3 Recent Examples of “I Can’t Believe You Do It This Way”

image compliments of iStockphoto.com

 

 

I'm sure that most of my readers here and certainly most of the tech world is always looking for ways to be more efficient. I'm always looking at ways of cutting out extra steps in my work and of course saving money on the things that I buy and do.  However, some times I run across a company's process that leaves me scratching my head. Here are three recent ones that come to mind…

 

A free drink from Starbucks

It's funny because many would argue that Starbucks is certainly a step in the wrong direction of saving money :) However, this post is not so much about over priced coffee as it is about glaring inefficiencies in the use of technology. I recently reached Starbucks' Gold Status in their rewards program. There are a few perks such as free coffeee refills and drink add-ins. However, their biggest perk is that now after every 15 purchases/stars I get a Free Drink. Cool! I just hit my first Free Drink level and what I expected was that they would merely add the Free drink to my card electronically. That would make the most sense to me and certainly cut down on their costs. No no no. They are mailing me the "Free" drink coupon! They sent me an email to let me know that it's on the way! :)

 

Coinstar ran an iTunes eCertificate special

Coinstar allows you to turn your loose change (coins) into electronic certificates at several merchants such as Amazon.com, Borders, iTunes, The Gap, etc. Right before the Christmas Holiday they ran a special that if you cashed in at least $40 in coins for an iTunes credit they would give you the full amount (no fees/commissions) plus $10 more! Sweet. I rounded up my coins, took them to my closest Coinstar machine and walked out with a printed eCertificate for the full amount in iTunes credit. Great! What about my extra $10? Surely that code was printed on the receipt too. Nope, they mailed me a $10 iTunes Gift Card about 2 weeks later. sigh. By the way, once you scratch off the card, get the code and key it in, the card is pretty much useless at that point. While I'm sure that Coinstar had to buy these cards to use for their program, I'm wondering if it would have made more sense to have the same person that put the card into an envelope to just scratch it off and email me the code. This would have at least saved the paper and postage. 

 

My favorite one of them all – The Water Company

My local water company allows you to pay your bill via an automatic deduction from your bank account. Great! I pay most of my bills this way anyway. The first step in the process was of course to sign up for it. I went to the City's website in search of the form and to my surprise you actually have to (get this) call them and request it be mailed to you. Um, OK. Not really understanding why this couldn't just be a PDF on the website as there was nothing special about the form, I went ahead and made the call. I got the form, filled it out, mailed it back and thought all would be good from that point forward. The next month the amount of the bill was deducted from my checking account as planned. However, I noticed an envelope from them in the mail. I opened it and…..wait for it…..it was a bill with a zero balance. Each month they send me a bill to show me a zero balance.

 

It's 2011!



New Year’s Resolution #27: Get out of cable hell

If you're into gadgets, computers or photography then chances are you have a few cables, connectors or memory cards lying around. I came to realization over the holidays that I must find a better way to keep these things organized. It all began one morning when I went to hook up a new audio system. I needed to join two RCA cables together and I knew that I had a few couplers lying around. I spent about an hour and a half looking for them. Just as I was about to give up and head to Radio Shack to buy a couple more, I found them! I have dozens of little connectors, cables, batteries, remotes, and other widgets in about 6-10 different places in my house. This experience drove me mad! I knew that I had some just sitting there! The question was, WHERE THE #@#% ARE THEY? I needed two and although I found two they weren't even in the same spot. One was in a drawer and I won't even mention where the other one was. It was in that moment that I knew that the reason I couldn't find these things was that they didn't have a home. I bought a storage cabinet that is now dedicated to these kinds of things. I immediately went around to those 6-10 different places gathering all of these little doodads up and put them in their appropriate drawers. 

You can get one of these at your local office supply store or any ______Mart. Here's the one I used above (labels not included).

One of life's little problems solved!



My Top 10 Favorite Gadgets of 2010

Yes it's that time of year again. Happy New Year all and as I start to look forward into 2011 I can't help but take a moment and look back on 2010 and remember the Top 10 Gadgets that made a difference to me. These are 10 of my favorite and most used gadgets of 2010. When choosing these devices one of my criteria was "If I lost it today, would I buy it again in a heartbeat?" So here they are:

 

MiFi 2372 Mobile Hotspot

"Hello my name is Terry White and I'm an internet junkie." I need (ok want) to be connected 24/7. As much as I love finding WiFi hotspots, they just don't exist in enough places. This is where my MiFi 2372 mobile hotspot comes in. Although AT&T recently (FINALLY) introduced this model, I was way ahead of the game by finding an UNLOCKED model and simply plugging in my existing SIM card. This gives me internet access anywhere I am in the world (international data roaming charges withstanding). I would never want to leave without it!

