Apple preps for iPhone 3g/2.0

The iPhone 3g goes on sale in about 24 hours here in the states. Apple has begun prepping for the new iPhone by releasing iTunes 7.7 which will be needed for the new iPhone as well as original iPhones/iPod touches with the 2.0 software update.

Apple has also taken down .Mac in preparation to roll out MobileMe. It should be an exciting weekend as Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that there will be 500 apps in the App store of which 25% will be FREE! 90% of the Apps will be $9.99 or less. I can’t wait to see what the developers have come up with.

The iPhone is about to kick some major booty!

I’m headed to Los Angeles today. Look for more sporadic updates throughout the weekend, plus my full review once I get my hands on an iPhone 3g. Sleep, who needs sleep?  :)


Getting faster uploads with Comcast

I’ll be the first to beat up on Comcast when they screw up. So I thought I would take a second to commend them for doing something good (yes it’s still easy to complain, but let’s not for a moment). I’ve had Comcast Cable Modem service since 1999. The service has been relatively reliable and has not really been down much in the last 8 years. I think my longest outage was about 18 hours. My sister on the other hand was down for an entire week and was pulling her hair out as well as mine. So your mileage and experiences will vary. After all for the most part we’re at the whim of a aging network of cables strung across wooden poles. It’s a mircle it works at all.

Comcast has the monopoly in my area. Sure I can go with DSL (as a matter of fact I also have DSL as a backup) or other services, but none of them are as fast or even come close. I keep waiting for FIOS or AT&T’s rumored Fiber Optic service, but it’s just not here yet. So Comcast Performance Plus is it for me, for now.

 

I work from home. I need the speed!

Even though the (Comcast) service is considered to be expensive by some (If you’ve been to some other parts of the world, you’ll know it’s not. I have friends in other countries that pay a lot more for a lot less), it has been worth it. I work from home and I need the fastest most reliable internet service that I can get. It’s not uncommon for me to download gigabytes of files from work. This is also why I have AT&T’s DSL service as a backup. If and when Comcast goes down, I can’t call in and say “sorry, I won’t be working today AND I don’t know when I’ll be working again.” I have the DSL service on a separate Wi-Fi network. If Comcast does go down, I simply switch to my other network and keep right on working.

 

A welcomed email message

Having fast download speeds has become the norm. However, upload speeds have lagged way behind and still do. Granted we’re usually consuming more information than we’re publishing, but that is changing rapidly. We’re pushing more and more content out these days and the upload speeds have to keep going up. I’m FTPing stuff up to servers all the time. I do video podcasts, photo galleries, large email attachments, etc. on a daily basis. So when I got this message from Comcast, I just smiled and thought “bring it on!”

 

Putting it to the test

I immediately went to my favorite internet speed test site and ran my usual test against the Chicago server (the closest one to me). I was thrilled with my results for both download AND upload speeds (see the top of this post for the final results). My upload speed was indeed testing much faster (compare to last year’s test) than before and I welcome this improvement.

testing in progress (love the animation of this site)

 I also took this opportunity to do a couple of comparisons:

I tested my DSL connection by simply switching the ethernet cable coming out of my MacPro (which I used to do the above tests) from my gigabit ethernet switch that is connected to my cable modem and plugged it directly into the AT&T supplied DSL router. I expected the speed to be much slower and it was. However, this is the fastest DSL connection available to my home:

I also asked my team member Lynn Grillo to send me a test from her Verizon FIOs connection (keep in mind that she ran this test on a slower MacBook Pro AND over Wi-Fi. She also tested against the NY server. Her upload speed was still faster than mine (so not apples to apples, but still interesting):

Just to even things out a bit, I tried a test using my MacBook Pro over Wi-Fi (802.11n) and here is the best result:

and the worst result running the test 5 times in a row:

Even in the test that yielded the slowest download speed, my NEW Comcast upload speed remained pretty consistent.

