Photoshop CS3 for Digital Photographers Book

The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book For Digital Photographers

Scott Kelby has updated his insanely popular Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers. Although this book has been available for pre-order for a while, it just started shipping. Like the previous incarnations of this great book, Scott makes Photoshop look easy with tips and techniques that any digital photographer who uses Photoshop CS3 could use EVERY DAY!

As usual the book is beautifully illustrated with real world practical information and photos taken by Scott himself. Sometimes Scott gets beat up for his humor. If you read some of the comments of the past you would think it’s just one big joke book based on the comments. Not only is that far from the truth, I actually find his humor refreshing (and very funny) to what could sometimes be very dry material. Also Scott usually limits the humor to just the intro pages. So if humor is not your thing, simply skip the intro pages and go right the lessons.

In this book you’ll find step-by-step lessons to make your shots stand out. Simple techniques to showcase your work and take your images to the next level. Scott has added several never before seen techniques as well as he has refined some of his existing techniques to take advantage of the new features of Photoshop CS3. The book even includes a gray card in the back for color correcting your images using Levels or Curves.

The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers is available from Amazon for $32.99. If you are a photographer (or play one on TV) and you use Adobe Photoshop CS3, then you want this book!

A great point and shoot camera

Canon PowerShot SD850 IS

I have had my share of point and shoot cameras and since I’ve gone to a Digital SLR (DSLR) camera, I really don’t spend much time (hardly any) using point and shoot cameras any more. However, there are times when carrying a big camera around just isn’t fun or convenient. So I set out to find a really good point and shoot camera that would give me decent images.


Where I’ve come from

My last "pocket" point and shoot camera was the Minolta DiMAGE Xt and while this camera was a break-through in small sized cameras when it came out, the image quality just never impressed me. So consequently I never really used it much. I then thought I had struck gold with my waterproof Olympus camera and while it does take decent shots and is waterproof and shock resistant It bugs me to no end that it uses xD cards. Since going to SD cards with my Nikon D80 and using the SanDisk Ultra II SD Plus USB cards, I just don’t want to have to use a card reader any more. So I was back in the market for a point and shoot that not only took great images, but used SD cards (like the majority of point and shoot cameras out there these days).

SanDisk Ultra II Plus SD Card

I’ve always bought Canon point and shoot cameras for my family members and I thought to myself it’s time that I started looking for a Canon for myself.

While I was in Montana attending a meeting, a colleague passed me her Canon 800 IS and asked me to take a picture of her and the two people sitting next to her. When I raised the camera to take the picture I was stunned to see 3 little squares start moving around on the screen and lock in on their faces. The Canon 800 IS has "Face Detection." I’ve never seen this in a camera before. I knew the software existed because it exists in Adobe Photoshop Elements. However, I didn’t know that it had made its way into cameras. With this technology the camera uses the face(s) to adjust the exposure of the rest of the image. So without having to go into manual mode or depend on an Auto mode you get great people shots every time. The quality was simply AMAZING! I was sold! I said to myself that this is my next camera. The "IS" stands for Image Stabilized" and Canon is known for its great image stabilization features. When I got home and did some research I found that I had a choice between the Canon Powershot SD800 IS and the Canon Powershot SD850 IS. The biggest difference is that the SD850 IS is 8 megapixels and the SD800 IS is 7.1 megapixels. There is also a difference in focal length and the 850 is slightly faster in shooting speed. So figuring that I don’t buy point and shoot cameras that often, I went with the Powershot SD850 IS.

The SD850 IS also has a 16:9 widescreen shooting mode, 6 movie modes, various white balance modes including a Custom setting and a 4x optical zoom.

Face Detection feature

Face Detection at work on the SD850 IS



The beauty of a point and shoot camera is that in most cases you turn it on, point and shoot. However, since I’m now so used to shooting with a DSLR, this whole "let the camera do everything" approach is kind of unsettling. I’m looking for ISO settings, shutter speeds, white balance, etc. It took me a minute to realize that the Powershot SD850 IS has a "Manual" mode right on the dial. Once I switched to it, I was in control of my settings. Now keep in mind, I don’t plan on doing a lot of shooting in Manual mode as that defeats the use of a "point and shoot" camera, however, I just wanted to know that I have the option and where to set my own settings if the shot demands it. I found everything I wanted at first glance except shutter speed. I’m not sure if I can set the shutter speed on this camera or not, but that’s not a big deal for me with this camera anyway. Even with my DSLR I shoot in Aperture Priority Mode most of the time anyway letting the camera set the shutter speed.

shot in Auto mode, ISO 200 with no flash

shot in manual mode, ISO 400, no flash. With the higher ISO there is more noise as you would expect.


