Do it yourself desktop stand for FaceTime calls

FaceTime Stand

I have really been enjoying using FaceTime to make FREE video calls back home while traveling abroad. Of course you need either an iPhone 4 or 4th generation iPod touch on either end and a Wi-Fi connection on both ends and you can talk and see as much as you want for FREE. It's been working extremely well! The one thing that I find to be a bit of a pain is actually holding the device. When just talking on the phone for long periods of time you can just lay it down and use speakerphone or a bluetooth headset as you roam around the room/multitask. However, with FaceTime you're going to not only want to hold the device, but you're also going to want to hold it up fairly high. Holding it down at a natural stomach level will probably yield some unflattering up the nose angles for your video. 

Then I got an idea

One evening while sitting and working at the desk in my hotel room I realized that not only was there a better way to do this, but I even had the necessary pieces with me to make it work. Ideally you want some sort of vertical stand for the iPhone 4 that lifts it up higher than the desk/table itself. I realized that I had both an iPhone 4 tripod holder AND a Gorillamobile in my computer bag. It took me all of 15 seconds to put the two together and I had an instant FaceTime stand that could be tilted and even attached to something higher if need be. It worked GREAT!

 

Here are the two pieces you need:

G-Design makes the iPhone 4 tripod holder. Unfortunately it's not designed for the iPod touch, but as long as you don't turn it upside down it should just hold it in place.

It fits the iPhone 4 very snuggly and you CAN turn it upside down or sideways if you need to.

The G-Design iPhone 4 Tripod holder is available here.

 

While the Tripod holder will go on just about any standard tripod, I find the Gorillamobile to be the smallest and most flexible in terms of standing it up or wrapping it around objects. It's so small in fact that I forgot that it was in my bag. So it's GREAT for travelers.

Get the Gorillamobile here.

 

Yes you can use FaceTime with a 4th Gen iPod touch too!

In case you missed it, you don't have to have an iPhone (and contract) to enjoy FaceTime. You can have this FREE video call goodness now with a 4th Generation iPod touch. It has the necessary front facing camera and can make the same FREE video calls over WiFi to other 4th gen iPod touch devices OR iPhone 4's. FaceTime on an iPod touch uses your registered email address to receive FaceTime calls as long as your on WiFi. You can make FaceTime calls to an iPhone 4 as long as you know their phone number or another 4th gen iPod touch as long as you have their "registered" email address.  Get the 32GB (don't waste your time with an 8GB model) iPod touch here.

Great News For Developers: iOS iPhone

In April 2010 Adobe released Creative Suite 5. Among all of the amazing features of this release was one feature that allows Flash Developers to export their Flash developed Apps as native iOS (.IPA) Apps from Flash Professional CS5. However, due to a change in Apple's developer agreement the future of this technology was unclear as Apple basically changed their agreement in ways that would potentially block Apps that were not created with Apple's tools. Well yesterday Apple changed this policy and I couldn't be happier for the developer community! This is great news for developers and we’re hearing from our developer community that Packager apps are already being approved for the App Store. I should point out that Apple’s restriction on Flash content running in the browser on iOS devices remains in place.

Adobe will continue to work with key industry partners, including Google, RIM, Nokia, Motorola and Palm/HP to enable their device users to browse the full web through Flash Player 10.1 and run standalone applications on AIR. We are excited about the great progress our partners are making as they deliver the first smartphones to market with full Flash support.

 

The Video I Never Got To Show

You might remember my popular series "My Top 5 Favorite Features of CS5" that I ran on YouTube and my Creative Suite Video Podcast. I recorded those videos right before the official release of CS5. However, I chose to re-record my Flash/Dreamweaver video because I felt there was no need to talk about the iOS App Packager in Flash CS5 since Apps created with this technology could have been potentially blocked from the App Store. Well now I finally get to show you the video that I intended to show from the beginning. Here's my "original" Top 5 Favorite Features of Dreamweaver and Flash CS5. I think you'll like the last feature 🙂 :

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgVmH8GMvnw

 

 

By the way, don't forget to check out Adobe's iOS Apps here.

Facebook Adds Places: Time to Update Your Privacy Settings Again!

You might remember my recent post "Are you sharing too much on Facebook?" in that post I gave you some tips on how to control your privacy settings so that only the people that you want to see your status updates and photos are the ones that actually see them. It's time to revisit this again now that Facebook has added "Places". 

