Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Articles

Almost Free Music Downloads

In Entertainment,Helpful Websites,Laundry Room,Online Services,Reviews on June 26, 2009 by Media Specialist Tagged: , , , ,

MP3Panda

It’s been around for quite a while now, but check out MP3Panda for downloading legal music. At 5 cents,  a nickle, you can download some of your favorite tunes.

I know what you’re thinking, is it legal?  Apparently yes! I copied the following text from Cheap and Legal Dowloads which offers other downloading alternatives too.  CLD states:

Legality of MP3Panda
It’s worth highlighting MP3Panda is perfectly legal. Russian legislature enforces compulsory licenses, which means that a company can get the license to distribute and sell music as long as they pay for it somewhere. In the US if you plan to sell a certain CD, you have to negotiate with the labels, and that’s why the original Napster got shut down by the courts – they violated the law by not obtaining the licenses from the RIAA mob.

In Russia if you prove that (a) you keep track of what you’re distributing (log number of downloads) and (b) you pay to the collection agency, you’re legal to distribute any music you want. The collection agency (ROMS and FAIR, quoted in the Wall Street Journal article) will then re-distribute the money to the copyright holders.

The only catch, if you want to call it that, is that you must pay upfront. When you register you must select the amount of money you want in your ‘bank’.  If you select the $20 option, it basically means you have $20 in your account to spend on music. In iTunes it’s the opposite, you pay as you download.

Lets do the math, at 5 cents a song that equals to 400 songs! Compare that to 20 in iTunes. It’s even cheaper when you purchase entire albums. Purchasing entire albums is more cost effective when downloading “Greatest Hits” or “Best Of” type albums which most artist release.

Also note that the selection is not as big as iTunes. (10 million compared to 2 million)  Browse the site first and see if most of what you like to listen to is on there. Interested? Read on–>

Registration

The registration process is simple and secure. All you need is an email address and credit card.  If you select the higher dollar amount options, you will notice you get additional dollar bonuses for music.

Downloading

Purchase Entire Album or Single Song

Purchase Entire Album or Single Song

After you log in, start browsing for the song you wish to download. (Entire album if you wish too) You can listen to a 30 second preview of the track by pressing on the litte panda next to each track. (Please note that the preview is NOT the quality of your download) Click on DOWNLOAD button and it will prompt you the amount that will be deducted from your account.

Window that prompts you for payment

Window that prompts you for payment

You will then need to go to your DOWNLOADS section and  right-click the link Download and choose Save Target As…(or Save Link As…). Select where you want the file to download and depending on your connection speed an MP3 file with the song name will appear. All the ordered files are available for download within 48 hours. You’ll have to order these files again to be able to download them after that period.

Download Link

Download Link

After your file downloads to the location you selected, you can import it to the music player of your choice. If you import to iTunes, usually the album artworks pops up automatically. If it doesn’t, follow these instructions to do add it.

This service certainly makes listening to your favorite music more affordable. Here’s a blog that explains it a little more.

Articles

I Jailbroke My iPhone 3G

In Apple,Procedures,Reviews,Tips & Tricks on March 10, 2009 by Media Specialist Tagged: , , ,

After much internal debate on whether I should Jailbrake my iPhone 3G or not, I took the plunge on Sunday. You may wonder why I had not done it already? I don’t know if it’s just me, but every set of instructions I read were to complicated or risky. Simply not worth the hassle. When I’m unsure of something technical, I usually just wait.

A friend of mine emailed me the Gizmodo Post on instructions on how to do this. I read them over and they were the first instructions that seemed simple enough to make me do it.

It took me a few downloads and restarts on my iMac and I was ready to run QuickPwn for Mac OS X. After about 10 minutes the iPhone rebooted and I started loading programs on Cydia. A weird feeling of betrayal comes over you for a second. Then you start using programs you’ve been missing and you feel like Neo from The Matrix. Jailbrake = Unplugged! Why has Apple or AT&T decided to keep us from these basic features you find on every other phone?

