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Kool Tools

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 9
Column Tag: Kool Tools

Kool Tools

by MacTech Staff

Plantronics CS50 and CS50-USB

What is it?

If you are a Skype user, or a heavy phone user looking for a good headset, then you've likely heard of Plantronics. We took at a look at the Plantronics CS50 and it's cousin, the CS50-USB. Both are wireless office headset systems that gives users the ability to roam up to 200-300 feet. Both use digital 900MHz technology and a noise-canceling microphone to deliver clear and digitally encrypted secure calls (between the headset and the base station). CS50 comes with a customizable headset, weighing 26 grams that can be worn over the ear or over the head. An optional behind-the-head model is also available. The headset also contains an online status indicator light. CS50 is powered by a Lithium Ion Polymer battery that offers eight hours of talk time, gets fully recharged in less than 3 hours and 80% recharged in 1.5 hours, and its standby time is up to 70 hours. The battery is compatible with most office or PBX-based telephones. CS50 is equipped with an integrated IntelliStand base unit that features the capability to automatically answer or end a call and it includes power, online, and charging status indicator lights. The optional Plantronics HL10 Lifter allows taking or ending calls remotely. CS50 also features one-touch volume control, mute button, and call answer/end functions.

The Plantronics CS50-USB is specifically designed for softphones, and other VoIP applications. The cradle is a bit slimmer than the CS50, making it easy to travel with if you need VoIP in your hotel room.

Plantronics CS50-USB

What we thought?

We've been using the CS50 and CS50-USB in real life use for several months. It's lightweight headset can be worn all day, and the battery life is substantial. Clarity is good, and it's nice to have a headset that puts the microphone close to your mouth rather than have the volume loss with a shorter boom.

If you need a headset for your phone or softphone, you should definitely consider these products.

- by MacTech Staff


PC users have a variety of ways to work with store bought DVD materials. While some are using pieces of software like this for nefarious reasons, others may want to simply backup up their DVDs, or make a copy to use for travel or kids.

If you do need to copy DVDs, and other types of digital content, FAST DVD COPY 4 is a digital technology copy software for Mac platform that can be used to copy DVD video collections, Audio CD collections, PlayStation 2 games, DVD-ROMs or CD-ROMs, without losing quality from the original. This software also allows copying of almost all DVD videos to blank DVD-R(W) discs, PlayStation 2 games to a DVD-R(W) disc, almost all Audio CDs to a CD-R(W) disc, a CD-ROM to a CD-R(W) disc, and a DVD-ROM to a DVD-R(W) disc.

It features one-click copy interface, leverages Macintosh dual processors for faster processing, removes CSS encryption and Macrovision protection, and guarantees privacy with no digital mark written on the copied discs. Free update patches for FAST DVD COPY 4 are available online.

FAST DVD COPY 4 comes with a number of DVD specific features such as copying an entire dual-layer DVD video to one single-layer DVD-R(W) disc, New Rip Only and Rip & Compress modes, support for ARccOS-protected DVDs, RCE protection handling, duplication quality viewer, option to send copy logs to technical support, fully copying multi-channel audio (Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS, THX), Apple iDVD compatibility, and freedom to choose all items or specific items to copy including menus, trailers, audio streams, subtitles, bonus material, and special features. Other DVD specific functionalities of FAST DVD COPY 4 include, movie only feature, to copy only the main feature without menus or bonuses, enabling playback of copied DVD videos on any recent DVD player, support for NTSC and PAL formats, support for Widescreen and Full Screen sizes, and region free DVD copies.

The minimum requirements for installing FAST DVD COPY 4 are any Mac running OS X, 17 GB free disk space, Apple SuperDrive or any DVD burner compatible with Mac OS X, blank discs (DVD-R(W) or CD-R(W)), and Internet connection for activation of the software.

Their activation method is a bit of a pain, but you can get through it. Not all DVDs will copy and play, but most will. Other than that, the software pretty much does as you would expect.

FAST DVD COPY 4 costs $99.95 for a single computer specific license, and is available from <>.

- by MacTech Staff

Brenthaven Fusion MB Messenger Bag

First, there was radio. Then came the golden age of television, and after that? Color! So it was with the beginnings of home entertainment, so it is with the newest additions to the Brenthaven line of cases designed specifically for Apple portables.

