Mac News Review

Driverless USB Webcam, Ergonomic Mac Keyboard, 2x Application Server for Windows on Macs, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2006.10.16

Last week's biggest Mac peripheral news? Probably the iMage webcam, a USB 2.0 device that works with OS X without special drivers. No more need to buy Apple's $149 iSight or drivers for a third-party webcam. No, it's not as sophisticated as Apple's offering, but it sells for just $60 and works with iChat and other Apple apps.

On the peripherals fron, Key Ovation has released a white ergonomic keyboard designed for the Mac. And for those who want to plan ahead, OWC's Mercury Elite Pro supports Apple's traditional FireWire, the newer USB 2.0, and the current eSATA interfaces in a single aluminum enclosure.

PowerBook, iBook, MacBook, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Products

iPod Accessories

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Intel Road Map Clear; Apple's Hazy

BusinessWeek's Stephen H. Wildstrom says:

"Unlike every other computer maker, Apple refuses to discuss plans for incorporating new processors as they become available. Now that Macs include Intel chips, Apple finds itself on the same Intel road map as other computer makers. I hope that means Apple will be more forthcoming. But I'm not going to bet on it.

"For now, all I can do is offer some guesses, based on what other laptop makers are doing - and Intel's announced plans. Intel began shipping the Core 2 chips for notebooks this summer and they are becoming available in all but the smallest. My best guess is that the MacBook Pros and perhaps the MacBook and mini will be refreshed using the new Core 2 Duos sometime in November. (The iMac has already moved to the Core 2. The Mac Pro uses workstation-class Xeon chips)."

24" iMac's Crisp Picture Shames TV; Speed Also Impressive

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Melissa L. Jones reports:

"Computer companies are doing their best to invade the living room, replacing the old television with full multimedia systems.

"Apple Computer Inc. is among those companies trying to offer full entertainment packages in one device. It recently introduced a computer that, frankly, puts my 25-inch living-room television to shame - the 24-inch iMac."

Adesso to Distribute Cirque's Desktop Touchpads

PR: In an effort to improve overall market penetration, Cirque Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alps Electric Co., Ltd. and a leader in the capacitance technology industry, today announced it has entered into a licensing agreement with Adesso Incorporated.

Under the terms of the agreement, Adesso will assemble, brand, and distribute the Cirque Smart Cat and Cirque Smart Cat Pro desktop touchpads in professional retail packaging. The products will then be available to the market through its extensive distribution network.

"This is an exciting announcement not only for Cirque and Adesso, but also for our other partners who will benefit from the improved sales activity brought about by the increased exposure our desktop touchpad line will be receiving," said Ken Tolman, sales manager, desktop products for Cirque. "In addition, Adesso will offer the product in professional retail packaging that will be more appealing to the consumer."

"The introduction of Cirque's desktop products into our retail channels, in conjunction with the larger marketing effort, will improve public awareness of the touchpad products," said Allen Ku, CEO of Adesso. "We're enthusiastic about the opportunities this agreement gives us to grow the marketplace and help put Cirque touchpads on more desktops around the world."

Products

iMage Driverless USB Webcam for Mac

iMage USB WebcamPR: Ecamm Network and Pico Instruments Tuesday announced the immediate availability of the iMage USB Webcam. The lightweight, portable webcam delivers high-quality video to any popular Mac video application, including iChat AV, Yahoo! Messenger, Skype, and Photo Booth.

The Pico Instruments iMage webcam delivers high-quality 640 x 480 video to your favorite Mac apps, including iChat AV, Yahoo! Messenger, Skype and many others.

Apple is bringing about a video conferencing revolution. There's no reason why you can't join in with your PowerBook, iBook, or desktop Mac, just because there's no built-in camera. Just plug the iMage webcam into your USB port and start enjoying video chat within seconds.

Employing USB video standards, the iMage webcam requires no device drivers to be installed prior to use with Mac OS X or Windows XP. Ecamm includes special iMage Plugin software to provide complete iChat compatibility.

iMage USB Webcam"Our goal with the iMage is to provide an affordable end-to-end video solution for Mac owners who don't have a built-in camera," says Glen Aspeslagh, Ecamm Network's Vice President of Product Development. "Whether it's a PowerBook, iBook, Mac Mini or Mac Pro, this camera completes the video chat equation."

The webcam's unique industrial design is the product of Pico Instruments' consumer electronics expertise. iMage requires no special fittings or attachments to be mounted above a notebook screen, sit on a desktop, attach magnetically or mount on a standard camera tripod.

