misc. review



I got my hands on a copy of Apples Aperture software recently and so far I have been really impressed. I am stunned with the feature set within the app which seems to have thought of nearly everything. I am running it on a Macbook with a gig of ram and although it is not officially supported on this computer it runs flawlessly. The real test will come in a couple of weeks when I head out to shoot a wedding and it will fill up with hundreds of raw files which should give me a good idea of what to expect in the future.

One of my favorite features it its seamless interface and layout which is very well thought out and makes browsing, organizing, and editing photos a breeze. I am still studying all the shortcuts which will make all of my common actions even quicker and easier. A really handy feature within the organization side of things is the ability to 'stack' similar images and better yet automatically stack images shot in close succession based on the time between exposures. I love this feature, it keeps my photo library very tidy. Also the non destructive nature of the editing you can do including the very detailed clone tool for blemishes which makes photoshops stamp tool look elementary.

I could go on and on about all of the things I like about the software but it will probably be easier for both you and me to simply link to apples product page which has videos and the like on how it works. I would highly recommend this app to anyone looking for a full featured app to organize and edit your photos and thanks to the fact that they brought the price down to just $300 its hard to pass it up.



So I'm sure many of you are wondering what I use to carry around my laptop and other various gadgets, camera, extra lenses, cables, food... well, my life really. I remember for quite a few years I was a messenger bag kind of a guy and had a couple Timbuk2 bags that I used for the longest time but my back started to let me know that it was time to grow up and think about finding a nice backpack. I have had the same internal frame backpack for camping for years and years and have loved its versatility as a bag so when I started looking for my next bag I was looking for something big that could hold everything I would need it to hold and more. I wanted the ability to take only that one bag with me on short trips so I needed something built to be a laptop/gadget bag but still have the versatility to hold things such as a few changes of cloths and whatnot.

Well all of my searching came to an end when I re-discovered Spire bags of Boulder, Colorado. Actually it was the only company that I came across which had what I was looking for. They have a really great line of bags centered around laptops and although there are other companies out there that make bags such as these I have yet to find one that makes them as well as Spire.

The model that I chose is called the Meta and it was the biggest baddest bag that they had. It was exactly what I needed, a rugged backpack that would hold everything I could throw at it. After using it for a few different trips I have been more and more happy with it. At first I planned on using the bag just for trips and I was going to stick with my smaller shoulder bag for everyday use but I shortly found myself enjoying the Meta so much that I was using it for everything all the time. It became my mobile office and studio.


So what's so great about this bag anyways?

Well first off lets talk about it's ability and usefulness as a laptop bag. Their backpacks all utilize a laptop sleeve that opens from the top which provides an ample amount of protection from bumps and rough handling. You have the option of having this sleeve rest in the bag loosely so you can take it out of the backpack and use it on its own or you could choose to use a patch of velcro on the back of the sleeve that will allow you to secure it to the inside of the bag (which has it's own cover should you decide you don't want to use this ability). In the Meta there is an entire middle section of the bag that I use primarily for my laptop, its power cord and an additional battery within a mesh pocket at the top of the section. There is enough additional room here for a book or a magazine or something of the sort but I like to keep that area simple and easy to get at what I need. The fact that the laptop section is there in the middle of the bag adds additional protection to the laptop which is nice. When you place the order for your bag you are given the option of picking the size of your sleeve and they have plenty of sizes for all kinds of laptops and a chart on their site that you can reference to pick just the right size. My 15" Powerbook is a perfect fit for the sleeve that came with the bag.

So onto the rest of the bag. The bag as a whole is separated into 3.5 main sections. The largest of which is closest to your back and is great for clothes and other traveling necessities. I find that I can comfortably fit clothes for about three days in the bag which is just what I needed for short trips When I use it as an everyday bag this section stays relatively empty with the exception of maybe my camera, a few cables and a sweater or something of the sort. There are two compression straps on both sides of the bag that come in handy when I don't have much in the bag because I can just tighten the straps up to make the bag more manageable when it is more empty.

