[advertorial] Solden.be: promotion codes database

Solden.be

2 times a year, we have Sales (called Solden in dutch) for a month. These are in January and July, during these periods shops are allowed to give big promotions on everything they sell. This is not always fun for us customers, but on the internet there are other rules and Solden collects all promotions they can find and even some unique to their site only. The codes can provide up to 75% discount on your order.

My experience with Solden?

I tried the codes on some of the sites listed, most codes worked and you can get up to 80% discount. However I experienced a non-working code 2 times, in retrospect, it was indicated that the promotion code for Kiabi was expired. I understand why they keep the codes up there, but it should be marked more clear that the code is expired.

Also on my iPad, I had the problem that the social media bar, kept obscuring part of the sites content. That caused that I couldn’t read the dates and see the logo’s on most of the page.

If you want to go shopping online, it can’t hurt to look at Solden and see if they have promotion code that can spare you some money.

I wasn’t forced to write this blogpost, everything in here is my own view, the content wasn’t reviewed by any departement of the brands mentioned in here. I did however receive a compensation for this post. So decide for yourself how much value you want to attribute to this post.


[review] Backblaze, cloud backup

Backblaze

Since I started using computers, I have had a mixed relation with backups. They are too much hassle to deal with, they fail, I didn’t have enough space. But since the internet connections are able to handle all data I produce now, I decided to start using cloud backup. I’v chosen Backblaze cloud backup.

I had and still have a fully installed and running local backup system. But it took me a while to figure out an easy way to have a offsite backup for my photography. The problem is that having an off site backup used to be a lot of work, I tried several ways, but never found a way that worked reliably and wasn’t a lot of work.

The only easy way, was and still is by uploading everything, but the problem in Belgium was that there were up and download limits set by the providers. Even today on the “unlimited” packages there still is a kind of restriction, it is around 500 gb to 1TB a month depending on the area you live in.

Why Backblaze?

After extensively researching the different solutions, I decide to go with Backblaze, because of the following reasons:

  • Backup external drives
  • Throttle upload speed of your data when needed
  • Ship backup drives worldwide
  • Only 4$ a month if you choose the 2 year plan
  • Unlimited backup space

As far as I found, there are no other services that offer all these options for that money.

How does it work?

It works great, after subscribing and paying with your credit card, you download and install the program for your OS. Backblaze will start to upload data from your internal drives. If you want to add more drives, just select it in the preferences pane. If you have upload limits, you can choose to throttle the speed and Blackblaze gives you an estimate how much it will upload during a day.

A few figures to give you an idea:

  • 1.2 TB data backed up
  • Initial backup took 3.5 months
  • Restored main OS X data once
  • Restored 35 GB in a zip-file

Is it good?

Although it took almost 4 months of backing up, it was no hassle, Backblaze just worked. Restoring was just a matter of selecting the files I wanted, waiting for the zip to be generated and then downloading it.

But it’s not all good, the restore process sucks. You’ll get all your files back, but it’s up to you to put them all back where they belong. That’s no fun, let me tell you. You have to deal with permissions, finding the correct folder and so on. Another annoyance, is the fact that after the restore, my secondary internal drive was no longer recognized as being the same drive, so it had to be backed up again, like the replaced primary drive. Why?

Conclusion?

Backblaze is a great solution for an off site backup, but it takes a while to get all your data backed up, my suggestion let me send you guys a drive with my data for an extra cost, like crashplan does. When you have to restore, it’s all manual labour. I would suggest that they implement some sort of restore program that does most of the work for you.

Despite the remarks I have, I’m a satisfied Backblaze cloud backup user and would recommend it to everybody

I wasn’t forced to write this blogpost, everything in here is my own view, the content wasn’t reviewed by any departement of the brands mentioned in here


[review] Kingston 3K hyperX SSD

Update: after 5 months this Kingston 3K hyperX SSD completely died on me

Kingston 3K HyperX SSD

At the end of june, my girflfriend (SaraVdV) got a mail from Kingston if she and I wanted to test a new SSD drive from Kingston.

After some mailing back and forth, because Sara and I both work on mac’s, Kingston send us both a 256GB HyperX 3K SSD drive. It comes in a nice package, with an external usb enclosure and it’s own screwdriver. Which is always very handy. The drives we received were 2.5″ drives, but included in the package you buy, there’s also a 3.5″ bay.

