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But for $3.99, it’s not bad [Mc]

The best thing that I can say about U2’s new album,No Line On The Horizon, is that I paid less than four bucks for it. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s not, not bad at all. That assessment would be sure to get any U2 fans riled up (if they read this blog).

But really…if you didn’t know who made this collection of songs, would you like it that much?

With any established artist, the fan base will hope that it’s the best thing since…well, since their last album (thank you, Tim Hawkins), and they will love it – LOVE it – even if it’s only mediocre.

Not saying this effort is mediocre. But maybe it is. Or maybe it’s one of those albums that will grow on me and over time I’ll really like it. But if so, then it won’t be any different than a lot of music I own.

The first Switchfoot album I heard – that was great, and I had no idea who they were. Sanctus Real – same thing. Nevertheless, The Afters, Britt Nicole…I could go on, but I think you get the idea. All had albums that made you go, wow.

But they also had albums that made you go, ehh. That’s this one from U2. Ehh. S’okay. Not great.

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The Nines – iLife and iWork

I’ve been using iWork ’09 for the past couple of weeks and iLife ’09 for the past couple of days. Here are my first impressions on the two suites. Keep in mind that I have used every version of both programs since their beginnings. (And these are not exhaustive reviews.)


iWork ’09 adds some nice features in this iteration. It includes Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, the Apple counterparts to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. The Apple suite still doesn’t have the depth of features that the Microsoft offering does…but who cares? Not me.

The basics of each program remain unchanged. Pages still is basic word processing and page layout with a Mac feel. Numbers still does its spreadsheet thing. And Keynote still outclasses PP with its cool transitions.

I work on a Powerbook G4, which Apple recently reclassified as obsolete, so performance for me is sluggish in every application.

But what’s great and new that would make you want to upgrade if you already have an earlier version of iWork? I’ll take it one app at a time…

Pages – For me the biggest addition is Outlining. I usually use OmniOutliner Professional for my outlining needs, and I’ll may continue to do so. But it’s nice to have it in Pages.

The other two big features – being able to view your document in full screen view and being able to use iWork.com – are irrelevant to me. Additionally, there are several new templates that are pretty cool, but I don’t know if I’ll ever use them.

Numbers – There are a couple of nice changes here. The ability for categorization – actually, a second-level sort – is nice. Numbers also adds a quick view of all the formulas you are using in your worksheet.

Keynote – The star of iWork is Keynote. The incremental changes in this version of Keynote are apparent right from the beginning, in the theme chooser, where a mouse-over of a theme shows you the different options available within the theme.

I like the new Keynote, but my biggest frustration with the entire suite comes here. They took out a feature, one I actually used! The feature is Webview. It allowed you to insert a live web page into your presentation. And they took it out….aargh.

They did put a few new transitions and effects in, though. That’s good. And they upgraded the presenter’s view to give you more control. Very nice.

The best thing, however, is the integration between the three apps and the ability for a Numbers chart to be updated with a Keynote presentation or a Pages document.

I purchased the iWork ’09 Family Pack, since I have several computers to upgrade. (The link takes you to Amazon, where you can get it for $10 less than from Apple.)


iLife ’09 was the more anticipated of the two suites. It contains Garageband, iMovie, iWeb, iDVD, and iPhoto. And I’ll just tell you right up front…it rocks.

The bad – I can’t use the new iMovie on my computer. Of course, I couldn’t use iMovie ’08 either. My Powerbook just doesn’t have the horsepower. But that was okay with ’08, because a lot of people stayed with ’06, so much did they hate the new ’08 interface.

That won’t be the case with ’09. I have used it on the church’s 24-inch iMac, and it is much nicer than ’08. iMovie now includes a Precision Editor that makes editing much better. It also has a stabilization feature which – although it takes a long time, even on a 3.06ghz iMac – will be very useful.

There are also some added transitions, themes and effects that will dress up your vidoes. Spiffy.

iDVD – well, it is what it is. Unchanged. I didn’t even see any new themes.