I have already described the middle section of the bag so I'll move onto the front most area. The nice thing about this area is all of the handy pockets inside. There is plenty of room for pens, a few cds, cables, extra batteries, a book, a gameboy plus games, etc... This area is smaller than the other two sections of the bag and is not suited for big things but for the types of things I mentioned a second ago, this area is a really nice thing to have. on the outermost part of the bag there are two somewhat hidden zipper pockets that I don't use to much because of their tall shape. I find them handy to keep a snack in or small nicknacks that I use often like my headlight. On the top of one of these pockets there is a small pocket for a small music player such as an ipod and a small hole to wind a headphone cord through which is handy but I find that i prefer my ipod to be in my pocket or somewhere where I can get at it easily.

How does it fit?

I am at six ft. tall and this bag fits me just right, I could see this being a bit big for someone with a smaller body but I love the fit of the bag. The back of the bag has a fitted piece of plastic with a metal spine to hold its shape along with a cushy bit of padding including a bit extra along the spine which is a nice touch. One of the more interesting features of the Meta is the fact that you can disconnect the shoulder straps and belt strap and tuck them away behind the padding of the bag allowing them to be out of the way for things such as cramming it into an overhead bin on a plane. I should mention here that it would be nice to see some more padding on the belt strap. My other camping pack has a nice sturdy belt strap which is really nice to handle a bag carrying a lot of weight which this bag can do pretty easily. I find that I leave the belt strap tucked into the bag because it adds a bit more lower back support having that little bulge there from having the belt pack tucked in. When I take it out to use I find myself wishing it did more to help support the amount of wait in the bag. The strap seems to sag a bit under the weight which kind of defeats the purpose in my eyes. It is really nice having the strap there though, especially at the end of a long day wearing it when its full, i just have to make sure that its strapped to my waist nice and tight so I can give my shoulders a rest. Overall I really love the way this bag feels which is why I have started to use it everyday.

Anything else?

This bag is built like a rock. There is a large amount or detail and time put into the bag and it has held up very well to whatever I throw at it. I am really rough with things I own and travel with and they take quite a beating so I expect things I buy for traveling to hold up under pressure and I feel like I can trust this bag to hold up under any circumstances. The only thing i would like to see on a future model would be a mesh water bottle holder of some sort on the side of the bag. Something big enough to hold a Nalgene bottle. I would also love the chance to try one of their smaller backpacks sometime.

I would highly recommend anyone in the market for a good backpack to look no further than Spire Bags. The company seems to be a pretty small company and they make all of the bags onsite which I can admire as well as take as a reassurance that they are made to meet high standards. I look forward to many years use out of this bag and I hope that you take a minute to check them out.

Link to their site

On a side note, I remember how nice they were when I ordered the bag. It was a birthday present from my family and I remember them being out of stock of them at the time that we ordered but they were nice enough to make sure that it arrived in time for my birthday which was a nice touch.


iLife '06 and iWork 06

So as some of you may know there was a new version of apples iLife software suite released about a week ago and I have since had the chance to get my hands on a copy of both iLife and the new iWork software. The software packages are broken down like so; iLife includes updates for iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, Garageband, and the newest member of the family, iWeb. iWork includes Pages, and Keynote.


Of all of this new software the upgrades that I was looking forward to the most were iPhoto and Garageband. iPhoto is a wonderful app and I have used it for quite some time now to upload and organize photos from my camera and keep track of all of the photos I take. On average I will end up loading a good 3000 photos or so every couple of months and the program handles this very well and makes it easy to make quick edits via a nice full screen editing mode as well as order calendars, greeting cards, books, and prints of photos. There is also a slick new feature that allows me to make a quick 'photocast' using any album in my library. This is in essence an rss feed that can be viewed using a rss reader or another copy of iPhoto.