The final process of the Jailbrake process

The final process of the Jailbrake

The #1 reason I Jailbroke my iPhone was for video capabilities. (Come on Apple! Probably AT&T…) The first programs I installed were Qik and Cycorder. Both programs are just what I was missing from my iPhone. Instant satisfaction!

I played around with other applications like Snapture, which I will purchase, and Winterboard. I like some of the features of Winterboard but I don’t want my iPhone looking like a MySpace page. So I kept my default Springboard.

I also tried the Cut & Paste application called Clippy. Although it’s in Beta, it works remarkably well. (Again, Come on Apple!)

This comic describes how I feel about my improved iPhone:

comic

Before you start passing judgment, I also Jailbroke my wife’s iPhone and she loves that she can now play her childhood’s favorite game Mario Bros and record her dog Cochi playing around.

For now I am happy with the 4 apps on my Jailbroken iPhone. I haven’t seen any lag or experienced any crashes on my iPhone. If you are debating whether to Jailbrake or not, the Gizmodo post is easy and harmless. I encourage you to try it. In keeping with the Matrix theme, Morpheus compares it “to trying to free your mind.”

Make sure you run a new back-up on iTunes of your iPhone before trying this. Worst comes to worse, you can ALWAYS RESTORE.

Thanks for the URL himess33.

Articles

Imaging USA 2009 Photography Expo

In Accessories,Apple,Audio Visual,Emerging Technology,Entertainment,Laundry Room,Reviews on January 16, 2009 by Media Specialist Tagged: , , , , ,

Imaging USA 2009 Expo

Imaging USA 2009 Photography Expo

Attended the Imaging USA 2009 Photography Expo in downtown Phoenix on Sunday and one thing is for sure, this event is a photographers dream. It certainly exceeded my expectations. I figured I would see many booths with over zealous vendors trying to sell me photography equipment I do not need. It was anything but that!

It was a well organized 223,000 square feet showroom floor featuring the biggest players in the photography industry. This expo gave you the opportunity to try out any camera out on the market, from least to most expensive. No point & shoot’s here.

Best Buy or Circuit City don’t display the high-end Nikon and Canon cameras. Here you can try everything hands on. I mean everything. The digital explosion of photography has taken over! I don’t think I saw one thing that involved film

Green Screen

Green Screen

It’s amazing how the big companies like Sony, Canon and Nikon try to entice you to purchase their product. They do it in such a professional & convincing way, I almost dropped $4,000 on Canon XH GI HD Camera. I wish!

Here’s a brief summary of what I saw at some of the biggest booths. No surprise that Canon and Nikon were the most popular at the expo because of their elaborate setups. It was a toss up between those two on how well they used their floor space to encourage you to hang out.

Sony

I was disappointed with Sony’s space, since they only had 1 camera with various lenses. 1 camera, come on Sony!

They were featuring their new SnapLab™ Digital Photo Printer which was fun to play with. Wasn’t too impressed with the quality on some prints we got off our SD cards on sight.

We participated in their green screen presentation with a quick lesson in an after-effects software called eXpress Digital. Green screen looks like a fun way to photograph with the ability to manipulate backgrounds. The photographer presenting this session was from the UK and was very engaging. He was using a Canon.

That’s about all Sony had. Oh and the cool lanyards they were handing out.

Canon

I enjoyed the presenters Canon scheduled to display their work in a small, intimate setting. Had the opportunity to see Joe Buissink, the photographer that shot Jennifer Lopez‘s wedding. He explained how a photographer should make his photos count and how important it is to sell yourself. After all you are the image of the company. Very interesting speaker. Had me sold!

Canon also had on display every camera they make. One could go up to the representatives and ask any questions while you play with the camera that interests you.

The workshops they had with live models were quite informative and onlookers paid close attention to the tips the Pro’s were giving. Bob Davis, famous for photographing Eva Longoria’s Wedding and others, was doing one-on-one with anyone who stopped by the booth. Time well spent for those people!

Every color printer Canon makes, big or small, was available for you to test and compare print quality. I believe we spent the most time in this booth!

