The sad news that just broke is that Steve Jobs is taking another medical leave of absence from Apple, with COO Tim Cook once again taking over day-to-day operations. This comes after last week’s major announcement that Verizon Wireless will start selling the iPhone 4 as of February 2011, and the only slightly less major announcement of the fifth edition of our best-selling ebook, Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of Mac OS X Backups.” Also this week, we share details of our appearances at Macworld Expo, and for consultants attending the show, recommend a side trip to MacTech Boot Camp. So you don’t feel that you missed out, our roving correspondent Jeff Porten reports back on the most interesting products and technologies he saw at CES 2011 in Las Vegas. Finally, it was a slow week in software, with notable releases this week including only Audio Hijack Pro 2.9.9 and Typinator 4.3.
Apple has released a media advisory containing an email message sent by Steve Jobs to all Apple employees, announcing that the board of directors has granted him a medical leave of absence so he can “focus on his health.” No time frame is given, apart from Jobs saying he hopes “to be back as soon as I can.”
Jobs is retaining his CEO position, and will be involved in major strategic decisions for the company, but COO Tim Cook will once again take over the reins for Apple’s day-to-day operations. Cook handled Apple’s operations for two months in 2004, while Jobs was recovering from pancreatic cancer surgery (see “Steve Jobs Undergoes Cancer Surgery,” 2 August 2004), and again for six months in 2009, while Jobs was having a liver transplant related to complications from the pancreatic cancer (see “Steve Jobs Takes Medical Leave Until June,” 14 January 2009, and “Apple: Jobs Back on the
Job,” 30 June 2009).
By all accounts, Cook did a good job during those previous stints, and there’s every reason to believe he and the rest of Apple’s executive team will continue to move the company forward. As I wrote back in June 2009, “While there’s no question that Jobs brings vision and marketing savvy to Apple, the company’s performance over the last six months shows that he is by no means indispensable.”
Jobs ends his email message with, “In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.” In keeping with that request, we won’t be speculating on Jobs’s health problems or attempting to divine what might be wrong. Anyone who has suffered pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant is obviously not in the best of health, and running the second-most valuable company in the world cannot help but be taxing.
Our best wishes to Jobs for a quick return to health.
Before I started TidBITS in 1990, I was working as an independent Mac consultant. I was fresh out of Cornell and my College Scholar degree in Hypertextual Fiction (with a major in Classics!) had done squat for teaching me how to run a consulting business and work with clients. I managed acceptably for a couple of years until we moved to Seattle in 1991, when I decided I’d have better luck focusing on TidBITS than building a consulting practice in a city where I knew no one.
What I wish I’d had back then, though, was the upcoming MacTech Boot Camp, a one-day conference that takes place the day before (but is unaffiliated with) Macworld Expo. If you’re already planning to attend Macworld Expo, which is extremely useful for consultants as well, thanks to the access to vendors on the show floor and the essential MacIT technical sessions, MacTech Boot Camp offers the sort of training you won’t find anywhere else on the day before Macworld Expo’s show floor opens (that’s Wednesday, 26 January 2011).
MacTech Boot Camp sessions include topics on building your brand, working with clients, best practices for hardware and software deployment for consultants, making remote consulting work, and finding the support resources that you need as a consultant. Some of the content is technical, but what’s more important is that all of it is focused on the job of being a consultant or support professional. I don’t know all the presenters, but I was pleased to recognize a few names, including Ivan Drucker and Caroline Green from New York City, to whom I’ve referred people on a few occasions when the situation required on-site assistance.
MacTech Boot Camp will take place on 26 January 2011, from 9 AM through 6 PM, at the Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco. Pre-registration costs $395 through 18 January 2011, or $495 after that; lunch is included. There’s also a study session and exam for becoming Apple Certified on the day before MacTech Boot Camp (Tuesday, 25 January 2011); it costs an additional $199. Educational pricing is available for students.
