iPhone App Wishlist and the 2.0.2 Update

On Monday I wrote a post listing My Top 10 Favorite iPhone Apps and I got a lot of good responses to that post including a couple of suggestions for Apps that I didn’t even know existed (I love iFlix, thanks!). One thing I thought about the next day was “what apps would I like to see?” So here are the Apps that I would LOVE to see on the iPhone and most of them I’d be willing to pay for:

 

Sling Player for iPhone

When the iPhone SDK was introduced the folks over at Sling said that they were working on a player for the iPhone. This player would probably only work over 3g and Wi-Fi due to the bandwidth requirements. I haven’t heard any official updates lately. How’s it going Sling?

 

TiVo Scheduler

Now that I have a couple of TiVo HD’s which can be “scheduled” via the web, I’d love to have an iPhone app that would make this easier and faster than using the TiVo website. The app would have to show me my Guide so that I could pick upcoming shows and it would also have to allow for searches. Once I found the show I wanted to record, it would also have to allow me to choose which TiVo box that I wanted to record the show onto.

 

Sirius/XM Player

Rumor has it that a Sirius/XM Player is under development. This would totally rock! Right now I have Sirius in my car and I’d love to be able to listen to my favorite stations also on my iPhone via a native app. I imagine that this would be a streaming service. However, it would be killer if the stream could be buffered to the iPhone’s internal storage. That way I could listen to this content while on a flight.

 

Reunion Mobile

I use Leister Pro’s Reunion software to do all my genealogy tracking. Now I know they are working on an iPhone app that will work with the desktop client. So here’s what I want to be able to do with that app: I’d like to be able to look up and make changes on the fly. I’d want my changes/additions to sync to the desktop client either wirelessly (perhaps through a MobileMe connection) and/or via the USB cable. I’d also want the ability to use the iPhone camera to take pictures and add them to the family member’s record.

 

Nearest Apple Store

I wrote about this a little while back, but I’m floored that Apple hasn’t developed a Location Aware, “Find Your Nearest Apple Store” app. Seems like a no brainer. This App would show you the closest Apple Stores to your current location, hours, class schedules, etc. Take it a step further and let you schedule your Genius Bar appointment. Once you decided on which store you were going to visit, you could tap one button “map” and it would route you directly to the store. I already have an Apple Store POI (points of interest) file for my Garmin Nuvî GPS that can do much of this, it would be great to have it on my iPhone.

 

Delicious Library

I can’t think of a more Pro Apple developer than Delicious Monster. I love their media cataloging app, Delicious Library. I’d love to simply be able to take my catalog with me on my iPhone. Take it step further so that If I’m out and I buy a movie on DVD/Blu-ray that I could add it to my catalog right then and there while I’m in the checkout lane. This app would need to sync to the desktop client as well.

 

iPhone 2.0.2 Update

iPhone 2.0.2 update

By the way, I didn’t really cover anything about the iPhone 2.0.2 update because I wanted to give it a day or two to see If I noticed a difference. Most reviewers post an immediate post saying that things are faster. Well that could be due to the fact that they just rebooted their iPhones after the update was applied. So I wanted to really see if there were any improvements. Apple has been really quiet with the 2.0.1 and 2.0.2 updates simply stating “bug fixes” in the description. So they are leaving it up to us to try to speculate what’s better and what’s not. That’s really frustrating and It would be nice if they posted a list of “areas” that were addressed. Anyway, for 2.0.2 the ONE area that I definitely see an improvement in is stability in Safari. I haven’t had a single Safari crash since applying the update. If they fixed nothing else, I’ll take that fix! I was getting kinda tired of going to websites that were somewhat complex and then moments later being returned to the Home screen because the browser crashed. Other than that I haven’t noticed any other specific improvements, however I would say that the iPhone 2.0.2 update has made the iPhone less crash prone overall. Again, this is speculation on my part after a couple days of use. No real issues with the update, although I do have a minor thing happening in that when I’m home on Wi-Fi, the display still says 3g. Wi-Fi is on and connected (because I can use the Remote app), but the display doesn’t always update. No big deal, but hey it was working properly before the 2.0.2 update.

 

Has the iPod touch Killed Rapid iPhone Feature Updates?