Comcast, I’ll take more! I know you can turn it up to be even faster. If Fiber comes into my area with faster service, I’ll drop you like a hot potato. If you want to keep me as a customer, keep the prices competitive, the service relaible and the speed up. So let’s get it going!

There is nothing that I want that bad!

I made a joke about people lining up already to get the iPhone 3g when it was announced back in early June. Sure I knew people would start lining up a day or two before they went on sale. However, I can’t believe that people started lining up A FULL WEEK before they go on sale this coming Friday!

The good folks over at MacNN posted this report and picture above about people lining up this past Friday at the 5th Avenue NYC store.

 

The true meaning of “get a life!”

Sure, I plan to get the new iPhone 3g as quickly as I can (mainly to report on it here and update my book), but not if it means camping out overnight (let alone for a week!). I’m almost tempted to hop on a plane, fly to NYC and ask them “why?”

If last year’s launch is any indication of the availability of the new iPhone, there should be plenty to at least last throughout the weekend. Especially now that you have to do in-store activation and it will be one per person activating the phone. You’ll probably be able to walk right into a store on Saturday morning or even Sunday and buy one with no waiting. Is being first really that important?

Here’s a test?

Remember the guy who got the first iPhone last year?…………….. Exactly! No one cares.

 

I’m sure they’ll be handing the first person in this line their iPhone with a stick. :) I feel sorry for the Apple Store employee that has to sit there with him while he gets his phone activated. PU!

I pray that there is never anything I would want that bad that I’d be willing to live on the street for a week to get it! If you happen to be one of those folks in line already reading this, please respond below with your reasons. C’mon, I gotta know! Good luck!

UPDATE: Apparently the group is trying to set a world record for the longest wait in line to buy something. See their website here.

Get the straight scoop on Copyright, Model Releases and more

Interview with Ed Greenberg

My buddy Scott Kelby did a very special interview with Intellectual Property Attorney Ed Greenberg. Ed busts some of the myths about Copyright, Shooting in Public Locations, and Model Releases! It’s an eye opening interview and MUST watch for anyone with a camera. I want to thank Scott and Ed for putting this together!

 

part two

 

Kudos to Scott on a job well done! I’d love to see more of this kind of coverage on Photoshop User TV as well as your blog! Thanks!

Buying an iPhone 3g is going to be a little harder and more costly for some

We’re just a little over a week away from being able to buy the new iPhone 3g. However, it’s going to be a little (in some cases, a lot!) harder to buy one this time around. Last year when Apple released the iPhone I thought it was brilliant that they let you buy the phone and then take it home to activate it on your own time. This was a very innovative way to buying a wireless device. However, it won’t be so easy with the iPhone 3g. You’ll have to activate the device before leaving the store. This also means, no buying one for your buddy (unless your buddy is with you!).

 

You might be asking, why would Apple make it harder?

That’s a pretty easy one to answer. By not requiring you to activate the device before leaving the store gave people a chance to circumvent “the plan” and therefore cause Apple/AT&T a loss in reveune. Many many thousands of iPhones purchased last year were never activated on AT&T. The process to jailbreak (unlock/hack) and iPhone became so easy that even I could do it in a matter of 10 minutes or less.

This time around it will probably still be fairly easy to jailbreak the new iPhone, but it won’t really matter if you can’t get one without first activating it on a carrier. This way AT&T (and other carriers around the globe) get’s their cut/contract up front. So even if you activate it and then cancel the contract, you’re still on the hook for an early termination fee.

I certainly see the reasons behind this, but this is definitely going to make for some long lines on day one. I estimate the process to be on average at least 30 minutes a person to complete the process. If you think about it, the average buyer is not going to know which plan they want up front and will have to have things explained to them before completing the activation process. Prepare for frustration and tempers to flare.

 

What’s the iPhone 3g really going to cost me?