And if you haven’t already signed up for Macworld Expo itself, you can use this link to get a $15 expo pass for the show floor, or, even better, 10 percent off conference passes.
Speaking as someone who’s not particularly skilled with graphics software, I appreciate programs that simplify specific layout tasks, such as iPhoto’s calendar-creation tools, BeLight Software’s Business Card Composer, and to the point today, BeLight’s Disc Cover.
Disc Cover, now at version 3, offers a clean interface for arranging text and graphics within the limitations of CD/DVD disc labels (along with jewel case covers, multi-page booklets, and even odd items like mini CDs/DVDs, business card CDs/DVDs, and VHS labels). Helpfully, it shows alignment lines as you move objects around, integrates the image editing features from BeLight’s free Image Tricks, and offers a slew of backgrounds and other images you can use. There’s also full integration with iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture, and iDVD, plus the capability to pull in MP3 information and pictures from folders in the Finder. And if you’re not feeling creative, Disc Cover offers a bunch of pre-designed templates you can customize. Disc Cover
can even burn designs to LightScribe and Labelflash discs, if you have the proper drive.
Some things you never want to see backed up: for example, your plumbing or rush-hour traffic. But when it comes to the gigabytes of irreplaceable data that you keep on your Mac—pictures, music, mail, financial information, contacts, calendars, spreadsheets, and more—the lack of a backup can give you a case of digital amnesia from which it can be impossible to recover. The sad technological truth is that no piece of hardware is exempt from breakdown, theft, or disaster. Without a good, reliable, timely backup, there may be nothing that stands between digital bliss and the digital abyss. That’s why backup guru Joe Kissell has worked hard to create the comprehensive fifth edition of his “Take Control of Mac OS X Backups,” available now for $15.
In the 228-page ebook, Joe takes you beyond the limited security of turning on Time Machine or copying a few files to CD as he explains how to pick the best strategy to meet a variety of backup needs. He not only helps you with what to do about backups, but explains the hows and whys of what you are doing. You’ll find an at-a-glance comparison of different backup strategies (low-cost, easy, safest), along with advice for backing up digital photos and massive video projects, and you’ll benefit from Joe’s time-tested recommendations for setting up, testing, maintaining, and restoring backups.
Although Joe’s advice will help you start backing up right away, reading the full ebook will teach you to:
- Design a reliable backup system. Learn how to develop a backup system that is not only thorough, ensuring that data is safe, but also easy to manage.
- Talk like an expert. Understand terms like versioned backups, push and pull backups, duplicates, server, client, incremental, differential, hard link, metadata, mirroring, and snapshot.
Shop for hardware. Discover the pros and cons of different backup media options such as hard drives (with USB, FireWire, or eSATA interfaces—and with or without full-disk encryption), flash drives, tape drives, RAIDs, Drobo storage devices, CDs and DVDs, Time Capsules, and NAS and SAN devices.
Choose backup software. Learn about 14 key features and find overviews of 12 noteworthy backup products (an online appendix covers nearly 100 options). You’ll also get Joe’s personal recommendations to help you sort through the possibilities.
Make backups. No matter what backup software is used, Joe provides a conceptual walk-through of the entire process, offering basic information for people who have never made a backup before and savvy, real-world suggestions for making the backup process as easy as possible. He also provides specific steps for working with Time Machine.
Recover lost data from a backup. Find out how to recover your data successfully in the event of a hard disk crash or other calamity.
The ebook also includes an appendix aimed at people who want to create their own backups using Unix on the Mac command line, and it explains how to back up a Windows volume for those who run Windows on a Mac.
Now that the holidays are over, chances are that the amount of data you have on your Mac has increased, thanks to family photos and videos, high score files for new games, end-of-year financial records, and more. If you don’t already have a solid backup strategy, Joe’s new ebook is just what you need to meet the New Year’s resolution of protecting your precious bits in 2011.
