Gadgets for Geeks
Volume Number: 26
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Hardware
Gadgets for Geeks
Fun stuff any self-respecting geek would love
by the MacTech Editorial Staff
It's that time of year where people think about the toys that they want, and how to spend their money for the next year. Whether it's a new budget for the new year, or just buying something that you want, here's some fun things we've used ourselves this year that we thought any self-respecting geek would love.
The basis for these recommendations are technologies we used for travel to keep our staff connected during assorted trips, and even outdoor products that kept one of our editors connected while leading a group of scouts at a National Jamboree.
For many years now, MacTech has used a number of FileMaker databases that have allowed us to create workflows for a variety of processes in the magazine. FileMaker is great if you are connected with a Mac, but in the days of everything being mobile, if you didn't set up web access, it was limiting. Enter FileMaker Go.
FileMaker Go lets users view, edit and search FileMaker Pro records on an iPhone and iPad. Databases can be accessed directly from files hosted on FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Server, or database files can be copied locally onto FileMaker Go via File Sharing in iTunes. You can work with data just like you would on FileMaker Pro and:
- Add, modify, or delete information;
- Find, sort, and navigate through records;
- Display data in familiar Form, Table, and List views;
- View information in portals, tabs, or web viewers;
- Search for information using Quick Find;
- Connect to external SQL data sources.
Performance is limited by your bandwidth. And, if your databases aren't optimized to work well over the Internet for your desktop machines, they will similarly suffer performance wise with FileMaker Go (especially over the AT&T 3G network).
A big thumbs up from MacTech on this product. FileMaker Go for the iPhone and iPod touch is US$19.99, and FileMaker Go for the iPad costs US$39.99.
Leisure Jacket for the iPad
M-Edge's Leisure Jacket for the iPad is an US$49.99 case for the Apple tablet that provides protection against sand, dirt, and moisture thanks to its read-through, clear vinyl cover. While it's not waterproof, it has a protective double closure zipper allows access to the charging port without removing iPad from the jacket. The interior of the Leisure Jacket includes a high-density foam frame to provide device security; the iPad can be flipped over for additional screen protection while traveling.
An exterior zipper compartment contains a pocket specially sized for the iPhone and additional pockets for accessory storage. The clear vinyl front cover allows full functionality of iPad's touch screen.
The Leisure Jacket weights 8.90 ounces and measures 8.5 x 10.5 x .75 inches. It's available in a variety of colors. http://www.medgestore.com/products/ipad-leisure.psp
JuiceBar Solar Charger
JuiceBar Solar Charger
The JuiceBar Solar Charger includes 12 connectors covering a variety of mobile phones, cameras and handheld games such as the iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP and others.
The JuiceBar sports a 1500 mAh battery and comes with an accessory bag. It allows you to charge various portable devices using a solar powered battery. Plus, it reduces the need for multiple chargers or adapters and provides an energy source that is simple and straightforward.
If you are traveling with a group that has a variety of devices, this is a must-have charging solution. The US$49.99 device measures just 0 .5 X 3.75 X 1.6 inches and weighs 2.5 ounces, and depending on the phone, will give you at least one full charge.
Trendy Digital Waterguard Plus
Ever wanted to submerge your iPad in water? If you have, one might wonder why. On the other hand, if you have your Apple tablet around water very often-say, at the beach or on a boat-you do need a waterproof case. Trendy Digital makes one in the US$23.99 Waterguard Plus Waterproof Case for the iPad.
It's designed to be submergible with some qualifications. If the case has been checked and sealed tightly, the device inside should be safe if you accidentally drop it in water and retrieve it quickly. In other words, the WaterGuard is designed to protect your iPad from water-related accidents, not for taking it into the swimming pool with you.
Made of UV-stabilized plastic, the WaterGuard Plus Waterproof Case is designed to offer protection when you get stuck in a rainstorm or accidentally drop your bag on a wet surface. When using the WaterGuard Plus Case, the iPad can be slipped directly into the WaterGuard pocket and the transparent surface provides full access to the iPad's touch interface and keyboard.
The case features a fitted form with back padding to house the iPad. In addition to water, it protects against dust, dirt, sand and other elements. You can wear the WaterGuard around your neck or shoulder via an adjustable strap. And at 3.0 ounces, it's very light.
If you are taking your iPad somewhere where you are worried about water, rain, or significant moisture, you really need something like this. We were astounded at how well the sound worked even in the sealed bag, and it could be a great solution for watching a movie in the spa. The WaterGuard Plus gets a big thumbs up from MacTech.
Emergency Charge Adapter
Emergency Charge Adapter
The BKRadio Emergency Charge Adapter is an US$34.95 device that turns nine AA batteries into a cigarette lighter socket. You can charge your cell phone with your BK Radio Battery or get emergency power for other portable devices.
