Adobe CS4 Wallpapers and Screen Saver

Back by popular demand!

You’ve asked for them and now they’re here. Adobe has made available Creative Suite 4 themed wallpapers and screen savers and you can download them here. Adobe CS4 Wallpapers Adobe CS4 Screen Saver – Mac Adobe CS4 Screen Saver – Windows

Get out and VOTE TODAY!

If you are a US citizen, registered voter and haven’t participated in early voting, TODAY is the the day that you need to GET OUT AND VOTE! This is by far the most important election in our history. Be a part of it. If you don’t go vote, then don’t complain about what happens!

Undecided?

If you’re still undecided, then perhaps these videos will push you over the edge:

Netflix Streaming Coming to a TiVo HD Near You!

My TiVo HD seems to be the gadget that just keeps on giving. The newness hasn’t even worn off my New LG BD300 Blu-ray player that streams Netflix, and bam TiVo announces a partnership with Netflix to bring streaming to the boxes I already own. Am I mad? No. I simply returned the LG to Bestbuy and bought another Sony instead. The LG does cost about $100 more than the Sony BDP-S350 (which has dropped down to $253.99) that I like so much, so It was a no-brainer to return it and just wait for the TiVo software update.

I’m very happy to see Netflix expand their service to more players. They also announced that they will be streaming HD movies to the Xbox 360. While I’m not in the market for an Xbox, I’m hoping that that HD streaming also makes its way to the TiVo HD as well! 

As soon as the TiVo gets updated with Netflix streaming I’ll report back on how it works. If you have a TiVo Series 3, TiVo HD or TiVo HD XL there is nothing you have to do. You’ll get this new feature via a software update that will automatically download to your TiVo. Also there will be no additional cost to your TiVo or Netflix service. Stay tuned for more…

 

In the meantime…

Netflix has finally made it’s movie streaming service compatible with Macs. Check it out here.

iPhone App of the Week – SuperBall 2

Time to have some fun! 

While I certainly love picking from the hundreds if not thousands of iPhone apps (there are now over 5,000 apps on the App Store) that increase my productivity, I do like to have fun every now and then. That leads me to my new addiction: SuperBall 2! This game is like crack. Once you start playing it, you just won’t be able to stop. This game is like a mix between the old pong games and Breakout. You control it using the built-in iPhone (or iPod touch) accelerometer. So you move the paddle side-to-side by tilting the device.

I started with the FREE version: SuperBall 2 Lite. This free version has 10 levels. Not bad at all for a free game. I must say that I absolutely SUCKED at this game at first. It took me a long time to even get pass the first level. Then I finally got the hang of it. After I got the hang of it, I wanted MORE! So I didn’t hesitate to head over to the App Store and buy the full version which sports 300 LEVELS plus a dozen two player levels! I was also pleased to see it on sale for only $1.99. Game play is good and the variety of activities/levels is also good. The sound effects are well done. Also no crashes. 

With an iPhone, you never have any reason to be bored. Now I won’t mind waiting in long lines on November 4th to cast my vote in the general election. I’ll have something make the time fly. I better start reviewing some of those external batteries :)

You can download the FREE version of SuperBall 2 Lite or the full version of SuperBall 2 for $1.99. These work on the iPhone or the iPod touch.

Last day to vote!

No, I’m not talking about the election for those two guys (although you should be getting ready to vote for one of them too!), I’m talking about the finalists in the iPhone Photo Contest.

We received an overwhelming number of entries and Scott and I have made our picks for the finalists. It’s now up to you to cast your vote for the winner in each category and from those winners Scott and I will pick the grand prize winner! Today is the last day to vote, so head over to the iPhone Photo Contest page and cast your vote right now! We will announce the grand prize winner on November 3rd! Also if you haven’t gotten your copy of The iPhone Book 2nd Edition you can order that today as well.

 

AT&T Now offers FREE Wi-Fi to iPhone Users

In other iPhone news, AT&T now offers FREE Wi-Fi internet access in thousands of locations such as Starbucks, Airports, Hotels, Convention Centers, Bookstores, etc. See details here.