As usual, a number of TidBITS and Take Control authors will be in attendance at the upcoming Macworld Expo, which takes place from Wednesday, 26 January 2011 through Saturday, 29 January 2011 (but note that the exhibit hall floor is open only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of that week; Wednesday is for all-day pre-conference workshops).
Macworld Expo takes place only in the new Moscone West this year, presumably on multiple floors. If there are any changes or additions, or if we learn about more room numbers, we’ll update this article on our Web site, so check back there for the latest right before the show.
Here’s our current schedule, and please do come by and say hello!
Thursday, January 27th — Along with the expo floor opening, a number of TidBITS staffers have talks on Thursday.
- 10:30 AM: In the Users Conference track, Jeff Carlson runs through the entire iLife ’11 suite in “Livin’ the iLife, a Beginner’s Guide to the iLifestyle ,” demonstrating how to turn all the photos and videos we accumulate into projects you want to share, using iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iDVD, and iWeb. (Room 3003)
- 3:30 PM: Also in the Users Conference track, Glenn Fleishman will provide a detailed explanation of the many and sundry options for remote screen access and remote control from Mac OS X and iOS devices in “Remote Control Your Screens.” Glenn will be conducting the session from an undisclosed location (at the front of the room). (Room 3008)
3:30 PM: Adam will be joining a “Future of the Mac” panel discussion led by Macworld’s Jason Snell on the Macworld Live stage. Everyone load the Zippo lighter app on their iPhones so you can hold them up when we talk about how the future of the Mac from Apple’s perspective appears to be iOS.
6:00 PM: Many of us will be meeting in Moscone West under the escalators on the first floor, in preparation for the annual Netters’ Dinner. At 6:30, we’ll all parade to the Hunan at Sansome and Broadway, where the hot and spicy Chinese dinner (vegetarian dishes are available) costs $20. You must register in advance by Tuesday, January 25th, via Kagi; the link has all the details. Jon Pugh will once again be hosting, and it promises to be another great night of food and conversation.
Friday, January 28th — The second day of the show promises an influx of TidBITS and Take Control authors and editors sharing their expertise.
- 10:30 AM: You interact with the Finder every day on the Mac, but do you really know what it can do? Steve Sande, author of “Take Control of iWeb ’09,” will be ready to “Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know about the Finder.” (Room 3007)
12:00 PM: Many kids today don’t know a world without the Internet, which is quite different from how their parents grew up. (Listen, it was difficult to deliver 8-inch floppy disks by horse-drawn carriage in six feet of snow!) Tonya Engst joins MacVoices host Chuck Joiner for a panel discussion titled “MacVoices: Parenting in the Age of the Internet” at the Macworld Live stage.
1:00 PM: With tens of millions of iOS devices in the wild, how much of an issue is data security? TidBITS Security Editor Rich Mogull digs into iOS security (but you don’t need to be a hacker to keep up) in “Truths, Lies, and Fictions in iOS Security: A Hands On Approach.” Bring your iOS device (and laptop it connects to, if possible) to walk through security settings as they’re being discussed. (Room 3004)
3:30 PM: Take Control editor and Macworld Senior Editor Dan Frakes joins fellow Macworld editors Jason Snell, Christopher Breen, and Dan Moren for a freewheeling “Ask the Editors” session. (Room 3007)
Saturday, January 29th — The date change and loss of Apple has freed IDG World Expo to extend Macworld to a Saturday, making it easy for San Francisco residents who can’t take time off during the work week to attend. We have a few sessions on Saturday too.
- 10:30 AM: Against his better judgement, Adam will be giving a Users Conference talk entitled “Looking Forward to Mac OS X Lion: What We Know and What We Don’t.” Hint, we don’t know a lot, but bring ideas for what you’d like to see in Lion. (Room 3008)
1:00 PM: Back in the Macworld NY days, a bunch of us, including Andy Ihnatko and Chris Breen, would gather at the Brooklyn home of Joe Holmes (then a well-known Mac writer as well) for dinner and post-Expo conversation. Since Joe’s brothers Tim (then an Apple Evangelist) and Chris (who worked at Dantz Development at the time) were also involved, the events were known as the Holmes Brothers dinners. Although there will be no food at “Holmes Brothers Live,” this 55-minute session on the Macworld Live stage will hopefully recreate some of the wonderful discussions we had.