When Apple first introduced the iPhone, Steve promised us feature updates along the way. For the most part we were getting those updates every couple of months (1.1.1 – 9/27/2007, 1.1.2 – 11/12/2007, 1.1.3 – 1/16/2008, 1.1.4 – 2/26/2008). Each update brought us a few new features and fixes. However, once Apple introduced the iPod touch (which runs on the same OS as the iPhone), the feature updates slowed down quite a bit. The problem with having both devices share the same OS is the way Apple recognizes revenue from the sales of each device. For example, the iPhone revenue recognition is spread out over the year. This allows Apple to add features to the iPhone for FREE without having to restate revenue. However, that is not the case with iPod sales. So that’s why when Apple introduces the same new features for the iPod touch they have to charge something for the update. The last update to 2.0 was free for iPhone users, but cost iPod touch users $9.95.

Here’s the problem: If Apple were to release new features for the iPhone AND iPod touch every couple of months like they had been doing for the iPhone last year, then iPod touch users would really start to feel nickel and dimed because Apple would have to charge them “something” for each update. Now it is possible for Apple to release new feature updates that only affect the phone side of the iPhone. This way they could release the same update for both devices with fixes and phone features that were specific to the iPhone. However, this means that we probably won’t see frequent feature updates for the overall device (the iPhone) like we were seeing last year. Maybe this is a moot point now that 3rd party apps are here. Food for thought though. I think Apple has its hands full at the moment working on bugs. So we’ll see what happens.


CS3 Government Briefing in DC

I’m here in Washington DC at the Grand Hyatt Hotel for the Creative Suite Briefing for US Government. We have over 500 people registered for this event. I’m here with my colleagues: Dave Helmly, Steve Whatley, Jerry Silverman, Tim Conrad and Clint Funk – showing the Creative Suite 3 Master Collection. This full day event started out with a really enthusiastic showing of Acrobat 9 and Photoshop CS3 and then breakouts this afternoon for Web and Video.
I’m posting this blog entry live using Adobe Contribute CS3 during my keynote address.




My Top 10 Favorite iPhone Apps

Now that the iPhone software 2.0x and iPhone 3g have been out for a little over a month, I thought I would take a few moments to do a quick review on my favorite iPhone apps. Now keep in mind I currently have 31 3rd party iPhone Apps installed over and above the apps that come with the iPhone. There is something I like about each of them or I would have removed them from my iPhone. As a matter of fact, some of these apps have replaced others that I once thought were great. I have some apps installed like Band and Super Monkey Ball simply because I think they are great uses of technology and show what’s possible with a little creativity. However, when I looked at my list of Apps I asked myself, “name 10 that you use ALL THE TIME!” So here they are:

(also note that many of these will also run just fine on the iPod touch)

 

#10 – WordPress

The Free WordPress app for the iPhone is useful. It allows me to create blog entries from my iPhone on the go much easier than using the web interface and the biggest plus is that it allows me to use photos that I take with the iPhone’s camera or those already in my photo library. My wishes for an update include the ability to place the images anywhere I want in the post and the ability to do hyperlinks. If they added these two abilities I’d use it a lot more.

Free

 

#9 – BlackJack 21

Although I’m not a gambler I like to pass the time away on flights or when I’m in a line waiting somewhere by playing a game. Of all the iPhone BlackJack games I’ve tried, this one beats them. It uses finger gestures to enhance the game play. If you want a hit, you swipe down. If you want to stay, you swipe across. If you want to double down, you double tap. If you want to split, you swipe up. Very cool and fun. Also it’s just like when I go to Vegas, the house tends to win way more than I do :) Very realistic!

$4.99

 

#8 – BigTipper

I’ve tried a couple different Tip Calculators on the iPhone. My choice used to be the free app CheckPlease. That was until I bought BigTipper. BigTipper’s interface is much nicer and I love the fact that there is a numeric keypad right there instead of the other apps that bring up an alphanumeric keyboard. Um, why would I need to type letters? This one also does what some of the others don’t do. It takes Sales Tax into account (optional) and automatically subtracts it so you’re not tipping based on the total which includes tax. It also includes a nice “Round” feature to round up/down the bill to an even number. Its fast, has big easy to use controls and just a better all around UI (user interface). My feature request for this one would be to have it put in the sales tax percentage based upon my current location. Optionally of course. If you’re wanting a freebie, then get CheckPlease. If you want the best then get BigTipper.