AT&T has released some rate information (finally) and it seems that the iPhone 3g plans ARE going to cost you more than the previous plans. For one, text messaging is no longer included. You’ll have to pay extra for a text messaging plan if you want it. Also the low cost of entry of $199/$299 for the 8GB and 16GB models only applies to NEW AT&T customers or those who are eligible for an upgrade! The rest of us must spend $399 or $499 respectively. AT&T has also annonced a “No commitment” option for $599 or $699 for the 8 or 16GB models, but no timeframe as to when that/those options will be available.

What about the iPhone 2.0 software for those of us with iPhones/iPod touch already?

Apple has not released a date as to when the FREE iPhone 2.0 software will be available for existing iPhones. Speculation ranges anywhere from any day now til some time on the 11th. Although the software is probably done (after all the software has to be done in order to be included with the new phones), Apple is probably going to wait to release it to continue the buzz around the 3g model. Technically, existing iPhone users will get all the same features that the iPhone 3g has except the faster 3g data and the built-in GPS. Those are hardware specific features and you’ll need the new handset to get them.

 

Sales begin at 8am on July 11th

Due to the longer process to buy an iPhone, AT&T has announced that the iPhone will go on sale at 8AM on the 11th. Last year’s iPhone went on sale at 6PM (and I was in and out in 15 minutes with 2 iPhones!). Be sure to check out the AT&T iReady Check List (PDF).

 

Apple has put out this Guided Tour video showing the new features of the iPhone 3g/iPhone 2.0 software update. Check it out! (If I didn’t know better I would swear this guy is part robot :) )

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.5.4 and it helps CS3

Yesterday Apple released an update to Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5). This is probably one of the most important updates to Leopard since the day it shipped because it fixes some long standing issues with Adobe Creative Suite 3. One of the apps that suffered the most under Leopard was Adobe InDesign CS3 with frequent random crashes. Thankfully this update (10.5.4) fixes this problem! This is a MUST HAVE Update to all Leopard and CS3 users!

Adobe has also responded with an update of its own to InDesign CS3 (5.0.3) that fixes other issues as well.

Don’t walk, but run to go do both of these updates!

Logitech Harmony One Remote Review

I’ve been pretty content over the years with my Sony RM-AV3000 universal remote. However, a couple of my buddies have been really going on and on about the Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote. So I decided to give the Harmony another try. This is not my first Harmony remote. I had one of the earlier models and I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t very forgiving if anyone turned on or off a device by hand. It just seemed like it was more work than it was worth. This remote is much improved over the earlier models in several ways.

 

How do you set it up?

I’ve always dreamed of a remote that would be 2/3rds touch screen and 1/3rd physical buttons and the touch screen would actually look exactly like the original remote for the device you’re trying to control. Think of an iPhone like experience as a remote. This way no matter how many devices you bought or got rid of, your remote would never be outdated. The Harmony One is the next closest thing to my dream remote. There is a small touch screen at the top of the device with the rest being physical buttons for common things like volume up/down, channel changing and things like Play, Pause, Stop, etc. The buttons are uniquely shaped which makes it easy to operate it without having to look at it. It also feels much better in my hand compared to the rather large footprint of the Sony remote.

The Harmony One comes with the remote, charging cradle, Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, USB cable, setup guide and software CD. That’s right, you configure this remote from your computer which downloads the latest and greatest device profiles from the internet. This offers a huge advantage over other remotes that make you enter codes or learn every function manually.

The setup is quite simple actually. You start by just listing the make and model of each of your devices. In my home theater setup, I wanted this remote to control my Epson HD projector, TiVo HD, Apple TV, Sony PS3, Bose Lifestyle 28 sound system and my Lutron Maestro Lighting Control. The Harmony One is IR only and doesn’t control RF or Bluetooth devices. So in theory that would rule out the Bose which is RF based and the PS3 which is Bluetooth based. However, the Bose systems now include an IR receiver just so you can use universal remotes. I also solved the PS3 problem (so that I can watch Blu-ray and DVD movies) with the Nyko Playstation 3 BluWave Remote which adds IR remote capability to the PS3 via a USB dongle. This is child’s play for the Harmony One because Logitech has the device information on over 5,000 different consumer electronic devices.