The Bottom Line

You simply can’t go wrong with Canon’s line of Powershot cameras. If you’re looking for a GREAT point and shoot camera, I would definitely check them out. I guess my only complaint is that this camera offers so many features that the menus can be a bit daunting. Canon uses icons to represent most of the features. Once you learn what those icons mean you’re good to go. However, for a camera that I only plan to use occasionally, I may not remember where a certain feature is. I like the way Olympus provides a complete description of any feature or mode at the push of a button. Canon could really stand to copy this feature. However, with that said, the SD 850 IS will be a permanent fixture in my travel bag.

If you want a more exhaustive review of this camera or any other cameras for that matter, more sample shots, etc. head over to Steve’s Digi-cams Reviews. They do a great job taking cameras through their paces! I got the Powershot SD850 IS at B&H Photo for $345.

In Apple related News

New iMac

Apple had four major announcements yesterday. Yes, I know in the technology field something that happened yesterday is old news, but I wanted some time to digest the announcements before posting my take here. After all, there are other sites out there that are dedicated to "Apple News" and if that’s what you were looking for, chances are you already got your fix. So here goes:


A New iMac

Apple updated its very popular all-in-one iMac and lowered the entry price point for the 20" model at the same time. The 17" model has been discontinued. So if you wanted an iMac you would go with a 20" or 24" model. It’s all about design! The new iMacs are aluminum and have the popular glossy screens found on their notebooks. If you’re in the market for a simple all-in-one computer design with a nice beautiful large display it’s hard to go wrong here. As you would expect the internal specs have also been updated with more RAM capacity (up to 4GB now), larger hard drives (250GB and 350GB standard with upgrades to 1TB possible) and faster intel processors (2.0GHz or 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo). Apple also added Firewire 800 (Firewire is not dead – yet) ports standard and improved ATI graphics cards.

So all in all, a very nice upgrade for those in the market for a desktop computer. Also keep in mind that even if you’re a Windows user, this is a great computer because it can run Windows XP or Vista natively via Boot Camp, Parallels or VMWare.

Apple also replaced the keyboard on the iMac with one that has a much lower profile and of course matches the aluminum styling. However, what I found most interesting is that the new wireless keyboard doesn’t have the numeric keypad. Granted I probably wouldn’t miss it and the smaller size for lap typing is nice. I’m just wondering how well that will go over since it’s $30 more than the wired version which includes a numeric keypad. Has anyone ever tried pairing one of Apple’s keyboards with a PS3? I wonder if that would work? For home theater applications the new smaller size would also be a plus.

I think that the iMac is an important product, but I have no plans to get one. My family uses iMacs currently however, when it’s time to upgrade them I’ll most likely replace them with notebooks (MacBooks). Especially for my daughters who will be going off to college in the not too distant future.


iLife ’08

Skipping iLife ’07, Apple has released the long awaited update to their iLife suite of products. iLife includes iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb and GarageBand. As you would expect all the products received updates. However, the most significant updates were to iPhoto and a completely new iMovie. iPhoto gains the ability to organize your photos into "Events" automatically. So if you come in from shooting all day, when you download your images iPhoto will organize the day’s shoot automatically into an "Event" which you can name. If you shot more than one event that day, you can easily split the shots into multiple Events. While I haven’t played with this yet, it seems like they took their existing "Film Roll" concept and enhanced it a bit. "Events" sounds better than "Film Rolls" in this digital age.

The story behind iMovie in that an Apple engineer took a weekend diving trip and when he returned he was frustrated with the way iMovie and Final Cut Pro worked (or didn’t work the way he wanted) and therefore he wrote a new version of iMovie from scratch. Wow! That’s pretty ambitious for one guy. My suspicion is that he was shooting with an HD camera that stores video in AVCHD (a highly compressed video format stored on memory cards) and was frustrated because iMovie and FCP didn’t currently edit in that format (most editors don’t). According to Apple iMovie still doesn’t edit in this format, but it does convert the video into an editable format upon import. So the real question is how long does that conversion really take? Look for benchmarks once people get their hands on this new version and put it to the test. Otherwise iMovie looks like a nice upgrade. I’m not sure that it’s really easier, I’ll let you be the judge of that since I’m not an iMovie guy.

Apple barely gave mention to iDVD. Steve even made the comment that "there are some people that still want to create DVDs." I thought about that statement for a moment and I then realized that this attitude may explain the lack of any kind of Blu-ray announcements from Apple. Also keep in mind that even in their latest professional video suite that DVD Studio Pro wasn’t touched and remained at version 4.x. Is DVD dead to Apple? Is it all about streaming video on the web, watching it on your iPod/iPhone or Apple TV as far as they’re concerned? Is it that this format war (HD DVD vs. Blu-ray) getting in the way and Apple (who was strongly behind Blu-ray) has decided to sit this one out? Only time will tell, but I was really taken back by the lack of attention in the DVD space. iDVD didn’t even get a video tour like the rest of the iLife apps did.