$1.99

 

#7 – Pick&Choose Groceries

This is hands down the best Grocery List app I’ve seen to date! It comes with a database of 1,500 of most commonly purchased items already in place so that you can simply add them to your list without having to key them in. Of course there are going to be things that you buy that aren’t on the list. No problem, you can just key them in as custom items and save them for future use. The one feature that this app has the the other that I tried didn’t have was that it lets you create multiple lists! This is a huge feature for me. We shop at different stores for different kinds of items. This way I can maintain a different list for each store that we frequent. It’s also the little things. For example, you have the option of either having items disappear from the list as you check them off or my favorite, it puts a line through them. The same thing you would do with paper. I love it! If I had a feature request for this app, it would be to have ability to put the prices in as you shop. That way you’d have an idea of what your shopping trip was going to cost you before you headed out. The app works as advertised, stability could be improved.

$4.99

 

#6 – BOA Mobile Banking

If you’re a Bank of America customer, then this is a must have app. Not only does it allow you have an easy to use interface to access your online banking, but it also takes advantage of the iPhone’s Location Services. So for example, just the other day I needed to go to an ATM and I was in an unfamiliar part of town. No problem, the app was able to find the closest BOA branded ATM and plot a route directly to it. I also used it when I was in NYC last week for the same exact thing (little did I know at the time, all I had to do was turn around and it was right there. Luckily the iPhone doesn’t laugh at you).

Free

 

#5 – FaceBook

I’m using FaceBook more and more to share photos with friends and family. The Free FaceBook app provides an easy streamlined interface to the site. It also allows me to upload photos directly to my FaceBook account using the built-in camera or photos from my iPhone’s photo library. A must for when I’m hangin’ with my peeps.

Free

 

#4 – Flickup

Yep, speaking of photos, I’m a photographer and I use Flickr too. I like Flickr.com over many of the other sites out there because of Flickr’s geotagging features. I like being able to plot my photos on a map. Well since the iPhone now geotags photos that you take with the built-in camera, Flickup will upload those shots and include the location information so that they are automatically placed on the map. You can upload shots either from the built-in camera or from the photo library. Now it’s much easier for me to document a trip all from my iPhone instead of having to make time to do it later. Although this app works, I would like it to be a little more stable. After uploading a couple of shots, I often have to restart it or worse restart my iPhone. One addtional point of frustration though is that you need to upload the shots right where you’re standing if you want the location information to be accurate. According to the developer, Apple strips away the location information from 3rd party apps. So if you had a shot say from Hawaii in your camera roll. The location information in that shot will be from where you were in Hawaii. However, if you waited until you got home to upload it with Flickup, the location information that gets uploaded will be from where you are at you home/time of upload. Hopefully, the developer will figure out a way around this in a future update.

$1.99

 

#3 – Chopper

I love this game! I’m not a gamer, so I don’t like games that are overly complicated. However, I don’t want games that are too easy either. This game hits my sweet spot. It’s challenging enough and entertaining enough to keep me interested, without being so difficult that I just want to give up. I’ve only had this game for a couple of days and I’m already addicted to it. Now I actually don’t mind when I have to spend time in a waiting room or in a line. Works perfectly! Not a single crash (other than my chopper) to date.

$7.99

 

#2 – OneTap Movies

I’ve always wanted the ultimate Movies App for the iPhone and this is it (so far). OneTap Movies is Location aware so that it will automatically bring up the theaters in your immediate area and show you the movies playing and the movie times. You can also tell it the location to use instead if the theater you want info on is not in your immediate area. It also allows you to see movie trailers and ratings. Also rather than just show a simple text listing, it shows you the movie posters too! Although I really liked this app, I did have a problem with the way it worked. For example, when I’m home I always go to the same movie theater. So It didn’t make sense to me that it would have to look up the theaters in my area every time. Also the closest theater is not the one I go to. So I would have to collapse the listing for that one and scroll down to mine. I wrote the developer a note (right in the app I mind you) and asked for a way to have “Favorite” theaters. He never wrote me back, but I got my wish in a free update 2 days later! Wow! So now you can tap the star next to your favorite theater(s) and it will always be at the top of the list! I would still like a separate “Favorite Theaters” List, but this will certainly do for now.

