Five iPhone Audio Accessories
Prices: $8 – $20
Special thanks to John “Nemo” Nemerovski, who assisted on this review.
iPhone Headphone Jack Adapter
For a small amount of money you can buy this small adapter that opens your iPhone’s non-standard recessed jack to an enormous quantity of non-iPhone headphones, earphones, and earbuds. If you are happy with the earphones that ship with the iPhone, or if you already own special-plug compatible headphones, you won’t need this adapter. But if you own or want to buy a set of incompatible headphones, you’ll need an adapter such as this one. It’s flexible, almost weightless, with a good fit at each end. This product is excellent value for a simple solution. A slightly thicker cable would make it more robust.
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Price: $24.95 ($19.95 through end of April), discounts for multiple licenses applied at checkout
As useful as Apple’s .Mac sync services can be for families and small workgroups, there are a number of issues with its iCal synchronization that have kept me on the lookout for viable alternatives. My specific concerns with .Mac revolve around the following:
• Users on the same .Mac account cannot share some calendars while keeping others private; with .Mac it’s all or nothing Continue reading »
• The .Mac service is prone to service outages that, depending on your perspective, range from the occasional to the all-too-frequent
• For many OS X 10.5 (Leopard) users, particularly those in a mixed environment of OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and Leopard machines, the problems with .Mac calendar synchronization are legion (see info and possible solutions here)
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invisibleSHIELD for MacBook Pro full body version
Company: Zagg, Inc.
After my laudatory review of the BodyGuardz protective film for iPhone, the Weeks Division of MyMac Labs received an email requesting a review from a competing film manufacturer, Zagg, Inc. requesting a MyMac.com evaluation of their invisibleSHIELD film product. I was curious to see what other film products were like, so a MacBook Pro 15″ full body kit was shipped posthaste to our Tucson laboratory.
At first glance, the invisibleSHIELD film appears similar to the BodyGuardz film, but at 2 millimeters thick, it’s thicker than the iPhone BodyGuardz film.
Zagg says that invisibleSHIELD is made of the same anti-erosion plastic that’s used to protect helicopter blades and the leading edges of propellors. Be that as it may, my first impression was that it looks and feels very strong. Zagg has videos of the material being tortured on their Web site.
Macs All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies, 7 Books in 1
by Wallace Wang
Wiley / Dummies Press
ISBN 978-0-470-16957-5, 790 pages
$29.99 US, $32.99 CN, £19.99 UK
At pages per dollar, euro, pound, ruble, or yen, this book is a serious contender. Production values and graphics are of surprisingly good quality for a mass market text printed on budget paper stock. No expense was spared on providing tons of useful info on everything Macintosh. Do you know how to delete Safari bookmarks? Perhaps you do, but plenty of people don’t, and they’ll be glad to learn how on page 271 (or Book Three, Chapter One, if you’re keeping score). Two hundred pages later, you can immerse yourself in learning how to arrange Garage Band tracks by region. Two hundred pages after that, you can finally get the drift of working with iCal events. Wowzer. Every !! beginner-to-intermediate Macintosh user should pick up Macs All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies, 7 Books in 1 and memorize each of its over seven hundred pages of exceptionally valuable material. Hold all calls: I’m going to plow through this book first, before attacking the others in our capsule coverage below.
The Apple TV Pocket Guide, 2nd Edition
by Jeff Carlson
ISBN 978-0-321-56315-6, 188 pages
$9.99 US, $10.99 CN, £6.99 UK
I’m not an Apple TV person, but many of our MyMac staff, readers, and podcast listeners are. None of my computer tutorial clients or Tucson Mac User Group members have asked me to help with an Apple TV, but they will begin to do so soon enough. I’ll stick The Apple TV Pocket Guide, 2nd Edition into my gadget bag and read a few pages every so often to become familiar with Apple TV’s hardware, software, and interface. There is a lot of information between the covers, at a very affordable price. If anybody needs to “Rip television episodes from DVD,” page 158 in this book is a good place to start. And it’s important that this second edition covers the new features such as movie rentals and Flickr integration. Book Bytes is a long time fan of author Jeff Carlson. His writing, screen shots, and tips are tops year after year, book after book. At pennies per page, The Apple TV Pocket Guide, 2nd Edition looks like a winner.
