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Author Archive for Mark Rosengarten

PUC Wireless MIDI for iOS and Mac review

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When the Camera Connection Kit first came out for the iPad, it immediately was exploited by musicians worldwide to use the iPad as a MIDI-connected device.  The iPad suddenly became a must-have device for making music.  Apps that mimicked classic synths like the Korg Electribe and MS-20 came out as well as production studio apps like GarageBand, BeatMaker and NanoStudio.  The collection has exploded into an avalanche of audio apps, all of which make use of the iPad’s versatile touch display to adjust parameters, sculpt sounds and record productions.  Read More →

Samsung Gear Live…WATCH for it!

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Smartwatches have been a dream of technophiles since the Dick Tracy days.  While they have not yet reached the dream of the standalone phone, what they can do while partnered with a smartphone far outstrips anything Tracy’s wrist gear aspired to.  Hot on the heels of Samsung’s Tizen-powered Gear 2 watch, the Gear Live watch will run the new Android Wear system.  Just say “OK Google” and the world is yours on the 1.63″, 320 by 320 pixel color display.  It lacks the built-in camera of the Gear 2 but you’ll pay $199 for this little gem.  Compatible with any phone running Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) or higher, this watch is always on, always ready for you to ask questions of it, check messages and notifications in places where it’s not appropriate to pull out your phone.  The downside?  Battery life from the 300 mAh cell  is rated as being about one day of average use (which, as we have learned from hard experience tends to be far short of an actual 24-hour period).  The description says “The Samsung Gear Live display is always on, adjusting its color and style so that you can always glance for the latest information, and with one simple touch you can wake the display to see more:The Samsung Gear Live display is always on, adjusting its color and style so that you can always glance for the latest information, and with one simple touch you can wake the display to see more” but that isn’t clear as to whether the display turns off to conserve battery life.  Anyway, it’s IP67 water and dust resistant so don’t take it diving into a pool but you don’t have to worry when you are washing dishes.  This smartwatch will ship July 8th and is available for preorder right now at the Google Play Store for $199.

RAVPower RP-PB14 Xtreme 23000mAh portable external battery charger review

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Technology has come a long way in the last two decades but, sadly, battery technology has barely kept pace.  We use the same electrochemical principles that Allesandro Volta used when he invented the voltaic pile in the 1800′s.  We have found better materials and have improved on the design to squeeze every available electron from them but device battery run times are still woefully inadequate.  This has led to a proliferation of external portable battery packs from which you can replenish your gadgets’ life from the road.  They started out as AA-laden packs in the era of the first Palm smartphones but now they pack lithium ion technology and can even recharge your laptop when in a pinch.  Read More →

Canon EF 16-35 f/4 L IS: a cheaper and stable alternative

ef16_35_4lisu_586x186_heroCanon’s EF 16-35 f/2.8 L II is a very popular lens, particularly for landscape and architectural photography.  It has remained out of the reach of many enthusiast photographers due to its very high price  ($1700, but at the time of this writing there is a $200 mail-in rebate).  The lens is also not image stabilized, though at 16mm it doesn’t really need it for most applications.  Canon has recently announced the arrival of a more competitively priced version of this flagship lens – the EF 16-35 f/4 IS!  Some subtle differences include the new lens having image stabilization, which helps to overcome the one-stop difference in aperture in low-light situations; a 77-mm filter thread (as opposed to the 82mm thread size of the f/2.8 variant), which is a size you are much more likely to have a filter for; and the price, which is coming in at $1200.  This lens is due out this June, with preorders already underway at B&H Photo and Video.

 

 

Naneu UrbanGear U60 Camera Backpack review

06) Logo

I love photography.  There is seldom a moment when I am not at work and there isn’t a camera in my hand.  Like all photographers, I go through camera bags like crazy.  What works for one application somehow doesn’t seem to work for another.  I have used such camera bags as the Billingham Hadley Pro and the Thin Tank Photo Urban Disguise 50 and still keep a Roadwired Podzilla to hand when all I want to bring is my 5D Mark III with the 24-105L lens and cleaning equipment and maybe a remote.  My main problem has been finding a bag that will work with all of my gear when it comes to my annual storm chasing expedition.  I’ve gone through ten bags in the last ten times out chasing and none of them have really gotten it done.  Read More →

Acme Studio 7FP pen review

05) The Pen

I like pens.  Beats the heck out of carving pictograms into rock.  You know, take a harder rock and scrape it against the softer rock.  The process is tedious but the results do last a long time.  Pens make it a lot easier and, as everyone knows, they are mightier than swords.  If only Ned Stark had access to a pen at that crucial moment.

