Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Save $50 a month: iPhone 4...From ATT to Straight Talk

The iPhone 5 has been released.  You have looked at the specs, and find it to be underwhelming.  You have an iPhone 4 from 2010 and would like to continue using it.  Great, I have a solution for you.

I would not have been able to make the switch from ATT to Straight Talk as smoothly if it were not for the instructions in the article and video below.

I am an Apple fan, and owner of an iPhone 4.  I have found that I use more Apps on my iPad than my iPhone, which has reduced my need for a new iPhone.  However, the iPhone 4 is still a great piece of hardware.

So, I have a solution for many of you who are off ATT contract and would like less expensive phone service.  After a few weeks of searching, I selected Straight Talk as a substitute for my ATT plan.  Straight Talk only costs $45 a month for unlimited talk, text, and "data".   I purchased my Straight Talk plan from Walmart.  I had to ask the folks behind the counter if they had the "bring your own phone" option in stock.  They did, but it was behind the counter, not in public view.  The Straight Talk option will most likely save you over $50 a month.

*A little tip...The version I purchased on-site from Walmart had 3 sim cards included in the pack.  One micro sim for iPhone 4 and a regular ATT sim and T-Mobile sim.  I plan on using the regular ATT sim for my old iPhone 3G.*

In terms of getting ready for selecting this plan, I made an error.  You must first UNLOCK your iPhone.  There are a number of criteria you must satisfy, but you must ask ATT to unlock your phone first.  As stated in the link below, I suggest you contact ATT tech support on the phone, rather than filling out the online unlock form.  I had my iPhone 4 and later iPhone 3G unlocked rather quickly.


Once the phone is unlocked, you can start the Straight Talk transfer process.  I had made a few errors in this process, so I wanted to add clarity for others.  Again, make sure your phone is unlocked.  Insert your Straight Talk sim card into your iPhone.  Go to Straight Talk's website and activate the Sim, and port your previous phone number.  In my experience, porting the number took just a few minutes on a weekday.

Secondly, you will want to look at the video link below, which helps you gain access to the iPhone's cellular data service.  Follow the directions closely, and you should do fine.  All of this is focused on what is called APN.  Just follow the directions in the video, and you should be fine.  This is a technical part that may make casual computer users nervous.  If you are not very tech savvy, you may want to watch the video below, and see if you are up to the task.


I would expect there to be a large number of folks who have iPhone 4 that are off contract, but don't find a compelling reason to buy the iPhone 5.  I have used the Straight Talk service for over a week, and it has worked fine.  I called ATT to cancel my service, but they told me that when I ported my phone number, my ATT service was automatically cancelled.
You may say that I have lost my ATT unlimited data plan....well, not really.  ATT puts data caps on 2 GB worth of data, so you really don't get unlimited data at fast speeds.  The same with Straight Talk.  I'm not sure how this plan will work out long-term, but I am happy to have it.  I have paid so much to ATT over the past 4 years, it is time for a break.  In 6 months to a year, I may pick up the newest phone, but for now Walmart's Straight Talk works great.

A New Engine

The American Enterprise Institute opened up a video contest to promote The Moral Case for Free Enterprise.  Prizes totaled $50,000, including $40,000 for the winner.  This is a huge cash prize compared to most video contests.

The video above is my entry into the contest, and it was selected as one of the final 19 featured entries.  I believe the 3 winners will come out of this group.  The winners will be announced on October 9, 2012.

As the Washington Post said today, "Finalists will be judged by a panel including: S.E. Cupp, New York Daily News columnist and MSNBC host; Jonah Goldberg, American Enterprise Institute fellow, author of “The Tyranny of Clich├ęs” and National Review editor; Kristina Kendall, executive producer for “Stossel” on the Fox Business Network and Remy Munasifi, comedian."

Out of 19 final videos, what makes my video different?

As I viewed the cinematic entries by the other finalists, there were a few common threads.  There were a number (3) of videos that spoke about the immigrant experience of success in America and several entries (6) that focused on children learning to earn something themselves rather than taking from their parents.  A third theme that is pretty common among the videos is emotion and drama.  I don't know if I am bad at showing emotion and drama on video, because I've never tried it.  Making an emotional piece rarely crosses my mind because I'm an insensitive male doofus.  Maybe I'll try an emotional appeal one day.

My entry was the only one that discussed current government policies, and how they impact people today.  In my video, I focus on how the Chevy Volt and a number of electric car companies have been anointed by the federal government as the technologies of the future.  To make these technologies popular, the government gives people $7,500-$9,000 in tax credits, rebates, and other goodies if they buy one of their chosen vehicles.  The point of my video is that this practice is against free market principles, is not fair, and prevents other alternative technologies from emerging.  I think I was the only one to really point fingers at the government and call out real companies by name.