In theory after you input your devices all you would have to do is then configure your "Activities" such as "Watch My TV" or "Watch a Movie". Activities are designed to be one button macros that automatically turn on the right components and switch to the right inputs. Although the Harmony One software seemed to know about all my devices, there were still several issues that I had to fix manually. For example, my projector just didn’t come on. I had to whip out the original remote and manually program the power buttons using the "Learn IR Command." Also it seemed that no matter what, it insisted on switching the input from HDMI to PC on my projector. I finally had to setup a NEW button called "HDMI1" and then I mapped my activities to use that input. Once I did that all was fine.

My three activities are "Watch TV/TiVo", "Watch DVD/Blu-ray" and "Watch Apple TV". The only one that worked first time with no modifications necessary was Watch Apple TV. I found it odd that the Harmony One software warned me that the PS3 couldn’t be controlled via IR and offered the Nyko remote as a solution, but didn’t offer to set it up that way since I already had one. I just set it up manually.

 

Switching sources

Although my projector stays on HDMI 100% of the time, I use an Octava HDMI and Optical 4 port switcher to switch each device to the one HDMI cable going to the projector and the one Optical Audio cable going to the Bose. The Harmony software knew of this switcher and I was able to easily incorporate it into my activities. For example, if I’m watching a movie and after the movies is over I decide to switch to watching TV, all I have to do is press the "Watch my TV/TiVo" on screen button. This will automatically switch the Octava box back over to input 1 which has my TiVo on it.

 

How does it work?

Once I got everything tweaked to exactly how I wanted it (a couple of hours later), the Harmony One worked beautifully. I must admit that it’s easier to use than my Sony. The reason for this is that I can customize just about ever aspect of it. For example, with my Sony remote there was no preset button or activity for controlling my lights. So I had to use one of the other functions namely the CD player. Since I don’t use a stand alone CD player, I used that button and screen for my lights. Not very intuitive! This is not a problem with the Harmony One. I not only have the exact components I need setup, but I can name the Activities, Devices or even the onscreen buttons to whatever I want. For example, the Lutron Light system uses one predefined light level that is referred to as "Scene1" on the Harmony One. I renamed it "Low Light".

I was also amazed that not only could you setup your Favorite Channels for TV stations, but you could even use custom graphics as the buttons that show up right on the remote!

Although the Harmony software lets you use custom graphics for your Favorite Channels, they don’t provide the logos. They had a few sample ones from FOX, but that’s about it. So I found this site that had all the ones I wanted. Another very cool feature is that this remote has a motion sensor in it. When you pick it up it comes to life and lights up the touch screen and the keys. After a few moments of no activity it goes back to sleep to preserve the battery.

 

 

The Bottom Line

I’ll have to agree with other reviewers in that the only thing keeping this remote from being perfect is the lack of RF and Bluetooth support. Luckily for me my setup doesn’t require this, so this remote is perfect for me. So far I can’t really find anything wrong with it. I love the fact that it recharges when it’s in its cradle. Once you get it setup the way you want, it just works!

It’s pricey at a list price of $249, but Amazon has it for $187.08.


Blu-ray + Digital Copy

I don’t buy movies like I used to. I used to buy DVD’s all the time until I realized that I wasn’t very likely to go back and watch a movie that I had already seen unless I absolutely loved it. Even then it was rare. However, there are some (a few) movies that I could watch over and over again. So needless to say when I buy a movie now I have to really really like it. In this age of High Def Blu-ray movies and being able to watch movies on multiple devices such as a computer, DVD player, iPod, iPhone etc, I hate having to decide what format to buy the movie on. For example, If I buy a movie on Blu-ray, then I pretty much limited to watching it at home. If I buy a movie on DVD then I can watch it at home or rip it into a format that’s compatible with my iPhone or computer. However, I don’t get High Def that way.

