Super fast CF reader for your desktop

As a digital photographer there is one part of the process that I find to be the most boring and that is waiting to see my shots. You may remember that I did a series of tests using the Synchrotech ExpressCard CF Reader. That also led me to do a series of tests on different brands of CompactFlash cards to see which ones were the fastest. I’m still quite pleased with my ExpressCard reader and my choice in cards (SanDisk, PNY and Lexar), but it begs the question, "What about desktop computer users?"

If you use a desktop Mac or PC as your post processing computer, then chances are you don’t have an ExpressCard slot. ExpressCard slots are common on modern day notebook computers. So what options do you have? Well up until recently I was using a rather slow SanDisk USB card reader (only slow because USB is slow by comparison). That all changed when the good folks at Synchrotech sent me a new FireWire 800 UDMA Reader! Not only is this puppy FireWire, it’s FireWire 800! That’s right, there’s a FireWire 800 cable built right in. If you only have FireWire 400, they will sell you a 800 to 400 adapter cable. However, keep in mind that you will only be operating at FireWire 400 speeds which are comparable to USB if you go that route.

The beauty of this reader was that I took it out of the box and plugged it in to my Mac Pro tower and there was nothing else to do. No drivers to mess with. It just works.

 

How fast is it?

Of course the thing you’re really interested in is, "how fast is it?" So I did some tests using the same cards and the same 1GB folder of test images as before (yep, that stuff was still on my desktop from before). I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the results were on par with my ExpressCard PCIe reader:

 

Card Read 1.1GB Write 1.1GB
Lexar Pro UDMA 300x 2GB card 1:00.4 43.2
PNY Optima Pro UDMA 4GB card 46.7 42.1
SanDisk Extreme IV 2GB card 37.4 57.6
Using a USB Card Reader (best time) 2:22  

 

Once again SanDisk came out ahead on the Reads with PNY coming in fastest on the writes. Granted your writes will happen in the camera and not in a card reader, but this should give you some idea of what to expect. Also to get the best speeds you will need the later generation cards that use UDMA like the ones in my test suite. If your camera supports these cards, you’ll also be able to take shots at your camera’s faster fps speeds. While this card reader is nice and speedy, I still prefer the ExpressCard reader for my MacBook Pro. My MacBook Pro does have a FireWire 800 port, but it’s so much nicer not having to have a cable.

The Synchrotech CFFire 800 Pro FireWire 800 to CompactFlash Drive Read-Writer goes for $59. If you have a FireWire 800 port and speed is important to you, then you can’t go wrong with this purchase.




Take your DVR with you – Slingbox Pro Review

I’m late to the party on this one! Slingbox has been out for a couple of years now and while I had heard about it in passing and kinda knew what it was, I was never that interested in it. What I surmised was that Slingbox was a device that hooks up to your TV setup at home and lets you stream live TV over the internet to your computer or your PDA. I was right. I wasn’t that interested because I rarely have time to watch "live" TV. However, what I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t just limited to "live" TV. Sometimes it takes a good demo to get someone excited and that’s exactly what happened to me. A friend showed it to me at Macworld Expo and I was floored. Not only was she able to show me what was playing live from her NY home, she showed me what was on her DVR. This 5 minute demo was all it took and I couldn’t get to Best Buy fast enough to get one (could have saved money by ordering online, but hey I was excited!)

Although there are a few different Slingbox models, I was really only going to choose between two: Slingbox Solo and Slingbox Pro. There is a Slingbox AV, but it’s limited to just Composite and S-Video ports so it wasn’t even in my thoughts. The Slingbox Solo allows you to hook up to one source such as a Cable Box, DVR/TiVo, Satellite box, Coax Antenna Cable/Antenna, etc. The Solo has Composite, Component and S-Video connections. My other choice was the Slingbox Pro and the difference between the Solo and Pro is that the Pro can allow up to 4 sources to be connected at once. So it has the full complement of ports (Component can be added for $39-$49 via a dongle) and you can plug multiple devices into it. Although I could have gotten by with the Solo, the Pro wasn’t that much more in price so I went for it (I hate those "I should have bought the next model up" regrets).

The main connection I wanted to make was to my Comcast DVR or my TiVo HD. Since the Slingbox has to be connected to an Ethernet connection, the most convenient spot was on a TV with a Comcast (Motorola) DVR on it. This particular TV also has an older DirecTV TiVo on it and having the Slingbox Pro allowed me to connect both of these. Overkill? Yeah probably.