Features:

  • Driverless technology. No driver software is needed.*
  • Mac and Windows compatible.
  • Lightweight, portable design.
  • Mounts on PowerBook or iBook screen. (See photo above.)
  • Built-in magnetic mount.
  • Threaded screw hole for tripod mount.
  • Screw holes for wall mounting.

The iMage USB Webcam is available from Ecamm Network for $59.95 with shipping in the US.

For a limited time, Ecamm Network is including their Conference Recorder for iChat and Call Recorder for Skype software and offering free shipping within the United States.

Key Ovation Goldtouch for Mac Keyboard

PR: Key Ovation, manufacturer of the industry-leading Goldtouch line of ergonomic products, announced today the availability of its first Apple-compatible Keyboard - Goldtouch for Mac.

Goldtouch for Mac"Apple customers rely heavily on their computer and its peripherals to deliver state of the art graphics and other products," said Key Ovation General Manager Stephanie Gilbert. "They have high expectations around the use of their Macintosh, and they shouldn't have to temper those expectations when it comes to their keyboard, either."

In fact, it was Apple's internal use of the standard Goldtouch line that sparked demand for the Goldtouch for Mac line when it became available.

"That was tremendous validation for the keyboard," said Gilbert. "Making that kind of purchase sends a message to Apple's millions of customers."

Christopher Lowe, Director of Sales, added: "That, plus the general trend of many F1000 companies to identify the Goldtouch as the preferred alternative keyboard, really brought home the importance of providing both Mac and PC users a solution for working more comfortably."

Goldtouch for MacThe Goldtouch for Mac, which sells for $139.95, can be purchased at the Key Ovation website or through select resellers.

Among the keyboard's features is the ability to adjust the two alphanumeric sections both horizontally and vertically to suit the individual's body requirements. "This helps you to assume a more natural posture," notes Gilbert.

Features include:

  • USB connector
  • Adjustment for wrist splay in the horizontal plan: 0°-30°, continuously variable
  • Adjustment for wrist pronation - vertical tenting 0°-30°, continuously variable
  • Easily adjusted, locking ball and socket latch mechanism
  • Small, space saving foot-print to bring your mouse inside your ergonomic "comfort zone"
  • Editing key layout for left-right work distribution
  • Large space bars for easy thumb use
  • Full size, full travel, tactile feedback keys with soft end-stop
  • Low noise key actuation
  • Standard alphanumeric key layout (QWERTY)

Apple Key Features:

  • Apple Control Key
  • Right and Left Apple and Option Keys
  • CD Eject
  • Mute and Volume Control

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 & Newer

All in One Drive Has USB 2.0, FireWire, and eSATA

Extremetech's Loyd Case says:

"Normally, users of external hard drives are faced with a limited set of choices. Some products offer dual interfaces, typically FireWire 400 and USB 2.0. Some drives, like Seagate's 300 GB eSATA external drive, give you the speed of a 3 Gbps SATA connection, but you need an eSATA port on any system you want to use it with.

"Other World Computing (OWC) is a reseller mainly focused on the Apple Macintosh peripheral market, but the external drive works with both Mac OS, Windows, and (with the right drivers) Linux. You can buy a fully configured drive direct from OWC in capacities ranging from 250 GB to 750 GB. Or you can just buy the enclosure and add your own drive. We tested a 320 GB version that OWC sells for $230."

Affordable Logitech X-540 Speakers Deliver Matrix Surround Sound

PR: Logitech has announced the Logitech®X-540 speaker system, an affordable surround-sound system designed for gamers, which solves two distinct problems. The X-540 system enables people to enjoy the experience of surround sound even with two-channel audio sources, by including matrix surround-sound technology. And for those playing games using a flat-panel display with no convenient place to set a center-channel speaker, Logitech's patent-pending integrated center-channel clip gracefully and securely attaches the speaker atop the monitor, saving desk space.

"Over the past five years, Logitech has achieved market leadership in the multimedia speaker category with our bestselling X-series speaker line, by delivering great performance, style and value," said Jef Holove, Logitech's vice president of product marketing for audio. "The X-540 system leaps beyond that to provide more pragmatic innovation, offering matrix technology and the innovative center-channel clip. It is sure to be a hit with gamers, and our customers can rest assured that, for baseline audio performance, this system outclasses the competition in its price range."