1:00 PM: Even though Glenn has a face made for radio, he’s passionately interested in video chat—for other people. In a Users Conference session on “FaceTime and Other Video Chat,” Glenn looks over many options for connecting relatives, colleagues, and loved ones (which may or may not include relatives) through two-way video communication. (Room 3004)
1:00 PM: Dan Frakes spends an amazing amount of time finding exceptional Mac applications that others miss. His “Best of Mac Gems: Cool Mac Apps” session will introduce you to dozens of apps—many of them inexpensive—you can’t live without. (Room 3007)
Even More — Looking for more to do? IDG World Expo has plenty planned, so be sure to check out the Macworld Expo Web site for full details. Also be sure to download the free iMacworld app for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, to have session info, vendor locations, and nearby restaurants and points of interest at hand as you walk the show.
Verizon Wireless announced that a long-time Apple rumor will finally become reality. At a press event in New York, the company said it will sell the iPhone 4 starting on 3 February 2011 for current Verizon customers and 10 February 2011 for new customers. The phone will cost $199.99 for a 16 GB model or $299.99 for the 32 GB model.
Subscribers must sign up for a voice plan and agree to a 2-year commitment with a hefty cancellation penalty. A data plan will also be required, but pricing for that hasn’t been announced yet. The deal also means that AT&T’s iPhone exclusivity has ended, which suggests that the iPhone could appear on other carriers.
Verizon’s iPhone 4 is functionally the same as that offered by Apple and AT&T (dual cameras, Retina display, and so forth), but with two key differences.
CDMA, not LTE — There was much speculation that Apple and Verizon would release an LTE (Long Term Evolution) compatible iPhone, using the fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband standard that Verizon Wireless started putting in place in late 2010. AT&T is also committed to LTE starting in mid-2011, and it’s the path for most carriers worldwide for their next-generation networks.
But LTE is in its infancy, and carriers haven’t even agreed on how to handle voice calls over the network. The Verizon network operates in only a few cities so far, and AT&T and Verizon don’t plan to cover all urban areas with LTE until 2013. The current chips are too large and consume too much electricity, as well. It could be until 2012 before enough coverage and the right silicon exists for an iPhone with LTE built in. Verizon doesn’t have any LTE phones yet from any maker; the first are likely months away, and will be beasts of compromise.
Instead, the Verizon iPhone uses 2G and 3G CDMA standards (RTT and EVDO, technically). The 3G flavor—Evolution Data Only—cannot carry both voice calls and transfer data at the same time. However, voice calls and Wi-Fi can be used simultaneously.
AT&T, T-Mobile, and most phone networks in the world use GSM; LTE is part of the evolution of that standard, and Verizon is switching boats for its 4G network. Apple COO Tim Cook, on hand for the announcement, explained that the two companies’ priority was to bring the iPhone to Verizon sooner, meaning that waiting for LTE chips and LTE coverage wasn’t an option.
In practice the lack of LTE shouldn’t matter to most people—the draw of a Verizon iPhone is that people who are already Verizon customers, or who live in areas where AT&T’s network is spotty, can now switch to the iPhone. The greatest limitation for those who have previously used an iPhone will be the lack of simultaneous voice and data connections. It won’t be possible, for example, to look up something on the Web over 3G while on a call.
Mobile Hotspot — The only real surprise is that the Verizon iPhone will include a mobile hotspot option to allow up to five devices to connect via Wi-Fi. The phone acts as a portable cellular router, just like the MiFi. Service can also be shared directly with a computer connected via Bluetooth or using a USB dock cable. (Apple already lets GSM carriers offer tethering via USB and Bluetooth.)