Synchrotech Firewire 800 to 400 adapter

Apple has certainly made a couple of controversial moves in the latest MacBook line up. The New MacBook drops Firewire altogether and both the New MacBook and MacBook Pro come with a glossy screen behind a piece of glass. Luckily, the 15″ MacBook Pro does still include a single Firewire 800 port.

While I’m waiting to receive my new MacBook Pro before passing judgement on the glossy display, I am getting ready for the loss of the Firewire 400 port (the older MacBook Pro had both a Firewire 800 AND Firewire 400 port). Although I do have some Firewire 800 to 400 cables, sometimes you may have cables that are just the right length and rather than go out have to buy all new cables, there’s a simpler option…

 

The Synchrotech Firewire 800 to 400 adapter

This simple adapter lets you keep using your existing Firewire 400 cables. All you do is plug this adapter into your Firewire 800 port and it converts it to a Firewire 400 port. That’s it! No muss, no fuss.

The Synchrotech Firewire 800 to 400 adapter goes for a mere $9. You can order it here.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S300M Review

If you’ve been following my blog over the past few months, you know I have had an interest in portable document scanners. The first one that I took a look at was the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M. I’m still using it and VERY HAPPY with it. Then I wanted something smaller and more portable for scanning receipts. So I took a look at the latest one from Neat Receipts. It fit the bill for the size that I was looking for and has a great app that drives it (especially for scanning receipts), but the hardware pales by comparison to the ScanSnap S510M. So that brings me to the Fujitsu ScanSnap S300M. This scanner is smaller than the S510M, but larger than the Neat Receipts scanner. It’s not as fast as the S510M, but much faster than the Neat Receipts model. So it clearly fits right in the middle of the two in just about every way.

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Neat Receipts

ScanSnap S300M

ScanSnap S510M

Speed 4 rpm-receipts per minute (single sided) 8 ppm (double sided) 18 ppm (double sided)
Two Sided Scanning No Yes Yes
Color & B&W Scanning Yes Yes Yes
Size 10.8″Wx1.6″Dx1.3″H 11.18″Wx3.74″Dx3.03″H 11.2″Wx6.2″Dx6.2″H
USB Powered Yes Yes (either USB or AC) No
Scan to PDF Yes Yes Yes
OCR Capability/Searchable PDF Yes No Yes
Auto Document Feader None 10 sheets 50 sheets
Comes with full Acrobat No No Yes
Price $161.85 $266.79 $433.89

How fast is the ScanSnap 300M?

I decided to put all 3 scanners to the test and record it so that you can see for yourself. I took the same 3 documents and scanned them on each scanner. See for yourself in this video:

I like all 3 models

Of course each one has its pluses and minuses. When it comes to eliminating paper on my desk, nothing beats the ScanSnap S510M. I’m still blown away by how FAST this scanner works. I’ve never seen anything like it. I also like its “baby brother” the S300M because it takes up less space and costs less. Also since I already own Acrobat 9 Professional, I don’t need the added expense of having that bundled in (like it is on the S510M). When It comes to scanning on the go and especially scanning receipts, the NeatReceipts scanner is my choice. But what if you only could buy one?

As you can see, the S300M is at least twice the size of the NeatReceipts

Which one is right for you?

Chances are you only need one of these. So it really depends on what you need to scan most and how cost conscious you are. Clearly the NeatReceipts scanner is the smallest and costs less, but it’s also by far the slowest and only handles single-sided documents one page at a time. If you plan to scan a lot of stuff, often, then the S510M would be the way to go. Like I said above, this thing devours stacks of paper without blinking an eye. If you want a happy medium, then I would say go with the S300M. It’s a nice balance between the two. You get double-sided scanning. You get a smaller form factor than the S510M. It can be USB powered for portability and you don’t end up paying for Acrobat if you already have it. The only two downsides to the scanner is that you don’t get OCR (searchable PDF capability built-in), but again if you already own Acrobat, you can do the OCR in Acrobat instead. It’s also a bit bulkier. So you won’t be sliding this one into your laptop bag as easily as the NeatReceipts scanner.

