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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Eye-Fi Explore Video 4GB: Final Thoughts and Now the Pro

As I left off in my previous posting on my Eye-Fi Explore Video 4GB card, I would report back once I took a couple of additional trips. Now that I have completed trips to both San Francisco and Las Vegas -- I have a feel for how I will use the Eye-Fi Expore Video card.

This to me, is extremely important -- there has been a ton of great press on the Eye-Fi series of cards. (Home, Share, Share Video, Explore Video, and Pro) Most of that press has been based on a "basic" use or review of the card and not from what I would consider real-world use. That's critical for knowing how the card and device that will perform when you really need it.

First, I should start out by saying I absolutely love the WiFi uploading capabilities of the Eye-Fi Explore Video card. Now that I have paired my Sprint Wireless card with my Broadband Wireless Router, the Linksys Wireless-G WRT54G3G-ST router -- I can reliably upload these pictures anywhere. And while at times it can be slow uploading pictures from a 12.1 mega pixel DSLR camera, it works extremely well delivering my photos to a number of different locations -- both in the "cloud" as well as delivery to my home PC. Uploading from home with my 25M down 15M up connection from Verizon FiOS is fast and flawless.

I still have not knowingly connected to a WiFi hotspot, but that's ok for now...

Now for the real subject of this post, can I count on the geotagging aspect of the Eye-Fi Video Explore to deliver for me on a consistent basis. Is it consistent enough that I can depend on it to deliver in most situations...knowing it's dependent on an available WiFi connection.

Let's take a look at the 61 pictures I took on our recent weekend trip to San Francisco, taken from a variety of different locations -- shooting with my Canon EOS Rebel XSi DSLR camera. In each case, I followed my standard methodology which is to turn on the camera 30 seconds before snapping a photo -- to enable the Eye-Fi card to find a WiFi signal.

Here were the results...

- Of the 61 photos, 45 were successfully geotagged with a location with pretty strong accuracy. Roughly a geotag success rate of roughly 74%.
- 5 photos taken on Market Street in the heart of the action were not geotagged.
- 8 photos taken at the Embarcadero and Farmers Market were not geotagged.
- A couple of random photos at Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square were not geotagged.
- Generally, great geotagging support at Union Square, Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, and especially Chinatown.
- Interestingly, 2 of the photos taken at Pier 39 was tagged as being in Sausalito -- oddly enough. The others were tagged accurately.

Eye-Fi Explore Video 4GB and Eye-Fi Pro Review Image

From my perspective, this is good -- but not great. Overall, after a couple spurious tags (such as Sausalito) the overall accuracy is closer to 70%. Frankly, is not close enough for me to be able "to count on it" without worrying about whether or not my photos will be tagged when I upload them. While it is more of a commentary on the state of available WiFi in various locales rather than on the quality of the Eye-Fi card itself -- it's a key piece of the value proposition of the Eye-Fi Explore and the Eye-Fi Pro wireless cards that's not delivering as well as I had hoped for. Instead, I've determined I will need to turn to an external device to capture the accurate locations of the tags if I want to capture accurate GPS coordinates -- every time.

Even with that outcome from my experience on the geotagging, I am still overall positive about my experience with the Eye-Fi card and it's wireless and uploading capabilities. For now, I will choose to turn off the geotagging functionality -- and really leverage the WiFi aspects of the card as I travel.

Looking at the range of cards the Eye-Fi has -- really the Eye-Fi Share Video 4GB would have been the right card for me. While I don't need the video upload capabilities, the 4GB sized card is necessary for my needs. If I really had my way, an 8GB version of the Eye-Fi Share would be the ultimate product in terms of matching my needs and wants.

Since I have purchased my Eye-Fi Explore Video 4GB, Eye-Fi has introduced the Eye-Fi Pro which introduces support for both RAW photos and Ad-Hoc transfers (which I had mentioned my interest in) in addition to selective sharing and uploading. The catch? It's $149 and there does not appear to be an upgrade capability -- or whether the upgrade is hardware or limited to firmware / software.