Because it would be easier from me to put the drive in the MacBook pro 15″ begin 2009 I have, than to put it in an iMac. I started with that computer, the drive is as easy to install as any drive. However when I booted the mac and started installing OS X I ran into some problems.

At first the install of OS X stalled a couple of times, when I finally managed to install it correctly, I had a 25 sec spinning beachball every 2 minutes. However, because we had review drives, I contacted Kingston directly and started to work out the problem with Mario, on of the engineers at Kingston who developed the drive. Turns out that there is an incompatibility between the nvidia SATA I controller in the MacBook 5.1 and the driver for SATA II or III SSD’s in OS X leopard or later. This makes that every time there is a lot of writing activity to the disk that the controller locks the OS for a while untill the buffers are cleared. So I ended up restoring this MacBook to it’s original config. This is not a fault of the kingston drive but an Apple problem, because I also experienced the same behaviour with another brand of SSD’s.

After my debacle with the drive in the Macbook 5.1, I also installed the drive in Sara’s iMac which is not too big of a hassle if you follow all the guides online for replacing a drive in an iMac. I have not had any problems with installing the drive and reinstalling OS X, nor has Sara experienced any problems since the drive was installed.

In July I purchased myself a new 13″ MacBook pro and installed the HyperX SSD in that computer. No problems, everything installs and works perfect.

Performance wise, everything seems a lot quicker on the iMac of Sara, boot times improved a lot. Every program launches faster and the drive behaves very well under pressure. We didn’t do any graphs or charts, because in the end it all comes down to how you preceive the change.

For the MacBook 13″ I did some testing. Without SSD it cold booted in 34 seconds, after install of the SSD it cold boots in 8secs. That’s just amazing. It feels more instant now then waking my iPad first generation from sleep. Programs are launching very fast, lightroom which is the most important program for me, launches in less then 3 seconds in grid view. It all feels very snappy and instant. I haven’t seen a beachball in months. Reboots are only necessary for updates from the OS. It just works and feels fast. It does what I expected an SSD to do.

The nicest surprise is that we may keep the drives, so I got a nice upgrade for my new MacBook thanks to Kingston.

I wasn’t forced to write this blogpost, everything in here is my own view, the content wasn’t reviewed by any departement of the brands mentioned in here. I did however receive a compensation for this post. So decide for yourself how much value you want to attribute to this post.


[Review] Logitech F540

[Samsung nx200] Logitech F540

Playing the xbox late at night, while my girlfriend is asleep, isn’t possible. So I asked Logitech if I could test out the Logitech F540 wireless headphones for game consoles.

A few days later I had the headphones. After unpacking the rather neatly put together box, it was very easy hooking it up to the Xbox. You basically plugg 2 wires into the basestation. The power and the audio cable. It couldn’t be easier

After turning on the headphones and pushing the sync button on both the station and the headphones, all was set. I played several hours while wearing the headset and was very pleased with the battery life, about 10 play hours. The sound quality for me was great too, although I’m not really a sound guy, but heck it was decent enough to hear the rain fall in Oblivion which for me is all I need.

I didn’t really use the microphone in game, but it’s pleasing to hear yourself through the headphones when the mic is on, so you don’t scream when talking. I did try it once and it seemed to work decent enough, but I can’t really tell because none of the other players in the game bothered to talk.

Most headphones are quite hard to wear after a while, because my ear gets pinched, but the F540 has cups that go all around your ear, not on your ear which is very nice.

The only big problem I had and what for me is kinda of a deal breaker, is that fact that I got loads of interference after a while. Especially when the Xbox was online over the wifi signal, I tried all solutions found on the web, but none really helped, except putting the transmitter at a 45 degrees angle, but that is not very handy when you need somebody to hold the transmitter while you are playing.

So overall, I like the headset a lot, but there are 2 things I didn’t like, one is that I couldn’t use digital audio on it, which is very annoying because our tv only has a headphones and digital out connection and the headphones is never surround and the second one was the interference I got from other devices.


