No New iPhone in June?

Today the tech blogsand twittersphere lit up with news that while there will be a keynote address at WWDC in June, there will not be any new hardware announced. the event will focus on iOS and OSX, only. This is a significant departure from the annual summer announcement of a new iPhone.

Of course, if the rumors are true, there will be a lot of new upgrades to the iOS and OSX. Things like cloud based content streaming from a free Mobile Me account? Yes, please.

That leaves the question, when will a new iPhone be announced? A TechCrunch article says this Fall.

I can see this. Verizon iPhone users just got their new phone, and a new version available 6-8 months later might leave a bit of a bad taste. Plus, if TechCrunch is right, and the new iPhone 5 can use a more robust LTE network, that would be worth a delay. Releasing one just in time for the Christmas shopping season could hurt Apple’s competition, if they rely on seasonal sales to drive profit.


Thanks, Netflix… I Guess…

I saw on twitter last night, and awoke this morning to find an email from Netflix offering compensation for the outage subscribers experienced the other night. I was a bit frustrated when I couldn’t stream my queue, but quickly turned to Airplay and watched video I owned instead of subscribed to.

Here was the email:

Yes that’s right, Netflix has offered a generous 3% of what their streaming only service costs per month. For you math whizs out there, that’s $0.24. Twenty-four cents.

I’m not really sure what the motive here is. I don’t need a quarter back. Is this intended to show me how little I pay for the service? Is it a well intentioned gesture of apology and good will?

If I assume that they gave this to every subscriber, which is a big assumption, that means they spent about $5 million.

The big question is why did the interruption happen? What failed? The email is silent on that, and there have been no explanations. I wonder if the $5 million wouldn’t have been better spent on what ever the issue was.

Giving me a quarter doesn’t impress me. A simple apology would have been just as effective. I’ll take the money, but I would rather know that they are improving on whatever broke.

Placing a Facebook Ad

A lot of ministries are starting to use Facebook to engage in conversation with people. It’s a great way for members of your congregation to engage. I was recently at a conference in a roundtable discussion, and of the people at the table, every single ministry had a social media presence, and was using Facebook.

I was the only person from a represented organization that had ever purchased a Facebook advertisement.

I believe that right now social media ads, in particular Facebook ads, are some of the best exposure for the dollar available. While this varies from market to market, the ratio should be very similar. In Orlando, using traditional media, it would cost us $5000-6000 to hit a million impressions. And that number is an educated guess. One ad we ran last year hit a million impressions for $300. Now, just like any advertising, you need to formulate it to fit your audience and medium.

I am going to walk you through how we placed an ad to promote a special TV broadcast. The process is simple. The costs will vary based on a lot of factors, but with just a couple hundred dollars you can see some amazing results. The ad that we placed is basically a billboard type of ad. We are specifically advertising a Facebook event, that drives people to watch a local broadcast. We do not want or need a lot of people to say they are attending. The advertisement gives all the information, so we do not need people to click through. When setting up the event, we hid the number of people attending from the public. (If we are not pushing to RSVP, we don’t want the impression that not very many are planning to watch, so we hid that number.)

Bearing that in mind, we don’t want to pay per impression, we want to pay per click. That means that the cost of each person clicking will be higher, but we will get a much higher number of impressions. Since an impression alone can convey all the information, this is a better way to stretch the budget on Facebook. Not every ad can do this.

First, you need whatever you want the ad to direct people toward posted on Facebook. It can simply be your Facebook page or an event you want to advertise. In our case this was an event. Then just click one of those links to the Facebook ad creation page that pop up all over. there’s normally always one on the right hand side, by an ad from someone else. It simply says “Create an Ad”.

The page looks like this (As of March 2011. Things could change, but the basic process should be similar.):
Ad 1

There several field to fill out. The top drop down menu lists everything you can advertise. This one has the broadcast event we created selected. Also on that list was every page I am an admin for, and any other events we might have coming up.

Below that, you can have the ad send people to various sections of your page, like the wall. Unless you have a specific need, I’d stay with the default landing site.

