Best App Site Gets a Make Over

Along with reviewing technology and gadgets, I also review mobile apps. When the App Store came out a few years ago I started doing an “App of the Week” here on my blog. However, I realized that one iOS App per week just wouldn’t cut it seeing how there there hundreds if not thousands of Apps being released every week. So I decided to setup a dedicated site Best App Site so that App reviews could happen more regularly and also not tie up space here for reviews that some may have no interest in. One of Best App Site’s co-authors and web designer Erik Bernskiold just overhauled the site with a new look and feel. Aside from making the site more appealing to the eye, Erik also did quite a bit a work on the backend to make it easier for us to post reviews and to make it easier for visitors to find the reviews they want. The New Best App Site also is even more mobile friendly with a fluid design that quickly adapts to tablets and smartphones.

A big thanks to Erik and I hope that all of you enjoy the new site as much as I do! Head over to bestappsite.com and check it out.

AR.Drone 2.0 – My In Studio Test Flight

When the original AR.Drone came out I have to admit that I immediately dismissed it as a “toy” and I had very little interest in it. Sure, like any toy it would be fun to play with for a while. However, like many other toys you could quickly lose interest. Therefore I never bought one. Not even for the “cool (aka geek) factor”.  Then the AR Drone 2.0 came along and it added something that I thought would be useful. The AR Drone 2.0 adds a better camera that does video at 720p HD. Yes, this raised an eyebrow and I decided to take a look. I did a pre-order and my AR.Drone showed up a couple of days ago. I figured I might have a use for this on set, especially on location shoots to do fly arounds of the set and the area that I’m photographing.

What’s Great…

The great thing about this little drone is that it’s light weight and very easy to fly. It doesn’t come with a remote control! You actually fly it from your mobile device (iOS or Android). I downloaded the App on my iPad and iPhone. The AR Drone 2.0 has it’s own built-in WiFi network. Once you charge the battery and pop it in, it powers up and starts broadcasting a network. You connect to this adhoc network from your device and then launch the AR Drone App (a free download). You see what the AR Drone sees right on your device. Using the accelerometers in your iPad, iPhone, etc. you tilt the device to control direction. There’s an on screen joystick to turn the drone. If you suddenly lose control, just take your fingers off the screen and the Drone will hover in place.

Since the built-in camera is always running you can tap the record button within the App and start recording/streaming video from the AR Drone right to your mobile device. Very Cool! The App even allows sharing directly to YouTube.

Here’s a sample video I did flying around my photography studio while a friend also video’d the AR.Drone 2.0 itself using my iPhone 4s:

What’s not so great…

Battery life is still relatively SHORT! You get one rechargeable battery and charger and the battery last for about 10 minutes of flying. Then you’ll need about 90 minutes to charge it back up. Unless you plan to do really short flights/videos, you’ll definitely want to have a couple of charged batteries on hand (about $35 each). It’s light weight and while that’s a good thing for travel, it means that a strong wind will take it away. Since it works via WiFi you’ll also have limited range. Like most small cheap HD cameras, this one doesn’t do well in low light. With a small lens/sensor comes lower quality video in low light. However, with enough light the video is more than acceptable for my needs.

The Bottom Line

The AR.Drone 2.0 is an improvement over the original! Adding 720p Video Recording makes it useful as a tool. On a calm day I can really see some great outdoor uses for it.

You can get the AR.Drone 2.0 for about $299 here.

You can get the AR.Drone Free Flight iOS App here from the iTunes

Homeworks Internet Controllable Radio Thermostat

Programmable thermostats are certainly not a new thing. I’ve had one in my home for several years. They allow you to lower your energy costs by turning the temperature up/down automatically at times throughout the day/night where you’re either not home or wouldn’t notice as much because you’re asleep. You can set these times and days of the week to match your daily routine/schedule. While that’s all well and good, it doesn’t help much in a situation where you don’t have a daily routine. For example, in my studio I’m not there on any kind of regular schedule. Some days I could be there every day for several days in a row and other times I could be gone for weeks at a time. In the past I would simply put the thermostat on the lowest setting before I leave and turn it back up when I arrive. There have also been times where I’ve forgotten to turn it down and the heat was going for no reason for a day or two with no one there. I started looking for a better solution.