As with the data subscription plans, pricing wasn’t announced for this feature. Verizon offers the same feature at no cost to Palm Plus owners (as a promotional feature), and charges $20 per month for up to 2 GB of usage to other smartphone owners.
Because of the inability of CDMA to support simultaneous voice and data access, answering an incoming phone call will likely pause the hotspot connection.
Nothing in the iPhone’s hardware suggests that the hotspot feature is unique to Verizon. Rather, it’s encouraging to see the company compete with AT&T, which has never been quick to adopt existing features like data tethering. According the Los Angeles Times, AT&T is evaluating adding a mobile hotspot feature.
According to press on the scene, the volume and mute buttons have been repositioned slightly, so many existing cases likely won’t fit the new phone. The antennas are also in different places around the iPhone’s edge, though the “death grip” spot at the lower left remains unchanged (see “Apple Responds to iPhone 4 Antenna Issue,” 16 July 2010). Ars Technica has posted a nice set of photos comparing the two models.
The Promised Air? — I think it’s safe to predict that a Verizon iPhone will be a hit, more so from pent-up demand by existing Verizon Wireless customers who’ve watched their friends enjoy the iPhone for several years than from disgruntled AT&T customers looking for better coverage—although I’m sure the latter do exist in significant numbers.
The bigger question is whether Verizon’s network can handle the influx of traffic. AT&T has struggled from the beginning to keep up with data demands of iPhone users (and now people who own smartphones from other handset makers), investing billions in infrastructure. At the press event last week, Verizon mentioned that the company has been testing thousands of devices over several months, and that the company has made improvements to its infrastructure.
Verizon already has millions of Android, Palm, and other smartphone users with decent browsers, app stores, and features similar to the iPhone. Even with a large influx of new iPhone customers, instead of switchers from current Verizon smartphones, the network will likely absorb iPhone usage without much of a hiccup.
The Verizon iPhone 4 won’t be the magical cure to people’s cellular woes. Verizon Wireless is, after all, a cellular provider, and none of them have stellar track records when dealing with customers. What’s more important about a Verizon iPhone is that AT&T’s exclusivity has ended, forcing it to compete with another carrier, and opening up Apple’s market to millions of new customers.
Although Apple has never chased market share the way other companies do (and the way technology pundits want Apple to), the quick rise of smartphones running Google’s Android operating system is no doubt eating into Apple’s potential profits.
Getting to CES for TidBITS is historically a comedy of errors. Last year, I was one of the people stranded at the Newark airport when some guy decided to kiss his girlfriend goodbye, sending the TSA into a panic (see “CES 2010: Rolling the DECE,” 5 January 2010). This year, through no one’s fault but my own, I didn’t book my trip until two days before the start of CES, causing me to arrive a day late and miss all of the best press giveaways. If anyone has a freebie press bag from CES they can spare, please let me know—those things look sweet.
In other news, the Motel 6 Downtown is nicer than you’d expect, and no more than an hour away from the convention center.
But with all of that behind me, I did find some interesting new gizmos at CES for the TidBITS readership. No interactions with Playmates this year, although I was given a foam rubber… er, novelty by some friends who went to the Adult Video Network Expo that used to be part of CES. No, it’s not included in this roundup; Adam would be forced to delete it anyway.
Power — It seemed like everyone and their grandmother had their own line of iPhone charging cases and iPad extended battery stands, most of which give your iOS device the portability and style of a Kaypro II. But I was impressed with—and will probably soon purchase—Mizco’s DigiPower Jump Start Flip, a $50 gizmo with 3300 milliamp-hours of charging power. I’m a sucker for clever, and this does clever in two ways: first, an open hinge turns the battery into a stand for any handheld device in horizontal or vertical orientation. Second, the JS Flip grips the phone with a high-friction rubberized backing—strong
enough to hold up a heavy phone, but nothing sticky or clamping to the device. Note: at press time, the Flip is not on the Mizco Web site, but is available through Amazon.
