Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac

Adobe has officially announced Photoshop Elements 6 for Macintosh. This new version is the Universal Binary version (native to both Intel and Power PC based Macs) that Mac users have been waiting for. I’ll be showing this new version at Macworld Expo next week and who knows, if time permits I may even record a sneak peek podcast before then on my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast. So stay tuned. In the meantime, check out all that’s new here.

This new version is slated to ship early in the second quarter of 2008 and will sell for $90 ($70 upgrades).



Apple pushes out faster Macs before the big show

Yesterday, Apple rolled out faster Mac Pro systems now with 8 cores standard starting at $2,799. I generally skip at least one generation of Mac towers and lucky for me that was the last one. So that means I’m up for a new desktop Mac this year and these new systems are screamers. However, I just configured the one that I would buy and it tipped the scales at over $6,000. So I will at least wait to see what comes out next week at Macworld before making a final decision and placing an order. My current Mac Pro is pretty beefy and I’m not feeling any slowness, but I’m always up for faster render times for video editing. Usually by skipping every other update, I end up with one that is at least twice as fast as the one I had and this one should be no exception.

It’s no surprise to me that Apple decided to roll these new systems out before Macworld Expo. Although I’m sure they are blazing fast and all, they are just speed bumps. No new case design takes the excitement down. Nothing really significant that would warrant time during the annual Stevenote. So of course this begs the question: What will Steve have to introduce at Macworld? I’ve given up on this guessing game for the most part. It’s just more fun to sit back and watch from my chair in the keynote address. However, let’s look at some of the speculation and see where everyone’s head is at:

  • iTunes Movie Rentals – I would say this one is probably a go
  • Updated Apple TV – I’m all for it if it has 5.1 surround sound support!
  • New sub notebook – possible, but I don’t really care. So for those that do, I’m pulling for you.
  • New MacBook Pros – Yes, these are due, so bring them on!
  • Blu-ray drives and support in the OS – I’m less likely to believe this now that the new Mac Pros are out without that option, but who knows? This is another reason I’m waiting.
  • 16GB iPhone – possible, but not keynote worthy – unless there is more to it.
  • 3G iPhone – possible, but I think it’s too soon yet. I hope I’m wrong!
  • iPhone 1.1.3 software update – this is a good bet to keep the momentum going.
  • iPhone update for business users, syncing with MS Exchange and being able to add them to AT&T business account plans – I can only dream!
  • Something NEW that no one is thinking of – this is always a good bet

 

As with most rumors, they are more wishful thinking than based upon fact. So just like every year we’ll have to wait and see as to what actually comes out of Cupertino this year. I’ll be on the spot delivering the news to this blog. As usual my goal will be to seek out the really cool and useful items that don’t necessarily get all the fanfare.



Wacom Cintiq 12WX rocks!

I really took vacation over the past couple of weeks and just really shut down to recharge. However, I did pursue one of my passions and that was digital photography. I worked in a couple of model shoots and of course that meant that I had some retouching to do. Right before the holidays the great folks at Wacom were kind enough to ship me a New Cintiq 12WX to play with and demonstrate at my upcoming Macworld Expo sessions. I was already a big fan of the Wacom Cintiq 21UX and the Intuos line of tablets. However, as much as I love the 21UX, I just don’t find myself at my desk as much as I’d like to be. I’m on my MacBook Pro in different rooms depending on my mood. So until now I would mostly use my Intuos 4×6 which is also a great size to travel with. However, that all changed for me on Friday. I fell in love with the new Cintiq 12WX. It’s just the right size and the built-in LCD is gorgeous! The best way to describe it is to take a Intuos 6×11 and replace the tablet area with an LCD display that is also a pressure senstive tablet and you have the Cintiq 12WX.

I spent all day (and I mean ALL DAY) with it Friday retouching photos in Adobe Photoshop CS3. I had the Cintiq connected to my MacBook Pro via DVI and USB (for the tablet functions). I used it as my main display and the display on my MacBook Pro as the secondary display (yes it also supports mirroring). I kept Adobe Photoshop Lightroom open on the MacBook Pro display and Adobe Photoshop CS3 open on the Cintiq. Although it comes with an easel type stand, I found it most comfortable to just hold it in my left arm while I used the pen in my right hand. There were times also where I just laid it flat on the table and worked.

As with all the latest professional tablets from Wacom, I found the touch strips and side buttons to be indispensable. I configured the left touch strip to change brush size and the right one for zooming in and out. I configured the left buttons to the Brush Tool, Healing Brush, Clone Stamp, Space bar (for quick panning) and Undo. I configured the pen rocker switch for Option-Click. This setup meant that I rarely had to touch the keyboard and NEVER had to touch the trackpad.