Matrix Surround Sound

Audio sources - including many games and nearly all digital music - are coded only for stereo sound, limiting the purpose of having a 5.1 system. The Logitech X-540 speakers, the company's first to offer matrix surround-sound technology at a price under $100 (U.S.), split an audio signal to create five channels of sound from common two-channel stereo sources - and without distorting the audio quality. For convenience, the matrix button is located on the control center, along with the power button, volume controls and a headphone jack.

Center-Channel Satellite Clip

Many gamers today are using flat-panel displays - however, unlike traditional CRT monitors, these displays don't offer a flat place on top for a center channel speaker to rest. Logitech solves this with its patent-pending center-channel clip, another company first. The clip securely fastens the center speaker to the back of the display's top edge. For gamers who still prefer CRT monitors, the center-channel clip also acts as a speaker stand that can sit atop the monitor or in front, on the desk.

Great Performance, Edgy Design

With a dedicated center channel and acoustically matched front and rear satellites, the Logitech X-540 system produces balanced surround sound. The X-540 speakers use Logitech's Frequency Directed Dual Driver" technology. This technology helps the speaker system produce richer sounds by having two drivers in each satellite speaker. It also overcomes high-frequency overlap that leads to uneven sound - a major barrier to dual driver speakers in the past. The result is uniform, intense sound from any place in the room.

The combination of five satellites plus subwoofer delivers 70 watts of power using the audio industry's official RMS (Root Mean Square) measuring system. The system also includes a down-firing subwoofer and a dynamic, real-time equalizer that maximizes bass while minimizing distortion.

When compared to Logitech's other X-series speakers, the X-540 speakers feature a new industrial design that adds more angles and style to the five satellites. Durable metal grilles protect the satellites and a down-firing design shields the subwoofer driver. With a convenient headphone jack built into the control center, people can also enjoy their games or music privately.

The Logitech X-540 speaker system is expected to be available in the U.S. and Europe beginning in November. Its suggested retail price in the U.S. is $99.99.

World's Smallest Desktop Color Laser Printer Available Nationwide

PR: Samsung, the world's second largest laser printer engine manufacturer, announces that its breakthrough CLP-300 Series color laser printers are now shipping and available. These powerful yet affordable new solutions are ideal for customers who want the benefits of color printing but do not have the space for the typical color laser printers in this class. The CLP-300 and network ready CLP-300N are the smallest color laser printers in their class, weighing only 30 pounds and featuring a compact footprint of 15.4" w x 13.5" d x 10.4" h.

The CLP-300 printers are suited for a wide variety of customers including home users, small businesses and even students who may currently use an ink jet printer for their everyday printing. With the CLP-300, customers can print their projects quickly and affordably.

Both of these new printer models are not only are compact in size, but also feature easy to install toner bottles, instead of larger unwieldy cartridges, allowing for a footprint small enough to fit on most any desk. These stylishly designed two-tone printers deliver beautiful color prints along with quieter operation with the same exclusive NO NOIS" print engine you'll find in Samsung's high end color laser printers. Additionally, getting the printer up and printing is simple, with as few as four clicks of the mouse.

The CLP-300 printers offer print speeds of up to 17-ppm in black and white, and 4-ppm in color. Sharp documents result from the 600 x 600 dpi optical resolution which can be enhanced up to 2400 x 600 dpi. The unit also boasts a competitive 24,200 pages per month duty cycle. The high speed USB 2.0 interface makes setup and connectivity simple and the 150-sheet cassette tray enables a hectic workflow to keep flowing. Easy to access toner and paper sources means it's easy to replace supplies and handle paper jams. Also, the number of supply items is minimized for easy replacement and cost-efficiency.

"The CLP-300 series not only provide customers with high-quality output, quickly and affordably, but can deliver these results without sacrificing desktop space," said Tony Venice, senior solutions product manager, Samsung Electronics Information Technology Division. "Additionally, there has become a frustration factor for the typical ink jet customer who is now finding that replacing multiple ink cartridges can be cumbersome and expensive. These new models from Samsung provide a compelling color printing solution that saves the average customer money, time and frustration."

The CLP-300 series comes with a high-speed USB 2.0 interface and is compatible with Windows, Macintosh and various Linux operating systems.

The CLP-300N adds a built-in 10/100 Base TX network card, allowing the printer to be shared. The CLP-300 and CLP-300N are currently available for estimated street prices of $299 and $349, respectively and can be purchased through retail, resellers, dealers and distribution partners.

iPod Accessories

Proporta USB Mobile Device Charger

PR: Problem...