The Homeworks Radio Thermostat was the answer

This thermostat is programmable like all the others, but it also allows you to control it via an App on your smartphone or tablet over the internet or locally via WiFi! With the App I can see the current temperature of the studio AND adjust the thermostat remotely at any time. If I forget to adjust it when I leave, no problem as I can now adjust it from anywhere in the world. If I want to turn the air conditioning on to cool it down before I arrive, I just pull out my iPhone and adjust the thermostat on my way in. So far this device and App have worked really well.

Installation – While I have installed thermostats myself in the past, I decided to let my electrician do it since I had him out working on other things anyway. It didn’t take him long to wire it up. Once It was installed all I had to do was set it up via the iOS App (works on Android too) and connect it to my WiFi network and pair to my account. From that point I could control it from my iPhone or iPad inside the building or via the internet from anywhere. The only thing that I can’t seem to figure out how to do is to switch it from Heat to Cool or to Auto from the App. I can do this from the panel itself, but not remotely. Otherwise, I have the control I need from the App.

You can get the Homeworks Radio Thermostat here for about $107.

You can get the App for free here from the iTunes

Which iPad WiFi+4G LTE is Better: Verizon or AT&T?

My “New iPad” WiFi+4G AT&T iPad is on its way and should arrive today. However, I wondering should I swap it for the Verizon version? All jokes about AT&T’s “service” aside (or lack there of) I was one of the few that got in on the AT&T Unlimited Plan when the iPad first came out. Switching to Verizon would mean potentially giving that plan up. However, the Verizon iPad (3) seems to be the better deal as you get tethering at no additional cost (while AT&T is still – once again – trying to figure out the whole tethering thing). Also it appears that the Verizon one also has a SIM slot and since iPads are UNLOCKED and contract free, you can put a local SIM in when doing international travel. I also have to consider that Verizon’s LTE 4G network is larger than AT&T’s and AT&T doesn’t even have LTE service where I live (Michigan) with no plans to add it here anytime soon.

So what say you? Which one should I get and WHY? Please spare me the general just because “AT&T sucks” comments. I get it that they have the worst record of them all, but I’ve had no issues being on AT&T with my last two iPads. I’m looking for a sanity to check to make sure that I’m not missing something by going with the Verizon version. Keep in mind that I spend a lot of time on the road and I travel internationally for a living. Would there be a downside to the Verizon model overseas? Would an AT&T SIM work in the Verizon iPad domestically?

My New iPhone Book 5th Edition is Now Shipping

I’m pleased to say that my iPhone Book 5th Edition (co-authored with my good friend Scott Kelby) is now available not only in print but also the Kindle version. There are tons of tips and tricks as well as how-to’s for users of all levels. See what else you can do with Siri. If you’re an experienced user you can definitely skip chapter one 🙂 If you’re a new iOS user then this is definitely your book.

You can get The iPhone Book 5th Edition here for almost half off!

 

Introducing Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad 2

In this episode of the Adobe Creative Suite Podcast, I’ll show you the NEW Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad. While there are lots of photo editing Apps for iOS, there are none that are truly like “Photoshop.” Photoshop Touch gives you the power and familiarity of Photoshop tools and techniques on your iPad. Best of all the layered files you create can be opened in Photoshop CS5 on the desktop and continued to be refined.

You can get Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad 2 for $9.99 here from the iTunes

Note:
• Requires iPad 2 and iOS 5. Not available for iPad (first generation).

or here from the Android Market

If you’re looking for a great Stylus to go along with this App, here’s the one I use.

Are you missing out on my Bonus Content?

See more of my Adobe Creative Suite Videos on my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast and get the App here. It features EXCLUSIVE CONTENT that no one else gets to see. This episode has a BONUS CLIP that is available only in the App! My iOS App is a Universal App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. I also have an Android version:

Learn Adobe Creative Suite with Terry White - Wizzard Media

Your Mac is About to Become More Like an iPad

 

Apple just took the wraps of Mountain Lion – aka Mac OS X 10.8, which is due out later this year. The above video shows a nice walk through of how your Mac is about to become even more like an iPad. Personally I'm looking forward to the AirPlay feature and it's great having the Messages App (now in public beta). What are your thoughts on this direction of the Mac OS? Mac OS X 10.7 Lion left me feeling very underwhelmed, but Mountain Lion looks useful. 