Nikon

One thing caught my eye right away as we got closer to the Nikon booth. It was the enormous LCD screen they were using to display photographs. At the time, Jim Reed was presenting his unique weather photographs. Simply said, they were beautiful photographs of nature in action. He is a well known storm chaser.

Jim Reed Presenting At Imaging USA Nikon Booth

Jim Reed Presenting At Imaging USA Nikon Booth

Nikon also had all their cameras on display for us to play with. One of my friends fulfilled his goal of using the Nikon D3, the hottest camera on the market. The smile it brought to his face was worth price of admission. Easy to see why digital has replaced film, the quality is unmatched. I tried some of the Nikon cameras with the long-throw lenses. The clarity you can get from a distance is unbelievable. Those things can get heavy carrying around.

Summary

All in all it was a fun way of spending a Sunday afternoon with friends. I should also point out that MacBook Pro‘s and iPhone‘s were being used by everyone. They were either displaying or instructing with a MBP or running through a gallery on their iPhone. I guess if you want to be a photographer, those two items are a must!

Our next stop will be CES 2010, where hopefully Apple will show up, Steve and all!

Articles

Cool Furniture Website

In Emerging Technology,Opinion,Reviews on December 29, 2008 by Media Specialist Tagged: ,

Browsing the internet the other day, I came across this online furniture store called LOMBOK. What caught my eye was the unique furniture on the front page. They have interesting wooden bedsbed throws and wardrobes that would decorate any bedroom nicely. I am a dark colored wood furniture aficionado and wouldn’t mind having much of what that furniture store makes and sells.

What I liked the most about the site was the cool zoom technology they use to enhance their products. Some of the benefits of purchasing online is that generally you get a better price without leaving the comfort of your home.

The one thing you always want to make sure of, is that the picture of the product you may want to purchase is clear and BIG. That way you have an exact idea of what will be arriving on your doorstep in a few days. LOMBOK does this well with the zoom option on all their products.

The way you can hover over a picture of any product and enlarge the part you want to see with great detail is so helpful. Try it out and see what I’m talking about. (Click on image below)

Cool Zoom Feature On LOMBOK Products

Cool Zoom feature on LOMBOK products leaves no doubt in what you are buying.

Do you agree with me? I hope more websites implement this technology. Makes purchasing much easier.

I signed up for their Catologue and their email updates for alerts on their new product line coming up. When time comes to replace our current furniture, I might consider purchasing from LOMBOK. If you are into this type of luxury furniture, check out this site.

Articles

Apple TV Impressions From A Non-Apple Fanboy Perspective

In Apple,Audio Visual,Entertainment,Hardware,Reviews on October 13, 2008 by Tech Support Tagged: , , ,

For awhile now I have had the idea to see my movies, pictures and music from one central location that would connect to my big screen TV and home theater system. I figured I would rip my movies so the kids could watch them without having to handle the DVDs and scratch them all up. My wife would be able to listen to her music on our stereo system while doing house chores and not have to be changing CDs every time. We could show our pictures to family and friends when they came over to the house without having to connect a laptop to the TV every time. What a concept, a device that does all of this with ease of setup, no hassles. High on the list of importance was this device has to be easy for the kids or wife to operate.

I had looked up various methods of accomplishing this with Windows Media Center, Media Extenders, Software, all kinds of hacks that would deliver on the promise of consolidation. However, none of these options was easy to setup, or required too much work for someone that might not know too much about technologies.

A friend of mine and my brother, that happen to be Apple Fanboys, had told me I should get an AppleTV. That this was the device I was looking for and that it would do the things I described. Well after several months of not wanting to give in, I finally bought the AppleTV. I’ve now been using it for several weeks. I want to share my thoughts and impressions on this wonderful device.

Impressions of the installation

The AppleTV has a very nice form factor. It is square, about the size of school book, but half as thick. It looks very elegant and does not take up much room on your entertainment center. (You got to give it to Apple; they put a lot of thought into the product design.)

The connections are very straight forward and easy to hook up to the TV and stereo. It took me about 2 minutes after I rolled the big screen TV to reach the back of it.

