I’m Sorry, I am Weak!!!

A big sorry to my Twitter followers after last night when I participated in something that can be considered Twitter Spam!

I got an email from the gang at Macheist.com saying that I could get two more applications if I sent out a Tweet with their information.

I did debate whether or not I should but given the opportunity to get free Mac Software (I will probably use one of the apps) got the better of me.

At least I waited till later at night hoping that most of my followers would have long gone to bed and not seen the Tweet!

Not only did I want the two free applications, there was another reason why I did it. With the Macheist Bundle program, the more they sell and raise for charity the more applications get unlocked. We are very close to having the BoinxTV (Sponsored Edition) application unlocked which is something that I really want to play with, so I contributed hoping to boost some sales.

In case you missed my previous post about the Macheist Bundle, it is a software bundle of Mac software applications written by Independent software writers. The bundle is available for 4 more days and if there are one or two Mac Applications in the bundle that you can use it works out to be a pretty good deal!

I purchased the bundle last year and was happy with the software I got, this year’s bundle was not as compelling for me, but there were a couple of applications I wanted to get so I took the plunge.

If you are interested in getting the bundle please consider using my referral link here so that I can get credit (and get yet another free application)! Yes I am terrible I admit it.


Great Deal for Mac Users, Macheist 3! Limited time!

Something a little different today. This is for any Mac users that read my blog. The guys and gals over at Macheist are at it again. I was introduced to the Macheist Bundle last year with version 2.0. They offer a bundle of Mac software applications for a limited time at a very low price with 25% of the proceeds going to charity. These are all full applications (usually the most current version) with full support and the ability to upgrade to new versions. This years bundle includes 12 applications some of which I am really exceited to try! This years bundle is selling for $39.95 USD.

A few of the packages applications that come in this years bundle look very interesting. In particular I am anxious to try Picturesque (a simple and fast photo editor), Kinemac (a 3D animation program), Acorn (another Mac Photo editor) , and Wiretap studio (an audio editing program). Wiretap Studio has already been unlocked for all users as the Macheist gang has already raised over $100,000.00 for charity (and at the time of this post have raised $236,625.00 for charity)!

When the bundle raises $400,00.00 another application will become unlocked called Boinx TV wich is a video broadcasting piece of sofware that I am also interested in trying out!

The bundle is only availalble for a limited time though so you have to act quickly! There are only 11 days left to purchase the bundle (by my calcualtion the bundle ends April 6th, 2009).

If you are interested in purchasing this bundle of goodies please use the following link:

If you want to make sure that you get the deal make sure that you purchase ASAP. In addition you will be signed up to recieve emails about the next Macheist. What I learned this year is that there is a pre bundle game where you have to figure out clues and you can get additional software and discounts n the bundle. This year I was able to get about $515.00 worth of software in the pre bundle games as well as $8.00 in discounts off of the bundle.

If you are a Mac user, be sure not to miss this!

My Tech of Travel, An Update!

I actually wrote a majority of this post back in November 2008 on my ASUS 1000H Netbook while waiting for the kids while they were in some lessons. It never got posted at the time and has been sitting on my little machine since then. However I did take all of the gadgets mentioned below on a family cruise with us in early December 2008.

It is almost that time of year when we take our  family on our annual hot weather vacation. Because I  run a business I have to stay in touch with clients in case of emergencies. We are also a family of digital photographers so we have a need to be able to offload digital pictures daily from the variety of cameras that everyone will be carrying. I speak from personal experience that there is no worse feeling that losing a digital camera with a number of pictures on it!

I wrote a similar article last year but some of the tech has been update and there is at least one new addition to the gear that I carry, so without further ado here we go.

Perhaps one of the biggest updates is the laptop I will be carrying…for this particular trip where I will have very expensive but limited and slow Internet service (satellite Internet on a cruise ship). Instead of carrying my Acer TravelMate 6100 12.1″ laptop or my 15.4″ MacBook Pro, I will be carrying my Asus EEE PC 1000H Netbook! in fact I am actually writing this post on this little gem of a machine while I am out of  my home office!

