The Gadgets Page

June 21, 2012

DecalGirl Skins: Second Verse Same As The First

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,Laptops,PDAs and Phones,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Decalgirl Skins by LauraMoncur from FlickrBack in March 2009, I wrote a review for DecalGirl Skins. You can see it here:

Because I had written a review, I was surprised when DecalGirl contacted me and asked if I wanted some free samples to do another one. I gladly agreed and waited for the skins I had selected to arrive in the mail.

I dug out my old gadgets that were still adorned with DecalGirls skins. My Acer Netbook computer was being stored in a box of outdated gadgets. Here’s a current picture of it: (Continue Reading…)

December 6, 2011

Polk Audio Ultra Fit 3000 Sports Headphones

Filed under: Audio and Video,Reviews — Christy Strebe @ 11:39 am

Polk Audio UltraFit 3000 Headphones at Amazon.comThe nice folks at Polk audio sent me the Polk Audio Ultra Fit 3000 Sports headphonesto review. They were such a nice surprise to arrive in my mailbox because they are AWESOME. These are the first pair of head phones I’ve used that don’t come out while I’m riding my spin bike. Usually I have to put my head phones back in three or four times. The Polk Audio Ultra Fit 3000 Sports headphones have an ear hook that looks like it would be uncomfortable to wear, but once they were in place I didn’t notice it.

The sound quality is remarkable too! The headphones come with three different cable lengths, so if I have my iPhone in an arm strap I don’t have a long cable dangling down, or I can attach the headphones to my Nano and clip it on my shirt collar.

The cables are also flat so it doesn’t get all tangled up if I just throw it in the pocket of my gym bag (they come with a nice carrying pouch where they are normally stored). I would definitely recommend these to anyone who’s headphones routinely fall out, or if you’re just looking for a great pair of sport headphones.

November 14, 2011

C-Loop Camera Strap Review

Filed under: Cameras,Reviews — Matthew Strebe @ 10:43 am

C-Loop Camera Strap at Amazon.comI hate camera straps. But I love my camera and frankly its got to be strapped to me if I’m going to use it, and so like everyone else I just lived with the fact that the strap constantly gets twisted, chaffs the back of my neck, and that the camera hangs from it at an awkward angle any time there’s a heavier zoom lens on it.

I had already given up on efforts to find “a better way” to deal with the camera strap when Custom SLR sent me one of their clever C-Loops.

The C-Loop is an ingenious little device—essentially it’s two camera strap loops on a standard mount screw that attaches to the tripod mount on the bottom of your camera. Because the loops swivel round the thumbscrew easily, the strap doesn’t become twisted.

When using the C-Loop, the camera hangs now from the bottom of the camera, so lenses always point down—the way I think cameras should hang. You can easily take the strap off the camera by simply unscrewing it, which makes packing the camera away much easier and allows me to avoid having the strap hanging off the camera when its on a tripod or attached to my telescope.

But the best thing about the C-Loop is that it makes it possible to use an adjustable camera strap to carry the camera over the shoulder messenger bag style—pointing down as it should, conveniently out of the way, and not chaffing my neck. For this reason alone I think the C-Loop is a keeper.

The C-Loop is a little bit awkward with the portrait extended battery adapter because the center of gravity is higher, causing the camera to carry upside-down. This will likely be the case on professional full-frame cameras that have a built-in portrait mode as well, and is something you should consider before buying a C-Loop. It doesn’t bother me, but you might not like it.

If camera straps bug you, the C-Loop is a simple solution! More photos after the break: (Continue Reading…)

September 30, 2010

Aida Case for the iPad

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 9:00 am

The minute I heard that the Aida Keyboard Case for the iPad was available, I ordered one. It arrived a couple of days ago and I’m eager to share what I’ve learned.

I was worried that it would be too thick to still fit in my purse, but the case hasn’t caused any trouble. It IS twice as thick as an iPad without a case, but compared to many other cases, it is similar in thickness.

Aida Case for the iPad

I also like the magnetic closure. I kept having trouble with other cases opening up in my purse. This one stays closed.

