Flip Ultra Video Camera Review

Last month I received a Flip Ultra digital camera as a birthday present from Hannah. There are two different models of the Flip video camera made by Pure Digital Technologies. The Flip Ultra and the Flip Mino. I have seen the Flip run for as high as $180.00, and as low as $120.00. Just depends one where you do your shopping.

Hannah got me the Flip Ultra because it takes 2 AA batteries and she knows I’m currently on a kick of any electronics that take batteries you can easily find in a store. The Ultra comes with a built in 2GB of flash memory that allows for an hour of recording of video in 640×480 resolution at 30 frames per second, using the MPEG-4 ASP video compression. In other words, it dose a damn good job for what it is.

The first thing I really love about this little digital video recorder is the size. It is so small and easy to take with you anywhere you go. I pretty much have it with me all the time now. It’s push button easy of use. Record, play, zoom in an out. That’s pretty much it.

The unit comes with a built-in USB plug that connects easily to any computer. It’s built in software that runs from the camera allows for basic video editing and uploading to youtube (weather you use Macintosh or Windows). However, I had no trouble copying the video of the Flip Ultra onto my computer and editing it with iMovie on my Apple Macintosh.

Since I have received the Flip, I have edited two movies with it. One that ended up on youtube and you can see that here. The other, I made and burned to DVD. They both look great. I can tell you from my experience that the quality of the video looks a lot better then what ends up on youtube. I am also impressed with the lack of shakiness I got from the camera. True, it dose not come close to handling hand shakes like my Cannon DV camera, but I was still impress nonetheless.

Pros:

  • Small size
  • Impressive video quality
  • Ease of use

Cons:

  • Horrible zoom
  • No steady cam, or anti-shake features

Buying Advice: I really think these little flash video cameras are going to be come more and more populer as time goes on. For a first time owner of a video camera this would be a great starting point. For someone who has video camera experince I think they will enjoy the flip because of it’s convinunt size, and simplicity from shoot to edit. Because of this, I feel like not only myself, but others will be makeing more personal videos then with a normal handy came or mini camcorder.

Is Owning An Apple Product A Status Symbol?

Is owning an Apple product a status symbol to people, like owning a thousand dollar suit? This idea was recently presented to me because of the iPhone. The company I work for has been working with iPhones more and more setting them up for our clients. This has basically been the result of AT&T finally coming to Juneau Alaska and making the iPhone available to all the local’s here.

Some of our clients are not hesitating when it comes to getting an iPhone. However others remain skeptical. One case in particular, the owner of one of the companies we service is most reluctant in letting her staff use an iPhone because she feels they are only want one for the “status symbol” is provides.

This caught me off guard a bit. “Status symbol?” I asked myself. I really never looked at it that way. I have used Apple products most of my life because, quite simply, they just work. I never got an Apple computer or device because I wanted be the cool kid on the block. No, I got Apple products because they worked and where easy to use.

For the last several years I have worked in some form of I.T. or another. A vast majority of my time has been addressing issues with Microsoft Windows. I am reminded on a daily bases why I don’t own a Windows based computer. Microsoft pays my bills, plain and simple. When I come home, it’s to a Macintosh based Apple computer that just works. The last thing I want to do at the end of a day (or my weekend for that matter) is spend one moment troubleshooting computers.

But the quesiton here is; are people in Juneau getting iPhones because of the status symble they feel it provides? Maybe, I guess. I can say this, Every iPhone I have setup for a client since AT&T came to Juneau has worked. I have not had one follow up call asking for any kind of assistance at all. To me, that is a mark of a great product. I wish I could say the same about the BlackBerry phones everyone around here used to use.

My iPhone Experince (Part 2 of 2)

Before I get started I do want to say I am an Apple fan boy. I think Apple makes the best computers on the planet, I think they make the best portable MP3 players on the planet, and now I think they make the best cell phones on the planet. With that said, here are my findings with owning the best cell phone.

The iPhone is easy to use. Which is really a good thing because it doesn’t come with a manual. No RTFM here. I think that says something about a product when you don’t need a manual to operate it. Using this phone and all the software it comes with has been very intuitive. Typing on this thing is very impressive. Mistakes are few and far between and the built in spell checker really dose a great job when I do make a typing mistake.

Battery life is not bad at all. My test for this was this last Labor Day weekend. I charged the iPhone Friday morning before I went to work and I did not charge it again till late Monday Night. So 3 days(ish). Again, I had 3G disabled, and I had WiFi disabled accepted when I actually needed access to the internet.

The phone is slippery. It really is. I don’t mean this so much when it is in your hand. The unit is very smooth. The lady at the AT&T store that I got the iPhone from really stressed to me that I should get a case for the iPhone because of this fact. She explained that I should get one to keep the phone from slipping out of the inside pocket of my jacket. She stressed this to an almost annoying degree and she was very shocked that I left the store with out purchasing any kind of a case at all. My logic at the time was that I have been caring an iPod Touch for almost a year now and I have not broken it yet.