The machine is small (10.1 ” screen), weighs just a fraction less than 2 lbs, has an 80 GB hard drive, 1GB of Ram, wireless card, Bluetooth, SD Card reader, 3 USB ports, a keyboard that is 95% of a full laptop keyboard and a battery that I can consistently use for 4 hours running windows XP Home. There is no optical drive on this machine so if the kids want to watch movies they have to be ripped to the hard drive first. In addition it’s small size allows for someone even as large as me to open this on device in an aircraft while the person in front of me reclines their seat! Other features include a webcam, stereo microphones, Dolby sound room speakers and a track pad.

While the machine is not overly fast and powerful, it features a 1.6 Intel Atom processor, it is more than enough to check email, surf the web, write blog posts, download photos to and more. Would I try major photo editing jobs on it? No but it does a good job of  conversions from RAW to JPG or to re- size and publish images to my photo sharing sites . Another issue is the fact that the native resolution of the monitor is 1024 x 600 which is fine for most web pages but some photo applications don’t like it. There is an virtual 1024 X 768 mode that works well but involves auto scrolling of the screen up and down.

I can also use the machine to charge and manage my Zune and my iPod Touch.  The fact that it has a large hard drive allows for the offload of digital images from our cameras. In addition I have loaded my Garmin software manager for saving track routes, the Zune software and iTunes and some basic photo software.

I will also have to carry a card reader as my Canon 40D uses CF cards and there is no slot for this on the machine and I will most likely carry an USB travel mouse. For my own security I will carry an external Seagate Notebook USB hard drive and copy any downloaded photos on to that device as well and which get’s stored separate from the laptop.

I have started carrying this little machine with me to client sites and have taken it on one trip  so far where I ended up having to RDP into a clients server. This little machine handled it with no issues.

The next item that goes in my bag is my Sony PRS-505 E-book reader. I stumbled across the fact  that these were available in Canada back in August and after seeing one and researching it further (comparing it to the Amazon Kindle not available in Canada), knew that I had to get one. So far I have been very  happy with my reader and have both purchased, gotten free books and even borrowed E-books from the library on the device. I don’t want to give too much away about this as I will soon be writing and posting more detailed review here. But the device works for an extremely long time on one charge (7000 page turns), can be managed with the Sony Library Software and Adobe Digital Editions loaded on my EEE PC, and I currently have about 70 books just on the internal memory of my device with room for I would say about 90 more books. unlike other displays because it is not back lit and active (power only used to refresh the page), it is very easy to read for long periods of time. Please keep an eye on my site for future reviews of this great little device.

My Blackberry Bold will accompany me on the trip and will be used for some client emergencies and emails in the US and it’s territories. We are visiting Sint Maarten and the Bahamas and it is likely that I will turn off the data for those stops as Rogers does not have a deal for reduced data prices. On the ship I could use the Wifi on the phone to download email to it or wherever I may find an open Wifi Hotspot and keep my data roaming down to a minimum. again I will be further reviewing the phone on this blog but I use it for lots of things from twittering, GPS, web surfing, Email,business tracking, photos, videos and listening to music. For me it has truly become an all in one device.

For cameras, I will be using my Canon 40D in addition to 3 lenses and a flash as well as a Canon G10 as a second, carry every where camera. The G10 has recently replaced my old G9 which has moved on to SWIMBO and does have some processor and sensor improvements over the G9. If the underwater chassis are available prior to me leaving I will grab one for taking this camera snorkeling. If they are not I will more than likely grab and underwater chassis for the G9 as I have heard these are excellent for underwater photography. (Underwater housing for the G10 arrived 3 days before we left. It was taken and worked very well).

For video I will be carrying my steadfast Canon HV20 camcorder which shoots a nice Hi Def image . The Canon records all of it’s content to video tape and I have to say is a very impressive camera. For carrying around in my pocket and everyday use I have just picked up a Kodak Zi6 flash camera and an 8 GB SD card. My decision to get the Zi6 was so because I wanted a small pocket sized video camera that I could carry in my pocket around the ship and in port. Flip Video has just released their Mino HD camera that by all accounts may be slightly better than the Kodak but the fact that it is not available in Canada plus a few other little factors had me choosing the Zi6 over the Mino HD.

