partition I had to make an image of it first using Winclone. Winclone is a Mac app that lets you backup and restore a Windows partition. Since I had plenty of room on my new internal drive, I fired up Winclone and imaged my old partition (from the now external 320GB drive). The compressed image was only 24.51 GBs. I’ll move it another drive when I’m done as a backup. Once the image was completed, I click right over to the restore tab and restored it to the NEW BootCamp partition that I had created earlier.

The Bottom Line

You can never have too much RAM and too much storage. If you’re going to use your existing computer for a while, then having more room and the capacity to run more/larger apps is always welcomed. Also since we’re going to see more and more 64 bit apps coming in the future, going beyond 4GB of RAM is going to be worth it. I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 every day and it’s already 64 bit enabled. All I had to do was do a Get Info on it and turn off the “Open in 32bit mode” checkbox. I feel that this upgrade was worth the time and money.



The upgrades cost:

500GB 2.5″ 7200 RPM Seagate Momentus Drive: $157.99

4GB DIMM $329.99.

If you need an external drive case to put your old drive in, this is the Firewire 800 one I used. I already had it, so I didn’t have to buy it for this job.  It’s $79.99. If you don’t care about Firewire 800, they make both Firewire 400 ($49.99) and USB 2.0 ($27.95) cases that cost less. They also sell the drive and cases as bundles. So you might save a few bucks buying them together.

Also if you don’t have the tools, you can get this installation tool kit for $17.95

I’ve dealt with OWC for years and never had a problem. Great company!

My favorite blogs

I frequent a lot of websites and blogs on the continuous quest for information and technology snippets. I truly do learn something new every single day! Although I visit a lot of websites in a week’s time, there are some that I visit almost every day. They are the blogs of my friends, colleagues and industry experts. So I thought I would share them with you! Actually I’ve been sharing them with you all along, but you may not have noticed. So I’m going to call them out today!

My Favorite Blogs

Actually if you just scroll down this very page near the bottom left, you’ll not only find the links to my favorite blogs, but also my favorite websites too. By the way, be sure to check out my buddy Larry Becker’s New Blog. He and I talk tech all the time and I’ve gaind several insights from him throughout the years. Most of these folks also have Twitter accounts, so I invite you to follow them on Twitter too for more up to the minute thoughts and discoveries.

Adobe updates Premiere Pro CS4 to 4.1

If you’re into video editing you should check out the latest enhancements in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 4.1. One of the main things that I love about Premiere Pro CS4 (PR) is that it can edit the AVCHD footage from my Canon VIXIA HF10 camcorder natively! That’s right! No transcoding (converting to another format first). As far as I can tell, Premiere Pro CS4 is the only native AVCHD editor on the Mac and one of only a couple on Windows. The whole advantage of going tapeless with your camera is so that you can have immediate access to the footage. Well if you have to convert the footage first (sometimes taking longer than real-time) then you’ve lost the advantage of the tapeless workflow. Now not only can you edit all the most popular video formats out there, you can even edit footage right off a video DVD with the new .VOB file support! If you’re a Final Cut Pro or AVID user, no worries. You can bring your projects right into Premiere Pro CS4.

A good thing just got better

Adobe just released updates to Premiere Pro CS4 4.1 (Mac | Win), After Effects CS4 9.0.2 (Mac | Win)and the Adobe Media Encoder CS4 4.1 (the direct update link wasn’t available yet, but this update should install via your Adobe Updater app):

  • Additional support for REDCODE (please visit RED support for additional details).
  • Performance improvements to project load time.
  • Improvements to AVCHD support.
  • Performance enhancements for DV/HDV playback.
  • Support for Avid captured DV or IMX footage. (Please see www.adobe.com/go/kb409079 for additional information).
  • Export media to a still format now bypasses the AME render queue.
  • Enabled .VOB extension support. (yes this means editing the footage right off a Video DVD!)
  • Third-party support

The New Adobe Media Encoder CS4 4.1 – once you’re done editing your master piece, you’ll be happy to know that the update to the Adobe Media Encoder renders out your final video about twice as fast (in my testing) than the 4.0.2 version did. Also there are new presets for YouTube HD Widescreen for sharing your video on social networking sites.

See it Live! If you’re in Michigan, see me demo the new enhancements to the Adobe Production Premium CS4 suite at the next MIVA meeting on June 3rd.