Clearly Apple’s iPhone partnerships have had influence here as well. For example, now in iMovie you’ll be able to publish (Share) directly to YouTube and in iWeb you can now add a Google Map to your page with a single click and add YouTube videos and other HTML snippets.

Rather than continuing this blow-by-blow on iLife ’08, it’s best to check out this video on the new features found in iLife ’08. Apple did a really good job covering what’s new here.


iWork ’08

Apple also updated it’s productivity suite for business users and students. iWork ’08 includes Keynote (my favorite presentation app), Pages (a visual word processor) and a brand new app "Numbers" which Apple’s new entry into the world of spreadsheets. Numbers has been rumored for years and is finally here. Yet, I really didn’t even look at it. Why? because I don’t do much spreadsheet work or word processing for that matter. While I’m sure it’s a great app, the spreadsheets I receive from others are in Excel format (which Numbers will open) and If I need to make any changes and give it back to them, it’s just easier and safer to open it in Excel, do whatever I need to do, hit Save and give it back to them. I’ve created maybe one or two spreadsheets from scratch in the last year. So Numbers, while I’m sure it’s cool has virtually no appeal to me. Same goes for Pages. If I create a document, it will likely be something either very simple that TextEdit will handle just fine or something more complex that I’ll use Adobe InDesign CS3 for. So while these two apps are probably welcomed from those looking to break away from Microsoft Office, they have little appeal to me. However, on the other hand I’d buy the upgrade to iWork ’08 just for the new version of Keynote! Keynote is a joy to use and simply blows PowerPoint away in most cases. This new version of Keynote includes new text effects and transitions, Action Builds (which it sorely needed and this was one area that PowerPoint excelled over Keynote) which gives you the ability to animate objects along a path or scale objects. Apple has also included Voice-over recording so that you can create a presentation that can be played back later without you having to deliver it in person. Apple also finally gave Keynote an Instant Alpha feature which allows you to remove the background from an image on a slide. Again PowerPoint has had this for a while and it’s nice to finally see it in Keynote. Another cool addition is Smart Builds which lets you create sophisticated animations from your images without having to know how to do this in a 3D or video app.

Check out these new features and watch the videos on how they work here.


Apple updates .Mac

Each year that goes by, I wonder how much longer .Mac will survive or will Apple really upgrade it to the be the service that we all want? One of the biggest complaints has been solved and that is the complaint that for $99/year the storage space was anemic. Gmail accounts for example had more space for FREE. Well Apple has done something about this by upping the .Mac storage space to 10GB per account at no additional cost. While this is a nice and welcomed upgrade, the second biggest complaint comes to mind and this is the one of speed or lack there of. It’s great having all this extra storage space, but did they speed up the access to it? It seems like it takes forever to upload or download from an iDisk. As a matter of fact it’s faster to use the web interface to the iDisk as opposed to the one built into the Finder.

Apple also now allows you to more easily have your own personal domain name point to your .Mac website. They also integrated .Mac with iPhoto in that you can press one button and create a web gallery of your photos with a unique URL and you can even allow others to add photos to your gallery either via a standard web browser or via a special email address for that particular gallery. In true Apple fashion the gallery pages and options are beautiful and very well designed.

.Mac is nice and easy, but for $99/year I want more! I had to switch my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast and this very blog away from .Mac hosting because Apple was too restrictive on bandwidth and iWeb was just to limited. Even with the new .Mac’s bandwidth limit being raised to 100GB/month, that’s not enough and their policy of simply cutting you off once you hit that limit just doesn’t make sense to me. Why would you cut someone off (for days at a time) instead of charing them more money for the overage? So I have no plans to return to .Mac for web hosting beyond a simple personal page here or there.


What Apple didn’t announce…

Apple managed to quietly upgrade a few products without any fanfare. For example, the Mac mini received processor updates (1.83GHz and 2.0GHz processors). The Mac mini is one of those products that hasn’t received a lot of attention since it was first launched. I think it’s because sales of this particular Mac aren’t where Apple would like them to be. However, it remains an important entry level product so it stays in the product line for now.

Apple also added a hardware RAID card option to the Mac Pro. This $999 add on allows you to increase (or decrease with redundancy) your storage beyond the box with multiple hard drives raided together.

Apple also updated the NEW AirPort Extreme Base Station to have Gigabit Ethernet ports. This was one of the biggest wishes from people that evaluated the earlier version.