The Kodak camera shoots 720p (30 or 60 FPS) video footage directly to a SD card. It only features 2X Digital zoom and no image stabilization so you have to use a fairly steady hand. Video quality is very good when outdoors or in well lit spaces and so so (a fair bit of noise) in low light. Having said that, it is a hi def camera that sells for less than 180.00 CAN!. I will again review it further as well as post some video and comparisons to the HV 20. There are a few things going for this little camera that the Mino doesn’t have… it uses 2 AA batteries and comes with a set of rechargeable AAs and a charger, the Mino HD has an internal battery and has to be charged off a PC> The Kodak records to SD cards so if you run out of space you can swap cards. The Mino HD has 4 GB or about an hour of HD video before videos have to be deleted or taken off. I recently picked up an 8 GB class 6 SD card for less than 30.00 CAN for the device. This will be my first trip with so I am excited to see the footage even though I have been fairly impressed with my test footage to date.

I also will be carrying a Garmin Etrek Vista USB GPS unit. I have found these really great as I turn it on at the beginning of the day and pop it into my camera bag. It tracks all of my movement and times for the day and then I can download the tracks and Geotag my pictures with them. It is great to see exactly where certain pictures were taken. We can also do some Geocaching with the device. I will also be carrying my Garmin Nuvi 350 with the 2009 map update for driving in Florida pre and post cruise as well as on St Thomas, USVI.

I carry my Zune 80 player with my music and podcasts and since the release of the version 3 firmware, both my Audible Books and audio books that I have downloaded for my local library. I also have my iPod Touch 8 GB with the 2.2 firmware that I can use as a pocket wireless device and in addition I have loaded some great applications on to for photography!

I have renewed my Hotspot VPN account for another year (http://www.hotspotvpn.com). This is a great little software service that allows me while connected through a public hotspot to connect via a VPN to the Internet and encrypt all of my traffic back to the net. A nice little safety net to secure my data while surfing in public places.

I sometimes carry a Linksys Travel router especially if I know that we will have multiple devices that connect via wireless. This little device can convert a hotel wired connection to an in room secure wireless network or can take a wireless service for one PC (not encrypted) and share it among multiple devices. The device is fairly small as the  AC adaptor is actually built into the router so no extra cards to worry about. The router probably won’t come with me on this trip however.

The last little thing and maybe the most boring items are a couple of Belkin Travel Surge protectors. On a ship or in most hotels there are limited electrical outlets available for charging electronics. We carry a couple of the Belkin surge protectors because they give us 3 additional outlets each as well as 2 powered USB ports for charging iPods, Blackberries or any device that can use USB charging. They can be spun 360 degrees to allow you to fit them into almost any space.

So this was just a short list of things that I typically carry when we go on a family vacation. I use camera backpacks that allow me to carry the bodies and lenses as well as accessories and the laptop in the same bag so the stuff doesn’t take that much room on the plane. A few things stay in the pockets of my Scott-E-Vest Hoodie which gives even more space.

Yes it is a geeky list, but we will come home with loads of photographs not worrying about having to free space and I will be able to remain in touch in case any of my clients run into an emergency with their servers or networks.

Early Preview – Asus EEE 1000H PC

I got my first Asus EEE PC 4G shortly after they were released back in November 07. While the 4G is a nice little machine there are a few things that I wished it could do better. There was a 4 GB flash memory drive, it ran a version of Linux, the screen resolution meant a lot of scrolling when surfing the web and the the battery life was not great (about 2.5 hours). As well I could not install a lot of different software on it as there was not a lot of space. I could have always tried Windows XP on it it but never got around to doing it.