Battery life of new power-hungry mobile devices has a lot to answer for. We all know how annoying it is when your device runs out of battery when you need it the most - the phone call you had to make, the 3 hour journey you are on with no book to read, or that deal breaking email that you had to send. Proporta have come up with the answer.

Solution...

Proporta USB Mobile Device ChargerThe Proporta USB Mobile Device Charger allows you to charge any device, whether it be your PDA, mobile phone or MP3 player when you are nowhere near a wall socket, laptop or PC.

How it works...

The Proporta USB Mobile Device Charger charges from any standard USB port (so it works with all Proporta power/charging products in your car, home, office) and stores an impressive 3400 mAh of power for when you need it.

This means that you have the ability to charge your device several times from this emergency store. Cables are supplied with standard USB and mini USB connectors - and also a cable to fit your iPod.

Features...

Charge anywhere, recharge anything - standard USB input and output

Compact, slim and lightweight (measures just 100 x 62 x 15mm or 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches and weighs 120g or 4.2 oz)

Impressive 3400 mAh storage (recharge your devices several times) Powerful 5v, 700mA output (enough for even the most power-hungry mobile devices)

Environmentally friendly (rechargeable) LED charge and discharge indicator

Microswitch on/off selection

These chargers are ready to order now, and will be shipping from the middle of this month

Price: £25.49

Worldwide shipping: $4.95

Software

Run Windows Applications Seamlessly with 2X Application Server

PR: Publish any Windows application onto a Mac desktop with 2X ApplicationServer's Mac client

Mac OS X users can now run Windows applications seamlessly on their desktop with 2X ApplicationServer's Mac client. 2X ApplicationServer is available for free for up to 5 connections.

Until now, Macintosh users could only run Windows applications using Windows simulation software (e.g. Virtual PC). This type of software is typically difficult to configure and only works with a limited number of applications. With 2X ApplicationServer, however, any Windows application can be tunneled from a Microsoft Terminal Server via RDP onto a Mac desktop.

"With the 2X ApplicationServer Mac client, we want to address all those companies that use Apple Macintosh PC's as part of their IT infrastructure and need to run Windows applications on those machines. Now they can continue to use Windows applications which are not available as Mac versions," said Nikolaos Makris, 2X CEO.

2X ApplicationServer tunnels any Windows application onto remote desktops, including Mac and Linux desktops, without the need to install the application onto each user's machine. This saves significantly on administration and support.

2X is offering a free 5 application license of 2X ApplicationServer for Windows Terminal Services available online.

Organizations can install applications onto one central server and use 2X ApplicationServer to seamlessly tunnel up to 5 connections per server onto remote desktops.

Deep Sleep 0.7

PR: An hibernation Dashboard widget for Mac OS X 10.4.3 and above

Deep Sleep is a simple Dashboard widget which allows users to put their computer into hibernation mode, also sometimes called software suspend mode. This widget only works on a limited number of Apple computer models.

The default behavior of Mac OS X is to put sleeping computers in "hardware suspend" mode, during which the RAM is still powered on. This widget allows the computer to enter 'software suspend' mode. Software suspend is a feature similar to what windows call 'hibernation': the computer consumes no power while sleeping, however the wake up process takes more time to complete.

Hibernation is made possible by the Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.3 update. This operating system version is required.

Only the computers with "safe sleep" feature are officially supported. For now, the only computers with this feature are the PowerBook "HD" line of Apple laptops. Please read the included documentation for more information, including the possibilty to use this widget on unsupported computers.

New in version 0.7:

  • The widget will detected unexpected crashes during sleep, and fix their consequences
  • Added a workaround to prevent widget messages from not showing up in special circumstances.
  • Added the detection of systems running FileVault.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later.

System Support: PPC/Intel

Free

Smart Scroll X 2.0b2

PR: Smart Scroll X brings new scrolling options and enhancements to Mac OS X:

  • Super Wheel - smoother, more comfortable scroll wheel action.
  • Grab Scroll lets you scroll by clicking and dragging anywhere in a window. Currently for Cocoa applications.
  • A "High Gear" for your scroll wheel, so you can have super-fast scrolling when you need it.
  • Universal Scroll Keys to scroll without having to reach for the mouse. Scroll keys are the same in every application, giving you fast & dependable scrolling right from the keyboard.
  • Adds Scroll wheel support to FileMaker Pro 6 and 7 (as well as live scrolling).
  • Adds Live Scrolling and proportional thumbs to AppleWorks 6.