Lastly, the iPhone got a "magical" update to support the emailing of photos to a web gallery. I call this upgrade magical because it just appeared on people’s iPhones yesterday. My guess is that it was a time/date released update that was a part of the iPhone 1.0.1 update or a part of the original iPhone firmware. Now if you go to any photo in your Photos and tap the send button, you’ll have a new option to "Send to Web Gallery." This feature requires a .Mac account to be configured for posting from mobile devices. Now if they could just magically turn on 3g support that would really be something 🙂

Saved by a Savage

I’m here in Miamisburg OH attending a family reunion. I planned on setting up a small on-location portrait studio. I brought my Westscott Spiderlite TD5, reflector, tripod, camera, memory cards, Epson P-3000 backup device and lenses. However, the one thing I left sitting in my office was my Westscott reversible backdrop.

A quick search on the iPhone’s Google Maps app revealed Cord Camera which was literally right around the corner from the hotel. I called them and they did sell the Westscott backdrops. However, when I arrived at the store, they only had one left in stock. While I was prepared to get it, something caught my eye. It was the Savage Porta-Stand with a roll of background paper on it. Then I noticed the assortment of different color paper rolls available. This looked like a much better setup for what I wanted to do this weekend anyway. With one question to the sales guy, "does it come with a carry bag?" and the answer being "yes." I was on my way!

As much as I like my reversible Westscott backdrops, I gotta say that I really love the Savage Porta-Stand. Cord sold the rolls of paper for $25 and the Savage Porta-Stand for $99. They might be cheaper else where, but I wasn’t about to argue their prices seeing that I was in an emergency situation. This setup will definitely be added to my on location shooting.

End result shot with the Nikon D80 with the Nikon 18-200mm VR lens against the Savage Porta-stand and lit by the Westscott Spiderlite TD5 (also processed with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop CS3 – of course).

USB Hubs, who makes the best one?

We spend a great deal of time researching our computer purchases, external hard drives, software, etc. However, when it comes to buying a USB hub, we tend to just buy the cheapest one or the one that the store happens to carry.

All USB hubs are not created equal. I’ve found that depending on the hub you get, you could see weird issues with your computer and not realize that it’s the hub causing the issues. For example, I’ve got an older Power Mac G5 that refuses to stay asleep. I know that it’s a USB peripheral or hub causing this issue. I haven’t really had the time or energy to go through the process of testing it, plugging in one peripheral at a time. But what if it’s one of the two hubs I’m using?

I’ve tried Targus, Staples (yes they have their own branded hubs) and Asanté. I don’t swear by any of them and I’m looking for the most reliable hub out there. Who makes the BEST USB 2.0 Hub?

So my question to you is, which USB 2.0 Hubs have you had good luck with and which ones would you recommend that we stay away from?

Apple iPhone Bluetooth Headset Review

Terry with iPhone Bluetooth Headset

Keep in mind this review is by a guy who doesn’t care for in-ear Bluetooth headsets.

I’ll start by saying that even as I sat there in Steve Jobs’ keynote back in January and he splashed the photo up of the iPhone Bluetooth Headset, I wasn’t the least bit excited because it’s an in-ear headset and I’ve had horrible luck with all the ones I’ve tried in the past. So my immediate response was, "next!" I had zero interest in it. So when I was in my local Apple Store the other day buying an AirPort Base Station, the manager walks up to me and says, "you know we have the new Bluetooth Headsets in right?" I said, "yeah, I know." I could tell by the look on his face that he could tell that I wasn’t the least bit excited or interested. As I explained to him about the whole in-ear thing, he totally understood. I then said it would be nice to at least review one for my blog. So I bought one with the thought that if it doesn’t work out I could return it for a full refund in 14 days or less. He jokingly said, "see you tomorrow."

Unboxing it

When I got home, I set up the AirPort Extreme Base Station first (see my earlier review of that product). Then I remembered the headset and said, "OK, let’s see what this thing is all about." I was once again amazed at Apple’s attention to detail in the packaging. Opening this thing was almost as cool as opening the iPhone itself. If you’ve never unboxed an Apple product, I wouldn’t expect you to understand, so I’ll move on. I knew that the headset came with a dock that allows you to charge/sync your iPhone AND charge your headset as well. However, what I didn’t expect to get was the separate travel cable that does the same thing while you’re on the road: a nice and necessary addition. At first I didn’t see the instructions. They were tucked away in some of the packaging. The dock has a hard wired USB cable and an audio out port just like all the other docks. There is no AC power adapter. You’ll either have to power it from your computer or the USB AC adapter that came with your iPhone. You’ll also find two foam covers in the same area of the packaging as the instructions.

At first glance

The headset is black and very sleek looking. It doesn’t look half as dorky as most other headsets out there. Also, you’ll be happy to know that there is no big blue flashing LED on it. As a matter of fact, there is only one button (sound familiar) on the end of it that controls all of its functions.