The Fusion MB is a messenger style shoulder bag that takes on the usual high quality materials and design Brenthaven is known for. As you can see in the image above, the color comes on the flap, and extends over the back panel of the bag. It's constructed of heavy duty ballistic nylon, and high quality zippers. There are two pouches on the outside, both just big enough for plane tickets or a magazine. The flap is held with two clips (no Velcro, which would have been a nice addition). New to Brenthaven bags is a hidden water bottle holder. A small zipper on the side conceals the pouch that will hold a pretty wide bottle, a very nice new feature. The external features are completed with the padded shoulder strap, and handle.

On the inside, you've got a nice assortment of pockets for pens, PDAs, phones, and all the other little stuff. This grouping sits right under the bag flap, making it very accessible. Further within are two mesh pouches, and open space for files. A removable laptop sleeve is also included, and provides additional padding and shock protection for a computer inside. The owner of Brenthaven routinely takes his bags, and drops them, with computers inside, to demonstrate that the internal sleeve really does work. If you're tough on the equipment, the protective sleeve alone is more than worth the price.

Technically, this case is classified as a messenger bag. It is the heaviest messenger you'll come across, owing to the materials used in it's construction. Being as this is a messenger bag, though, it tends to have less open space inside than other shoulder cases. However, this bag is expandable. Zip the zipper that opens it up, and you've increased the capacity 20%.

My biggest complaint about Brenthaven bags has always been the single available color. Now, though, navy and silver colors are available, along with the always classic black.

The Fusion MB is designed for any Apple portable up to 15", and is available from the Apple Store for $99.95. Other products in the color line up include a color version of the Metro, and the Edge I and II.

- by Michael R. Harvey

NEC Multisync 20WMGX2

To begin, flat screen monitors are really the only way to go anymore. Their cost has come down to the point where they compete favorably with CRT displays. They are energy efficient like no CRT could ever dream about being, and they just tend to provide a better looking display. What's not to like?

The next issue becomes which brand to buy? Well, one very good choice would be the 20WMGX2 from NEC. This wide aspect ratio LCD monitor is packed with features. The front controls are about what you'd expect on any monitor. They feel a little mushy, and the button's a bit too sensitive. It includes integrated speakers along the bottom of the screen, with volume and headset jack on the right side. Interestingly, the power and audio signal lines are accessible, and can be unplugged from the back of the case, so you can attach your own set of speakers if you so desire. The 20WMGX2 includes a three port powered USB 2.0 hub, two of the ports accessible on the left of the case, the third in the back with the other connections. Tack on the usual assortment of DVI and VGA connections, and the back of the case is almost complete. The kicker comes next.

This display is also quite a bit more than just a monitor. Among the many connectors on the back of it is a coax in port for hooking up television. Also, S-video and component video connectors. The 20WMGX2 has the ability to do picture in picture. One screen is your desktop, the other is the TV signal coming in. This is an incredibly good set up for someone who needs to monitor, say, CNBC as well as work, but doesn't have the cubicle or desk space for a separate television. Plus, it's just cool. Oh yeah, and it comes with a remote control.

The image quality is what really sets the 20WMGX2 apart. It is bright. Really bright. So bright, you-gotta-wear-shades bright. In low light settings, it may be too bright. In high lighting environments, though, it's perfect. With NEC's OptiClear technology, and crisp image quality, the screen really shines through in overly lit areas, or with lots of fluorescent lighting overhead. In dark corners, you can turn down the brightness some.

The only thing I didn't like about The 20WMGX2 was that it is not height adjustable. It's not a killer, but there are other manufactures out there who build height adjustment into the stands, and it would have been nice to see that feature here as well. The 20WMGX2 however can be attached to a VESA compatible mounting arm, so all is not lost.

Only the 20WMGX2 has the picture in picture capability, and it runs for about $799 MSRP. There are two other models in the Multisync GX2 series, though. A 17" (70GX2) and 19"( 90GX2), each with a normal aspect ratio screen, most of the same features, and the same quality as the 20WMGX2. The 19" runs $499 MSRP, and the 70GX2 $399. These prices are highly competitive, and the superior quality makes any of these three LCD screens excellent choices.

- By Michael R. Harvey


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