It works with the iPhone, iPod, CD players, GPS devices, most cell phones and more. The Emergency Charge Adapter is machined from solid billet aluminum. If you absolutely, positively need to have power, this is the simplest and most reliable of devices. We've talked to emergency crews (e.g., fire departments that use them), and we can see why. A big thumbs up from the MacTech crew. http://bkradio.com/
Matias Folding Keyboard
While many people can do occasional typing on the iPad or iPhone via the virtual keyboard, serious keyboarding simply isn't possible without a true external keyboard. While Apple offers two options, they are limiting; the US$99.95 Matias Folding Keyboard provides an ideal third option for serious iPad typists.
Matias Folding Keyboard
Unlike Apple's offerings, this is a full-sized keyboard. There are no tiny key caps designed to look good, but which fail at heavy typing. This keyboard folds to about the overall size and thickness of the Apple Bluetooth keyboard, but unfolds into a full keyboard complete with number pad and a spacious typing area.
If you want to effectively type with an iPad, the Matias Folding Keyboard is an ideal combination of portability and function. You'll have a full sized keyboard that's compact and a pleasure to type on.
A big thumbs up on this keyboard. If you are traveling for more than a little bit, and relying on your iPad as your primary computing device, this is a must have. We can't imagine keeping up with email without this keyboard. (http://matias.ca/foldingkeyboard/index.php)
CandyShell iPad Case
Speck's CandyShell iPad Case
Speck's US$49.95 CandyShell iPad case is a case with a case thin, hard-shell coating, soft rubbery interior lining, bezel and button covers.
It sports a flip-back panel for use with iPad dock and the iPad keyboard dock (the latter isn't included). To use you slide the right (button) side of iPad into the CandyShell case first, then gently snap the other edges of the case around the edge of the screen. To use with dock connector cable, iPad dock or keyboard dock, pull open the flip-back panel. (Don't try to use the flip-back panel as a stand or foot).
As one of our favorite iPad cases, this gets a big thumbs up from the MacTech crew. The cushioning, back flap, and feel are just well thought out.
DryCASE Waterproof iPhone case
They DryCASE Waterproof is an US$39.99 is a flexible, waterproof case that allows use of your phone or camera while keeping it dry and clean.
To use, you twist the clasps outward to open the DryCASE, and then simply slide in the device that you would like to protect. Make sure that the contents inside are completely clear of the opening and the closure.
Twist the clasps inward to close and lock the DryCASE. Position your device how you would like to use it inside the DryCASE. To pump out all the air, just squeeze the pump until you've removed all the air and can't pump it any more. When you remove the air, creating a vacuum, it will secure the device in place. After you have removed all the air, the DryCASE will be tightly sealed around the contents inside and the pump should be completely flat. You can now remove the hand pump and place the safety cap on.
The DryCASE is completely submersible. You can also order DryBUDS waterproof headphones ($29.99 if purchased separately; $64.99 for a bundle of the case and headphones) for use with the case. The headphones can be used up to nearly 10 feet underwater.
The DryCASE is 4.25 inches wide and 6.5 inches long and will fit almost any phone, camera or MP3 player. http://store.drycase.com/DryCASE-Waterproof-phone-camera-and-music-player-p/dc-13.htm
Invisible Shield for iPad
Zagg's InvisibleShield for iPad is a film that protects iPods, iPhones, iPads, and other devices scratches. The film is made with Nano-Memory technology that covers and shields your device.Zagg says Nano-Memory technology offers four main benefits:
Durability - self-healing properties offer resistance to scratches and damag;
Coverage - pliability and flexibility allows the invisibleShield designs to cover the corners and curves of your device;
Drop resistant - an improved grip makes it easier to hang onto your gadgets;
Glare reduction - the invisibleShield gives your device a slight "orange peel" finish that breaks up glare and reduces finger print smudges, while still creating high res screen viewing clarity.
Zagg lives up to its reputation, and gets another big thumbs up from MacTech on their iPad product. Zagg ensures a lifetime guarantee if the film ever wears or becomes scratched. The price of films for iPad for a full body cover is US$39.99. The price for full coverage for iPhone is $24.99. http://www.zagg.com/invisibleshield/features.php
Apple users like their computers, MP3 players and phones svelte, so why not their bikes? Ok, not quite a Mac, but it's cool tech nonetheless. As a surprisingly economical solution, 2KSilver makes 20-inch and 26-inch folding bikes that are good in a variety of circumstances.
2Ksilver 26 inch Folding Bike
These bikes are more easily checked on an airplane, or packed in a car. Assembly is truly easy. A single tool is all you need-and that's just for tightening the bike together. In fact, the most difficult thing about the assembly is probably the careful location selection and tightening the bell on the handlebar so it would ring clearly and loudly.