Garageband – although some learning abilities have been added, functionally nothing else has changed for ’09. Cosmetically, the look has changed, to a nicer, darker feel. Not important, but nice.

iWeb – probably the biggest thing here is the ability to publish to your own domain. There are some nice little bits of this and that, but nothing else substantial has changed for my use.

iPhoto – THE app. The new Faces feature alone could sell this entire suite by itself. If you don’t know, Faces allows you to tag your pictures with the names of people in the picture. Faces will then search your library for similiar faces and let you tag them. This makes organizing and searching your photo library very easy. And fun.

Places allows you to add location information to your photos. This lets you organize your photos by the places you’ve been. Very nice.

I would highly recommend iLife ’09 Family Pack. (Again, this link let’s you get it from Amazon for $10 less.)

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Z to the I to the 6 [Rev]*

In the world of mini USB-enabled video cameras…did you know there was a whole world of them?…the Flipseems to be the clear market favorite. The idea of a very simple, inexpensive, but high-quality camcorder for spur-of-the-moment video recording has interested me for most of this year.

I have been watching and reading about the Flip and its many competitors, including the RCA Small Wonder, the Aiptek A-HD Pro, and the Insignia 5.0MP. Each of these cameras are very small, yet very powerful. The newer models include the ability to take HD video.

In the end, I decided on the Kodak Zi6 Pocket Video Camera. I’ve been using the Zi6 for over a week and, in case you’ve ever thought of getting one of these little jewels, here’s some information for you.

The best thing about this class of camcorder is the price. I got mine at Radio Shack on-sale for under $140, and the prices keep falling as new models with more features come out. Best Buy has the Insignia for only $85. These are very good cameras for (relatively) very little money.

The Zi6 has four recording modes. The default mode is HD, which shoots 720p video at 30 frames per second. There is a higher HD60 mode which shoots 720p video at 60 frames per second. This would be good for slow-motion or time-remapping your video. There is also a VGA mode which shoots standard, 640X480 video. And there is a picture mode for shooting stills.

Although I didn’t need HD-quality video, for the money it seemed like a no-brainer. The problem with HD-quality video is that my older Powerbook doesn’t have the power to work with it quickly. (Don’t even get me started on the old Dells in the playroom.)

These type of camcorders aren’t really made for low-light situations, but in outdoor or well-lit situations, they do quite well. (This still shot was taken outside the Asheville Mall.) Since it doesn’t do low-light well, you also have to be very careful when taking still pictures, since blurring the picture is very easy to do and there is no image stabilization like most larger camcorders have. Happily, you can easily attach the Zi6 to a tripod for steadier shots.


This piece of video was shot in the default HD mode, then encoded to an iPhone-compatible mp4 file at 480X272 resolution using MPEG Streamclip. Unhappily, Google re-encoded the file when I uploaded it, reducing the resolution further. The original video file looks much better.

The Zi6 has little internal memory – less than 24mb is available – which is basically useless for video. But the Zi6 accepts SD memory cards. I purchased an 8gb high-speed SD card for only $14. After a vacation trip, Christmas, and some goofing around by Sammy, there is still over 2gb of room left.

The 2.4 inch display is bright and clear enough to see what you’ve shot, but composite cables for hooking up to your TV and component cables for watching in HD are also included with the camera.

The combination of HD-quality and SD-card acceptance pushed me towards the Kodak, but the batteries clinched it. The Zi6 runs on two AA batteries, which means you don’t have to wait for proprietary batteries to recharge. However, while purchasing the camera, I discovered that Kodak includes rechargeable AA’s and a charger, making it an even better deal. The rechargeables don’t last too long – maybe an hour or so – but I can always pop in some regular AA’s in a pinch.

The Zi6 is a good camera for quick and easy recording. For the price I believe it’s a very good value.

{* “Rev” is in the title because this is a “Rev” post, related to my work or worship. In this case, it could also mean “review”, but it doesn’t}