Wikipedia The Missing Manual
by John Broughton
O’Reilly / Pogue Press
ISBN 978-0-596-51516-4, 477 pages
$29.99 US, $29.99 CN
I use Wikipedia every day to acquire information, but I haven’t a clue what requires 477 pages to understand it in depth. Oh! Most of this book is dedicated to creating, posting, and editing Wikipedia entries, which I have not yet attempted. You may be an expert Wikipedia content creator, but I am not. I’m intimidated by all the potential pitfalls of getting my articles wrong, and suffering the consequences. Before I take the plunge, I’ll study Wikipedia The Missing Manual until I’m comfortable with Wikipedia’s procedures and protocols. I’m going to begin at the end of this exhaustive book, by immersing myself in its three appendices: “A Tour of the Wikipedia Page,” “Reader’s Guide to Wikipedia,” and “Learning More.” Wish me luck.
Final Cut Pro 6 For Digital Video Editors Only
by Lonzell Watson
ISBN 978-0-470-22450-2, 309 pages plus companion DVD
$39.99 US, $47.99 CN
If ever there was a topic that required my in-depth study, this is it. What I don’t know about Final Cut Pro will fill an entire Amazon.com warehouse. At the rear of Final Cut Pro 6 For Digital Video Editors Only is a DVD with video and sound clips, plus examples of completed projects. Use them! Study them! Get smarter and more productive with your video editing. The author is head honcho at GeniusDV.com, which looks like a very serious site. This title is beautifully produced, with page after page of large, colorful screen shots, tips, tutorials, and photos. I wish I knew enough to give the book a thorough evaluation and rating, because it appears to be a genuine gem. If you’re searching for a top tier video editing volume, I think your search is over.
Facebook The Missing Manual
by E. A. Vander Veer
O’Reilly / Pogue Press
ISBN 978-0-596-51769-4, 268 pages
$19.99 US, $19.99 CN
Tim and Guy were joking about Facebook on a recent MyMac Podcast, which reminded me that I don’t know Facebook from the World Book. I am not normally an active member of Internet communities, but I hear about them over and over. With Facebook The Missing Manual facing me from the PENDING shelf for MyMac’s books to be reviewed, I’ll spend some time with this title to see what all the fuss is about. Is Facebook just for kids, or is there anything there for geezers? This book is nicely designed with an attractive layout, so I’m willing to give it a brisk read through. If you are an active Facebooker who has not yet seen this volume, check it out.
The Non-Designer’s Design and Type Books, Deluxe Edition
by Robin Williams
ISBN 978-321-53405-7, 239 pages
$45 US, $52 CN, £32.99 UK
Robin Williams is one of MyMac’s favorite all-star writers. She brings common sense to confusing subjects, with design and typography at the top of her list, and ours. This single volume includes a combo update to two of her perennial top sellers: The Non-Designer’s Design Book and The Non-Designer’s Type Book. If what you don’t know about type and design is half as vast as what I don’t know, you’ll agree this duet between the covers is well worth the price. I’ve been studying and using Robin’s design-based books as long as I’ve been a Macintosher. She incorporates witty style and content that makes learning enjoyable from first page to last. Do you know the difference between monospaced and proportionally spaced figures? Or the best way to have a second page of stationary? These and hundreds of other wise tips are at your fingertips in The Non-Designer’s Design and Type Books, Deluxe Edition.
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Jeremy White, CEO and founder of CodeWeavers, drops by to chat about CrossOver Mac and CrossOver Games. Case-Mate is sponsoring a Contest this week! But you have to listen to the show to learn how to win. Pick your own prize! Plus, John Nemo, Lee Givens, Guy Serle, and Tim Robertson chat more about software bundle promotions, NBC on iTunes, Mac Clones, and much more.
