Gadget of the Year 2014: WD 1TB MyPassport Wireless

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I come across a lot of really cool gadgets all year long. Some are cool just from a technology perspective and others are cool because they’re really really useful. However, when I look back at 2014 there is one gadget that really stands out as cool technology AND really useful. External hard drives are a dime a dozen and pretty much a commodity these days. The cost of storage has really dropped. The capacities have gone up. So what would make an external portable hard drive so special that it’s my pick for Gadget of the Year 2014?

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This one has so many uses that I sometimes lose track. The WD 1TB MyPassport Wireless hard drive is a portable hard drive that has built-in WiFi connectivity. This means that not only can you connect to it via USB 3.0, but you can also connect to it from any computer or mobile device even if there is no WiFi hotspot nearby.

Use it wirelessly from your computer(s)

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The MyPassport shows up as a shared volume in Mac OS X.

 

Once the drive has been configured all you have to do is turn the drive on and it can either create its own adhoc wireless network or join an existing one. In either case you can see the drive as a “network volume” directly from your desktop/laptop OS without any special software. You can copy files to it or from it. Up to 8 devices can connect to the WD MyPassport Wireless at one time.

Use it from your iPad, iPhone or Android mobile devices

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Download the WD My Cloud app for your mobile platform (iOS or Android). Join the network that the drive creates or see it on your existing network. Now you have 1TB of extra storage to use on your mobile devices. Want to take a bunch of movies with you on a trip and stream them to your iPad? No problem. Just load up the drive before you leave your home/office and view any compatible videos on the drive. Yes it also works for music and pictures too. No need to copy this media to your mobile device because you can just stream it. Wondering what you’ll do for power on say a plane? No problem the drive has a built-in rechargeable battery so stream away… The iOS App even has AirPlay built-in so that you can stream from the drive and play to an Apple TV or speaker system.

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The Killer Feature: A Built-In SD Card Reader with Auto Import

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While the above features alone make this a pretty cool device, there is one feature that takes it over the top. I get this question all the time: “I’m going on vacation and I don’t want to take my laptop. Is there a device that allows me to backup my photos while I’m out of town?” Until now the options were few and expensive. By putting an SD card reader on this drive it just got a whole lot easier to backup those precious memories on the go. You can either manually import the pictures via the web interface or the App or you can configure the drive to do an “auto import” each time you stick a memory card in. It will copy the entire card (yes even the RAW files and movies) to the hard drive. The drive doesn’t have a display. However, there’s nothing stopping you from viewing your shots on your nice big iPad display or your phablet – WIRELESSLY!

The Bottom Line

This gadget has uses for everyone that I know. If you’re just a regular user needing more storage on the go, you’ve got it. If you’re a photographer this becomes an indispensable tool in your mobile workflow. Western Digital thought of everything on this one. It does everything I would expect it to do as if I had designed it myself.

You can get the WD 1TB MyPassport Wireless drive here.

Better yet, you can get the WD 2TB MyPassport Wireless drive here. <-it’s a better deal!



So What’d You Get?

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photo compliments of iStockphoto.com

It’s that time of year again. My annual “So what’d you get?” I’ve been reviewing my favorite gadgets, services and photo gear all year long. Now it’s your turn! Tell us what you got this holiday season (tech wise) that you’re excited about? Use the comments section below. Tell us what it is, why you like it and provide links if you can? Did you get or give anything from my holiday gadget gift guide?

 

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Merry Christmas to All of my Fans and Followers

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just wanted to take this opportunity to not only wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season, but also to thank you for all your support and encouragement throughout the year! I wish you the best for 2015!

May all your tech, design and photographic Christmas wishes come true!

Terry

Last Minute Gift Ideas Without Leaving the House

Last minute gifts

Welcome to my annual reminder: You forgot _______________. It happens. That relative or friend walks through the door that you totally forgot to get a gift for and you feel bad. Yep, it happens. Personally, I wouldn’t sweat it. However, for those of you who do (you know who you are) here are a couple of things you can do to save the day.

