Speak Softly And Carry A Big Camera Bag

Adobe Lightroom AdventureI’m leaving tonight for Australia on the Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop Adventure 2008: Tasmania!
My good friend Mikkel Aaland, author of O’Reilly’s Lightroom Adventure is leading another photo expedition; this time it’s to Tasmania with a bunch of the world’s top photographers for the next edition of his book and he invited me to come. I couldn’t resist even though I’m no photo pro. (They’re billing me as a “special media guest.”)

I do apologize to my friends on the mainland – the itinerary is limited to Tassie: A week in Hobart and a week in the wild. Our Qantas flight does stopover for seven hours in Sydney, so thanks to Aussie Mike, we’ll do an impromptu meetup at the Starbucks at Terminal 3, Sydney Airport, 11a-1p on Tuesday. (It’s a 12-hour flight and we cross the International Date Line so even though I’m leaving Sunday night I won’t arrive in Sydney until Tuesday morning!) If there are any fans in Hobart who want to set up a meet up on Thursday or Friday let me know.

I’ll be doing my radio show from Sea FM/Heart 107.3 Hobart Sunday and Monday morning 4-7a local time (Tasmania is UTC +11 but it’ll be live in the States). The following week I won’t have access to a studio so we’ll air two shows I’ve recorded ahead of time with all new material.

I’m bringing enough gear to equip a multimedia army.

All this fits into my Lowepro CompuTrekker Plus AW backpack (it’s huge) but I’m also bringing a Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW to carry into the field.

And a change of underwear.

Thank goodness I’m not going by ship. I think I’d sink it.

There’s a reason for all this gear. I’ll be blogging the whole time I’m Down Under, including photos (on Smugmug and Flickr), audio (here), and video (on Smugmug and Viddler) so watch this space. Many of the other photographers will be blogging as well on the O’Reilly blog site.

Rain City Roundup

I’m in rainy Vancouver this week working on 15 new episodes of The Lab with Leo – these are the last episodes of 2007 but I’ll be back at the end of January for another round.
We’ve had some great shows so far, including visits from Frank Linhares of Digitalunderground.TV (who proved to me that 9-volt batteries just contain six AA batteries), social media guru, Stowe Boyd, Blogher founder, Elisa Camahort Page, and my old friends Steve Gibson, Alex Lindsay, Mr. Excel, and Ray Maxwell, who gave me yet another reason to spend money.

7EFE3ED4-0BC6-4AF2-9A22-7D127D66DAB4.jpgRay showed me his Canon HV20 with a wide-angle lens and shotgun-mic (there’s a shoe on top), and once again I impulsively ordered an HG10 (the hard drive based version) for the trip to Egypt. The Panasonic SD5 I was planning to bring has two big negatives: you can’t really shoot close-up or big objects because even at its widest it’s a little telephoto and there are no wide-angle adapters available for it, and there’s no external mic jack. The adapter and the mic have arrived, but the camera is backordered and might not make it before we leave for Boston on Monday. Drat.

Getting back to the show, Cali Lewis even did two gadget segments via Skype – I’d prefer to get her here in person but travel budgets are tight and Skype works pretty well. I even got my muscle tension read via remote control using Skype and GoToMeeting.

Tomorrow, Kristin Sanford is going to make oobleck and nitrogen ice cream. I can’t wait to find out what oobleck is.

Meanwhile I’m stuck in the hotel room with a bunch of spreadsheets trying to work out the TWiT payroll before the end of the tax year and wishing I could take some time to add dropdown menus to my blog. I’ve got the Son of Suckerfish code and Steve Gibson’s all-CSS variant, but I really should be doing the books. Ah screw it, why think about money when you can hack code?

RIM Throws A Curve

3AE21776-4340-4E94-AE80-AE0ABDF7C0BC.jpgI’ve been setting up my new Blackberry Curve 8320 and it provides a striking contrast to the iPhone, both positive and negative.
The 8320 is a lot more complicated and harder to setup, but then it’s much more functional. It supports third-party applications but so far I’ve only felt a need for two, Bee Jive – a multi-client IM program, and Google maps, both recommended by Dan Hendricks.

