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Living with an Eye-Fi SD Card

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Imagine a world where your studio has a large screen and as you shoot the photos are displayed on it, no wires, no heavy grips that drain your camera, just pure freedom of movement. Imagine being on the road and as you shoot you are able to get all these photos on you tablet or phone and upload them to a remote location or edit for immediate sending? Imagine all of this and then add automated geo-tagging and a set of your photos on your camera’s card too.

What if I told you all of this is possible today! What if I told you it’s not that expensive either? Let’s have a look at the Eye-Fi SD Cards in this case the Pro X2.

The installation is relatively easy as long as there is no firewall, Windows 7 will ask you to open the required ports. The software itself is no as intuitive as I would expect it to be but not overly complicated either. I was up and running in about 10 minutes using my laptop as my download station.

Using my laptop: The first thing you will notice is the “lag” between the time you take a photo and the download gets completed. I initially thought something was not working. It transfers both RAW and JPEG with out issues, you just need to be patient.
The Windows software, Eye-Fi Centre, feel a bit like an afterthought, it does the job of getting the photos and configuring the card. Don’t expect more. 

Eye-Fi Center Windows Application

Using my iPad: This was a little more complicated, you’ll need to set the card to “Direct Mode” for that it needs to go back into the laptop’s SD card reader and you will need to install the “receiving” software on your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch and “pair” you card. I had to fiddle a bit to get it to work. My iPad and iPhone did not pick up the Wi-Fi signal of the card. Once it did life was easier though I had to remind my phone about the card a couple of times.
Here is a tip: In the settings on your mobile iOS device, set it to upload on Wi-Fi only! i say that because by default it uses 3G too, I got caught out, here comes the bill.

The good news is the application, at least in the case of the iOS version, gives immediate access to the photos to the “Camera Roll” and “Photo Stream”, this makes it available to most Photo app like iPhoto for iOS, PSTouch for iOS and Android, Snapseed for iOS and Android and Photogene for iOS to mention a few.

I have not tested the automated uploads to and FTP or sharing site, nor have I tested it with video but my experience has not been bad. I will be stretching it a bit on my next photowalk, let see if it’s going to work. I intend to shoot, edit and share during the walk. We will see if this really works.

The good:

  • The technology works
  • Highly configurable
  • SD cards are common in consumer cameras.
  • The optional online backup for only 7 days after the date of upload, premium service cost $49.99 per year adds a few features such as full resolution and unlimited storage for an unlimited time.

The weird:

  • I get an email each time an upload is completed.

The bad:

  • The user interface in both the iOS App and Windows App are a little clumsy
  • The card does not have a stay alive mode and disconnects easily to it’s tethered device causing the tethered device to get confused a times.
  • Slow synchronisation

The ugly

  • Once the initial configuration is made why can’t the configuration be made over Wi-Fi?
  • My Canon EOS 7D does not have an SD slot, there is good excuse to get me a Canon EOS 5D MkIII.

The card has a few other features but I personally will never use most of them nor will most people that would use these cards, one that may come in handy though is the “Endless Memory” feature that allows you to use the card as a buffer.

I’ll tell more of my experiences in a follow up post.

Review: JBL OnBeat Xtreme

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I experienced what I like to call “compact hi-fi audio” a few years ago with a BOSE Radio, the sound was amazing. Since then I have dreamed about owning one of these, until 2 years ago that is.

2 years ago I make the move to the iPhone and a year ago I got myself an iPad, both these devices are capable of acting the media player role, in fact they both are built for it. in the case of the iPad, you either need to have earphones or jerry rig a speaker system to use the 3.5 inch audio jack, unlike the iPhone, the iPad did not have speaker docking stations. This has changed recently, there are a few available on the market now, BOSE still does not manufacture one though. My dream crushed, I turned to another “compact hi-fi audio” specialist JBL.

The JBL OnBeat Xtreme is just what I was looking for, an iPhone/iPad portrait or landscape sound docking station that “sounds” the part. I like good sound and I recently have taken to listening to radio and music on the iPad. The station will also recharge the iPad/iPhone/iPod whilst docked but this is only the beginning. It sounds amazing, generally these devices, and JBL suffers from this too with the JBL Onbeat (the little brother to the Xtreme), lack full bodied sound, particularly the lower frequencies. The JBL OnBeat Xtreme does not suffer that fate, in fact I have to be careful on how loud I have it. One could easily through a party at home with it and not worry about having big sound, that is how good it is.

As a sound docking station it has another few surprises up it sleeves, it will also accept a Bluetooth audio (A2DP) connection from any Bluetooth audio (A2DP) capable devices. In fact, if you pair your iPhone/iPad/iPod touch and remove it from the dock when it is playing, it will automatically switch it to Bluetooth.