Aida Case for the iPad

I was also worried that it wouldn’t fold flat so I could read magazines, books and websites. Fortunately, it folds easily and I can hold it to read without any trouble.

Aida Case for the iPad

I’ve had trouble with my iPad and Bluetooth keyboards, so I was worried I would run into the same trouble, but the Aida keyboard paired with my iPad without a single hitch. It also charged quickly and I haven’t had to recharge it in the last two days.

Now, for the bad news. The case uses only gravity to keep the iPad upright when you’re typing. That works fine if you are typing on a table, but if you’re at a conference and have your iPad on your lap, it will NOT work. The iPad will flop down every time.

Aida Case for the iPad

I tried to fix the problem by adding industrial strength velcro. This makes the case almost useable on my lap, but not quite. There is still a lot of flopping and the sound of the velcro ripping when it finally fails to keep it upright. I just wish a case manufacturer would use laptop hinges instead of relying on gravity.

Aida Case for the iPad

The worst problem of all is the keyboard layout. If I had been able to see the actual buttons on the keyboard before I bought it, I wouldn’t have bothered with this case.

Aida Case for the iPad

There are a few issues:

  • There is only one shift key on the left side. The right shift key has been replaced with a key for the equal sign and an up key, so every time I try to capitalize like normal, I end up either typing an equal sign or moving the cursor up one. This is a major pain in the butt.

  • The apostrophe is in the lower right hand corner under the period key. I’ve never had a keyboard with the apostrophe there, so I have to learn how to type all over again just to use the apostrophe.

  • The keyboard feels mushy. I prefer a keyboard that’s silent, but this one is so floppy that I can’t tell if I’ve pushed a key or not. This ends up giving me double letters at some times and missing letters at others. I find that I have to correct my work just as often as when I use the virtual keyboard.

There are some good things about the keyboard. Copy, paste and cut work using the command button (i.e. Command+V for paste). This streamlines some of my workflow, but it doesn’t make up for the other issues.

In the end, don’t bother with the Aida Case. You’ll probably type faster on the virtual keyboard and you won’t have to worry about charging a keyboard and setting up Bluetooth. Sometimes the best solution is the one Steve Jobs gave you.

November 3, 2009

Apple Magic Mouse

Filed under: Computers and Peripherals,Reviews — Matthew Strebe @ 10:00 am

Apple Magic Mouse at Amazon.comI’m quite a picky mouse user. While I bought a Mighty Mouse when they came out, it was relegated to my laptop bag as a spare. I replaced quickly with a Logitech VX Nano because to be frank, the Mighty Mouse sucked. It’s resolution and tracking was poor compared to modern laser mice. While it played nice with Macs, it simply wasn’t worth the bad tracking in my opinion, and I didn’t like the tiny roller ball. The heavy metal ballistic roller on the VX Nano was vastly superior for scrolling.

The Magic Mouse fixes all of that. It has a high-quality laser optics, high resolution, and is extremely responsive. It slides with noticeably more resistance on wood than the VX Nano, but not so much that it is problematic.

Apple Magic Mouse at Amazon.comThe entire surface of the mouse is a gesture track pad. Sliding your finger around scrolls smoothly and naturally in all directions. It’s so intuitive that you immediately get used to it, and once you start doing it, it’s difficult to go back to a regular mouse. Use two fingers to the right or left to go back or forward in your web browsing. Hold down the control key and the same up/down gestures zoom the screen in and back out.

The design is exceptionally sleek, with an aluminum base and a white polycarbonate top surface. There’s a tiny power switch and LED on the bottom to let you know when it’s off, and due to its thinness it travels very well. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a MacBook.

The VX Nano was by far the best laptop mouse I’d used, until the Magic Mouse, which I strongly recommend for all Mac users. The only problem with the mouse is the tape they use to stick it to it’s packaging, which leaves gummy residue on the bottom of the mouse when you open the package.

