Tag Archives: portable

MacBook Air or MacBook Pro?

One or two people recently have been talking to me about buying either a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro.

Both I think are pretty awesome devices, I have an 11″ MacBook Air and think it’s great. It’s done everything I’ve asked of it including using Final Cut and Premiere Pro for video editing. Okay, it’s certainly not my first choice of editing devices, the rendering times are not that fast, but for a quick on-the-move video creation it can do the business (and if it can do that then it can do most things).

The Air is nearly half the weight of the Pro and its power charger is also lighter which makes it a very portable package. The Pro with its extra weight and thickness can pack a far more powerful processor, memory and allows for a larger range of hard drives. Pro options also allow for a proper dedicated graphics processing card which would make it a far more games (or video editing) friendly machine. The Pro is quite a bit more expensive.

So for me it boils down to this. Is this laptop going to be solely used as a laptop in that you do have an alternative desktop machine to use at home (or work), or is this laptop also going to be used as a desktop substitute?

If just as a laptop then I’d go Air and take advantage of its lightness and portability. If it was also going to be used as my main desktop machine too, then I’d go Pro.

What I do find interesting is that when the Air first came out it was seen as a premium product, something a bit different and priced well above the basic MacBook range of laptops. Now its their ‘budget model’. Amazing how things change.

YouTube video about it.

Camera Accessories

Three of my favourite camera accessories,

the sort of things that if they went missing or broke I’d be down the shops the same day to get replacements.

For video work (even though I only do basic YouTube type stuff) I really do like using a proper Rode external microphone. The ones built into your usual video camera are at best ‘adequate’, the ones in your video capable dSLRs are usually terrible. Getting the sound nicely sorted can make such a difference; to be able to clearly hear the story being told or to enjoy the music without having to struggle is more important that having a perfectly crisp image.

If being used outside, then going with the microphone is its windshield, a usually grey coloured furry cover, often known as a ‘dead cat’. This things really can cut out the wind noise, that loud ‘woosh’ sort of sound that can so overpower the sound you want to be recording.

My Manfrotto MP3-D01 fold flat mini tripod adds an extra dimension to slow shutter speed photography. It’s small enough and light enough to be left attached to the bottom of my camera and provides basic tripod support where ever I am. It’s three rather stubby legs can be adjusted to provide a stable platform on almost any surface. Great for night shots or where you want to prop your camera up at a slightly odd angle. It means you can also take ground level pictures but without putting your camera directly onto what could be a rather wet or dirty surface. Small, light, it’s one of those ‘fit and forget’ type devices.

Not that often used, but when videoing in low light situations (I do like to get out to castles and that sort of thing) my battery powered LED lighting brick (F&V Z-Flash) is so useful. Attaches to my camera with a hot-shoe adapter, it means that whenever I go into a relatively dark room I have enough light for my camera not to have a fit ramping up ISO setting or doing weird thing with aperture or shutter speeds.

It runs for hours off its (rechargeable) battery pack so I don’t need to worry about constantly having to switch it on and off. It’s also useful for still photography as a fill-in light and helps to take the edge of the harshness you can get from flash. (Also a great source of light at home in the event of a power cut!!!)

7 Inch Tablets.

I can’t make up my mind about these new 7 inch tablets.

I like the larger screen sized phones – easier to see web pages, maps are nicer to use, more room for a virtual keyboard etc . I also like my iPad – a ‘full size screen’ device which can do much of what a lap-top can do but a lot lighter, more portable and longer battery life.
So what about those that fall between the two, the new 7 inch devices which are becoming more and more common. Too large to fit in my pocket or in a pouch on my belt so they’ve lost that portability factor. A lot smaller than an iPad so they’ve lost a lot of functionality that comes with a physically larger screen. The worst of both worlds.
Or is it a case that thought they’re not pocket size they are small enough to fit into almost any sort of bag or carrier without taking up any significant amount of space, yet big enough to provide a really useful size of screen. Also powerful enough with dual and quad core processors to do whatever’s demanded from them.

