Wireless Speakers: Bluetooth vs. AirPlay

We're on the verge of seeing several new wireless speakers enter the market place. The question though is which wireless technology is going to be right for you? The two formats that will likely be competing for our attention (and dollars) are Bluetooth and Apple's New AirPlay technology found in iDevices running iOS 4.2.

When AirPlay was first announced iHome teased us with a pre-announcement of an AirPlay speaker iW1 they were going to release. No real details were given at the time. So we continue to wait.

In the meantime Jawbone just announced their new Jambox Bluetooth wireless speaker. This one got my attention because in the iOS 4 Apple finally brought "full" Bluetooth Stereo support to iOS. You might remember my review of the Sony Bluetooth Stereo headset and using it with the iPhone. Back then I was able to use it to listen to music and make/receive calls, but the skip forward/back buttons on the headset were non-functional with the iPhone. Now they work fine with the latest iOS.
 

Advantages of Bluetooth Speakers

Bluetooth has been around a lot longer and is built-in to lots of devices. If you get a Bluetooth Speaker chances are you'll be able to use it with more than just your Apple gear. Bluetooth is also peer to peer which means you don't have to be on a network to use it. Once your device is paired to the speaker you can just use the speaker wirelessly anytime you're within 30 feet of it regardless of whether or not a Wi-Fi network is within range.
 

Advantages of AirPlay

AirPlay is new so the performance is yet to be seen. However, seeing how it's built on AirTunes that has been around for a while I'm not expecting any major issues. Video performance will be the only unknown factor at this point. AirPlay has the advantage of distance. While Bluetooth has a limited range of about 30 feet, AirPlay is based on Wi-Fi and therefore can go several hundred feet. You could fire up your iPad that is docked in the living room and pump music out to a speaker on the deck. AirPlay is also not limited to just audio. With AirPlay in theory someone could build a speaker with an LCD in it to be able to watch video content on, in addition to listening to audio content. I don't think we'll see a lot of devices in this category because in order to make sense the device would have to be the size of a TV. However, that does beg the question: will we see big screen TV's with AirPlay built-in? Now that would be cool! Lastly AirPlay has the advantage of being able to stream audio to more than one AirPlay speaker at a time. With AirTunes the current limitation is 3 devices. I use this ability now all the time by sending music from an iMac to the stereo in the living room and the Bose speaker in the Kitchen.

 

The Bottom Line

While I'm tempted to get the new Jawbone Jambox Speaker just to play, the $199 price tag is a bit of a show stopper for me. While I'm sure it sounds great, I just don't have enough of a need for a "Bluetooth" wireless speaker to drop $200 on it. However, if an AirPlay speaker hits the market soon I'd be more willing to spend the money on it to replace my current setup in the kitchen (a Bose SoundDock connected to an AirPort Express). While the Bose SoundDock has amazing sound, I'd replace it for something that was self contained. (Bose are you listening?) The only reason I have an AirPort Express in that room is to drive that speaker. We should also see some Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi devices in the coming months that will allow streaming without the need of a Wi-Fi hotspot. Ultimately this technology may surpass Bluetooth if it catches on because of the increased range. Things are going to heat up soon and you're going to have lots of choices. Stay tuned!

My New ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive Backpack

While planing my trip to Egypt I figured I'd be carrying a little more camera gear than usual to capture this amazing location and while I love my Kata backpack it just wasn't big enough for this trip. My need was to have a backpack that would carry two camera bodies, all the lenses I wanted, my Wacom Intuos 4 Small Tablet, accessories and oh yeah my MacBook Pro 15" and my iPad. I HATE checking luggage and I would never check my gear anyway. However, if I can carry one bag of gear (my smaller personal item that must fit under the seat in front of me) and the larger bag for clothes (going in the overhead bin, wheels inward) then I'm a happy guy. Having been totally satisfied with my larger ThinkTank Airport International 2.0  Roller bag I decided to look to ThinkTank for a backpack this time. I ordered the Streetwalker HardDrive Backpack and when it arrived I was a little freaked out at how long it was. Sizewise it was perfect in that it could hold everything I wanted to take on my trip. However, I just wasn't sure if it would fit under the seat of a domestic flight. I took the chance and headed out with the bag figuring worse case scenario would be that I would check my clothes/suitcase. 

 

It fits!

I had no problem fitting it under the seat. As a matter of fact it even fit in that skinny area under the seat that my normal laptop bag never fits in. I was also able to fit the MacBook Pro and iPad in the laptop area. However, had it been an inch longer the flight attendants may have complained of it being a potential tripping hazard. Although this backpack can accommodate a tripod on the front I didn't push my luck 🙂

 

What's in it this week?

I brought along a few goodies for the trip 🙂

Yes I can still lift it and wear it comfortably on my back. 

 

How would I redesign it?

No product is perfect for all users. Although I'm really digging this bag I would make a couple of changes in the next version (again to fit my needs). First off tablets (both computer and graphics) are becoming more and more popular. The outside pocket on the front would be perfect for an iPad if it were just a little wider and deeper. Although the main camera compartment zippers can be secured with a lock (optional), the computer area doesn't have any security features at all. Granted I'm traveling with more valuable photography gear this time than computer gear (and I never let it out of my sight anyway), but that doesn't mean that my computer gear isn't valuable and crucial to my trip. 