I have no idea what the results of the final voting will be, but most of these video entries looked beautiful.  Most of them were most likely shot on DSLR cameras with a small crew.  DSLR filmmaking has exploded, and really allowed people to communicate in a more beautiful and compelling manner.  That is an amazing thing, and a testament to free enterprise.

I also noticed an entry from video contest champion, Happy Joel.  This guy has entered and won a ton of video contests, and it's not the first time I have seen he and I on a finalists list.  Good luck to him.

Lastly, I found this finalist video, "Joke of the Day"by Don Brookins to be a great surprise.  It is real, it is funny, it is simple, it has a great point.  I don't think this video was shot with a DSLR.  They probably used a consumer grade video camera with a wireless mic.  It works!  You want to keep watching, you want to see where it goes, you want to hear the end of the joke.  So, after I said all those great things about DSLR filmmaking...it really comes down to a compelling idea.

Don's video is below.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This is the Padcaster

This is the Padcaster (above).  It was unveiled at NAB 2011  It is an aluminum frame with what looks to be a number of 1/4" holes.  Within the frame is a resin that is molded to fit the iPad (3rd Generation).  The resin can be removed, and the frame can double as a DSLR cage.  Josh Apter of Manhattan Edit Workshop, which developed the device indicated different resins for different phones and tablets could be substituted if needed.  It appears the Padcaster will cost around $200.

I am a little disappointed in the size and simplicity of the Padcaster.  I was hoping for a device more like the mCAM from Action Life Media (below).  The mCam is very purpose built, and ticks all the right boxes for things you would want in a device that makes your iPhone a better video acquisition tool.  The Padcaster offers the flexibility of eventually being able to accomodate different form factors, but then you will just have to carry around multiple resin inserts.  Not very mobile.  It looks to be the size of a laptop.

I was hoping the Padcaster would be a more robust type of device like the Makayama Movie Mount (below).  This device is not available for iPad 3rd generation yet, but their site claims it will be in the near future. It is plastic, and will most likely be about half the cost of the Padcaster.  At the moment, the Movie Mount looks like a better option for myself, especially with the wide angle lens attachment and cold shoe that can hold a light or microphone.  The Movie Mount is also smaller.

I already own an ALM mCam for my iPhone, and I really enjoy it.  It would be great if ALM created an aluminum iPad sized mCAM.  Again that mCam just hits all the right boxes for me in terms of features, and I don't have to buy adapters for every piece of equipment I have.

The Padcaster on the other hand, is most likely very strong and and can be equipped with SLR lenses.  One could say The Padcaster is a more professional piece of equipment that can be outfitted like a huge DSLR rig.  On the other hand, it's my view that iPhone and iPad video production devices should enable easy and mobile video acquisition.  If you can set up an iPad just like a DSLR, maybe you should just use a DSLR.  However, one final advantage of the Padcaster is that it is almost future proof.  When Apple redesigns the iPad, you just have to get a new resin insert.  Other products will need a full redesign.

I think all these products are great new entries in the iPad video world.  Through competition, different companies will be offering different products with different designs for lower prices, which is good for consumers.  Keep up the good work.

Friday, April 6, 2012

What is The Padcaster?

On March 26, 2012 I saw a story on CultofMac.com talking about an upcoming device called "The Padcaster".  A teaser video of the device's capabilities was released, but not a shot of the product.  That was a great idea for a tease, however, the the reveal was listed as April 16.  That is quite a long way out for a tease.

The improved quality of the iPad display and camera make The Padcaster quite desirable.  A device called the Makayama MovieMount is available for the iPad 2.  It received little buzz online, and reviews focused on the cheap construction.  When the iPhone 4 was released, I purchased an OWLE Bubo from Action Life Media.  This device was released shortly after the iPhone 4, and was able to hold your iPhone, mount on a tripod, and hold lights and microphones.  I really enjoy my OWLE Bubo, and it gets a lot of attention when you take it out to shoot.  It is constructed of very thick and strong aluminum.  The Bubo came with an iPhone case, and a microphone adaptor.  Not bad for $160.

A number of iPhone 4 recording devices appeared on the market that were inferior to the OWLE Bubo, and cost much more.  I hope "The Padcaster" turns out to be like the OWLE in terms of quality and execution.  The device will need to be pretty big, but the size of the iPad screen makes everything easier to see, like a monitor.  A cheap plastic snap case with few accessories and a high price would be unfortunate.