 

How does it connect?

The Slingboxes have both in and out ports. So no matter which connection method you you use, you’re connecting out from your source (such as a DVR), into the Slingbox and out of the Slingbox back to your TV. So it sits in between your source and your TV and therefore you don’t need any extra ports which is great. I connected my DirecTV TiVo via S-Video and my Comcast DVR via the optional Slingbox Pro HD Component dongle along with the appropriate audio ports. Unfortunately none of these units have HDMI yet. I was impressed and pleased that all of the necessary cables were supplied. As I mentioned above, you will need an Ethernet connection from your router. If your router is NOT close by, they do sell a SlingLink Turbo which allows you to route the necessary Ethernet connection through a standard electrical outlet by just plugging in one near your router and one near your Slingbox. I didn’t need this accessory, but it is getting good reviews on Amazon, so I assume it works. No drilling holes through your walls to run Ethernet cables. The last part of the setup is placing the IR emitters over your existing boxes. This allows you to control your devices from your onscreen SlingPlayer remote.

back of a Slingbox Pro

the optional Slingbox Pro HD Component connection

back of a Slingbox Solo

 

After you get it all connected up, then what?

There is a CD in the box for PC users to install the SlingPlayer. For Mac users you just download it from their website. Once you download the SlingPlayer, it walks you through setting up your Slingbox to be accessed over the internet. Although the setup assistant claimed to be able to configure my router automatically and claimed it did so successfully, it didn’t work when I tried to access my Slingbox from outside my network. So I just opened up the necessary port on my router myself and it works like a charm.

 

How well does it work?

Your ability to watch YOUR TV or DVR while you’re on the go is going to greatly depend upon available bandwidth. As you might imagine, streaming live video requires a pretty beefy internet connection. So your mileage (read picture quality) will vary depending on how you’re connecting to the internet. Some public/pay-as-you-go internet connections expressly prohibit this kind of use. For example, Verizon’s EVDO service prohibits streaming of live video and some users have had their accounts permenantly suspended as a result. Someone told me that a hotel they stayed at had high speed internet and right in the terms of service they spelled out "No Slingbox use". However, if you are on a speedy internet connection and you are not restricted from this kind of use, then slingbox performs extremely well. My connection at home is Cable Modem with very good throughput and I tested connecting back to my Slingbox over a DSL connection that was much slower (and under heavy use at the time) and the experience was more than adequate. I was also happy to see that it played nice with the different aspect ratios of my sources. My Comcast DVR is setup for 16:9, but my DirecTV TiVo is 4:3 and it remembers that in the player.

Also if you have a compatible Palm Treo, Symbian OS or Windows Mobile PDA, you can buy a SlingPlayer Mobile app for those too. They have also announced a SlingPlayer for Blackberry due out later this year. I have high hopes that once Apple releases the SDK for the iPhone next month that Sling Media will develop a SlingPlayer for iPhone! Fingers crossed.

Also keep in mind that while the Slingbox has to be connected to Ethernet, your computer that you’re running the SlingPlayer on doesn’t. So I can stream over my Wi-Fi connection with no problems. This would also allow you to watch TV in rooms that you don’t have a TV in in your own house via your laptop.

 

Having access to my DVR makes all the difference in the world

I wouldn’t call myself a TV junkie, but there are a few shows that I really like to watch. I can remember a few times last year of being on the road and getting back to my hotel room too late to catch "24" or "LOST". Now with Slingbox, I would be able to fire up my MacBook Pro, launch the SlingPlayer, go to the "My DVR" menu and start playing the episode that I recorded at home. What’s even better is that I would be able to fast forward through the commercials and pause it as needed. DVRs allow you to "Time Shift" your TV viewing. Slingbox allows you to "Place Shift" your TV viewing. Forgot to set your DVR to record something before you left the house? No problem, fire up the SlingPlayer on your laptop and just use the onscreen remote to setup the recording remotely.

my Comcast DVR showing through the SlingPlayer on my MacBook Pro. They even match the remote. The little squares at the bottom of the screen are station presets that you can configure to jump to your favorite channels.

 

my DirecTV TiVo showing through the SlingPlayer on my MacBook Pro. Complete with an onscreen TV Remote.

 

How much does it cost?