Pairing it to the iPhone

I pulled out the instructions because I wanted to know how to get it into pairing mode. I was astonished to read that it pairs automatically by just putting in the dock with the iPhone. It’s stuff like this that makes us appreciate and love Apple engineering. Speaking of Apple engineering, Apple did a really cool thing in that if both the iPhone and Headset are docked, the headset’s battery status appears on the iPhone’s screen. Very Cool! If you’re just charging the headset alone, the headset has a small LED (about the size of the one on the MacBook/Pro MagSafe adapter) that changes from orange to green when it’s charged. Also speaking of MagSafe, the headset magnetically goes in the charger/dock just like the MagSafe adapter on MacBooks.

Putting it to the test

I forced myself to wear it all day. I wanted to see if I could because I can’t stand anything being in my ear that long. Unlike other in-ear sets I’ve used, this one doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall out. This headset is very light weight at a mere 6.5 grams. The audio quality is crystal clear. Granted I haven’t been in noisy environments with it yet. Since it is in-ear, I can tell that it would be as good if not better than most headsets of this type. I called a few friends and didn’t mention that I was using a headset. When I told them that I was on a headset, they couldn’t believe that I wasn’t talking directly into the handset or a land line. They said that the sound was "GREAT and clear." As you would expect, it works perfectly with the iPhone. I had no trouble making or answering calls. When I would walk out of range of the iPhone, the headset would beep twice to let me know. That’s a cool feature. The one thing that’s missing though is there is no redial function. This is a basic feature of most headsets and the iPhone does support it if the headset does. From my Jabra BT 500v, I can hit the button for a second and it redials the last number I called. The Apple headset surprisingly doesn’t do this.

The one button also controls the call waiting features of the iPhone. You control the volume of the headset from the iPhone’s volume control on the side. Mac users will also be happy to know that the iPhone Bluetooth Headset can be paired with your Bluetooth equipped Mac for use in A/V applications such as iChat AV. Talk time is rated at up to 5.5 hours and Standby Time is rated at up to 72 hours. This is much lower than my existing headset which easily lasts all week without having to be recharged. Since the iPhone Bluetooth Headset comes with one cable to charge both the iPhone and headset at the same time, I cut Apple a little slack here. The charging time is about 1.5 hours. However, for the price I would expect a longer battery life.


The Bottom Line

I’m not an in-ear headset guy. Since this headset takes the one size fits all attitude, some will love it and some will hate it. Other than the in-ear aspect, I LOVE the design and integration. Although you can use this headset with other cellphones, I couldn’t see recommending it for non-iPhone users. It’s integrated so well with the iPhone and for the price of $129 you could do better with other headsets for other phones. Now, will I keep it or return it? I’m not totally in love with it, so I’m undecided. However, at this point I’m leaning towards keeping it. I’ve been wearing it pretty much all day for 2 days straight and it doesn’t hurt my ears like headsets of the past. We’ll see over the next 12 days with more real world use in less than ideal environments. For now it’s a keeper. For design and ease of use, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. For comfort, I give it 3.5 stars and for value, I give it 3.5 stars.


In other iPhone news

Apple sold 270,000 iPhones in the last two days of their 3rd quarter (June 29th and June 30th).  Apple expects to sell its One Millionth iPhone by the end of September 2007. That’s more phones in 30 hours sold than AT&T has sold in an entire month of any other cellphone product launch, blowing the RAZR out of the water.


Our New iPhone Book has gone to press!


The iPhone Book

I got the honor and privilege of co-authoring "The iPhone Book" with my buddy Scott Kelby (author of the insanely popular iPod Book and number one best selling computer book author in the world) Scott is a joy to work with and we had a blast writing this book. We covered every detail that we could find at the time. However, as you know, new iPhone details, apps, accessories, etc. come out daily now (like this headset that shipped after the book went to press). So we’ll provide updates to the book via PDF downloads as needed. I’ll also continue to cover newsworthy iPhone developments here. So don’t hesitate, run, don’t walk over to and place your order. Or buy it wherever you buy your cool books from.


Make your own ringtones for your iPhone

One of my number one complaints with the iPhone is that it doesn’t allow you to use your own music as ringtones. So when my buddy Dave Moser sent me the link to iPhone Ringtone Maker, I was a little skeptical. This $10 app allows you to convert your own MP3s, WAVs, etc. into the iPhone ringtones and loads them on your iPhone. So I decided that I’d give it a shot. I went to the site and found that it was a Windows only app. It would be nice to have it on the Mac, but it does work with intel Macs and Boot Camp/Parallels. So I fired up Windows XP on my MacBook Pro and installed the latest version of iTunes (7.3.1) for Windows. I then immediately set the preferences in iTunes NOT to automatically sync iPhones. This way I could plug in my iPhone without it trying to disturb the content that’s already there. I added a few MP3s that I wanted to make into ringtones. Next I loaded the iPhone Ringtone Maker app and plugged in my serial number.