The Cintiq performed FLAWELESSLY throughout the day. It did get a little warm, but nothing alarming and no where near hot. My only minor criticism (c’mon you know me. There would have to be at least one, otherwise you wouldn’t think I was doing an honest review) is that the breakout box seems a little cluttered. I don’t necessarily have a better design in mind and I do appreciate the fact that there is only one cable attached to the display itself, but when I looked at the box laying on my table it looked like an octopus. The breakout box is where you connect power, the display, the DVI/VGA cable and the USB cable. These are all necessary, so like I said, I don’t know of a better way to do it. OK, I lied there is one other small thing. I would like to see a way to connect this to a projector at the same time. I have to call the folks at Wacom and see if there is a way to be connected to the Cintiq AND a projector at the same time. Otherwise, I won’t have any way of demoing it to the masses. The breakout box connects to the video out on your Mac or PC, but doesn’t provide a pass-through or video out to go out to a another display or projector. Other than those two minor things (and the second one really won’t affect most), this new Cintiq is PERFECT!

 

The Bottom Line

If you need (OK, want) an integrated display and tablet, there simply isn’t a better choice! I love the Intuos line and the bigger Cintiq, but this new Cintiq 12WX hits the sweet spot on portability AND price. Amazon has it for $985.70 (list is $999). I couldn’t imaging retouching another image without it!



My 1st Favorite Gadget of the New Year!

First off let me start this by saying Happy New Year to all of you and your families! I’m looking forward to another exciting tech year and I will try to cover as much of it as I can here. So let’s get started.

I woke up this morning (well actually more like this afternoon), to this wonderful snow (not really! I’m not really a fan of snow, but let’s play along). Shrugging my shoulders, I knew it was time to go fire up the Toro and plow the driveway. Then I remembered that I had gotten in my brand new 180s Tec Stretch Earmuff Headphones for just such a day! So I grabbed them and my iPod nano and I was gone. This otherwise mundane chore went much quicker with warmer ears filled with my jams (I’m dreaming of a White Christmas – NOT!).

My Toro isn’t very quiet (read loud) and I was still able to hear quite well. If you’re into winter activities and music, these are a must have! $24.95 at Amazon.com

 

Happy New Year!



iPhone firmware 1.1.3 may be close!

It appears that the folks over at GearLive.com have snagged a release of the upcoming iPhone 1.1.3 firmware and have put together this video walkthrough of the new features. So you better watch it before the Apple Legal folks make them yank it down.



So what’d you get?

OK, so what new gadgets, tech, photography gear, cool stuff did you get this year?

I know I haven’t posted anything in a few days and I do have a couple cool pieces of gear to review, however, I’ve just been spending time with family and friends and resting up. I was getting pretty burned out and once I just stopped doing stuff, I could really feel it. I do feel much more rested now and wil get back in the game soon. Enough about me, let’s hear what you got and what’s exciting in your world? Hit me with some comments below. I feed off your energy and excitment.



Your popup flash doesn’t have to suck

One thing I learned quickly in this digital photography game is that the popup flash on most digital cameras is for emergency use only. Ask any professional how often do they use the built-in flash on their digital SLRs and they will look at you as if you’ve just grown a thumb in the middle of your forehead. There are several problems with the popup flash, two of which are it’s location (on top of the camera near the forehead) and it’s too much of a harsh spotlight.

The folks at Lightscoop.com hope to change all that with their $30 Lightscoop. I ordered this after a recommendation from Lesa King. When it arrived, I was thinking "this is never going to work." So of course I fired off a couple test shots (before and after) and I was stunned by the difference. Yes, it does work!

 

How does it work?

It works by sitting in your hot shoe in front of your flash. There is a mirror in the front that bounces your on camera flash off the ceiling/wall up and behind you back down onto your subject.

 

As with most things there are a couple of caveats. For one, it’s not as compact as I wished is was. Yes, it’s small and very light weight, but it doesn’t fold down. Not big enough to fit over a lens (for storage in your camera bag) and a little too big to fit in a pocket. It takes up a lot less space than an external flash, but I’m hoping the next version could fold down flat. The second caveat is that they recommend very specific settings: Manual mode, ISO 800, Spot Metering, widest lens aperture (f2.8, f3.5, or f4.0 depending on your lens), shutter speed of 1/200th, Exposure Compensation set to +1, no curtain sync, slow sync, or red-eye reduction. Some of these settings are a no-brainer, but others seem a little restrictive. However, they are suggestions and not the law. You can experiment and see which settings you like best. Also since it bounces the light off the ceiling/wall it won’t work in all settings such as outside, cathedral ceilings, gymnasiums, churches, etc. All-in-all, it performs as advertised and is a great solution for $30. They models for Nikon, Canon and Pentax as well as a Standard version and a Warming version (I’m using the Standard version). It’s also smaller than most other types of on camera flash workarounds. On camera flashes still suck, but this makes them suck a whole lot less. I took a few test shots with my Nikon D70 (yes, I could have used the D300, but the D70 was closer – lazy, I know).