[review] Sony nex-5n

[Sony nex-5n] Sunrise in the mist

Sony is really good at letting me test their new cameras. A little while ago I had the chance to test the Sony nex-5n, the successor of the nex-5. I had the pleasure of photographing with the nex-5, which I reviewed over here. As I said then, I didn’t like the menus, the startup time, …

The 5n is a whole different deal, in fact it’s a great camera. Sony really listened to their users, they did a real good job cleaning up the menu-interface. It feels snappy, intuitive and very logical.

[Sony nex-5n] NOTP

The quality of the photos is great, it can match the quality of my 5d MK II, which is about 1500 euro more expensive. The photo above is a shot of a concert at 3200 iso, with the standard jpg b/w conversion on it. There is almost no noise and the image is pretty sharp.

[Sony nex-5n] Spa-Francorchamps

My other concern about the nex-5 was the that the camera was pretty slow, well the 5n is definitely not slow. It has a fast autofocus, pretty short start up time, but when you can capture a race-car in full focus on a track, I can only say that it’s really fast.

[Sony nex-5n] Me

But as with every camera, there are a couple of drawbacks, the first being that you don’t have a viewfinder, that’s pretty annoying when photographing in bright light. Sony kinda solved this problem by adding a swiveling screen, a very sturdy one I have to say.

Then there is the fact that the flash is external, an sich not a real problem, except sony doens’t like standard hotshoes. They didn’t even include the typical sony hotshoe, so the only way you can use a flash is by using the included small flash, a flash I don’t like. It’s small, there are almost no way to control it and it feels pretty filmsy.

The most annoying thing, but that’s something I have found in all Sony cameras is the way, you can review your photos and videos on it. I can imagine some people find it very good, but I don’t want to go through the menu to view everything I have on my card.

Despite the few things I didn’t like that much, the nex-5n is a very decent camera. Even so good that my girlfriend and I are actually considering buying one, how’s that for a reference. I test a lot of mirrorless cameras and this is the first I really think is up to par with all DSLR’s in the same or even a bit higher price range.

Thx to my girlfriend Saravdv for taking most of the pictures.


[Review] Samsung NX200

[Samsung nx200] Long exposures by Filip Bunkens (Pitslamp)) on 500px.com

As a professional photographer, I get to test new cameras when they are released. That’s how I got my hands on a Samsung NX200 for a couple of months now. This review is going to from a professional viewpoint, if you want a less technical review check out my PitsLamp blog.

The nx200 is a mirror less camera system, with some pretty decent lenses. I’ll list the pro and cons of the camera and will explain some a bit lower.

Pro

  • Pretty high fps in RAW (4) even higher in JPEG (7)
  • Nice intuitive interface
  • Hot shoe
  • Very accessible buttons on the right locations
  • Good quality AMOLED display
  • 20 MP
  • Good form factor

Con

  • Lot’s of noise above ISO 800
  • Slow startup time
  • No viewfinder
  • No swiveling display

That’s the very short version of my likes and dislikes of the Samsung NX200. So now let me get into that in more detail.

Screen

The quality of the screen is great, even in harsh sunlight. However, because of no viewfinder and no swiveling screen, it’s not always very easy to compose a shot. You are limited to how you can look at the screen. This means no shots low by the ground, or high above your head, because composing is not possible if you don’t see the screen.

Ease of use

Samsung always had a pretty good idea how to make a camera easy to use. The menu is clear, easy, logical. All the buttons are located very conveniently, at least for me they are. It’s a joy to use this camera.

However how hard Samsung keeps on trying to have me use the i-Function button on the lens, I don’t really care for it. It’s is one of their selling points since the nx100, it was made after the older rangefinder cameras where you could set almost everything on the lens. But where Samsung got it wrong for me, is that the button is never in the same place on the lenses. Also the first you use the button it doesn’t really react directly. Also the ring on the lens you can use to change the settings, is stepless, but the interface on the screen has steps, that’s confusing. So I prefer to use the buttons on top and on the back.

Quality and speed

A slow startup speed, makes that you better don’t use the battery saving feature, if you want to photograph your kids, make sure you keep it on all the time. However once started, the speed is very good, a very decent fps even in RAW. On the other hand, once you want to look at the photos, it can take quite some time before the RAW’s are processed. So speed overall is not good enough for me.

[Samsung nx200] Logitech F540

With 20MP on the camera, the photos are of good quality, large, nice to look at in 100%. The camera is excellent for studio work in tight spaces, I did love it for product shots, especially with the 60mm macro lens. The hot shoe makes it possible to use radio triggers which again is awesome for studio shoots.

