Mount your AirPort Extreme N

I’ve learned that wireless routers work best when mounted higher. The original AirPort Base Stations came with acrylic mounts for mounting on walls and ceilings. However, the newest AirPort Extreme 802.11n doesn’t. This is due largely in part to the antenna array that is built in. The experts say that the new Extreme Base Station is best positioned into a horizontal flat orientation. Knowing this doesn’t change the fact that your range will increase drastically when positioned higher.

One of the base stations that I manage is located in a garage just outside the meeting room that MacGroup-Detroit meets in. Luckily the ceiling is open and I have access to the rafters. This meant that I could mount the AirPort up high for maximum coverage. However, the beams are only 2 inches wide and the AirPort is much wider. So I turned to the folks over at H-Squared who make the tvTray for the Apple TV. They enhanced their Air Mount product for the new AirPort Base Station. This mount is custom designed for the AirPort Extreme and therefore is a PERFECT FIT.  It comes with the base and the screws for mounting to a wall or ceiling.

I mounted it horizontally up high and like I suspected, this position provides coverage for the entire area. They even make an optional $15 USB backlight to add a little flare to your AirPort Base Station. However, since this one is mounted where no one will see it, the light would go unappreciated.

The bottom line is that if you need to mount your Apple gear there are no better mounts than those from H-Squared. The Air Mount is $37.99.

Forgot your charger?

It happens to all of us at some point. You pack and you check your list and you do all the things you are supposed to do before leaving for a trip, but you forget your charger for your cell phone or iPod. I was coming home from Photoshop World in Las Vegas and I spotted this "Rapid Charger" charging station in the Las Vegas airport. What caught my eye was the various adapters just dangling there.

Just about all the major brands were covered. This is capitalism at its best! For a mere $3 you can get 30 minutes of power. My first thought was, "who would use this?" Then I remembered that yes, we do occasionally forget our chargers, because if you had your charger, you would simply find an outlet somewhere in the airport and plug in (unless that airport is Dallas/Fort Worth – they have no outlets ANYWHERE).

So the next time you’re running low on juice, forgot your charger, have 30 minutes to kill, and have $3 bucks, these folks have got you covered. Also you’ll have to stand there the whole time so no one walks off with your shinny device. Better bring a book or magazine too.

Good Apple, bad Apple

Steve Jobs did a very cool thing today! In this open letter, Steve has promised that all early adopter iPhone buyers would receive a $100 refund (store credit) due to the public outcry over the recent iPhone $200 price drop. Like I said yesterday, I wasn’t too upset over the price drop as this kind of thing happens in the tech world, especially to those of us who live on the bleeding edge. I gotta say though, this is pretty cool to know that I’ve got $100 coming back which was totally unexpected and goes a long way towards making me even happier that I own Apple products and stock. Apple didn’t have to do this (even with people complaining), but they did. Prices drop/items go on sale all the time on other things we buy and yes sometimes only a couple of months after we bought them, however we don’t usually expect any kind of refund.

 

Apple also did a very uncool thing today! It seems that the new iTunes 7.4 (which features Apples iPhone ringtone maker utility) will remove the custom ringtones that you may have already put on your iPhone. Actually upon further study, it doesn’t actually remove the ringtones, but it simply rewrites the index file upon each sync to make the iPhone not look at any other ringtones than the ones that iTunes puts there. I understand that Apple wants to sell ringtones. Hey, it’s America and if you got a legal product that people want to buy, more power to you. However, I don’t have any desire to buy ringtones and I had a perfect solution for putting ringtones on my iPhone with iToner. So it’s a bit unfair to take that ability away in favor of an Apple ONLY monopolistic solution. While it’s true that I could simply put the ringtones back on after each data sync with iTunes, I would also have to reassign them to the contacts that I’ve designated to ring a certain way when they call.

Luckily the folks over at Ambrosia Software are hard at work figuring out a way around this in a update to iToner. I also got wind of this before I downloaded iTunes 7.4 so I’m good for now. I just think it’s wrong for Apple to try to “control” the iPhone in this manner. It’s almost as bad as if they made it so that you could only put music on your iPod that you bought from the iTunes music store. No one would go for that and no one should have to be limited to ringtones purchased from iTunes either.

If you have custom ringtones and want to keep them intact, don’t go to iTunes 7.4 just yet.