If all you want to control or watch is one device such as a DVR or cable box, then I would go with Slingbox Solo which Amazon has for $144.99 with free shipping (regular price $179). If you want to have two or more sources, then you want Slingbox Pro which Amazon has for $179.99 (regular price $229.99). Keep in mind that with Slingbox Pro, if you want to connect via Component cables you will need the optional Sling Media HD Connect Cable for $38.99 at Amazon (regular price $49.99). If you just want a basic unit with composite connections, then you could go with the Slingbox AV for $109.72. Sling Media did announce a Slingbox HD that will be coming out in Q3 of this year and will go for $400. I’m not sure it would be worth the wait for most. I have the Slingbox Pro connected right now to an HDTV and there is no downside that I can see. Since bandwidth will be an issue, I’m not sure how effective you will be streaming HD anyway (outside of your home network).

There are no monthly service fees or contracts involved. It’s just a box that streams over your existing broadband internet connection.

 

The bottom line

If you not only want to watch TV on your schedule, but also in the location of your choosing, then there is no better solution that Slingbox! For me it was a no brainer and it works as advertised. I would have gotten one of these a year ago if I had seen it in action. Sling Media, you need better marketing!



iPhone now open for business

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for many would be iPhone customers was the fact that you could only activate an iPhone on a PERSONAL account. Well that changed today! AT&T/Apple are finally allowing iPhones to be activated on corporate accounts with discounts on the services (not the iPhone). This is the first major step at getting iPhones into the hands of business users. No changes in the iPhone itself and there are still issues with lack of enterprise level email support, etc., but this is a good step in the right direction. Looks like I’ll soon be able to go back to my old phone number that is paid by my company.



Macworld Expo wrap up

It’s that time again. The time where people ask me, "so how was Macworld?" My response – "it was cool!" This year’s Macworld didn’t pack very many surprises. Most of the announcements by Apple had already been rumored (some with amazing detail). There wasn’t very much at the show that blew me away. I had a good week packed with presentations and I feel personally that I got a lot done and showed some really cool Adobe technologies. So for me personally the show was "cool!"

Sitting with my Adobe buddies Seb, Dave, Colin and Adam – waiting for the keynote to start.

 

So let me answer what you’re really asking: What did I think of Steve’s "4 things"? Alrighty, let’s take them in the order they were announced:

 

Time Capsule

I think this is a cool product that complements Mac OS X Leopard and makes it drop dead simple for people to not only set up a Wi-Fi network, but also to share a built-in hard drive, backup all their Macs and share a printer if they choose to. It’s hard to go wrong with this product. My only concern as a power user is the speed (or lack there of) of backing up over Wi-Fi. I tried it from my MacBook Pro to another Mac over 802.11n using Time Machine and it was just too slow to do regularly. Now keep in mind that I’m an MS Entourage user who’s main identity weighs in at 3.74GB. So that’s a big chunk of data to be backing up each hour. The average user won’t have that problem. So I think Time Capsule will be a hit!

 

The iPhone 1.1.3 update

I always welcome more iPhone features that are available for free. So how can I complain about 1.1.3? I still have about 46 things on my list of 50 ways to make the iPhone better. 1.1.3 gave me SMS to multiple users and a customizable home screen. The additions to Google maps with the sudo GPS feature rock! I also like the new lyrics support in the iPod app and IMAP support for GMAIL accounts. I know this stuff takes time, however I do wish Apple would come out with these updates on a monthly basis. There are still several things I want on my iPhone. I’m also anxious to see what 3rd party developers come up with once the SDK ships next month. Things should really start to heat up then!

 

iTunes Movie Rentals an Apple TV Take 2

I never understood the concept of buying movies via iTunes! I’m a movie buff, but for the cost of buying a movie on iTunes, I could have a DVD and get a better experience. So needless to say, I didn’t buy very many movies on iTunes (3 to be exact and the first one was a test). Renting movies is the way to go. I have already had my first iTunes rental experience and it didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. As I reported, you absolutely HAVE TO BE CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET in order to start a rented movie. iTunes needs to connect to the iTunes store online to start the 24 hour viewing period. This is even the case if you are transferring the movie to an iPod or iPhone.

I ran into another problem. Although Steve said that rentals can be moved from device to device apparently those devices can’t be multiple computers. Unlike music purchases, whichever Mac or PC you rent a movie on is the one that you have to watch it on. After I got home from Macworld, I started my movie to see if it worked. It did. The next day, I tried copying it to my Mac mini which is hooked up in my home theater (and is running the latest iTunes/QuickTime) and I got an error stating that it "Could not play the rented movie because it is authorized to play on another computer or device."