Can’t make it to my demo? If you’re not going to be in the Michigan area on June 3rd, my buddy Dave Helmly recorded an extensive video showing the new features off. You can view it here now or you can grab it from my Adobe Creative Suite Video Podcast to view it later:
[flv:http://media.libsyn.com/media/cspodcast/podcast-PR-Premiere4.1.mp4 625 353]

Buy or Upgrade to Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 Today!

Premiere Pro CS4 for Mac | Premiere Pro CS4 for Windows

Premiere Pro CS4 Upgrade for Mac | Premiere Pro CS4 Upgrade for Windows

Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium for Mac | Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium for Windows

Adobe CS4 Production Premium for Mac Upgrade | Adobe CS4 Production Premium for Windows Upgrade

iPhone App of the Week – Midway


Last week I put out a request for an app that I thought would be great to have. My idea was to have an app called “Meet me halfway”. The app would figure out where you are and then let you choose a contact from your list and figure out the midpoint between you both and propose a restaurant, bar, park, etc. to meet at. Just as suspected, one reader of this blog came through again! Blog reader “Brian” pointed me towards “Midway.”

Just what I was looking for


Midway does just what I was looking for and even takes it up a notch. You can either turn on the Location Services feature to figure out where you are or simply use the Contacts in your list. Once you choose two Contacts or your location and a Contact, you then choose what type of place you want to meet at. Your choices are Restaurant, Bar, Hotel, or Cinema. There is an Add.. feature that lets you key in your own category.


Since the feature uses the built-in Google Maps app for the results, chances are you can have a broad list of categories. I added “Park” and it worked fine.


Midway takes it up a notch by doing one thing that I hadn’t even considered. It lets you choose multiple contacts. This way if you and a few of your friends were meeting up, you can pick a place that’s in the middle of all of you. This way you can all travel as equal of a distance as possible to make it fair. Once you pick a spot you can get directions to that spot for yourself and you can share that location with everyone else via email. Perfect!

midway4 midway5

The Bottom Line

This is a great app! If you need to pick meeting locations for friend get togethers or eBay/Craig’s List transaction completions, this is your app. Speaking of eBay/Craig’s List. My only feature request (which I’ve already contacted the developer about) would be to have a feature that lets you also key in an address manually. I love being able to use the addresses in my Contacts, but I would also like to key in an address for the person that I’m only going to meet that one time or if I’m meeting a friend/relative and they aren’t coming from home/work. Otherwise, this app rocks! Midway is $1.99 and you can download it here from the App Store. Thanks Brian for the great find!

Shooting tethered to an HDTV


As many of you know, when I’m in the studio I’m almost always shooting tethered to my laptop right into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Although I’ve got it down to a science, there is still a lag of a few seconds (doesn’t sound like a long time I know, but wait until you’re the one waiting) from the time I press the shutter until the RAW file is transferred via USB 2 to a folder (via Nikon’s Camera Control Pro 2) and then imported into Lightroom and rendered on screen at nice large size. It’s actually pretty amazing that all that happens in just a few seconds.

See my laptop set up here.

However, nothing is faster than plugging your camera up to a TV monitor and shooting. You see the shots instantly! You see them nice and big because chances are the TV screen is going to be much larger than your laptop screen (unless you’re using a desktop computer and larger display).

I’ve always wanted to start using an HDTV instead, especially since both my Nikon D300 and Nikon D700 DSLR cameras have HDMI outputs built right in. However, the question has always been “WHICH HDTV DO I BUY?” I’ve experimented with some smaller models and the problem has always been, what I see on the HDTV doesn’t match closely enough to the actual image. In some cases the color can be way off. In other cases the image on screen is much crisper than the actual photo. All of this can lure you into a false sense of security that your final image will look like this, good or bad. That’s why shooting into Lightroom has always been where I’ve been most comfortable because I know what I see in Lightroom is what I actually shot. After all, it’s in the computer and being shown on the display that I’ll be using from that point on to review, adjust and retouch the photos.