I'm not sure what to expect from "The Padcaster", but I think the device may be pretty sturdy, because it appears to be able to hold DSLR lenses.  If the price can be held under $200 for something metal, and under $100 for plastic, that would be nice.  A nice touch to The Padcaster would be the ability to have it attached to your iPad all the time as a form of protection, with an Apple smart cover on the front.  I'm not sure how you could execute that, but it would be another piece of gear you didn't have to haul around.  We will all just have to wait until April 16 to see the final product.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My "New iPad" Review

I really enjoy my new iPad. It is the first iPad I have considered buying. The combination of processing power, improved camera, improved screen, and creative applications made this iPad a must buy for me.

I purchased my new iPad from the Best Buy in Atwater Village, CA. I had a significant amount of funds on a Best Buy gift card, so I chose to buy it there. The store opened at 10:00am. I arrived at 9:05 and acquired a ticket for a white 64 gb Wifi iPad. I was probably number 30 in line, I was number 2 for that model...out of 300 or so. At Best Buy the lines were not long and the process was pretty quick. I was out in 30 minutes, but there was a lot of cell phone, accessory, and Best Buy care hard sell. I waited in line over 3 hours for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4. The iPad line was like waiting in an In and Out drive thru in comparison.

I have spent so little time with an iPad, I didn't know how much it behaved like a Mac rather than an iPhone. Safari has tabs, and works more like a Mac. I most wanted to explore GarageBand. On the iPad it is amazing, and has a number of features that are impossible to generate on the Mac version. Apple took some time to reimagine the GarageBand interface, and how touching the instruments can change the experience. Amazing.

I purchases the iPad camera connection kit. The kit consists of two modules you plug into bottom of the iPad. One module has a USB interface, the other has an SD card interface. I discovered you can plug in the USB interface, and then plug in a USB card reader into the interface. USB card readers are pretty cheap, so this way you don't have to bring along the Apple SD card reader. Secondly, I shot some video with my Sanyo HD2000 video camera, as well as my Panasonic GH2 (with motion jpeg mode) and was able to acquire HD footage from both cameras that could be edited with iMovie for iOS. I also was able to connect my iPhone 4 to the iPad and pull images and video from it as well.

I write a lot of music, and shoots lot of video. The new iPad is really turning into a creative machine. I could easily write a song and edit a video on the new iPad in a pinch. However, there are limitations in the storage capacity of the iPad, as well as the file system. It's not like a Mac or PC. On the other hand I am compelled to use this device for my creative purposes. For example, I purchased the Korg Keystation 32, which is a small USB keyboard which ideal for laptops or iPads. The Korg Keystation 32 connects to the iPad through the camera connection kit. Odd, right? If you have some mad musical talent, you can play an instrument on the iPad itself and the keyboard at the same time. I have tried it a little, and you can hit a few chords on the iPad, and hit a few notes on the Keystation to match. This cannot be done in the same way in regular GarageBand.

I have purchased Photoshop Touch, Avid Studio, and iPhoto for iPad. I will report on them when I have spent more time with the programs. I expect them to be amazing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to get around SOPA blackouts

I don't like SOPA legislation like everyone else. However, there are a huge number of us that utilize Wikipedia all the time. I use it a lot for my game show, Pop Quiz. Luckily, there is a workaround...Google search your topic, find the Wikipedia entry, and look to the right and find Google's Cached pages. You can find a Cached page of most topics. So, during this political stance by Wikipedia, you can find the pages you are looking for on Google's Cached pages. Thanks internet for taking a stand and then providing a way for us to get what we want during that stand.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is this the end of ugly cars?: The 2012 Detroit Auto Show

As a car nut for a couple decades, I may be ready to pronounce that we are at a period of time where there are no longer any ugly cars. This may sound like an exaggeration, but the amazing offerings from most major automakers look so good.

Kia, Hyundai, and Ford have done an incredible job with all of their new vehicles. Even cheap little cars like the Kia Rio, and Hyundai Accent look great. The 2012 Ford Fusion was released today, and the car is a beauty. Of all the new vehicles being released over the past few years, it is hard to find something ugly.

Toyota's Corolla, Camry, Yaris, and Matrix are foul. Their sales are proving it. Honda also has a bit of the uglies. The recent Accord is dull, and the Civic looks so similar to the last generation. Let's not talk about the Crosstour.

Even GM has really been stepping it up. The new Sonic looks better than the Aveo. The upcoming Malibu looks great, and all the Buicks are stylish.

The new BMW 3 series looks amazing as well. I'm not sure what it is with all these new great designs. Maybe auto manufacturers just care more about the design of the entire line-up then they used to. I have always thought that design was what really started changing people's minds about makes like Hyundai and Kia. Maybe designers have cracked some sort of design code. Every time I see a new Kia Optima drive by, I am amazed. It looks better than an Audi or Mercedes. Heck, even Subaru has a great looking sports car coming out this year, and most Subarus are ugly.

Some amazing things are happening in auto design...everywhere but Toyota. Maybe 2013 will be their year.