I'd be willing to upgrade for a small fee, but not likely to fork out the full $149 for the additional features. Still, I will keep my eyes open for larger capacity versions of the Eye-Fi Share and Eye-Fi Share Video.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Privacy: Facebook Does It Again with Advertising

This has been making it's rounds on Facebook, but I thought I would post it here for a little broader exposure in case you have not had the chance to see it yet. Basically, Facebook and their lack of privacy respect for their members strike again.

Here is the status updates that are making their rounds on Facebook:

Facebook has agreed to let third party advertisers use your posted pictures without you having to "opt in". To change click "Settings" up at the top near the "Logout" link. Select "Privacy Settings". Then select "News Feed and Wall". Next, select the tab that reads "Facebook Ads". In the drop down box, select "No One". Then save your changes. Do it now. Post this in your status


What Facebook has done here and by default enables if for any social actions you take (including posting photos) to be used in Facebook advertising to you and your friends. Which means, they are trying to make the ads more "relevant" by taking your actions and pairing it with advertisements in order to get people to "take action" or click on ads. Never mind that you may not know or agree with the product or service being advertised.

Do you really want to show up in an ad for a friend that says "Overweight", "Quit Smoking", or "Get a Flat Stomach in 30 days"? Me either.

So, I followed the directions and came across the text below when saving the settings on my Facebook page, which confirms the status posts:
Facebook occasionally pairs advertisements with relevant social actions from a user's friends to create Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads make advertisements more interesting and more tailored to you and your friends. These respect all privacy rules. You may opt out of appearing in your friends' Facebook Ads below.


Here's a screen shot of how it should look after you make the change:
Facebook occasionally pairs advertisements with relevant social actions from a user's friends to create Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads make advertisements more interesting and more tailored to you and your friends. These respect all privacy rules. You may opt out of appearing in your friends' Facebook Ads below.

Why did I choose to remove the setting and opt out? One, in the first place -- Facebook never asked me any questions. Secondly, there is nothing in it for me -- how do I control which ads I appear in -- what if they are products or brands I do not support or agree with -- that list of questions goes on and on. In the end, there is no real benefit for you or me the end user to keep the settings.

Is there a case where I would think about it? Very possibly.

If Facebook really wants to get creative -- what they could have done is given users a potential "cut" of the advertisements they appear in when action is taken and allow them to control the types of product or services that would be shared. Now that would be interesting....

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Hidden Mickey: California Adventure: Heimlich's Chew Chew Train

Welcome to another Hidden Mickey post from Disneyland, California! In this particular post, we'll show you both the location (including GPS coordinates!) and a picture of the Hidden Mickey that is on Heimlich's Chew Chew Train in the "a bug's land" section of the California Adventure park at the Disneyland Parks in Anaheim, CA.

As a reminder, we used Steven M. Barrett's book, Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort's Best Kept Secrets to help us on our adventures. You can buy it at the park, or if you want to go prepared, click here to purchase from Amazon.

For the full list of Hidden Mickey's we've found in California Adventure, click here.

To find this Hidden Mickey at on Heimlich's Chew Chew Train in the California Adventure theme park, head over to "a bug's land" section of the park and wait in line for the ride. When you get on the ride, try to make sure you're in the 4th or 5th car of the ride, as it will provide for the best viewing of the Hidden Mickey.

Now, here's how you can locate the Hidden Mickey. First, you get to enjoy the entire ride. So lean back, relax and take in the sights, sounds, and smells on Heimlich's Chew Chew Train!

Then, as you come to a stop and wait while the train ahead of you loads with the next set of riders. Now, look to the right, in between the 4th and 5th cars on the ride in the rocks you will see three rocks embedded that form a great classic Hidden Mickey!