You can get the UNLOCKED MiFi 2372 Mobile Hotspot here for $230.

 

Wacom Intuos4 Wireless

It's hard to believe that there was a time that I would retouch a photo with a mouse or even a trackpad. I'm thankful that those days are long gone! Now I can't imagine retouching a photo in Photoshop without a Wacom tablet. The Intuos 4 Bluetooth model is just about perfect! It's a great tablet that I can cut the cord whenever I want. I can also plug in the USB cord to recharge the battery and keep right on working. Hands down it's my favorite tablet and I use it all the time. Wacom if you're listening, you would make my world complete by introducing a "SMALL" version of the Wireless model for travel. 

You can get the Wacom Intuos4 Wireless here for $385.

 

Nikon D7000

I couldn't be happier with my New Nikon D7000 DSLR. It's everything I wanted in a travel DSLR camera. Full DLSR HD Video as well as great stills. It's definitely one of my favorite things not only for 2010, but of all time! Nikon, if you're listening – isn't it time you built-in GPS geotagging (or at least allowed for an INTERNAL option? Also can we get a decent replacement for the SB-900 with sensors on both sides and one that doesn't overheat in the 1st 15 minutes of shooting? I'm just sayin'.

You can get the Nikon D7000 body here for $1,199.95.

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Review: Nvidia Quadro 4000 for the Mac Pro

I never really used to pay much attention to graphics cards in the past. I figured that the stock video card would be more than enough for my needs. I'm not into hardcore gaming where I would need a high frame rate or rendering lots of 3D work. I've also never really had any complaints with the standard video cards that came with my systems in the past. However, this year when I upgraded my 4 year old Mac Pro to a new 12 Core Mac Pro system, I knew that I was going to replace the stock video card. With the introduction of Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 and the Mercury Playback Engine I knew that I would want a compatible video card to take advantage of it. With Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro it has support for the Nvidia Card's CUDA chips and GPU acceleration. This means playing back multiple layers of HD video with effects in real-time without having to render first. Sign me up!

 

The New Nvidia Quadro 4000

Although I had a loaner Nvidia Quadro 4800 card (their older discontinued card) that worked fine in my new system, I was anxiously awaiting to see the next card they were working on for the Mac Pro. The New Quadro 4000 for Mac (yes it's for PC too) is better in just about every way over the older card. First off it only takes up one slot instead of two like the previous model and the stock ATI card that came with my Mac Pro. Secondly there is a built-in DVI port and a second port in which you can plug in either one of the two supplied dongles. One dongle gives you a Display Port for Apple's and other manufacturers newer displays and the other dongle provides a second DVI port to drive a second display.

Although I'm perfectly happy using this card to drive my existing 30" Cinema Display, it's nice to know that if I ever have to go to a new display with a Display Port connection, I'm all set. Installation was pretty easy. Install the Driver first! Then just open the case unplug the old card and plug in the new one. It did leave an "open" hole (the old card took up two PCI spots) in the back of the machine as Apple doesn't ship a spare cover. I was going to scrounge around my house looking for one (as I'm sure I have a few), but decided to stick an OWC USB 3.0 card in that slot instead.  

This new card is not only slimmer, but also better on power consumption while providing a 30-40% speed improvement over the previous model in intensive graphics work and has more onboard RAM. Again my main concern was more around Video Editing than scientific computations. So my first question to Nvidia was "how much faster is it in Premere Pro CS5 over the previous model?" The answer was "about 10% faster." What this means to you is that if you have an existing Quadro 4800 card, there is very little reason to buy this one! However, if you're in the market for a NEW card to replace the stock ATI card then this is a great choice. It's less expensive than the previous model and like I said it's faster, uses less space and consumes less power. Full Specs Here.

 

Putting it to the test

People that do video editing know what it's like to have to render an effect or scene first to preview it before you can move on to the next edit. If you didn't have to render the scene/effect then your editing is going go much much faster. Although the built-in "Software" Mercury Engine in Premiere Pro CS5 works well on a fast system. Having a compatible Nvidia card with CUDA support simply blows away everything else out there on a desktop system!

I recorded this quick video to show the Mercury Playback Engine in action. Rather than do a typical screen recording using software, I wanted to show the real performance without the screen recording software processing in the background. So in this case I setup a video camera pointing at the screen to show the playback in real-time. Enjoy!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foLxsL5RU6k

 

You can get the Nvidia Quadro 4000 for Mac here for $1,195 or here (thanks Brian Stone for this incredible find) for only $761.78!

