PlugBug World Can Charge your MacBook Pro and Your Mobile Devices Too



As a frequent traveler I’m always looking for ways to charge my multiple devices with fewer chargers or taking up less outlets in a hotel room. I saw an ad for PlugBug and decided to order one and see if I liked it or not. The idea behind PlugBug is that it replaces the standard plug of your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air Adapter with one that has a USB (2.1 Amp) port built-in. This way you can charge both your laptop AND any USB power device at the same time. The concept is simple and it takes all of 2 seconds to install. I opted for the PlugBug World, which comes with all the necessary adapters to plug into various outlets around the globe. It works as advertised and although it’s “short” on the 85w MacBook Pro adapter, it doesn’t hender its use.


How could it be better?

The 1st thing that I wasn’t crazy about was that it replaces the “extended cord” on the MacBook Pro adapter. I know that you can simply plug the adapter into the wall with or without a PlugBug, but I prefer using the optional extended cord that comes with the MacBooks so that I don’t take up so much space on a power strip and I get a longer cord.


That’s a personal thing with me, but the product works as advertised. Although I CAN use the extended cord, it’s clear by the way it sticks up over the PlugBug that they didn’t design it to be used this way. While we’re at it, I’d also like to see TWO USB ports instead of just one. It would make it much more useful to me if I could use one plug to charge my MacBook, iPhone and iPad at the same time. So make it a little taller to accomodate the extended cord AND a second USB port and I’d “love” it.

You can get a PlugBug here or PlugBug World here.

MacBook Pro Retina Display 1st Impressions

Many of you have been asking me about my impressions of the new MacBook Pro Retina Display from a “Photographer’s Perspective” and I’m not quite ready with that review yet. However, I have done my 1st review and given my overall impressions of it, which you can read here. The reason that I’m not really ready to talk about it from a photographer’s or even a designer’s perspective yet is that to be fair we really have to wait for Apps to be updated to take advantage of this (Hi-DPI) display. While Apple did showcase a “future” version of Photoshop CS6 on stage, that version is not quite ready for distribution yet.


photo credit –

We’re also waiting on Lightroom, InDesign and Illustrator. What I can say now is that while the current CS6 versions haven’t been updated yet, they do work just fine and I have no problem using them in my daily routine.

As a matter of fact I’ve completely switched over to the New MacBook Pro Retina Display and used it on stage during my Detroit InDesign Users Group meeting last week without any issues. I did my entire demo including Photoshop CS6, Bridge CS6, Illustrator CS6, InDesign CS6, Acrobat Pro X, and Adobe Muse. I figured that there was no better way to really test its capabilities than to do a full blown demo on stage in front of 200+ people 🙂 Crazy=Brave. I didn’t even bring the old one as a backup. It all worked perfectly!

How do non-Hi-DPI apps look?

That’s the question you’re probably wondering about and I have to say that while not as crisp as a native Hi-DPI app would look, these apps don’t don’t look bad at all. At least not as bad as I feared. Sure they are a little “soft” and if you zoom in in Photoshop you’ll see more jaggies around the edges, but even with these annoyances, I have no problem doing my day to day work including photo retouching. I actually feared that it would be unusable and I’d have to keep using my other MacBook Pro until the updates came out. I’m glad that that turned out to not be the case (Y.M.M.V. – I can’t tell you how YOUR eyes will perceive ANY display. You really have to see YOUR work on a display that you are considering and be YOUR own judge! I can only tell you works or doesn’t work for me.)

When these apps are updated for Hi-DPI life will be even better! So stay tuned for an updated review or second look once we have an update to Photoshop and perhaps some of the other apps. As a photographer you’re definitely going to want this USB 3 CF/SD Card Reader by Lexar.