I added some velcro in my inside jacket. Well, actually Hannah did at my request. This was a result of the paranoia that I started feeling after talking with the lady at the AT&T store. But it’s also one of those ideas I wish I had a long time ago. It really is smart and keeps stuff from falling out of my inside jacket pocket now.

Still no pause button. Apple still has not solved the ‘no pause’ button on the iPhone 3g when your listening to music. I honestly don’t know if they think it is a problem, but it is annoying to have to activate the the screen and then press the pause button to stop music.

I don’t use 3g because I live in Juneau. The city of Juneau Alaska as of yet, dose not have 3G cell access. So I have that feature on my iPhone turned off. As I have read that also help a lot of battery life on the phone. It’s easy enough to enable 3G if I was in a location that had it. Same with WiFi access.

GPS is pretty neat. I can open up google maps and in a few seconds it will figure out where I am standing. I can then easily get directions from where I am standing, to where I want to go. I have found that there are places in Juneau I can be that the GPS system can’t triangulate where I am but, I have seen dedicated GPS units struggle with that from time to time.

Setting Up Voice Mail did not go very soothly. As it was explained to me at the AT&T store, click on the voice mail icon and the phone would guide me through setting up my voice mail. Well that did not work. Clicking on the voice mail icon did nothing at all for me. After researching this on the Apple support page Ilearned that when this happens with new phones you have to call your own cell phone number and then you would be instructed on how to setup voice mail over the phone. Which I did do and it has worked just fine ever since. Having visual voice mail is a wonderful thing.

Holding the phone to my face feels weird. At least at first it did. The unit is so thin, but very sturdy. It’s just thinner then any phone I have ever had before that It took a couple of days to get used to it.

Setting up custom ringtones has been fun. Each person in your address book can be setup with their own custom ringtone. I even found a great Life Hacker link that can walk users through creating their own custom ringtones from existing MP3s or any audio for that matter.

Pictures in address book help you quickly identify who is calling better then just a name flashing on the screen. This is really a great feature. It’s a small thing but it’s the detail to the small things that Apple really excels at. A person can recognize who is calling faster from a picture then from having to read a name. When someone calls in it fills up most of the screen.

No stand came with the iPhone. I got one with my iTouch, why not one with the iPhone?

Scratches and scuffs. None. This thing is pretty scratch resistent. I am impressed. Remember, I don’t have a case for my iPhone.

Screen Glare. It’s not been an issue for me. For the iPhone or the iTouch. I use the iTouch at the gym all the time with all their lights.

Things. This is an app I paid for and installed on my iPhone for my GTD needs. It works really well and syncs with my desktop client perfectly. I can’t say enough good things about this program.

My iPhone Experince (Part 1 of 2)

Last week my company cell phone died. It was an old BlackBerry 7100g. That BlackBerry and I never got along and I did not keep that fact a secret. So when it finally passed away this last week my boss offered to get me the iPhone 3G as a replacement work cell phone. I thought I might document the process we went through to get the iPhone, as well as my experience with it.

August 21 2008 – After calling our local AT&T dealer we were told we would have to go down to the store and order the iPhone. At the time they did not have any in stock. So we drove down and waited in line for half and hour. In our Juneau store there where only three people helping customers. When we were up to speak with a sales rep, she had us picked out the model we wanted and pay for the iPhone right there. We were told that we had save the receipt to be able to clam the phone when it comes in. (To me that sounds like a bit of BS. I mean, you spend 200 bucks on a cell phone, they can look up that you bought it or not.)  The rep put the iPhone on order. We were told it would take 10 to 21 days to get in and that we would get updates via e-mail.

August 22 2008 – Got an automated e-mail from ATT Order Status.

Your iPhone 3G order has been shipped and is on its way to the AT&T store in which you placed the order… You will be notified via email when it arrives. You will then have seven (7) days to pick up your order or it will be canceled…

August 26 2008 – Got another automated e-mail from the local ATT store

Your iPhone 3G order is ready to be picked up at the AT&T store where you reserved it.  Please bring your reservation receipt and a valid ID when you pick-up your order…

So less then ten days. That makes the whole experience a little more positive.  We went down to the local AT&T dealer and got my iPhone. They took it out of the box to activate it. They moved my old phone number over and that was that. The phone worked from that moment on.

At the end of the day when I got home, I plugged the phone into my computer. iTunes fired up and it started to download and install the new iPhone OS software update. I also downloaded one or two programs to try out. For me the whole process was shockingly easy, fast and painless.

I have been using the iPhone now for less then two day, but so far I am very happy with the experience. The brake out application for me on the iPhone has been “Notes“. Notes lends it’s self very well to anyone who is into the GTD system. In my first two days with the iPhone I have been using this program constantly.

I am a big fan of Things for the Mac. In the next few days I am sure I will pick up the Things program for the iPhone also.

I will do a follow up post in a few days. I would like to talk about things i don’t like about the iPhone (if any come up) as well as how I have been using it.

Voted Down

In 2005 our investment club manager e-mailed us asking for our opinions on how to invest the money the group had been collecting. I wrote what I felt was the best suggestion I could have made at the time. Below is a copy of the e-mail I wrote our investment club along with Chris’s wrong and inaccurate response.