The error I got when I tried to play my rental on a different Mac.

 

Although the new iTunes 7.6 allows you to "transfer" your rentals to a compatible iPod or iPhone, there doesn’t seem to be a mechanism to transfer your rentals to a different computer. You can only watch it on the computer you rented on. These restrictions really put a strain on the 24 hour viewing period which at first sounded OK, but If I have to put that much thought into where I rent it, when I want to watch, be connected to the internet, etc., then the viewing period should be more like 48-72 hours.

The biggest problem I see with the service besides the time limits is the fact that iTunes won’t have new releases until 30 DAYS after they come out on DVD. That will seem like an eternity at times. I’m all for iTunes rentals, however in their current state I’m not ready to give up my Netflix account.

Check out the iTunes Store Movie Rental FAQ for more on what you can and can’t do.

As far as the Apple TV Take 2 is concerned I was very pleased that this didn’t require new hardware. The new interface looks slick and it will be great to be able to buy/rent content directly from my TV as opposed to having to download it first on my computer and then sync/stream it to my Apple TVs. I can’t wait for the update!

 

The MacBook Air

When I saw what "The something is in the Air" was, I thought, "wow that’s really neat, but not for me!" I think the MacBook Air is a phenomenal piece of engineering. However, it’s just not strong enough to replace my MacBook Pro and since I don’t need two laptops, it’s just not for me. Some have started to knock it and complain about what it doesn’t have. I say to those users, "then it’s not for YOU!" It amazes me that people beat up Apple and other companies about what a new product doesn’t have. Do you beat up developers for building one bedroom apartments because you have a family of four? No that would be silly. You just find a place with enough rooms for your family. So why should this be any different? The MacBook Air will be a hit with people that want a lightweight notebook that they will primarily use for internet surfing and email They’re not doing a lot of heavy duty processing and they don’t store tons of data on it. It would be great for someone who already has a desktop Mac as their main computer, but want a notebook for going on the road with. The list goes on.

On the show floor at Macworld Expo holding the new MacBook Air – it’s stunningly light!

 

But Terry, it doesn’t come with an optical drive, Ethernet or Firewire. The hard drive is only 80GB at 4,200 rpms. Yup, you’re right – and? If those things bother you, then this isn’t the notebook for you. You can buy an external optical drive that is USB bus powered for $99. You can add Ethernet via a USB adapter for under $30. Sorry no Firewire.

So what do I think of the MacBook Air. I think it will be one hot seller for the market that it’s intended for! Is it for everyone? nope. Am I buying one for me? Not likely.

 

OK, what else was at the show?

Well, I gotta say there wasn’t a whole lot that impressed me this year. Adobe was showing off the new Photoshop Elements Mac 6.0 and that really was cool, but you knew I would say that right. Otherwise, I got a chance to get by the Garmin booth and check out their new Mac apps for their various GPS units. All good stuff. Microsoft was there of course. They shipped Microsoft Office 2008. I’m not a huge Word or Excel user, but I do have to use Entourage for work email. So it’s great having a Universal Binary of this app. There really wasn’t any new hardware that was a must have.

Sarah give up, you’ll never find an iPhone case at this show :-)

 

If you were looking for a new case or speaker system for your iPod or iPhone this was the place to be! Honestly guys, do we really need this much of a selection for iPod/iPhone cases? There was a vendor in just about every aisle selling them.

All in all, it was a good show. Last year’s iPhone announcement was hard to top. I think Apple did some good things this year and I’m sure their success will continue throughout 2008! Also check out Macworld’s own Best of Show winners and you’ll see what I mean. Not a lot there that has a wow factor.

Here’s a funny clip that summarizes Steve’s keynote in 60 seconds:




One thing about iTunes movie rentals…

One thing Apple/Steve neglected to tell us is that if you rent a movie from iTunes, you need to be connected to the internet (iTunes store) at the time you start to play it! Arggghhhh!