First off it may not be too late to give an I.O.U.! Be sure to check out my¬†Holiday Gadget Gift Guide here. Let them know it’s on the way and just won’t arrive in time. I’d be happy with a cool gift that’s coming!

iTunes Printable Gift Certificates

iTunes

When you go to hang up their coat, head to your computer and fire up iTunes. Then go to the iTunes Store and buy a “Printable” gift certificate. You can print it (quietly) on your printer, fold it and stick it in one of those emergency cards that you keep around. Oh yeah, you forgot those too. OK, a handwritten envelope will do. You can then explain to them that with this they can download music, books, movies, apps and more. Whew!

 

Amazon Printable Gift Certificates

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OK, so the person that just walked in is not into digital entertainment. I get it! No problem. Head over to Amazon.com (here’s the link to get you directly to the gift certificates. This way you won’t be out of the room any longer than you have to be) and buy a gift certificate and print it out. Now they can go order whatever they want since Amazon sells just about everything.

Lastly pride yourself on avoiding the mall today :)

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and get back to your guests :)

Review: Nikon D750 and Nikon 20mm Wide Angle Lens

D750

I must admit that when I first saw the specs for the Nikon D750 I wasn’t really too excited. It fits between the Nikon D610 and D810 both spec wise and price wise. However, I decided to go ahead and take it for a spin if for no other reason than to give my opinion about it to my readers. What I didn’t expect to happen was that I would fall in love with shooting with it.

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The Nikon D750 functions pretty much just like my Nikon D600. A few of the controls have been moved around, but certainly nothing you couldn’t get used to very quickly. There is definitely a difference in dynamic range or at least to my eye the D750 does a better job as it should.

 

Thrilled with the built-in WiFi

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I’ve been complaining for years that DSLRs should have both WiFi and GPS built-in. You can find these features on lower end cameras all day long, but why not the higher end models? My Nikon reps tell me it’s because the alloys used in the pro bodies and I say BS. There has to be a way to have WiFi/GPS AND a metal/weather secure body. It’s not rocket science (we communicate millions of miles with a probe on an asteroid). The D750 answers one of my two wishes. It has built-in WiFi. No need for a small external module. It’s in the camera! Finally! This means that I have a native workflow that I can use to shoot RAW to the 1st card slot and basic JPG to the 2nd card slot. Those small JPGs can be sent to my iPhone or iPad FASTER as I shoot them for review.

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While this feature works just fine with Nikon’s App, I much prefer ShutterSnitch for iPad and iPhone when I just want to shoot wirelessly to my mobile devices.

Get ShutterSnitch here from the .

Get the Nikon WiFi app here from the .

 

The camera does a great job with skin tones

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I shoot a wide range of skin tones in my portrait sessions and I’ve always been happy with the results from my Nikon DSLRs. The D750 continues this tradition giving me great results. The EXPEED 4 sensor is a nice improvement over the EXPEED 3 found in my D600.

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The colors thus far have been spot on with the D750.

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The Nikon 20mm f/1.8 Wide Angle Lens

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ATL-Hartsfield

I’m sorry that I don’t have a better subject to show off this lens than the airport at night, but the weather here has been kind of sucky for the past few days. Nonetheless, this is a great lens. I already have the Nikon 14-24mm lens, but this one covers the sweet spot for a lot less money. If I didn’t already have a great wide angle lens, I’d get this one in a heart beat!

It’s a fast f/1.8 lens with no distortion that I can see. No fisheye effect, just great wide angle results and great low light performance.

 

The Bottom Line

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This camera is a solid upgrade for those looking to step into a 24.3MP full-frame DSLR or those looking for something a little better than the D610. It lists for $1,000 less than the D810. It also has improved video specs now doing 1080p video at 60fps (yes 4K would have been even better, but I’ll take the faster 1080p video for now. My only complaint with this model is that for some reason it seems slow when going into the menu. Normally on all my other Nikon DSLRs the menu comes up the moment you press the button, but for some reason the D750 hesitates for a couple of seconds. I’ve debated going to the Nikon D810 and moving up from my D600, but I think I’ll be taking this intermediate step instead. While I love the more “pro” feel of the D810 and the higher dynamic range, I’m still not thrilled with the 36MP RAW files (or smaller sRAW) file sizes that it produces. For my workflow and the way I shoot the D750 is (as much as I hate to admit it) simply a better fit. Of course that doesn’t mean that I ultimately won’t end up with both bodies :-)

Get the Nikon D750 Body here.

