Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mac Pro & Leopard Review

After using the Mac Pro and Leopard for the past 30 days, I must say that it's one of the best investment (the other would be Wacom Cintiq 21ux) to date in terms of speeding up post production workflow in Photoshop CS3 and Adobe Lightroom.

It's probably due to the fact that Photoshop CS3 now runs natively in Intel Mac processors and partly because the Mac Pro just kick-butt in terms of speed. The Quad-Core Xeon processor just churns out processes effortlessly. I have 5GB of RAM (read my previous blog on how easy it is to install memory) and that just made life so fast and easy. Someday, I'll max it out to 16GB, (yes 16GB!!) but for now since I'm not doing intensive video editing, 5 GB is more than enough.The Mac Pro came with a 250GB hard drive but it has 3 more hard drive cage. So I added 3 more 500GB SATA hard drives. I "raided" 2 of the 3 hard drives to mirror each other. (Please view my previous posts on how to install hard drives and Raid it 1 for mirroring.) This way if one of the drives fail, I have a back up drive of my most important files such as digital images and videos. The other 500 GB hard drive I store my personal files and personal digital images. With Leopard's Time Machine, I have an external hard drive backing up those files. What's the difference you ask? RAID 1 drives are quicker to reconstruct and restore files than Time Machine.
Finally, Leopard is an awesome OS. It makes Windows Vista looks like DOS. Vista is just too sluggish and a memory hog. Leopard just files through everything I do with my computer. I particularly like Spaces. Spaces is a new feature in Leopard where you can separate your desktop into 4, 8, 12 sections. I usually group one space for surfing the web and emails, another for Lightroom and Photoshop CS3, and third to copy files, install applications, and a 4th for whatever else that I don't want to clutter up my workspace. I don't even need to use Expose anymore.The only drawback is that Leopard is not compatible with some of my software such as Parallels, CS3 premium to name a few. I heard a new update is on the way by the middle of December.

All in all, I'm just tinkle pink with my new Mac Pro. I'm now working 3x the speed of my Macbook Pro which means I have now more time to do other things such as blogging. :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monster Cable Home Theater PowerCenter Surge Protector with Clean Power Stage 2 v.2.1 Circuitry

Well, you probably heard people say once you upgrade in one area, you'll end up upgrading exponentially to other things as well. From my previous posts, I purchased a Blu-Ray player and a new receiver last week. Only to realize that I'm not maximizing the potential of my AV Theater system because I don't have a electrical power conditioner to filter noise and produce clean powe to my Blu-Ray player and receiver.

I was little skeptical for the longest time. I thought it was just a ploy for sales people to get me to spend more of my hard earn money. They kept saying that I made a large purchase of a Hi-Def TV last year, and I need to protect it and give it the cleanest power so that I can get the best picture. "You bought the chicken, you might as well pay for the teriyaki source as well." I thought how can that be? But sure enough, I succumbed to the notion and got a Monster MT 1600 because I got a 10% discount coupon from Circuit City in my email inbox. I just love their instore pickup when I complete my shopping and transaction online. It speed up my shopping and research and I also make sure they have it in stock. And if not, I can go to another store that has it in stock. Any way, I did notice better picture quality because I notice there are less grain and clearer and crisper image with less "ghosting" effect especially 1080i sports broadcast (NBA Laker games). Circuit City $299.95 - 10% ($30) = $269.95

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sony STR-DG510 HDMI Receiver

Well, I woke up early this morning to participate in the Black Friday Holiday Shopping Frenzy. I came up empty handed at Fry's and Circuit City because by 6AM, there were over 500 people ahead of me waiting in line to go into the store. So, I decided to make a quick run to Best Buy and sure enough they had a line earlier but not it had discipated and I was able to walk right in. Many of the items I was hoping to get was no longer available. But, I came across a Sony Receiver which I was looking to upgrade from my 5+years old Sony Receiver with no HDMI connection. Black Friday price $100!!! Wow, it can be! But there were more than a dozen available right on the show floor without having to wait in line to get a sales associate to get it for me. I quickly grabbed one under my arm and proceeded to the cashier line. I will post a review in a couple of months after I tested the receiver thoroughly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sony Blu-Ray Player

I purchased a Sony Blu-Ray Player (BDP-S300) today. I waited a whole year for this because when I purchased my Sony Hi-Def TV last year, I couldn't afford the Blu-Ray player because it cost $1000! After a year, the player dropped over $600 and Blu-Ray movie discs are more abundant and affordable as well.