But there is a very big drawback, as with the first DSLR’s the camera, absolutely doesn’t perform well in low light conditions. For me in color the photos until 800 iso are acceptable, in b/w you can go up till 1600 but after that you’re out of luck. Too much noise, especially color noise.

Conclusion

I have mixed feelings about this camera. I do like the interface, but I don’t like the quality of the photos. So if you are looking for a small, interchangeable camera with most use being during the day or in studio settings, definitely go for it. If you are looking for an allround camera, don’t go for this one, there are better alternatives out there.


[Tutorial] Setting up WDS with Apple airports

UPDATE: in minutes of me posting this tutorial, my airport utility got an update to v6.0 and all I said is obsolete, my WDS network still works, but I don’t know yet how to set it up correctly.

Over here we have a nice setup for our wireless network and playing music in all the rooms of our house. It’s supported by Apple airports. As you can see in the above screenshot. We use an Airport extreme as the router and 3 Airport expresses as relays. Last saturday evening however, disaster struck and our Airport extreme died. Well it did not die completely, it stopped serving internet through the wifi connections and there was only connection via ethernet connections. The wifi clients however could still connect, authenticate and got an ip-address, but there it all stopped. I tried everything to restore the connections, but despite all my efforts for about 3 hours. Rebooting, resetting, hard resetting nothing worked. So I setup a temporary solution and went out today to get a new Airport extreme.

Let’s get to the technical part of this article. How do you setup a network of 4 airports across the house on the same network with wpa2 security enabled? The first and most important step is to hard reset all the airports, the only way to do that if the airports don’t come straight from the box is to hold down the little reset button while pluggin in the airport. If you don’t know how, check this support-page on the Apple.

Configure the base station or WDS main

You start by selecting manual configuration in the airport utility, don’t use the wizard, as you will not be able to setup WDS. On the next screen, you’ll see a couple of tabs, but none of them shows WDS, at least when you have a recent airport extreme.

  1. Now setup your Base Station like always, fill out the name, choose a password, … under the Base Station tab.
  2. The next tab is the Wireless tab, this is 1 of the 2 tabs where all the magic will happen.

    In the dropdown menu next to “Wireless Mode” select “Participate in a WDS network”, if you don’t see it, hold down the “option” key, it will magically appear.
  3. You setup your network as always, but make sure you select the checkbox “Allow this network to be extended”, leave the Radio mode on Automatic, choose WPA/WPA2 Personal, choose a password, go to the Wireless Network Options, set your country and leave all the rest. (Hint: Write down all settings, we’ll need them later)
  4. Next is the WDS tab, that has appeared after you selected “Participate in a WDS network” in the previous step. Select “WDS main” in the dropdown from “WDS Mode”. Select the checkbox next to “Allow wireless clients”.

    Fill in the Airport ID’s of the soon to be remotes, you find the airport ID’s on the bottom of the airport it should be a string of 12 alphanumeric characters.

That are all the steps for the configuring the base station.

Configure the WDS remotes

For configuring the remotes, repeat steps 1 till 3 exactly as in configuring the WDS main station. Make sure you have all the wireless settings exactly the same, as for the WDS main station. Make sure you did not miss any setting and if you must choose a channel set it to 11, because otherwise the remote station can’t connect with the WDS main.

To finish the setup, go to the WDS tab and choose for “WDS remote” in the drop down next to “WDS Mode”. Select the checkbox next to “Allow wireless clients” and fill in the Airport ID of the “WDS main”, update and test.

Repeat the steps for the airport remote for as many times you need it. You should now be able to use the network and if you activated airplay under “Music” you should be able to play music through every airport with boxes or a headphone connected.

A last piece of advice, if you configured a airport and it doesn’t connect or shows up, put in a ethernet cable so that you can access it again. This will save you a lot of time, because the only other option is hard resetting the airport.


#iThankSteve

This image on the homepage of Apple.comsays it all.

If you look at name apple gave the image, it gives you a very clear hint at how they see their founder. A hero, he was and still is one of my personal heroes.

