Mac

Review: Eye-Fi Pro | X2

Posted on Sep 19, 2011 in iPad, Mac, Photography, Reviews

What’s the most annoying part of digital photography? That’s right, fiddling around with the memory card or USB cable to copy your photos to your computer.

Well the Eye-Fi cards promise to have a better solution for copying photos: these cards can transfer your digital snaps wirelessly. Yep – despite being the same size as a normal SD card, an Eye-Fi card can connect to your computer over a wifi network. Let’s take a closer look at the Eye-Fi Pro | X2 – their latest and greatest.

Getting started

You need to download special Eye-Fi software for the initial setup. You connect your Eye-Fi card to the supplied USB adapter and configure it to connect to your existing wireless network, or you can either have it create its own ad-hoc network for when you’re on the move.

Then, just pop the card into your camera and away you go.

How to use the Eye-Fi card

The Eye-Fi card works just like any other fast SD card. Pop it in your camera, take pictures (RAW or JPEG or both) and movies – that’s it.

Once your camera has been on a few seconds, the Eye-Fi card will power up its wireless feature and look for your existing network. Once connected, the special Eye-Fi software on your computer will copy the photos over the air onto your PC or Mac.

If you haven’t got a wireless network nearby, the card can alternatively create its own wireless network. You connect to this network (named something like “Eye-Fi 132456”) and then the copying magic starts.

Performance

Despite having pretty impressive wireless performance, it will take a bit longer to copy the huge files produced by today’s modern cameras over wifi than it would over a USB card reader. However, you can optionally choose to only copy your JPEG images, leaving your RAW copies on the card ready to by copied over USB later.

The software is an Adobe Air app, so it isn’t the best Mac app I’ve ever seen, but overall it isn’t too bad. Once you have your card configured, you won’t need to use it too much anyway. Kudos to Eye-Fi for having a cross-platform solution for us Mac users that works.

Other handy tricks

Geotagging

Certain Eye-Fi cards can also make use of the wireless chip inside to geo-tag your photos. They do this by looking at nearby wifi networks. These are later matched by the Eye-Fi software to a database that knows the geographical location of tonnes of wifi networks around the world and uses that to give your photos a rough geographical location.
It’s not perfect, but it’s usually good enough to help you figure out which side of town you took a particular photo.

Endless Memory

Need to take a ton of pictures? No problem! If you’re on a wifi network, your Eye-Fi card will shove pics over to your computer and free up storage for new pictures, which means you’ll never run out of storage. This is only useful for certain scenarios, but if you need to take a lot of pictures and don’t want to have to switch cards it might come in useful.

Picture uploads

I didn’t test this feature, but Eye-Fi also offers an online storage and sync option, that allows you to share pictures with friends or between devices.

iPad app

One other great feature is the fact that you can use the Eye-Fi card with the free companion iPad app, allowing you to use your iPad as a giant photo preview screen: snap a shot, wait 2 seconds and it shows up on the iPad. I used this feature to turn my iPad and a camera with an Eye-Fi card into a rudimentary homemade wedding photo booth.

Conclusion

If you just need to grab a few photos quickly, the Eye-Fi a great solution. I could see it being particularly useful in scenarios where you’re frequently taking a small number of shots and need to quickly preview them on a larger screen.

The geo-tagging feature is also quite nice and a good alternative to using geo-tagged iPhone pictures as a reference.

The Eye-Fi Pro | X2 does exactly what it claims. The wireless performance is pretty good and it can be a huge timesaver if you often need to preview your pictures in between shots.

Recommended

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Review: Waterfield Cargo bag

Posted on Sep 4, 2011 in iPad, Mac, Reviews

I’ve been on the lookout for a new laptop bag for a while. I was recently given a new MacBook Air for work and as my old bag was starting to fall apart and I often cycle to work, I needed something a bit more rugged than most typical commuter bags.

Waterfield bags are designed to be very tough (not surprising as the company was founded by a former bicycle messenger), so I was keen to take a closer look at the Waterfield Cargo bag.

 

Features

The Waterfield Cargo looks like fairly typical messenger-style bag at first. It has a shoulder strap, front flap and a buckle. But there are ton of nifty design touches that make the bag very practical in everyday use:

  • The top zip makes it easy to get stuff from the main compartment without lifting up the main flap
  • The interior fabric is a bright colour, that makes it easy to find things inside
  • The back pocket is great for your iPad or a folder with papers

Design

This bag looks pretty good, but the design isn’t the main reason you’d buy this bag. It’s a very functional design and it’s“tidy” enough to take into any office, without looking too corporate.

You can also customise the look quite a bit by choosing various trim and colour options.