I rented a movie last night from iTunes and let it download while I slept. I figured I’d watch it on the plane ride home from Macworld Expo. I woke up, and sure enough the download had completed successfully (slow internet connection, it took hours). So I put my MacBook Pro to sleep and packed it up and left the hotel. Once I got settled in on my flight and was in the air, I decided it was time to watch my newly rented flick. I fired up iTunes and hit play only to get a message stating that "iTunes was unable to connect to the iTunes store"! WTF! There was nothing I could do. Apparently in order to begin the 24 hour viewing period of a rental iTunes needs to connect to the iTunes store to start the clock. So in the future I would need to at least start the movie before leaving and then pause it and resume watching it once in flight.

I get it that it’s a security thing. However, it would have been nice to know BEFORE I left to head to the airport. I did confirm (now that I’m home) that once the connection has been made to the store to start the 24 hour viewing period that you can in fact watch the rest of the movie OFFline.



2008. There’s something in the air.

teaser banner posted at the entrance to the exhibit hall

 

Well today is the big day! I’m here live getting ready for the Apple/Steve Jobs Keynote at Macworld Expo. I’m going to attempt live updates from the keynote using my iPhone. If all goes well you’ll get a blow-by-blow on what’s being announced.

So refresh this page often from 9AM-11AM PST…

8:26am I’m standing in line to get in.

9:05am Steve took the stage, thanked the software vendors for being native intel. MS Office 2008 for Mac is the last major app to be ported to intel Macs. He’s introducing 4 things today!

9:20 am Steve introduced Time Capsule – 500MB $299, 1TB $499 – This is an AirPort Extreme base station with a hard drive built-in. Its a companion to Time Machine backup appliance for Leopard.

9:21 am Steve announced 4 million iPhones sold today – 200th day today since the launch.

9:23 am Great new features being rolled out Today for the iPhone. The iPhone can now find your location. Webclips, Up to 9 total home screens, SMS multiple people, if your song has lyrics, they’ll display.

9:26am Steve is demoing the new maps feature with the “find my location” feature.

9:27am Now he’s demoing the new Web Clip feature for the iPhone. This allows you to ad websites directly to your home screen on the iPhone.

9:30am Now he’s demoing customizing the home screen on the iPhone.

9:30am Working with Google and Skyhook wireless to make the “find me” feature on the iPhone. This is using both cell tower technology and wi-fi hot spot beacon locators to triangulate your position on the map on the iPhone.

9:33am Just demoed bookmarking spots in movies on the iPhone. All of these iPhones updates are available today as free updates. “What can we do for the iPod touch today?” We’re adding 5 apps!

Adding Mail, Stocks, Notes & Weather, Maps with Wi-Fi location. Starting today it’s built-in to new ones. Available as a $20 update for existing users. That was the 2nd thing he wanted to talk about today!

#3 “it’s about iTunes!” Sold the 4 billionth song last week!

Sold 20 million songs on one day on Christmas day. A new record. Sold more TV shows and more Movies than anyone else!

iTunes movie rentals with 12 major movie studios -every major studio.

9:38am Flipping through all the great new titles.

9:39am Launching with over 1,000 films by the end of Feb. Films 30 days AFTER their DVD release (what?). You have 30 days to start to watch it. You have 24 hours to watch it after you start watching it as many times as you want within 24 hours. $2.99 for an older movie, $3.99 for a new release.

iTunes Movie Rentals Launches TODAY! Free update to iTunes – US Today, International later this year.

What about your TV? All of us have tried (MS, Apple, TiVo, Netflix, Blockbuster). We’ve all missed! We tried with Apple TV. It’s not what people wanted.

We’re back with Apple TV 2. No computer is required! It’s about Movies, Movies, Movies. You can rent movies directly on the TV. DVD quality AND HD Quality (Yeah!) with 5.1 surround sound.

Supports photos from your computer AND directly over the internet – Flickr and .Mac. Podcasts directly from Apple TV. as well as Buy TV shows and Music. All of the original features as well.

HD movies are $1 more ($3.99 & $4.99). You can choose either format. Now he’s showing the new interface.

The interface is pretty slick! It’s all about the movies. Now showing Blades of Glory description. You can preview the movie first.

Now he’s renting it. The movies is already ready to play. It’s playing now. So it downloads a little of it first and then you start watching it while it downloads the rest in the background. It looks very impressive! That was DVD quality. Now he’s showing Live Free or Die Hard in HD. Continuing to show the interface of the new Apple TV, including search.

9:50am Still talking about Apple TV and iTunes.

9:54am Now showing HD podcasts streaming on the Apple TV in HD.

9:55am Yep, he’s still talking about Apple TV. Now showing streaming photos and home movies over the web off .Mac & Flickr.