The S300M: Although the S300M doesn’t come with Acrobat or the AbbyFine Reader software like it’s big brother the S510M, it does come with Cardiris for scanning business cards and automatically adding them to your contact manager (such as Address Book on the Mac). The S300M can be USB powered from your computer or powered with the supplied AC adapter. However, I should note that powering it over USB requires TWO USB ports: one for data and one for power. It comes with the necessary cables to either run via USB or AC power.

The Bottom Line

You really can’t go wrong with either one of these 3 scanners. Like I said, I like them all. I do find myself using the NeatReceipts scanner when it comes time to do expense reports at work and the S510M for home/office clean-up and archiving. The NeatReceipts app just can’t be beat for filing receipts and its even improved in a few ways since my initial review.  All of these scanners are available for Mac or Windows PCs. The S510M and S300M are specifically for Mac (that’s what the “M” stands for), but like I said, you can get the Windows version too (the one without the “M”). These 3 scanners are truly a “Good”, “Better”, “Best” scenario. If I could only have ONE of these, it would probably be the S300M. It’s the right balance between performance and features. See the S300M specs here. You can get the Fujitsu ScanSnap S300M for $266.79 here at Amazon.com.

iPhone App of the Week – PhotoBuddy

While I didn’t make it the PhotoPlus East tradeshow in NYC this week, I have been spending some time with one of my new iPhone apps. PhotoBuddy aims to be your Photographer Assistant. The main purpose of this app is to help you calculate things like Exposure changes, Flash timing, DOF (Depth of Field) and can even measure the distance of objects (this feature only works on the 1st gen iPhones).

However, it has other useful features too. For example, when I captured the shot below in Spain, the one thing I didn’t know at the time was what time sunrise occurs for the area I was in. The hotel staff looked it for me on the internet.

However, had I had PhotoBuddy back then, I would have simply been able to use the built-in Sunrise calculator. The Sunrise calculator is location based and tells you the sunrise, sunset and next full moon. I used to use a separate “Sunrise” app for this. It even displays your current longitude and latitude which is handy for noting and geotagging your photos later in post production. You can also advance to a date in the future to see what time the Sunrise/Sunset will be on a specific day.

One of the other features I was happy to see is the “grey wedge” to help white balance your shots. Now you have to keep in mind that this feature is not totally accurate because your iPhone’s screen is not color calibrated. So the displayed tones are not neutral. However, they are off by a constant value, so you can use it to color calibrate images.

There are a ton of settings. One of the things that helps you quite a bit is that you start off by telling PhotoBuddy which camera model you have. This gives PhotoBuddy the important information that it needs about your sensor. If your camera is not listed, you can choose an “undefined setting” or choose the film equivalent. 

 

The Bottom Line

There are a few apps with similar features on the App Store. I’ve tried a couple of them so far and I like PhotoBuddy best (a close second would be PhotoCalc, which has a better Sunrise/Sunset calculator). Most of these apps do the same things. However, PhotoBuddy offers a couple of nice little extras and fit and finish. Also PhotoBuddy is only $1.99 so it’s hard to go wrong. You can download PhotoBuddy here for your iPhone or iPod touch.

iPhone Photo Contest – DEADLINE is TODAY!

Today is the last day to submit your iPhone photos for the iPhone Photo contest!

In celebration of my new book,  The iPhone Book 2nd Edition we’re kicking off an iPhone Photo Contest! That’s right, you could win valuable prizes by submitting your best photos taken with your iPhone’s built-in camera.