While walking around my local Staples store yesterday, I saw the computer department staff putting out the latest entry in the Netbook PC line they just got the MSI Wind U100 Netbook. Being the first time that I had seen this little machine I was intrigued and the price looked good @ 529.00. The Wind has a 10″ widescreen LCD, an Intel Atom 1.6 processor, 1 GB of Ram and an 80 GB hard drive as well as wireless and bluetooth running Windows XP. The unit weighs 2 lbs. I didn’t have much time as the OS wasn’t set up yet so I went home to look up more specs and reviews of the unit.

In my online research I discovered that Asus had also brought out a similar unit in their EEE PC Line called the 1000H with virtually the exact same specs as the Wind. The biggest differences I found that the Asus came with a 6 Cell battery vs the Wind’s 3 Cell (although a 6 cell will be available soon). Other reviews indicated that the Asus build quality appeared to be better and featured better speakers and a better LCD although the EEE is heavier 1 KG vs 1.45 KG and also a little bigger.

I found one of the 1000H’s in Black at one of my favourite shops in town (Memory Express) and had it held for me. I went down today and looked at the unit. I was very impressed and picked one up for 550.00. I have been updating the unit as well as charging it since I got it home. Here are the specs.

Asus EEE10000H. Intel Atom 1.6 GHz Processor, 1 GB Ram (user upgradable to 2 GB), 80 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive, 1024 x 600 LED Backlit 10″ Wide Screen LCD, 6 Cell Battery, 3 USB Ports, VGA Port, Stereo Microphone, Dolby Sound Room Stereo Speakers, Touchpad, Wireless B,G,N, Bluetooth, 4 in 1 card reader, Windows XP Home. With the 6 cell battery it weighs 1.45KG and comes with a sleeve and a recovery DVD. The AC adaptor is also small and light. Piano Black finish.

The unit is fairly light and does not get hot even with the AC adaptor plugged in. It has been sitting on my thigh (and I am wearing shorts) all afternoon without getting hot. It took about 2.5 hours for the full original battery charge.

The machine comes with Skype, Star Office 8, Intervideo Win DVD, Windows Live Mail, Acrobat Reader 8.1, Microsoft Works, Microsoft Live Writer and Photo Gallery as well as a few Asus Utilities all pre installed. The PC was built with XP Home SP 3 at the factory. Running through the mini set up and connecting it to my wireless network took less than 5 minutes.

The machine appears to be quite snappy, The Works Word processor opens in a couple of seconds and boot up time from off to the main Windows screen is 35 seconds.

The finish of the machine is very nice although I suspect the black piano finish will show finger prints. The LCD screen is bright and beautiful and viewable from all sorts of angles. At 3/4 brightness it is perfect for every day use. The 1024 x 600 resolution allows for web page displays without having to scroll side to side however the pages are a little short. There is a utility to change resolution to 1024 x 768 however it stretches the screen to larger than the screen size so you have to scroll down to see your task bar, although it works quite well.

The keyboard is reported to be about 85% of a full sized laptop keyboard. The keys while a little small are easy enough for me to type on even with my large hands and fat fingers. Better yet I don’t seem to catch my thumb on the trackpad as I do with a couple of other laptops that I have causing my cursor to jump somewhere else in my document. I can type fast enough at a pace that I am comfortable with and not have a lot of errors.

Battery life is reported to be approximately 7 hours by the manufacturer. This was the main reason for choosing this model over the MSI Wind. While I have not had a chance to try the battery life out, I have seen reports of at least 4.5 hours on this device. Like any laptop of you are aggressive with your power management you can extend the battery life quite a bit. Apparently the included power management software is very good at adjusting the machines performance to maximize battery life.

I will take the time to play with this little laptop a little more and will include a more detailed review here. For now though this little machine looks like a winner. While it is not a machine to do heavy duty photo editing on for travel as a place to dump pictures from a digital camera, surf the web or check emails from this is an ideal machine especially at the current price. If the price of these drops any more they will become a great gift idea for kids for the upcoming holiday season.

Blackberry Bold Rogers Release Date

Rogers and RIM will be releasing the much awaited Blackberry Bold in Canada, tomorrow, August 21st. The Bold or 9000 is RIM’s first HSDPA Device and some people are claiming it will compete with the new 3G iPhone.

