Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Although I consider myself pretty tech and gadget savvy, I can’t know about every gadget out there. Many of the readers of this blog have helped me over the years by suggesting products that were in some cases better than the ones I’ve reviewed or complimentary to them. So I decided to really put your knowledge (geekiness) to the test. I’m looking for a solution to a problem and need your help!


Wireless broadcasting from my DVR to another HDTV

OK, here’s what I’m looking for: I have a 27″ Toshiba HDTV out in my recreation area that is suspended from the ceiling. It has a built in DVD player and CableCARD so that I can pick up all my digital Comcast channels including HD content. I went out of my way to find this particular set because it was the most self contained HDTV I could find. My goal was to have as few cables/boxes connected to it as possible. Having a built-in DVD player on the side, meant not having to connect an external one. Having a built-in CableCARD slot meant that I could pick up all my Comcast channels without the need for a box from Comcast.  The only box I have connected to it is an Apple TV ,which is great for seeing my movies (ripped DVD collection), music videos, renting movies and iTunes purchased content. I’m just missing ONE thing! There are times that I’ve recorded shows on my TiVo HD that I would LOVE to watch out there. However, I don’t want to connect a big box (DVR). I love the fact that this set is basically boxless. I allowed the Apple TV because it mounts neatly on the wall (thanks to the tvTray). So what I would love is a wireless solution that would stream video from my TiVo HD to this set. 

I’ve looked at the new Slingcatcher, which would be ideal here except that it doesn’t stream HD (which I could live without) AND requires and Ethernet connection or yet another box to be wireless. I’ve also looked at the Belkin Flywire, but I’m not willing to give up my first born to pay for it (they must be totally kidding with that price right? C’mon, seriously?). So what am I missing out there?



The ability to stream video from either my TiVo HD or Comcast DVR wirelessly to another HDTV.

Willing to have ONE SMALL box attached if need be.

Can’t cost more than the HDTV, Apple TV and all the furniture in the room (are you listening Belkin?).

Icing on the cake (actually this is almost a must) would be that I would be able to use a remote to control the TiVo HD from the other room.


So let’s see how good you really are?! What say you tech community? This post will self destruct in 5..4..3..2……..

V-MODA Vibe Duo vs. Bose in-ear headphones


Last week I did a review of the NEW Apple in-ear headphones for the iPod. Today we’re going to move up a little in price and I’m going to compare two $99 in-ear headphones. I have used both of these headsets quite a bit, but in different places. I travel with the V-MODA Vibe Duos. They are my fall back earbuds. I like them because the sound is great, comfort is good and they also have an integrated mic and controls for the iPhone. This is why I travel with them. I use them a lot for handsfree calls in noisy places like airports. The V-MODA Vibe Duos come in 3 colors: Nero (black), Chrome and GumetalRouge (red).


I use the Bose in-ear headphones mostly at home. They also sound good and the small cushions feel good for my ears. Also because they don’t have an integrated mic, I have no use for them with my iPhone. Although these are “Bose” headphones, I don’t really perform any better or worse than the Apple or V-MODAs. Don’t get me wrong, they do sound good, just not better. Because of the bigger ear cushion, they do block out more noise than the V-MODAs. My only real complaint with these is that the ear cushions tend to fall off too easily. As a matter of fact, I lost one because it came off and I couldn’t find it. So I had to order a replacement set. Bose sells the replacements (2 pairs) for $6.99.


The Bottom Line

My buying advice is that can’t go wrong with either of these. Both of these sound good for the $99 price. If you’re going to use them with an iPhone, then the V-MODA Vibe Duo are hands down the best choice. Amazon has the V-MODA Vibe Duo’s for $83.95. Amazon has the Bose in-ear headphones for $99.95.

iPhone App of the Week – WootWatch

wootwatch is a long standing source for some really good deals. The way it works is that they post one deal a day. That’s it! When that item is sold out, it’s over for that day. The next day there will be another deal. Although I love to check and see what’s the “Woot of the day”, I don’t always remember to check. While I can go to a bookmark in Safari, it’s even cooler to go to a native Woot app. 


WootWatch works great!


This app is very well designed and does exactly what you would expect it to do (for the most part). When you launch the app, it checks for the latest deal. It displays the deal and detailed information about it. You can also see the deals from sellout.woot, shirt.woot, and wine.woot.

There is one thing I would have expected though. I actually tried to buy something via the WootWatch app and it took me to Safari (web browser) to make the purchase. While there’s nothing actually wrong with that, the site asks for your user name and password which I could not remember. By the time I got home, I completely forgot about the deal. So I missed out on this HD camcorder. One thing I like about 3rd party iPhone apps vs websites and web apps is that they CAN save your login info and password. It would have been great if this info could have been stored in the WootWatch app. Other than that, I really like this app and it helps me to not miss out on some good deals.