Additionally, it has a video out as well as an (auxiliary) mini stereo jack in. You can also plug in a USB to sync your iPad/iPhone/iPod wilts using it’s multimedia functions. A nice touch is the built in microphone so you can answer you iPhone or make Skype or other video/audio calls with your device docked. It also comes with a remote and an App to play music and control, albeit in a limited way, the station.

As for the design, it would fit about anywhere in any situations. As for the sturdiness of the dock, it holds my iPad firmly in place. Even if I find it difficult to dock my iPad 2 at times, the iPad 1 literally easily slides into place in comparison, I think the iPad 2’s curved design is partly at fault.

There are a couple of drawbacks to JBL OnBeat Xtreme, it needs power, it is bulky and not very portable,also for some reason my iPad cannot control the volume. The last drawback and this maybe the biggest is it’s price, it comes at a premium.

So what do I use the JBL OnBeat Xtreme for?

  • Listening to overseas radio stations with Tunein radio (free and paid $0.99)
  • Listening to music with the iPod app
  • Use it as an alarm clock with Alarm Clock ($0.99)
  • Use it with Skype
  • Watch videos with PlayerX (free) and YouTube

iPad with OS 5: The good and the really ugly

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It’s been an interesting week or so, iOS 5 came out and it has it’s good sides and it’s bad sides.  You will remember that one of my main complaint about the iPad WiFi/3G was it’s lack of 3G support like SMS/MMS (and whatsapp) and it’s inability to share it’s 3G with my laptop. Well, the really ugly? Nothing has changed. Same goes for the App store, no globalisation.

That is where my ranting stops dead, the new operating system has great new features for both the iPad and iPhone, here is my list:

  • Notification Centre, it just works, though  it can get irritating if not set up correctly.
  • The new split keyboard is great for thumb typing whilst holding the iPad.
  • There is a noticeable speed improvement across the board, try to open a PDF or an eBook.
  • I love the new Safari Internet browser tabs, it brings the desktop to the iPad and it seems faster too.
  • The “task switching” by swiping is so easy I am already used to it.
  • Same goes for the button double tapping that gives you access to Music without unlocking and on the iPhone the camera too.

There are things I find utterly useless such as the

  • Message Centre (aka Messages) it’s not SMS friendly so what is the use?
  • iTunes & Videos, until the music store goes global or there is a South African music store, all you can get is podcasts.
  • iBooks, similarly to iTunes there is not South African store, however there is access to various classics from the Guttenberg Library.

Not quiet related to iOS 5 but worth the mention is a few apps that appeared at the same time as iOS 5 (or I just noticed them):

  • Facebook, to my surprise Facebook is now optimised for the iPad.
  • Adobe PDF Reader though it does not read protected content.
  • Kalahari.com eReader, synchronises your eBooks bought on www.kalahari.com and let’s you read them. It’s a rudimentary reader and it does crash but generally it works. For South Africans this is good news.
  • Tomtom, the GPS app that never let me down so far, and thanks for the traffic updates and now also opyimised for the iPad!

Apps that work on the iPhone and wish would work on the iPad but do not or are simply not optimised:

  • Whatsapp, the cross platform instant messenger, I call it BBM for all. (Does not work)
  • Google +, Facebook did it why not Google? (Not optimised)
  • Windows Live Messenger, come on Microsoft you did it for the iPhone now optimised it for the iPad.

I also now added a use to my iPad I never thought I would, thanks to the TuneIn Radio app, I listen to radio, mostly European.

All in all it is a better operating system, you will notice that I make no mention of iCloud, this is because I feel our bandwidth is not suitable as yet so I did not enable the backup part of it nor have I tried to use it to it’s full potential, in a future post maybe?

[Edited on 2011/10/22 – Tomtom]

iOS 5 first impressions

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Last night the long awaited iOS 5 was released to the public and as such I immediately upgraded my iPad. The upgrade process was rather smooth. First it flashes the firmware and then proceeds to restore the device, I highly recommend to use the machine that is usually used to sync  the device. I did not and I ended up with a “appless” device. I connected it to the machine it was registered with a little later and it proceeded to reinstall all my apps. Once that process is completed you can disconnect the device, it will proceed to register itself on iCloud through a straight forward wizard.

First impressions are positive, though I already had some disappointments, no “Personal Hotspot” on the iPad Wi-Fi/3G, I am still baffled as it is available on the iPhone.  Also, I was under the impression that I would be able to send SMS’s on my iPad frm “Messages”. it does not appear to be the case either.

It’s only been a few hours, I will report on iOS 5 and iCloud in more details once I have used it for a few days on both the iPhone and iPad.

[Added latter in the day]

The upgrade to my iPhone 4 was very slow but very smooth, after the download it does a backup, the upgrade, a restore, a app restore finally followed by a music and video restore. After the restore the phone asks for activation. I feel far better.