9:57am Oops, there’s a glitch. The Apple TV looks like it locked up only playing sound from a Flickr site, but no photos. Now he’s recapping the stuff you just read above!

9:59am Made a joke about Flickr – “when they’re serving up photos” – chuckle

FREE Software Update for existing Apple TV users! Way to go Steve – you rock!

Lowered the price to $229 from $299 of Apple TV. Software update available for free in two weeks.

Movie rentals can be watched on your computer, Apple TV, iPods and iPhones. “I think we’ve got it all together!” The first studio to sign up was 20th Century Fox. Jim Gianopulos (Chairman & CEO) is now taking the stage.

10:03am Jim is talking about the business model and what everyone wants.

10:06am People will still want DVDs (“Blu-ray looks like the winner”). Showing the Family Guy Blue Harvest DVD. This DVD contains a digital copy that can be moved to your iPod, etc.

Now for the 4th Thing! Here it comes.

“Apple makes the best notebooks on the planet” The MacBook Air

The world’s thinest notebook!

10:09am Going over the competition now. 3lbs is a good target!

MacBook air .76″ down to .16″ The thickest part of the MacBook Air is thinner than the thickest part of the Sony viao. He has it in a interoffice mail envelope! It just took it out. It’s insanely thin!

Full size keyboard – full size display.

13.3″ widescreen LED backlit display – instant on the minute you open. Built-in iSight. Magnetic, no physical latch. Has the ambient light sensor on the keyboard. Multi-touch gesture support on the trackpad.

You can set your preferences for the trackpad. You can rotate a photo by turning it on the trackpad, double tap to then move a window. 3 fingers to switch photos – pinch to zoom in and out all from the trackpad.

1.8″ hard drive. Ships with an 80GB HDD standard with an optional 64GB solid state drive (“it’s pricey”)

1.6GHz core 2 duo standard, with an option to go to 1.8GHz. 60% smaller package for the chip thanks to intel!

10:18am Paul Otellini intel CEO taking the stage and talking about the product.

USB 2 port and Micro DVI and Headphone jack, 802.11n, Bluetooh 2.1 + EDR, No Optical Drive. You can buy a USB powered optical drive fro $99.

Steve is going over the reasons why you don’t need an optical drive anymore. We’re going to install software wirelessly too. A new feature called Remote Disc. So you’ll be able to put the disc in another Mac and use it on your MacBook Air wirelessly! Even on a PC!

Battery life – 5 hours with everything on.

2GB of RAM standard!

Priced at $1,799!

Shipping in 2 weeks, taking orders today.

Now showing the new TV ad for the MacBook Air

Now going over the new Environmental efforts. Mercury-free display with arsenic-free glass, case is recyclable. Retail packing is 50% less volume.

MacBook Air – The thinest notebook in the world! “That is the 4th thing that I wanted to talk about today!”

Now reviewing the 1st 2 weeks of 2008 and their innovation. Recapping the new Mac Pros and everything announced today.

We’re done! Now bringing up – Randy Newman to perform a few songs.

10:31 Randy has just started playing.

So I’m wrapping this post up now and I’ll post more later on my opinions and take on all of the above! Have a great day!


I’m at Macworld Expo this week!

San Francisco Bay Bridge taken from Coit Tower (download the image, it has GPS data in the metadata)

Coit Tower – one of the coolest vantage points in the city – Thanks CZ for turning me on to this location!

 

I made it into San Francisco yesterday and got a chance to do a little shooting with my buddy Sarah K. before all the Mac (iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, etc.) madness kicks off.

Sarah grabbing some shots from atop Coit Tower.

 

I’m looking forward to the show and Apple has already put up a few teaser banners "2008: There’s something in the air". I’ve already given up speculating on what that could mean because we’ll all know by tomorrow. :-)

Today is my first ever hands-on lab training session at Macworld. I’ll be doing Adobe CS3 tips and tricks from 2-4PM PST today at the conference. From 4-7PM PST I’ll be at the User Group reception at the Westin.

Tomorrow is the big Steve Jobs keynote address and I’m going to attempt my first ever live blog update. I’ll be putting the iPhone to the test and updating my blog live from the keynote. So check back tomorrow and refresh the page Keynote Coverage Page (which will go up in the morning) from 9-11AM PST for my updates as fast as I can tap them out on the virtual keyboard (please no wise cracks about typos and mispellings OK? :) ).