It comes with a nice range of programs including a password vault, very capable voice dialing, it’s own mapping program designed for use with a third-party GPS unit, and a Breakout game. There’s an ok browser that’s not as good as Safari and a media player also not as good as the iPod but with limited storage you’re not going to be using this as a music player. Blackberry is a phone first, email and messaging device second, and media player/browser a distant third.

It doesn’t have a touch interface but the pearl trackball works nearly as well with Google Maps, and the physical keyboard is lightyears easier to use, and more accurate, than the on-screen keyboard. I do greatly miss the classic Blackberry thumbwheel. The pearl just feels cheesy and seems less practical even though it does give you a broader range of motion. The two-megapixel camera is not much better than the iPhone’s although it does seem to offer better white balance and optics. It’s too slow to use for anything but the occasional snapshot.

Sample Blackberry 8320 photo

Of most interest in the 8230 is Wi-Fi support. The phone comes out of the box with integrated VOiP (!) and will use the Wi-Fi for calls in lieu of the T-Mobile network when it’s available. This is exactly the kind of thing AT&T must most have dreaded on the iPhone, but T-Mobile encourages it. Talk about different world views.

The 8320 out-of-the-box experience is nothing near as slick as the iPhone’s. If I hadn’t had a lot of experience with Blackberries I’d be lost. It’s pretty obviously intended for an IT department to set up. As it is I’m having trouble configuring email. T-Mobile doesn’t seem to know I have a Blackberry and hasn’t sent the needed software down. Beside the usual Blackberry corporate support, the phone also works with Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and other POP systems. It appears to poll these systems periodically for mail.

Chester Plays ChessBottom line: The 8320 is a complicated device and there’s a steep learning curve. It’s not as beautiful as the iPhone, or as functional as a browser and media player, but it’s many times more useful for email and messaging. I’ve always loved Blackberries, and the 8320 is the most elegant Blackberry yet.

Not Dead Yet

Holy CowPeople seem to have misinterpreted my “dead cow” analogy and are assuming that I bricked my iPhone. Nope. I have both the original iPhone, upgraded to 1.1.1, and the unlocked iPhone still and forever at 1.0.2. I’m donating the latter to The Lab for further experimentation. I’ll keep the locked phone around so I can continue to cover the platform, which was the reason I bought it in the first place.
It’s not for myself that I am whining, or even others I know whose phone were bricked. My point is that it’s punitive for Apple to intentionally damage unlocked iPhones, and I believe that’s wrong.

To those who say we can’t know Apple’s intention, I’d respond that it would have been a simple bit of coding to checksum the modem firmware and refuse to update if it had been modified. In fact, that would have been a prudent precaution no matter what. By choosing not to do so Apple is making its intent clear, and absent any statement to the contrary from Cupertino I’m going to continue to think Apple wishes unlockers ill, no matter what Fake Steve Jobs says.

To prove I still have a working iPhone, here are two pictures from my hotel window in Vancouver. One with the iPhone and one with the Nokia N95. You tell me which you prefer.

Nokia N95




Oh, and incidentally on the Nokia and the unlocked iPhone uploading these images in full quality to Flickr takes one click using third party apps (ShoZu on the N95 and Send Picture on the iPhone). On the locked iPhone I had to dock to my Mac, import the photo into iPhoto, export it, and then upload to Flickr. That’s one of the reasons I want to be able add third-party apps to my mobile phones.

Now I’m going to run to the Fatburger next door and have a veggie burger. No more dead cows for me. Good night.

Zunes Now Support Podcasts

Zune.net | Home - Welcome to the Social.jpgMicrosoft has launched its new Zunes and lo and behold they support podcasts! And there will be a firmware update to the old Zunes which will presumably add podcasts to the menu there too.
It’s about time! I’ve never been happier to have been proven wrong. (Just in case you’re keeping score I thought the word “podcast” would never appear on a Microsoft product.)