  1. You can enter up to three photos (total) taken with your iPhone (doesn’t matter if it’s the original model, or the new 3G).
  2. There are five different categories; Friends, Pets, Family, Fine Art, and Office. The winner in each category gets a $100 iTunes Gift card and a copy of “The iPhone Book” 2nd edition.
  3. The Grand prize winner gets a $500 Apple Store Gift Card, and a copy of “The iPhone Book” 2nd edition.
  4. From the photos submitted by the deadline of Oct. 24, 2008, Scott and I will choose three finalists in each category, and then the public gets to vote for the winner in each category (the one getting the most votes wins). Then, from those Winners Scott and I will choose a Grand Prize Winner on November 3, 2008.
  5. This may seem obvious, but of course, the photo has to be taken with your iPhone’s built-in camera.
  6. You can edit your photos using any iPhone application available from the iTunes Apps Store, or any other image editing application, but no other non-iPhone photos may be included in your entry (so you can’t take your iPhone photo and composite it with a photo taken with your DSLR, point-and-shoot, or a stock photo).
  7. You may not give your iPhone to Jay Maisel, Joe McNally, or Moose Peterson. Not even to make a phone call.
  8. There is no entry fee, and the contest is open to everyone; You do not have to buy “The iPhone Book” to enter, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. 😉
  9. Whining of any kind, about anything, is strictly prohibited.
  10. You can submit your photos, and learn more about the contest at the official contest site (here’s the link).

I can’t wait to see all of your cool shots. Good luck and happy shooting!

LG BD300 Blu-ray Player with Netflix Streaming

 

 

It wasn’t long ago that I reviewed the new Sony BD-S350 Blu-ray player and I’m still quite happy with it. However, I was intrigued by the NEW LG offering. The New LG BD300 Blu-ray Player can also stream Netflix movies. As a Netlfix subscriber, the only thing that I don’t like about the service is having to wait for the discs in the mail. Otherwise, I’m in love with Netflix. So when Netflix started offering movie streaming at no additional cost, it got my attention. When the service first rolled out, it only worked on Windows PC’s. While I can certainly boot into Windows on my Mac, I just wasn’t inclined to. It actually had nothing to do with running Windows. It was more about the selection of available streaming titles. While Netflix has over 100,000 titles on DVD (many on Blu-ray), there were only a handful at the start, available for streaming. As a matter of fact I normally have anywhere from 70-90 DVD titles in my queue at any given time. I was shocked to only see 4 out of the 90 titles in my queue available for streaming! Those 4 were older titles that I want to see at some point, but not anything new or urgent. 

Today, things are a little better. First off, there are more titles. Netflix is boasting over 12,000 Movies and TV shows for streaming.

 

Still only a small percentage of my queue is available for streaming

Still only a small percentage of my queue is available for streaming

 

 

Out of my 100+ DVDs/Blu-rays, these are available for streaming

Out of my 100+ DVDs/Blu-rays, these are the only ones available for streaming

 

 

 

Secondly Netflix has authorized hardware manufacturers to build the Netflix streaming technology in. The first box that I saw was the Roku. This $100 box has one purpose. It connects to your TV and your internet connection and streams movies from the Netflix service. That’s it! Again, I thought this was cool, but I wasn’t ready to spend $100 to only watch a handful of titles. So I waited. I then saw the New LG Blu-ray player. This “Network”  Blu-ray player sports all the latest and greatest advancements in Blu-ray technology including BD-Live support. However, it offers one more thing and that is Netflix streaming.

Since I was in the market for one more Blu-ray player at some point for my living room, I decided to move the Sony BD S350 to the living room and put the new LG in my theater. 

 

Netflix streaming

The New LG player is very easy to setup for Netflix streaming. Once you have it connected to your network, you choose the Netflix menu option, you’re given a 5 digit activation code.

You go to your computer and log in to your Netflix account and key it in. By the time I made it back to the theater room (not sure why I didn’t just take my laptop in there with me), there was a message waiting that my account was ready to go.

 

Streaming a movie was as simple as selecting it and hitting the OK/Play button. The movie starts playing in about 15-30 seconds (this will depend on the speed of your internet connection. I’m on a fast cable connection).

You can pause, fast forward or rewind any movie that’s playing. You can stop it and it will remember where you left off the next time you go to play it.

 

Streaming Picture quality and sound

Although the sound was really good, it was only stereo and not surround sound. As for the picture quality, it’s on par with standard def DVDs. I’ve now streaming movies from iTunes, Amazon Unbox and Netflix and I would say of the three iTunes is best, Netflix is a close second and Amazon is last in terms of image quality. Also no glitches in streaming. The movie streamed back smoothly.