Here's a picture of what it looks like:

The hidden mickey in the rocks on Heimlich's Chew Chew Train in a bugs life section of California Adventure for disneyland in anaheim, ca

If you're having trouble finding it, here is a Google Map with the exact GPS location of this Hidden Mickey in Disney's California Adventure, 33.80634° N, 117.91803° W:


View Larger Map

Good luck in finding it! If you've found it, please let me know with a comment!

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Ultimate Hidden Mickey Guide - California Adventure, Anaheim, CA

As mentioned in my “Ultimate Hidden Mickey Guide” post, the secret of the Hidden Mickeys is an important part of our family’s obsession with Disneyland. In this post, I’ll show all the areas we know of or have found a Hidden Mickey at Disney's California Adventure in the Walt Disney Resorts in Anaheim, California.

As a reference, we've consistently used Steven M. Barrett's book, Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort's Best Kept Secrets. It'll provide you a great start to finding the Hidden Mickeys and hours of fun. You can buy it at the park, or if you want to go prepared, click here to purchase from Amazon.

For the rest of the Hidden Mickey's we've found in other parks, please see my Ultimate Mickey Guide post, here.

We’re sure there are others that we missed. Let me know with a comment below.

Here are all the locations we have found Hidden Mickeys in California Adventure.

Hidden Mickey – California Adventure – Entrance Plaza
Entrance Plaza Behind the "R" in CALIFORNIA



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Hidden Mickey: California Adventure: Entrance Plaza "R"

Welcome to another Hidden Mickey post from Disneyland, California! In this particular post, we'll show you both the location (including GPS coordinates!) and a picture of the block Hidden Mickey in the concrete of the entrance to the California Adventure park in the main entrance section of the Disneyland Parks in Anaheim, CA.

As a reminder, we used Steven M. Barrett's book, Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort's Best Kept Secrets to help us on our adventures. You can buy it at the park, or if you want to go prepared, click here to purchase from Amazon.

For the full list of Hidden Mickey's we've found in California Adventure, click here.

To find this Hidden Mickey at the entrance to Disney's California Adventure, find the "R" in the CALIFORNIA at the front of the entrance plaza. Here is a picture of where it is at:

There is a Hidden Mickey behind the R in CALIFORNIA at Disney's California Adventure Entrance Plaza in Anaheim, CA

Now walk up to the "R" and then proceed approximately 15 feet behind it. Right by where the pavement changes colors from red to gray, if you look real closely in the cement, you'll see some greenish stones embedded in the concrete which form a Hidden Mickey!

Here is a picture of the Hidden Mickey:
Embedded in the concrete is a green hidden mickey behind the R in the entrance place to California Adventure

If you're having trouble finding it, here is a Google Map with the exact GPS location of this Hidden Mickey in Disney's California Adventure, 33.80874° N, 117.91903° W:


View Larger Map

Good luck in finding it! If you've found it, please let me know with a comment!

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to Download Purchase from iTunes Again

Have you...

Lost the music you purchased from iTunes?

Had your computer crash and you lost all your iTunes Music and Videos?

Lost your iPhone or iPod Touch apps?

Wanted to redownload your iTunes music?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then this is the article for you. I recently somehow misplaced a number of the purchases from my iTunes account on my switch between Windows XP, MacOS X, and a couple of iTunes reinstalls due to crashes.

I was looking to recover the downloads, but when I logged into my iTunes account, there was no way to do so. And some of the articles and information I found didn't make it look good. And according to Apple's website, a purchase of an item only entitles you to a single download of the content.

Here is the snippet:

Buying a song, video, iPod Game, or album from the iTunes Store entitles you to download it a single time. If you want to download it again, you must purchase it again. You can copy downloaded content between authorized computers.

Important: Make a backup of the content you purchase. In case of data loss, including hard drive failure or replacement, accidental deletion, and so forth, you'll be able to restore it from the backup. See "How to back up your media in iTunes" for instructions.