 

with the built-in flash on a Nikon D70 shot in RAW (hot spots and some blown out highlights)

with the built-in flash on a Nikon D70 shot in RAW and the Lightscoop

with the built-in flash on a Nikon D70 shot in RAW and the Lightscoop and a simple exposure adjustment in Adobe Camera RAW



I found it!

I can’t believe it! I actually found it. At long last, it really does exist. I recently traveled to Dallas and of course went through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I have dubbed DFW as the worst airport I’ve seen for tech travelers. Don’t get me wrong, the place has T-Mobile Wi-Fi throughout. However, I challenge you to find a freakin’ AC outlet!

That’s right, they are practically non-existent! You arrive at your gate a little early figuring you can get some work done. You whip out your laptop and realize that you need to plug-in. You sit there scanning the area figuring they have to vacuum the place sometime right? Well they must have the longest extension cords on the planet. I have gone from gate to gate looking for outlets. However, this trip was different. Coming in I saw a huddle of people sitting on a bench with cords everywhere. Sure enough they had discovered the only outlet known to man in the entire airport. One person sat as lookout for the others to make sure that their position would not be overrun by hoards of travelers. I marked this spot on my map and dipped my Indiana Jones hat. I would have to see if this plug really existed and possibly use it before the flight out. It’s true. It was really there when I returned.

So if you ever have the misfortune of traveling through this technology waste land, head over to gate E6. Casually move over to the bench next to the USA Today vending machine. Make sure no one is watching and plug-in. There’s not one, but two outlets there. Be careful, I saw one of the incoming flights dip down a bit when I plugged in. Luckily the pilot recovered.




Apple supported custom iPhone ringtones at last!

You might remember my blog post a while back on how I felt that Apple was missing the point about iPhone Ringtones (Apple and iPhone ringtones. ARGGGH!). While I had found a solution in Ambrosia Software’s wonderful iToner product, it was still a work around to something that shouldn’t be that hard. Well it would seem that Apple has relinquished their death grip on this aspect of the iPhone by their recent release of GarageBand 4.1.1. The New GarageBand update (which is part of iLife ’08) now has a menu option to "Send Ringtone to iTunes".

This is something that I felt should have been a part of GarageBand from the beginning. It’s a natural fit and allows people that want to create a ringtone out of something other than a song (non DRM protected songs work too) the ability to do so. I used this feature to convert my 5 or so custom ringtones into "legitimate" ringtones that show up right in the Ringtones area of iTunes and sync beautifully to the iPhone without the need for 3rd party apps.

GarageBand is a Mac only app. So Windows users will still need to rely on 3rd party apps or hacks to get ringtones onto the iPhone (check out iPhoneRingtoneMaker.com). However, it appears that at least Apple is no longer trying to stop this harmless activity which is good for us all.



Ain’t no party like an Adobe 25th Anniversary Party

Last night Adobe celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a BIG party for the employees! Wow! What a night. Not too many high tech companies can come close to the success of Adobe and we at Adobe have a lot to be thankful for. We’ve had good times and we’ve had bad times. Last night we reflected on the company’s 25 year history.

partying with a couple thousand of my closest friends

 

Everyone in the room was upbeat and having a good time. The mood and the party got even better when Adobe’s founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke took the stage!

John and Chuck reflected upon the early days and how they never imagined (back then) that Adobe would be what it is today. It was truly an honor to be in the company of these two Silicon Valley pioneers/inventors.

 

Adobe’s new CEO Shantanu Narayen took the stage and offered a toast to all of us and to our continued success!

There was also a surprise guest…

Smash Mouth rocked the house for the rest of the night!

I got a chance to spend a little time with some of the great people that I admire:

 

Adobe co-founder John Warnock (a true visionary – the inventor of PostScript) and Terry White

 

Adobe co-founder Chuck Geschke and Terry White

 

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, Terry White and Adobe’s former CEO Bruce Chizen

 

Photoshop product manager John Nack & Terry White

 

Marianne & Adobe’s Sr. Creative Director, Russell Brown

 

Mo & John Warnock

 

Addy, Fred, Julieanne Kost, & Chuck Geschke

 

of course no Adobe event would be possible without a little Acrobat….

 

Like I said, it was a great night! I’m looking forward to the next 25 years and the innovations yet to come from this fantastic company and the people that work here! Thank you to all the customers who buy Adobe products (and keep me employed ;-) )




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