The WootWatch app is FREE and works on the iPhone and iPod touch. You can get it here from the App Store.

Apple’s NEW In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic


Although I’ve never really been a fan of in-ear headphones, I’ve been using them more and more when I travel. So I’ve been experimenting with many different models. Over the next few days, I’ll be reviewing the various ones that I’ve tested. I’m going to start at (believe it or not) the low end of the price range for the ones that I’ve been using. It’s rare that Apple is at the low end of a price range. However, their new $79 In-Ear Headphones are actually the lowest cost ones I’ve tried recently. The others start at $99 and go up from there. 


Why I usually don’t like in-ear headphones

The reason that I haven’t liked in-ear headphones in the past is because quite frankly they hurt my ears. The older models were supposedly one size fits all. Remember the original iPod earbuds? They sucked so badly that I couldn’t stand to have them in my ears for more than a few minutes at a time. Apple has been refining them over the years and the latest ones aren’t as bad. However, the higher end models including their own new in-ear headphones, usually include 3 different sized (small, medium and large) cushions. I usually find either the small or the medium ones to be the most comfortable. With the new Apple ones, the small and medium ones feel about the same. The medium ones are probably best for me to isolate external noise.


What they got right

icon-controlApple spent some time on these and they are probably the best ear-phones they’ve ever produced (not the best I’ve used). They are much more comfortable than any other previous attempt. The sound quality is decent (not stellar). Beyond the basics, you also get an integrated mic and remote control. The remote allows you to control the volume (on the iPod nano (4th generation), iPod classic (120GB), and iPod touch (2nd generation)). You cannot control the volume on previous iPod models or the iPhone. Since I’ll be using these with an iPhone more than an iPod, I was really interested to see what worked and what didn’t. If you’re an iPhone user, these will control everything just like the supplied iPhone earbuds, except for the volume (which the supplied earbuds don’t control either). So you can play, pause advance tracks when the iPod app is running. You can answer calls and use the integrated mic for handsfree communication. So these do make a great replacement for the iPhone earbuds. 


What could be better

I like bass in my music, so I would like to see a little more bass in these. However, they do sound pretty good as is. The other thing I was stunned by was that the volume control didn’t work on the iPhone. After all, it’s not like they are from a different company. It’s Apple. You would think they would be able to make the iPhone/in-ear headphones work together. It’s not the end of the world, just puzzling. 


The Bottom Line

For $79 you get a better, more comfortable set of earbuds than the ones that originally shipped with your iPod or iPhone. If you’re an iPod touch 2nd generation user, you stand to gain the most as you’ll be able to use all the features including the integrated mic for recording into third party apps. The iPod touch doesn’t have a built-in mic, so this headset is a plus. I have other headphones that cost more and sound better. However, I have not tried any other ones in the $79 price range that are better. So for the money, these are the best for iPod and iPhone users. You can get them here for $79.

EOS Multi-room wireless iPod Speaker System



I had a very specific need to be able to hear the music coming from my iPod in 3 rooms at my photography studio. So I set out to find the best solution without spending a fortune. At home my solution is to use the AirTunes technology built-in to the AirPort Express and Apple TV units. However, that solution was overkill for my studio and more than I wanted to spend there. Plus AirTunes is for your computer/Apple TV and not your iPod. 


A quick Google search lead me to EOS


The EOS system was EXACTLY what I was looking for! EOS is a multi-room wireless speaker system for your iPod. The base unit resembles all the other iPod speaker systems out there where the iPod docks in the middle and you have stereo speakers on the sides. However, the EOS base unit has a built-in antenna that can broadcast the music wirelessly to up to 4 additional stereo speakers (5 rooms total). The base unit ships with one wireless stereo speaker. So out of the box you get a two room system. I wanted three rooms, so I ordered one additional speaker. The system doesn’t rely on wi-fi or any other network. It has it’s on 2.4GHz wireless setup. EOS advertises a range of up to 150′ feet. Think of it as a cordless phone like speaker system. So I’m sure the 150′ is under best case scenarios. Real world range is probably less.


How well does it work?


The EOS system works exactly as advertised! Once you plug in the base unit all you have to do is take the additional speakers to your other rooms, plug them in and turn them on. The first speaker I turned on wasn’t detected automatically. I returned to the base and pressed the scan button and it detected it and paired to it right away. The second speaker paired automatically the minute I turned it on. The next thing of course was to dock the iPod and try it out. I docked my 3rd generation iPod nano, selected a playlist and started playing a song. The music was crystal clear. There was no distinction (to my ears) from the music coming out of the base to the music coming out of the wireless speakers. No static, no drop outs, no lag, no distortion!