After reading this, you might think that you're out of luck if you lose any of your iTunes music, songs, videos, games, or albums. However, there is a way that you can go about downloading all the content if you follow the instructions below:

First, browse to Apple's support website. Choose "Purchase(s) - Missing" and then choose "My hard drive crashed / all of my purchases were erased"...also, I would recommend entering in some very friendly text like the below will be helpful.

My hard drive crashed without a current backup and I lost all of my previous purchases. Could you please enable my account to re-download? I will make sure to take a backup this time. :-)


How to re-download music, songs, videos, games, and albums from itunes if lostHere's my support incident.

Now all you need to do is wait a day or so until Apple Support gets back to you and lets you know that they've done a one-time favor for you and re-enabled all the download for your account. Good news, you're in business.

Go to you iTunes and if you're like me, you'll see the screen below enabling you to re-download all of your music once again!

Download all of your iTunes purchases again.

In just a few minutes all of your music, songs, videos, games, and albums will be re-downloaded, so you did not lose anything. Just make sure you make a backup this time. :-)

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Best Way to Convert Movies and Videos to iPhone / iPod Touch

Converting movies to run on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or even your iPod is serious business. I posted a few months ago on the process I was had for converting movies using Handbrake to convert the DVD movies to the MP4 / MPV. If you have not used HandBrake before, I recommend you check it out, here.

That process worked great, assuming you had a 120GB iPod Video 5th generation player. For example, using the method and settings I used a MP4 version of the movie Bad Boys II ate up 1.78GB of space...way too much if you only have an 8GB iPhone or iTouch...even with an 16GB or 32GB it takes up way too much space.

Why the sudden concern?

Since Ashley recently upgraded her 1G iPhone 8GB to a 3rd generation iPhone 3GS 32GB, I converted her old iPhone into my new iTouch 8GB version. With space at a premium, I would prefer to bring more than 4 videos with me on my next trip. That put me on a quest to find the best, most optimal way to convert movies and video to the iPhone / iTouch format while saving the most space.

I figured that if I just entered a couple of searches into Google...

...the magic settings would return that provided the best quality and audio would be available to me.

But, no such luck.

There were several other how-to guides in terms of converting your DVD movies to a player using a few software like HandBrake, but those were no better than my guide.

That meant it was time to try out a number of settings to find the best possible combination that I could find. Here's how it went.

First, I downloaded the latest version of Handbrake 0.9.3, and started with the iPhone & iPod Touch default preset for Bad Boys II. The result after 40 minutes?

893MB...almost a 50% reduction over the original 1.78GB that I started out with. But, still not good enough...even at 893MB -- that means I could get only 8 movies on my iPhone 8GB before the space was all used up. Even then, it was still running a 827 kbps...there had to be room for improvement, it was not good enough.

Here's a shot at the default setting for the iPhone / iPod Touch video conversion using HandBrake.Conversion of a full movie dvd files to a MP4 / MPV video for the iPhone and iPod Touch

Looking for an even better savings, I started tinkering with the targeted file size settings to see what could happen.

First I tried targeted sizes of 500MB, 250MB, and 150MB to see if I could hone in on a lower quality setting that would still preserve high quality video without pixelation and sound good enough for ear buds or even my Bose QuietComfort 2 noise cancelling headphones.

After running those conversions, it seemed like 250MB was pretty close to the quality I needed, but I wanted to it be just a little bit better on the video. What I did next is start playing around with the various bitrates for both the video and the audio.

Through a process of trial and error, I settled on a setting of 224kbps for the video, and 64kbps for the AAC converted audio. This seemed to be the best of both worlds. A small video file, only 317MB -- but a great balance of higher quality video and audio. Testing it against quick moving car scenes or explosions to make sure that the picture does not "pixelize" during those fast moments or changes.