November 2, 2009

Powermat Wireless Charging System

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets,PDAs and Phones,Reviews — Matthew Strebe @ 9:26 am

PowermatAbout two weeks ago, I got notice that the Powermat system was available for purchase. I went to Powermat.com, read up on it, added one mat and two iPhone cradles to my cart, and then hovered over the buy button for about five minutes. At $180, my highly impulsive gadget-buying urge was tempered, and I didn’t buy it. A week later, Powermat sent me an evaluation kit at no charge for review.

So I plugged in the charging pad, put my iPhone in the charging case, and set it on the pad. The pad chimed its acceptance, a charge LED went on, and the iPhone indicated that it was charging. Having seen Powermat’s viral video, I said (out loud, much to the chagrin of my wife) “It’s f—ing charging!”

After using it for two days, I really like it but I’m still glad I didn’t pay for it. Despite how much I love the idea of it and the clever design, my recommendation is to wait until the price is down by half overall and until they have clip-on adapters or cases for at least three devices you own and use daily.

Clever design aesthetics permeate the entire system. The portable mat is a tri-fold device that comes with a magnetically closing case. There are buttons on the mat to control sound volume and LED brightness. The universal charger is small and comes with a magnetically coupled case that holds four of the seven tips included with it. The power adapter is designed to let you coil the extra cable around the adapter and clip it in, so your charging station looks tidy. Even the boxes that the system comes in exhibit excellent design.

PowermatThe only missed opportunities I noticed were the lack of a booster battery on the iPhone charge case, which would have sold me on the whole solution when I first looked at it, and the fact that the wireless charge receiver on the iPhone case protrudes about two millimeters from the case, which is annoying to my wife to the point that she’d prefer to use the upright iPod charger. I don’t mind it. In my opinion, the portable pad is a better value than the standard mat because it’s portable and I think it looks better.

The mat contains coils that create a magnetic field. When you place a device that has a compatible coil on it, it induces a current in the device and that current is used to charge the device. Powermat adds some clever engineering to detect when devices are present to shut down when power is not needed, thus saving that 20% of power that would be lost to inefficiency when no device is present.

Unfortunately, you can’t just throw your iPhone on the pad randomly. You have feel around for the (strong) magnetic field and wait for the charge sound or your device might not couple correctly. iPhones are finicky about charge power unfortunately, and about 1/3rd of the time my phone fails to charge even when the mat thinks it should be. Removing and replacing the phone usually fixes it. I have figured out that placing the iPhone quickly with a slight circular wave helps find the right spot to couple better than placing the device straight down on the pad, and now that I’ve gotten good at it, the phone couples about 90% of the time. That’s 10% of the time less often than dropping it on my iPhone upright dock.

But you don’t want to spend $180 on a wireless charger to wind up with a system that is slightly harder to use than dropping your iPhone in a dock. Now, for devices less finicky than the iPhone, such as the Nintendo DSi (Powermat Charging Case for the DSi) and most current Blackberry models (except the Storm) it works a lot better. Its included charger adapter for other devices is light enough that the magnetic field pulls it to the right spot and it works every time.

The Powermat comes with an array of plug-in adapters for other devices. But avoiding the use of plugs is the point of the Powermat, so without a clip-on adapter that stays with the device, there’s little reason to use the Powermat over any other universal wired adapter. If you think of the Powermat as a tidy universal adapter charging station system with the ability to become a wireless charging system for a few of your devices, you’ll be really happy with it. Its plug-in universal adapter can charge nearly all of the devices I use on a weekly basis, including my Mophie Juicepack Air and my stereo Bluetooth headset. Only my Sony cameras and camcorders are left without a solution.

The Powermat is exciting technology. When the initial adopters have paid back the company’s investors and the Powermat company is comfortable reducing the price to be competitive with wired universal chargers, and the number of natively supported devices is in the teens, it’ll be a compelling purchase. Until then, it’s an interesting vision of the future that’s still firmly in the future for most consumers.