$1.99

 

#1 – Remote

The coolest absolutely most useful 3rd party app (for me) is actually by Apple! Apple’s Remote basically turns your iPhone into a Wi-Fi remote for your computer running iTunes or your Apple TV. This app is just killer! I have one computer that serves as an iTunes Server/Jukebox. It has all of my music, my favorite movies, music videos and favorite photos on it. I also have multiple Apple TVs and AirPort Express Base Stations throughout my home. Each AirPort Express is either connected to a stereo system or set of powered speakers. Now with this app I can CONTROL IT ALL from the palm of my hand. If I happen to be out by the pool and want to hear some tunes, no problem. I fire up Remote, see all of my playlists, choose one and I can even direct the sound to the speakers out there (iPod Hi-Fi). Skip songs, pause the music, switch playlists, change speakers, etc. It’s just AWESOME! If you have an Apple TV, the Remote app also serves as keyboard for doing things like searches, entering passwords or flickr contacts. When you’re in the app, the interface looks just like the iPod app. This app works in ways that no other 3rd party remote could and best of all it’s FREE!

FREE

 

The Bottom Line

I’m always on the lookout for cool iPhone apps. I’ll probably have a different top 10 list in another month. For the most part the 3rd party apps I’ve tried work well. Some are rough around the edges and crash on occasion. However with each update they get better and more reliable. That’s what makes the iPhone so cool is that it’s always changing and I’m enjoying the ride so far. The App Store took in $30 Million in the first 30 days and is looking like it can easily be a $500 Million-$1 Billion/year business. As you can see I’ve found some great FREE apps as well as some fantastic low cost apps. These apps make the iPhone platform just that much more useful to me. While I’m a ways off from not needing to carry my laptop, the iPhone 3g has certainly reduced my dependency on it. There are currently over 1,600 apps available for the iPhone and iPod touch. This is just the beginning. Imagine where we will be in another 6 months!

Also be sure to check out the AWESOME list of iPhone/iPod touch apps that VersionTracker.com maintains.


di-GPS Pro for Nikon DSLRs – GeoTagging!

Back in November of 2007 I wrote about using the N2 di-GPS with my Nikon D300 and I was quite happy with it then and I’ve been happy with it all along. This little GPS unit writes the longitude and latitude of where you are at the time you took your shots, directly to the EXIF data of the images. No post processing required. Once the GPS coordinates are there you can use various apps or services to plot your picture locations on a map. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is great for this as well as www.flickr.com.

I really didn’t think that were was too much that they could do to make this accessory better. Boy was I wrong! As it turns out there were two areas that could be improved and guess what? They made those two improvements! When you use any GPS device, the first thing you have to do is wait for the GPS to acquire a satellite signal. Depending on the GPS device this could be anywhere from 30 seconds to 2-3 minutes. The N2 di-GPS was always pretty quick (closer to 30 seconds), but I didn’t like having to wait that 30 seconds or so every time I wanted to use it. So once I put in my camera, I would just leave it in the ON position during my entire shoot so that it stayed on even if the camera was off. Since it gets its power from the camera, this would ultimately shorten the battery life of the camera too. It wasn’t bad so I just lived with it. The other area for improvement was that the model I had been using ties up the 10 pin terminal port on the camera. So if you had another accessory such as a shutter release, you had to decide which one was more important to you.

I didn’t even know that Dawn Technologies had come out with a new "Pro" model until someone who read my original review asked me which one did I have? This lead me to their site and to read up on the new model. Well they did it! They made a great device even better. The NEW di-GPS Pro has all the great benefits of the first model, plus a built-in battery to save GPS satellite location information even when the unit is OFF AND a Terminal Pass Through Port! That’s right you can plug in the GPS into your Nikon (or Fuji) camera and then plug in your accessory into the top of the di-GPS Pro. This will come in handy as I do have a shutter release cable and YES, there was at least one time that I wanted to use both at the same time. I was doing a beach shoot and wanted to geotag the location and use my shutter release cable at the same time. I couldn’t do it! So I ended up using the release cable instead of the GPS. Using the camera’s timer in that situation wasn’t an option. I was trying to shoot the waves as they came in and I had to hit the shutter just at the right time.

I’ve known about this model for a couple of months now and I actually wasn’t going to upgrade. Gasp! (I know, right?) That was until someone saw my existing model and said that if I ever wanted to upgrade (sell it), that they would be buy it. Of course that’s all I needed to hear and I ordered the di-GPS Pro the next day. It arrived two days after I placed the order! They’ve really got their shipping process down as it comes directly from Hong Kong. They don’t having any resellers in the US (which amazes me).

