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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Getting Published Isn't Just for the Pros

If you are an aspiring photographer hoping to turn pro, or even a hobbyist like myself, you've likely spent hours shooting and processing images, comparing your work to the work of pros, and finally concluding, “man I suck.” That’s how I’ve felt ever since I took up photography as a hobby in 2010. It’s not necessarily a bad way to feel as it keeps me grounded and pushes me to get better. However, it’s nice every once in a while to receive some validation that I don’t quite suck as much as I think. It’s especially nice when that validation comes from a source as prestigious as the Smithsonian. Read on to find out how I was able to get an image published in Air and Space magazine, as well as some tips I learned along the way.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Can Unseat Dropbox?

The cloud storage space is becoming increasingly crowded with competitors. There are so many, in fact, that I’m sure I could piece together 200GB or more in cloud storage space just from the free tiers that most cloud services provide. One name still stands out from the throng; Dropbox. They were one of the earliest entrants to provide file sync capabilities, and now they've got a massive stable of over 100,000 apps that make use of their platform. Despite all that Dropbox does right, they’re still expensive. That leaves the door open for competitors, and one that recently caught my eye is

You may have read my Bitcasa post. If you did, you’ll know that despite Bitcasa’s unlimited storage, it doesn't have the all-important file sync capability necessary to replace Dropbox. Copy, on the other hand, most certainly does. At first blush, it seems to match Dropbox feature for feature at a price point that is less than half of what Dropbox charges. Read on to find out if I think Copy has what it takes to stop Dropbox’s huge momentum.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Feed Your Mind with Feedly

If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll notice that I haven’t been posting very often the past few months. The reason for that is that I have a great many things clawing for my attention. Chief among them are work, late-night classes, my two little boys, and my photography hobby. Despite all that, I still like to stay up to speed on new technology news. An awesome tool that helps me sift through all of the electronic noise these days is Feedly, a cloud-based RSS reader that can aggregate a vast number of Internet sources into a beautiful, easy to consume, and customizable view.

RSS readers have been available for more than a decade. The most popular of those, Google Reader, is the reason I’m writing this post. Many online have lamented Google’s recent announcement detailing the death of Reader. I too was annoyed at first. Google is notorious for experimenting, keeping everything in “beta”, and then killing a product you've come to rely on with little notice. In this case though, I’m actually excited. Without the torrent of negative press surrounding Google’s decision, I would never have discovered the awesomeness that is Feedly.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Rediscover Photography with the Fuji X100S

Just a couple of short months ago, I was browsing one of my favorite tech blogs (Engadget) when I ran across an announcement for the Nikon Coolpix A, a relatively tiny camera with a massive APS-C sensor crammed in. As a gadget-head, that certainly got my attention. However, what ended up piquing my interest even further wasn't the article, but rather a number of reader comments referencing the Fuji X100S. I like to pride myself in being well appraised of new technology announcements, but here was something I had never heard of. “Fuji? Didn't they used to make film? What are they doing now?” I thought. 

I can say with absolute certainty that I’m now fully aware of what Fuji is doing, and I’m very impressed. So impressed, in fact, that I quickly ditched my Sony RX100, cashed in a bunch of Southwest Airlines miles (that I earned while playing the frequent flyer game) for Amazon gift cards, and bought myself a shiny new X100S. 

After a few weeks with it, I’ve decided that it’s time to share my impressions. I thought I had learned the basics of photography in the three years since I took up this hobby, but the X100S has taught me that I have so much more to learn. Even those of you who have been shooting for much longer than I have, will definitely want to take note of this camera. It very well could encourage you to rediscover photography all over again. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Essential Image Comparison Tools

Last year, I wrote a post about some great hardware comparison tools to use when looking for your next camera. As cool as those sites are, they are only part of the camera research toolbox. What should matter more for your next camera is the quality of the images it produces. On that note, I recently came across two image comparison tools that I thought I should share. Both of these tools offer handy side-by-side comparison images of the exact same subjects, taken with various cameras, across a range of ISO sensitivities.

There’s no question that these tools fully amount to “pixel peeping.” That means looking at images at 100% resolution and comparing the smallest details. While I think doing that can be valuable for comparing one camera to the next, try to stop doing that once you actually get the camera. A memorable image can be blurry, noisy, improperly framed, poorly lit, etc. The subject, story, emotions, and so much more, are far more important than any pixel-level imperfections. See what I mean by checking out this Anti-Pixel Peeping thread.

That said, I like to know that I’ve done everything I can (within budget) to ensure that my gear isn't what’s preventing me from getting the shots that I want. These tools help me know what a camera is capable of under ideal conditions. I strongly recommend bookmarking the following two sites for your next camera search.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Automate Your Life with IFTTT

I ran across a pretty slick service the other day that allows you to setup electronic triggers for performing certain automated tasks. The fast growing “If This, Then That” (IFTTT) service ties into a myriad of other services such as Facebook, Gmail, Google Calendar, Dropbox, SkyDrive, and many more. Anytime an action occurs in one of those services ("If This"), you can instruct the service to automatically perform a certain task ("Then That"). Many mundane tasks can be performed automatically by IFTTT, saving precious time each day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Can Bitcasa Challenge Dropbox?

I think I must be slowing down in my “old” age, because I managed to completely miss an announcement last year on the new cloud storage service Bitcasa. At the time, the small start-up had recently started accepting public beta testers. It wasn't until they came out of beta and formally launched the service a couple of weeks ago, that I realized Dropbox may have some serious heat to contend with.

Bitcasa is similar to Dropbox in many ways, but dissimilar in one very important way; infinite storage. If you've read my Dropbox post, you’ll know that I absolutely love Dropbox, but ultimately that loves comes at a price.  Currently I’m paying $100 a year for 100GB of Dropbox storage (not counting referrals). If I want more space, I’m forced to spend an additional $100 a year for 200GB. With Bitcasa, that same $100 gets me unlimited amounts of space. Done deal right? Cancel Dropbox and make the switch? If only life in the cloud were so simple.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Maximize the Value of Google Voice with Talkatone

My last post was all about using Google Voice to replace your landline. This week, I wanted to tell you how you can get even more value out of Google Voice by using it to make free calls over WiFi from iOS or Android. If you've ever seen the insane rates mobile carriers charge while roaming, you’ll quickly see why this could be of incredible value.

Right now you might be thinking, “Can’t I already do that from the Google Voice app?” Actually no you can’t, and that's one of the most common misconceptions people have about Google Voice. Let me attempt to clear that up if possible.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Say Goodbye to Landlines with Obihai

It seems like fewer and fewer people these days have a landline phone. There is something to be said about having one in certain emergency scenarios, but I think for most, the $30 to $45 a month costs are simply too much to justify. Years ago, I thought I’d try to save a little cash and go with a Vonage line. It worked well for a while, but costs steadily rose and I found myself using it less and less. Eventually, I decided that even paying $18 a month for my entry-level Vonage plan was a waste of money. Thankfully, I found the perfect solution that allows me to retain my phone number without having to spend a dime in monthly fees.