JVC introduces a New HDTV targeted specifically at photographers

The New 42″ XIVIEW LCD TV is a 1080p set that has one thing that most HDTV’s don’t have and that is the Adobe RGB color gamut. It also has 52 manual picture quality adjustments, which means that you stand a much better chance at getting an image on screen that looks like the image that will ultimately wind up on your computer display. Here’s what JVC has to say about it:

But here’s what truly distinguishes the LT-42WX70: Its color gamut is capable of encompassing 100% of the sRGB color space and offers a coverage rate of 96% for Adobe RGB, making it possible to faithfully reproduce, as an industry first, the striking colors, subtle nuances and unique ambience of D-SLR photographs on a 42″ Class screen. The monitor also offers a selection from one of the six preset modes that are most suitable for the source such as Photo PRO and Theater.

OK, now what?

Sounds great! However, here are a couple of things that keep from running out and getting one today. First of all the list price on this baby is $2,399.95. That’s a sizable investment for a guy who only does this as a hobby. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a gearhead and I have no problem spending on the gear that will make a difference, but ouch, that’s a lot of coin to shave “seconds” off my workflow. Yeah, I know that the seconds add up, but again this is a hobby. The second thing is that I would want the option of rotating this display in either a portrait or landscape orientation. That means that I either need to find a special mount or build it myself. Ideally I’d want this on a table or cart that can be wheeled around. I could wall mount it, but that would be just too limiting. So I would need to find or make the right setup for it first.

The Bottom Line: This is a huge step in the right direction! I’d like to see some smaller options too. I actually don’t need a 42″ display. Ideally a 32″ or even a 22″ would be fine. Will this display be near the top of my wishlist? Absolutely! Now that JVC has created the HDTV photographers want, will someone step up and finish it by creating the stands, tables, wallmounts, etc. that rotate and have cable management. While we’re at it and while I’m assigning a list of things to do (manufacturer/invent), how about some wireless tethered shooting methods that are fast enough to handle RAW files and are built-in or easily added to DSLRs? I can only dream…

My favorite USB Flash Drive is back and better!


Just about everyone in the computer field carries around some sort of USB thumb drive. They’re great for transferring files back and forth and sometimes more convenient or faster than setting up a network share or emailing attachments. Before getting my USBCard a few years back, I used to always run into a situation where I needed a USB thumb drive, but wouldn’t have one handy. It would be on my key chain and my keys wouldn’t be nearby. I’d have one in my computer bag, which would just so happen to be back in my hotel room. The one thing I almost always have with me is my wallet! So when I ran across the USBCard by Freecom.com. I knew that this was the one for me. I’ve had it in my wallet ever since.


People are always amazed when I pull it out of my wallet


Whenever I go to use my USBCard people are always amazed by the size of it. I end up doing a 2 minute demo/show and tell every time. Of course being a gadget guy I’d want to recommend this solution to everyone that was interested. However, the problem was that they were out of stock for months. Well the good news is that not only are they back in stock, they also come in larger capacities. I have the 2GB model. Now they come in 1GB, 2GB, 4GB and 8GB models. They also now come in both Black and White. As you might have guessed, I’ve already ordered the 8GB model to replace my 2GB model (you can never have too much space). There is no telling how long these will be in stock this time around. So if you’re interested, I’d suggest ordering one today.


The USBCard starts at $16.90 for the 1GB card. The 2GB card is $22.50, the 4GB card is $29.00 and the 8GB card is $45.00.

Order them here.

WD My Passport Studio Portable Hard Drive Review

Here’s another video review. This time I take a look at portable external hard drives. In particular I look at the NEW Western Digital My Passport Studio 500GB Portable Hard Drive and how much of an improvement it is over my older Passport Studio drive.

The WD My Passport Studio drives come preformatted for Mac but will work on Windows PCs too. You can use it as a bootable drive for either Power PC or Intel based Macs. It can also be used with Apple’s Time Machine for backups. This drive is bus powered over Firewire or USB 2 connections.

In this video I mentioned the Synchrotech Firewire 400 to 800 adapter.

The 500GB 5,400 RPM WD My Passport Studio Drive goes for $169.99 at B&H Photo and Video.

I’m starting to see more and more Western Digital drives around my office. So far no failures to date!

CORRECTION: In the video I stated that the OWC On-The-Go drives were not bus powered over USB. I was wrong (working off an old experience). They are!

CORRECTION/UPDATE #2: Blog reader Gary reminded me that this drive is not bootable over Firewire.My primary use for this drive is data transfer and storage, so while I could use it to boot over USB in a pinch, this would not be my drive of choice if I needed to boot over Firewire or needed to use it as a primary drive.

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