Garageband also has a whole slew of new features and Id have to say that it is very very cool. It is simply the best program out there for making a quick, easy, great sounding podcast and one the newest features within the app is a podcast studio of a sort so now you can either work the program like before and use it for simple multitrack recordings or use the great new podcasting features that let you make an enhanced podcast so so easily. There is a track for photos now and a place you can title sections of the podcast and add links to the file as well! Very nice. There is also a way you can import movies you are making in iMovie to make a soundtrack for the movie using a video track within the program. This has got to be the first consumer level app that I have seen that will let you sync music and sound effects so well and easily into your home movies!

I have to admit that iMovie does not get as much love from me as iPhoto and Garageband but it is a wonderful piece of software as well! Maybe once i get a chance to look into the newest in that app I will write a bit about my impressions here. I did see some amazing new motion graphics that you can add video into that are included within the program. Its amazing what they have done with that software. No other Consumer level video editing app can come close to working as elegantly as iMovie. iDVD is the same way and although I do enjoy using this to make dvd slideshows I have now yet used it and so I cant really say to much about it at this point.


So onto the new kid on the block, iWeb. I have only spent a small amount of time with this app so I dont have to much to say on its behalf. First off this app is best suited to be used with a .mac account. You do have the ability to export pages you make with this program and upload them to a server of your choice but the program is designed to be as tightly integrated with .mac as all of the others are. First off I would like to comment on the user interface which I see as needing a good bit of improvement in the future. Although it is really straightforward, I would like to have seen a more refined interface to work with. That is probably my only complaint other than not having the ability to have one click publishing to a server of your choice. Other than these things the program is really impressive. It handles laying out a web page as if you were laying out a brochure with a layout program like Pages. You can layer images over one another and rotate them, you can even add a nice little reflection to images and place text anywhere on the page. Its really pretty remarkable how they allow you to do all of this and export it to look exactly the way you want it onto the web. I am looking to possibly moving my podcast over to my .mac space and using iWeb to handle it because it makes it so easy to do so. It works along with Garageband so you can export your podcast directly from Garageband to iWeb and sets up a new entry ready to go. One other addition i would like to see here is the ability to save a template that you etit for use on multiple pages on your site. It seems as though this would be an easy addition to the app.

I think I have gone on long enough for now. I wanted to talk a bit about iWork a bit but I need to get going with my day so I am going to leave it at that for now. There is a whole lot more to the apps that I talked about here and if you are curious to know more I suggest you check out apples website for a better overview. Man, I love being a mac guy.


my other new ipod


well, for whatever reason i saw these new ipods and i could not resist forking over another four hundred dollars to apple. i had been wanting a newer generation ipod for a while now because of the newer features added to them. when the 5g ipod was released i knew that somewhere in the back of my mind i was going to end up getting one.

not only can it import photos from my camera and allow me to keep photos on the ipod and show them on a tv as a slideshow... it can also record cd quality stereo sound (as soon as somebody releases a pre-amp for the thing...) playback video, help organize my life, wash my dishes, scratch my back, do tricks for dog treats, and on top of all that play music? who wouldnt want one of these things? ok, so maybe im making things up here to make it seem like its more than it is but it is really really nice and it is the best ipod ever.


most of the reviews you will read you will read about this will zero in on video playback and understandably so. people have been totally obsessed with this getting added to ipods since what seems like the beginning of time. the reviews i have read all treat it like its a portable video player now instead of an mp3 player which is backwards. apple just added video in the mix as a simple progression of the ipod the same way that they added photo support. its a perk not a feature to base a whole review around. anyways, what do i think of the new ipod?


i think i said this already but this thing is the best ipod yet. as you hold it in your hand or see a photo of it it looks so much bigger than the older full size ipods but it is actually smaller than they are. the bigger screen on the player makes it seem bigger. speaking of the screen, it is really amazing. it has an incredible resolution and allows the viewing angle on it to be very very wide without looking all crazy and negative-like. the battery life seems to be pretty strong for music playback and performs as promised. video playback does eat up the battery a good bit more but that is to be expected.