New iPods, iPhone price drop and more

iPod touch

Besides dropping the price of the iPhone (read below), the big news today is the brand new iPod Touch. I gotta admit, that while I predicted Apple would come out with an iPod that was everything that the iPhone was without the phone, I didn’t think that they would actually have the guts to do it. Apple will sell boat loads of these. While the iPhone appeals to many (including yours truly), there are millions that won’t buy it. Some of those millions would love to have a touch/wide screen iPod that also has Wi-Fi and internet surfing capabilities. Does this mean that the iPhone is a failure? Absolutely not! It means that Apple is smart enough to try to sell the right product mix to EVERYONE! If I was stuck in a contract or for whatever reason (such as AT&T) didn’t want an iPhone or was happy with my existing phone, I would definitely want an iPod Touch.

With the iPod Touch you basically get an iPod that looks very much like the iPhone. You get a gorgeous 3.5" touch screen, 8GB or 16GB of storage (which the iPhone sorely needs), Wi-Fi, Safari, YouTube, and Wi-Fi music downloads from the iTunes store.

How is this different from the iPhone?

The obvious one is that there is no phone and therefore no EDGE data network. So you can only surf the web and use YouTube when you’re in a Wi-Fi covered area. There’s also no Bluetooth, not that you’d need it since there is no Bluetooth syncing yet. No camera, no Widgets, no SMS texting and no Google Maps.

Where’s Mail ?

The one BIG thing that is mysteriously missing from the iPod Touch is email? Granted if you have access to webmail, you can check your email with Safari, but it would be nice to have the Mail app that comes with the iPhone. I guess Apple had to draw the line somewhere and to entice you to move up to iPhone, Mail was that line.

Although the iPod touch is missing some of the iPhone goodies, it’s still a great iPod for those that want their music, videos and do a little surfing while waiting in a line somewhere. Hey Apple, are we ever gonna see games again on these touch screen iPods/iPhones?

 

Apple drops the iPhone 8GB price by $200 bones

You knew the day would come when Apple would drop the price of the iPhone. However, you probably didn’t think it would happen in just over two months and by $200. Yeah, that’s one is kind of a shocker and I’m sure there are some $600 iPhone owners out there that are a bit steamed at the moment. However, I’m not one of them. Why? Is it that I have this unlimited fountain of money? Nope, I just don’t get ticked about money I’ve spent months ago for a product that I’ve been enjoying. Sure, if I had just bought an iPhone this past week, I’d be marching down to the Apple store for a refund. However, I’m just not going to sweat money I spent on bleeding edge technology 65 days ago. Ouch! OK, I’m over it.

Now the real question is, how much is the 4GB model? Apple says they will sell the 4GB model while supplies last (read – they don’t have many left), but they didn’t say at what price. Does that mean that the 4GB model is now $299? If so, that would be a steal  for someone that could get by with 4GB of storage. NOTE: A quick call to my Apple store and yes the 4GB model is $299 while supplies last. So if you want one at that price, don’t hesitate.

iPod Classic

Apple kept the award winning iPod interface intact. They realize that everyone doesn’t want a touch screen (you know who you are). So if you still want the very easy to use without looking at it click wheel, you can get an iPod Classic. You might also note that Apple did away with the “white” color and now uses a grey to match the rest of their new products. Also if your music/video collection didn’t fit on the previous iPods, there’s now a 160GB version! Wow! Is that a music store in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

iPod nano gets phat (fat too)

Woah! Now you too can watch videos on your iPod nano. Basically Apple is allowing video (and photo) playback on any iPod with a screen. I’m not sold on the design though. It looks like someone took a regular iPod and squished it in Photoshop. The nano was very popular because it was just so darn small and thin. The new nano (aka fatty as some are calling it), kind of loses some of that sleekness. However, it is still very thin since it doesn’t have a hard drive. iPod case manufacturers, get your pencils out. You now have a new market to go after.

iPod shuffle

Not a lot of news here. Apple refreshed the line with some new colors. Quite honestly I couldn’t tell you what the old colors were. I do own the original second generation shuffle in silver and since I got my iPhone I haven’t used it. So I haven’t been keeping up with what’s going on in the iPod shuffle world.

 

iPod/iPhone pricing

Here’s a break down of what the iPods and iPhones cost. I still don’t get why you’d buy a 8GB nano for $199 when you can get an 80GB Classic for only $50 more, but hey, Apple sells a ton of nanos.