 

You can get Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 here.

Download the 30 day trial here and play.



What’s Your eBook Reader of Choice?

I've admitted before that I'm not a big book reader. I read all the time, every day, just not novels. I read magazines, news stories, blogs and even certain chapters in instruction manuals. Therefore I've never had any real interest in eBook readers. I remember when the iPad was announced in January and shipped in April that some were predicting that it would be the end of Amazon's Kindle. After all, certainly no one would be interested in a "one trick pony" if you could get a device that did almost everything and in color to boot. Fast forward to December and Amazon continues to report that Kindle sales are stronger than ever! So it would appear that there is still a healthy market out there of people that want a lightweight, low cost eBook reader. As a matter of fact my college age daughter is a prime example. She has absolutely ZERO interest in the iPad or any other "tablet". She has a MacBook, an iPhone and a 3G Kindle. She's completely satisfied reading books on her Kindle and doing everything else on the other two devices. Some of my relatives opted for the Barnes and Noble Nook this past holiday season. They preferred color and some of the built-in book sharing (LendMe™) features of the Nook as well as being able to check books out from their local library via the device. 

 

The battle is just beginning

I think we're a long ways away from seeing a clear "winner" in this category and I think the one thing that's going to keep this market going is PRICE! The Kindle starts at only $139 and the Barnes and Noble Nook starts at $149. While the iPad starts at $499. If all you care about is reading, then a stand alone eBook reader makes sense over a tablet like the iPad. If nothing else from a sheer cost savings and lighter weight. I think it was also smart of Amazon to make the Kindle App available for multiple platforms (Mac, PC, iOS, Android, etc). It's clear that Amazon has more to gain by selling their titles/content than they do the hardware. By allowing you to buy and read books on just about any device including smartphones, you'll feel more comfortable building a library in that format. 

 

Which one do you prefer?

Since I'm not a "book reader" I'll leave the floor open to you in this case to make your recommendations to my readers. My daughter has a Kindle and loves it. I've played with it and while it's fine for her, I would probably want color. When I do buy eBooks I'm more than likely going to buy them in Kindle format and read them on my iPad. 

 

What I think it would take to kick this market in to high gear

  • EPUBS are designed to reflow based on the device's display size. That's cool, but I would love to see the option to see the book in it's original printed layout too.
  • While you can technically put video/audio in an EPUB, it's not currently part of the EPUB spec. I'm sure it will be in the next rev of the spec in 2011, but we need to see more multi-media "options" sooner rather than later.
  • B&N has the right idea with their book sharing feature. This option should be standard across the board.
  • Lower costs for the titles. As an author I hate to say it, but eBooks can't and shouldn't cost as much as the printed versions. 

These things will come over time, but the market it ready for them now!

 



So what’d you get?

receivegift

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?

 

Hey! If you got an iDevice as a gift, check out Must Have Apps here.

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Thank You!



YouTube Eliminates the 15 Minute Video Limit (for some)

I'm definitely a fan of "shorter is better" when it comes to video. However, sometimes you do need more time. Earlier this year YouTube raised the limit from 10 minutes per video to 15 minutes per video. Now it seems that at least for some accounts they've done away with the time limit all together. There is still a 2GB limit per uploaded movie, but your movie doesn't seem to have a time limit. One user uploaded a 4 hour looping clip just to test it and it worked. 

 

Another nail in the DVD coffin

Before you get your feathers ruffled, I'm not saying that DVD is dead. I certainly realize that some users still have a need to produce and distribute video DVDs. Not everyone has broadband and DVDs offer a way to watch videos OFFLINE. However, the trend is definitely moving away from optical media as a distribution format. Blu-rays and DVDs will be around for a while, but this move by YouTube certainly makes it MUCH EASIER to distribute your flick to friends and family around the globe without burning a single disc. Keep in mind that YouTube also allows you to share clips privately as well as "unlisted". 

 

A gift

I've shared these videos before via my Creative Suite Podcast. However, now that YouTube has virtually eliminated the time limit on my account (I think someone hit the wall at 4 hours), I can share them with you for the first time via YouTube. These are my complete walkthroughs of Adobe Photoshop CS5, InDesign CS5, Illustrator CS5 and Flash Catalyst CS5 in HD. Enjoy!

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8WZjdEtkIg

Adobe Photoshop CS5

 

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Last Minute Gift Ideas Without Leaving Your House!

Last minute gifts

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 get overnight shipping! Be sure to check out my Holiday Gadget Gift Guide here.

 

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, movies, apps and more. Whew!

 

Amazon Printable Gift Certificates

amazongiftcert

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 :)

 

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



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