Guest Review: If All Hardware Installs Were This Effortless…




By Jason Levine


16.0GB (8GBx2) PC3-10600 DDR3 1333MHz SO-DIMM 204 Pin CL9 SO-DIM


You know, having built more PC machines than I care to remember, I think my 'fear' in doing RAM upgrades stems from those fateful salad days, when a RAM upgrade meant a number of things:


1) Is this really the proper RAM for this particular (OEM, non-OEM, generic/custom) motherboard;

2) Will I have to go into the BIOS and make changes?

3) Will the machine recognize this memory at all;

4) Will I have perpetual BSOD and wind up re-installing the old RAM again, wasting money and time. 


I'm sure many of you have been there, and despite the fact that we're now in 2012, I still get those same vibes every time I prepare for the inevitable 'upgrade'.


Well, I'm happy to say that the current offering from OWC gives your 2011 series MacBookPro an unbelievable boost in speed and power, one that you're likely to notice almost instantly…especially if you've got an internal SSD drive and, even moreso, if you work across multiple 64-bit Creative Suite applications (like Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects and Adobe Media Encoder).


The two, 8GB sticks arrived in small, simple packaging in less than 24 hours. I placed the order around 4pm Central Time on Thursday, and literally had it in my hand before 1pm on Friday. Gotta love that.  Crack open the seal, and there, atop some pink foam, were the keys to my new editing bliss… <insert pics however you see fit>


Curiously, or perhaps not-so-curiously absent were any kind of installation instructions. Again, I've done this for every MBP I've ever purchased, so I wasn't too concerned. A simple Google search yielded exactly what I needed, and just as I remembered…9 simple screws (for my 'early 2011 17" MBP) was all it took to reveal the RAM slots; pop it in, pop it out, you're done. Even as I began to remove the back cover, I thought to myself, "Do I have to ease it out? Any special tricks?" But again, it literally pops off, easily, and you just apply  a little pressure (so that the edges are flush) when you're replacing the screws. 


The key to doing this quickly is lining up those screws! I always place them, visually on the table, in their exact layout. Apple uses different size screws, so it's key that you return them where they belong. Not doing this, however, will lead to enormous frustration. I don't even want to go there!




Within seconds of closing the back cover, I powered on the machine and literally, in about 5.5 seconds, I was greeted with the LogIn screen; a happy place to be! I logged in, quickly went to "About This Mac" and lo and behold, there it was….  I ran the machine for about 9 hours following the install, and everything seemed great. Fast, responsive, and ultimately, stable.  Today I'll be diving into some deep editing/rendering, so that'll be the more definitive comparison test (having spent the better part of the year working with 8GB).


Now, I wanted to share this little tidbit. I had ordered this RAM when it was first made available (or rather, 'announced') sometime last March.  In fact, it was my dear friend and fellow road-warrior Terry White that sent me the OWC link in the first place.  At the time, the 16GB RAM upgrade was selling for $1600 . Steep indeed…but for mobile video editing, it would be a game-changer and a no-brainer on my part. I quickly made my purchase and awaited the goods.  


Well, tragedy struck Japan, and the industry was immediately impacted by this unprecedented natural disaster. As such, I was immediately made aware by OWC that the part was 'on backorder' and would be shipping in approximately '6 days'.  A second email, about two weeks later indicated "20 days"; I received two more emails and one final communication at the end of April indicating, "Backordered Indefinitely".  Understandable, clearly…and I just assumed it wasn't meant to be. 


Now, my only complaint in this whole process was that OWC never contacted me again to let me know it was back in stock! And moreover, it was nearly 1/6 the cost! (with shipping, the total was approximately $266 USD). I found out, via several Twitter friends, that they were already using the 16GB upgrade and I had no idea it was even readily available.  Since it was OWC who ultimately cancelled my order, I would have thought they would have contacted me to let me know it was once again available. They didn't. So really, this is just a little 'wrist slap' to say, "Hey…I wanted to give you my money…and you could have had it sooner!" 



All in all, this was the best (and most smile-inducing) RAM upgrade I've ever done (this being my sixth or seventh MBP). Time will indeed tell, but from where I'm sitting, it's all looking up…and with 16GB of fast RAM…in my laptop. 