  Capacity/Price Capacity/Price
iPod Touch 8GB $299 16GB $399
iPod Classic 80GB $249 160GB $349
iPod nano 4GB $149 8GB $199
iPod shuffle 1GB $79  
iPhone 8GB $399 4GB $299

 

iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store & Custom iPhone Ringtone Maker

OK, where do I begin here? I think it’s very cool that you’ll now be able to buy a song right on your iPod and listen to it right away. That makes total sense to me and it’s hot! However, I just don’t get the whole "buying ringtones" thing. I’m not just talking about Apple, I’m talking about the market as a whole which brings in MILLIONS of dollars every year. It’s only natural that Apple would want their fair cut of this growing pie.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally love custom ringtones. I have some on my iPhone right now and had them on my Treo and RAZR before that. However, in each of those cases I made them myself out of songs that I already bought. I just don’t understand the business model of selling "ringtones" specifically. A quick sanity check over at Sprint.com reveals ringtones that they are currently selling (Beyoncé just started blaring "Me, Myself and I" – I hate when sites play music that I didn’t click on. I love Beyoncé, but that’s besides the point) for $2.50 each! How can this be? I can go to iTunes and buy the WHOLE SONG for .99¢ and play it back on several devices and even burn it to an Audio CD. Yet, Apple (and others) expect me to pay MORE for a 30 second version that only plays on my phone? Help me understand this. Apple’s price is a little better than Sprint’s. Here’s the deal. You buy the song you want (out of only 1 Million of the millions of iTunes songs. So you might not even get the one you want), and then you pay another 99¢ for the ability to customize it down to the 30 seconds you want to be a ringtone on your iPhone. Granted you still get to keep the full song and use it anyway you want just as before, but to use it as an iPhone ringtone, you pay $1.98.

No thanks! I’ll continue to use iToner and put my own ringtones on my iPhone (unless of course Apple breaks this ability with an iPhone software update and then I would be ticked off).

 

Apple and Starbucks

Apple just got all chummy with Starbucks in an exclusive deal that you will be able to go to a Starbucks location with your Wi-Fi enabled iPod touch/iPhone and download music from the iTunes store without paying a Wi-Fi charge to Starbucks. OK, whatever.

If you really want to get my attention, let me surf on my iPhone free of charge while I’m in a Starbucks. I don’t even drink coffee, never mind.

Buh-bye iPod Hi-Fi

Looks like sales of the iPod Hi-Fi were disappointing enough that Apple quietly removed the iPod Hi-Fi from its online store. I’ll kind of miss the Storm Trooper. Oh well. Bose and all the others win this round.

I’m headed to Photoshop World

I’m headed out to Photoshop World today! This is one of the few shows that I go to anymore and it continues to get better and bigger each year. I’m teaching two InDesign CS3 sessions at the show. I’ll also be doing some podcasting for the Adobe Creative Suite Podcast and hanging out at the tech expo. I also can’t wait to get my hands on the Nikon D3 and D300 which Nikon will be giving previews at the show to show attendees. Hopefully I can get some test shots and share my findings here. If you’re around the show be sure to say hi.

Also today is Apple’s big "The beat goes on" announcement (1PM EDT) where they are rumored to be announcing new iPods, and possibly a ringtone service through iTunes. Most likely Steve has a few surprises up his sleeve too. As usual I’ll share my thoughts and opinions on the announcements and what’s hot and what’s not about the new gear.

So stay tuned for more from the world of Photoshop and Apple this week…

A GPS for your digital camera

Sony GPS

I’m a bit of a GPS buff. I have them in my cars and I even have a portable Garmin Nuvi 360 for travel and use in rental cars. So it’s quite natural that when I learned about this
Sony Unit for Digital Still Cameras that I was quite intrigued. I actually first saw this unit about a year ago. However, when I read the reviews on Amazon.com I was a little less excited. Some were complaining that it didn’t work that well especially around tall buildings. So I kind of forgot about it until a few weeks ago when I was having dinner with my colleagues and Colin Fleming told me that he had one. So I had to ask, "does it work?" and more importantly, "would you buy it again?" His answers to both questions were YES! Then my next question was (knowing Colin is a Mac user), what app on the Mac did he use to marry the GPS data to the images? You see the Sony GPS comes with an app to add the GPS data that it captures to your images, however it’s Windows only. So Colin turned me on to HoudaGeo which is a $30 Mac app that does just that. It extremely simple and works great.