 

Putting the di-GPS Pro to the test

I wasn’t too worried about the unit actually working. What I was more curious about was satellite acquisition times and how long it would take to reacquire the signal after being turned OFF. I had to go pick up dinner at one of my favorite restaurants and decided to take it with me for a test. I sat in the parking lot and turned it on for the first time after connecting it to my Nikon D700. I then timed it. It took exactly 35 seconds to acquire a signal. I then snapped this shot and turned it off (click on it to see the location):

I went into restaurant and picked up my order. Afterwards I got back in my car and took a drive to Woodward Avenue. This is the site of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise where all the classic cars cruise up and down Woodward all weekend. Although it was Thursday, I was sure there would be some cruisers out there and I was right. I pulled over where I saw these two beauties parked and I turned the di-GPS Pro back on. I was floored! The signal was acquired INSTANTLY! Seriously it was like ONE SECOND and I had a solid red light. I then snapped these two shots before turning it off again and driving a little further to grap that last shot. (click on them to see the location):

 

 

 

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 gives you a one click link from your GPS data to the location on Google Maps

 

The Bottom Line

If you already have the N2 di-GPS, then you’re probably fine as you are and don’t "need" to upgrade. However, if you use it a LOT and turn it off and on a lot or you have additional things that you would like to plug into the terminal port then this model is a must have. Also if you’re going to buy one for the first time, the I would spend the extra $70 to go up to the Pro model. The built-in battery for saving GPS satellite location info is worth it (to me). Both models work natively with the following cameras: Nikon D3, D700, D300, D2XS, D2X, D2HS & D200, Fujifilm S5 Pro. The D3, D700 and D300 even have a GPS menu right on the camera to display status information about your GPS device:

I was also happy to see that this model came with a little carrying case. A nice touch and a welcomed addition.

The di-GPS Basic goes for $198 and the di-GPS Pro goes for $268. There is a flat $45 shipping free. Shipments are via FedEx and FAST! Order here.



The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens is AWESOME!

I got a chance to work with the (fairly) NEW Nikon Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens over the past couple of weeks and it’s just freakin’ AWESOME! Couple it with a Nikon D700 (or other Full-Frame body) and it’s even better. This is not my first wide angle lens. I also own a Sigma 10-20mm. However, I was never really thrilled with it due to the distortion I was getting on the lower right corner. Sure it was an easy fix in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, but it was something I had to fix every time I used it.

This Nikkor lens takes things up to a whole new level. It’s fast and the focus is spot on. There’s not much more I can say about it. It’s bigger and heavier than my previous lens, but it’s also much better quality! You just can’t go wrong with good glass.

 

Here are a couple of shots taken with my Nikon D700 and the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens

Adobe’s World Headquarters in San Jose – Nikon D700, ISO 200, 20mm f/2.8 1/400 sec

 

On the way up to the main lobby – Nikon D700, ISO 200, 14mm f/2.8 1/30 sec

Also for my Nikon fans that have been waiting for me to do more testing with the D700 (after my initial impressions) here’s a low light test.

A training class – D700, ISO 3200, 18mm f/8.0 1/8 sec

I’m very pleased with the performance thus far. The real test will be a friends wedding that I’m shooting in September.

 

The Nikon Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens goes for $1,549.95 at B&H Photo.

 

Special Thanks to Rick Miller for his help with the above lobby shot!


A Weekend With Mary DuPrie

Carly shot with the Nikon D700 and Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 lens

 

As many of you know, besides gadgets I have a passion for digital photography. I’m always learning something new. This past weekend I spent two full days with well known photographer Mary DuPrie. Mary is the master when it comes to directing and posing models and she’s also great when it comes to lighting, photo retouching and photography in general.

 

About the workshop

Mary offers these workshops quarterly and they are limited to FOUR photographers. That’s right, ONLY FOUR. Talking about personalized attention. As a matter of fact she is so adamant about this rule and class size that we missed her last regularly scheduled one because it was already full. Luckily she was able to accommodate not only myself, but my buddy Scott Kelby who flew up for the weekend to attend with me. Mary spent most of the first day giving us lessons on how to direct and work with inexperienced models. We even had a volunteer. David Teng brought his girlfriend Genevieve (‘Gen’) along and she graciously allowed Mary to show her how to model. Gen was perfect because not only had she not modeled before, but she really doesn’t like having her picture taken at all. So we got to see first hand how to work with someone from scratch. I didn’t bring my laptop the first day, so I really got a chance to give my iPhone’s Notes app a workout. I picked up a ton of tips on the first day that I will definitely be using from here on out.

