My new online class is up!


At Photoshop World Boston, I had quite a few people come up to me and ask me if I was coming out with any new classes/videos for CS4. My answer was yes, stay tuned! Well I’m pleased to announce that my New “Adobe InDesign and Photoshop CS4 Integration” class is now available via

What is

I’m honored to have my classes available via Kelby Training. I’m in awesome company with some of the best instructors in the world! Kelby Training Online is a one stop shop for all your graphics training needs. They have both monthly and yearly all you can eat plans that start at $19.99/month ($17/month if you’re a NAPP member). You can pay one price and watch as many classes as you want, by as many instructors as you want 24 hours a day.


Hey! Was this post just a shameless plug for your new class? …… yep! 🙂

iPhone App of the Week – SlingPlayer Mobile


This is a bitter sweet kinda review. So let me get to it. When the iPhone 2.0 update came out last year and the iPhone was open to 3rd party app development, one of the main apps on my wishlist way back then was a SlingPlayer Mobile app. After all Sling Media had produced mobile versions of their player for other mobile platforms and the iPhone seemed like a natural for this kind of app. So I waited. Then I thought my dream might actually come true. I actually got to play with an early Alpha fo the SlingPlayer Mobile app back in January at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The app was beautiful with a nice translucent display for onscreen buttons. I started getting really excited until I heard those words. They said, “well we’re just about ready to begin the submission process to Apple.” That’s when it dawned upon me that even though this app was being developed, that doesn’t mean that it will actually make its way into the hands of users. Unlike most other mobile device platforms, Apple has to approve every app submitted for the App Store. So there’s always a chance that the app could be rejected. Back in late March, the news broke that SlingPlayer Mobile app had been submitted to the App Store for approval. The approval process takes about a week on average. When two weeks went by, I knew that there was trouble in paradise. Something was wrong. Another week went by and I had pretty much assumed that this thing would never see the light of day. I had a suspicion that the problem was not with Apple, but with AT&T. AT&T has recently been reemphasizing their polices on streaming data and bandwidth to wireless devices. The SlingPlayer certainly would violate this policy. Even though they later came back and said that the update was released in error, the writing was on the wall. So it was no surprise to me that when the SlingPlayer Mobile App finally got released this week that the ability to stream video over 3G networks was removed.

It’s finally here! SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone


What’s a SlingBox and SlingPlayer?

To save time, if you have no idea what a SlingPlayer is and why you’d want one, go read my review of the Slingbox Pro here. Go ahead and read it now. We’ll wait…..

How well does the SlingPlayer Mobile App for iPhone work?


Now that we’ve gotten past all of the politics (well not quite, but let’s put that on hold for a sec) and what a Slingbox/Player is, let me concentrate on the app itself.  The idea of the SlingPlayer and SlingPlayer Mobile app is that you can watch your TV (DVR, DVD player, Apple TV, basically any video source you have connected to the Slingbox) on the go. I LOVE the ability to watch recorded shows from my DVR anywhere I happen to be as long as I have my laptop and internet connection. The SlingPlayer Mobile app promises to give you that same capability on your iPhone or iPod touch. It’s great to have this ability when you find yourself with some down time or sitting in a waiting room somewhere. Plug in your headphones, fire up the SlingPlayer Mobile App and using the on screen remote control interface you can change channels, switch sources and watch recorded shows from your DVR.


My DVR of choice is the TiVo HD. I have Comcast cable and I do have one Comcast (Motorola) DVR. This is the DVR that I have my SlingBox Pro connected to. Why not connect it to one of the TiVo HDs? There’s a reason that I have it connected to the Comcast box instead of my favorite DVRs. When you use a SlingPlayer to watch your TV/DVR remotely, you are physically controlling that DVR in real-time. So whatever you do will be seen by the people in your home if that TV happens to be on. So as to not disrupt the TV viewing for the rest of my family, I put the SlingBox Pro on the DVR that no one likes to use. Yep, that’d be the Comcast box in my office. This way I can have it to myself when I’m on the road.

I downloaded the SlingPlayer Mobile app the minute it became available (something like 1AM my time).  I wanted to see how well it worked and of course tell you about it as well. The app works great! I haven’t had a single issue yet. When I first fired it up, it requested that I log into to my Sling account online. I hadn’t actually set up an online account yet, but I did right there on the spot. Took just a couple of seconds to get going.

Once I had my account setup the app/site found my Slingbox and I was watching live TV! Wow! It works! I don’t really have much interest in watching live TV, so of course the next thing I wanted to see was my DVR. The integration was right on the money. I pressed the onscreen DVR button and it sent the proper commands to my DVR to bring up the list of recorded shows. I was able to easily navigate to a show and start playing it. Again, it just worked as advertised. Although I don’t really use the SlingPlayer to watch live TV, I wanted to test these features too. So I setup my “Favorites” buttons so that I could switch to any of my favorite channels with the press of a button. It worked fine.

What could be better?



This is 4:3 content while the player is set to the widescreen mode. If it's set to the 4:3 mode, the content will fill the screen top to bottom.