 

There is an answer

A couple of movie houses have started offering DVD + Digital Copy AND Blu-ray + Digital Copy. When you buy a title that contains a digital copy you get a second DVD ROM for your Mac or PC that contains the movie in a rights managed MP4 format. Once you put this disc in your computer, you can double click on the file and it will launch iTunes. You can then enter the code from the packaging to unlock/license the movie to your iTunes account and the movie will then be transferred from the DVD to your Computer. From there you can either watch it on your computer or sync it to your video capable iPod, iPhone or Apple TV.

Lionsgate is one of the movie houses offering Blu-ray + Digital copy. For me this is the best of both worlds. If I decide that I like a movie so much that I’ll buy it, I won’t be limited to only watching it on a Blu-ray player. I decided to give this a test. The first problem was that their aren’t a ton of titles out yet that are on Blu-ray AND contain a digital copy. So I ordered "The Eye". It’s not a movie that I wanted to own by any means, but it was one that I hadn’t seen yet, that met the requirements for my test. I opened the packing and as promised there was a second DVD-ROM that was clearly labeled for your Mac or PC and will not play in your DVD player.

I popped this disc into my iMac and doubled clicked on the only file on the disc. iTunes then prompted me for the code to unlock the movie. I entered it from the DVD insert page and iTunes then copied the movie to my hard drive. No muss, no fuss. I now have the movie in Blu-ray format AND a digital format that’s compatible with my iPhone and my Apple TV as well as my computer.

Now I just need more of a selection and I’ll be all set. By the way the cost of "The Eye" was $22.95 which is on par with other Blu-ray titles. To buy just the digital copy via iTunes would cost $14.99. So for $8 more you get both a High Def Blu-ray disc and the digital version in Standard Def.

 

Now I guess I’ll go watch my new creepy movie…

Follow up Review of the ScanSnap S510M

As you may remember I was pretty excited to order the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M after reading a review from one of my colleagues and talking with another colleague that used one. At the time I didn’t actually have mine yet and I promised a follow up review, so here it is:

 

The Good

The ScanSnap S510M is an amazing piece of hardware. I’ve never seen a scanner that scans so FAST! Not only does it scan fast, it scans both sides of a page as fast as it scans one side. It’s also more compact than I imagined and since I got mine they’ve even come out with a more compact model (ScanSnap 300M) that would be suitable for travel. I’ve been able to scan even small receipts without having to use the document carrier. It’s just awesome! OK, so that’s the good part!

 

The Bad

I must say that while the hardware rocks, I was a little disappointed in the software implementation. This scanner includes a FULL version of Acrobat 8 Professional. Wow! I was thinking that they would take advantage of this powerful app and sadly they don’t. There is no tie between the scanner driver and Acrobat at all. The scanner driver simply creates a PDF using the built-in Mac OS X Quartz driver. While I’m OK with that, what I was hoping for was an automated way to have Acrobat then OCR the scanned PDF which would make it searchable. What I want is to be able to walk up to the scanner, stick a document on it, scan it and then walk away. If I later need that document, I want to be able to search on some words that were in the document. Out of the box it won’t do that. Instead, it scans the document, gives it a basic name and either dumps it into a folder as a scanned PDF or opens it in Acrobat and then you’d have to do all the work manually. Sure I can probably setup an Acrobat Batch Sequence, Mac OS X Automator thingy and a watched folder, but I just expected this kind automated solution out of the box.

 

 

UPDATE: Thanks to blog reader “Vivek” for pointing out that the ScanSnap S510M does actually include a special version of Abbyy Fine Reader for Mac. This app does exactly the one thing I was missing in that it OCRs the PDFs immediately after they are scanned by the ScanSnap (if you set it to do so). It still begs the question of why do they include Acrobat 8 Professional and not tie into it though, especially since Acrobat 8 Professional can OCR directly? 