After we saw how Mary works with models, we got a chance to see how she does one of her favorite beauty light setups. While I would love to go into great detail about this setup, it wouldn’t be fair to Mary as this is how she makes her living.

Mary DuPrie teaching us one of her beauty lighting setups which was used to capture the shot of Carly above

 

That aha moment

Any photographer that works in a studio often will tell you that it get’s kind of old shooting against a white background. I gotta admit that I was starting to cringe at the idea of doing more shoots in the studio. It’s summer and I want to get out more. However, I learned that you can do some amazing shoots INSIDE if you have the room and the right props. Mary is the queen of props. Here studio looks like a Pier 1 and Ikea store combined. You name it, she’s got it! She told us that we would be doing a “beach shoot” on the second day and I was like “yeah whatever, I’ve done swimwear shoots before.” I had no idea that she really intended to create a set from scratch that actually looked like a beach! It was truly amazing watching this thing come together. For a moment I felt like I was on a Hollywood set. This taught me that with a little imagination, you truly can create any kind of setting you want without having to always travel to a location. You also don’t have to spend a fortune on this stuff either. As Mary would say, “you’d be surprised by what people throw away these days” :) Another eye opener for me was how much and how well she uses her Westcott TD5 Spiderlites. I will definitely be using mine more after seeing how she uses them.

Tiffany Stone shot with the Nikon D700 and Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 lens

 

All-in-all it was two long days that were well spent and well worth my time and money. I got to hang with my buddy, meet some great photographers (Blake Discher and David Teng) and models (Tiffany Stone and Carly) and I got a chance to take my new Nikon D700 for spin. I also can’t leave out Tammy Pore, the makeup artist who did a fantastic job.

The workshop was also quite fun. By the second day we were probably doing more laughing than shooting at times, but that was so what I needed after a long work week. So, it was truly a great weekend. Now I realize that not everyone can get to one of Mary DuPrie’s workshops in person. No worries, she has three DVD’s available on her techniques. It was one of these DVDs that lead me to want to know more about how she does what she does. Also be sure to check out Scott Kelby’s write up on the workshop. He went into more detail and has some interesting perspectives on it too.

All of the shots above were processed through Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 and Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended.

As you can see David doesn’t like to have his picture taken either :) (just kidding David, but I couldn’t resist.)



Sony’s NEW Blu-ray Player BDP-S350

When I decided to get my first Blu-ray player, the decision seemed easy. It was either go with a Sony PlayStation 3 OR a Sony stand alone Blu-ray Player. Believe it or not, it was better to go with the PlayStation 3 (PS3) for a couple of reasons. The first reason was that the PS3 (although hard to find at first) was actually cheaper! The other reason to go with the PS3 was that it was more easily firmware upgradable right over the internet via it’s built-in Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections. To this day, I don’t understand how you could get a full game console AND a Blu-ray player all in one that was cheaper than just a Blu-ray player by the same company. Who am I to argue? So I bought a PS3 last year and have been happy with it. Sony has upgraded it regularly and I’ve never had any playback issues with Blu-ray movie discs.

 

PS3 vs. the NEW BDP-S350

Recently I decided it was time to put a Blu-ray player in my bedroom. So it was time to revisit that idea of getting a PS3 vs. the NEW Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player. This new player has overcome all of the issues with the original BDP-S300. The BDP-S300 was notoriously SLOW at loading discs and even opening the drawer. It was also not easily upgradable and from what I understand it didn’t or couldn’t support the newer Blu-ray 1.1 profile, while the updates to the PS3 allowed support for 1.1. However, the game has changed now with the new BDP-S350. This new player is much much faster at loading discs and supports all the latest and greatest specs. It also has a built-in ethernet port for doing firmware upgrades (and will support BD-Live as well as Blu-ray 2.0). The price is also cheaper. This unit goes for about $399 on average. That’s the same price as a PS3. Now since it’s the same price, you could argue that the PS3 is still the better deal because you do get a game console too. However, there are some tradeoffs. The BDP-S350 is much smaller in size than a PS3. So if you’re tight on space or want to stack it, it would be the better way to go. Also if you don’t care about games at all then the PS3 wouldn’t be a good choice. The next and probably the biggest reason not to go with a PS3 if your primary need is to play movies is that you won’t have a standard DVD remote or the ability to use a universal remote without an additional purchase. The PS3 uses Bluetooth based controllers. So your standard infrared remotes won’t work with it. Sony makes a Bluetooth based DVD remote and I’ve used the Nyko remote to allow me to use my Harmony One, but that adds $$ to the cost of going with the PS3. There is nothing stopping you from using the game controllers to control your movies, but it’s just awkward and not intuitive. There is no play, pause or chapter advance buttons on the game controller. You’ll have to remember what the “X” button does vs. the “O” button, etc.