Also of note: DigiPower’s Jump Start Slim, which crams an 1100 mAh battery into a 0.25-inch (6.4 mm) case, which, like the iPod touch, can probably be thrown into a pocket next to a wallet without causing much of a bulge. It’ll set you back $30.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for additional power for your MacBook, there’s only one game in town: Sanho’s HyperMac line is the only external battery to date which ships with a MagSafe connector. Or perhaps the operative terms are “shipped” and “was,” because the press materials they’re handing out show the HyperMac battery connected to an included auto 12V adapter, which is then connected to Apple’s MagSafe adapter, and thence to your MacBook. Hmmm. (The extra hoops
are necessary because Apple successfully sued HyperMac to prevent them from using Apple’s proprietary MagSafe connectors, which HyperMac had purchased separately.)
In any case, the HyperMac line continues to blow the doors off of other external batteries, up to a 4.7 pound brick that carries 222 watt-hours, or 61,000 mAh of power. Folks with lower power needs can consider charging their iOS devices with the HyperJuice Nano, Micro, and Mini lines, which come with 1800, 3600, and 7200 mAh respectively. And if HyperMac’s publicity materials are to be believed, they give off pleasing noises when held close to the body of attractive models, much like a tribble. Your results may vary.
Ansmann A.G. displayed their ZeroWatt line of AC adapters, which shut off automatically after the batteries are recharged. (Most AC adapters continue to use power even when they are not doing anything useful.) The ZeroWatt line includes battery rechargers and specialized plugs to power down your television completely, while still picking up signals from your remote control to turn it back on. Also of note: lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in AA and AAA sizes, and the Digicharger Vario that can recharge AAs, AAAs, and the flat 3.6V batteries used in cameras and cell phones.
Unfortunately, I didn’t come across the booth housing Horizon Fuel Cell until the last minute, so all I can report is what I’m gathering from their Web site: It’s not quite the Mr. Fusion from “Back to the Future,” but it’s a start. The MiniPAK delivers USB power from hydrogen cartridges; you can then refill the cartridges at home with their HydroFill station—just add water and electricity. The HydroFill costs $499, and another $99 for the MiniPAK including two cartridges; additional cartridges are $10 each. It’s a lot to pay for portable power, but hey—fuel cell. Be the first on your block.
Many other booths were advertising that their technologies were the greenest ever, and weren’t going to turn the planet into a carboniferous cesspool. Personally, I’m more conflicted about using a gadget that contains coltan—which is pretty much all of them. I’m no expert in green tech, but I didn’t see much that struck me as new; typical of what was on display were ThinkEco’s smart power outlets, which modulate outgoing power straight from the wall socket. It’s a great idea—and no doubt, will be standard issue someday—but, at $50 a pop, has a way to go before it hits ubiquity.
Storage — Iomega will be moving to USB 3.0 in all of its new portable hard drives, which will be great news for MacBook users when we get the USB 3.0 connections that are inexplicably lacking in our Macs. In the meantime, USB 3.0 is backwards-compatible to our pokey 2.0 connections, and Iomega promises the prices are the same, so you can future-proof with their eGo line without paying a penalty. And how often do you get a chance to future-proof your ego? Also potentially of interest: SSD external drives ranging in size from 64 GB to 256 GB, and in price from $229 to $749. Sure, they seem expensive now, but I remember paying $400 for
an 80 megabyte external drive.
Other World Computing, aka the Macsales guys, have a replacement internal SSD drive for the 2010 model MacBook Air in configurations of—are you sitting down?—180 GB, 240 GB, and 360 GB. The price for the 360 GB—are you still sitting down?—ballparks in the $1,200 range. It’s a chip the size of a stick of chewing gum, and it’s user-installable. Also available: external SSDs for all MacBooks, and replacement internal
SSDs for earlier models of the MacBook Air and some MacBook models. Full disclosure: I’ve been ordering from these guys for years, I have a couple of things in my Macsales cart as we speak, and no matter how many times I said so, the sales rep didn’t even try to bribe me. Dang it.
iPhone — If you’re frequently on the road with an iPhone or iPod touch, but without a portable Mac, Iomega’s SuperHero is a charging stand which doubles as a backup drive. Install Iomega’s free app to back up your device to the SuperHero’s included 4 GB SD card (or a bigger one you supply); then use the app on a factory-new device to restore from backup. I found the SuperHero moniker a bit odd: Is the dock the secret identity of the backup, or vice-versa? Available soon for $70.