What an awesome upgrade from my Sony upconversion DVD player. The audio is just monstrous because Blu-Ray discs can hold 5 x as much data as a DVD. So, the manufacturer packed all kinds of audio and video codec files to provide maximum 1080p video format, and 5.1 audio.

I highly recommend for anyone who's looking for a great Christmas Gift for that special someone. It's gonna rock his/her world. I got mine at Costco for $379 plus a free Spiderman 3 Blu-Ray disc. It's the best deal in town because you save $20 for the player and another $30 for the movie disc.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Theresa & Dean Elliott Wedding

Congratulations Theresa and Dean! Thank you for choosing us to be a part of your special day. Here is a teaser of today's wedding images. More to come when you're back from your honeymoon. God bless to you guys.

Think Tank Photo Modulus Belt System - The Verdict

Well, I spent a whole day photographing a wedding wearing my new Think Tank Belt System and I love it! I had a couple of belt system in the past... Tamrac and Lowe Pro. Neither served me well and I couldn't understand it since they are bother reputable companies. The only thing I can think of is my gut is too big which pushes the whole belt down and my butt is too small and it keep on slipping off. I usually spent a whole day lifting my belt back to my waist all the time. It gets tiring when I had to do that all the time.

The Think Tank was different. I believe the solution lies not with the accessory bags but with the belt. The Think Tank belt is more sturdy and rigid than the Tamrac belt and Lowe Pro belt. That's the reason why it was able to stay on my waist the whole day without having my lifting it back up to my waist.

I was a little skeptical at first because of my bad past experience with waist belt systems. Even when Ben Willmore demonstrated in his video blog (click here to view Ben's blog) testifying what a great system it is, I was still reluctant to try. It was until last weekend when I was in Photo Expo West where I finally succumb to the temptation to try yet another belt system (10% discount had something to do with it). I thought it looks too similar to Lowe Pro to really make a difference. It even has a builtin rain cover for the lens cases in case you're caught in the rain with your expensive equipment. And the reason why it looks like Lowe Pro??? The Co-Founder or Think Tank was the chief designer for Lowe Pro.

Unlike Lowe Pro, Think Tank belts is compatible with other brand accessories. I was going to purchase Think Tank Trim Changer as well for $40, but I had a similar accessory when I purchased my Lowe Pro system and it actually fits perfectly. So, I cheated and mixed accessory. Again, the Lowe Pro bag is not as rigid as the Think Tank, but I actually prefer it as it is worn on the side of my hip which is not has wide. The "Whip It Out" lens bag which carries my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens without the tripod collar is an awesome and unique design. It employs a zipper to add/relieve pressure on the lens without the fear of dropping the lens out even with the lens hood sticking out. My other favorite item is the media wallet which has a builtin tether to attach to the accessory bag without the fear of losing my irreplaceable CF/SD cards fill with wedding images of the day.

Anyhoo, I really love it because I have all my lenses ready and available throughout the day. It's much better than carrying my camera, flash battery pak on my back pocket, and a shoulder bag. Usually, at the end of the wedding, my back is all messed up because I couldn't stand straight because I had to balance everything. My back was not hurting as much and I didn't feel as tired as usual. My total investment is only $100 not including the $25 purchase for my Lowe Pro accessory I purchased 8 years ago. It's a reasonable investment to save my poor back. :-)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Photoshop World 08 in Orlando FL

Photoshop World 08 was announced today and registration is now opened. This time it's going to be in Orlando FL rather than Boston MA. I can't wait as I have not been to Orlando since May 1996. From the look of the banner above, I think Scott Kelby and his crew is going with the Star Trek theme and spoof them. This ought to be fun because there are probably many Trekkers (Trekkies) among the NAPP community. :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Top Gun Tennis Tournament

Lan and Judy won their Final match at the Top Gun Tournament handily in straight sets. They had a much tougher bottom draw even though they had a first round bye. Their 2nd round match last week, and their semi-finals match was much tougher in competition. They almost lost in the semis against too very experienced and crafty tennis players. In fact, upon researching their records, they have not lost this year until yesterday against Lan and Judy. I’m so proud of the girls because they played magnificently throughout the tournament.

David and Jimmy also won their men's 4.5 doubles finals as well. However, they had to go to a 3rd set. It was tougher than they had expected. Nonetheless, it was a good win for them and here are some action shots of their match.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Think Tank Photo Modulus Belt System

Well, here's what I purchased at the Photo Expo West, a Think Tank Photo Modulus belt system. I got the "Whip It Out" for my long telephoto lens, "Lens Changer 50" for my 24-70mm and 16-35mm f2.8 lens, and finally Think Tank belt. It's just under $110 with 10% discount at the Expo. This Saturday, I will put this belt system to the test. Stay tune for the verdict. ;-) By the way, the accessory pack in the above photo is not a Think Tank accessory bag. It's a Lowe Pro bag which I purchased 8 years ago. It fits perfectly, and it's much cheaper in price than the "Trim Changer" @ $40.