Next, title the ad campaign something you will remember. Every add you place will have a specific title, so you can identify it when you go to review the results. Then fill in the text portion of the ad. You can see the preview window below. The space isn’t quite as short as twitter, but you don’t have a paragraph. Finally, upload an image. We chose the heart logo from the Love Orlando. We are building that brand, and wanted to associate the broadcast with this image. Click the button at the bottom, and you are on to the next section.

ad 2

This is where You decide who is going to see the ad. Hopefully, you know what you want before you ever create the ad. Because of the wealth of information people have freely given Facebook, you can be extremely selective abut who can see your advertisement.

First up is geographic location. This is a local ad, so we selected Orlando, and cities within 25 miles. That allows us to hit most of the viewing area of the broadcast.

Next is age range. For this ad we wanted every adult to see it, so that’s huge. But you can dial it back to just one year if you want. (Got an event for seniors in High School?) You can also type in keywords for interests. If you are advertising a concert, you can type music or concerts, and narrow your audience by that demographic.

Finally is a section about connection on Facebook. You can advertise to any group you are a part of, or exclude any group you are a part of. For example, when running our Singing Christmas Trees ads w knew that people who are attached to our church Facebook site would already be exposed to marketing for the event, so we did not want to spend our money on them. We excluded them. For this ad, we excluded people who already liked Love Orlando or the church, because we can put information in their news feed for free when we post about the broadcast.

As you can see that leaves a target audience of over 987,000. The more you define your audience, the smaller that number gets.

ad 3

Next comes pricing. Set your currency and time zone. The name is the same as what you put in before. Next set your budget. You can set a daily budget, or a lifetime budget. For us, we wanted to spend about $300. Then set your schedule. You can select an allotted time, or set your ad to run continuously. We scheduled the ad to stop right at the start of the broadcast event.

Now you are ready to “bid’ for your ad. You can pay for impressions or pay for clicks. Impressions are cheaper, but i ave found that we can get a lot more impressions if we pay per click. I have not yet found a situation where paying for impressions makes more sense that paying for clicks. Then you put in your max bid.

There is a range of suggested bid amounts to the right. I’d suggest putting your bid in the middle to upper end of that range. This range fluctuates. I came back into this ad, saw that the range had shifted and adjusted our bid up to $3.00. Remember that you are bidding on clicks, not impressions. And this is your max bid. When you ad comes up, the higher bid wins. My cost per click on this ad so far has been a little over a dollar, even though my max bid is $3.00. At the time I am writing this I have spent $95 for over 400,000 impressions.

Click review ad, and you’re almost done.

ad 4

It isn’t always right. As you can see, I didn’t bid $0.00 per click. If things look right, place your order. As you place the order you will enter your payment information. That will take you to your campaign report page.

ad 5

At this point your ad is scheduled, but it isn’t running, even if you wanted an immediate start. Every ad is reviewed. Once it passes muster, it’s running. This page can give you up to date stats on your campaign.

To get back to this page, simply click the Ads and Pages link on your main profile page, below your groups. Facebook will charge you periodically throughout the lifetime of the ad.

Placing an ad on Facebook is pretty easy. It allows for an insane amount of targeting, and results in a very cost effective marketing campaign. When added to a traditional media buy, your campaigns be very effective.

God Shatters Expectations: Kairos Moments and $5.6 Million

This last weekend was a kairos moment at church. I think it’s another one of those days we will look back on as a clear memory of a time when God showed up.

It all started when the pastor led us to devote 2011 as a year devoted to developing a Passion of God. As a part of heading into the second series of the year, we asked author and speaker Bruce Wilkinson to come for a weekend. As he was working on his message, he saw a special on 60 Minutes about a new kind of homelessness in Central Florida. He was moved.

The next week he spoke with our pastor and asked if he could talk about this issue, and call our people toward intimacy with God through sacrificial giving. He asked what our dream amount would be. Could we trust God to lead his people to give a million dollars?

You have to know Central Florida to know how big of a deal this was. 11% unemployment. Many of the people in our congregation have taken large pay cuts. To ask them to give that much over and about their budget giving… well… it would take a movement of God.

During the weekend, Wilkinson called this a kairos moment. This was an opportunity. We, as a church body, had been increasing our involvement in local mission opportunities. This year we launched Love Orlando and had started doing some things under that banner. But this news report brought to light a new level of homelessness. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of children going to bed hungry in hotels across Central Florida.