Seeing that I don’t play games often and have no desire to play video games in my bedroom, I went with the BDP-S350 and I’m quite happy with it. Set up was a piece of cake using an HDMI cable (not included) right to my HDTV. Speaking of cables, I still don’t understand why Sony would include a standard def Composite video cable with a Blu-ray player. To a consumer that doesn’t know any better, they would use this cable (since it’s in the box) and get a horrible playback experience. Why not include an HDMI cable instead? Or even NO Cable! At least then it would make the consumer get the proper cable and length for their needs. I was able to easily add it to my Harmony One universal remote setup There was a software update available the minute I plugged it in and it downloaded an installed it with no problems. As a matter of fact, I liked this new player so much and how it worked with my Harmony One remote that I bought a second one for my theater (which already has the PS3). Now the PS3 will be just for games and the BDP-350 will be for watching movies.

The BDP-S350 goes for $360.29 on Amazon. I still feel that Blu-ray will not really take off with the masses (especially in this economy) until players are well below the $199 mark. However, if you’ve been wanting one and your budget allows for it, this is the one to get.


Bose misses the mark when it comes to video

People either love or hate Bose

Let me start this by saying that I am a fan of Bose audio products. I currently have more of their gear than I care to admit. The New Bose Sounddock Portable ROCKS! However, when it comes to their home theater solutions, I’m starting to wonder "what were they thinking?" In my home theater I have a Bose Lifestyle 28 system. I bought it a few years ago off eBay. I got it new in the box for a fraction of the retail price. I’ve been happy with the performance and I’m thrilled by the compactness of the whole system and sound that it delivers. It was also extremely easy to setup and it’s very well integrated. This particular system included a DVD player built-in. Their higher end systems also include hard drives for music storage. Again, these were all welcomed features THREE OR FOUR YEARS AGO!

Today, anyone looking to equip a home theater has one thing in mind and that’s HIGH DEF! Traditionally Bose home theater solutions have focused on DVD and Component connections. Now that the format war is over, everyone that is moving forward is looking at Blu-ray and HDMI. So the question becomes, why would you introduce a new system in 2008 that doesn’t have a Blu-ray player in it? That’s right! I received an email advertisement from Bose about their NEW "3-2-1 GSX Series III". This system (the higher end model) has a hard drive that can store up to 200 hours of music from your CDs. It has an HDMI out port (about time) and drum roll please…A DVD player that upconverts to 1080p!!!! Huh? Um, hello! Upconverter DVD players are so 2006! While you can argue that Blu-ray is still a pricey situation and most people are still on DVD, I would agree. However, most people aren’t looking to buy NEW systems that feature DVD upconverters. If you’re in the market for a NEW system, you’re in the market for HD. Bose has never been known for being "cheap!" This "new" system goes for $1,499 ($999 for the model without the hard drive). For that kind of coin you should expect to have the latest and greatest technologies. Obviously you could piece together a system that does include a Blu-ray player for less (and you probably should). Granted, it wouldn’t be as integrated in an all-in-one easy to configure solution. So is it worth a grand for this kind of convenience? Um, based on my experience with the previous model, I’m gonna have to go with NO. For less than a thousand dollars, you can do better and have a really good sounding system that DOES do both Blu-ray AND upconverted standard def DVDs.

It’s funny that they don’t even picture the one HDMI port that they do have (probably an older picture on their site).