What if…

What if you bought a computer that you couldn’t install any of your own applications on? (Stupid, I know, but what if?)
What if that computer required you to sign up for two years Internet service with one particular company, and prohibited using any other ISP? (Not that the ISP subsidized the price or anything – the computer wasn’t cheap.)

What if some bright guys came along and figured out how to install your own applications on the computer? And then showed you how to choose your own ISP? You’d do it, right? I mean, why not, it’s your computer. But wait.

What if the company that made the computer sent down an update that checked to see if you had installed your own applications and deleted them if so?

What if that same update checked to see if you were using the required ISP, and if you weren’t turned the computer into a useless, unfixable, piece of glass and plastic?

Would you ever buy a computer from that company again?

Would you ever trust a company like that again?

Addendum: Some Apple and cell phone customers seem to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, so let me put it another way.

Let’s say you’re selling me a cow. You tell me that that cow is being sold for the express purpose of making milk. I agree, and buy the cow.

Later I decide that I’d prefer to make cheese. You say that’s a violation of our agreement and kill my cow.

When I paid for the cow it became my property, to do with as I please. If you don’t like how I’m using it you may choose not to do any further business with me but you don’t get to kill my cow.

And, by the way, warning me you’d kill my cow if I keep making cheese doesn’t make it all right.

The lawyers will point out that contractually I agreed to your terms. True. But I don’t think the contract said anything about killing the cow did it?

Apple’s sole redress is to halt all support of my phone. If we let Apple destroy our property for not following the rules we’re telling the music industry it’s ok to destroy a hard drive containing illegal songs, the cable company to fry our TVs for stealing cable. That is vigilante justice and a direct threat to the rule of law.

Anything Shooby Can Do…

I was reluctant to brick my own iPhone, but thanks to David K. MacArthur of Fast Cash Pawnbrokers who FedExed me an unactivated iPhone from his large collection of pawned phones today, I decided to sit down with Shooby’s excellent instructions and try iUnlock.
It worked flawlessly the first time and I am sitting looking at an iPhone on T-Mobile. I just checked my voice mail: No Visual Voice Mail® – who cares – but it works swell!

Just as I finished, of course, iPhone Dev Team announced an all-in-one GUI unlock, so now it’s even easier. I wonder if Scott Bourne will believe me? 😉

Leo The Explorer

Leo wears the new SeV ExplorerI just got the Explorer Jacket from Scott E-Vest. It’s my new favorite – and I have pretty much everything Scott does. It’s a 3/4 length jacket in a very suede-like microfiber with a lightweight quilted lining and more pockets than ever. And it just looks and feels so good. Thanks, Scott!
We don’t have a TWiT version of this jacket, but we do have SeV TWiT hoodies, fleeces, and hats. You can get them from the great folks at ThinkGeek. Profits from the TWiT SeV merchandise help support the show, and you’ll feel good announcing that you’re a TWiT to the world!

And don’t forget to use the TWIT coupon code when you order anything from SeV for 20% off!

We now return you to Bioshock, already in progress.

I Was This Close

I came so close to unlocking my iPhone this morning, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger.
Shooby's unlocked iPhone screenShooby has unlocked his using iUnlock – the free unlocker from Harro Inc. the iPhone Dev Team. That’s a picture from his phone showing T-Mobile as a carrier – he posted the news on Pownce.

I got as far as running iFuntastic on the phone (Windows users should try the scarily named, iBrickr) but it didn’t quite finish completely, and I just don’t have the nerve to run iUnlock on it now.

It would be great to cancel this AT&T account (instead of cancelling my dormant T-Mobile account), but it would be even better to show an unlocked phone to the perennially skeptical Scott Bourne.

Maybe I’ll get up the nerve later today.

iPhone Day


I thought I’d just stop by the AT&T store at noon just to see if there was a line. There was, and fearing I wouldn’t get a phone in time to review it for Saturday’s radio show I got out my folding chair and joined the line as number 13. Six hours later I got my iPhone. This is the last video from my poor old Nokia N95.