I heard about the million dollar goal. The skeptic in me wanted to laugh it off, but the faithfulness in me said, no, we can do this. God can move our people to do it. So I went into the weekend expecting to see a miracle.

At the end of the Saturday service, which had a little over 1/10 of our total attendance, Wilkinson began the offering. As the envelopes were handed in, he kept a running total. I sat in the control room watching this unfold. I was amazed as number after number was called out. $10,000. $30,000. $70,000.

The grand total of the night was $506,000. We still had the next two services, where the vast majority of our congregation would attend. The next morning I told someone that I thought we would surpass $3 million that day. I was amazed. God was going to work a miracle in our presence. People in very hard financial times were going to respond to the call.

Of course, God had bigger plans. After the end of the 9:00 service we had already passed $3 million. By the end of the last service we had taken in gifts and pledges of $5.6 million.

Oh, me of little faith. I thought I was stretching to trust that $1 million would be given. God is so much bigger than my faith. So much bigger than my expectations.

Now we are putting plans together to use these funds to really help some people. And we have been very busy with news requests. When God moves, many times our small plans are overwhelmed.

Quick Edits: In Camera Effects for Still Photography

I have been using DSLRs for a few years now, but never really played around with the internal effects. In some of the cameras I had they were pretty limited. Today I spent a few minutes playing with some in the Pentax K-x. It boasts eight in camera effects: Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Extract Color, Soft, Star Burst, Fish Eye, and a custom filter. Some are fairly usefulness. The fish eye filter is a basic distortion filter, and any photo editor can do more. The Toy Camera and retro filters are like the filters you can find in some popular smart phone apps.

One effect could save you quite a bit of time in Post Processing; extract color.

On the left you see the basic snap shot. Nothing fancy, just a lot of colors. On the right you see the color blue has been extracted. There are six different colors to choose from (Red, Magenta, Blue, Cyan, Green, Yellow) with 5 levels of sensitivity.

If you are looking for this kind of effect, using the in camera filters may work for you, and save you some time. While not all of the in camera effects are useful, they are getting better. With the popularity of smart phone apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram, people will continue to want to easily add interesting looks to their pictures. We may continue to see improvements in the in camera effects available in new models.

The Most Unfair Comparison: Canon 7D + L Series 24-70 vs Pentax K-x + Kit Lens

I had a chance to play around, and decided to do the most unfair comparison ever between DSLRs. I own a Pentax K-x with several lenses that I use around the house. It’s a great small DSLR. It cost me $385 used with the DAL 18-55mm kit lens. For work we just got a Canon 7D with a 24-70mm f2.8 L series lens. The L series lenses are some of the best available for the Canon EOS system.

The Canon system, on sale, cost $2700 for the body and lens. That’s seven times more than my K-x with kit lens cost me. There is no way my kit can take a better picture than the 7D with that lens. The Pentax kit lens is nowhere the quality of the L series glass. Don’t get me wrong, Pentax makes a really good kit lens, but there is a reason you can buy one for 1/20 the cost of the L series. Used appropriately, the 7D with that lens will take amazing pictures. But, what if someone just grabbed it and snapped shots in automatic? How does it perform then?

I decided to have some fun. I put both cameras in full program mode. Just let the bodies do what they automatically did. I shot a couple pictures of this fake plastic flower thing in my house.

First up the Pentax. Generally, not a horrible picture. At 55mm, ISO was up at 3200, which is a bit high, but necessary in the low light indoors with the slower lens at f5.6. The K-x does a great job at noise reduction in JPGs.

Next, the 7D. There’s no doubt that the f2.8’s narrower DOF drives focus to the red flowers. At 70mm the closer framing is nicer. Generally, this is a much better image. I could argue that moving the Pentax closer to the flowers would fix some of the framing issues, but the slower f5.6 cannot reproduce the narrower DOF. The 7D also did not have a lot of noise at 3200.

As expected the 7D with L series glass outperforms the K-x with kit lens in automatic program mode. You can get better images from both cameras using different settings in different situations, but both give usable pictures in the most basic mode. The K-x is designed for entry level photography, while the 7D is more akin to the higher level bodies from Pentax like the K5. There is no real comparison of the two lenses. The kit lens from Pentax is great, but it’s not the best lens ever made. The 24-70mm L series is one of the best EOS lenses available. If it didn’t produce a better image than the Pentax DAL 18-55mm I would be shocked.