Get the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens here.

 



6 Last Minute Gift Ideas for the Photographer On Your List

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I haven’t met a photographer yet that has everything they want. It’s getting down to the wire, but there’s still time. If you have a photographer on your holiday gift list, I’ve hand picked 5 gifts that he or she will love. Best of all they are all under $500 (some below $200). So in no particular order let’s get to it:

 

CamRanger

camranger

CamRanger is a wireless/WiFi control system for the most popular Nikon and Canon DSLRs out there. Once your photographer has CamRanger setup they can wirelessly control their camera from a mobile device such as an iPad as well as see the images their taking as they take them wirelessly on the same mobile device.

Get it here.

 

Westcott 6-in-1 42″ Illuminator Set

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This is definitely my favorite reflector and diffuser kit and I take it on all my portrait location shoots.

You can get it here.

 

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan Card

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If you have a photographer on your list then they will certainly appreciate always having the latest versions of Photoshop CC and Lightroom. Even if they are already Creative Cloud Photography Plan members, this card will give them another full year of membership.

You can get it here.

 

Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Book Box Set

ScottKelbyDigital PhotographyBook

Get the photographer on your list a wealth of knowledge from the world’s best selling photography book author, Scott Kelby.

You get all 5 books for one low price here. Also don’t forget to check out his NEW Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers here.

 

Wacom Intuos Pro Medium Tablet

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I can’t imagine retouching a photo without a Wacom tablet. I just would rather wait until I got home or back to the office. This is why there’s one on my desk and one in my bag.

You can get the medium version here.

 

Westcott Rapid Box Octa 26″

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This is hands down my favorite on location softbox for speedlights. Quick and easy to setup and a great quality of light output.

You can get it here.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the items in my 2014 gift guide

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here.



Towel Hub: A USB Charging Station for your Kitchen

towel_hub

Here’s a clever idea for a gadget that looks cool and serves multiple purposes. The Towel Hub is a standard paper towel dispenser. However, at the base you’ll find 4 USB ports to charge your devices. The kitchen seems to be the hub in many homes and now you have a cool way to charge your mobile devices while you hang out at the bar, kitchen table or breakfast nook. You probably have already guessed how this product works. just plug in the AC adapter to a wall outlet, put your roll of paper towel on it and you’re done. You can now plug in up to 4 mobile devices and they will charge. There’s enough juice to charge your smartphone and your tablet. If this was all it did I would be happy. However, there’s more. The decorative top also servers as a topper for your wine bottles. If you want to take things up a notch you can opt for the model that also has a built-in bluetooth speaker for music playback.

I’m really happy with this addition to my kitchen and it would also make a great gift for the holidays.

You can get the standard model here.

You can get the model that includes a built-in bluetooth speaker here.

You can also get SHORT Lightning cables here.

The Moleskine Smart “Creative Cloud Connected” Notebook

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As much as I love technology, for many artists nothing beats good ole pen/pencil and paper. Sure we can now sketch right on our iPads or draw with a Wacom tablet right on our computers. However, if you just love the feel of paper then you’ll really like the NEW Moleskine Smart Notebook, which is now Creative Cloud connected. The idea is simple, draw with whatever tools you like to draw with in your notebook. Once you have your analog masterpiece on the page, fire up the companion app on your smartphone and capture your drawing. Once you capture it the app will automatically detect the alignment points on the page and align as well as fix the perspective of your drawing in the app. Next you can process the image and convert it to vectors. Lastly with one tap you can upload both the original capture as a JPG and the vector conversion as .SVG which you can open in Adobe Illustrator and edit the vectors.

Rather than continue to describe it, here’s a video from start to finish:

 

You can get the Moleskine Smart Notebook here.