 

What's Places?

Places is  a new feature on Facebook that allows mobile users to "check in" to the different places they may visit. This is not a new concept as sites like Gowalla and Foursquare have been doing this for a while. It's a social networking thing amongst "close friends" and "family" and of course Facebook wants in on it (I'm sure there's money in knowing the establishments that your customers frequent the most). The concept is pretty simple. You visit a location, business, park, etc. and with a mobile device like a smartphone you either use the Facebook app or the Facebook mobile site to check in. That "check in" is then posted to your wall/news feed for all of your "friends" to see. If you don't want your friends to know where you are every minute of the day then don't use it. It's pretty simple to not tap or click on it. Problem solved. 🙂 However, there's a little more to it than that with Facebook at least for now. The problem is that your "friends" can tag YOU when they check in to a location. This is a plus from a convenience standpoint when a group of friends are hanging out and a big minus for those that don't want to play! Your friends don't need your consent to check you in! I can already hear the privacy groups screaming about this and luckily although it's ENABLED BY DEFAULT, you can turn it off (see below).

Here's another Privacy gotcha according to Macworld.com:

Another problem is that, while new places users create are private by default, they can become public if enough users check into them. Even if such a place is your house or apartment, Facebook will automatically promote the place to being public after an unspecified number of check-ins. For now, there is no way to prevent your home address from becoming a public location on Facebook aside from asking your friends to not check in at your next party. If a sensitive location becomes public, the only way to attempt to remove it is to flag it for Facebook to review, and ask others to do the same.

So the obvious thing not to do here is DON'T use Places to check in to your private residence. I never saw the need to do this on Gowalla, will definitely NOT be doing it on Facebook Places.

 

Changing your privacy settings – NOW!

Whether you plan to use Places or not, you should adjust your Privacy settings NOW! I already use Gowalla, but unlike Facebook I only have less than 10 Gowalla friends! These are the few people that are close to me that I would want to know my current location at any given time. So the same goes for Facebook! If I do use the Places feature, I don't want my 1,500+ "Friends" to necessarily know where I am. I want those "Close Friends", "Family" and "People I actually know" to know where I am. Again, this is where the Facebook Lists Feature pays off again. You can designate a List of the people that you would want to see your Places' Check Ins.

The default for Places is set to "Friends". 

 

Also don't forget to DISABLE the ability for Friends to check you in to Places if you don't want that:

If you don't want ANYONE to see where you are even if you're tagged, change the setting to "Only Me" and you should be OK for now.

G Design updates their iPhone tripod holder for the iPhone 4

  

The good folks over at G Design have modified their popular iPhone Tripod Holder (original review here) to accommodate the slimmer iPhone 4 handset. Now that the iPhone 4 is sporting a 5MB camera and HD video, more and more budding photographers and videographers are taking it more seriously.

 

Addition of rubber grips

This is basically the same holder that they made for the iPhone 3G/3GS, they merely added rubber grips (bumpers) on both sides to fill the gap and hold the iPhone 4 in place.

 

 

Yes, it holds it tight enough even upside down

Just like the previous model there is very little danger of the iPhone 4 sliding out and falling to the ground. As you can see here I've got it completely upside down. Although I can't think of too many times that I would need to mount it this way (sideways/landscape is fine), it's good to know that it holds it in place if I do.

Not only would this work well for your next photo/product shoot or video project, but it would also be handy for those extended FaceTime sessions. 

 

You can get the NEW iPhone 4 Tripod Holder here from their site. You can get the GorillaPod featured above here.

What do Point & Shoot Cameras and GPS Nav Units Have in Common?

They are both on my endangered species list…

I wrote a post a while back asking the question, "Are camera phones the next point and shoot cameras?" Back then, I pointed out how I either carry my DSLR camera when the picture that I want to take really matters or I shoot casually with the camera on my smartphone (which is always with me) when it's something casual and in the moment. While point and shoot cameras will probably continue to have the advantage when it comes to better lenses, more megapixels and probably better quality files, smartphones continue to drive the one feature that matters most to most casual shooters: SHARING! Most people take pictures so that they can not only capture the moment, but also so that they can share them easily. Yet only a fraction of point and shoot cameras today include built-in WiFi and even then it's difficult to setup and use. The standard smartphone (iPhone 4 and various Droid models) have all gone up to between 5MP-8MP sensors.  While it's true that point and shoot cameras typically come in the 8MP-14MP range these days, for the average person 5MP is plenty. Not only are these devices shooting great pictures, but they are also shooting great HD video! Although I love my Kodak Zi8, I honestly think that I won't be carrying it anymore by the end of this year. 