The app is very simple to use. You choose your MP3 (or other file type), then you can trim it to as long as you want it to be. It automatically does a 2 second fade in/out. Next you hit the Send to iPhone button and it downloads the ringtone into your iPhone. You have to turn the iPhone off and back on for the new ringtone to appear in the list, but that’s it! Bam, my new ringtones were there and working. So now when Dave calls me I can hear the Imperial March that I’m used to when he calls 🙂

My only very minor issue with this app (other than it being Windows only) is that the ringtones don’t seem as loud as the original song and although there are audio effects there is no way to boost the gain. Otherwise, it was the best $10 I’ve spent all month.


AppleCare is now available for the iPhone

Apple has started selling AppleCare for iPhone. This $69 coverage covers the iPhone and Apple Bluetooth Headset for an additional year. I’m not jumping on this one, because it is very likely that I’d be on a new iPhone within a year, especially if they come out with a 3g model.

Jabra BT 500v

As many of you know, I’ve tried many different Bluetooth headsets and I keep coming back to my Jabra BT 500. So when I discovered that the Jabra had updated the BT 500 to the BT 500v, I decided to check it out.

Why I keep coming back to this particular headset?

Before I get into the BT 500v (which there isn’t much to get into), I thought I’d answer the question as to why I keep coming back to this one. It’s simple. It’s the most comfortable headset I’ve tried to date. I’ve tried in ear and I’ve tried on ear. The BT 500 series is "over the ear." I wear glasses, so it doesn’t help when a head set is trying to be in the same place as the rim of my glasses. Most "on ear" headsets literally cause me pain after about 30 minutes of use. I could wear the BT 500 all day. Sometimes I forget I have it on. The other kinds either hurt, don’t go down in my ear far enough or feel like they’re going to fall off.

OK, so what’s new about the BT 500v

If you go to and do a compare of the BT 500 vs. the BT 500v, you’ll only see one difference in the specs. The BT 500 v has a standby time of 300 hours vs. the 240 hours of the BT 500. So it has significantly longer battery life. The only other visual change is the color (Black vs. Silver).

I’ve seen this headset average about $80 on the web. So when I saw it listed at for only $50, I was cautiously curious. I decided to order it anyway. It came and I was surprised that it was the right model and new in the box. However, there was a catch. Also in the box was a universal power adapter (not in the Jabra box, but in the cardboard shipping box). So I knew something was up and sure enough it was the UK version of the headset. Since everything works the same and they did supply the UK to US power adapter, I didn’t complain. Also it works with the adapter I already own for the BT 500.

Sound quality is about the same. Pairing with the iPhone was a piece of cake and it supports re-dialing the last number dialed on the iPhone with a single button press on the headset. As usual it comes with 3 different ear gel sizes, since one size doesn’t fit all. My favorite headset, just got a little better! Going forward, I’d like to see Bluetooth 2.0 support (I don’t know why) and noise/wind reduction features.

iPhone Goodies

I thought I would end the week with some iPhone Goodies. The first item that comes to mind revolves around the supplied Apple earbuds. While I’m not a fan of earbuds in general, Apple’s earbuds have come a long way since the ones that hurt my ears back in 2001. I can actually where these for a while. However, my favorite earbuds are the B&O A8s and for plane rides the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 Noise Canceling Headphones.

As it’s been widely reported, most earbuds and headphones won’t fit into the iPhone’s recessed headphone jack. Although my A8’s do (not a secure fit, but they work), my Bose QC2’s don’t. I knew that Griffin Technologies was working on their adapter, but Belkin’s is shipping. I picked up the Belkin adapter at the Apple store for $10. RADtech also makes one for $6.95, but by the time you pay for shipping you’re at or over $10 anyway. Not much to say about the Belkin adapter other than it seems longer than it needs to be. Luckily the middle portion is flexible. This adapter works.

I also bought a couple of the Griffin Technology
PowerJolt for iPhone. Although most iPod car chargers will probably fit and power the iPhone, I didn’t own any. So I figured If I was going to buy one I’d buy one that I know will work. The iPhone’s battery life has been quite good, so I haven’t needed to charge it in the car yet, but it’s better to have a charger and not need it than to need it and not have it.


What about iPhone 3rd party apps?

I’ve been playing around with some of the web based iPhone apps out there and I have to say that a few of them are very useful and very well done. My favorites so far are:


Which case did I end up with?