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Jeremy White, CEO and founder of CodeWeavers, drops by to chat about CrossOver Mac and CrossOver Games. Case-Mate is sponsoring a Contest this week! But you have to listen to the show to learn how to win. Pick your own prize! Plus, John Nemo, Lee Givens,
The Digital Photography Companion
US $24.99 CAN $24.99
Who could have anticipated the almost rabid expansion of the imaging industry, and of cameras in particular, with the invention of digital photography? Digital cameras are everywhere, in cell phones and even in pens. They’re relatively cheap. And obviously can be made very small. Photography has become even more popular as the "every-man’s" art or hobby. Along with the proliferation of these imaging devices comes a glut of how-to books on the subject, second only in how-to information for the computer and it’s relevant software. Photography has become the back-pocket art-form of millions of snappers.
A lot of snappers are shooters who just want to take a snap-shot of something or someone who interests them at the moment, emailing shots, and either deleting them (the greatness of digital) or saving them for posterity. Nothing wrong with that. But some snappers become shooters interested in photography as an art-form. The Digital Photography Companion can be a very helpful guide for either type of shooter. Or any type, for that matter.
Derrick Story, author of this very handy guide, breaks down the walls of sophisticated camera-speak and tells the reader the what’s, how’s, when’s, and even the why’s with simplicity and common sense. The Digital Photography Companion, measuring a handy 8.5" X 5.5", is small enough to fit in a backpack or a large pocket. When a new camera buyer gets his first camera, buying this guide along with it would be a smart move. Derrick focuses in on the meat of subjects ranging from the cameras themselves to features to creative ideas. Even seasoned photographers can use the guide to check in once in a while to see if they’re on track for a certain kind of image in a given situation.
The first chapter of The Digital Photography Companion, What Is It, is basically a primer about what types of cameras there are available, and the features and benefits of the equipment. You’ll learn what all those buttons do, from diopter adjustments to shutter and aperture priority, and how to use them effectively. For the enthusiast this can be a handy check-list which can help save time and aggravation. Compact cameras, point and shoot, and DSLR cameras from popular manufactures, including Nikon, Canon, and Sony to mention a few, are discussed and compared.
Chapter Two, How Does it Work, will give you hands-on techniques in using all this equipment. Practical advice is priceless when it comes to taking photos because many times opportunities for certain images are few and far between: Lighting changes in seconds. Speeding cars go by in a flash. Fish can only soar out of water for a few seconds at a time, and elephants will stay still only so long before they decide to trample your sorry butt because you can’t decide on an f stop. As you can see, knowing what you’re doing before going out on a shoot can save not only time, but your life. Believe me when I tell you Derrick Story has covered most of the bases, simply. You’ll learn about flash and it’s many incarnations, focus lock, exposure, photo effects, and much much more. If you learn even most of what’s in Chapter Two you’ll be a better photographer than 90% of the shooters out there.
Then, in Chapter Three, How To Shoot Like a Pro, you’ll learn how to create. That is, use your knowledge to get the best shot in varied situations. Covered in this chapter are subjects like portraiture, kid shots, weddings, group shots, landscape, action, and even museum shots. He even goes into infra-red photography, fireworks capture, and underwater photography.
The next chapter, I’ve Taken Great Pictures, Now What, shows you how to send photos via the internet. prepare slide shows, convert still pictures into movies, recover photos from an erased memory card, and convert from color to black and white. This chapter also goes into photo management, which is very important if you want to keep track of all the images you’re going to have.
Chapter Five, Printing Made Easy, covers most of the basic printing techniques, and some more advanced work like calibrating your monitor. He talks about The Ten steps in Making a Beautiful Print. With today’s printers and software, making a really good print is a lot less problematic than it was just a few short years ago. Derrick will tell you about dedicated photo printers, and even how to shop for a desk-top photo printer. Check out his printer recommendations:
One of the great things about The Digital Photography Companion is the Appendix. Here, as Derrick Story tells us, is "A Quick-Reference Guide for a Variety of Camera Settings." That means we can look at the Lighting Situation on the left-hand side of the column and reference over to the right, under Recommended Exposure Compensation, to get practical guidance. Derrick includes tables for White Balance settings, Metering Modes, Camera Modes (shutter priority, manual, etc.), and Subject in relationship to ISO Speed, Aperture settings (f-stop) and shutter speeds. These Appendix present real-life photo-making situations, folks. Those of us who have been around cameras since the heyday of 35mm, taking pictures and fooling with all the o-rings and focusing rings and gobs of other things can bear witness to trying situations in lighting, and positioning, among the hundreds of other problems one may encounter in the field when conditions are less than ideal. It would have been wonderful for me if I could have had a Quick Reference Guide to help way back when. Now I do. And so can you.