Quality and Durability

Waterfield state that the bag was inspired by ruggedized bike messenger accessories and it certainly feels every bit as durable as its heritage. The nylon fabric is extremely tough and feels much more durable than the fabrics used on similar products from other well-known manufacturer’s bags I’ve owned.

This is how much I can easily fit in the Waterfield Cargo:

 

Contents of my bag

As I mentioned at the outset, I plan on commuting by bike quite a bit with this bag, so I want something that can be strapped to the back of a bike rack and withstand a bit of wear and tear. So far, the Waterfield Cargo has been more than up to the challenge: Despite being bumped around on the back of a bike for several weeks, kicked around on the floor of the subway and dragged halfway across Malaysia on my honeymoon, it still looks like new. Any dirt or muck you get on the bag easily brushes off, and all the seams and zips are rock solid.

Bonus Round

There’s a lot to like about this bag, but here are a few extra tidbits I particularly like:

  • The strap can easily being adjusted just by lifting an adjustment flap at the side, but it doesn’t accidently lift or slip
  • Underneath the front flap are two slim pockets that are almost hidden – perfect for storing your passport or other valuables somewhere hard to access while travelling.
  • The interior pockets don’t get in your way, so you can use the space inside the bag to the fullest.
  • If you do need extra compartments, the Sleevecase accessory is perfect for documents and laptops (it has two compartments, perfect for a MacBook and iPad), while the Cablepouch is great for all your accessories and cables:

 

Conclusion

At $189, the Waterfield Cargo is certainly one of the more expensive laptop bags out there. But this Waterfield bag, which was handmade in San Francisco, is extremely well made with high-quality materials used throughout, so I’d argue that the price is more than justified. If you’ve got a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air you’re carrying around, it’s worth investing in a good bag to protect it.

Unlike other messenger bags that I’ve owned, that have all started to fall apart at the seams after a few months of owning them, this bag feels as though it will give me a good few years of use.

The attention to detail and everyday practicality is very obvious — someone really thought about every aspect of this bag while designing it – and it is very versatile, equally useful as a travel bag for longer journeys or as a daily bag for the office.

Overall, highly recommended.

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Alfred Extension: Open in language…

Posted on Aug 26, 2011 in Hints, Mac

As part of my job as product manager at equinux, I frequently tweak strings and messages in our applications. As most of our apps are available in multiple languages, it’s often necessary to check changes in multiple languages, e.g. to ensure that the string isn’t too long.

There are a number of utilities available that make it easier to launch apps in a specific language, however they all usually require a number of extra clicks and typically only work with apps in your Applications folder — making it cumbersome to open development builds that aren’t installed there.

I’m a big fan of the keyboard launcher tool Alfred and was thrilled to see that the developer recently added extension support for Alfred Powerpack users (at just £12 / $19 the Powerpack is a steal – highly recommended).

I’ve written a collection of Alfred extensions (basically shell scripts) that will allow you to quickly open an app in the language of your choice:

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Open iPad GarageBand files on your Mac – a workaround

Posted on Mar 27, 2011 in Hints, iPad, Mac

Update: That didn’t take long! Apple has just released an update for GarageBand on the Mac that officially adds support for iPad projects. It’s 181MB and seems to include add all the software instruments found in the iPad version that were missing

 

So ignore the workaround below, update GarageBand and you’ll be all set.

 

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Review: Sparrow

Posted on Feb 15, 2011 in Mac, Reviews

A shiny new Mail client for OS X has been making the rounds recently — Sparrow for Mac.

Sparrow first caught a lot of attention last year when the initial public beta was released. I have to admit, I was quite skeptical after a first look: it seemed like a weird rip-off of Tweetie for Mac combined with everything I disliked about the Gmail web interface.

But the final 1.0 release has really won me over. Sparrow gets rid of the visual clutter caused by lists of folders, unread count badges etc. and puts your email front and center.

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Mac App Store thoughts

Posted on Nov 7, 2010 in Mac, Opinions

The long-rumoured Mac App Store has finally been announced and developers have started to post their reactions and opinions. So far, everyone seems cautiously optimistic and despite some concerns and understandable misgivings about handing over 30% of application revenue to Apple, there have only been a few developers who have categorically rejected the Mac App Store.

So how will the Mac App Store really impact developers? The answer depends on what type of developer you’re talking to and what kind of products they sell. These three groups come to mind:

The lone Mac Developer

These guys are going to love the App Store. Until now, they’ve had to take care of their own marketing, sales, licensing, online store, support, etc, all in addition to writing their apps. Being on the App Store won’t magically make these additional jobs go away, but it remove some of pressure to do all of these simultaneously.

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