Cases are a very personal thing. So what I like might not be right for you. My favorite style of phone case is the side holster kind. I bought a Griffin Technologies case the day I bought my iPhone and I didn’t like it once I got it home. Although it has a belt clip and mounts sideways on the holder, you either have to to fumble with getting the phone out of the holder to use it or take the entire thing off your belt. I don’t like either option. Believe it or not the case I ended up with was the phone that I already had for my Treo 650. It’s of course wider than it needs to since the iPhone is so much thinner than the Treo. However, this makes it easier to get the iPhone in and out. I didn’t return the Griffin case because it did come with a screen protector that I liked and I figure I can give the case away to one of my buddies that may like it. Although the iPhone has a pretty tough screen, it can get kind of grungy with all the oils from your fingers/face (or maybe it’s just me). So I like the clear screen protector to protect the screen from scratches and permanent marks. I know that there are some iPhone holsters out there now and I’ll check them out when I can see one in person. These look pretty cool.


iPhone tips and tricks

Take advantage of Address Book Groups! Since the iPhone’s Contacts app can also display just the contacts in any given group, you should setup some groups in Address Book to make it easier to call around to certain business/friends when on the go.

For example, I have set up a couple of groups that will come in handy when I travel:

“Hotels I Stay At” is a group of all the hotels I visit on a regular basis. This way I can get to them all at once without having to scroll through the long list or having to remember the name of a particular one.

“Favorite Restaurants” Need I say more? Handy when checking hours or making reservations

“Travel” This is probably the most important group. It has the contacts for NWA, my car services, Hertz, my travel agents, etc. When your flight is canceled or you are suddenly going to be stuck in a town due to a storm, you are suddenly fighting for space on the next flight as well as hotel rooms with hundreds of other folks. Seconds can mean all the difference in the world. The faster you can make phone calls to rearrange your travel the better! I was stuck in Minneapolis just this past February coming back from a vacation in Mexico. We missed our last flight out due to the delays leaving Mexico. We were snowed in and all the flights were being canceled. Because I could get my travel agent on the phone QUICKLY, she was able to snag the LAST room for miles around.


A Notes work around! The iPhone does have a Notes app. However, there currently is no way to sync Notes from your computer. You can only key in new notes from the iPhone’s keypad. There isn’t even a copy/paste feature. Once the note is created it can be emailed out of the iPhone. This got me thinking there has to be a better way.

I love having notes on my phone and I knew I would miss this ability. I’m sure Apple will make the iPhone sync with the NEW Notes feature in Mail in Leopard, but that’s months away. So my short term work around is to take advantage of the way IMAP email works. Your .Mac email is IMAP based. Also my other accounts are IMAP based too. With IMAP email you can have folders that reside on the email server. Here’s what I did:

1) I opened Mail on my Mac
2) I selected the .Mac account icon (the one with the globe on the bottom left side)
3) Using the Action menu at the bottom I choose New Mail Box. When the dialog box appeared I choose to have the new mail box created in my .Mac account. I called the new mail box “Notes”.
4) Next I created a new email message containing the note info in the body of the message and emailed it to my .Mac account.
5) When the message arrived, I moved it to the Notes folder
6) When I went to the iPhone and looked at the mail app, the new folder was already there with the note in it.


Before you ask it!

YES! I still like my iPhone 🙂

I like it more and more each day I use it. The sound quality has been great, Bluetooth just works and I’ve even gotten quite comfortable with the virtual keyboard. That’s saying a lot because I didn’t think I would ever get used to it. I’m at least as fast on my iPhone keyboard as I was on the Treo keyboard now if not faster. No regrets! I’m not the only one that is happy with my iPhone. Check out this USAToday story which states that 90% of 200 owners said they were “extremely” or “very” satisfied with their phone. And 85% said they are “extremely” or “very” likely to recommend the device to others, says the online survey conducted and paid for by market researcher Interpret of Santa Monica, Calif. The firm surveyed 1,000 cellphone users July 6-10. The iPhone is extending Apple’s reach, the survey says. Three of 10 buyers were first-time Apple customers. For 40%, iPhone is their first iPod.

A must have for presenters

Keyspan Presentation Remote Pro

Keyspan has improved upon my favorite presentation remote in just about every way with their NEW Presentation Remote Pro. I was big fan of the Keyspan Presentation Remote. As a matter of fact it made it onto My Favorite Things list. However, the new Presentation Remote Pro knocks the old remote out of the box in just about every way! The first improvement is in the area of range. The new remote can be up to 100′ away from the computer. The second, and one of the most important improvements for me is that it has an on/off switch on the side (all portable devices should have this). With the old remote I would take the battery out before putting it back in my bag.