If I was a new shooter, and I had a chance to leaf through this book I’d probably buy it. And even though I’ve been an enthusiast since 1969, that doesn’t that mean I can’t use this book. Nope. I’m going to use it. I can use all the help I can get. But new shooters will save themselves a lot of heartache and a long learning curve by simply following what Derrick has so systematically laid out for them.
The Digital Photography Companion is exactly what it’s supposed to be. A companion. Small enough to take along. And loaded with practical, on the spot guidance. There is a niche for this kind of publication. From cover to cover I recommend The Digital Photography Companion to those who are enthusiastic about photography and recognize the beauty of a fine photograph.
Targus 13.3″ radius Vertical Messenger
So you’ve gotten yourself a brand new Mac laptop. It’s a great investment, and a great purchase for those of you who have just switched to a Mac, are on the go or just looking to change from a desktop. Now what you have to consider is how are going to get around with your Mac laptop.
You can’t just schlep it around under your arm and it really wouldn’t be wise to just throw it into a briefcase. Consider a Targus Vertical Messenger case. Having recently purchased a MacBook, I wanted something that would protect my laptop and yet be presentable/fashionable to carry the MacBook around in. Targus’s radius Vertical Messenger is designed to fit the 13.3” MacBook and does so with protection and function in mind. Targus, a universally known producer of cases for laptops, has done a very nice job with the Radius Vertical Messenger case for the MacBook. Although the case will carry other laptops up to 13 inches by other manufacturers, it is especially touted for the MacBook.
As you can see below, the unit is sleek and functional. Unclasp the front cover and lift it up and you will see a see-through zippered storage area. Unzip the next zipper set and you will find another see-through storage area on the back of the flap and then the main storage are for your accessories on the facing section. Marked for your mouse, an iPod, MacBook power supply and other items, you’ll have enough storage for those must-take items in the Vertical Messenger. I used the storage slot for an iPod to carry USB thumb drives for removable storage on items I was working on at that particular time. There is even a key hook to secure your house/car keys inside under the flap.
Open up the zippered compartment (securable with a small luggage lock) on the top of the bag under the top flap and you will find a molded EVA padded area for your MacBook. The fit is snug and it won’t permit your MacBook to slide around and scrape up. Your MacBook would be protected bottom, sides and top. The zipper on the top of the enclosure looks as though it would scrape the MacBook, however I found no signs of scrapping or damage… it’s just a snug fit holding the laptop in place. Besides the shoulder strap for the bag, there is also a rubber-coated handle to carry the bag, just as you would any other bag. Oh, and on the back of the bag there is a slip in pouch for other items, small writing pads, airline boarding passes, etc.
I have given the bag a work out, putting it through the paces. It has traveled by car, with other items on top of it, on the rear seat floor, in the trunk and on the seat. It has flown and it has been carried by shoulder strap and by rubber-covered handle. It has been placed on desks, in drawers, slid under a bed in a hotel room (hey, you know that no one ever vacuums under those beds… how would they know that a laptop is there!?) The nice thing about the Vertical Messenger bag is that with a MacBook inside, unless someone looking at it knows that it’s a laptop bag, they wouldn’t take it for one. The comments that I’ve received on the bag were all extremely favorable and complementary. Score some big points here for fashion and function coming together in a reasonably priced product.
• Fits up to a 13” MacBook
• Water-resistant fabric
• Removable should strap
• Back slip-in pocket
• Weight- 2.2 pounds empty
• Custom storage pockets for necessary accessories
This case has handled everything that I’ve thrown at it, including handling and use factors. It has maintained its shape and form, protected my MacBook and done so with a design for care and function.
So to review:
Pro: Well-designed and functional laptop case that offers protection for your MacBook and does so with fashion and functionality in mind. Provides storage space for the necessary MacBook accessories and additional items, such as your iPod or other small items.