October 2, 2009

Scrapbooking Die Cutter Comparisons

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets,Reviews — Christy Strebe @ 11:22 am

Cricut 29-0001 Personal Electronic Cutting Machine at Amazon.comDie cutting has been a staple of crafting for centuries. Originally just cookie cutters sharpened to cut paper, a new generation of digital die cutters is available that use a razor knife and computerized control to cut any number of shapes with the same precision. This means you don’t have to have a library of dies and you aren’t limited by the size of the dies you have.

There are two types of digital die cutters vying for the craft market: Self-contained cartridge-based cutters that require no computer or computer expertise, and computer driven cutters that are less expensive and more flexible, but have a higher learning curve and require a computer.

THE PROVOCRAFT CRICUT

Cricut 29-0001 Personal Electronic Cutting Machine at Amazon.comThe Cricut machine by Provo Craft is easy to use. It doesn’t need to be hooked up to a computer so it is portable. The cartridge designs are cute, although to get them to look like the examples on the boxes you will need to cut the same shape a number of times in different colors and layer them together.

If you buy cartridges at regular price they are expensive ($69-$89). They go on sale often, however, and I’ve been able to get them as cheap as $25. You can scale the images from 1” to 5.5”, in specific increments of generally ½”.

Cricut Expression 24-Inch Personal Electronic Cutting Machine at Amazon.comThe original Cricut will cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, and contact paper up to 6”x12”. The Cricut Expression gives you have more size options up to 12”x24” and can also cut chip board, but it is bigger making it not as portable (it doesn’t have a handle like the original Cricut). You need to put your paper on a tacky mat that holds the paper down while it’s being cut. The Cricut comes with two mats and they last quite a long time if you keep dust off of them. Additionally, you can revitalize your old cutting mats using the techniques in this Youtube video:

The Gypsy is an accessory cartridge that can load and store all of your other cartridges. It is due out October 4th. It also does custom layouts of images and can scale them in more ways.

Cricut is expensive however. By the time you’ve got a machine and a library of cartridges it’s easy to be over $1000 into it.

They have over 100 cartridges with fonts, shapes (garden, animals, travel, boxes, tags, seasons, holidays, etc.) licensed (Disney, Hello Kitty, SpongeBob, etc), “Classmate” (50 states, word builders, letters made of an item that starts with that letter)

Cricut Design Studio software at Amazon.comYou can only use shapes available as cartridges. With the Cricut Design Studio software you can blend and combine images from cartridges using your computer, and there is a third-party software program called Sure Cuts a Lot that takes your own images and fonts and cuts them on the Cricut machine. I have not tried it. It Costs $75-90, and it does not come with a design program. Frankly, if you want to use your computer, get the Silhouette SD, which is a lot more versatile.

The list prices for the various Cricut Machines (the machines also go on sale at local craft stores and on the web):

Cricut $163.47 – $299.99

Cricut Create $199.95 – $399.99 same size as the original Cricut with a 6”x12” mat, but cuts images from 1” to 11.5”

Cricut Expression $289.03 – $499.99

Gypsy $299.99

Cricut Jukebox $ 44.99 – $89.99 lets you combine 6 cartridges at a time

Cricut Design Studio software $49.99 – $89.99 lets you blend images from cartridges using your computer

Here is a step-by-step guide showing how to use the Cricut.

The fact that she used this elaborate machine to die cut the word “Simplify” for her wall is an irony that was obviously lost on her.

QUICKCUTZ SILHOUETTE SD/ GRAPHTEC CraftRobo

Craft ROBO CC330L-20 SD Digital Craft Cutting Machine at Amazon.comThe biggest competitor to the Cricut is the CraftRobo Silhouette SD. The Silhouette SD is just like a computer printer—in fact the computer actually thinks it IS a type of printer called a plotter. Instead of a print head, it has a razor knife.

Like a printer, it comes with a USB cable to connect it to your computer and you have to install a driver. It comes with a design program that lets you draw your designs and lay in whatever text you want. You can draw cut lines and perforations using different line colors. The cutting area of the Silhouette is 9” x 39” for cutting vinyl or other backed material, but if you need to use the cutting mat it is limited to 8 ½” x 12”. You cannot cut chipboard, foam, or fabric with the Silhouette SD.