After turning on the power it boots up and shows a welcome screen. You then connect it to your home network over a wired or wireless connection. (This sounds complicated but it’s not.) I connected mine through a wireless connection. All you need is the network name and your password. Then, you take a code that the AppleTV gives you and enter it into you iTunes account on your computer. After that, the AppleTV starts synchronizing with your computer. It’s that easy.

Let the fun begin

Now that it’s all set up, you can begin having fun. First of all, you get access to the iTunes store through the AppleTV.

MOVIES – You can:

1.      Watch the movies you own that you have ripped to iTunes

2.      Watch movie trailers of upcoming movies.

3.      Rent movies in Standard definition or High definition

4.      Buy movies instead of renting them

MUSIC / AUDIO – You can:

1.      Listen to your music library in iTunes

2.      Buy music directly from the iTunes store

3.      Listen to Podcasts (or watch Video podcasts)

OTHER – You can:

1.      Look at your pictures that are on your computer

2.      Look at pictures that are on Flickr and MobileMe

3.      Watch YouTube videos

So far, I haven’t rented any movies with this. I’ve seen a couple of movie previews and they look good on my TV.

My favorite features so far…

My wife started using the music library right off the bat. This is saying a lot, since I had not had a chance to teach her how to use it. She really likes being able to listen to the music from the home stereo.

My kids like being able to pick the movie they feel like watching and have it playing without having to mess with DVDs.

I have really enjoyed watching YouTube videos and pictures from Flickr, especially the ones from my friends and family. Last weekend we were able to show some pictures to our family on the big screen without any hassles and had background music playing with the slideshow to boot. Totally awesome!

I would definitely recommend getting one of these if you are like me and trying to have easy access to your media from one place that is easy to use, easy to keep synchronized, and easy to manage.

Couple of things to keep in mind

I regret getting the 40GB AppleTV. It just isn’t enough space for my media. This is not a problem since AppleTV will stream the files from your computer. But it’s much nicer to have them on the hard drive that comes on the device. Apple sells a 160GB model; I should have got this one instead. I have checked on the Internet for ways of expanding the capacity, but have not found a way that doesn’t involve hacking it.

Overall, I am happy with my purchase of the AppleTV. (I hope I don’t end up being a Fanboy. Is this a bad thing?)

Articles

Jungle Disk Can Save You From Digital Disaster

In Helpful Websites,Online Services,Reviews,Web Features on October 12, 2008 by Tech Support Tagged: ,

They say there are 2 kinds of computer users: those that have lost their precious data, and those who will. Well, I say you can be a part of a very special kind of computer user, someone who will never lose any data.

It doesn’t matter if you use Mac, Windows, or Linux.

If you don’t backup your information you are bound to lose it due to a number of reasons, including hard disk failure, stolen laptops, and plain old mistakes.  This is where having an automatic and easy backup system that you don’t think about comes in handy.  If you think backing up to an external hard drive is your saving grace, what happens if your place burns down or gets broken into? If you think burning CDs is the answer, what kind of automated schedule is this on? Don’t get me wrong, I do these things, and they can be real life savers. But having an offsite automated backup plan is golden.

Jungle Disk to the Rescue

I first came across Jungle Disk when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Security Now with Steve Gibson (GRC.com) and Leo Laporte (twit.tv). After listening to episode number 123, where they talked with one of the creators of the program about the benefits of using this program, I decided to try it out.

What it does

Simply, Jungle Disk is a software program that lets you use Amazon S3 services to backup your files remotely. It costs $20 (there is a free trial) and the makers of it allow you to install it on multiple computers for your personal use.

Installation and setup

The installation is simple and straight forward. If you already have an account with Amazon from previous purchases, it is an easy process to be up and running.

After installation, you tell the program what files and folders you want to keep backed up, you pick a time to schedule the backup, and then you forget about it. The program will upload your files to Amazon S3 for safekeeping.

