Apple TV updates and iTunes DRM Free

Apple not only released an update to iTunes (version 7.2) to support their new DRM Free aka iTunes Plus tracks, but they also announced updates to Apple TV. The first one was no surprise as Apple stated a while back that EMI’s catalog would be available in a Digital Rights Management (DRM) free version. These new tracks cost more at $1.29, but they are also sampled at a higher 256K quality AAC format. What’s nice is that iTunes will offer you the option (if you enable iTunes Plus in your account) to upgrade the songs/videos you already own from EMI’s catalog to the DRM/higher quality versions for the difference in price (30¢). I did this for my 71 songs and one music video for a mere $14.25. The iTunes store is being hammered by users downloading all these tracks and my downloads timed out several times before completing. So the question is "will you pay more for DRM free tracks on iTunes?"

The next update came as a surprise!

Apple Announced a new higher capacity Apple TV model sporting a 160GB drive for $399. This was one of the biggest complaints most reviewers had with the original model, which is still available at 40GBs for $299. This update is not earth shattering by any means, however what came as a complete surprise was Apple also announced a partnership with YouTube. Soon (mid-June) you’ll be able to browse the YouTube catalog directly on your Apple TV and stream videos from the popular site. When users were complaining about not having this capability, I wasn’t really one of them because YouTube videos don’t look that great on my computer, how crappy would they look on my high def set? Apparently this was Apple’s concern too. YouTube will be re-encoding all their content in an Apple TV H264/MP4 format which should yield a higher quality look to them. When these videos are ready, you’ll most likely have to do a software update on your Apple TV to add the new YouTube menu option. It’s all good and I welcome this new ability.

Underwater Photography

I bought the Olympus Stylus 720SW last November while on a Caribbean cruise. I blew just about every chance I had since then to grab some shots underwater. My last great opportunity was in Australia at the Great Barrier Reef and just as I was leaving my hotel room headed to the reef for the day, I picked up the 720SW only realize that the battery was dead and I didn’t bring the charger! Arrrrrrggggggh!

So I decided to give it a spin this past weekend in the pool. Sure it’s not as exotic as Australia, but it is water! This camera is waterproof up to 10′ without the need for a special housing. I love the fact that it has built in scene modes just about for every situation (25 in all) including Underwater Snapshot, Under Water Wide 1, Under Water Wide 2 and Under Water Macro.

For a point and shoot camera it does an adequate job. In the scene modes for underwater, I did notice a little more noise than I like, but for an underwater camera that costs less than some housings out there, it ain’ t bad. However, my single biggest complaint remains with this camera and that is Olympus chose to use the xD card format as opposed to the much more popular SD card format. All my other cameras use either SD or Compact Flash. I really don’t need another format such as xD or Memory Stick.

Sony PS3 now upscales regular DVDs

Sony has released the much rumored 1.8 firmware which among many things now upscales standard definition DVDs to HD resolutions. One of the main reasons I got a PS3 was to enjoy Blu-ray HD movies in my theater. I now use it as my primary DVD player and with this new upscaling capability I’m even happier about that move. Also the occasional HD game is cool too.

The other things you find in this update include:

  • Printing images to a supported printer
  • Copying saved data (PS & PS2) to a memory card
  • Viewing files on a DLNA enabled device/media server
  • Remote play
  • and a host of other minor tweaks

90 more gigs! I’ll take it.

While I was quite content with my 160GB drive in my MacBook Pro at first, it’s amazing how fast space goes away when you not only want the Mac version of Adobe’s Creative Suite 3, but also the Windows version too. Not to mention that I now have all of the betas of the CS3 Production Premium video apps too. The next thing I knew I was down to less than 10GB’s of available space left and that’s a little to cramp for my comfort. I was all set to go with the 200GB 7200 rpm Samsung drive (although Samsung is not one of my favorite brands by any means). However, before I could pull the trigger on that one, MCE Technologies announced a package deal on the Western Digital 250GB 5400 rpm drive.

What a choice? 200GBs at 7200 rpms or 250GBs at 5400 rpms. Although I’m a fan of speed, I couldn’t give up the chance to have the extra space at the current speed that I’m used to now. So I pre-ordered the package from MCE and my birthday wish came a little early (yeah, I’m tech guy. These are the kinds of things we really want as gifts). MCE said that the drives would ship on June 1st. However, I got mine this past Friday. Although I’m sure you can get a better deal on the drive alone, I liked the fact that MCE was selling the drive with a USB 2/eSATA case, the cables, instructions and tools to perform the upgrade. All for $279. Speaking of the case, it comes with both the USB 2 data cable and the eSATA data cable as well as a 2nd USB cable that powers the drive. So no AC adapter required.

Installation went well. Here’s how I did it:

First I took my existing backup drive, a 120GB 2.5" SATA and installed it in the USB 2 case that came with the new drive. I then replaced my existing 160GB drive with the new 250GB drive. Keep in mind that my 160GB drive has all my stuff on it. So I put my 160GB drive in another external case. This way I could boot from the backup drive in the USB2 case and perform a CopyCatX duplication of the whole drive (sector-by-sector copy) including my Boot Camp partition. I thought I was home free, except there was one problem. CopyCatX does an EXCELLENT job of making an EXACT copy of one drive to another (SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner can’t do this). However, since I had Boot Camp installed it did NOT automatically expand my Mac partition to see the rest of the space. So what I ended up with was two partitions that were the exact same size as before and the 90GB’s of free space was just sitting there as unformatted free space. This is when I found out that you just can’t expand your partition without wrecking your Boot Camp partition. I tried to do it with iPartition and while it worked for the Mac partition, it rendered my Boot Camp partition unbootable.