 

What about GPS Turn-by-Turn Directions?

When I travel I live by my GPS devices. I'm the first to admit that I'm very directionally challenged. However, my beloved Garmin Nüvi 765T sits on a shelf now. Why? Because the Navigon App on my phone just keeps getting better and better. I paid for it once and it has had several significant feature updates. The latest update brings background multitasking support, weather info, the latest Maps and now finds available parking. Sure I could buy a new dedicated GPS that offers these features too, but why? I'm always gonna have my phone with me and the App on my phone will continue to get better with minimal cost in upgrading.

 

I think the days of these one trick ponies are over. Why carry a point and shoot camera, a GPS navigation device and a phone if your smartphone can do it all?


Don't believe me? Take a look at these videos:

 

A photo shoot done with a camera phone (iPhone 3GS)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOoGjtSy7xY

 

A movie shot and produced (back story here) entirely on an iPhone 4:

 

 

Navigon demonstrating their New Clever Parking feature:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo84K678Rbc

 

Also be sure to check out this book on what can be done with a camera phone: The Best Camera Is The One That's With You: iPhone Photography by Chase Jarvis (Voices That Matter)

Continue reading “What do Point & Shoot Cameras and GPS Nav Units Have in Common?”

AT&T Finally Brings Tethering to the iPhone: What you should know…

One of my main AT&T/iPhone complaints has finally been addressed. Ever since the iPhone 3G (and for some, the original iPhone) came out two years ago, I wondered why AT&T was so adamant about NOT allowing you to tether (use your iPhone as a modem/WiFi hotspot) your iPhone to your laptop and share its 3G data connection. After all they allow this with every other smart phone they sell and they even sell 3G data cards. Also no one ever expected this to be FREE. So I never really got why this was such a big deal? Granted AT&T couldn't do it alone and it would require built-in support by Apple in the iPhone OS (iOS). However, that support came in iPhone OS 3 LAST YEAR. So what took AT&T a YEAR to allow it on the iPhone for us in the US? They claim that they still needed to tweak their network to allow the influx of additional data traffic. While this may be true, the thing is since it's not FREE, not everyone is going to do it. Also it's not something you're going to be using all the time or would you?

 

Data Plan caps may have been the real issue

I don't doubt that AT&T needed to (and still needs to) work on "the world's fastest 3G network" to get it ready for even the slightest increase in traffic, but I suspect that an even larger issue was not wanting you to be able to pay a flat fee and have unlimited use. Even when you go with a $60/month 3G data card from AT&T there is a 5GB/month cap on it. Up until now all iPhone plans have been "UNLIMITED" data. So while the amount of 3G data that iPhone users currently consume must be HUGE, I'm sure giving users unlimited tethering would have brought this fragile network to its knees.

 

Do you want unlimited iPhone 3G data or do you want tethering?

Continue reading “AT&T Finally Brings Tethering to the iPhone: What you should know…”

iTunes 9.2: Why can’t we sync playlists yet?

It was Wednesday afternoon last week and I was packing to head out on a business trip. This usually involves syncing my iDevices so I have the latest tunes, Apps, movies, etc. that I want to take with me on the road. All of this syncing works great between devices, except when those devices happen to be computers! My main music library is on a shared family iMac in a central part of the house. It has music on it from each family member according to their tastes in music. As you might imagine I really don't want to bring a bunch of music with me that I have no interest in listening too. This isn't a problem on an iPod, because you simply sync only the playlists you want to take with you and only those songs will go onto the device. 

So why does Apple exclude computers from all this syncing "magic"?