How Much Faster is an SSD Drive?


SSD (Solid State Drives) are expensive! So the question that people usually have is “how much faster are they and will I see a difference?” In a nutshell the answer I have is FAST and YES! See my speed test above.


The SSD configuration is Apple’s CTO (configure to order) 512GB Drive. It’s in a 2011 MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and the 2.3GHz Quad Core i7 processor.

The 2010 MacBook that it’s being compared to has a 500GB 7200 RPM SATA drive. It also has 8GB of RAM and a 2.66GHz Dual Core i7 processor.

You don’t have to buy a new computer to get an SSD speed boost. OWC has several options for your existing computer.

The New MacBook Pros are Here!


As rumored, Apple introduced their NEW MacBook Pro lineup today and while they didn't introduce the MacBook PrAir that I'd hoped for, these new machines are noteworthy in terms of performance features. The most notable enhancement is the new "Thunderbolt" (aka Light Peak) multipurpose port offering up to 10Gbps data throughput. This makes it the fastest I/O port that Apple has ever used on a notebook offering speeds that are 12 times faster than Firewire 800. The next notable update is the move to the Intel Quad Core "Sandy Bridge" processors. Lastly in the notable update area is the upgraded "FaceTime HD" camera offering a much higher resolution image over the previous iSight camera. Apple also moved to AMD graphics cards. I had hoped for faster Nvidia cards with 1GB of RAM or more for Mercury (effects) Playback in Premiere Pro CS5, but the good news is that Premiere Pro rocks with real-time GPU playback on AMD too.

Get all the specs here.


So what will I do?

Although I had hoped for a New MacBook Pro that was closer to the MacBook Air in terms of weight, I can't argue the potential of these new notebooks for making my work and demos go even faster. I look forward to a NEW 15" "work" MacBook Pro (is the store back up yet? 🙂 ) However, I had a backup plan in case these weren't the new lighter weight models that I dreamed of and that plan is to buy a 13" MacBook Air to be my "personal" notebook. Granted I do personal stuff on my work notebook and I'd probably do work on my personal notebook, but having the choice of either one depending on my needs for a particular trip would be great. This way if I'm NOT traveling to do a demo/teach a class where I need all the horse power I can get, then I'd bring the Air. I'd probably also use the Air around the house along with the iPad. With services like keeping files in sync between multiple computers is not a problem these days. So that's my plan.


UPDATE – To answer the questions I'm getting regarding Premiere Pro playback on the new AMD graphics cards

Here's a video by my buddy Dave



Last Call for HyperMac MacBook Charging Cables

You may remember my review of the HyperMac Battery for the MacBooks here. Well it seems that a good thing has come to an end. The way I understand the story (and NO I'm not a lawyer, so this is just my opinion/interpretation) is that HyperMac guys were buying Apple's external MacBook (Pro/Air) chargers (legitmately) and then retrofitting the cable to their external batteries and selling them. That was until Apple's legal team came down on them and basically forced them to stop. I don't know the legal precedence here, but it seems sad that this vendor, who was providing a benefit to MacBook users is now being forced to stop. As you may know Apple no longer allows you to swap out your own batteries. All current model MacBooks have sealed batteries. So if you run out of juice on a trip, you're just out of luck until you can get to a wall plug. I've used my HyperMac batteries on many trips and it was great arriving with fully charged MacBook Pro and iPhone batteries. I plan to use it on my trip to LA next week for Adobe MAX. I haven't heard of any issues with the batteries or any incidents of MacBook failures as a result. Since Apple doesn't sell any external batteries of their own I don't see a competitive threat either. Lastly, you would think that Apple would license the MagSafe adapter to those wishing to build MacBook peripherals like the popular iGO chargers. 

If you're interested in a HyperMac Battery or Cable for your existing one, you have until November 2nd, 2010 to order. See them here. I may buy another just to eBay at a profit down the road 😉 Oops, did I say that out loud? Actually they'll probably still sell the batteries, just not the cables for Apple's MacBook line.