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WeatherFlow Wind Meter review

05) In Box

I am a mild-mannered chemistry teacher most of the year but for two weeks out of every year I visit the Great Plains in search of the most intense weather Mother Nature can throw at us.  I have been bringing a Kestrel 4000 weather meter with me to measure the temperature, dewpoint and wind speed for the last ten years.  I always bring too much stuff with me when I go so the opportunity to pare down the gear list is welcome.  I always bring my phone along too, so when I heard about the WeatherFlow Wind Meter, I knew I’d have to try it out.  Read More →

Key|Smart review

Side By Side Fanned

There’s a great thing about being a teacher…being entrusted with a large number of keys.  Keys to my classrooms, to the different cabinets in the classroom, my desk, my filing cabinets, cabinets in different rooms, the bathroom and the goggle cabinet.  I teach chemistry and there are a large number of cabinets I need to be able to access.  Keeping the 11 keys I use for work on a traditional keychain has worn out the pockets in my pants for the last quarter of a century.  When the opportunity to review a solution that might spare my poor pockets, I pounced on it.  Read More →

Primovisto iPad Air Bamboo Case review

Case from the top

You’ve just spent a mint on that shiny new iDevice and want to sheath it in something nice, classy, protective and did I mention classy?  Here’s an interesting option for you:  a thick, understated yet elegant bamboo case!  This offering is from Primovisto and, while it ticks the boxes for elegant, chic, solid and classy, does it hold up in all the other areas that users expect from their cases?  Read More →

Drive your way to a smoother head: the HeadBlade ATX

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I hate my hair.  Words cannot describe how much I detest my thin, sparse hair.  I’ve never been able to grow it to my satisfaction but now it just looks awful.  If I grew it long I would look like a crazy radiation victim.  So what do I do?  I shave my head.  This is not so easy to do by yourself and with a stick razor it’s fairly difficult.  I searched for a different way to shave my pate and found this little beauty.  The HeadBlade ATX is a cross between an ATV and Zamboni, with a rubber finger loop at the top and sporty wheels that guide the contraption on your head.  The blade is a four-blade job with wider gaps between the blades than most razors.  It pivots to follow the terrain.  The blades are removable and replaceable.

Essentially, one first lathers up with a good shave gel, then you put your middle finger into the rubber loop.  You can shave with the wheels forward (shaving back to front) or the wheels in back (shaving front to back).  It’s possible to shave the head very quickly with this.  The first time I tried it (this afternoon) it took me half the time it usually does.  I will get faster as I get more used to this novel way of erasing my scalp.

I picked mine up for $13 at Walgreens and it’s available on the HeadBlade site for $15,  Your head will thank you for it.

Tilt-shift focus on the cheap: The Lensbaby Composer Pro

On a Canon

The Lensbaby Composer Pro is an intriguing solution to selecting the perfect focus spot in your composition.  Available in mounts for several ILC and dSLR cameras, it is a fully manual lens with a manual aperture control and swivel lens.  The aperture settings will determine the width of the in-focus area and the swivel lens allows you to select what part of your photo the focus will be centered on.  This is a great way of isolating your subject no matter where in the frame it is.  Read More →

Amped Wireless LongRange Bluetooth Speaker Adapter review

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I have an older DVD player/receiver/amplifier that I used to play CDs on.  I got tired of swapping CDs in and out a long time ago and my CDs have gone dusty on the shelf.  Then I got an opportunity to review the Amped Wireless Long Range Bluetooth Speaker Adapter and music once again pours forth from my speakers!  Read More →

The tablet wars heat up: the ASUS Vivo Tab Note 8

asus tabletI never get tired of tiny Windows machines.  I’ve owned everything from the OQO to the Fujitsu UH100 to the Viliv N5 to the Dell Venue Pro 8.  Now ASUS has tossed its large hat into the 8″ Windows tablet right with its new offering, the Vivo Tab Note 8.  Available in 32 and 64 GB flavors, it packs a quad-core Atom processor, 2 GB of RAM and, amazingly, a Wacom digitizer stylus that actually fits into the body of the tablet!  Hear that, Microsoft???  The display is 1280X800 and the whole thing comes in at 0.8 pounds.  Windows 8.1 comes stock as well as the full versions of Office Home and Student.  There are a number of cases available on Amazon, including keyboard cases.  A steal at $299 for the 32GB model and $349 for the 64 GB edition.  Expandable as always with MicroSD.  The only USB is a Micro USB port but with a USB host adapter, you can use it with USB memory sticks and printers.  Available now from Amazon!

ABCO Tech Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Shower Speaker Auto FM Shower Radio review

On The Shower

I am a big fan of audiobooks and podcasts.  I am an even bigger fan of listening to them while in the shower.  In the past, I have done this by cranking up the volume on my desktop stereo system that I have hooked up to my desktop computer’s sound card.  This produces enough volume for the job but my poor kitties don’t care for it much.  So when I got the chance to review a dedicated Bluetooth shower speaker, I jumped at it.  Enter the ABCO Tech Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Shower Speaker Auto FM Shower Radio.  It’s a mouthful but it describes what it does pretty well.