The power adapter is integrated into the back of the remote speakers so that they can actually hang right from the wall outlet OR you can separate the adapter and plug it in while the speaker is on a shelf.


The EOS system touts what they call SRS WOW!™ digital sound enhancement technology, which aims to more bass and a 3D surround sound like atmosphere. In all honesty I can’t really tell that this is making all that much of a difference and since there is no way to turn it off I can’t really tell if it makes a difference or not. The system I’m replacing with this was the original Bose SoundDock which sounded really good to begin with. The EOS ships with an IR remote to adjust the sound volume, pause, advance, etc. the tracks. The EOS comes in your choice of Black or White and also ships with various iPod universal dock adapters for the older iPods.

It’s also not just for iPods! Although there is a built-in iPod dock, there is also an auxiliary line-in port on the back of the base unit. So you could plug in just about any audio source including your computer. This would also help iPod shuffle users. They even supply the cable you’d need to plug in another audio device.


The Bottom Line

If you need to hear your iPod in multiple rooms in your home, office, etc. then it’s hard to go wrong with the EOS system. While I was prepared to pay their retail price, I was very happy to see that they offered refurb’d units at much lower prices. I got the base unit (which includes one extra speaker) and a second speaker (3 rooms in total) for only $218 (free ground shipping). That’s less than cost of a new base unit alone (at their retail price of $229). I do have a couple of issues with it though. The first one is that it’s not able to power the latest iPods/iPhones. If you have a 4th generation iPod nano, 2nd generation iPod touch or iPhone 3g, then you’ll see a message that “charging is not supported by this accessory.” You can solve this with the addition of the Scosche passPORT Dock. Hopefully, they’ll come out with a newer model that provides power over the proper pin in the dock connector for the newer iPods. The other issue I have is that while the additional speakers have an on/off/volume knob, I don’t see a way to turn OFF the base. Granted I never turned off my Bose SoundDock either, but the EOS base has blue LED lights on it that stay lit all the time and I don’t want others trying to figure out how to turn it off. So I just unplugged the power when I was ready to leave. I thought it was odd that the wireless speakers had the ability to be turned off, but not the base. To learn more or place an order, check out their site.

iPhone App of the Week – Keynote Remote


I give presentations all the time and while I’m not a big fan of slides, when I do have to give a slide presentation Apple’s Keynote is my app of choice. Prior to my iPhone I used to use Salling Clicker on my Palm Treo 650 to remote control my slides via Bluetooth. I do miss that one aspect of my old phone. As you know, I’m a big fan of Apple’s “Remote” app that allows you to control your iTunes app or Apple TV via your iPhone or iPod touch. The app is very well done and feature complete. So needless to say, I just figured that when Apple announced that they were releasing another Remote app that allowed you to remote control your Keynote ’09 presentations, it would be just as good.


Basic Functionality


The Keynote Remote app pairs with your iPhone/iPod touch and your Mac running Keynote ’09 via Wi-Fi. So both your iPhone and Mac need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. That in and of itself could be an issue depending upon your presentation venue (more on this later). Once you have the two paired you can open a Keynote presentation on your Mac and then start playing it on your iPhone. Once Keynote is in “Play” mode you can see the current slide right on the iPhone’s screen including your speaker notes. To advance to the next slide you swipe your finger across the screen. You can also go back to the previous slide. There is a few second delay from the time the slide appears on the big screen until it appears on your iPhone’s screen. That’s about it!



My slides displaying on the iPhone complete with the speaker notes that were keyed into Keynote.



What’s missing?

Although this app does what it advertises, there is so much more that it could do. The first thing that I missed was a configurable slide/presentation timer. In other words, I’d like to see how much time I have left while doing my presentation. I’d like to configure a 10 minute and 5 minute warning beep or vibrate. While I appreciate the coolness of a finger swipe to advance slides, it would be more practical to have a large forward/back onscreen overlay button. If your thumb is at the top of the screen it would advance the slides forward, if it’s at the bottom, it would go back a slide. These are simple fixes that Apple can add. However, the big thing is that this App works over Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. Bluetooth is such a natural fit for this kind of app. Granted the range wouldn’t be as good, but there’s no reason why the app couldn’t work over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Since it only works over Wi-Fi this means that you would either need to have a Wi-Fi connection in your presentation venue OR you would need to setup an ad-hoc network between your Mac and iPhone. Another concern that presenters shouldn’t have to worry about. Although the app allows for controlling your presentation in portrait or landscape orientation of your iPhone, you have to set it in the preferences. I would have expected Apple to take advantage of the accelerometer and simply allow you to tilt your iPhone to change the orientation.