The Silhouette SD also has an SD camera card slot that you can use to store your designs on. This allows you to take the cutter with you and cut designs without your computer attached. CraftRobo provides a library of designs that you can access on the Web, and the cutter comes with 100 free downloads from the library. Cutting from the SD card is not as easy as using the Cricut, but it does work. It’s certainly easier than setting up your computer each time you want to cut.

Like the Cricut, you have to put paper on a tacky carrier mat, which lasts quite a while if you keep the included cover on it. The carrier has precision markings and placing paper is more accurate than the Cricut—so accurate that you use the “registration” feature to cut around full color printouts from your printer—a very handy feature for cutting out heart-shaped photos, for example, which the Cricut cannot do.

The Silhouette SD costs $250 and comes with everything you need to get started except an SD card. Consumables include razor blades and tacky mats, both of which are an inexpensive $10 and last for dozens of cutting sessions. The Silhouette SD cannot reliably cut stock heavier than 100lb. paper, however you can “re-cut” the same cardstock over to make sure a cut goes all the way through.

Here is a video of a demonstration of the Quickcutz Silhouette:

THE VERDICT

If you are both computer savvy and creative enough to do your own designs, you’ll be happiest with the Silhouette SD. Other than cutting the thickest stock, it can technically do anything the Cricut can do. For example, my husband uses it to cut out playing cards after printing them, and he has designed some paper tuck boxes that can simply be folded up like origami. Neither of these functions would be possible with a Cricut. It borders on being a professional tool, and the company that actually makes it, Graphtec, has higher-end machines specifically designed for professionals. It does not come with a wide library of shapes, so if you’re looking to cut out Mickey Mouse, You’re going to have to do quite a bit of design work yourself.

If you prefer not to deal with computers, the Cricut is for you. Its wide library of cartridge designs and accessories ensures that you’ll find the stock shape you’re looking for. Be prepared to spend a bit of money, or start a cartridge lending pool with your friends.

When it comes to papercrafts and scrapbooking, die cutters are becoming as ubiquitous as scissors and paper. Make sure you take into account your financial limitations and technical abilities when you choose the die cutter that is right for you.

September 21, 2009

Review: Altech Lansing Backbeat 906 Bluetooth Stereo Headset

Filed under: Audio and Video,PDAs and Phones,Reviews — Matthew Strebe @ 10:00 am

I’ve been waiting for wireless stereo Bluetooth to become an “actual” reality for years now. The A2DP stereo wireless protocol was developed years ago, but has only recently become ubiquitous amongst players and computers. First attempts at stereo Bluetooth headsets resulted in ridiculously large and uncomfortable headsets with poor battery life that were expensive and poorly supported by devices without an external dongle.

Altec Lansing BackBeat 906 Stereo Bluetooth Headset at Amazon.comThis has all recently changed. With A2DP support now available in iPhone OS 3, Mac OS X, and Windows, I can finally actually use wireless headsets. So I headed down to the Apple store to look at what could be purchased retail, and after looking at the options, I came home with the Altech Lansing BackBeat 906 headphones. I paid $99.

These headphones double as a Bluetooth headset with their built in Microphones. Noise canceling is good—they’re the best Bluetooth headset I’ve used, although I may be biased by hearing the call in both ears, which I like. Annoyingly, the iPhone switches the audio source back to the internal mic and speaker when you take a call while listening to the iPhone, so you have to manually switch it back while you “hello? Hello?” the caller to keep them from hanging up.

Styled like two behind-the-ear BT headsets connected by a cable that runs behind the head, they’re actually the most comfortable wireless headphones or headset that I’ve ever used. They have a silicon waveguide that directs the sound into the ear canal from external earbud style speakers, which is more comfortable than in-the-ear foam inserts. The only usability problem I’ve encountered is that leaning your head back against a pillow will cause the earbuds to move, just as with any behind-the-head headset. Unfortunately they’re too large to fit inside a motorcycle helmet.