 

The Bottom Line

Although the ScanSnap doesn’t do what I want out of the box (see the update above), it is possible to setup with the supplied software. It’s incredibly fast and worth the money! It would be nice if they offered an option for this model to buy just the hardware for those users (like me) who already own Acrobat, but they don’t (yet). Once I have time to sit down and setup my automated workflow, I’ll be one step closer to my paperless office (hey, I can dream can’t I?).  So I’m happy with my purchase!

The Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M (The M is for the Mac version) goes for $430.23 ($510 list) and includes a full version of Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional. It scans in color or B&W and does two sided scanning of stacks of paper. It automatically converts the scans to PDFs and it’s blazing fast!

 

Shooting tethered: Mac or PC which is fastest?

I had been hearing a nasty rumor from my colleagues and photographer buddies that shooting tethered on a PC running Windows was faster than shooting tethered on a Mac. This was due largely in part to the native USB 2.0 drivers for each operating system. I shoot tethered into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 99% of the time when I’m in the studio. Having to wait 6-8 seconds for the image to pop up on the display doesn’t sound like a long time until you’re sitting there waiting. The advantage of shooting tethered is that you can see your results on a nice large display and make adjustments along the way.

 

 

So I put it to the test

Sorry guys I don’t have a tech lab with guys walking around in lab coats. It’s just me with a stop watch on my iPhone. So if you feel that I’m wrong, that’s ok. Just do your own tests then. My testing setup was simple: I have a MacBook Pro running the latest version of Mac OS X and Windows XP SP2 via Boot Camp. I shoot with a Nikon D300. I use Nikon’s Camera Control Pro 2 to automate the process of bringing the image in from the camera to a folder. Since Camera Control Pro 2 ships with both the Mac and the Windows version on the same disc, I didn’t have to buy anything else. Once the image is in the folder I have Lightroom (LR) setup to Auto Import and display the image in loupe view which means it has to build a preview on the fly as well. I didn’t have any other apps running in either environment. I did each test after a cold boot. I also ran multiple captures to make sure the timing was consistent. I shoot 99.9% of the time in RAW so I didn’t bother testing JPEG shooting. I’m sure the times would be much faster since JPEG files are much smaller. Since I don’t plan on switching to shooting in JPEG, the faster times would be irrelevant to me.

 

Here are my results, which surprised me!

First I just wanted to see which OS would import the Nikon D300’s 12 megapixel RAW (.NEF) images fastest? So I just ran Camera Control Pro 2 (CCP2) with nothing else open and fired off some exposures. The PC blew away the Mac! This wasn’t looking good at this point. The PC dumped the image into the folder in 3.2 seconds from pressing the shutter, while the Mac took 7.2 seconds. At this point I was starting to think that I’ll be shooting tethered in Windows under Boot Camp from now on. However, it dawned upon me that this is only half the story. The other half of the story is after the image is in the folder, how long it takes the image to get into LR and show on screen. So I continued my test by launching Lightroom 1.4.1 and setting up the auto import. I then ran tests of the complete process from the time I press the shutter until the image is on the screen in loupe view. The results surprised me! When it was all said and done, the PC was faster, but only by .7 seconds! It seems that either LR is either really efficient with Auto Import and building previews on the Mac or sucks really bad at it on the PC (glass half full or empty depending upon how you look at it).

  Windows Mac
CCP2 import 3.2 seconds 7.2 seconds
LR import (complete process) 8.2 seconds 8.9 seconds

 

The Bottom Line

If all you need to do is shoot tethered and get the images into a folder, then it would seem that Windows would be the way to go. However, if you shoot tethered into LR, then there isn’t enough of a speed advantage to switch from the Mac OS! Canon shooters, you mileage may vary as well. Since Canon provides an app to automatically bring the images from the camera into a folder, you may see different results depending upon how their software is optimized for each platform. Also if you use other apps to shoot tethered and display your images (such as the software by the camera manufacturer), your mileage my vary. I ran the only tests that mattered to my workflow which is Nikon D300 to CCP2 to LR.

 

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