Photo Expo West

I got early and drove down to Photo Expo West which located in the Del Mar Fairground in San Diego. A good friend of mine and not so shabby photographer too, Don Gale, sent me an email informing me that he will be speaking several seminars there.

When I arrived, after a 2 hour arduos drive from San Gabriel Valley (actually, it would've been like 1.5 hours but the last 4 miles took 30 minutes!) I was disappointed that it's nothing like Photo Expo East in NYC's Jacob Javits Center. The exhibit hall is much smaller even though the big names were there such as Canon, Nikon, and a couple of local Camera Store. I guess, I can't complain since the entry to the Expo is free. I just had to pay an exhorbitant $9 for parking fee.

I was surprised to see that Hanson Fong was speaking in the Canon booth with a WiFi adapter to the projector... which kinda not work at first. But, my friend Michael Nadler, a Canon rep rapidly worked to get it up and running for him. Hanson is a great portrait, wedding photographer, but I can't say the same regarding his presentation skills. I'm not sure most people can understand him with his hard to hear voice and heavy Chinese accent. Even though when I asked him which dialect of Chinese he speaks, he denied he knew how. I went to his studio in San Francisco once. It's right in the heart of SF Chinatown on a hill. He has many beautiful portraits of family and wedding images. Several years back at WPPI, I actually bought one of his posing VHS video. What a rip-off... $50 for a 8 minute video instruction. He was one of my good friend's, Barbara and Robert Pon, wedding photographer back in 1993. At the end of his presentation, I have to admit that his images are beautiful and I did learn a thing or two regarding portrait lighting.

Now for the best portrait lighting instruction, I would still say it's Don Gale. He has a pleasant voice and he enunciates his syllables, and spoke in clear and concise diction and tone. Not to mention, he has a wealth of knowledge of portrait lighting. I was blown away by his instructions year ago when I first met him as a student, and later on became good friends. He teaches photography workshops throughout the year. Check out his workshop schedule here.

I was going to walk away from the expo without purchasing anything as I couldn't find any good deals for memory cards and such. B&H Photo was not there. :-( But as I was leaving, I stopped by the Delkin booth. What caught my eyes were their Pop-Up Shades which is very similar to the Hoodman shades, except Hoodman doesn't make one for the Canon Pro cameras such as the 1D family of cameras. They actually make one for my Canon 1D MarkIIn but they didn't have it in stock with them. I'm gonna to order one online next week for $40. I often like to show the bride and groom of a great photo I just took to reassure them that their day is going well and their wedding images is fabulous. However, most of the time, we're outside and the sunlight washes out the display. They can't really see it sometimes, but I always get a polie nod with an agreement that these are great images. :-) This shade should eliminate that problem.

Then as I was leaving, I saw a rep from Think Tank Photo on the Expo floor promoting their products. They were selling their products 10% off but sales tax must be added. So, essentially, it's getting Think Tank products without paying for sales tax and then some. :-) I recall Ben Willmore showcase a video on his blog regarding his love for his Think Tank belt pak.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

RAID 1 of My New Hard Drives

After installing my 3 new 500GB hard drives, I decided to RAID two of those drives to RAID 1 which is mirroring. Should one of these 2 hard drives fail, the hard drive will act as a backup and rebuild the replacement hard drive. I use OSX's disk utility to create the RAID set.

RAID 1 basically makes 2 hard drives as if it is one drive. When you save or write to one drive, it will automatically save or write an identical file to the other drive hence the concept of mirroring your drives. The only drawback is that you lose half of your storage space. In my case, I have 2 500GB drives which would make it 1 Terabyte of disk space. By mirroring, I reduced it by half and only have 500GB of storage. It's a drawback but I'm willing to live with it because I would much rather have data redundancy and not have to risk any of my data. I can't afford to lose my clients' wedding images because they are priceless. I can't ask them to reinvite all their friends and families, and dress up in a tux and gown again.

So now-a-days, I sleep much better knowing my data is secure. Next week, I will take one step further and employ Leopard OS's Time Machine. Stay tune... more to come next week...

Installing Hard Drives to My New Mac Pro

The new Mac Pro internal configuration is magnificent. Simply genius as it's so clean and tidy, totally cable free. The memory, optical drives, and hard drives are all snapped in with it's own installation cage.

