ReplayTV 5040 and Motorola DCT700 Digital Cable Box

With all the cable companies switching off their analog cable lines to switch over to digital, I was starting to worry about how that would all work out on my ReplayTV 5040 being how old it is. I had even avoided plugging in the digital cable boxes I got from San Bruno Cable, which was fine until I couldn’t watch my favorite shows like South Park, Battlestar Gallactica, and anything over channel 42. Fortunately my Replay has an IR blaster which allows the Replay to control a digital cable box. Unfortunately I didn’t have the IR blaster cable, but by the power of Google, I was able to find one for sale at DigitalRecorder.com. I wasn’t even sure if I could even find an IR blaster cable, but fortunately DigitalRecorder had some for sale for $19.95 shipped. I ordered 1 and received it 3 days later via USPS.

Everything came as advertised. I plugged it into the IR blaster port in the rear and went to Setup > Network and Input Settings > Change ANT/CATV > select Digital Cable box > select my cable provider > select Other (selecting Motorola doesn’t work) > and then selecting 0476 and save. These directions came from xivaro on PlanetReplay.com here. Works great! The only caveat is that the digital cable box can’t be turned off or else the Replay won’t record shows. The Replay can change channels just fine.

National Geographic 2475 Bag Review

I’m always on a lookout for new man-purse bags to carry all my stuff in such as my photo gear and laptop. My wife is always complaining that I have too many bags, but why can’t women understand that men need various bags for various occasions?!

I’ve tried and owned various types of bags from the Lowepro CompuDaypack to the Lowepro 200 AW slingshot and Lowepro Computrekker AW Plus. I could never truly find one that I liked a lot. I want a bag that is relatively small, easier to carry around that fits all my essential gear: Canon EOS 1D Mark II with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM mounted, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, Canon 550EX, my 15.4″ Apple MacBook Pro, and other small but essential items such as additional flash cards, business cards, pens, off shoe flash cable, etc. While it’s not terribly difficult to find a bag to fit the photography equipment I carry around day-to-day, for some reason, it’s very difficult to find one that can fit a 15.4″ MacBook Pro also. Go figure. Continue reading National Geographic 2475 Bag Review

Too (pun intended) Cool WordPress Plugin

Just activated a cool new feature on this site, Comment Info Tip by Golgotha of Search-This.com. It’s a very cool plugin that pop-ups a little info box about the commenter such as how many comments the commenter has left, the last comment left and other comments that the commenter has left.¬† All you have to do is hover over the commenter’s name and the info tip box will pop-up. Very cool.

It’s very easy to install, just download it and upload it to your plugins directory and activate it. That’s it. There is no admin backend¬† to fuss with, it just works.

The other cool plugin I’m using is related to commenting. This is a feature long missing from the WordPress core: an easy one button click that allows for replying or quoting of another commenter’s comment. Fortunately Pressography created a kick ass plugin called WP Comment Remix. It does more than just put a reply and quote link (see above picture for example), it also allows you to easily rearrange trackbacks and pingbacks to be under the last comment! Previously you had to do some major theme files edits to separate the trackbacks and pingbacks, now everything is handled by WP Comment Remix. What’s also a real treat is that you can rearrange your comments by date and by ascending or descending, depending on your personal preference. You could also hide the tracksbacks and pingbacks if you don’t want to show. All the options and features are handled in the admin panel for WP Comment Remix.

I highly recommend downloading both plugins and trying them out, you won’t be disappointed. They both work splendidly for WordPress MU.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, My New Lens

My biggest regret over getting the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM is that I should have sprung for IS back when I first purchased the 70-200 rather than just settling. The non-IS version was great, had great colors & contrast, focused smoothly, accurately, and blazing fast. The only problem was that I couldn’t get sharp images hand holding in low light conditions at 1/80th a second at 200mm. The 70-200 are big and heavy lenses maybe it difficult to handhold steady at slower shutter speeds.

As many of you already know, having IS does not stop action. You can’t expect to take a sharp image of a sprinting football player with a shutter speed of 1/80th a second with IS; IS does not fix motion blur. What IS does is compensate for shaky hands or trying to hand hold a long focal length, especially in challenging lighting conditions where flash is not suited such as a church wedding.

With the recent Canon instant rebates, the timing and price just worked out perfectly, so I went ahead and picked up a brand new Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM from my favorite photography store, B&H. I highly recommend purchasing from B&H because they’re customer service is top notch and shipping is fast. When I received the package, it was very well packaged in a box with adequate protection to prevent damage.

One of the first things I noticed upon taking the lens out of the box, it’s heavy. Definitely heavier than the non-IS version, most likely due to the additional glass for IS (23 elements[!] in 18 groups versus 18 elements in 15 groups). It’s also slightly larger and longer.

I’ll be trying the lens in the next few days and posting samples along with my review, in the meantime, enjoy these teaser pics:

New Apple iPhone…Twice As Fast, Half The Price

Apple has just released their highly anticipated follow-up to their hugely popular iPhone with a new generation iPhone that now supports 3G internet access and is also slimmer. It doesn’t look really any different than the existing iPhone except the back is slightly more curved. Is it worth the upgrade? Not really unless you need the extra speed of 3G. The biggest things are obviously the third party software/functionality that current iPhone users will be able to really unlock the full potential of their iPhone via iPhone update 2.0. There is still no built-in GPS, although the cell tower triangulation works pretty well. The beauty of what Apple has touted the iPhone to be is infinitely (relatively) software updatable; meaning that while the hardware will continue to get outdated with the release of the 3G iPhone, we should be able to have most, if not all the software functionality that the 3G would get. Which is great, because it doesn’t make me feel like a Treo user when a new Palm Treo came out with cool new features, I either had to a) deal with not having the cool new features; or b) pay and upgrade. So for $200, I’m definitely not running out to upgrade.

In other news, equally exciting is the new service Apple is introducing called MobileMe. This service is intended to directly compete with GMail and Yahoo. I’m wondering what will happen to dot Mac (.Mac)? [UPDATE: After doing a bit of Googling, turns out that .Mac is MobileMe or .Me. Not sure if I quite like the new name.] Will they merge the service or offer two different services. I am definitely interested in MobileMe. Plus there is also better support for Microsoft Exchange, which is great! Unfortunately here at work, we’re still limited to Lotus Notes and probably will continue with Lotus in the forseeable future. I’m hoping there will be some kind of plug-in so that us Lotus Notes users can realize push email/calendar also.

All-in-all, pretty cool. Can’t wait until early July when the 2.0 update is released.

[UPDATE: Just received an email from “The .Mac Team” basically informing .Mac users that we are now .Me and to try it out at www.me.com. Here’s a link on how to prepare for the new MobileMe service from Apple. ]

Canon CP-E4, An Inital Review

The Canon CP-E4 battery pack is an essential item for any photographer who needs fast flash recharge and successive flash fires such as wedding or event photography. This battery pack is designed to plug into the Canon 550 EX/580 EX/580 EX II via a proprietary cable. What the battery pack does is decrease your flash recycle time by providing more juice.

I recently picked up one because I use flash a lot and need it ready to fire at any time and sometimes ready to fire off a burst. Continue reading Canon CP-E4, An Inital Review