 

Note to Bose

If you want to stay in the game, then you’re going to have to step up quickly and adopt the new standard. Yes, it’s Blu-ray and yes it’s from your competitor – Sony. Otherwise, stick to what you do best which is audio. Leave the video to the others that are doing it better. Also realize that having no HDMI "in" or Component in ports and only one optical audio in port is like having a analog TV with one channel. Even if I want to add my own Blu-ray player to this system, I wouldn’t be able to as you have no HD inputs at all. You are so missing the mark with this product it’s not even funny and this is coming from a fan. Imagine what the haters are saying?



iPhone 2.0.1 speeds up the iPhone

Apple released a bug fix update to the iPhone. iPhone 2.0.1 arrived today and is available for all iPhones. I was eager to install the update because I wanted to see if it resolved a few of the issues I was having. I’m happy to report that it did! One of the biggest issues I was having was sluggishness in the Contacts app. Granted I have over 1,000 contacts on my iPhone, but version 1.1.4 was much faster at handling them than 2.0 was. iPhone software 2.0.1 brings back the responsiveness that I was used to. I was also having an issue with a couple of websites that would crash Safari. Those sites are now working without issue.

So far, this update has been a great improvement from the original 2.0 update. I have not noticed any new features though.

Update

Not only did the 2.0.1 update speed things up, but my battery life has also improved quite a bit.


To Netshare or not?

Apparently Apple can’t decide whether or not they want to (or are allowed to) sell Nullriver Inc.’s very cool Netshare app for the iPhone. This app addresses the need to allow your laptop to surf the internet wirelessly via your iPhone’s 3G or EDGE data connection. In effect turning your iPhone into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Something I wrote about as a cool idea back in April. Apple pulled this app from the App store with no explanation to the developer. Then it was posted again and I bought it. I experimented with it yesterday and while it wasn’t perfect, it did work.

This app was somewhat controversial as it appears to violate AT&T’s agreement (I’m not a lawyer, so don’t ask?). Something to the effect that you can’t use an iPhone tethered to your laptop in this manner. That in and of itself is odd seeing that AT&T does allow this with other phones they sell.

Today I decided to add some new pictures to my iPhone so I sycn’d it with iTunes. Then I noticed the display in iTunes saying “removing Netshare app”. For a moment I just thought that “maybe it was replacing it with a new version or update.” Nope, it’s gone! Now this is kinda scary on a “big brother” level. Apple seems to have built-in the ability to remove apps from your iPhone without your consent (maybe you actually give consent in the iTunes license agreement that you accept, but um I haven’t read that thing – have you?).

Of course I expect a full credit for the purchase price (plus tax). After all, I didn’t do anything wrong. I bought the app from the App store fair and square. I’ve already reported it via the “Report a Problem” link through the account area of iTunes. I’ll keep you posted on what happens.

Update – Email I received from the iTunes App Store:

Dear Terry,

I’m sorry to hear that the item you purchased did not download properly. Unfortunately, the availability of this item has changed since the time of your purchase, so I’m not able to help you download it.

Please accept my sincere apologies for any frustration this experience has caused you. I have reversed the charge for this purchase. You will see a credit of $10.59, which includes any estimated applicable taxes, in three to five business days. If you used store credit to make the purchase, the credit will appear in your iTunes Store account.

Sincerely,

Kate
iTunes Store Customer Support

Update #2

I’ve received a lot of comments from people that say, “well it’s still on my iPhone” and I say to you – GREAT! I’ve been thinking about the sequence of events and my guess is that I just suffered from bad timing. When I purchased the app directly on my iPhone last Saturday, it was obviously still on the App store. When I did my first sync after purchasing it (which was the next day on Sunday), my guess is that iTunes removed it because it was no longer on the App store and therefore figured it must have been a hack of some kind or other illegal app. Maybe that’s a feature built-in to iTunes to keep people from circumventing the App store and installing their own apps. In all the comments I’ve received, all of you say that it’s still on your computer in the Applications area of iTunes and that’s my point. It was either there because you bought the app using your computer OR it was put there because you sync’d your computer before it was removed from the App store. Again, I get it! You still have the app which is great. If I had sync’d my iPhone on Saturday, I’d probably still have it too. I have received my credit and all is good. If the app returns to the store, I’ll buy it again. In the meantime no worries.

Update #3

Check out this interesting find over at MacNN on how Apple may have built-in the ability to kill apps remotely. Again, I’m not suggesting that this was the case with me (more likely an issue of bad timing in my case), but curious nonetheless.


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