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.

Do more than just protect your keyboard

People tend to do a lot while they’re working on their computers including eating and drinking. After a while the keyboard can get kind of gross or even permanantly damaged. There have been keyboard protectors and overlays out there on the market for years. However, the folks over at zCover have the right idea. Why just protect the keyboard when you can also learn the keyboard shortcuts of your favorite app at the same time?

I first saw these guys while attending Macworld Expo in San Francisco back in January. They had a booth set up on the show floor and they were selling these keyboard covers like hot cakes (do people still buy hot cakes?). I have bought specialized keyboards in the past that were configured with color coded keys for a specific app. However, the zCover keyboard covers make so much more sense. When I used to buy the specialized keyboards of course the keyboard shortcuts were only listed for the one application that I bought the keyboard for (mostly video editing apps that I don’t use everyday). Now I can have multiple covers and switch covers when I switch apps. While out at Macworld, I bought two of these (they had a deal), I got the one for Adobe Photoshop and the one for Adobe After Effects. I just ordered the one for Adobe Premiere Pro now that I’ll be using the New CS3 version full-time. They also carry covers for non-Adobe apps too.

Typing with a zCover on will take a few minutes of getting used to it. Some keys you may have to press down harder than you’re used to. Otherwise these covers are GREAT! Also if you someday replace your keyboard or move to a different computer you can take your covers with you.

The covers aren’t cheap. The ones that have color coded keyboard shortcuts start at $49.95. The plain protectors start at $29.95. However, keep in mind that the specialized keyboards from other vendors can cost over $100. The zCovers are for your Apple Keyboards for desktop Macs and MacBook Pros.

Yes it’s even washable.

Navigate your world in 3D

While on the Adobe CS3 Tour I came across a really cool gadget. My colleague Colin Fleming told me that I had to go check out the SpaceNavigator. Taking Colin’s advice I headed over to the 3DConnexion booth and within a couple of minutes of playing with the SpaceNavigator I had to have one. Although I’ve been home now for a little over a week, yesterday was the first time that I actually had a chance to install the SpaceNavigator. Granted I don’t do a lot in 3D, but when I do I always find the on screen controls to be less than intuitive. I’m always trying to spin objects around and end up flipping them. Now that Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended has 3D support, this kind of 3D Navigation Tool is even more useful for me. The SpaceNavigator works directly inside Photoshop CS3 Extended. There was nothing that I had to do to tell Photoshop that it was attached. Once I installed the driver, I opened up the file below, double clicked on the 3D layer icon and I had complete control over the object’s movement, zooming and panning.

While it’s great to have this wonderful controller for Photoshop CS3 Extended, I’d love to have it work in After Effects as well. I think we’re working on it, but nothing to announce yet.


Next I headed over to Google Earth. An hour of my time just vanished. I was so sucked in and again I was using that app like I had never used it before. I was flying all around the globe and zooming in on any placed that I wanted to see. I even did an aerial fly through from my old house to my new house and because I had such fluid control, it was easy to track the entire route.

The SpaceNavigator goes for $59 and if you play with (or do real work in) 3D apps, it’s a must have! Here’s a video from one of the 3Dconnexion guys showing the SpaceNavigator inside Photoshop CS3 Extended. Check it out:


Do I still like my iPhone?

Today marks one week of dedicated iPhone usage for me and the number one question I’ve been getting all week is, “do you still like your iPhone?” I understand where that question is coming from. Most people genuinely want to know. However for the rest they seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. The industry and media hyped up the iPhone like no other gadget in modern history. So much so that there was no way for the iPhone to live up to all that hype. Some were even calling it the “Jesus phone.” That one cracks me up the most. Now that the iPhone has been out in the wild for a week, the same media seems to be waiting with bated breath for the tower that they built to come tumbling down. From what I can see, it hasn’t. Everyone I know that bought an iPhone is still enjoying it. Apple is rumored to have sold 500,000 – 700,000 (or over 1 million if we believe the AT&T Activation Rumor) phones in a few days time. The iPhone is now sold out in most locations. This is the fastest selling phone in history and dwarfs the Motorola RAZR by doing better in a few days than the RAZR did in its first month.

If that’s not enough I have to then hear from all the people with all their various reasons why NOT to get an iPhone. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand reasons like, “I’m in a contract with my current phone “, “I can’t afford it”, “I don’t need it”, “I don’t buy 1st generation devices”, “AT&T doesn’t provide good service in my area”, etc. I have no problem with these reasons. The ones that bug me are the ones that just want to rag on it just because. We shall call them the “glass half empty people.” They say things like, “It’s just a phone”, “my phone does all those things already”, “I don’t see why you would spend $600 on a phone?”, etc. Sure there are phones out there that do most of the same things that the iPhone does and some phones even have more features. What some people don’t seem to get is that it’s not just what the iPhone does, but how it does it. Grown men and women stood in lines for hours to spend $500-$600 on the iPhone. There was a reason for this! They were NOT happy with their current phone or they wanted something BETTER. I’ve used my share of phones and gadgets. However, I can’t ever remember actually having “fun” using my phones of the past.