Overpriced?

Rarely will you hear me complain about the price of anything. I feel that companies and individuals have the right to charge whatever they want and we as consumers have the right to buy it or not. Ultimately if no one buys a product then the company will either fail or adjust accordingly. I saw this product recently and I thought "COOL!" That was until I reached the price point. My eyes opened wide for a bit, but then I remembered my rule. Don't complain. You don't know what it cost to develop the product?You don't know what it cost to manufacturer the product? You don't know what ti cost to distribute the product, etc. 

 

How much would you pay for the world's only Flash Drive for iOS Devices?

A nifty product for sure. On one end it has a standard USB plug like any other flash/thumb drive and on the the other end it has a 30pin dock connector. Plug it into your computer, copy files to it and then plug it into your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch and copy files from it using their App. Sounds great! I could actually see using one of these from time to time especially when getting files from others. However, for me I can't quite justify the price (starting at $99.95 for 8GB). I can get an 8GB flash drive for $8 all day long. I can even get a 32GB flash drive for $27. Wait, that's not a fair comparison. These low priced thumb drives can't plug into your iDevices. Right! OK, I can sign up for a free Dropbox.com account and transfer up to 2GB's of files back and forth all day long for Free between my computer and iDevices. Wait, that's not really fair either. You need an internet connection to make that work and if you're wanting files from someone else then you got to do some setup work on their end to get the files into your Dropbox. True! Well can't you just download an App that lets you transfer files between computer and iDevices wirelessly? Yep, there are tons of them and here's a cool one called Air Sharing. Alas, it's not as simple as a physical flash drive either and these apps either require an internet connection, WiFi connection or Bluetooth connection. Yes, it would appear that this is a unique product offering a unique advantage and perhaps it can command a uniquely high price too. This product will be especially attractive to those who are now carrying their iPad most of the time instead of a laptop. The market will ultimately decide!

You can get an iFlashDrive starting at $99.95 for 8GB here.

Review: iTunes Match Finally Delivers What I’ve Been Wanting

I've been an iTunes user since day one (and even SoundJam before that). I've been an iPod user since day one too. I have a decent sized *music collection (6,649 songs) with a mix of tunes ripped from my CDs, purchased from the iTunes store and purchased/downloaded from other sources such as Amazon.com. While Apple has always done a good job in allowing me to sync my music/playlists to any number of iDevices, for some reason the company never saw fit to allow automatic syncing of music between multiple computers. I've complained about this on my blog in the past as well as going with 3rd party work arounds. 

 

The NEW iTunes Match Solves My Problems

In addition to iOS 5, iCloud and iTunes 10.5, Apple rolled out a new service called iTunes Match. iTunes Match is a paid service ($24.99/Year) and the idea behind it is that once you sign up (via iTunes 5) your music collection will be analyzed and "matched" with the music currently available on the iTunes store, whether you originally bought the music from the store or not. Tracks that are matched are then available to up to 10 of your devices (Macs, PCs, iDevices running iOS 5, or Apple TVs) via the cloud.

This also includes your playlists! Tracks that were not matched (in other words songs you have that aren't on the iTunes store) are then UPLOADED from your library to the iTunes cloud (iCloud). This means that ALL of your music is now available in the cloud no matter where you obtained it originally. 

 

Problems this solves for me

Once it did the initial "match" on my dedicated iTunes media server (a dedicated iMac running iTunes 24/7). I then went to my MacBook Pro and deleted all the music from that library. Once I deleted all the songs and playlists, I turned on iTunes Match on that computer as well. After a few moments ALL of my Playlists appeared on the MacBook Pro that are on the iMac. Any song/playlist that I want to listen to can now be streamed via the cloud. Also any music/playlists that I actually want to be physically on the drive say for offline listening can be downloaded with a single click. As long as my MacBook Pro has an internet connection I have access to ALL of my music at all times. Those times that I don't have access to the internet I can still enjoy the music that I've downloaded. 