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Turn any pair of headphones into Bluetooth headphones! The Smartbean Bluetooth Wireless Receiver

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There seems to be a plethora of Bluetooth audio products out these days.  I had been interested in wireless headphones but the price has been a huge factor in why I don’t have them.  Battery life is also an issue…when you have a compact device, you are really limited in how long you’ll be grokking tunes.  The Smartbean Bluetooth Wireless Receiver is an excellent compromise.  It’s a 1 3/4″ X 1 1/4″ X 1/3″ block that weighs less than an ounce and can clip onto your clothing with a 3.5mm headphone port and a 6-hour battery life that will connect to your phone via Bluetooth and pump the tunes to your ears.

It has an integrated microphone so you can take calls and controls for volume, pause/play and track forward/back.  It charges via USB.  Save the audio port on your phone and get some more freedom with this very handy gadget.  Available at Thinkgeek.com for $39.99.

Now they’re just enabling you: GabbaGoods #TheSelfie Camera Remote Shutter Release

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The selfie craze has swept the nation, it has been determined that some people are even addicted to taking selfies.  With smartphones having front-facing cameras, I guess this phenomenon was pretty much inevitable.  Heck, I was taking selfies with my little Olympus Stylus pocket film camera back in the 1980′s, when I’d actually have to pay for the film and wait for it to be developed.  With millions of selfies flooding the intertubes these days, it seems hard to believe there could be a gadget out there that could make the process easier.  Well, there’s a tchotchke for everything today and selfies now have their very own!  Read More →

The ultimate iPad studio? Focusrite iTrack Professional Dock for iPad

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The iPad is a very powerful system for music creation, but it lacks any way to get music in or out of it.  Numerous companies have tried to create iPad docks for this purpose, docking the iPad to a platform that has the connectivity that music creators demand.  So far most of them have fallen pretty flat.  One new product, introduced at NAMM this year, promises to be the Holy Grail of iPad music production; the Focusrite iTrack Dock.  Read More →

Magnetic Holders Eye Loop eyeglass holders review

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I have worn eyeglasses since I was in second grade.  My first pair was short-lived, I had not gotten used to wearing them yet and I took them off every day at lunch in the cafeteria.  For some reason, I had the habit of putting them in the brown paper bag that my mom packed my lunch in.  One day I forgot I had put them in there and threw them out.  It didn’t even hit me until I was on the bus on the way home.  My parents asked me where my glasses were and I told them I left them at school.  The next day I tried to find them, but the trash had been dumped.  In my desperation to not get into trouble, I made a pair of glasses out of paper and colored it with crayon.  I wore them home.  My parents saw right through my deception and I decided that I had not done a good enough job with the mockups.  The next day I made another pair (though in retrospect, these were even worse than Version 1.0) and was finally busted at home.

I could have avoided this unpleasantness if I had only known about Magnetic Eyeglass Holders “Eye Loop” magnetic eyeglass holders for women and men.  And then invented it myself instead of flawed mockups.

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Telescope camera adapters: attach your digicam to your telescope!

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I have been an amateur astronomer for the longest time but astrophotography has always eluded me.  I never had the proper equipment and getting a dedicated CCD camera for the purpose of photographing the sun, moon and planets is prohibitively expensive.  A while back, a company called Scopetronix made custom milled adapters that connected point and shoot digicams to a telescope eyepiece for eyepiece projection photography.  Scopetronix went out of business last year but a new company has picked up where they left off.  Just select the proper filter size and choose an adapter that includes a ring that attaches to the barrel of your smaller 1.25″ eyepiece (typically Plossls are used) and a step-up ring that connects it to your camera lens filter thread.  They also carry a line of adapters for smartphones and  T-adapters for different builds of dSLRs.   Read More →

Drive manual better: the PhotoJojo dSLR Focus Shifter!

 

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I love my 17-40 f/4 L Canon wide zoom.  Last year it grabbed me some tasty shots of storms and the aurora borealis!  Storms aren’t that hard to shoot… until you hit low light, then the camera struggles to find that autofocus point.  Same goes for the aurora.  So you flip the switch and enter manual mode.  What now?  Well, lenses have a rough guide for manual focus, but the manual focus point changes when you change the focal length of your lens.  Not fun to fiddle with when you have such a small scale and constantly have to peek at the top of the lens from a less-than-ideal position.  Well, the folks at PhotoJojo have given us the Focus Shifter, a new way to do manual focus.  It’s like a manual shift lever in your car with a dry-erase surface where you can make whatever markings you want.  Shooting auroras at 17mm?  In the daytime, set the camera to autofocus, and get the infinity focus you want and then mark it on the device, which clamps onto the manual focus ring of your lens.  Doing macro shots and want to get the same focus point every time, or just want finer control over your manual focus than grabbing and twisting the ring can get you?  Just nudge the Focus Shifter’s handle to where you want the manual focus point to be.  Comes with clips to allow you to come to a hard stop so you can hit that proper focus point, even in the dark!  Also comes with a storage bag.  Available now from PhotoJojo for $49.

