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Plustek churns out a pretty crazy number of scanners in any given year, with the MobileOffice AD450 portable scanner being a prime example. The AD450 is a compact, duplex, color scanner with several tricks up its sleeve. 

plustek_box.pngFirst, it offers ADF (automatic document feed) for up to 20 sheets.  That's rare in a portable scanner.

Second, it can be powered off either a standard wall wart or two USB cables (attached to powered USB ports on the host machine).  That's also rare, yet amazingly handy and practical.

Third, it offers a variety of scanning features, including the ability to scan business cards and credit cards via a pass-thru slot in the back -- no need to open the automatic document feeder!

Here's the contents of the box:  bag, scanner, software & manuals, 2 USB cables (one A>B and one A>power), and a power wart.

plustek_contents.pngplustek_case.pngThe bag is actually pretty nice. It's just a zippered nylon material, but it holds all the important bits in a no-nonsense fashion and adds some (minimal) padding. The handle is fairly substantial, too, which is good because the AD450 isn't exactly lightweight (Plustek's specs claims it's just under 3 lbs...but it honestly feels like more).

This video, produced by Plustek provides a lot of the visual overview and hawt scanning action, so I'll continue below with my experience using the AD450 and overall impressions.

The installation instructions are not particularly helpful.  While the "manual" that came with the AD450 is 124 pages long, each language only gets 11 pages, which barely covers setup and the minimal amount of button description.  Playing with the software that came with the AD450 is the only way to actually get familiar with how things work. 

However, as with any electronics sourced from abroad, you have the opportunity for some interesting translations into English.  For example, in the setup software for the AD450 is this warning: "Your system is lack of the scanner calibration data required for ADF scanning. You are strongly recommended to calibrate the scanner now."

Speaking of software, the AD450 comes with five components:  a button profile configurator (more on this below), an unbranded business card management utility, an unbranded scanning utility, and a couple of document & image management apps (from Newsoft).  All in all, the included apps aren't spectacular, but likely adequate for most needs. 

plustek2.pngThe button configuration utility was pretty full-featured and very similar to the app that came with the last Plustek scanner I reviewed.  However, unlike that D28, the AD450 only offers a choice of three scanning modes accessible from the unit itself:  PDF, BCR (business card reader), and Scan (general purpose).  For most uses, especially mobile ones, I can imagine three profiles being enough.  But, it would be nice to switch between some common settings, such as simplex/duplex and color/grayscale/mono, without having to dive into the software to change it...and then change it back later.

plustek3.pngThe configurator lets you set up several different profiles linked to combinations of physical buttons and content type, although I didn't see where I could let the scanner decide automatically what kind of content it was scanning.

plustek4.pngOne app that actually did impress me was the included business card manager (below).  It seemed highly accurate at recognizing and cataloging various bits of info off the cards I scanned; I only had to correct one thing on about a dozen cards. 

plustek_bcr.pngScanning performance was pretty good.  To scan a duplex 8-1/2" x 11" sheet to grayscale at 200 dpi took just 12 seconds.  Scanning a business card using the default settings (duplex color, 300 dpi) took 14 seconds.  Scanning a photo at max res (600 dpi) duplex color took a whopping 1 minute and 3 seconds, so I definitely would not recommend this to archive your boxes of old photos (get a fast, stationary scanner for that).

Scan quality was fine.  For the most part, this is going to be scanning business documents, so it doesn't need to have the best quality image production.  Here are some examples.

First, a scan of a 4x6 photo of my daughter at Halloween.  This was printed at home, so the visible artifacting in the full-sized image (25 MB) is in the original photo.

plustek_sam-t.pngHere's part of a business card that had a misfeed evident in part of the image.  This had to be rescanned for the business card software to read everything properly.  I only had one misfeed, so it wasn't a regular issue.

plustek_card.pngIn conclusion, the AD450 is a highly functional portable duplex scanner with several features uncommon for its class.  Street prices run from the low $200's and up, so it's not exactly the cheapest scanner, but it may be the least expensive portable duplex scanner with a whole lot of nifty built in.

Barack Obama came to Cincinnati on Thursday, October 9th and visited one of our city's most attractive places...Ault Park. On an immaculate Fall day, a crowd of roughly 15,000 people waited, some over 4 hours, to hear this future US President speak. Below are some of the nearly 400 photographs I took at the event.

A Cincinnati Enquirer story gives more details about the rally.

A crowd of about 15,000 on hand.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland revs up the crowd.

Obama takes the stage.

lifespoke-logo.gifA week-and-a-half ago, I spent all weekend (well, about 34 hours of it) in a habitrail of meeting rooms with about 100 other people trying to do something pretty incredible: invent, build, and launch a new Internet startup in less than three days.

