Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the TidBITS Content Network for Apple consultants.

Macworld Expo SF 2000 Superlatives

At each Macworld Expo, we endeavor to locate a singular example of what the show represents: a product or clever metaphor that perfectly encompasses the deeper currents of what it means to float in a sea of 70,000+ Mac enthusiasts. After a few minutes of that, we come to our senses and instead look for products, booths, or people that pique our interests or catch our jaded eyes. If your product is featured here, feel free to display our new Macworld Expo Superlative badge on your Web page and link to this article in our article database. You can pick up the badge on our badges page (which has a lot of fun badges for readers too) at:


We can't pretend any sort of monopoly on noticing cool stuff at the show, and Omar Shahine and Travis Butler both contributed excellent lists of their show picks (complete with links to pictures that Travis took) to TidBITS Talk.


The Perfit Fit -- In "Pointing the Way with USB Mice," in TidBITS-506, Warren Magnus noted that he could never use the beefy Contour Designs UniMouse comfortably. Contour has addressed this with their three-button Perfit Mouse, which features five different sizes for right-handed users and three for left-handed users. And if you don't want to spend $90 to $100 on the Perfit Mouse in graphite or blueberry, at least pick up a $15 UniTrap, which replaces the plastics on Apple's awful puck mouse, turning it into a usable shape. [ACE]


Scan This, Bub! While walking through the Consumer area, we were commenting on all the neat products from small companies we'd never heard of before, then paused and realized the "little" company with a very cool flatbed/handheld scanner in front of us was actually NEC Technologies. Despite the size of the company, their $125 PetiScan merits an award for the coolest scanner we saw. You can use it as a flatbed scanner for documents, but if you pop off the lid, it becomes a portable handheld scanner, tethered only by a single USB cable (which carries power as well), that's ideal for scanning clothing, trees, posters, or whatever. Because of its small size (8.5" wide by 5.5" high by 1.4" thick), the PetiScan can scan a maximum of 5.8" by 3.9", but it includes Presto ImageStitching for joining scans together. [ACE]


We Control the Horizontal... If you've longed for more keyboard control of the Mac OS, check out MindVision's new $20 MindControl launcher utility. Press a user-defined hot key and a command line appears for you to type either type pre-defined shortcuts you've set up ("nw" for Nisus Writer, for instance), or full names of documents, applications, servers, or URLs. Press Return and MindControl launches the appropriate item. MindControl has lots of tweaky little features (like support for passing some parameters) and configuration options, but I love just having keyboard access to some of the items on my hard disk, especially now that I'm so used to switching to my Web browser and typing a company name to visit their Web site. [ACE]


We Control the Vertical -- MacSpeech's speech-based macro utility, ListenDo 1.1, offered a great price: free! Plus they were selling nearly a dozen of their application-specific ScriptPaks, normally $10 to $20 each, for a grand total of $20. ListenDo replaces Apple's Speakable Items folder with better management of scripts, including automatic application-based sets (having fewer active scripts at each moment means recognition is faster and more accurate) plus you can choose menu items, click buttons, and type stock phrases just by saying their names. [MAN]


Notable Quotables -- Despite the brain-damaging effects of over-amplified Macworld party bands, we keep an ear out for juicy quotes. For example, when Steve Jobs accidentally turned over a VST 100 GB RAID array, causing one drive to fall to the stage, our colleague Hartmut Koenitz remarked that it was fully "hot droppable." We also overheard a reference to Mac OS X's new "Jolly Rancher interface" at a party. No wonder Steve Jobs said Aqua was good enough to lick. [JLC]

Notable but not Quotable -- Several companies went overboard with marketing copy. See if you can guess what this sentence from a company's booth sign describes: "The powerful document processing solution for your mobile or desktop Macintosh." (It was a small, tangerine-colored scanner.) And then there was this headline in a product sheet from MediaLot.com, a company we couldn't figure out from their booth signs: "The online teamspace for collaboration, project management, and digital asset management." (It was a Web-based project management tool.) After these examples of tortured prose, TechWorks picks up Hemingway points for "Buy TechWorks RAM Here." [ACE]