Paranoid types rejoice

Let’s say you have a super secret file (like the answers to the final exam or the grades for your students) that you have stored in your computer and you want to back it up securely so no one gets the “Kernel’s recipe”. Or simply because you are paranoid about your privacy. Then you have the right tool to accomplish this. Jungle Disk is able to strongly encrypt your information before it hits Amazon’s servers. They will only be storing the encrypted “blob” and never have access to your actual files.

Sweet Cost!

The great thing about all of this is the cost for storage. You only pay for the amount of actual storage you use, which (as the date of this posting) is only $.15/GB. There is also a small fee per GB of upload. This is truly a great deal as other services charge a monthly fee for a set amount of storage whether you use it or not. MOZY is just one example of this (although they offer a free account with up to 2 GB of space). Last month I uploaded about 600 MB of personal files (documents, spreadsheets, pdf’s of receipts, etc.) and about 7 GB of pictures. My bill for the month was $1.22. That is an awesome price to sleep soundly knowing my most important files are securely stored. Once your files are backed up, the program will only upload files that have been modified, so there should be minimal charges for uploading.

Here’s what I like about Jungle Disk:

  1. Secure backup of your data. (Peace of mind)
  2. Automated: set it and forget it (No hassles)
  3. Very affordable pricing (Easy on the pocketbook)
  4. Amazon’s reputation (Stable and secure)

Are you still here?

Now I know what you’re probably thinking… “I have never lost any data. That only happens to other people”. Remember what I said at the beginning, you have already lost data or you probably will at some point. So go ahead, try this program out and sleep better at night knowing your irreplaceable kid’s (human or pets) pictures that you ONLY have digital files for, are safely stored somewhere other than your home. Or that thesis or presentation you’ve been working so hard to finish for months (losing sleep to complete) isn’t going to tragically disappear because you didn’t back it up.

Feel free to leave your comments on what method of backing up you’re using.

Articles

Mobile Technology Through The Years

In Entertainment,Laundry Room,Reviews on September 24, 2008 by Media Specialist Tagged: , , , , , ,

I can still remember when my mom asked me, “¿para que necesitas un beeper?” For those of you who don’t read Spanish the translation is, “why do you need a beeper?” Once I explained how she would be able to get a hold of me I won her over. The rest, shall we say is history. 

Here’s a brief run down of the mobile technology I’ve owned through the years. How time flies!

Beeper 1993

1993

Beep, Beep

It all started with the Motorola Bravo Plus. I bought this with a summer job with the City of South Tucson before my Junior year at Pueblo. Very limited in functions, but did the job. Still remember my mom paging me 911 on the weekends after 11:00 p.m.

1995

1995

I kept using pagers until after high school. Remember I used two more models after that in different colors. The Motorola LS550 was a big upgrade because you could receive very short text messages. Big upgrade from having to stop and make a phone call to find out why they needed you.

Hello Moto

I could not believe the first time I saw someone using a cellular phone. It was big, but all that mattered was that it worked. No more having to stop what you were doing, find a quarter and return the page you just received. I had to convince my parents once again and justify why I would be spending half of my monthly income on this device.

1996

1996

I felt great, when I made my first phone call home. My mom couldn’t believe that I was calling her from Rincon Cleaners around the corner on my drive home. I think I felt liberated, from wires?

You could set up speed dial on 9 of your favorite numbers by holding down a particular key. There was only one or two ringtones and it was heavy to carry on your belt. The battery lasted forever and it would get really hot. So hot, that it was better not to use it for an extended amount of time. It could only get better from here.

1998

1998

I introduce you the Motorola StarTac 75 Flip phone. What an upgrade! I can’t remember exactly what it cost me, but it was expensive at the time. This phone was cool because of it’s size. Battery life was an issue but never a problem. I started giving the personal demonstrations with this phone. You know, when they ask you, “what is that?” You almost feel like you have to show them.

Text Messaging

I had been faithful to Motorola for some time now, but when I saw the controversial commercial for the Nokia 3650 I made the change. This was my first camera and video phone. I also started surfing on WAP network which is a text only version of the web. I still have some videos and pictures from this phone.