i have yet to try and hook it up to a tv but i am exited to give it a try. it sounds like a really handy function. i also am looking forward to utilizing the ability to import photos onto the ipod. i have tried it a couple of times and it is pretty slow and it eats up the battery for whatever reason. im not sure what thats all about but its still handy all the same.


a couple of subtle differences have shown their face as i have played with it. the click from the click wheel now plays through the headphones when it is turned on but in a distant un-intrusive way. the older ipods could do this but in a much more annoying way. also the browsing structure has changed slightly and when you only have one album by an artist loaded on the ipod you find that it skips right into the songs on that album rather than showing the album name then the track names. there are also a couple of other new little things that i dont feel the need to mention here. just check out apples site for any other details.

so i hope that this gave you an idea of what i think about the new ipod. any of you with older ipods as i did might want to take a closer look into this new player because the new features that are there seem very worth it to me.


nano this, nano that

so ive had my nano for a few weeks now and i love is just as much as i did when i got the thing. i have scratched it up a good bit but i dont mind scratches, just so i can see the screen well enough. ive been getting really used to the size of the ipod and its ability to slip into some sort of black hole in my pocket. black hole because it seems as though its not even there when i carry it around. i would highly recommend this player to anyone who wants music on the go. it is the best portable music solution i have seen to date for those of you who just want something small that wont ever get in the way.

from what i understand the 2 gig versions are having a rough time and understandably so. the 4 gig needs to be the 200 dollar model and the 2 should either not exist, or simply be cheeper. the shuffle would sell like hot cakes at 50-75 bucks a shot and im sure they could afford it. then the shuffle would really become a in pulse buy.

i bought some letter stickers to decorate my powerbook and found that the 'o' fits right over the enter button on my nano which is kind of fun and gives my finger a guide so i dont accedentally hit a button or jack the volume up accedentally. its kind of nice really, heres a photo.


oh and check out this slick wooden case for the nano, pretty tempting if you ask me.

thats all for now. im off to work!


ear canals beware

so i have recently bought a pair of 'in ear' earbud style headphones just so see what all this talk is about and see if they really are any better than a traditional earbud headphone that sits in your ear. i have avoided this for a good while simply because i have a fear of cramming things into my ears. its been around since i was a wee little version of myself playing around with some drum sticks and my ear and i poked one in there to deep and ouch! freaked me out and ever since, anything involving the inner ear has been avoided weather that be q-tips or earplugs, nothing gets to deep in there without a bit of a squirm and some goose bumps.

the reason i picked some up was simply because i got a great deal on a pair of some of the nicer ones available on the market, a pair of shure E3's. the first thing that made me wonder if i had made a wise decision in this purchase was when i came across this odd little plastic stick with a hook on one end that i soon found out was a device to clean the earwax out of the headphones... yeah, it's pretty weird and so far, luckily, i have not had to whip this little tool out. the headphones also came with a little collection of various plastic covers / earplug attachments for the headphones. there are three different styles of these. little grey ones that are the most flexible and my personal favorites, little clear plastic ones that are not nearly as soft, and some foamish ones that are like earplugs that you roll between your fingers to squish so it will fit into your ear then expand to form a seal. i would use the foam ones if they were softer but the material is rough and uncomfortable. all but the foam ones come in various sizes for different ears but i could not imagine anyone with ears big enough to stick the bigger ones into.