In my recent checking out of the Roger’s web site it looks like they have changed their Blackberry Plans to be a little more reasonable than previously offered. The 30.00 per Month for 6GB Promotional package is available on the Bold until the end of August as well as a 15.00 unlimited email (only) package. There is one other decent package a 30.00 – 300 MB per month data plan.

However if you are on a Blackberry Enterprise Server, prepare to hand your wallet over to Rogers… The above data plans will not work with BES server. For BES users there are three (poor) data plans offering; 40.00 per month for 7 MB, 45.00 per month for 300MB and 100.00 per month for 1 GB.

I have been using my Curve with a BES running on my SBS server now for about a year and a half now and I really like the instant push to email that I get as well as the contact and calendar syncing. However I was planning on using the Bold as a tethered wireless modem with my laptops and even the 300 MB plan would make that next to impossible as I could blow through 300 MB in a day.

I will probably go with the Promotional Plan with 6GB of data and try some other things. I can use sync with the desktop manager for contacts and then use Google Calendar sync (which works great) to sync my calendars. If the I find I really need to be connected to the BES server then I can always change plans later and wait for Rogers to at least come close to the US for HSDPA Modem plans.

I have seen and held the Bold demo unit in a store and while a little larger than my Curve it does feel really nice in the hands and the keyboard looks and feels great. Maybe by this time tomorrow I will have my new Blackberry Bold. If so my own review will be coming along soon.


Blackberry Bold Watch with Rogers

I just spoke to my Rogers Business rep about the Blackberry Bold availability. I was basically told that the new Blackberry Bold can be released any day now through Rogers. I also asked about plans and it appears that the promotional 30.00 / 6GB plan will also be available for the Bold. The rep indicated that Rogers is just now waiting for delivery of the inventory from Research in Motion.

All reviews that I have read about the Bold indicate that it will be an awesome device!

So far release dates that I have heard is for today (August 6th), August 8th or August 11th.

The Bold is already available for sale in Chile.

When the Bold is released and if the plans are as stated, we will be upgrading as soon as we can.


Flip Video Ultra, Canadian Retail Sighting!

A couple of weeks ago, I started looking at a Flip Ultra Video camera again and where I could get one in Canada. Unfortunately there were no Canadian resellers. The Flip Ultra is a small (slightly bigger than an iPod Classic) solid state video camera. These cameras are tiny and designed to go into your pocket to be where ever you want to take them. They shoot 640 x 480 (VGA) video onto internal memory. You can view what you are shooting via a 1″ LCD screen on the back of the camera. The camera also features a USB connector that flips up to connect to a PC or Mac to download or edit the videos. While the videos aren’t designed (and frankly don’t even look good) on a large TV screen they are an ideal size for uploading to YouTube or other video sharing sites. For more info on the Flip you can go here, http://www.theflip.com.

flip There are several of these cameras that are available now, including the RCA Small Wonder EZ201 and Kodak has just released a new model in the US. There are also several other types of these cameras from off brand Chinese companies. I myself have an RCA Small Wonder that I got for myself last year from Ebay and we also got one for my 7 year old son when he wanted his own video camera. He loves it!

The problem is none of these cameras are available on Canada. In the past you had to purchase from Ebay or while travelling in the states. You could get a Flip via www.tigerdirect.ca however.

Well this past Monday while wandering through the electronics department of our local Wal-Mart (I do it every visit), I spotted a Flip Ultra in a box. Looks like Wal-Mart Canada has started selling the 2GB Flip Ultra for 158.64. This camera will record 60 minutes of video to it’s 2 GB of memory.

From what we have been reading is that although the technology between the Flip and the RCA Small Wonder EZ201 is virtually identical, the video quality especially in low light on the Flip. The Flip also works on a Mac system. However the Small Wonder has an SD slot so that you can add additional SD cards it also comes with a USB extender in case you need more room to plug in to your computer.In addition the LCD screen of the Small Wonder also flips out so that you can self record with it. However once again the RCA Small Wonder is not available in Canada at this time.