 

The Bottom Line

If you need a well made backpack that can hold quite a bit of camera gear AND your laptop, look no further. The ThinkTank Streetwalker (the name sounds so…) HardDrive is available here for $179.

 

P.S. many of you are waiting for my 1st impressions/review of the Nikon D7000. In a word it's AWESOME! More later, but here's my first shot taken last night after walking into my hotel room in the dark at ISO 6400. I'm doing the happy dance with this camera! It's everything I wanted it to be. More  later as I have more shooting to do 🙂

If you need a gadget mount Arkon has you covered

My first experience with Arkon mounts was their Vent Mounts for iPhone and later a vent mount for my Garmin Nuvi GPS (R.I.P. now that I use my iPhone for GPS navigation). These initial reviews led to a great relationship with the manufacturer and being one of the first to play with their latest and greatest mounts. I must admit being a little overwhelmed (in a good way) by the vast variety of choices they offer. Arkon makes a mount for just about everything that you would want to mount in your car or on your desk. 

 

So what's New?

A new portable stand for your iPad or other tablet computer! When I opened the box, I didn't know what it was (there were other mounts in the box too). I knew they were sending me their new iPad stand, but it was so compact and light weight folded down that I didn't recognize it right away for what it was. As a frequent traveler "small" and "light weight" means that it stands a good chance of going in my bag. This new stand is so simple. Folded down it easily fits in a pocket in my laptop bag. However, it's both rigid enough and strong enough unfolded to hold the iPad with ease!

You can get this new iPad/tablet stand here for $16.95. See it in action in this short clip:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ySZx-GWDEU

 

Don't have an iPad?

No worries. They have something for just about everyone!

 

 

These guys are GREAT to deal with and they are always inventing new mounts and holders for our favorite gadgets. See all of their various solutions here.

What a Difference a Flag Can Make

The other day I was in the studio taking some portrait shots and for some reason I was getting lens flare left and right. I thought to myself I've done this lighting setup more times than I can count and I just don't remember ever having this many lens flare problems before. Then it dawned on me that I hadn't setup any flags.

I typically have a second light off to the side behind the subject as a wrap around light or hair light and normally I have a homemade flag (it's just a big piece of black cardboard) separating that second light from me. In other words the light is lighting the subject, but not directly shining back into the lens. Once it hit me what the problem was I just moved the light until the problem went away. I was being lazy and just didn't feel like digging out my flag and setting it up. This is definitely the wrong way to do it. I should have put the light where I wanted it and then flagged it. I think that part of the problem was that my makeshift flag is big and a pain to get to stand up on its own. I realized at that moment it's time to invest in some "real" flags. I have nothing against do-it-yourself-solutions. However, when the solution becomes too much of  a pain that you sacrifice the setup you want as a result,it's time to come up with something better. So I took the advice of my buddies over at D-Town TV and ordered the Matthews 24×36 flags.

TiVo outs a NEW Wireless 802.11N Adapter and it costs how much?

I applauded TiVo many times in the past for making a relatively inexpensive 802.11g adapter for their DVRs. It's great to be able to put a TiVo on your WiFi network just by plugging in a simple adapter and having the support BUILT-IN to the DVR itself so it's drop dead simple to setup. Although 802.11g isn't the fastest in the world it does work and I've been happy with it here in my rooms where an Ethernet drop wouldn't be easy. So needless to say I got excited when I saw yesterday's announcement that they finally came out with an 802.11n version until I saw the price! $89.99 Seriously? Now I don't want to get into the "hey they can charge whatever they want and you can either buy it or not argument". I invented that argument 🙂 However, for a company that is struggling to remain relevant in this world of "we'll give you a DVR FREE if you sign up with our service", I think that this smacks of "they don't get it." The former adapter was under $40. I can't imagine that this one costs more than twice as much to produce or even invent, but hey TiVo it's your business at risk, not mine. Continue doing what you're doing. It's your call.

 

What about the performance?

Putting price aside for a minute. I'm even more curious about how much better this thing will perform? The reason I say that is because I have some TiVo HDs on Ethernet and some on the WiFi 802.11g adapter and from my limited testing I can't really see much if any difference in speed of transferring content from say one connected via Ethernet to my computer also connected via Ethernet vs. the one connected via WiFi. However, my daughter often complains that the TiVo in my bedroom (on WiFi) is slower when transferring shows from another TiVo in the house (on Ethernet) vs. the one in the living room which is on Ethernet transferring from another one in the house on Ethernet. So this is a test I'm willing to try. Stay tuned…

iPad Camera Connection Kit Review

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFtx9HzM-lE

 

As a photographer one of the iPad accessories I was most anticipating was the iPad Camera Connection Kit. This kit consists of TWO adapters that connect right to the iPad's Dock connector. The first one is a standard SD (SDHC) Memory Card reader. You connect it to your iPad and then insert a memory card with images/videos on it and transfer those images to your iPad. No software to install because the iPad already has this ability built-in to the Photos App. The second adapter has a standard USB port on the oppositie end of the Dock connector. With this one you can not only connect your camera via USB and transfer images directly, but as my video above shows you can even use a Card Reader with it! This overcomes (although not as elegantly) the problem of wanting to use Compact Flash or other card formats. 

 

How does it work?

Continue reading “iPad Camera Connection Kit Review”