1999 Hardware Gift Ideas
Speed Up Your Internet Access — Frederic Brehm <[email protected]> suggests something we could all use: faster Internet access. His solution was to install a cable modem. "I recently got [email protected] It sure beats dial-up! Plugs into your Ethernet port, or into a hub. The cable installers were happy I have a Mac. After setting up the cable drop to my room and making sure the signal was OK, the only thing they had to do was set up the TCP/IP control panel, run Netscape (already installed on my iMac) and define the various Web, mail, and news servers. Piece of cake! They said that PC’s were harder because most of them require installing an Ethernet card and more software, which can take a long time." The availability of cable modems varies widely by region, but costs often fall in the neighborhood of $30 to $40 per month after installation fees.
Modem Router — If you can’t get high-speed Internet access in your area, Kiran Wagle <[email protected]> points out an Internet solution "for friends with more computers than phone lines. I recently got a Netgear RM356 modem router, which is a 56 Kbps modem with a 4-port hub. It was literally trivial to set up (if you can telnet and follow directions) and it does NAT and DHCP. In about five minutes, my network was connected to the outside world. The shipping version doesn’t do anything much with incoming port mapping, but Netgear has a firmware upgrade (currently in beta) that does. It’s nice to be able to reboot without having to reconnect PPP. And the Mac is much faster when it doesn’t have to manage a dial-up connection – the Netgear router turned a 6100 that was basically too slow to use into a perfectly reasonable machine.)" The RM356 is often available for less than $300.
Add Fire to Your Wires — Derek Miller <[email protected]> suggests Orange Micro’s OrangeLink FireWire/USB PCI Board, which should be available this week according to the company’s Web site. "Perfect for anyone with a platinum PCI Power Mac – especially those with limited PCI expansion (i.e. everything but the Power Mac 9500 and 9600) – who would like to have modern connectivity, but without filling up all their available slots. The card includes two 400 Mbps FireWire ports on one controller and two 12 Mbps USB ports, plus FireWire and USB cables, Adobe Premiere LE, and drivers." Orange Micro’s OrangeLink FireWire/USB PCI Board should be available for about $150.
Agfa ePhoto — If you’re looking for an inexpensive digital camera other than those Arthur Bleich recommended in "Digital Camera Buying Guidelines, Part 2" in TidBITS-509, several readers recommended the Agfa ePhoto 780c. Andreas Martini <[email protected]> writes, "It’s a beautiful digital camera (less than $200) together with a Mac cable and Mac software. Okay, it has a low resolution, but good enough for the Web." (See Arthur Bleich’s description of the ePhoto 780 last year in TidBITS-464.)
Mike Cohen <[email protected]> added, "I strongly recommend getting a Microtech CameraMate or equivalent rather than using the serial cable to connect it to your Mac (especially if you have a USB-capable Mac). Agfa’s connection software works only with a Keyspan twin serial adapter (not a Keyspan PDA adapter). With a CameraMate, just stick in the SmartMedia card and it will appear on the desktop. Agfa’s software recognizes it as a PC Card and automatically view, download, and/or delete images from the card as soon as you insert it."
Jabra Headphones — Scot Andrews <[email protected]> found an excellent deal on the Jabra microphone/headset device offered by TidBITS sponsor Small Dog Electronics. "The Small Dog folks will sell you 12 Jabra microphone/headsets for $9 as opposed to the $50 Jabra would charge you for a single one (perform a search for "Jabra" to bring up the deal). Apparently they’re trying to make room for 600 17" monitors the boss has just bought. I personally plan on giving them away game show-style to my students. And given pending changes in the Mac speech recognition field, I expect they’ll be great for today’s standard audio input/output-capable Macs."
Dr. Mouse Aids Sore Wrists — We’re always on the lookout for ergonomic solutions, so Dee Brian’s <[email protected]> recommendation looks interesting. "For your friends who have repetitive stress problems due to improper mousing, the Dr. Mouse from Animax USA takes care of this problem. I have had mine for two months and I no longer have any problem with repetitive stress. The Dr. Mouse looks like a small joystick, so your hand is in a more natural position for mousing. After using the Dr. Mouse I don’t think that I will return to using a regular mouse."
The Dr. Mouse hails from Norway and is also known as the Anir Vertical Mouse or the Anir Ergonomic Mouse Pro; it typically costs $60 to $80, depending on the model (both ADB and USB versions are available).
USB Video Capture — Derek Miller <[email protected]> recommends Interex/XLR8’s InterView USB video capture solution for amateur Spielbergs who don’t have a studio budget. "It’s a low-end solution, but probably the least expensive way (under $100, I think) to get Web-quality video capture via a Mac’s USB port and an elegant multi-wired breakout box that’s about the size of a small flashlight. Interex also has another bundle that includes a PCI USB card for those computers without USB. Both include Strata VideoShop video editing software."
The Switch Is Still On — A few readers recommend an old computer standby: serial switch boxes. Although a number of inexpensive boxes can be found, Saint John <[email protected]> recommends the $60 Port Xpander by MacAlly. Using the Apple Communication Toolbox, the Port Xpander can list and switch to attached devices. Of course, you’d need an older Mac that has serial ports to use this.
Processor Upgrades — TidBITS Contributing Editor Matt Neuburg <[email protected]> has had good results adding new life to his older Mac system: "I’ve just acquired a Newer Technology MAXpowr G3 CPU upgrade, turning my PowerCenter Pro 180 into a 300 MHz G3 screamer, for just $300. Installation couldn’t have been simpler: pop out the old card, pop in the new. The processor card does not take up a precious PCI slot. Wow. This particular model applies to a lot of PCI-based Macs and it looks like now is a great moment to buy if, like me, you’ve been putting it off."
Small UPS — Sarah Prince <[email protected]> says, "I’d recommend about a small uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for the person who only uses a cheap hardware store power strip to save the effort of switching two or three items on or off? Some of them look more interesting now, not just like boring appliances." Even more important than their looks, however, is a UPS’s ability to protect your data – and your hardware – from power outages, brownouts, and surges. Check out Adam’s article in TidBITS-498 to get an idea of the products that are available – many single-system UPS’s are now under $100.