Cons: Not designed to carry the world around with you, if that’s what you’re looking for in a laptop case. The case carries that which is necessary to use your MacBook and just a tad bit more. Not really a con for most users, just a good to-know item.
Interview with: Christopher Lowe, CAE, VP of Sales and Marketing, Key Ovation-Goldtouch
Goldtouch for Mac Adjustable Keyboard (available in black or white)
Company: Key Ovation
MYMAC: What is the evolution of your company, and the specific history of the development of this Goldtouch Keyovation keyboard?
KEYOVATION: The increasing incidence rates of Repetitive Strain Injuries led the founders of Goldtouch Technologies (acquired by Key Ovation in 2004) to develop products designed to work with individual users, instead of requiring users to adjust to technology. This led to the famed Goldtouch keyboard which has developed into a mainstay on the market with its innovative design and adjustability.
Since 1998, the Goldtouch Adjustable Ergonomic Keyboard has been the preferred alternative keyboard for professional Ergonomists, Occupational Therapists, and Physical Therapists throughout the U.S. and abroad. And, it has remained so with very little change or redesign efforts since its release. The Goldtouch for Mac and the Goldtouch ErgoSecure 2.0 (with built-in smart card reader for FIPS-201 certification) are the most significant changes based upon the original Goldtouch design.
MYMAC: Who are your target customers for this unusual ergonomic product?
KEYOVATION: Most everyone is a candidate for use of the Goldtouch keyboard, but much of our demand has come from large corporations. Most of the Fortune 1000 and Fortune 10 companies utilize the Goldtouch as both a preventative device and as a rehabilitative tool to assist injured workers in reducing pain, remaining productive and reducing claims costs.
With the growing use of Apple products in the workplace, we are supporting more personal/home Mac users and seeing increased demand in the SOHO and SMB/EDU areas. Apple users tend to be more progressive and would see the benefits of preventative maintenance associated with ergonomically engineered products.
MYMAC: What is RSI and why should our readers be concerned with it?
KEYOVATION: RSI is a Repetitive Strain Injury. It can be caused by a number of activities that require repeated small movements, and most often affects computer or assembly line workers. It is a result of muscles remaining tense for an extended period of time and leaves the person with constant pain in the upper back, shoulders, wrists and hands. Treatment is really two-sided in that it cannot be healed solely by a physician—it requires the user to adjust his or her actions to prevent the return of such pain. Our products are designed to meet this need for adjustment.
MYMAC: How long should new users allow to become familiar with new key locations?
KEYOVATION: The answer is: it depends. We have found that very good typists tend to adjust within 1-2 days, but others who may not be as experienced, or are resistant to new things, can take a week or more. Everyone is different, and we have found that the biggest hurdle is people’s ability to adapt to change and make the psychological commitment to doing things a little differently than before.
Once a new Goldtouch user commits to taking the time, we find that they do not want to use any other keyboard. We just saw this in a recent study where 90% of the participants that received a Goldtouch keyboard did not want to try another alternative keyboard, nor did they want to go back to their old standard QWERTY after just 30 days of use. That was above and beyond what we had expected, and we were quite pleased, of course!
MYMAC: How many adjustment variations will it take until people find a comfortable and efficient way to use this GTKO keyboard’s split shape?
KEYOVATION: This is different for everyone. Some adjust right away; some take more time and variance to get to their “happy place.” Once comfortable with the position, however, it has been shown that the keyboard works more naturally with an individual’s body structure and will accommodate over 85% of the population (compared to about 15% with a standard keyboard) in a neutral typing position.
There is no real set number of adjustment variations it takes for people to get comfortable and we actually recommend adjustments on a regular basis, especially if using the keyboard for extended periods of time. Continual adjustments reduce stress and strain resulting from sitting in the same position for too long. The whole point of the Goldtouch keyboard is to make it your own.
MYMAC: Can people adjust their sitting and typing positions to achieve optimum benefit without needing to buy a special keyboard?