But I will not mourn, I will honor his life as he did himself. Watch his commencement speech: “How to live before you die”


Logitech Magic

Yesterday, I got invited to the logitech magic event in Belgium together with some other bloggers. We rode out to Arquennes about 30 minutes from Brussels in Henegouwen. On arrival we were greeted with a glass of champagne and a short explanation of @wimwauters.

We got a tour around all the different products and in the mean time, there was a contest organized. I saw some nice products, but the most are not suited for me, because I have a fondness of the keyboards and mice/trackpads from Apple. The keys are just nicer from apple then any other keyboard I have used. However the accessoires for the ipad were very interesting, sadly enough the most interesting ones, like the keyboard cover are not suited for my iPad 1. But I can understand why a company developing products for Apple lines, are developing for the current versions alone.

The contest had a pretty interesting take, because Logitech and Hill and Knowlton anticipated that we would cheat. :-) So they had a guess question included, which was how many tweets with the logitechmagic tag would be posted between 20 and 22h during the evening. As everybody was working together on finding the answers to the questions this actually was the only relevant question to receive the prices.

The range of prices was impressive, there was a surround system with a value of 350 euro to mice of 30 euro. But at least everybody got a price. I managed to get a set of Logitech 600vi in-ear phones. I’m currently testing them and I have to say the are amazingly great. These earphones are from the ultimate ear line, which is the same product line where a lot of professional musician are wearing headphones from during their concerts. The pair Sara and I got have a price value of 109 euro, which for me is very steep. That price means I would have never bought them myself, because I have a very bad track record with headphones. They tend to lay around and get tangled, ripped, get loose connections and so on.

These seem very nicely and sturdy designed, so we’ll see how they handle my abuse in the long run. The sound experience is quite impressive. I get a wide range of tones without any distortion or scrambling. The nice part is that there is a whole range of foam and plastic tips so you can choose the ones that fit your ear very nicely. I have a rather small ear channel and most tips don’t fit my ears, but the ones with the logitech ear phones actually fit my ear quite comfortable. I’m wearing them already several hours in a row, without getting any problems with having them falling out of my ear or without any discomfort. So my initial experience with these in-ear phones is very positive. So thanks a lot Logitech for a quite expensive goodie of good quality.


The end of an era: Steve Jobs

As a huge Apple fanboy, it’s a very sad day for me. Steve Jobs just announced his resignation as a CEO of Apple inc. Below you find the most significant part from his resignation letter:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

Steve Jobs – Resignation Letter august 24, 2011

We all know that Steve’s health was on a bad streak, starting with his pancreas cancer in 2006, his liver transplant in 2009 and the indefinite leave of absence due to health issues. Every keynote we saw a sleeker and sleeker Steve at this rate, he would be no more than a skeleton by the release of the iPhone 6. But I hoped that Steve would recover and kick some more butt in the years to come. Sadly that won’t be true anymore. Let’s just hope, that Steve can now focus on his health a bit more.

Why do I say, the end of an era? A look at his track record, which reads like a good novel and is a string of successes, says it all. The story starts in 1976 with the release of the Apple I, a computer built in a garage by 2 very young guys, dreaming that one day they could earn a profit from it. Little would they know that was the beginning of a dream come true. Although Wozniak left Apple and Jobs was fired in the nineties and hired back afterwards, in which time he founded, build and make Pixar huge. Now Apple not only has produced great products, but it has also become the biggest company in the world.

With Jobs now resigning as CEO I still believe in Apple and they will keep on producing great products, but there won’t be anymore iconic black turtle necks, no more casual “There’s one more thing” to drop a bomb on a market. I fear that the cult of mac, will no longer exist, it has lost it leader. Apple will probably become a dull company that still makes great products, but doesn’t have me sitting in suspense during a keynote what they will announce.

Off course Jobs is not without fault, I’m the first to admit it, but he is kind of a hero for me. Creating a company from scratch and making it this big, but still maintaining the suspense when announcing something new. There is no other company that I know of where one man had such an impact on the development, announcement and sales of a product that nobody needed before it was announced. It also takes a great man, to resign due to health reasons from the company you built from the ground up.

I hope that one day, I can look back at my life and say I made an impact, as did Steve Jobs, my personal hero business wise. It doesn’t has to be as significant as Steve’s impact, but I would like to know that I have done well according to my expectations.

So hereby I salute you, Steve, you are a great man and leader. Take care.