There’s one thing that must be in favour for at least for some of these devices and that’s their price. The Nexus 7 or the 7 inch Galaxy Tab2 may be smaller than the iPad but they still have a similar level of functionality, however they come in at around half the cost. This for parents thinking of providing their children with a tablet type device for school must make it much more tempting. Also for those uncertain about the whole tablet thing a price at the £160 to £180 range is far less of a risk than the £400 or £500 for an iPad. We’ve also got the much rumoured iPad mini which should be appearing soon.

If I was to be upgrading my phone now I could be tempted with a Galaxy Note 2 with its 5.5 inch screen, a device still small enough (just) for me to carry around on a belt holder. As for these 7 inch tablets, at the moment I’m not too sure.

A case of wait and see.

iPad thoughts.

Just a few iPad thoughts.

When the original iPad first came out I was not too impressed with it. No flash support, no USB, a screen with a ratio 4:3 rather than 16:9… and so on. Then after a while I thought about it and wondered if I wasn’t expecting too much from the device (it’s only a tablet after all) and swung around in favour of it.

This was to change again after I spent time playing with them in my local Apple Store. I found the square edges made holding it for any length of time uncomfortable, missed having a ‘real’ keyboard, it was over priced. My iPhone did most things I wanted a portable device to do, and I have a small net book if I want portable computing.

Then the iPad 2 came out and that gave me second thoughts. It was lighter and the relatively sharp square edges has been rounded off. An improved graphics processor and dual core main processor were there and they had not bumped up the price for the new model. They had also added rear and front facing cameras. (I am a great believer in that if you want to take a decent picture then use a proper camera, however a basic camera is still better than no camera, and using the iPad version of iMovie you can do okay video editing on the device.)

Now, I tend to be someone who will be happy enough to spend time thinking about things, nothing like a good bit of procrastination when you’re not quite sure of something. Maybe this or maybe that, but on the other hand….why not pour yourself another cup of tea. However once the decision has actually been made then I like to carry out that decision immediately. No hesitation, no delay, but *right now*.

So there I was in a local coffee shop with a friend and it was going to be a busy day so I had not brought my lap top with me. However he got out his (original model) iPad and was immediately being ‘computer productive’. That was it, that was the final action that made me go from ‘I’d like one but…’ to ‘It’s genuinely useful, I want one’. Five minutes later we were heading up towards the local Apple Store, and ten minutes later I was the proud owner of a base model iPad 2.

I like it. Where before I thought it too big compared to a phone, too small compared to a ‘proper’ computer, now I see it as nicely filling that gap. A screen big enough to be genuinely useful size, (great BBC iPlayer device) but not so large as to dent its portability. It can be carried around in almost any sort of case or ruck sack and has a decent battery life (so no need to be constantly carrying its charger). It can do about 80% of what I’d want from a full computer, but then on that odd occasion when I *really need* that bit of extra use I can always take my lap top with me. In numeric terms its screen resolution may now be bettered by other devices, but it is still a very nice screen to use. Its virtual keyboard I found unexpectedly pleasant (either one or two handed) and have made less errors using this virtual one than I usually do when using a physical one.

I do miss not having a USB port for for file and data back-up, and I wish a USB port was there for battery charging. The other thing I find a bit irritating is that the screen is too reflective, so I must look out for a screen protector for it to cut this down a bit.

So overall I’ll give it a definite Thumbs Up. A device I see not competing against, but complimenting one’s other computing devices.

EeePC

Bought myself a new ‘toy’ an EeePC 901. Amazing little device. A 1.6 Gig processor with 1 Gig RAM for under £300. Slightly larger than A5, or similar to that of a hard back book.

Seriously excellent screen.

There’s been a lot of criticism of the keyboard, but if you want a machine to be that small, then you’re just going to have to live with small keys, and I’ve found it perfectly workable. It does take a bit of getting used to, but that’s tough and you quickly adapt. Battery life of around 6 hours, or allowing for a lunch break, a working day. If you want to carry its power supply, it’s very small and light.

O.K., so I’ve not had it for long, but it’s done everything I’ve asked of it. That includes using it to transmit live onto BlogTV (using my mobile phone’s data connection for internet access). However it is NOT a replacement for a desk-top or ‘standard’ lap-top, but if you just want something small and light to take on your travels that will do internet and office type stuff, or as a way of providing kids with relatively cheap (portable) computing power, ask no more.