Here was the output in iTunes:
Optimal video conversion for movies to an iPhone or iPod touch using handbrake

So, that was it -- I was able to preserve the quality I required using the 224kbps for video and 64kbps for audio settings. In addition, I took an original file of 1.78GB and got it down to 317MB, basically 18% of the original size. What that translates to for an 8GB iPhone would be about 45 hours of movies on your iPhone or iPod touch assuming the 150GB per hour conversion rate.

That is a huge improvement from where I started.

If you're looking to get a number of videos on your iPhone, then I'd highly recommend the settings mentioned above in order to get the best quality for the last space cost.

Now I am off to re-convert all my movies...and in the meantime, if you are interested in the exact settings, here is what I used for a different movie, Gran Torino.

Optimal way to convert DVD movies and videos to the iPhone and iPod Touch

preferred way to convert DVD movies and videos to the iPhone and iPod Touch

Best way to convert DVD movies and videos to the iPhone and iPod Touch

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

How to upgrade to iPhone 3GS from iPhone Original, 1G, 2G, and 3G

It was time. With the release of the new iPhone 3GS - available in 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB formats - coinciding with Ashley's birthday, it was perfect timing to get the new iPhone 3GS phone to replace her 1st Generation iPhone 8GB. The new features, the slightly different feeel, and the additional space were just a few of the reasons why she was excited.

iPhone 3GS upgrade replacement migration from iPhone original 1g 2g 3g how to

Before upgrading, I did a little research to see what the process would look like and found a number of conflicting answers on how to go about it. On of the main keys of course is to be able to transfer all of your information, data, and settings over to the new iPhone. Any loss of information, apps, data, or ringtones is not something that anyone wants.

Some of the answers I found searching Google for"upgrade iphone to 3gs iphone" and "replace iphone 1g with 3gs iphone" included:

  • Make sure and sync your iPhone 1G, 2G, or 3G before heading into the Apple Store or AT&T to upgrade to the 3GS iPhone.
  • Make a backup of your iPhone 1G, 2G, or 3G before heading into the Apple Store or AT&T to upgrade to the 3GS iPhone.
  • Make sure you upgrade your iPhone 1G, 2G, or 3G to the latest Apple iPhone to the
  • Do nothing at all and everything will be ok.

As you can imagine, with all the conflicting information, I was not sure which was the best way to go about upgrading your iPhone without losing any information. Now having successfully completed the upgrade process -- I can tell you exactly what to do and what to expect when you upgrade your phone.

First off, you can start off by doing nothing -- or at least that was the approach I went with. That way if you are just out and around town and you get the whim the upgrade your iPhone to the 3GS -- go ahead and do it, even if you have not backed up, upgraded to the latest iPhone OS version 3.0, or synchronized it.

However, you must realize that when you do pick up the new iPhone 3GS, it will be immediately activated. Your old iPhone 1G, 2G, or 3G will stop receiving call, emails, and text messages and they will go to the new phone. And, depending on the queue at the Apple Store, you may wait up to 20 minutes for you new iPhone...like we did.

Now, once you get home -- you'll need to follow the exact steps below in order to transfer all data and settings to your new iPhone 3GS.

  • First and most imporant -- connect your OLD iPhone 1G, 2G, or 3G to your computer and iTunes.
  • Synchronize your OLD iPhone to make sure you capture the latest settings and data.
  • Make a manual backup of your iPhone, by right-clicking on your iPhone in the left pane and selecting make backup.
  • Verify that you OLD iPhone is running the latest versions (3.0 at the time of this article) in iTunes by clicking on "Check for Update" under the version section. In some cases you may need to upgrade, like I did. Proceed with the upgrade.
  • (if you need to upgrade) Once the upgrade completes, verify your information and settings are correct on the OLD iPhone and then take a backup one more time from your OLD iPhone.
  • Disconnect your OLD iPhone.
  • Connect your NEW iPhone 3GS to your computer and iTunes.
  • Once the connection is initiated, you will be asked on whether to restore a backup. Say yes and/or perform a manual restore of the data from the OLD iPhone to your NEW iPhone 3GS.
  • Once completed, your iPhone 3GS is now ready for use with all of your data.