Now, Back in November 2005 when this e-mail was written Apple’s stock price reach a high of $69.34. Today, Apple’s stock price is valued over $180. Now for thoughts keeping score, this means that Apple’s market value of $158 billion is now four times that of rival PC Macker Dell’s $38 billion.

Whats that Chris? I can’t here you. Cat got your tongue?

 

Time Machine

Mac OS Leopard cdWhen I upgraded my operating system to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, I did not think I would like the new backup software, “Time Machine” at all. Truth be told, I was expecting to hate it and continue using my trusty old Silver Keeper application to do my backups. But, like a true geek with new software I just had to test it out.

Let me start off by saying I can not express to you how important it is to back up your data. I myself learned this lesson the very hard way several years ago on my G3 Powerbook. Having the need to reinstall my operating system at the time I rushed and failed to do any backups at all. The end result was years of lost digital photos I can never get back. I might have cried a little bit after that incident (reports waver from person to person) but I learned from it. I went out the very next day and picked up an external hard drive that was bigger then the internal hard drive of my Powerbook and setup a nightly backup system.

Time MachineSo here I am, several years later trying out a new piece of backup software by Apple called “Time Machine”. Now before I can try and launch Time Machine I thought I should plug in my external hard drive that I want to backups to. Moments after I plugged in my External backup hard drive my computer prompted me with a message saying “Do you want it to be your backup drive?”. I said yes and to my amazement that was all I had to do.

timemachine_hdicon20071016.pngTime Machine proceeded to make a full back up of my computers hard drive to the external backup drive in the background. I could not help but think there had to me more to Time Machine that just this. Every piece of backup software I have never used always needed to be configured and setup. So I went searching through the system preferences for Time Machine settings. Upon viewing the Time Machine settings I found a very simple preferences window with a comically large On/Off Switch much like you would see on an iPhone. The only other options on the screen allow you change the backups destination (So if you go out and buy a bigger hard drive and you want your backups to use the newer hard drive you can.) and pick files or folders you don’t want to have backed up at all.

This was so brain dead simple I found myself wishing I had more options to choose from. But honestly, I have never needed more then this. I would Imagen for the majority of computer users out their this is all they really need.

After several hours my initial back up of my hard drive was completed. So what happens next? Well, Apple’s website states:

Every hour, every day, an incremental backup of your Mac is made automatically as long as your backup drive is attached to your Mac. Time Machine saves the hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for everything older than a month.

So what happens when you remove your external backup hard drive? To find out what happens I disconnected my laptop from my external backup hard drive and did some work. I worked on files for my website and I worked on some random Photoshop work I have laying around. After about two hours I plugged back in my External backup hard drive. Right away I can see that the external hard drive is being written to. I opened up the Time Machine preferences to see it was doing a backup. A few other tests confirm that as soon as you plug in your backup external hard drive to you computer the first thing that takes place in the background is a backup of any changes made since it was last plugged in. That is just awesome!

It also looks like restoring from a crash or a reformat is also easy.

To make setting up a new Mac even simpler, Time Machine shares its data with other Mac utilities. Use Migration Assistant to copy portions of any Time Machine backup to a new Mac, or select “Restore System from Time Machine” in the Leopard DVD Utilities menu. Choose any date recorded in Time Machine to set up your new Mac exactly as your previous Mac was on that date.

So their you have it. You should always back up your computer. Any backup system is better then none but in my opinion Time Machine is pretty damn good.

The Train Ride

Hannah and I left Juneau Alaska last Saturday to start off our well over due vacation together. We have had this trip planned for so long that Hannah had started counting down to the second from when it was time for use to leave.

So we left Juneau bright and early. Our flight made two stops on our way to Chicago. The first was in Sitka Alaska. It was a very short stop. They unloaded the people who wanted to get off at Sitka and loaded all the people who wanted to go to Seattle very quickly. The second stop was in Seattle Washington. Our layover in Seattle was only 2 hours long. But the time flew by because in Seattle we met up with my mom who flew with us from Seattle to Chicago.

So for the first leg of our vacation Hannah and I are currently in Illinois and having a blast with our family. Both my brothers, sister, nephew, and mom are here. We are all staying at my bother Reza’s new house in Aurora. (Party on Wayne! Party on Garth!)

The first day here we took it pretty easy. The house got some Christmas decorations put up and we played a little Ping Pong in the basement.

Train in IllinoisToday (well now Yesterday, but I have not been to bed yet so it feels like today) Abe, Tracy, Hannah and myself got up and took the commuter train from Aurora to the heart of Chicago to see the sights. ChicagoWith Abe as our tour guide we did some shopping and checked out the official Chicago Apple store. We also had dinner at the Hard Rock Café which was a lot of fun. They where playing great music videos the whole time we were there. Here is a picture of our Waiter.

Hard RockWe took the commuter train back to Aurora and drove from the train station back to my brothers house. We all shared our stories back at the house. Most everyone is in bed now. I should go too.