Buttons are provided on the headset for call hook (left side) and audio controls (right side). Play/Pause is the main audio control button, with a lever for audio up/down. Holding the up/down lever for two seconds provides next/previous track, and the controls work seamlessly in iTunes and on the iPhone. The headsets come with a Bluetooth adapter compatible with all iPods that have dock connectors (as shown in the photo). iPhones can drive the headsets directly from the built-in Bluetooth and don’t need the plug-in adapter. Bluetooth range is about the same as any BT headset, which is to say you can use it in the same room as the source, but as soon as you round a wall, the signal drops out completely.

Sound quality is quite good–the best I’ve heard via wireless Bluetooth. Interestingly, it’s dramatically better with my iPhone than with my Mac (Unitbody Powerbook 17”) running iTunes. On the Mac, there are audible distortion effects irrespective of the compression level of the music or volume. It’s hard to understand why a completely digital audio stream would be affected, especially considering that I would think the codebase and hardware between the Mac and the iPhone are quite similar. It’s clearly the Mac, however, because on the iPhone audio is clean and crisp at all volumes.

For casual listeners, the Bass is good but not booming. You’ll definitely hear the bass line in 50 Cent’s Candy Shop. The ominous sub-aurals in Batman Begins are vivid, although not as lush as with Sony’s top of the line ear buds. Brass and synthetics are bright, and beats are crunchy and pop. You’ll like these phones.

No Bluetooth wireless headset will satisfy an audiophile. Distortion, bandwidth, and compression effects are all audible, and distortion at higher volumes can be distracting. Bass response lacks depth, and there’s a general flatness and lack of vibrancy and dimension across the dynamic range, leaving horns sounding especially brassy. Noise levels during silence are pronounced, as they would be on worn vinyl. The headphones can get quite loud—maybe a little too loud, but I’ve already lost hearing so it works for me. At peak volume, the distortion can be annoying. You’ll hear noise spikes in the attack of beat transitions and compression artifacts in the tail of white noise envelopes. Distortion at mid level volumes is only mildly apparent. These effects are apparent irrespective of the compression level of the source audio files (I tested up to 320kbps on my iPhone. Even uncompressed audio had distortion on the Mac, but I’m putting that down to a problem in a processing on the Mac since those effects are not apparent on the iPhone).

Fortunately, I’m not an audiophile, so love these little gems. They’re the best Bluetooth headphones I’ve heard and they’re they ideal mate to my iPhone.

September 8, 2009

Review: Windows 7 on a UMPC

Filed under: Reviews,Software — Matthew Strebe @ 12:28 pm

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade at Amazon.comMicrosoft’s latest desktop operating system, Windows 7, has been released to manufacturing, which means that it will be available pre-loaded on PCs and in retail boxes in October. Being geeks, the gadgets page got early access to the release version and installed it on the Sony UX 390N to compare Windows 7 to its predecessor, Windows Vista.

In a word, Windows 7 is a sigh of relief. The Sony UX390 is an Ultra-mobile PC, and not very powerful: It has a 1.5GHz Core Solo processor, 1GB of ram, and a 32GB solid state hard disk. It’s basically minimum spec for a modern computer. Vista ran poorly on it, and only with considerable tuning and customization by an expert was it even remotely tolerable. Application “whiteouts” were common, search indexing had to be disabled, and apps ran out of RAM all the time. Beyond using it for Outlook, there was little that it was good for. Sony should never have moved from Windows XP for these UMPC machines.

Windows 7 changes all of that. I performed a clean installation from a boot CD in less than 30 minutes, which in itself is amazing. Secondly, by the time the installation was done (with literally no input from me beyond partitioning), it had nearly all the devices, including the fingerprint scanner, correctly identified and working. Of all of Sony’s original drivers and applications, I only need to install drivers for the memory stick slot, Sony’s firmware extensions device on the motherboard, the onboard camera, and the touch screen calibration application. Everything else was handled out of the box, and the Vista drivers for the missing devices worked in Windows 7. The new Printers and Devices app is a joy—it’s way easier and faster to deal with devices in Windows using this separate control panel. In less than an hour total, I had a new computer.