Will Distribute Flyers for Food -- One of the most depressing aspects of Macworld Expo in San Francisco is the homeless population around Moscone Center. Kudos to WISP, Inc. for giving a homeless guy a job handing out flyers about their wireless products and services. He was much more enthusiastic than the normal folks who try to push flyers into your hands as you walk the streets around Moscone, and he was clearly trying to do a good job. [ACE]


Is that a Hard Disk in Your Pocket? LaCie's new PocketDrives bring back the times when you could schlep your hard disk around rather than heft a PowerBook. Today's PocketDrives, however, boast 6 GB ($400) and 18 GB ($750) capacities, plus hot-swappable USB and FireWire interfaces. Despite building in both USB and FireWire controllers, the 1" high units measure only 3.5" by 5.75" and weigh 12.5 ounces. The casing also sports a rubberized edge that protects against shock and provides a place to wrap cables. [ACE]


Coolest Beachwear -- This summer, all well-dressed laptops will wearing the $40 e-clipse, from Hoodman, of (naturally enough) Hermosa Beach, California. It's a hood that fits over your PowerBook screen so you can see it even in bright sun. The nylon e-clipse packs into a small flat bag and is spring-loaded, so it assumes and holds its hood shape automatically. The viewing hole is quite a bit smaller than the screen, unfortunately, so you have bend close to see the full picture, but the Hoodman guy we spoke with said it had to be that small or glare still snuck in. You'll impress everyone by whipping it out when a bully tries to kick sand in your PowerBook's face. [MAN]


Kill the Golden Goose Award -- To IBM, for demoing but not selling ViaVoice at the show. Everyone wanted it; many folks had come just to buy it, and would have paid any price for it; no one could get it. Angry would-be customers can take revenge by waiting for iListen, MacSpeech's dictation offering, which will probably be ready in time for the next Expo and will let you dictate into any application (with ViaVoice, you must dictate into the SpeakPad application and then transfer the text elsewhere). Despite the disappointment of IBM's sales policy, I went ahead and bought ViaVoice through mail-order and am already hopelessly addicted. [MAN]


Internet-Enabled Voice Mail Done Right -- At first I thought Pagoo was another attempt to clog up email by attaching sound files to messages. Instead, Pagoo is geared toward the people who busy out their phone lines while online via modem. Pagoo provides a voice mail system that lets callers leave a message that you can hear while still online. The Pagoo application runs in the background and alerts you when a new message appears; you can then listen to it using Pagoo or access it from the Web. One nice advantage is that Pagoo doesn't hog your bandwidth checking for messages; it simply registers your computer's temporary IP number with Pagoo's servers, which ping your machine only when a message is waiting. And it's cheaper than voicemail. [JLC]


Fill Gaps with iLiner -- Mercury Software's new $50 iLiner gets points for filling in some thin patches in the Macintosh software line: outlining and presentation tools. iLiner is nominally a basic outliner, but it can also export to QuickTime 4.0 slide presentations, providing another option for presentation software. Where iLiner shows the most promise, though, is in accessing Sherlock's text summarization feature in any application. iLiner is clearly a 1.0 product, and Mercury Software's Ian Shortreed said that he has a long list of features he wants to add now that he's gotten 1.0 out the door. [ACE]


Try and Try Again -- Kudos to Copernican Technologies for Boswell, which makes another attempt to succeed in the space of personal information archives. We all have snippets of information floating around our hard disks as clippings, text files, URL bookmarks, and more. Boswell aims to help you capture, archive, and organize that data, and although it's still in beta you can order for $40 now and get a free upgrade to the $130 final release. Boswell looks promising, and we plan to take a closer look once it's final. For suggestions on how other Mac users store and access bits of data today, check out the TidBITS Talk thread on the topic. [ACE]



Make friends and influence people by sponsoring TidBITS!
Put your company and products in front of tens of thousands of
savvy, committed Apple users who actually buy stuff.
More information: <http://tidbits.com/advertising.html>