The one thing I noticed is that I can’t ever seem to get the video to fill the screen. If I watch 4×3 content I can set it to letterbox it. However, if I watch 16:9 widescreen content, there doesn’t seem to be a way to zoom in on it (even if I’m willing to crop some off) to see it fill the screen from edge to edge. Apple allows this in the iPod app. I would like to see this in the SlingPlayer app as well. Although the remote functions well, there will be a few second delay from the time you press a button until the results are displayed. You have to remember that it’s sending these commands over the internet and then via IR to your device. So give it a sec.

Bonus Tip: Since you have control of your DVR via this app, there’s nothing stopping you from using this as a remote control to schedule recordings too.


I can’t ignore the elephant in the room. As great as this app is, the single biggest frustration is that it only works over a Wi-Fi connection. If you’re an iPod touch user, you’re used to this. So it’s probably no big deal. However, if you’re an iPhone user, it may be a deal breaker. It means that you’ll only be able to stream content from your TV source or DVR when you’re connected to Wi-Fi and not over the 3G network. Argggggh! So close, but so far.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the thing with this app, it works as advertised. However, I can’t ignore the biggest problem and that is it’s been crippled by AT&T restrictions and doesn’t not allowed to work over a 3G cellular network. It only works over a Wi-Fi connection. While it’s easy to blame AT&T for this restriction, there is one thing that Sling Media could have done to soften the blow and that is lower the price! I don’t have a problem paying $29.99 for a SlingPlayer Mobile app (heck I just did). However, I do have a problem paying the SAME price as every other version of the SlingPlayer Mobile app (for BlackBerry, Palm, Windows Mobile, Symbian, etc.) and not being able to watch over the SAME 3G network as all the other players do. Think about it! If I go buy a BlackBerry from AT&T, I can buy the SlingPlayer Mobile App for BlackBerry and watch TV over AT&T’s 3G network. Granted, it’s probably in violation of the small print in the agreement I would sign, but there would be nothing stopping me from doing it technically. If caught, AT&T would be within their right to suspend my account. I’m not advocating breaking the rules. I’m just using this as an example.


This is not the first app crippled by AT&T. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that Skype shipped their iPhone app and like the SlingPlayer for iPhone, it only works over Wi-Fi.

Bandwidth abuse or overuse is a legitimate concern especially when you know that your network can’t handle the hit. If you’ve been to the last two Macworld Expos you’ve witnessed AT&T’s data network brought to its knees by the sheer volume of iPhone users simply checking email and surfing the web. Each year after the Apple keynote you could forget about using your iPhone to do anything data related on AT&T’s network. Nothing but gridlock. Streaming video/audio takes way more bandwidth than email and web surfing. AT&T is concerned that thousands or hundreds of thousands of SlingPlayer users suddenly streaming video for hours on end would be a significant impact to all their users. They’re probably right!

I have read many of the angry comments in protest of this and people are saying that they refuse to buy the app without 3G support. Frankly, I don’t blame them. Yes, I know that software development costs money. Remember, I work for a software developer? I know that Sling’s hands were tied over the whole 3G issue, but they are the ones that set the price. Why should we be asked to pay the same price for our app that doesn’t have the same functionality of the same apps on every other mobile platform that this app is available for? So there I’ve said what many of you have been wanting to hear. I agree with you!

Apparently AT&T released a statement explaining their stance. Let’s hope that this rumor is not true that they purposely crippled this app as it was competition for an U-verse app that they are going to release.

The SlingPlayer Mobile app (Wi-Fi) is available for the iPhone and iPod touch for $29.99 from the App Store. I don’t think I need to say it, but just in case: you will also need a Slingbox connected to at least one video/audio source in order to take advantage of the app. Need a Slingbox? The Slingbox Pro HD is here for $234.80 (List Price $299).

Sling Media has done a very good job coding this app. If they lowered the price OR if AT&T would allow it to work over 3G it would be a must have for every Slingbox user out there.

You should take advantage of!


It seems like I’m showing someone each week about the virtues and benefits of the FREE services at I’ve talked about Connect Now many times on this very blog. I’ve done podcasts about it too. Yet, the general public still seems to be unaware of the benefits that await them if they simply point their browsers at

What is

Well the first thing you probably already figured out is that is a website. What this website gives you is access to some very useful hosted services by Adobe. Probably the most valuable one is Connect Now for doing your own online meetings using technology that is very similar to that I’ve used in my “Evening with Terry White” sessions. You don’t get to have a lot of people in your meeting and you can’t record it like you can with Connect Pro, but you do get most of the other key benefits.

Another cool service is Buzzword. I’m using it more and more to collaborate with colleagues. Think of Buzzword as an online collaborative word processor.  You can start a Buzzword document and invite others to come in and edit it or add to it. You can export the final document as a Word compatible file or print/PDF it. also allows you to create PDFs online and share them. Speaking of Sharing files, there is a File Sharing component too. If you have a file that is too large to email, you can simply upload it to and send someone the link to download it. is cross platform and therefore works seamlessly with Macs and Windows PCs.

Again, this is all FREE to do. As a matter of fact, its probably easier if you see it in action, so take a look at this video I recorded for my Creative Suite Podcast:

[flv: 625 353]

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


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.


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 (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: 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


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:


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.


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


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


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!


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.


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.


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?


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.

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.



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


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?


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


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!

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