On my iPhone, iPod touch and iPad – we know that these devices have limited storage. Therefore carrying around a large music collection means giving up something else. Once I turned on iTunes Match on these devices the music that was stored on them was immediately wiped and just like on my MacBook Pro, after a few moments I had access to ALL of my Playlists and All of my songs. The difference here is that any song you play is not only streamed initially but also stored so that it won't have to stream a second time. And yes you can proactively download any song(s) playlists that you know you'll want to be stored on the device for offline listening.

 

The Bottom Line

The benefits of iTunes Match are clear! I have access to ALL of my Music on any of my devices at all times (with an internet connection). I now use less space on my iDevices because I don't have them loaded up with music that "I may want to listen to someday". The other advantage is QUALITY! Some of my original CD Rips were at a lower bitrate. With iTunes Match you get everything at Unprotected AAC, 256Kbps (iTunes Plus) Quality. The other slick feature is that now it doesn't matter where I make organizational changes or new purchases. If I change a playlist on my MacBook Pro it's updated everywhere. If I buy a new song and add it to a playlist on my iPad, it's updated and available everywhere. This is one of those services that's worth every penny to me!

You couple iTunes Match with the new iTunes WiFi Sync for iOS (iPod touch in the car) and I'm completely in music heaven! I pull into my garage and it connects to the WiFi in my home and syncs the iPod with the latest changes. 

Now let's get iTunes Match for video/movies!

*Note: If you have more than 25,000 songs in your library that you did NOT get from the iTunes store then you exceed the limit of iTunes Match. iTunes Match only works for songs, not audiobooks, videos, ringtones, podcasts, etc.

Review: Looxcie LX2 Wearable Video Camera

Have you ever had one of those moments that you wished you had a video camera in your glasses? If so it was probably because what you were witnessing you knew no one would believe you. 🙂 While I don't quite have a video camera in my glasses just yet (or a heads up display either), I do find the Looxcie LX2 to be a viable alternative. At first glance it looks like one of the early (fairly large and obnoxious) bluetooth headsets that people used to wear. You know the ones with the big flashing blue light that everyone else but you could see? However, what we have here is a very capable video camera that captures up to 480p video and audio to a built-in 2GB memory chip. Oh by the way, it's also a bluetooth headset (sans the blue flashing light too). I've seen and used small video recorders disguised  as other things before. Typically while they worked, the resulting video quality was poor. That's not the case with the Looxcie LX2. I was actually quite impressed with the quality of the video considering the relatively small form factor and low cost. Yes it would be nice if it were 720p HD, but for the most common use cases for this kind of camera the 480p quality is usually more than enough.

 

How well does it work?

The Looxcie LX2 comes with a USB cable and various ear gels and over the ear clips for you to get the right size. You can charge it via USB and of course connect it to your computer to access the video files. You turn it on/off via a switch on the inner side of the unit. Once it's on you can start and stop recordings with a dedicated button as well as answer calls/hang up on a second dedicated button. There is a green status light so that you know if it's on and a red light on the front to indicate recording.

Rather Borgish, but hey, it works. Once you record your clips, just plug it into your Mac/PC to retrieve them. They are in .MP4 format. There is no zoom or any other manual controls on the device itself. It does autofocus. 

 

It gets so much better with the Looxcie Mobile Apps

While the device works as advertised and as I've indicated above, it's soooo much better if you have an iOS or Android device. You can download their FREE mobile Apps that not only allow you to control the camera via bluetooth, but also serve as a LIVE LCD Viewfinder so that you can see on your device what the camera sees in real-time (not the same quality of course). Very Mission Impossible like. You can even edit and share the footage you just captured right from your phone. Sweet!

You can get the LooxcieCAM (basic recording functions) for free here from the iTunes or here from the Android Market

You can get the LooxcieMoments (capture, editing, sharing) for free here from theiTunes or here from the Android Market

 

 

Here's a 1st attempt at doing a quick recording walking around the yard

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C27x_QJXTdY

 

The Bottom Line

This is a really cool gadget! I can think of a few good uses for it. While ti could also be used for evil, so can most gadgets. I'd like to see it get down to about half the current size. Perhaps in the LX3 some day. You can get the Looxcie LX2 here for about $149.