After the keynote, I’ll be on the show floor hanging out and checking out the latest and greatest advancements.

On Wednesday, be sure to check out my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Workflow session at the Adobe booth as well as my iPhone tips and tricks session at the Peachpit booth at the end of the day.

If you’re here at the show and see me, holler!

Don’t forget to check out my Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 Walkthrough Video!



To get my movie rental business…

Yes, we’ve been hearing the rumors that Apple "may" launch a movie rental service via iTunes. So this got me thinking as to what it would take to get my movie rental business? It also got me thinking about the possibility of one vendor doing it all. Currently I do the bulk of my movie renting via Netflix. They won me over years ago by having a service with NO LATE FEES! Netflix has been just about perfect for me as I’m able to now rent the movies I want in Blu-ray, HD DVD and standard def DVD. Of course the biggest downside is actually having to wait for a disc to show up in the mail. It’s not that big of a deal, because I’ve been so busy lately that there is always a movie or two here to watch that I haven’t seen yet. However, there are those times when someone says, "you have to see _________!" They get me excited and I want to watch that movie right then and there that evening. Luckily with TiVo HD and Amazon Unbox, I can usually satisfy that need with a download directly to my TiVo box. However, there are some gotchas there too. Amazon doesn’t have everything available for rental. For example, I wanted to see the first National Treasure movie again before seeing the new one. So I figured I’d fire up Amazon Unbox and rent it and watch it that night. However, the movie couldn’t be found! I didn’t feel like going out to pick it up (even though Hollywood Video is walking distance from my house), so I bought it via iTunes and was watching it a few minutes later via my Apple TV. Also I don’t currently have a rental service that allows me to rent a movie and watch it while I’m traveling. There have been many times that I would like to have had the option of renting a movie, downloading it to my MacBook Pro and watching it on the flight home.

 

 

Apple could get my business, but here’s what it will take to get it all…

I really want to like Apple TV, but the biggest thing it’s missing (besides rental/HD content) is 5.1 surround sound (at least with the current content). This is a deal breaker for my home theater. So unless they come out with a new box or a firmware upgrade that adds it, it won’t ever be my first choice for watching a feature film on. Of course we have to also consider High Def. With Netflix if the movie I want is available on Blu-ray or HD DVD, that’s what they automatically send me. So I get to enjoy the movie rental (at no additional cost) at the highest possible quality with DVD extras (not a big deal to me, but some enjoy the extras). If Apple offers HD movie rentals my only concern will be the download size. Granted they could stream it directly to Apple TV so that you can start watching a few minutes after the download/stream starts so it may not be an issue, but what if I just want to rent a movie and watch it on my iPhone? Then an HD version would be a waste. So it would be great to be able to choose between standard def and HD for rentals.

Rumor has it that a New Apple TV is coming. Let’s hope it does the job. Once the hardware problem is solved, the next problem will be content. Steve has been doing a good job in rallying the movie houses, so this probably won’t be a problem. A large catalog of movies will be the key though.

Now let’s get to the really important stuff: Terms and Pricing. The $3.99/rental price has been kicked around. That’s not a bad price, however it would have to be that or less. Anything over $4 and you aren’t price competitive anymore. If I download a rental how long will I have to watch it before it disintegrates? With Amazon’s Unbox, you have 30 days to start watching it. Once you start watching it, you have 24 hours to finish watching it. So far this hasn’t been an issue. So Apple would at least need to match these terms.

I would really like to see the Netflix approach as an option as to where I pay a monthly price for all I can watch.

 

A killer iTunes movie rental service would be:

  • New or upgraded (don’t screw 1st gen buyers – Steve you promised updates along the way) Apple TV featuring 5.1 surround sound and 1080p resolution
  • A LARGE collection of titles with streaming trailers
  • HD Content as an option!
  • Liberal terms: 30 days to start watching/24 hours to finish
  • Decent pricing: $3.99 or less per movie/a monthly subscription option
  • Performance! It can’t take forever for the movies to download or stream.
  • Watch on any device: Apple TV, Mac/PC, iPod/iPhone, etc.

 

None of the above is rocket science and Apple could easily pull this off. So let’s hope that I have a new rental service to use next week!

 






Is HD-DVD dead yet?

My buddy Rod Harlan over at DV Confidential takes an in-depth behind the scenes look at the high definition format war. Check out his recent research.



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).



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