In the bizarre news arena, a PR person from DisplayPort—that connector you use in all Macs to attach external monitors—said completely nonchalantly that she can confirm that there will be a DisplayPort connector in the next iPhone. As Adam Engst said when I passed this along: “Really? Why?” And as I said (to myself), “Really? And Apple is letting you give out any information about the next iPhone?” But hey, it’s confirmed from a DisplayPort representative, whose name
I’m keeping to myself so I don’t get her fired.
Portable Accessories — I.R.I.S. demoed their IRIScan anywhere2, which looks like a single-sheet feed mechanism broken off from a desktop scanner. But it’s fully functional on its own, operating as either an attached scanner or a standalone device, scanning up to 200 pages per minute to internal memory, an SD card, USB drive, or direct to your computer. IRIScan anywhere2 costs $199, but TidBITS readers are invited to use the promotion code “joe” to get a $30 discount. Sounds like Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of Your Paperless Office” is
getting some attention in the scanning world. As well it should.
I’ve been very happy with a $10 external speaker I picked up from Staples last month; it’s perfect for listening to my iPod NPR app in the shower (well, near the shower). So I was surprised to come across the Grandmax booth and discover that the speaker is actually a rebranded Tweakers Teeny—a brand name which would have scared me off, along with the entire male population. The Teeny is a small globe that untwists to create a reverb chamber; other Tweakers models are larger editions of this, as well as bar speakers and Bluetooth models. Prices are $10-$40 for the wired models, a little more for Bluetooth. I think the Teeny sounds great, but please note that several women have told me I act
like I’m half-deaf; I think they were referring to my ears.
Sometimes simpler is better. KB Covers caught my eye with their line of rubberized covers for MacBook and desktop Mac keyboards. (And only Mac keyboards. It warms my heart.) Brighten up your keyboard with color-coded commands for complex applications, toss on a Dvorak keyboard, or simply go solid black to force yourself to touch-type. Prices vary, but the MacBook covers I’m looking at now are around $30. TidBITS readers are invited to use the code CES2011 for a 20 percent discount through 23 January 2011.
Odds and Ends — In the Things I’m Still Trying to Understand category, I noticed that Sifteo is getting a lot of buzz from other media outlets for their new Cube gaming system. Picture a new iPad nano screen set in a white plastic block about a half-inch high; that’s a Cube. When you put Cubes next to each other, things change onscreen thanks to a wireless transmitter that locates other Cubes. The problem that jumps out at me is that a 3-pack costs $149, and really, there’s only so much you can do with three. This strikes me as the kind of thing that makes adults go “Wow!” and kids say, “That was fun for five minutes. Can
I borrow the iPad again?”
In the same category: the Sphero, “the robotic ball you control with your smartphone!” Yup, it’s a ball. It rolls. (No gerbil required.) You can control it with an iPhone. Coming next to the 2012 CES: the iPhone-controlled Slinky! In 2013, it will be Log, Log, Log!
Maybe there’s just something about gadgets named after Platonic solids.
Opera Software, makers of the Opera 11 browser for Mac and Opera Mini browser for iOS, were on hand to demo their latest browser for Android tablets. No news of interest to TidBITS readers, but as a guy who thinks there should be competition in browsers beyond the Big Three for Mac, I was glad to see that Opera had the coin to run advertisements on the ubiquitous free shuttle buses that moved us all around town. Those crafty Norwegians don’t seem to be hurting for money; I’m looking forward to what else they come up with for my Apple devices.