I have iTunes 9.2 on my MacBook Pro. I have iTunes 9.2 on my iMac. Both Macs are authorized on the same iTunes account and therefore can legally play the same songs. However, when it comes time for me to get songs from the iMac onto the MacBook Pro it's a very MANUAL process. iTunes 9 introduced Home Sharing. However, Home Sharing is essentially just a network copy feature and nothing more. Although Home Sharing DOES automatically add purchased songs to the other computer, there's no syncing and no duplicate management for playlists or anything else. Grab 10 songs and drag them over and 5 minutes later you can grab the same songs and drag them over again. iTunes will not warn you about any duplicates and it will just copy them AGAIN. This problem got a little worse back when Apple moved to iTunes Plus because although you could "upgrade" your songs and iTunes would replace them with the new DRM free versions at a higher bit rate (keeping your ratings, metadata, play counts, etc.), your other computers would be out of luck for this automatic replacement. You would have to do it all manually.  I guess from time to time you could wipe your library on one computer and copy over again, but the question becomes why is there no automatic way of keeping two iTunes libraries in sync?

 

Is there a 3rd party solution out there?

I've looked and so far I haven't found the perfect app yet (or even one that's close). Sure there are some Apps out there that will attempt to keep your iTunes libraries in sync. However, from what I've seen so far either the user interfaces are HORRIBLE and overly complicated or they simply don't do enough. For example, I haven't found one yet that syncs "Smart Playlists". Let's say I have a Smart Playlist of my "Best of the Best" songs. They are the ones I've rated 5 stars. So technically it's not a "real playlist", it's a dynamic one that updates automatically based on the song ratings. None of the Apps I've tried to date will handle this. Yet Apple has been able to sync Smart Playlists to the iPod since day one.

Ideally what I want is pretty simple – I want to be able to choose a few playlists on my iMac (including Smart Playlists) and have those SAME playlists sync to my MacBook Pro. If I change the rating of a song on the iMac, then that song's rating should get changed on the MacBook Pro too and therefore it would appear in the proper playlists automatically. If I have manual playlists that I move songs in and out of, this should happen on the MacBook Pro too. 

Yes, I'm very willing to pay for such a solution. Have you guys seen anything out there that really works? It's sad that Apple hasn't built this in directly to iTunes for computers like they have for iDevices. 

My thoughts on iPhone 4 and iOS 4

I've been busy with my day job and really couldn't spend a lot of time ogling the iPhone announcements the other day. However, I did catch up on my reading of all the new things and watched a few of the videos and of course people expect me to weigh in on what I like or don't like about new tech gadgets So here goes:

 

iPhone 4 – What I'm excited about

From a new hardware perspective, I'm excited about the new smaller, thinner form factor and since I have yet to see the actual (retina) display I can't weigh in on it one way or the other. I'm sure it's great. I also welcome the faster speeds of the A4, longer battery life of the bigger battery and potential better call quality based on the new antenna layout/case design. I definitely welcome the new 5MP camera and LED flash as well as having both a front facing and rear facing camera. This was long over due! FaceTime looks cool, but I wonder how useful it will be since both people have to have iPhone 4s and be on WiFi. Still, it will be fun to try. The 720p video is definitely welcome! It may mean that I can actually give up my Kodak Zi8, which I love. What I love even more is carrying less devices.

 

iPhone 4 – What I'm a little disappointed about

Although I get the space constraint issues, I'm still disappointed that there's not a 64GB version. Maybe I won't care as much now that I have an iPad, but my 32GB iPhone 3GS is always within 1-5GBs of space remaining. So I was looking forward to not only a faster iPhone, but bigger storage too. Also I kinda wish that they didn't go to a MicroSIM as it means switching the SIM card between phones is going to be a little more challenging. I'll be testing an Android phone in the not too distant future and it would have been nice to be able to "easily" go between the two with the same SIM Card. This solution looks promising though.

 

iOS 4 – What I'm excited about

If you asked me to name the top 3 features I can't wait for they would be (in order): Folders! – I have TONS of Apps and believe it or not, I can't wait to get them under control from an organization standpoint with folders. I have all 11 screens full right now on my 3GS and I have to pick and choose which apps to delete when I want to add more because I refuse to let them slide into that black hole that is page 12. The second thing I have been dying for is the integrated inbox in Mail. I've been complaining about that since 2007. So 3 years later, I'm glad that someone at Apple realized that people have more than one email account and don't want to have to constantly go back back back to view a different inbox. The third thing that I'm excited about is mult-tiasking. Although it remains to be seen what really happens when an app is in the background, I still welcome the fact that it will at least return me to the app where I left off now with 3rd party apps.

 

iOS 4- What I'm disappointed about

Continue reading “My thoughts on iPhone 4 and iOS 4”