This new remote is RF based and therefore requires a small USB receiver to be plugged into your Mac or PC. They did a great job integrating this receiver into the remote unit. It’s spring loaded. Just press it down and the receiver pops out. Take it out and plug it into an available USB port and you’re ready to go. No software/drivers to install. Keyspan also improved the functions of the remote itself. It now sports an easier to use laser pointer (the old one required that you turn the laser pointer on separately). They also included a volume control which is cool to be able to adjust the volume of embedded movies without having to return to the computer or interrupt the slide show. They even included an F5/ESC button to start and stop slidewshows and a "black the screen" button which is very handy for when you want to make the screen go black so the audience focuses in on you and what you have to say. I know this may sound like a "duh" thing, but they clearly identified the Forward and Back buttons with big white arrows. When I handed my old remote to different presenter I would have to spend a few seconds explaning to him/her how to advance their slides with the side button. It wasn’t hard, it just wasn’t intuitive.

This remote does more than just advance your slides it also acts as a wireless mouse. However, in my initial testing I will only use this feature in rare cases. It was just too hard to control the pointer using the little nub/joystick. Perhaps if I slow my cursor down in my System Prefs it would be OK then. There are also standard Left and Right click mouse buttons.

A couple of minor issues: When I plugged the receiver into my MacBook Pro, Mac OS X tried to configure it as a keyboard by launching an Assistant, and asked me to press certain buttons. I’ve seen this before. All you have to do is quit out of the Assistant and you’re ready to rock and roll. The F5 button only works in Windows to start a slideshow. However, holding it down on both Mac and Windows will end the show (ESC). This is documented on the reference card that comes with the remote.

Like I said, this remote is better in just about every way over the previous version. I fired up Apple’s Keynote (my presentation app of choice), Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 and MS PowerPoint and I was able to control my presentations in all three apps. I love everything about it and there isn’t really anything that I don’t like about it. I rate it as a "must have" for anyone that does slide presentations. It retails for $79 and even came with the 2 AAA batteries already loaded in it. I ordered it from the Keyspan site and while I didn’t request any special shipping, it came so fast that when it arrived I didn’t know what it was at first.

Use voice recognition to build your grocery list


I was chatting with my buddy Scott when I could hear his wife in the background all excited about something. Scott told me that she got this new gadget. Of course “gadget” was the magic word and I said, “put her on.” “Tell me all about it.” She had just gotten a “SmartShopper Grocery List Organizer.” I couldn’t believe how excited she was, so I knew this thing had to be cool. I ordered one without hesitation.

The SmartShopper is a digital grocery list maker that you use to actually produce your shopping list. The way it works is that you walk up to it or pick it up and press the record button. Then you simply speak the item that you want to add to your list. Say “Honey Nut Cheerios” for example, and it displays it own the LCD screen along with 1 or 2 other possible things that you may have meant to say. You select the one you said or meant to say and it adds it to the list. When you’re ready to go shopping, you hit the print button and it prints out a paper list organized by aisle/area of the store. The SmartShopper has 2,500 items programmed into it including many popular brand items. Of course it doesn’t have everything that any of us would buy. No worries, you can add your own custom items including the voice command to add it to the list. Although there is no keyboard, you can key in your items with an onscreen keyboard that goes from A-Z with numbers at the end. Another neat thing that it does is that you can flag items that you have coupons for. I NEVER REMEMBER coupons EVER! So this might come in handy. You can of course remove items from the list before you print it as well as add/change quantities.

Now you can make your shopping list all week long by just recording it as you think of something you need. At the end of the week or whenever you’re ready to go shopping, just print the list.

shopping list

I must say that it gave my daughters quite a good laugh as I took it out of the box, put the batteries in and just started trying to use it without reading the instructions (hey, that’s how I roll). I was speaking too closely to the built-in mic and it was guessing most things incorrectly. It was the suggestions that it came up with that were quite entertaining. I would say “Pears” and it would guess “Dog Bowls.” So they were cracking up. You want to be about 6-8 inches away when you talk. You also want to pronounce the words separately. For example, say Fruit Loops instead of FruitLoops. Once I read these handy tips, I was on my way. The SmartShopper also comes with a handy reference guide that lists the 2,500 items that are built-in, two ways. It lists them by category first and then on page 44, it starts to list them alphabetically. If there are things that you’re never going to buy, you can actually remove them from the database. This will of course narrow down the list of items and therefore  make the voice recognition (which is pretty accurate), even more accurate.

You can also use the SmartShopper to remind yourself of errands that you need to run while you’re out. It will list your errands too on the print out as a reminder for you when you’re out shopping. The SmartShopper has a magnetic surface on the back so that it can go right on your fridge (provided your fridge is not stainless steel). There is also a wall mounting option for those that like to keep their fridges clutter free or you can just stick it in a drawer if you don’t need to look at it constantly. The SmartShopper runs on 4 AA batteries (not included). There is no OFF button, it turns itself off after 30 seconds of inactivity. No training is required. The voice recognition works out of the box and therefore would work for any family member. It goes for $199 list, however Amazon sells it for $127.48. It comes with 2 extra rolls of paper.

View the interactive demo here.