You can get the companion App here:

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Delta Studio: Good Idea. Really Bad Implementation.

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P.S. don’t tease me with screenshots of movies that aren’t actually available on my flight…

As a frequent flier (Diamond Medallion – Million Miler) on Delta I’ve always applauded them for their firsts in making air travel a tad bit more enjoyable. It’s tough to please fliers these days because airlines tend to care more about profits these days than making the flying experience more enjoyable for its customers. However, Delta tends to come out on top when it comes to overall customer satisfaction and that’s largely in part due to the fact that they invest in their planes and try to offer a bit more than the others. Delta for example has more domestic planes equipped with WiFi than any other carrier. So much so that when I’m sometimes forced to fly other carriers I feel like I’ve stepped back in time. One of their latest perks recently introduced is Delta Studio. The idea is simple. Using your mobile device, say an iPad you can launch the Delta App and choose various video entertainment to stream over the plane’s WiFi. This content would play from the plane’s on board systems rather than streaming over the relatively slow Gogo Inflight internet. Sounds simple right? It should be, but Delta (and Gogo) chose a really bazar way to make this work. I’ve tried it twice now and have yet to be able to watch anything!

Here’s how it works currently…

You might think that you fire up the Delta App, choose a movie or tv show and watch it right? Nope. It’s not that simple. If you do fire up the Delta App first it will simply tell you that you don’t have anything in your library. Well OK, that kinda makes sense a little.

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Fine, let’s add something to “My Library”. Here’s where it starts to get strange. The Delta App tells you that you must leave the app and launch Safari to add content to your Library via the GoGo website. This one really boggles my mind. First off, Apple for years has allowed developers to build a browser (Safari) into their apps. So if the Delta App needed to go to a browser it could simply just bring up a window right in the App. No need to leave.

Nonetheless I launched Safari and navigated to the GoGo website. I signed into my account. I went to the entertainment tab and I found a movie that I wanted to watch and it was free. Awesome! I added it to my library and then tapped to watch it now. The website asked me to pick an app to watch it with and of course I picked the Delta app. It took me right back to the Delta App only to tell me that the movie was unavailable. WTF?

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Sure, there could have been a problem with that selection. No problem, I went back to Safari and this time (silly me), I picked a movie that I had to rent. The cost was $6. I paid it and once again I tapped to watch it in the Delta app and I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that this movie was also unavailable and no there was no apparent way to get a refund.

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I was at a loss for words since the Gogo site knows which plane you’re on when you’re logged in and therefore should know what’s available and what’s NOT. Alas, I went back to work on my iPad and needless to say I wasn’t entertained. You actually allowed me to choose a movie, pay for it, only to tell me after the fact that it’s not available.

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Delta and Gogo, if you’re reading this, you’re current implementation is screwed up at best. It appears that Gogo is collecting the money for the content and that’s fine, but there is absolutely no reason that this transaction shouldn’t be transparent to the user and the entire process should happen within the Delta App. I’ve been on two flights thus far and have yet to see any of this wonderful content. The first time was on a flight without the entertainment system and therefore there were no videos available but at least it told me that up front instead of wasting my time having me browse selections that I would never be able to actually view.

BTW: Will I ever get my $6 back?

UPDATE: Gogo reached out to me on twitter to tell me that they found my purchase and refunded it. Thanks!

The way it should be

I can’t help but think about the iTunes model. If I buy/rent a movie on iTunes then it’s available to me on all of my devices at any time when I have a connection. I have the ability to download the video to my device or simply stream it. If we apply this to the Delta/Gogo model then I would envision something similar. I’m a Delta customer with a “my library”. I would be able to browse content and make choices up to 24 hours before my flight for streaming. Once I make my choices those files are download to the plane that I’m going to be on (with the 24 hour window before my flight). I fire up my device in the air and the content is streamed locally from the plane’s servers. If someone else rents/buys the same content/movie then great. You only have to download it to the plane once and stream it to both of us saving you money. Until it’s this seamless I think I’ll stick to my TiVo and iTunes content downloading to my devices the night before the flight as usual.

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