So I reformatted the new drive using Disk Utility and simply used SuperDuper (which actually comes on the new drive) to clone my Mac partition from the old drive to the new drive (about 2 hours of cloning). Then I went through the multi-hour drudgery of reinstalling Boot Camp, Windows XP and my Windows apps. While this wasn’t the most fun part of my day, it did give me the opportunity to also bump up the size of my Boot Camp partition. I went from 40GBs to 55GBs in the process.

All is well and I’m back up and running with a total of 90GBs of extra storage. I have a couple of network configuration things to do on the Windows side the next time I’m in an Adobe office, but that’s a minor thing. I recommend this drive to anyone who needs LOTS more space in their notebook. If you have Boot Camp, get ready to reinstall it. Hopefully Apple will make tasks like this easier when Boot Camp comes out in its final form in Mac OS X 10.5. I also hope that they make it possible to have (support) more than two partitions (Mac & PC) with Boot Camp installed. I would like to have a 3rd partition that is for data files that could be shared between the two environments and multiple users on the Mac OS X side.

Lightroom still on sale at Amazon.com

Hey! It looks like someone forgot to tell Amazon.com that Adobe Photoshop Lightroom now goes for $299. There was an introductory price of $199 from February (when the product shipped) until the end of April. But it appears that Amazon still has some of those $199 boxes left. So while they have supplies left of the introductory sku’s you can get Lightroom for only $199.49. However, you’d better hurry as it says "while supplies last!".

Adobe CS3 Tour in Austin – Live

I’m here in Austin Texas which is the second stop of the Adobe CS3: Creative License Tour. We have another standing room only audience of over 450 people. We’re having a great time learning all about Creative Suite 3. As part of my keynote address I do this live blog post by shooting a shot of the audience and then I process it in Bridge/Photoshop CS3 Camera RAW, from there I move the image into Adobe Contribute CS3 to combine it with this text and hit publish.

I’m joined by Lisa Forrester who’s covering Design Premium, Kyle Thompson who’s covering the Web Premium Suite and Kevan O’Brien who will be wrapping up the day with the brand new Production Premium CS3. By the way it’s 80• and sunny 🙂 I hope to see you at one of the upcoming cities

Print your boarding pass in the hotel lobby

I have to admit that I’m rather stunned at the number of hotels I’ve stayed at recently that are now allowing you to print your boarding pass for your flight from a walk up kiosk FREE OF CHARGE! This is from the same industry that charges $3.50 for a bottle of water in your room and a $1 per page for an incoming fax ($4 per page if you stay at the downtown Chicago Hyatt).

It’s easy! You walk up, click the mouse to kill the screen saver and there is already a page up with links to most if not all of the airlines. Click on the one you want and check in for your flight. Print your boarding pass on the attached laser printer and walk away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining and actually appreciate this service tremendously. I’m just shocked that they don’t try to charge for it (yet). If your hotel doesn’t have this yet, fill out those little survey cards in your room and ask, why not? My last 3 hotel stays offered this.

Boston loves Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

I’m here today at the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston attending the Scott Kelby Photoshop Lightroom Tour. I’m fielding questions on Lightroom during the breaks and learning some pretty cool tips. The Lightroom product manager Tom Hoggerty is also here and promises to show a sneak peek of what’s coming in the next update. Scott is presenting to a sold out crowd of over 500 people. If this is any indication of where the industry is going, it certainly points to the success of Lightroom and the importance of digital photography workflows.

Scott starts out with a live photo shoot of a bride and then goes right into the Lightroom workflow covering the Library, Develop, Slideshow, Web and Print modules.

Chicago CS3 Event – Live!

I’m here presenting at the Adobe CS3: Creative License Tour in Chicago. Part of my presentation involves doing a live post to my blog using Adobe Contribute CS3. The audience here has been great and we are having a blast learning about all the new CS3 products. We have over 550 people here at the beautiful Navy Pier in Chicago. I hope to see you in the upcoming cities.

We had to bring in more chairs! What a great response to CS3.

The Navy Pier location was great for this type of event, although finding the correct room/hall was challenging for some.

I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity for a few shots right outside our presentation area of this rustic looking lighthouse.

The Bean Bag is back in style

I love my Garmin Nuvi GPS however, I’m not a fan of windshield suction cups. While they work for the most part, I primarily use my Nuvi in rental cars and therefore have to move the mount from car to car each time I travel. I’ve had the Nuvi literally fall off the window on more than one occasion while driving. While the Nuvi has survived the fall each time, it was a pain in the butt (and a hazard to my fellow motorists) to get it back on the windshield. So I started looking for other mounting solutions when I came across this “Portable Friction Mount – ie. Bean Bag” on Garmin’s site. In order to use this mount you also need the Automotive Mount. The Automotive Mount is designed to stick permanently on your dashboard as some states don’t allow anything to be mounted to the windshield (probably for the reasons above). However, it does slide neatly and not permanently into the Bean Bag mount. So in theory you could use the base that comes with the Automotive Mount in your car and still travel with the Bean Bag mount and the part that attaches to the Nuvi for other/rental cars. This isn’t a concern for me as my personal vehicles all have factory navigation in them already.

I took the Bean Bag mount for a test drive and it stayed in place even on those Indy 500 style turns that I’m known for. It’s also neat to just pickup the whole thing when you arrive and go inside. If you find that suction mounts “suck (or don’t suck)”, then I highly recommend this solution!

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