I picked up a set of “issue buttons” for an $8 donation at the Electronic Frontier Foundation booth, so now I can wear my “Fair Use” button to my next meeting at the MPAA, or the “Privacy” button to a hearing on government wiretapping. They don’t mention them on their Web site, so drop them a line along with your donation and see if they’ll put them in the mail.
The Amusing Advertisement award goes to GameChurch.com for their picture of Jesus rocking a Nintendo controller with the accompanying motto, “Üs3r pwnage since 33 AD.” I’m a Jewish atheist, but that deserves a mention. Their shtick (as it were) is to hand out 3,000 Bibles at every tech convention they visit, and speaking as a nonbeliever, I’m amused by their Web site’s approach to Christianity with attitude.
And the Amusing Mistake award goes to Mophie, makers of charging cases for the iPhone, for handing me a press kit consisting of a blank USB drive in an attractive box. I assume that they had something to tell me; we’ll have to find out about it elsewhere.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need about a week of sleep, interspersed by far too much time playing poker with other degenerates.
Audio Hijack Pro 2.9.9 — Rogue Amoeba has updated Audio Hijack Pro to version 2.9.9, fixing problems customers ran into when using Skype 2.8 and Skype 5. ($32 new, free update, 6.8 MB)
Read/post comments about Audio Hijack Pro 2.9.9.
Typinator 4.3 — The fine folks at Ergonis Software love to save you keystrokes, and to that aim, they’ve updated Typinator to version 4.3. One new feature offers quick definitions of your saved snippets directly from the Typinator menu, or via configurable hotkeys. Issues with expansions in FreeHand, Sparrow, Google Docs (in Firefox), Google Chrome, RubyMine, Sigil, FocusWriter, and TeXworks are all addressed. An incorrect startup log message on Mac OS X 10.4 is also fixed. (€19.99 new, free update, 3.3 MB)
Read/post comments about Typinator 4.3.
We have bit more reading for you to sink your teeth into this week, with news of the iPad coming to Verizon Wireless, AT&T considering a mobile hotspot feature, and the price of the iPhone 3GS dropping. Also, check out Glenn Fleishman’s exhausting (er, exhaustive) review of 11 iPhone navigation apps for Macworld and Adam’s virtual MUG meeting for MacVoices TV.
Adam’s Virtual MUG Meeting on MacVoices TV — Unable to travel to Connecticut, Adam did a full iChat-based presentation for the Connecticut Macintosh Connection along with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices TV. The video is a little fuzzy, but the conversation moves along nicely, touching on Adam’s forthcoming presentation about Mac OS X Lion at Macworld Expo, the future of Mac OS X, the problem with Dell monitors, and much more.
Macworld Reviews 11 iPhone Navigation Apps — Macworld has published the January 2011 update to Glenn Fleishman’s massive 2009 iPhone GPS navigation app article and package of reviews. This time around, 11 apps are covered, many of which have seen significant improvements. Nearly all of the apps now have support for iOS 4 background location updating, too.
Apple and AT&T Drop iPhone 3GS Price to $49 — It’s not surprising that AT&T wanted to drop the price of the older iPhone 3GS, given the upcoming release of the iPhone 4 for Verizon Wireless customers. Apple quietly followed suit, so if you’re looking for an inexpensive iPhone that works with AT&T’s network, you won’t go wrong with an iPhone 3GS for $49.
AT&T Considers Mobile Hotspot for iPhone — Verizon Wireless surprised folks with the inclusion of a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot option for its upcoming version of the iPhone. Now, AT&T says it is considering the feature, bolstering rumors that the option will appear in iOS 4.3 for all carriers.
iPad Also Coming to Verizon Wireless — A Verizon Wireless executive said a version of the iPad with CDMA technology to work on the company’s network is coming, but no date is set. Verizon currently sells Apple’s Wi-Fi iPad bundled with a MiFi portable Wi-Fi/cellular hotspot.