It’s hard to describe how much better the computer is now. Office 2007 runs just fine—it’s quite snappy. I’ve done literally no tuning—I haven’t had to turn off indexing, add ReadyBoost, or anything else to make the computer perform. It runs just fine by default. Everything is faster—hooking up to wireless networks, running multiple simultaneous applications—everything. The fan isn’t on all the time and the hard disk isn’t constantly accessing. Features that used to be add-on programs, such as Fingerprint logon and burning ISO images to CD or DVD, are now part of the operating system.

The new taskbar works just like the OS X dock. I wasn’t a fan of the dock in OS X when it came out, but I’m quite used to it now, and it’s definitely better than the Start menu ever was. The new taskbar is faster and easier to use than the start menu (which is also still there) and the screen looks a lot more coherent. I wish they’d gone all the way and put the Recycle Bin on it so there’s not just one lonely icon on my desktop, but they didn’t.

The organization of the user interface is a quite a bit better than Vista. Vista was clearly just a bunch of silly layers on top of the old user-interface that rarely made anything easier—they just made it take longer to get to the functionality you were looking for. In Windows 7, finding your way around makes more sense—probably more sense than it ever has in the past. You can generally just find the functionality you need by looking around and clicking in the obvious places.

When you can’t, typing the name of an application in the search box in the start menu will pull up whatever you need quickly. Searching in Windows 7 is dramatically improved, although not yet on par with OS X in terms of speed and low background processing impact. It is finally good enough to use, however.

Finally, every one of the buggy glitches I’d been dealing with in Vista is resolved. File copies are fast. Drag and drop operations actually work the first time. UAC pop-ups are considerably reduced. Applications that aren’t compatible with Vista can be run in a built-in XP virtual mode in the Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate versions of Windows 7. But mostly, it’s just much, much faster.

I strongly recommend upgrading all of your modern PCs to Windows 7. If it runs Windows XP well, it will run Windows 7 even better. And if it runs Vista, Windows 7 will run like the operating system you were promised but didn’t get. Is it better than OS X 10.5 on a Mac? Not quite, but it is a heck of a lot closer, and it runs all your apps.

May 12, 2009

Cyber Acoustics iPod Dock

Filed under: Audio and Video,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

For the longest time, I used the Xtreme Mac Microblast next to my bed with my first generation iPod Nano. There was plenty of room on the 1GB drive to load up a few relaxing songs to lull me to sleep. Two iPods and an iPhone later, however, it was showing its age. The speakers buzzed and screeched something horrible, so I finally retired the Microblast and started using my iPhone next to my bed with a binder clip stand.

When I found the Cyber Acoustics Docking Speakers, however, it was love at first site.

Cyber Acoustics on Amazon.com

I use it with my iPhone, and although I DO miss the landscape version of Night Stand, I love having my iPhone right next to my bed.

Cyber Acoustics on Amazon.comMy biggest problem is that I have a VERY narrow night stand, so most of the normal sized iPod docks just don’t fit. Even the very small JBL On Stage Micro is too large. The Cyber Acoustics is just the right size to sit on my tiny night stand and give me enough sound for a soothing playlist of music.

I only paid 39 bucks for it at FYE, so I was worried that it would have cheap speakers that hiss and squeal, but instead, they are quiet and only make noise when I want them to.

Alarm on the iPod Nano 2nd genThe Cyber Acoustics isn’t an alarm clock or clock radio. It is ONLY speakers for an iPod or iPhone. Most iPods, including my 2nd generation iPod Nano, have a time and alarm feature of their own, so you don’t actually NEED a clock, display or alarm. You can even set them to play a specific playlist instead of an annoying beep.

I set my iPhone playing a soothing meditation track before I load up Night Stand and let it lull me to sleep every night. It works perfectly for that. In the morning, I’m awakened to a track I recorded using Garage Band of my dog barking.

I’ve owned my speakers for a few months now. I waited to write a review because I was worried that the speakers would get old and start making an irritating noise, but over the months, they have stayed quiet. I am now completely willing to say that I am totally in love with my Cyber Acoustic Speaker Dock. I hope you like them, too!

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