The Bottom Line

The Remote app for iTunes/Apple TV sets the bar for remote apps on the iPhone! Unfortunately, the Keynote Remote app doesn’t live up to this standard. I was also stunned that Apple charged 99¢ for this app. Considering that Remote is a FREE app and the Keynote Remote app requires Keynote ’09, you would think it would just be included in iWork ’09 or FREE. With these limits, you might be wondering WHY would I name this app, App of the Week? I chose this app because it does work, but more importantly it does have potential! The things that it needs (with the exception of Bluetooth control) are easily added! If Apple quickly follows up with a 1.1 update that adds the things I listed above, then this app would kick butt. Luckily this isn’t the only app that allows you to remote control a Keynote presentation. The favorite seems to be “Stage Hand.” $7.99

Apple’s Keynote Remote app is compatible with iPhone and iPod touch and of course requires a Mac running Keynote ’09. You can check out Keynote Remote here on the App Store for 99¢.

Adobe CS4 Stuff


As an Adobe employee it’s my job to tell customers about our products and what’s new. However, I can’t reach everyone all the time. So I was quite pleased to see that my friends over at NAPP (The Photoshop Guys) helping out by showing digital photographers (and others) what’s new in Photoshop CS4 and more importantly reasons why you’d want to upgrade?

Be sure to check out Scott Kelby’s 4 Part Series on the subject complete with videos. 


In other CS4 news

InDesign CS3/CS4 users on the Mac will be happy to know that the Leopard Command-H (hide) bug has finally been laid to rest in Mac OS X 10.5.6. I want to personally thank the hard working people over at Apple and internally at Adobe that helped get this fixed.


Where can I learn more about how to use Adobe’s products?

I get this question all the time. While there are certainly some really good training partners out there providing quality online and lecture based training, there are a ton of learning resources that are FREE!


Here are just a few of my favorites:

Adobe Creative Suite Video Podcast – by yours truly – shameless plug alert

Adobe TV

Photoshop User TV

The Russell Brown Show

Julieanne Kost

John Nack’s Blog (Photoshop Product Manager – Must read)

Lightroom Killer Tips

Layers TV

InDesign Users Groups

Adobe Design Center

iTunes Store going DRM Free!


Apple’s “one more thing” during the Phil Shiller keynote at Macworld Expo was that the iTunes store (which has 10 million songs) will go completely DRM (Digital Rights Management) free by the end of the quarter. This means that the digital copy protection on the individual tracks won’t be there any more.


What does this mean?

Apple calls their DRM free tracks iTunes Plus. At first Apple charged 30¢ more for iTunes Plus tracks. They were $1.29 vs. 99¢. Once Amazon launched their store of all DRM free MP3’s, iTunes dropped their price for iTunes Plus to 99¢ to be competitive. Apple’s iTunes Plus tracks are also encoded at a higher bitrate. The tracks are encoded at 256k instead of 128k AAC files. Since the tracks don’t have DRM they are also compatible with other devices besides iPods and iPhones. iTunes tracks that have DRM can only be played on up to 5 different computers you own. If they are iTunes Plus then there is no restriction.



So I can now share all my music with my friends?

Well NO! Technically there won’t be a physical restriction anymore, but that doesn’t mean that these songs aren’t still copyrighted. I think what the music industry is finally getting through their heads is that DRM really punishes the honest people. People that are going to violate copyright and share songs are going to do it anyway. DRM doesn’t prevent theft. There are several workarounds. If you think about it Audio CDs don’t have any DRM on them. You can buy an audio CD, rip it and share the tracks (illegally). So why does the music you buy from an online store have DRM?


What about the songs I’ve already purchased from iTunes?


When Apple originally came out with iTunes Plus they also offered the ability to upgrade your existing purchased tracks (based on availability) for 30¢ a track. This made sense at first because it was just the difference in price between the 99¢ and $1.29 that they were charging for DRM vs DRM Free. However, now that they’ve lowered the price to 99¢ for their iTunes Plus tracks you might wonder why do we still have to pay 30¢ for the upgrades. Apple has never really said why they still charge an upgrade price. My guess is that you’re still getting a higher quality track (256 vs 128 bitrate), and of course there’s the cost of bandwidth to download all those songs (which are bigger files). 


The cost of upgrading – sucks!