 

How does it work?

The concept is simple: You go out on a shoot (outside of course) and you turn on the Sony GPS. It starts a new log file on the device itself and once it connects to a GPS satellite it starts recording your coordinates and the time/date everywhere you go. Then you pick up your camera and start shooting. Since your camera is recording the date and time (very important that you have these set correctly in your camera) of every shot and the Sony GPS is recording the date and time coordinates at the same time all you have to do is match the images with the GPS log file when you return to your computer.

 

What’s my workflow?

Since I shoot primarily in Camera RAW and that there are no two camera manufacturers use the same RAW format, I use Adobe’s Digital Negative .DNG format (an open standard for Camera RAW files). The HoudaGeo app can’t embed the GPS data in proprietary RAW formats anyway. However, it can embed this data in .DNG files as well as JPEGs of course. Normally I would just import my images directly into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. However, when I shoot landscapes and want to use the GPS data from the Sony GPS, I plug in my memory card into my Mac and then I use the FREE Adobe DNG Converter (Mac|Win)to convert my Nikon’s proprietary .NEF files into .DNG files directly from the memory card into a folder on my drive. I then use the HoudaGeo app to import the .DNG files and then the Sony GPS log file that contains all the GPS data. The 3rd step in the app is to click that actually writes the GPS data to the .DNGs (or JPEGs).

Once the images have the GPS data imported into them, I then import (reference) the images into Lightroom. From there I can do all the great things that Lightroom allows me to do, but I can also bring up any image in Lightroom and not only see the GPS longitude and latitude, but I can also click one button that automatically takes me to those coordinates in Google Maps and gives me a satellite view of where the shot was taken.

Here’s the shot I took at a nearby park

 

Here’s the GPS data showing for that shot in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

 

 

After clicking the "Map Location" button in Lightroom, I was taken directly to a satellite view in Google Maps.

 

What’s hot and what’s not?

So far it works as advertised and it’s very easy to use. Basically just turn it on. However, there is definitely room for improvement. For example, there is only one status indicator that either blinks fast green when it has NOT locked on to a satellite or slow green when it has. Guys, how hard would it have been to use two different color LEDs or lights. Green is locked on and Red isn’t. I’m constantly looking at it trying to figure out "is that a slow blink or fast blink because there isn’t that much difference between them. Also Colin tells me that it doesn’t behave well when it’s dangling from say your belt, which is clearly the way it looks like you would use it. Instead I put a strip of velcro on it to attach to a vest or brim of a baseball cap (looks dorky, but it works). Lastly, it would have been nice to include a Mac app so that I wouldn’t have to spend an additional $30 for one. However, the HoudaGeo app is probably better than what Sony would have come up with anyway.

 

Would I buy it again?

So far the answer is yes! I’ve only used it in testing a few times so far, however each time it had no problem locking on to a satellite and since I don’t plan to use it much around tall buildings, that’s not a concern for me. I can’t wait to take it on my next trip out in the wild and shoot some of this country’s most beautiful landscapes. However, next time I’ll actually be able to "show" people "where" the shot was taken. Not sure how useful it will really be, but it sure is FUN! The
Sony GPSCS1KA GPS Unit Kit for Most Digital Still Cameras is $104.57 at amazon.com

Also check out this CNET article on the subject of Geotagging your photos.

New iPhone Ringtone App for Mac

As many of you know I had found an app (iphoneringtonemaker.com) for adding custom ringtones to the iPhone. While the app works great! It is currently Windows only. The great folks over at Ambrosia Software have just released a new app that allows you to add your own ringtones to the iPhone and it’s a Mac app. It’s called iToner. iToner is a no frills app that does one thing and one thing well. It lets you put your own .mp3s, .AACs, etc. on your iPhone to be used as ringtones.

The app itself look just like the iPhone interface. You simply launch it and drag your audio files into and hit the sync button. That’s it! They are then on your phone without the need for any special hacking, jailbreaking, passwords or other secret backdoors. It even recognized the ringtones that I had added previously with the other app.