Plastic HD Video: Pentax K-x and the DA 35mm f2.4

I just got the “Plastic Wonder”, the DA 35mm f2.4 prime from Pentax. This is one of their inexpensive primes. It’s very much like the DAL lenses, so much so I’m surprised there isn’t an “L” in the model. As much of the lens as possible is made of plastic. Just the glass, contacts and focus mechanism. Even so, the images this lens can produce helps make it one of the best dollar for dollar buys in the Pentax line up.

The K-x can shoot 24p 720p video, but it lacks a lot of control many other video capable DSLRs have. One of the things I was keen to do was to try the new lens with video. I shot a few clips of my kids fish. I took the AVI files into Final Cut, threw on some silly sound effect, and desaturated the clips just a bit.

At f2.4 the DOF is razor thin, and I need more practice tracking focus but it’s not bad for a $500 HD rig.

True HDR for iPhone

Before I got my iPhone 4 I downloaded the true HDR app for my 3GS. It’s normally about a dollar, and gives you a decent amount of control on shooting HDR photos with your iPhone/iPod Touch. It will work with any iPhone that has a camera.

Above is a picture shot with the camera of the 3GS. No processing, just the image.

This is an image from the same location shot with True HDR. This was done with the auto capture mode, but you can shoot images with more control if you want.

Both were taken on the same rainy day in the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN. As you can see, the HDR image doesn’t have the blown out sky. It works great for landscapes.

In fact, it’s almost only good for wide shots. The nature of HDR means that you cannot have movement between the shots. The pictures won’t merge correctly if you do.

But, for the right kind of shots, True HDR gives you more control than the native HDR function on the iPhone 4, and allows 3GS uses and iPod Touch users to shoot high dynamic range pictures.

Why I bought an iPhone 4 After the iPad 2 Announcement

The same day that the iPad was announced, i went out and bought an iPhone 4.

I know what you are thinking, “Why would you do that? You know the iPhone 5 is just around the corner. Now you cannot upgrade. What are you thinking?”

I bought an iPhone 4 because of the market for used iPhones.

I, like many, have two phone lines. My line was up for an upgrade, and my wife’s line will be ready in just a few months. She does not care about her phone. When I upgraded I sold my iPhone 3GS for over $300. The 3Gs would drop in value when the iPhone 5 was announced, so I got top dollar by selling now. I cleared about $100 after everything was done. (Yes, I know I will spend more than that in a contract with AT&T, but I would spend that anyway.)

Once my wife’s line is ready to upgrade we can do some wheeling. I will get another basic phone for less than $100 with no contract, so she can get an upgrade, too. Then I will use her hardware discount to upgrade to the iPhone 5. Then sell my iPhone 4. Right now they are going for well over $400 without contract. I estimate they will still be hitting over $350 after the iPhone 5 comes out.

I should clear at least $50, when it’s all done, and both my wife and I will have new phones. If you can brave the world of eBay to sell your iPhones, you can fund your upgrades to the latest hardware.

The iPad 2: Was I Close and Will I Buy It?

Back in the middle of January I joined the speculation about what the new iPad 2 would be.

I was right about the outside of the iPad. Your old case won’t fit. It’s thinner than the iPhone 4, and a little lighter.

I was wrong about the higher resolution display. Maybe next time. But there is a better graphics package.

Both cameras appeared. The rear one turned out to be the same as the one in the iPod Touch. Not great, but good for 720p video and Facetime.

iOS 4.3 will bring mobile hotspot, but only to the iPhone. But the Airplay features are going to be amazing.

Generally, the iPad 2 was a decent upgrade. Double the processing speed, and 9 times the graphic power. The addition of cameras and Facetime rounds out the Apple line. These should help keep Apple ahead of the pack.

But, I won’t be getting one, soon anyway. I like the upgrades, but my current iPad is serving my needs just fine. I wish that the new iMovie would run on it, but I can always use my laptop for editing. It’s a ice upgrade, and once they come out and the reviews come in, I could be convinced, but for now I will wait a while.