Grab Scroll

Grab scroll works with any mouse or pen or trackpad, etc. It is essentially the same feature as the hand tool available in many graphics programs, but now you can use it for scrolling in any Cocoa application (support for Carbon applications is forthcoming).

  • With a single-button mouse, a scroll key lets you turn the cursor into an open hand: hold the first key and tap the second one. To scroll, click and drag with the mouse. Grab scroll mode ends when you release the first key (the 2nd key is used to activate grab scroll, and also to scroll faster when you want).
  • With a multiple-button mouse, you just press one of the buttons (select one) to grab the page and slide it inside its window.
  • With a graphics pen, you'll probably want to setup the extra buttons so that the first one does a middle-click (so you can use it to grab scroll) and the 2nd one does a right-click. Since the pen lets you move the cursor farther with less effort and more precision than a mouse, you can keep the normal speed at 1x for maximum control and set the other speeds to some high value.

Two extra scrolling speeds are available, in addition to the normal speed. One by holding a user-selectable key while dragging, and the second by starting to drag near an edge of the area to scroll.

Faster Scroll Wheel

You can make your scroll wheel faster when you hold down a user-selectable key, up to 12 times faster. In addition, the speed multiplier you choose is applied on top of the acceleration already provided by the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane: this means you keep the same level of control as you have now, but you can scroll farther and without having to spin the wheel nearly as much.

Universal Scroll Keys

A welcome alternative to always having to reach for the mouse, Scroll Keys are a real time saver for anyone who types a lot!

With automatic scroll focusing, all you do is press a Scroll Key and Smart Scroll X automatically selects and scrolls the correct pane. Scroll Keys also feature their own adjustable scrolling speed, with optional progressive acceleration, so that you can easily scroll multiple pages simply by holding down a key.

Scroll Keys are the same across all applications: no need to remember different keys for each app. Because of this, and because Scroll Keys are conveniently located in the corner of the keyboard, you can even scroll without having to look at the keys.

Scroll Keys are made possible by the new kind of keyboard shortcut used in Smart Scroll X, which doesn't involve hitting letter keys (hence avoiding conflicts with existing key combinations). Instead, you hold down one of the four corner keys and you scroll by hitting one of the others (some keyboards have these keys on both sides, letting you scroll with either hand) :

FileMaker Pro & AppleWorks enhancements

Smart Scroll X brings scroll wheel support and live scrolling to FileMaker Pro 6 and 7. You can now use your scroll wheel mouse for scrolling FileMaker Pro documents. Note: With some layouts you may need to click one of the scroll bars once before the scroll wheel works. A fix will be available in the next version of Smart Scroll X.

AppleWorks 6 users get live scrolling and proportional thumbs, as well as scroll wheel support.

Live scrolling updates the document while you drag the scroll bar thumb. Proportional thumbs show how much of the document is being displayed, and they make it easier to see which part you are viewing. They are also easier to grab with the mouse.

Scroll Next

If a window has two or more scrollable panes, it is the one under the mouse pointer that scrolls. Automatic scroll focusing will select one of the panes for you when you press a Scroll Key to start scrolling, but chances are it won't be able to guess the correct pane every time. To let you scroll another pane without reaching for the mouse, Smart Scroll X adds the Scroll Next feature: hold down Control and hit Shift to select the next pane in the window for scrolling. The mouse pointer jumps to the selected pane too, providing visual feedback.

Scroll Next is quite useful in applications such as Mail for example, where one often wants to alternatively scroll the list of messages and the text of an email.

Note: In the current version of Smart Scroll X, scrolling in Carbon applications only works if the mouse pointer is above the pane to scroll. An upcoming version of Smart Scroll X will remove this limitation, and also enable the Scroll Next feature for Carbon applications.

Other features of Smart Scroll X

Finally, Smart Scroll X lets you select a comfortable scrolling speed for Scroll keys (including optional acceleration), and offers a larger selection of scrollbar arrows positions (still useful from time to time, although with Grab Scroll and Scroll Keys you won't need to click on arrows very often anymore). You do not need to restart applications for these changes to take effect.

New in version 2.0b2:

  • The Smart Scroll X Installer should now open correctly on all systems. Thanks to Fernando Bracho for reporting this!

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.

System support: PPC

$19 shareware

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