 

16:9, Widescreen, HD

The Netflix movies that you stream are NOT in high def. Although I knew this going in, I expected them to all be at least widescreen (with the exception of titles that were never widescreen). I was shocked that the first couple of titles I tried were NOT playing in widescreen. As a matter of fact they even looked a little squished. It was like they were widescreen titles that were being forced into a 4:3 format.

 

"Right at your Door" playing back at 4:3 aspect ratio

“Right at your Door” playing back at 4:3 aspect ratio

 

 

I was really disappointed thinking that they they just didn’t stream in widescreen. A quick Google search lead me to see that they do in fact stream in widescreen. So I called Netflix tech support. The tech did confirm that “some” titles stream in widescreen. So I asked him to give me the name of a title that he knows to stream in widescreen. He told me to try “The Mummy.” I went back to my computer and added that movie to my queue (there is no search on the player itself). It was there waiting to be played by the time I walked back to the theater room. I played it and it was not playing widescreen either. The tech put me on hold and while he was checking on this, I tried a couple more titles. The next one I tried was “Glory” and low and behold it did fill the screen in widescreen format.

 

"Glory" streaming in widescreen

“Glory” streaming in widescreen

 

 

When the tech came back to the line, I informed him that it was working with certain titles. We still couldn’t figure out whey The Mummy was working for him, but not for me. Again, I’m not ecstatic that only some titles play 16:9 and some don’t. Even some of the newest titles were playing back in 4:3 format! I can live with it for now, but I want this to improve! The Netlfix tech informed me that they have no control over it. They only get one format from the movie houses and that’s the format they stream. I’m hoping that this situation will improve as they bring more titles online. In my quick tests only a couple of the ones in my queue played back widescreen.

 

It’s a Blu-ray player and more

Remember that the main purpose of this box is to play Blu-ray discs. It does a fine job at that with no complaints. I popped in Iron Man and the disc loaded very quickly.

 

"Iron Man" playing back from Blu-ray

"Iron Man" playing back from Blu-ray on the LG BD300

 

It also upconverts standard def DVDs to HD. The minute I connected the player up, there was a firmware update waiting.

This player connects to your network via Ethernet. So you will need either an ethernet drop near your TV or an Ethernet to Wi-Fi bridge (which I have not tested). It would be great if these Blu-ray players either came with Wi-Fi built-in or at least offered a low cost external option like the one available for TiVo HD.

There is also a USB 2 port on the back of the player. This allows you to hook up USB hard drives or thumb drives to handle content such as pictures or music. Since I use an Apple TV for pictures and music, I don’t really have a need for this on the LG, but it’s there if you need it.

 

The Bottom Line

If you need a Blu-ray player AND you have a Netflix account, this is your player! It’s about $100 more than the Sony BD S350 (it’s much cheaper now at $266), which you could argue is the same price as the Roku box. However, having the Netflix streaming combined with a Blu-ray player means only having to worry about connecting and controlling one device. Also since there are never enough HDMI or Optical Audio ports to go around, less is more! Another thing to ponder is that since there is no additional charge to use the Netflix streaming service if you already have a Netflix account, it’s like Netflix is maintaing a growing on-demand video library that is accessible to you whenever you want without you physically having to store the media.

No one service has it all (yet). Each one has the pluses & minuses. Overall, the combination of iTunes and Apple TV seems to be leading the pack (HD Movie Rentals and TV shows, iPod, iPhone, computer and TV compatibility, Streaming and Downloading options, no subscription fees). If Netflix could wrangle more titles loose from Hollywood in a streaming format, add HD and 5.1 surround options, they would be best. Amazon’s Unbox with TiVo HD is a nice option too. Nothing beats the quality of a Blu-ray disc though. So media will be around a little while longer, which is what keeps me going back to Netflix. Nope, none of these services is strong enough to stand on its own yet and that’s why I have Netflix, iTunes/Apple TV, TiVo HD and HBO HD via Comcast. As soon as one gets it right, I’d be glad to give up all the rest.

Best Buy has the LG BD300 for $349. Netflix plans start at $4.99/month (note that the $4.99/month plan only allows for 2 hours of streaming. All other plans allow unlimited streaming).

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