Unfortunately neither is the Flip Mino, which is a smaller version of the camera with rechargeable batteries (the Ultra runs on 2 AAs), at least at the time of this writing.

Flip also has an underwater housing available for the Flip Ultra, that allows you to take the Ultra down to depths of 30′ (although deeper depths have been reported). A word of caution however, the fit on the case is not perfect and there have been issues with accessing the power button. Also care has to be used with any underwater housing as a single grain of sand or a hair between the o-ring and the chassis could cause the enclosure to leak.

While these mini video cameras do not replace a full fledged DV camcorder, they are ideal for younger kids wanting a video camera or just to carry around with you every where you go so that you can record video without the bulk of a camcorder!

Adobe Releases Lightroom 2.0!

A little behind on the news here. Monday July 28th Adobe released the latest version of their Lightroom product version 2.0. The beta has been downloadable for several months now and it offers a number of new features including
Multiple Monitor Support
64 Bit Compatibility
Improved Speed
Improved integration with Photoshop
Localized corrections.

Upgrade price for Lightroom 1 users is 99.00 USD, and we were a little disappointed to see the price of a new version being left at 299.00 USD. Apple’s Aperture 2.0 price was lowered to 199.00 USD a few months ago and I was hoping that Adobe would have followed with Lightroom pricing, albeit that Aperture requires a Mac but Lightroom runs on PCs and Macs.

If you have read our review of Lightroom 1, you’ll know that it is an application that we would be lost without and we highly recommend it for anyone that takes lots of digital photos. I had downloaded the Beta of version 2.0 but didn’t do a lot with it. I have also downloaded the 30 day trial version of version 2.0 and played with it a little before taking the Macbook Pro in for a Hard Drive upgrade. In short it was noticeably faster than version 1.0. I am expecting to get my Macbook Pro back today or tomorrow (with a new 320GB 7200 RPM Drive) and will be purchasing the full version as soon as the machine is ready.

Retail box copies should be available within the next two to three weeks, but you can purchase and download right now directly from http://www.adobe.com.


Lower Priced Canadian Data Plans, Well Sort of!

One of the things that I was hoping when the iPhone was released in Canada was that Apple would make Rogers offer affordable data plans then that would carry over to the other carriers. Well anyone who read my post on the original iPhone plans that Rogers was offering knows that didn’t happen. In fact Apple was also disappointed and withdrew the sales of iPhones from their own stores in Canada.

Well Rogers did back down a little after the outcry and announced a few days before the iPhone release that they were offering a 30.00 per month 6 GB data plan. This is much better and is more in line with what AT&T and other carriers in the States offered.

I happened to be checking out the Rogers web site earlier this week and was looking at the High Speed PC cards for laptops. I have one of these cards (an EVDO AirCard from Telus) that I share for work when I am on call. It is really nice allowing me to connect my laptop from virtually anywhere. I have been looking at these for a whole but have never purchased one because of the monthly price. Basically in Canada with all of the carriers the plans are about 100.00 per month for 2 GB of traffic. The other alternative I had been looking at was the Rogers Portable Internet Service which is much more affordable but not as mobile as it can’t switch towers and you have to have an AC Outlet (or an inverter in your car) to use the modem.

Like I sad I was browsing the Rogers site and the High Speed PC Cards when I clicked on the link for the plans. Right at the top of the list (and as a limited time offer till August 31) was a 30.00 per month 6GB plan! I called the corporate sales number and asked one of the reps. He wasn’t aware of it but said if it was on the site it was true! I was out a little later in the day and I decided to stop in a Rogers store to just see the iPhone and I asked the sales person there. Again she indicated that if it was on the website it was true.

After a few days of hemming and hawwing, I called the corporate sales rep yesterday and once again confirmed that the modem was available with the plan. Because I am already a Rogers customer it was easy and I was done in less than ten minutes. I ordered the USB modem (which I got for 49.99) and the 30.00 per month 6 GB Data Plan. My modem should arrive sometime tomorrow and I will advise on how things go.