While this app is great, I’m not sure if it will be needed much longer. The rumor is that Apple is going to launch a ringtone service during their announcements on September 5th. However, Apple’s solution will likely be a pay per ringtone solution whereas apps like iToner let you use your existing tunes. My hope is that Apple releases their own solution, but doesn’t wipe out or disable the ringtones I’ve already put on there. In other words I hope we’re not "forced" to use their paid service.

iToner is $15 and while there are free solutions out there, none are as easy to use as iToner or as elegant. My biggest ask for the next version is the ability to allow you to trim the songs to just the portion you want to use as a ringtone right in the app. You can download it today and run it in trial mode for 30 days fully functional. That way we can wait and see what happens on the 5th and if we still need it or can still use it, great! Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to buy it only to find out that it’s no longer usable after Apple rolls out their service. So you have nothing to lose. Go download it now and give it a spin.

Nikon fires back…The fight is ON!

It didn’t take long for Nikon to fire back with a slew of announcements of their own. They announced the NEW D300 and D3 and some new lenses. Of course the camera that caught my eye (and hobby budget) was the D300. Once again they seemed to have blurred the lines between the $1,800 D300 and $5,000 D3. Now I have some real comparing to do between the Nikon D300, Canon 40D and Canon 5D. I really want to see some sample images from the Nikon D300 at higher ISO’s. If the image quality has improved then it would be a no brainer to stick with Nikon as I already have an investment in Nikon gear.

 

The good news for all of us consumers is that this competition is good!

A New Look to an Old Resource

This is not my first tech blog. Actually my first tech blog was created last year using Apple’s iWeb and .Mac service. I eventually outgrew it and one of the things that frustrated me then was that there was no way to change the look of it. In other words once you picked a theme you were pretty much stuck with it. Well now that I’ve upgraded to iLife ’08 which includes a new version of iWeb, I was able to change the theme of my old tech blog to make it easier to read. I still don’t plan to go back to iWeb or .Mac for my blog, however, I did a ton of reviews that are still useful today. Unfortunately the Search feature seems to be broken, however the Archive page is working with all my past reviews. Check out the site here.

Is it time to switch to Canon?

As many of you know I’ve been a long time Nikon shooter. However, unlike many photographers out there, the whole Nikon vs. Canon thing is not a religious battle for me. I really don’t have passion for one manufacture over the other. My choice to go with Nikon at the time was simply based upon my desire for a FAST DSLR camera at the time. I was moving up from an Olympus E20N (with a fixed lens) and wanted one of the new hot cameras under $1K. So at the time my choice was between the Canon Rebel which had already been out for about a year and the brand new Nikon D70. I went with the D70 because it had the better specs (faster). Of course once you go with a DSLR you start buying stuff for it and that keeps you pretty tied to that brand. As time went on I accumulated lenses, flashes, etc. Also once the D200 and D80 came out I wanted MORE! So I upgraded to the D80 and passed my D70 on to my wife.

I did recently buy a Canon Powershot 850IS point and shoot camera that so far I’m quite happy with.

Although I’m quite satisfied with my Nikon gear and the shots I get out of my camera, the one thing that intrigues me about Canon is their ability to provide cameras that shoot at higher ISOs in lower light situations with less noise. I read my buddy Scott’s "Canon 5D field report" and it got me thinking again about the whole noise issue. Also Canon just released details on a barrage of new cameras, most notably details on the NEW Canon 40D. This looks like it would be a good choice for me and my "hobby" (I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t make a dime on photography and as much as I would like that new EOS 1Ds Mark III, um, I don’t make a dime on photography) .

 

I’m not quite ready to just switch

I’ve got a lot of time and money invested in my Nikon gear. So I’m not quite ready to head to eBay just yet. However, I could certainly see ADDING a Canon DSLR to my arsenal. If I start using it and more importantly liking it better than my Nikon, I would then consider selling my Nikon gear. Again, I don’t have any strong feelings for one brand over the other. I know pros that use Canon and I know pros that use Nikon and they all seem quite happy with what they use. At Photoshop World each year both Nikon and Canon sponsor photo safaris and both events always sell out. So there seems to be a pretty even mix of users out there.

It would also be nice to have both cameras and simply choose the better camera for the situation. Perhaps using the Canon in portrait and low light shoots and using the Nikon gear for landscape shots? Just a thought.

I promised myself that I would wait for now and see what Nikon comes out with next and then do a comparison of whatever that is to the Canon 40D. However, after reading about the 40D is making this wait a little less comfortable than I first imagined. It’s a good thing the 40D doesn’t ship until sometime in September, otherwise my impulsive nature would be even harder to contain 🙂

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