A lighter for computer geeks – Pilot Slider USB Rechargeable Lighter

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So you’re out in the wilderness, Les Stroud style, and you need a fire.  Stat.  You would have bought a lighter but they didn”t allow them on the plane.  Fortunately, you remembered to pack your Pilot Slider USB Rechargeable Lighter!  Available for $19.99 at ThinkGeek, $11.99 at Amazon and reportedly (from reviews) for less than five bucks in the checkout line at Walmart, it is nothing more than a rechargeable battery connected to a heating coil.  Boasts 150 lights at a full charge and is weatherproof. But  leaping from a cliff into a pool below to escape the wildlife in your area will probably kill it.  Sure, you could keep a battery and some steel wool in two separate baggies but this is a sure-fire waA y to get that tinder lit when your chips are down.  Available at ThinkGeek and Amazon.

MindShift Gear Ultralight Camera Cover: Your camera will thank you!

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I love cameras but a nearly equal obsession of mine is finding better ways to carry them wherever I go.  This has seriously piqued my interest:  the MindShift Gear UltraLight Camera Cover.  Available in two colors (blue or black) and three sizes to accommodate different sized camera setups.  It comes with an integrated belt and stuffs into itself for easy packing.  Unstuff it, click the belt around your waist and you have a ready repository for your camera.  Best used with your camera on a shoulder strap (I use the Blackrapid Rapidstrap Sport), it acts as a weather-resistant, lightly padded holster that will protect your camera from dings and stop it from flapping around on the end of your shoulder strap.  For hikes into the wilderness, this would seem just the ticket!  $29.99 will get you the Size 10, which will fit a smaller dSLR with kit lens, $34.99 gets you the Size 20, which will fit a pro gripped dSLR with a medium lens (their example is a 24-70 f/2.8 lens) and $39.99 will get you the Size 30, which will cradle your pro or gripped dSLR with up to a 70-200 f/2.8 lens with the hood reversed or the 24-70 f/2.8 with the hood in position.  There is a short and informative video on how to use it at their website.  I know what’s coming with me on my hikes this spring and summer!!

All play, no touch: The Moog Theremini

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I’ve played a Moog Etherwave theremin (badly) for several years now.  Hooked up to a Korg KP3 effects processor, you can get some really great effects out of it.  However, plucking notes out of thin air in a continuous scale is maddeningly hard work.  Unlike a guitar or piano, where the notes are clearly delineated, a theremin has no defined notes.  In fact, you play it without touching it at all.  This lack of tactile feedback makes it one of the more difficult instruments to play.  Moog Music Inc. has come up with a solution that will make the theremin a more accessible instrument to the great unwashed masses, the Theremini.  Not only does it have pitch quantization and allow you to set a root note and scale type, it will even display what note you are currently playing on its LCD display.  It includes 32 wavetable-based sound patch presets so that you get more out of it and, for those theremin purists among us, allow you to play the good old-fashioned way.  The pitch antenna (the vertical one sticking on on the right in the photo above) detaches for easier portability.  The Theremini is not available yet but Moog is taking preorders for $319.  There will be one in my studio shortly after they are released!

Gadgeteer: Show us your desk series – Mark

01) Overview Of Studio

Hi, my name is Mark Rosengarten and I have a problem.  It’s a gadget problem.  It’s an addiction and has been as long as I’ve been aware that there was such a thing as a gadget.  In fact, I have been an avid follower of The Gadgeteer since it got started, it has always been the first gadget site I go to each morning when checking on what’s new in the world of gadgetry.  When Julie asked us to write a piece on “What’s On Your Desk”?  I looked at my desk that I have my computer on and realized that it would not make an interesting article.  So, here instead, are my studio desks!  Far more interesting and loaded with gadgetry.  Read More →

Microsoft Surface Power Cover finally…uh…surfaces!

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Fans of Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet, your wait is over!  Boost that Haswell goodness’ battery life a further 70% with the Surface Power Cover.  This keyboard boasts touch-typable keys that folds back out of the way when you want to use your Surface Pro as a tablet, disabling the keys or can be closed up against the tablet to put it into standby mode.  No word at the product page if this new keyboard will have the same backlighting found on the second-generation Touch and Type keyboards but it does have the same trackpad with virtual buttons.  Has an advertised ship date of March 19th at the time of this posting and it will cost you $200…but will grant you three wishes…more power, more power and, even better, MORE POWER! Preorders are being taken now at the Microsoft Store.