The 2KSilver bikes are easy to ride. If you're over six feet, you'll want to go with the larger model. The seat will only expand so far on the smaller 16 and 20 inch bikes, and a tall person would need more knee space.
We found out first-hand that the bike's seven gears are enough to handle biking up and down hills. For more demanding terrain, more gears would be useful. Realistically, if you're looking at a folding bike, you're probably going to use it for basic transportation rather than competitive or mountain biking.
We love the technology and simplicity of these bikes. Big thumbs up from MacTech's crew. The 20-inch models can be bought for US$179.99; the 26-inch models are $234.99 to $299.99. https://www.2ksilver.com/
Tatango is a flexible group SMS service designed to work with different size groups-from 10-person groups to 10,000 person groups. It's a must have for a group that needs rapid communication. Messages can be sent out from a computer or a cell phone. Each account can have multiple groups, and each group can have multiple subgroups.
You can create as many groups as you want under one Tatango account. What's more, you can create subgroups to better manage group members and search your contacts by phone or name. You can let others in your group help you manage the group by making them an administrator.
With Tatango, you can send your message to an entire group or select a specific subgroup. You can get a preview of what your group message will look like on your group member's phones. If you're not near a computer, you can send your group message from your own phone.
To send out a message to one of your groups from your phone, simply send a text to the Tatango short SMS number (68398) with an asterisk at the beginning and your message. Tatango will then reply asking which group to send it to, and after responding with a group number all members of the group receive. While on a long trip to the National Jamboree, one of our editors used it to communicate with other leaders, scouts and parents. For example, when a tornado touched down in Washington D.C., it was particularly useful to be able to notify parents of our safety before it hit national news. It was also incredibly useful for more common uses, such as remind everyone with us in one of the museums to get back to the bus.
All Tatango messages come from 68398, so they never show your personal phone number. Messages arrive with your group name on the top and contain no advertisements.
Tatango stores all past messages sent to your group. Every message sent is stored for future reference, including the date, message and the recipients. If a group member responds to your message, that reply is also stored.
A big thumbs up from the MacTech crew. This was the easiest to use turnkey system we found for communicating to a lot of different types of devices. http://www.tatango.com
The PowerFilm Solar lets you charge your electronic devices anywhere the sun shines. Using solar technology, these are foldable chargers that come in wattage ranges from 1.5 to 60 watts and in voltage ranges from 3.6 to 15.4 voltages.
PowerFilm Solar Foldable
The chargers aren't available for sale directly from the PowerFilm Solar web site, PowerFilmSolar.com; however, they're available online through Amazon.com. The listed sale price on Amazon.com around $250.
The PowerFilm line of product deserves an entire article on its own about how to build a charging station, and more. We couldn't have handled the longer outdoor adventures without PowerFilm. A big thumbs up from the MacTech crew. http://powerfilmsolar.com/foldable-solar-chargers/f15-1200.php
QuickerTek iPad Charging Products
QuickerTek makes three products that will let you get a charge out of your iPad.The US$249.95 Apple Juicz external battery for the iPad uses the Apple 10 watt USB charger that comes with the iPad to charge the battery (or any USB charger), so there's no extra AC power wall wart adapter to lug around.
QuickerTek Charge Monitor
The Apple Juicz External Battery for the iPad can fully recharge the device in three hours and has two female USB ports that can simultaneously charge any USB device as well as having propriety circuitry for the iPhone, iPod touch or any 30-pin iPod while being used to charge and power all models of the iPad.
The Apple Juicz users Li-ion Polymer high capacity 9400 mAh batteries, which will recharge in excess of 2000 times. They sport safety circuitry for protection along with temperature and charge/discharge rates, cell balancing and a fuel gauge with a LED indicator showing how much Juicz is left in the battery.
The $299.99 iPad Solar Panel is a 10-watt foldable solar panel that charges as fast as Apple's 10-watt wall charger that comes with the iPad. QuickerTek includes an USB monitor/activator so that you can see the charge current level. Also in the kit is a female cigarette lighter adapter and a USB cable.
The $29.99 Charge Monitor has three functions. The unit will turn on the USB port so that it will charge and the four LED's on the unit shows that the iPad is charging and shows the charging current level or how fast it is charging. The more lights that are on, the more power being put out by the charger and thusly the faster your iPad is charging. No bigger than a USB dongle with a USB connector at each end, the iPad Solar Charger is compatible with 1.0 or 2.0 USB ports, the iPad, iPhone (all generations), the iPod touch and all 30-pin iPods.
QuickerTek has been in the Apple market for years, and has a number of innovative products. A big thumbs up from the MacTech crew on making an easy to use solar system that can charge multiple devices. http://www.quickertek.com