The event, InOneWeekend 2008, was the inaugural entrepreneurial exercise by this new Cincinnati organization, which hopes to jump-start new-venture creation in the technology-based services space (i.e., dot-coms).

After lots of thinking and working and coding and sweating (not to mention eating fast food and swilling highly caffeinated beverages), our concept was outlined and mocked up to a degree that we thought the world should be invited to share in its evolution from beta concept to fully operational service.

I, er, we give you...LifeSpoke.

Go the link and check it won't hurt, I promise.

LifeSpoke is, and soon will be more of, a place to save, organize, and share all your personal memorabilia and life's memories (assuming they come in handy digital format, of course). With an innovative, patent-pending interface (that we're not quite ready to share yet) and a family-oriented content model (that includes loads of privacy, security, and convenience), we're pretty stoked at the idea that moms, dads, kids, grandparents, and close friends will finally have a place to share their intimate memories and most precious media in a rich new environment.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Actually, you're thinking "I'm hungry...I wonder what's in the fridge." Hey, focus...there's just a little more to read here. You were also thinking "But aren't there a bazillion other media-sharing websites out there, like YouTube, most with sharing features?" To that I say of course! But LifeSpoke is different and will be the best solution for families and close-knit groups of friends to share their memories. While those other sites are great for stuff like watching someone's dog ride a skateboard or having anonymous 15-year-olds "friend" you, LifeSpoke focuses on the relationships in your life that mean the most.

So...go sign up for one of the limited beta invitations at and join us as we ride this idea to wherever it takes us. Should be a fun trip.

If you're interested in reading more about the InOneWeekend adventure we had, check out these stories:
Official LifeSpoke press release (
Cincinnati Business Courier article (

I was going through my phone's photos and uncovered a few that I meant to post but just never got around to it. So here they are:

What time is it?
Time to get a new clock.

In the absence of correct punctuation, maximize redundancy.
Pigeon Forge, TN (shocking, I know)

When Mother Nature just isn't enough

Best "mind your child" sign ever
The Blue Manatee bookstore, Oakley Square (Cincinnati, OH)

Recently retouched...looks OK as B&W, I think.


iphoto_unhappy.jpgA few months ago, I upgraded our family room's HTPC by replacing the old Shuttle box with a nice Intel-powered Mac Mini. So far, nearly everything has been hunky dory. Front Row pretty much works as advertised, and that's the computer's main use.

But one sore point with me has been an inability to wrangle iPhoto to display my photos I have on an external drive attached to the Mac so that we can view them through Front Row (which only talks to iPhoto for photo-viewing purposes).

Basically, what I want iPhoto to do is simply index and display photos stored on an external hard drive, in much the same fashion that iTunes handles MP3 files stored externally. You see, I keep all my "original" photos on a machine elsewhere on our network -- the files on the Mini's external drive are merely copies, updated as needed via network backup. So, when I add some new photos to the collection, all I want iPhoto to do is realize I've done so and make the new folder available via Front Row. Isn't that easy?

Yet there's apparently no way to do that. iPhoto wants to be the sole photo-management app and really makes it difficult to interact with photos that aren't "imported" directly through it. In that sense, iPhoto is really an overly egocentric, yet very lame, program.

Anybody have a suggestion as to how to view our photos via Front Row? Anyone? Bueller?

I came across this photo and found it very curious.


What do you think it is? A close-up of a hairy guy with bad skin? To find out, click the "continue reading" link...


Here are 4 more pairs of photos taken recently with the Treo 600 (top) and Treo 650 (bottom):

Two things are obvious:
1) Focus and resolution (not in terms of pixels, but in distinguishing detail) is generally better on the Treo 650 (the blurriness on the one shot is likely due to me -- it was cold and my hand was freezing). It seems that the JPG compression is higher on the 600, which may explain part of this.
2) Saturation and contrast are much higher on the 600 (too high, IMO) than the 650, which may be a tad low. Why don't they add settings in software for this stuff just like they do on $59 digital cameras?

Also, take a look at another website ( that has some good Treo 600/650 comparison shots.


"Warning: Geek Works Here"

This is the desk of my colleague, Scott Sampson at BYU. Scott takes his
tech very seriously (e.g., check out SNewMail)

Sorry we can't help, but check out our bitchin' WordArt while you're getting mugged/burning alive/having a heart-attack.

I found this photo today and it just cries out for some funny caption/quote/whatever, so leave a comment with your best shot.



As promised, a big hello to ya. :-)


Saw this in the Photos section of Weather Underground