Congratulations, you've successfully upgraded, replaced, and migrated the data from your old iPhone 1G, 2G, or 3G to the new iPhone 3GS. And if you're like me, you've also acquired an iTouch 8GB with the deactivation of the old iPhone. That's good news for both Ashley and I!

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Galaxy MGB Raid Pro Dies

I've done some posting on my Network Attached Storage device, the Galaxy MGB Raid Pro (link here). It's manufactured by Galaxy Metal Gear, a smaller company that makes a number of storage and multimedia solutions.

In general, it had been a pretty good device -- problem free with the exception of the occasional lock-up on the linux based storage system. I even had upgraded from the original 500GB drives to a couple of 1TB drive -- and it supported a number of functions including JBOD, RAID 0, and RAID 1. I had been using it mainly as a backup for the 4 systems I run to protect against major failures...and it had been doing a pretty good job.

But then a few weeks ago, as I normally do...I shut down most of the computers before leaving on vacation. A great way to save energy, but seemingly has bit me a couple of times that when I arrive back -- the hardware does not always start up as I might have expected. Something about changing the way things are running.

As you might have guessed by this point, when I returned from our trip to Washington, DC -- the MGB Raid Pro wouldn't start up properly.

At first, I thought as I heard was sound a little bit like clicking, but more of a surging that it must be a hard drive. That would make logical sense and part of the reason I had the enclosure and a RAID 1 configuration so I could protect against that kind of failure...on my PCs. The conventional wisdom says that since the NAS has very few moving parts, that it would not be the device itself.

I went ahead and moved the four screws to see what was happening with the device. First I unplugged it, plugged it back in and then started it up. I noticed immediately that the internal fan tried to spin up, but could not -- I knew something more serious was wrong.

Picture of my dead Galaxy MGB Raid Pro just a couple of weeks after my 1 year warranty expired

As I listened the pulsating buzzing or humming sound I was hearing sounded like it was coming from the board or the led indicators on the front rather than the hard drives. The hard drives themselves were not even attempting to spin up. I started disassembling the rest of the MGB Raid Pro in order to remove the drives -- which are held in via 4 shock absorbant screws.

What I learned is once I disconnected all of the drives, the NAS device actually started up properly, the fan spun up and the OS and network loaded. But, that was the extent of it. Whether it was one disk drive, the other disk drive, the primary or secondary SATA connection -- the Galaxy MGB RAID Pro would not boot up with any sort of hard drive connected to it.

Which led me think that something significant was going on with the MGB Raid Pro -- and it was unrepairable. To boot, I was 3 weeks outside the 1 year warranty from the purchse, so if it could not be solved -- I was just plain out of luck.

I attempted to contact the Galaxy Metal Gear Technical support, but they were resistant to any sort of email support at all. In fact, they were only available in a technical support capacity from 9am-1pm PST for any sort of technical assistance, Monday through Friday. Which made it difficult for me with my work schedule.

After a couple of weeks, I was finally able to get a hold of technical support and they mentioned first I would need to fill out the RMA form before they accepted it for repair. In addition, I would have to pay shipping both ways for the repair of the product.

Here we are a couple of weeks later, with device siting opened -- I still have not filled out the RMA form. So, instead yesterday I was in Fry's Electronics and they had the D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure for only $149.99. I had been looking at the DNS-323 and the pretty high ratings since I started having the issues...so it was an easy choice. (Amazon has it for $157, plus there is a $30 rebate right now -- here's the link D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure)

I'm probably going to still submit the RMA (not hopeful it will be accepted) to see what happens -- but needless to say, I am a little disappointed with the quality and outcome given the enclosure itself (not the hard drives) only lasted just under 13 months. So, if you're considering the MGB Raid Pro...just beware that it may fail on you close to the end of the warranty period -- like it did to me

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