Posts made in October, 2009

5 Reasons the 27″ iMac Could Be Your Next TV

Posted on Oct 27, 2009 in Featured, Mac, Opinions

  1. stariMacA twenty-seven inch screen is big enough for dorm rooms & apartments
  2. Add an equinux TubeStick TV tuner to watch over-the-air HD or cable TV
  3. You may be able to use it as a display with your blu-ray player / games console
  4. It’ll be perfect for watching Hulu or those movies and TV shows you’ve downloaded off bittorrent purchased online.
  5. Front Row rounds out the package as your living room media center

It won’t fit the bill for everyone, but I can see a lot of college kids or people with combined office / livings rooms considering the new iMac instead of a regular TV.

In our house, my desk is positioned that I can swivel my display around to face the couch. The iMac would work really well in this kind of apartment layout.

Like this idea? Support the site and buy your shiny new 27″ iMac at Amazon.
(Who are we kidding? Get the
quad-core version)

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Quick tip: Hide shopping results on Google

Posted on Oct 11, 2009 in Hints, The web

Have you ever been annoyed by the shopping sites that come up on Google while looking for product reviews? Well, it looks like Google has a new feature that should help:

  • Select “More Options” on the results page
  • From the sidebar, select “Fewer shopping results”

And you’re done! Google will hide most of the shopping results, making it easier to find reviews, tips and other product information.

Show fewer Shopping results

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First look: Mobileme vs. Google Sync

Posted on Oct 7, 2009 in Featured, iPhone, Mac, Opinions

sync

In my post Free alternatives to MobileMe earlier this year, I looked at some free alternatives to Apple’s MobileMe service. One crucial piece was still missing though: The seamless over-the-air syncing and push email experience offered by MobileMe on the iPhone.

Google Sync – the Missing Piece of the Puzzle?

MobileMe’s biggest advantage to date has been its support for push email and over-the-air syncing, which ensures that emails and changes to calendars and contacts are synced to iPhone users instantly.

But with Google Sync, Google aims to offer GMail and Google Calendar  users the same over-the-air syncing feature that MobileMe does. To accomplish this, Google is basically taking advantage of the fact that the iPhone (and most other smartphones) natively support Microsoft Exchange syncing. So Google are offering their own Exchange-compatible service, that acts as an intermediary between your data stored in Google’s services and your iPhone. Configure Google Sync as a new exchange account on your iPhone, enable Push support and Google will Push any new email messages, calendar or contact updates to your phone.

When you consider that iCal, Address Book and Mail on the Mac also natively support syncing with Google’s services, Google Sync starts to look like a very interesting alternative to MobileMe. Change a contact in Address Book or add an appointment to iCal  and those changes should be synced right up to your phone, without requiring a slow, USB iTunes sync – just like MobileMe. Emails should also be delivered right away, circumventing the 15 minute fetching interval limit. Or as Google sums it up it a cutesy comic:

sync-comic

But how well does it work in the real world?

mobile_138740d_en

Setting up Google Sync on your phone isn’t particularly difficult and Google offers easy step-by-step instructions. Enter your details, ignore a certificate warning, enter some more details and you’re done.

Emails

But mysteriously my Gmail inbox would only show 3 messages I had received this morning, with no sign of any messages I had received earlier in the week or later today. The same problem affected my other mailboxes as well. I was able to coax a few more messages off the server by selecting to only sync a week’s worth of email messages, but that does severely limit habitual emails hoarders such as myself. A know current limitation of the service is also the fact that drafts can’t be edited, once synced.

Contacts

My Google contacts showed up fairly quickly in my Contacts application. But new contacts didn’t seem to sync back up to Gmail, no matter how often I tried to coax Google Sync into action.

Conclusion

Judging by the discussions going on over on the Google Sync messageboards, it looks as though the service has been pretty flaky for users the last few days, so these are most likely serious teething issues. But until these reliability problems are sorted out, it’s hard to realistically see Google Sync as a serious MobileMe alternative anytime soon.

Having said that, it’s promising to see Google taking the initiative and trying to offer an Exchange-like experience for non-corporate / non-MobileMe user – so Google gets a gold star for trying. It’s also worth remembering that MobileMe (a $99 per year service) had its own fair share of teething issues, so let’s hope Google is able to really challenge Apple in this area in the near future.

But for the time being, I’ll be sticking with regular Gmail IMAP syncing for my emails and MobileMe syncing for my contacts and calendars.

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Review: CameraBag Desktop

Posted on Oct 1, 2009 in Featured, Mac, Reviews

Digital photography has made it easier for us all to take hundreds of near-perfect shots. But digital photography lacks some of the elements that made each photo taken with an analog camera unique. The type of film, processing techniques and photo-paper used all contributed to give each image a distinctive look.

CameraBag, by Nevercenter, gives digital photography enthusiasts an easy way to introduce some of that flavour back into their photography. Like its iPhone sibling (App Store link), CameraBag Desktop is designed to be straightforward and easy-to-use: Instead of presenting users with a confusing number of options, exposure settings, histograms and color profiles, CameraBag has 9 styles, that can all be applied with a single click.

CameraBag-14

CameraBag-styles

The styles are based on a mix of classic analog cameras and media formats. The manual describes as such:

Helga: Square-format toy camera with washed-out highlights and old-school vignetting.
Lolo: Shoot from the hip and take life as it comes with vibrant, colorful shots.
Mono: Smooth, refined, balanced black and white
1962: Dynamic, high-contrast black and white from the photojournalism of a bygone era.
Colorcross: Hazy, chemical color-swapping straight from the darkroom.
Instant: No need to shake this instant-developing film.
1974: Your father’s camera: faded, tinted, and hip.
Cinema: Dramatic, moody coloring with a widescreen aspect ratio.
Magazine: Rich tones for glossy pages.

Once you’ve dragged your image into the main window, apply one of the styles by simply clicking its preview thumbnail. Each style will crop your image and apply a variety of filters. You can also mix & match styles by checking the “multi-filter” option. This will allow you to apply multiple styles on top of each other, creating distinctive looks and styles. If you want to start over, simply click the “original” thumbnail, to discard all applied styles.

styles

CameraBag also applies a crop and border to your image, based on your style. If you prefer, you can also pick these manually though, allowing for even more image variations. If one of the styles doesn’t suit your taste, you can also “Reprocess” an image to see variations of that style. If a style produces an image that is too dark or lacking in contrast, reprocessing your picture will often deliver a much better result, so if you’re not happy with the way a photo turns out, try reprocessing it!

Some styles may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I found myself using some more often than others. But most styles do a really good job of adding some flavour to your images.The CameraBag Photo Blog has some great examples of the kinds of results you can achieve, with nice before/after comparisons.

The UI is nicely laid out and very easy to use (although I’m not quite sure why the designers found it necessary for a user to “turn on” reprocessing). EDIT: @CameraBag clarifies:

“[…] reprocess auto-enables when clicked. It’s more about the off switch to get back to each filter’s signature look”

Styles are applied nearly instantaneously and while you’re finding the right style for your images the application feels very fast. Rotating and saving images causes a slight bit of delay, but both are extremely minor. For those who enjoy a good manual with their software, Nevercenter includes a detailed PDF guide, which I personally find a lot more useful than trying to find information with OS X’s built-in help system.

Overall CameraBag is a great and affordable way to liven up your shots. It’s an interesting new type of photo stylizer that works well as a complementary tool to traditional photo editing applications such as iPhoto or Picasa.

Available for just $19, it’s a must-have for every wannabe photographer.

Download CameraBag

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