Upgrading is totally OPTIONAL! You do NOT have to upgrade unless you want to. However, if you do decide to upgrade it’s all or nothing. Apple doesn’t let you pick and choose which of your tracks you want to upgrade and which ones you don’t. This kinda sucks! The reason it sucks is because you may have bought songs over the years that you really don’t care that much about anymore (that “Spice Girls Christmas Album” sounded like such a great idea at the time 🙂 ). However, in order to upgrade the songs you do care about, you’ve got to upgrade them all. My initial iTunes Plus upgrade cost me $135.57! The reason I say “initial upgrade” is because Apple is hard at work converting re-ripping tracks every day. So the first batch I upgraded included only 489 of my over 1,800 purchased tracks. As Apple gets more tracks converted to iTunes Plus, I’ll be able to upgrade again. 


Variable Pricing Model

Apple also gave in on the “one price fits all” model. So now songs will vary in price from $69-$1.29. The record labels have wanted this for some time now and it was probably a compromise in getting the labels to give up on DRM.


More drive space

Keep in mind that iTunes Plus tracks are going to be larger! This is because they are encoded at a higher quality bitrate (better sounding). While that’s not really a concern for me on my computer, I’m quickly finding out that it can cause problems on your iPod. Suddenly you could be in a situation that the same songs/playlists no longer fit on your existing iPod. You may have to do some pruning of your playlists in order to fit these larger tracks on your existing iPod/iPhone.


The Bottom Line

I’ll be happy to be DRM free! It will mean that I’ll get to use my music purchases in more places and on more devices without having to think about it. I wish that Apple was more flexible on the upgrade pricing/options, but it is still a choice and you don’t have to upgrade at all. All new songs/music videos you purchase will already be DRM free. Now if only Hollywood would learn from this, the world would be a much happier place.

Lastly don’t forget to BACK IT UP! One hard drive crash and all your purchased music could be gone. So backup your hard drive on a regular basis!

New iPod/iPhone, Old Speaker System, not charging?

If you have an iPhone 3g, 2nd gen iPod touch or 4th gen iPod nano, you may have noticed an issue with plugging them into your older speaker system. As I understand it, the newest crop of iPhones and iPods no longer allow charging over the Firewire pin in the standard 30 pin iPod connector found on hundreds of iPod accessories out there. They now only charge via the USB powered pin in the same 30 pin connector.

I first noticed this problem with my iPhone 3g. I noticed it didn’t work with the integrated iPod connection in my car. I could plug it in and play music through the car’s speakers, but the iPhone wouldn’t charge. Buy a new car? Not today! Some car manufacturers started offering a newer cable to correct the problem. Rather than wait for a new cable to be produced for my car, I was lucky to find out about the passPORT by Scosche.


passPORT to the rescue


The passPORT is an adapter that goes between your car’s cable and your iPhone/iPod. Since older iPods and iPhones can be charged over USB too, this adapter is backwards compatible. There’s really not much more to say about it. You plug it in and it works. Your iPhone 3g and newer iPods will now charge via your older cable. The adapter goes for $29.99. Amazon has it for $27.99. The price seems a little high, but it’s a lot cheaper than a new car 🙂



What about your speaker system?

If you spent good money for an iPod speaker system, then chances are you want to keep using it. However, if you bought your speaker system a while back, then you may be facing the same issue I did above. Your older speaker system may not charge or work properly with your newer iPhone 3g or iPod. While I was at Macworld Expo, I stopped by the Scosche booth while I was at Macworld Expo to buy a second passPORT for my new EOS Wireless Speaker system (a review on that is coming). Although this speaker system is not that old, it’s old enough not to work properly with the new iPhone 3g or iPods. When I got to the Scosche booth I saw a display on the wall for their new passPORT Dock product.


This adapter is designed specifically for the Universal Dock connector found in most speaker systems. As a matter of fact even Apple’s own (now discontinued) Apple iPod Hi-Fi system. When this system was being sold it retailed for $399. If you spent $400 on an iPod Hi-Fi, then you probably want to keep using it with your new iPod or iPhone 3g. Same goes for the original Bose SoundDock ($299). 

The passPORT Dock is a $40 adapter that sits right in your speaker’s universal dock connector. It sits up about an inch and has it’s own Universal Dock on top which will accept the standard Apple dock inserts that ship with the various iPods and are available for the iPhone. The passPORT dock comes in either white or black to match your speaker system. Again, I think $40 is a little pricey, but considering what you may have spent for your speaker system $40 is not much to keep using it with your newer iPhone/iPod.

You can order the passPORT Dock directly from their site.

Page 134 of 166« First...102030...132133134135136...140150160...Last »