2001

2001

A new feature I started using frequently was text messaging or mini-emails in my opinion. With this feature I saw myself making less and less phone calls. Voicemail was also fairly new. No more missed calls. 

The speaker phone option was also new in this model. You could also purchase ringtones from the mobile internet it came with.

I’ve always been a pro Sony consumer. Ask me to recommend a TV, DVD, VCR, car steareo, home stereo, and any other electric device out there, I would recommend a Sony. Only natural to give their mobile phone a shot.

2002

2002

I tried the Sony Ericcson T300 for a couple of months and I hated it. It was sluggish and the cursor square was hard to use. I made a bad decision selling the Nokia 3650 to Rob Girard. I know Sony Ericcson has improved their line of phones, but I promised myself never to buy one again. 

Smart Phones

How do you determine that a phone is smart? I guess it’s determined by how well it keeps you organized and that’s what they did. In a desperate attempt to get rid of the Sony, I bought the Palm Treo 180 on eBay.

2002

2003

The new technology of sim cards and GSM made buying unlocked phones a huge market. You didn’t need to purchase directly from the Cellular Store anymore.

This phone gave me the feeling of having a mini-laptop with me at all times. I started using my contacts, calendar, to-do lists and email more often. Entering data was so easy with a full QWERTY keyboard. The mobile internet was still behind and wasn’t very useful. I liked this device very much so I upgraded to the Palm Treo 600 when it came out. I honestly thought this phone had it all and that it couldn’t possibly get any better.

2003

2004

Huge color touch screen, organization applications and 1 mega pixel camera. I enjoyed everything this phone did, but what I wasn’t paying attention to was how much the data plans were costing me. This is when I first realized that Telecommunication companies are out there to squeeze you dry. I had to take a step back.

Motorola Again

I believe everyone on this planet has owned a Motorola Razr at some point in their lifetime. This phone was hot from day one. A thin, stylish flip phone that fit anywhere. Had a decent camera for both photo and video. Sending MMS was a new thing that was catching on and you could do it easily on this phone. Other than looking up movie times, still no useful internet.

2004

2004

This phone was fun in a way, but was lacking email, calendar and other applications I had come to like on the Palm Treo. I kept the Razr for 2 years using the first 2 models. I almost upgraded to the Crazr featuring a little known application called iTunes in 2006, but instead I went on a total new direction.

Crackberry

My friend, Andy, recommended me the Blackberry Curve. He said that if email is what I wanted, this would be the device for me. He was right. That’s why they call these Crackberry’s! You can’t help but to check who or what emailed you. It’s addicting and annoying at the same time.

2006

2006

Other features included a more useful internet, Google Maps and a media player. You could upload your music and movies for your listening and viewing pleasure. Kept me organized with the calendar and contacts entry. Texting was simple with the QWERTY keyboard. Didn’t know how much I missed it since switching from the Treo. I was very pleased with this phone and once again I thought, could it get any better than this?

Hello World

Rumors started popping up on the internet about this new device called an iPhone by Apple. The following commercial at the Oscars in 2007 gave us the first glimpse at the future in mobile phone technology.

Once again you can blame my tech friend, Andy, for making me switch to the iPhone and I don’t regret switching one bit. It’s not perfect, yet! I believe in Steve.

2007

2007

The first generation iPhone was just as advertised. Internet, email, contacts, calendar and to top it all of a wide-screen iPod. Syncing your content has never been easier. It was an elegant device that fit perfectly in your hand. Touch screen makes navigating the interface quickly and easy. (Unless you have huge fingers)

You can load your favorite music, movies and rentals. Apple also has an App Store where you can purchase useful and some unnecessary applications. iTunes is also available to you on a WiFi area. I can go on and on.

2008

2008

I recently upgraded to the iPhone 3G and I’m very satisfied with this version too. I’m almost afraid to say that it doesn’t get any better than this, does it?

Well, there you have it. A brief history of mobile technology in my pocket/belt. I’m sure I’ll be adding to this chapter. Can’t wait!