the idea behind these in ear headphones is that the headphones (i don't like t he word earbuds so ill call them headphones) form a nice seal around your inner ear which blocks out outside noise and allows for you to listen at a lower level but still hear the sound ok. well i have discovered that to do this you really need to cram these things down in your ear by holding back your ear lobe and opening up your ear canal so you can cram these things down there nice and deep. this way when you let them settle the plastic covers that i mentioned will form a nice tight seal around your ear and keep sound from getting in. this is what i just can not get used to. it feels like my ears cant breath at all which is weird to me. the seal is nice and tight when you get them in your ear right. i find that my poor ears are kind of sore after the whole process.

so all that unpleasantness out of the way i can admit that they do sound pretty damn good once you get them in there nice and tight. these headphones really do knock out a good bit of the outside noise. the best way to look at them is like you are sticking earplugs in your ears only there is a little tunnel in the middle of the earplugs that lets sound from the headphones sneak through. these things have a great clear sound that, when compared directly, cover more of a range than other traditional style earbud style headphones. the only thing that you might say is lacking is the low end. this is true and it isnt true. if you get the headphones in your ear right then there is plenty of low end to go around. its not going to shake your brain like a pair of bose tri-ports but it does come through and the nice part about the low end on these headphones is that it does not suck up all of the output in the speakers like some headphones do. it allows for the bass to carry out along side the clarity of the tiny tiny little speakers in the headphones.

so all in all i couldnt really recommend you get these headphones. they are good for certain things and moments in life when you want to block out the sound from the outside world without having to wear big earmuff style headphones. i know there are tons of these inner ear headphones out there on the market that can cost anywhere from 40 bucks to 500 or more and im sure there are better ones out there than these but its just the whole inner ear experience that i cant quite get used to. maybe over time my ears will stretch out and allow for these things to feel better in my ear but for now id have to wave a caution flag in the direction of anyone looking to dive into these deep ear diving style of headphones.




any guesses to as what this is? i give you a hint: its a game. ill have more on this mystery in the coming day or two.


mighty mighty strange mouse

im sure everyone who would be interested in hearing this already knows about it but i figured i put my two cents out there. im talking about the new mouse that apple has released, the might mouse. i know that they have somehow gotten away with some pretty odd product names in the past but for whatever reason i think they have pushed the strange name thing just a step to far this time around. its just too goofy for its own good but this is aside from the point right? right.


i think the mouse has a nice concept with the two buttons in one and the little scroll ball for scrolling. i think it works well on paper however in the end it leaves something to be desired. the right button has to be clicked without touching the other side of the mouse so you have to kind of lift your index finger up to right click which kind of resembles a dog lifting its leg to... well you understand. this was really frustrating at first but i find myself getting used to it pretty quick and i dont really mind all to much.

now the outside "fourth" button. again, i can see this being an ok idea but its just not working like i want it to. i pinch the mouse to lift it as i drag something on the screen and of course when i do this it triggers the action i assign to it every time i do this. how could this possibly work? i have this function turned off on the mouse. there does not seem to be much thought put into this feature other than, "hey, it might be kind of cool to make this a button." they need to leave these little pinchers alone. if they want some more touchy buttons why not make something like the touch sensitive third gen ipod buttons or something?

now for the little scroll ball. again, its a great idea but it ended up a little strange when it came to actually using it. i imagined it would be like the little do-dad on some pc laptops like ibm's think pad series but its an actual little ball in there. i have gotten used to using the little ball to navigate pages and the more i use it, the more natural it feels. the one other thing i could say about it is that the ball seems too small. after using it for a little while it makes my finger feel strange.i dont know how to explain it. its just not agreeing with me for whatever reason. the ball needs to be a bit bigger i think so its more smooth and not so pokey.


my over all opinion on the mouse is simply that it feels a little unfinished. im used to apple products being really solid and well thought out but this seems a little thrown together and not quite polished. maybe in future revisions we will see some cleaner functionality and a tighter gap between concept and the final product.

update: a couple days into using this mouse i find myself getting used to the quirks that i wine about here. i still have the side squeeze buttons disabled but otherwise i find myself liking it more as i use it more... just thought id add this for anyone interested.