The 4 hard drives bay slide out easily and cleanly for quick hard drive installation. You'll notice in the video below, it's relatively simple without changing jumpers, nor have to indicate master vs. slave drives. All I needed was one small screw drivers. In fact, the screws were pre-fabricated with the hard drive cage. All I need to do is screw on the hard drive to have secure mounting of the hard drive. I now have 1.75 Terabytes worth of disk space.

Tune in next week as I'm going to attempt to install an external hard drive and test out Leopard's Time Machine. The external drive must be at lease the same size or larger in order for Time Machine to work. I'm also going to try to replace the original 250GB hard drive in the Mac Pro. I purchased a SATA hard drive enclosure at the LA Computer Show today. My plan is to remove the 250GB hard drive which contains MAC OS Leopard which I will copy to another 500 GB SATA hard drive. Come back next week and read more.

Finally, a headphone jack adapter for the iPhone

Ever since I got my iPhone, I've been looking for an adapter to the headphone jack so that I can use my Bose in ear headphone rather than the headphone that came with the iPhone. Frankly, that headphone really sucks and not very good high fidelity. Also, I've misplaced those headphones for the n!th time.

Initially, Belkin came out with an adapter for the price of $10, but it's so big, long, and rigid that it looks horrible with the iPhone. Not to mention, it doesn't have a mic, or on/off switch to use with the iPhone to make and receive calls.

Vodaphone also had a headphone which significantly better than the Apple headphones but it cost $100.

Finally, today while I was waiting patiently for a Mac Genius to fix my iPhone, I discovered on the shelf Monster had developed a iSoniTalk for the iPhone which cost $20. You can use your favorite headphones to listen to music and take calls on your iPhone. It has an easy one button operation to play/pause music, or asnwer/end a call. The intriguing design of this product is that the cable is equiped with clips to attach to the headphone wire so that it can act as a single unit. I really like this product and I found it to be a great substitution to the Apple headphones.

Replacing the iPhone

I dropped my iPhone for the n!th factorial time last week, and now the on/off switch is jammed into the phone. My iPhone was enclosed in a InCase leather case and only 10% exposed and for some reason, invariably, that's the part the phone is dropped! It's now affecting the battery. It's going dead really fast. Once it's gone past half way point, I have perhaps, another 5-10 minutes of usage time before it's completely dead. BUMMER!

So, I scheduled a Mac Genius reservation at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store at the Grove. I waited patiently as my reservation had came and went, and now it's way pass my scheduled time. I'm beginning to be very annoyed, but I tried to stay calm as I need one of these Geniuses to assist me with the repair of my beloved iPhone.

When they finally called my name, which seems to be eternity, I popped onto one of the highchairs (barstool) and begin to tell my sob story to one of the Geniuses. He listened intently and feign a occasional concern to what I have to say... with "I understand", and "I see". So, I thought I can have it repair and perhaps have a functional iPhone once again. To my dismay, all he said was because it was dropped for the n! factorial time, and beyond the 30 days warranty, my only option is to purchase a new iPhone in exchange of my damage phone... for a nominal fee of $249 plus tax! Aargh! I don't want to drop another $250+ for a new iPhone when I already purchased it at $600+ and then within 2 months, the price dropped $200.

So, I went back to my office, and I used a very very tiny screwdriver and pry loosed the on/off switch. It's a little marred-up, but at least it's now functioning. Let's hope I don't drop it again. :-(

Monday, November 05, 2007

Photoshop CS3 Design Premium doesn't work with Leopard! Bummer!

I just tried installing CS3 Design Premium on my brand new Leopard driven Apple Computer. And I sadly discovered that it's not WORKING! Here is the link to Adobe with the Leopard FAQ and the timeline of the updates.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I just added 4 more GB of memory to my new Mac Pro

Wow, it was so easy to install memory into my new Mac Pro. I came from the PC side of the computing world and I used to build computer "hot rods" as a hobby. I have never seen a computer with a tighter inside configuration than the Mac Pro. It has no cables, everything just snaps in directly to the motherboard and daughterboards. The most common upgrades are easily accessible.

The computer compartment door has one latch which requires no tools to open. The internal memory are separated into 2 daughterboards. Since I already have a pair of 512MB on the first daughterboard, I have to install the first pair of memory on the second daughterboard first. The heatsinks are "ginormous" on these memory module. I guess it gets really hot and it dicipates heat. All I needed to do is align the notch on the memory to match the socket on the daughterboard and snap in the 2 ends until it locks the memory in place. I repeated the second set on the first daughterboard. I was up and running within 2-3 minutes.

It now has a total of 5GB of memory.