KEYOVATION: Adjusting sitting and typing positions are a good start; however, a standard keyboard still requires the unnatural placement of the hands and wrists and those actions, combined with extensive mousing activity, can really put a great amount of stress on muscles, tendons and nerves.
MYMAC: How did you decide which keys to include and where to place them, and which keys to omit?
KEYOVATION: We felt it was necessary to stay close to the standard QWERTY layout to minimize the learning curve. For individuals who would already be adjusting to a split design keyboard, we felt it would be a shorter adoption cycle if the layout were familiar and keys were laid out in locations where people would expect them. Also the Apple Control key, right and left Apple & option keys, the CD eject, and the mute/volume control keys common to Apple users are included.
Omitted is the side numeric keypad which we accommodate by creating an embedded keypad on the keyboard. Users also have the option of purchasing a separate full-size numeric keypad that can be placed on the left or right side of the keyboard, or simply put away when not needed. The actual key placement is designed to spread the work evenly between the left and right hands and the keypad is omitted to maintain a small keyboard footprint so that both the keyboard and mouse can fit within the ergonomic “comfort zone.”
MYMAC: Why are there no USB hub ports included?
KEYOVATION: Our original design did not incorporate this; however we are looking into this for future models. We do find that with most laptops only having two USB ports anyways, it is usually best to use a 4-port hub adapter to accommodate external keyboards, mice, printers, iPod, Blackberrys, etc.
MYMAC: Is all the configuration instructional material included in the packaging, or will new users need to visit your web site or call your toll free number?
KEYOVATION: We do have an insert in the keyboard box that directs the user to our website to download the User Guide. We also have a toll free number that is available for Customer Support or Technical questions.
MYMAC: Who are your competitors in this special marketplace?
KEYOVATION: I think the biggest competition we face is the overuse of the word “ergonomic” in too many products that do not validate HOW they are ergonomic. This has created a misconception among consumers that if there is some sort of odd curve or shape, or if it says, “ergonomic” on the box, they take it at face value. We believe that “If it’s not adjustable, it’s not ergonomic,” and if a product doesn’t fit you, then how is it providing an ergonomic benefit?
MYMAC: What improvements or innovations are you considering for future keyboards, or other usability products?
KEYOVATION: We are seeing a change in the marketplace from a desktop-centric workspace to a much more mobile remote-office or drop-in space. Many of the computer hardware manufacturers are seeing this trend escalate quickly on corporate tech refreshes, and with more people working in non-standard environments.
This trend creates a number of ergonomic issues for people who are now working in places where there is little or no flexibility in adjusting their workstation, chair, desk, etc. If they are spending most of their time working on a notebook, with lots of bending of the wrists and contact stress on the hard plastic pinching their Carpal Tunnel sheath, we expect to see a significant rise in upper extremity MSD’s (Musculoskeletal Stress Disorders). So, addressing the challenges of the mobile workforce is where we want to focus our solutions.
MYMAC: How do you handle foreign or nonstandard keyboards?
KEYOVATION: We produce the standard Goldtouch keyboard in 12 different languages, ship to 180 countries around the world and have a number of distribution partners around the globe to support us. We will consider foreign layouts for the Goldtouch for Mac if demand increases abroad.
MYMAC: Which of your many products should Mac users pay special attention to, whether in need of ergonomic devices or not?
KEYOVATION: The first thing Mac users should pay attention to is their bodies, and be more aware of discomfort, stiffness, tingling, or anything out of the normal when using a computer. All users should take some time to look for symptoms of potential problems or identify risk factors that might lead to problems in the future.
We find that many of the people looking for an alternative keyboard do so because they are already injured, and are looking to reduce the pain. We believe that everyone should take some time to educate themselves about basic ergonomic principles about workstation and mobile setups so they can work ahead of the curve. Then, it might be time to make sure that you are working with the right equipment: the proper chair can make a tremendous amount of difference, especially if you are petite, or Big and Tall.
No one piece of equipment fits all, so it is important to look at products that offer a high range of adjustability, comfort and quality design. And, they should fit your body type, and promote healthy typing postures for hands, wrists, arms, neck, shoulders and back. Remember that once the pain starts, it really never goes away, so prevention is the best way to protect yourself from risk.