P.S. HyperMac wasn't the only game in town. I wonder how long these guys will be selling theirs?

Parallels 6 is Fast!

Parallels 6 above running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate Edition and Windows XP on a Mac Pro/Mac OS X 10.6.4  running Photoshop CS5 Extended – click the image to enlarge

Most of my day to day work is done in the Mac OS. However, there are times when I need to run Windows app/utility here and there. I can remember the days when I used to carry two laptops for work. I had a PowerBook for doing demos to Mac customers and an IBM (now Lenovo) Thinkpad for doing demos to Windows based customers. Once the the MacBook Pro hit the scene I was quick to jump on board because I could now use this one laptop to run both Mac and Windows Apps. Apple allows you to enable a feature called "Boot Camp" right in the Mac OS itself. With Boot Camp you setup a partition (size of your choosing) and natively install a copy of Windows (not included) on it. Then you can choose to boot up the computer in either OS and Windows running under Boot Camp is just as fast as running Windows on any other similarly spec'd PC. While you do get to run Windows as fast as your Mac hardware can, you have the disadvantage in that you can only run one OS at a time. In other words while you're booted in Windows in Boot Camp, you don't have access to your Mac apps. This is where virtualization Apps come in. The two top contenders are Parallels and VMWare's Fusion. I've had experience with both Apps in their latest versions and given the choice I'd go with Parallels.


When you have two apps that basically do the same thing, you have to look at "how" they do it?

Both Apps are great and both apps have very similar feature sets. Although I get to use VMWare's Fusion at NO COST TO ME because my company has a site license and offers it to any employee that needs it, I prefer to use Parallels (and buy it out of my own pocket). Both Parallels and Fusion allow you to use Windows on top of the Mac OS. This means that you are running both OSs at the same time and can launch apps in either. Both are going to run a bit slower than running natively in Boot Camp if for no other reason, they are sharing resources with the Mac OS running at the same time. However, being able to run the occasional Windows app without rebooting is worth the small performance hit. Both apps allow you to either run Windows from a "file' on any hard drive (including an external drive) or even use your Boot Camp Windows installation. So if they both seem to do the same thing, what makes one better? SPEED!!! Parallels with version 6 continues to have the advantage over the competition with SPEED! No other way to say it other than it just runs Windows FASTER. According to Parallels, version 6 is up to 80% faster than version 5. It's 64 bit and boots Windows more than two times faster than Fusion 3.1. Parallels 6 scores more than 2 times better on 3D graphics than Fusion 3.1.


It's running so fast as a matter of fact that I may never use Boot Camp again

Continue reading “Parallels 6 is Fast!”

International Power!

Frequent international travelers have got the power thing figured out. When you travel from the US to another country the question becomes what do you need to charge/use your electronic devices. My friend Michele who was headed to the UK asked me this very question. So I thought I spend a few minutes here giving you some tips along with my favorite power adapter.

Converter vs an Adapter

Many of the electronics designed to be traveled with (like notebook computers, iPods, iPhones) are already geared to be used in different countries. An easy way to know is to look at the description on the power adapter for your gear. If it says that it can handle 100-240 volts then you're all set. All you need is a plug "adapter" so that you can plug it in the wall of the country you're going to.
However, if your power adapter has a max input of 120 volts. That means that it was designed to work in the US only and in order to use it in another country that has 240 volt wall outlets you're going to need a power "converter" something that can regulate the 240 volts down to 120 volts. Or you might just go with a compatible 3rd party adapter like the ones from iGo.

For your Mac, iPod or iPhone


If you have a portable electronic device from Apple, your supplied adapter already works in other countries. All you need is an adapter and Apple sells a nice kit called the Apple International Travel Kit. This kit has everything you need to adapter your MacBook/PowerBook adapter as well as a USB power adapter (actually it's there older version with the removable prongs) and sync cable With this kit you'll be all set in the US, UK, Australia, Korea, etc.  You can get the Apple kit here.


Continue reading “International Power!”