One of the fun parts of the Expo is looking for new products:
upgrades for older Macs, leading edge technologies, and useful
peripherals among them.
Contour MiniPro Mouse
Laptops are great. I'm using my wife's iBook,
which really does have a 4-5 hours battery life in the field. I love
the way it sleeps when you shut the lid, then wakes up when you open
it. I really love the AirPort card, which lets me connect to the
Internet from the press room. I like the trackpad, which is the best
I've ever used.
Still, I find a mouse far more natural and quicker than a
trackpad. As a longtime fan of Contour mice (I've used their
UniMouse for almost two
years), I went in search of the compact optical mouse they introduced
at Macworld Expo last summer. Then it was a $69 mouse, but Apple
trumped it with a $59 optical mouse. Contour responded by dropping
the price of their compact two-button MiniPro Mouse to $38. This
includes a great storage case that keeps the USB cable from getting
tangled. It also has five different colored buttons, making it a good
match for most USB Macs.
I bought a pair at $30 each (gotta love show special prices!), one
for my wife's iBook and one for the PowerBook G4 I plan on ordering
ATI Xclaim TV USB edition
Want to watch TV on your iBook or transport analog video to your
iMac for editing with iMovie? If so, ATI's new $99 Xclaim TV USB
Edition could be for you. It combines cable input, a tuner, and video
input with USB output and software to control it.
Cool as it is to watch TV on your desktop computer and even record
programs to your hard drive, I think the great potential here is for
people who want to use iMovie but don't yet have digital video
equipment. The Xclaim TV USB Edition can capture video in real time
at up to 320x240 pixels - not as impressive as DV, but at a fraction
of the cost.
Picture 500 MB of storage on an optical disk a bit larger than a
quarter. That's the idea behind DataPlay, which stores 75% as much
data as CD-R on a far more compact medium.
Available in October, DataPlay media ($10 per disk) will work with
several devices, including the discGO!, which reads and writes
DataPlay cartridges. discGO! itself connects to your computer with
USB and also functions as an MP3 player. It looks promising, as does
a device which can copy data from Compact Flash cards to DataPlay
media in the field.
DataPlay is too thick for a reader that fits a single PC Card
(previously PCMCIA) slot, but a drive that fits a double PC Card bay
should be no problem. This could be a great backup medium for use in
the field. Time will tell, but I think this is one of the most
promising new technologies of the Expo.
There are only three drawbacks to DataPlay:
It's a write-once medium, like CD-R, so you can't erase a disk
and reuse it.
You have to flip the disk for the second side, so it's only
250 MB per side. This is mostly a matter of convenience.
It won't be available until October, giving others a chance to
come up with competitive solutions.
Sonnet Encore/ST G4 Duet
If you have a Sawtooth Power Mac
G4 and want more horsepower, the Encore/ST G4 Duet lets you
replace the single processor with a pair of 500 MHz G4 processors.
Not cheap, the $999 upgrade will drastically improve Photoshop and
digital video performance under the current Mac OS (8.6 to 9.0.4) -
and nearly double performance under OS X.
If fast ethernet isn't enough for you and you don't want to invest
in gigabit ethernet (or have a Mac, such as the FireWire iBook or an
iMac with FireWire) that doesn't support it), FireNet merits
consideration for very high speed data transfer. FireNet is software
that runs under Mac OS 9 or X, allowing you to move data at 400 Mbps
using the TCP/IP protocol - for only $49 for the first Mac and $37
per additional station.