Here’s something that might help the “glass half empty people” put things in perspective. The iPod came out in 2001. There were several MP3 players already on the market. Most of which were cheaper and some even held more songs. Yet, the iPod came out into this crowded market and worked in a way that no other MP3 player did. It was easy to use, it flawlessly sync’d with your computer and gave you playlists. That’s why it took over the market. People to this day line up to get the newest models. Most iPod owners I know now have more than one. The iPod was supposed to be a failure. There was no way a $399 (just $100 less than the iPhone today) MP3 player was supposed to make it. However, it did and continues to make it big time with over 70% market share. People were yelling the same things, “it’s too expensive”, “it’s just an MP3 player”, “I already have an MP3 player that does all that”, etc. There are still MP3 players out now that cost less and some even hold more songs, but the iPod commands a dominate market share. So with that why is it so hard for some to see that the iPhone is basically doing or has the potential to do the same thing and that the user experience is what sets it apart? Sure there are phones out there with many of the same features. I should know I’ve owned a couple. However, those same features aren’t as accessible, aren’t as friendly to use and definitely not as much fun to use. Most people don’t do email or surf the net on their phones because the experience is so bad. Also most people that I’ve shown the iPhone to and let the play with it start smiling and before they know it, it’s time to hand it back. They start to get it once they’ve actually used it.

Is the iPhone perfect or even close? Absolutely not, I’ve got a whole laundry list of things that I would like to see improved/added (see my in-depth review). However, 99% of what I want done can be done via software updates and Apple is already rumored to be working on delivering a free software update in the not to distant future. The things I didn’t like about my previous phone could only be resolved by buying a new phone, and another new phone and another new phone and even then it wouldn’t be as much fun to use.

I don’t need to carry this stuff any more

I took the opportunity to go through my notebook bag and remove some of the gear that I used to carry that the iPhone has now replaced. Of course I don’t need to carry my Treo 650 any more, but that’s a one-to-one trade. However, I also don’t need to carry around my iPod with video or my iPod shuffle. I used to carry the large iPod on trips to watch videos, listen to music and watch podcasts. I used to carry the shuffle on my key chain so that I would always have an iPod handy in case I got stuck waiting in a line somewhere. The iPhone is an iPod and since I always have my phone on me, I don’t need a second iPod to carry around. I used to carry around a Canary Wireless Digital Hotspotter (a very cool device) for detecting wi-fi networks in the area. Because the iPhone has Wi-Fi, I don’t need a separate device for this. I also used to carry a little pocket Sony 2 megapixel camera for those “darn I wish I had a camera moments.” Yep the iPhone fills that void too. I used to carry a little pocket timer that I used during presentations to let me know how much time I had left. You guessed it, the iPhone has a great timer built-in. There were also some miscellaneous cables and connectors I used with my video iPod that I don’t need to carry either. Now it’s only fair to mention that some of the items like the iPod video cables and camera connector don’t work with the iPhone. However, I can live without them as I hardly ever, like never used them. The one thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is that I also have a Moto RAZR. Why? Because I was so tired of the intermittent problems with my Treo and Bluetooth support in my car that I bought a RAZR to use when I wasn’t traveling. Most times the Treo would connect, sometimes it would just simply disconnet while driving. Sometimes it would lockup the phone while it was connected and sometimes it would work just fine. I would come home from a business trip and take the SIM card out of the Treo and stick it in the RAZR to use on the weekends and days I wasn’t traveling. I don’t need the RAZR anymore either. I’ve been using my iPhone in my car the whole week without a single disconnect, failure to connect or lockup. It’s for reasons like this that we welcome the iPhone onto the scene!

Any problems to report?

Actually no! The iPhone is still working as advertised. I did have a couple of very minor things happen though. I went to re-record my voicemail greeting. Clicking the record button on the phone didn’t do anything. Everything else was functioning just fine. Finally I just turned to phone off and back on and it was fine after that. The only other thing that happened is that while I was connecting it to my computer to sync up, I may have inadvertently done things out of sequence and although the display said that it was syncing, nothing was moving. So I unplugged it and reset it (like you do on an iPod), plugged it back in and all was well. Other than that it has performed VERY WELL. Never missing a beat on phone calls or bluetooth operations. My Treo would lock up just sitting there. So this is definitely an improvement. Battery life also seems to be as good as advertised. Sorry to disappoint all of those (you know who you are) folks waiting for the horror stories, I just haven’t had any yet. Rather than sit there are grumble, get up head out to your local Apple store and play with one. Then come back and grumble. At least then your grumbling will have credibility. 🙂 Life’s too short. Try being happier.

See my NEW iPhone 3G S review – June 2009 here.

See my iPhone 3g review here.