Review: USB Squid at ThinkGeek

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Date: Friday, April 10th, 2009, 18:26
Category: Hardware, Review

If you are like me and own a MacBook Air, you find out pretty quickly that one USB port is often not enough. Almost everything requires a USB port, Ethernet, CDs and DVDs, thumb-drives, and external hard drives. Since I often prefer a wired connection when I can, for the extra speed (yes, still faster than wireless), I have to use Apple’s USB Ethernet adapter. If I need to plug in anything else, I loose my network connection. I soon grew tired of this and went looking for a solution.
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And I found it at ThinkGeek! They sell a device called the USB Squid which was the perfect solution and works great! Basically its a USB 2.0 compatible splitter. You plug one end into your computer of choice, and it offers four USB jacks on the other end. As ThinkGeek points out, “The USB Squid is not a real squid, as squids have 8 legs and 2 tentacles. Heck, it’s not even an octopus – they have 8 arms. The USB Squid has four arms, so it’s sort of more a quadropus.”
Unlike other tiny USB hubs I looked at, the USB Squid doesn’t require an external power supply. Obviously it won’t work if you device needs something other than bus power, but all of my everyday devices worked fine with the Squid. The four jacks also have interlocking ridges on the outside in case you want to “hook” the plugs together into a vertical or horizontal block, but I found that the moulding was a little inconsistent and sometime the plugs didn’t remain attached to one another. A minor quibble in my opinion.
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The USB Squid is manufactured by a company called Buffalo in China, but there is no way to tell what they call the device since the package is covered only in Chinese characters and no English (except for a reference to “Windows Vista”), as it is something ThinkGeek imports for sale in the US. The USB Squid is 11″ long (from plug to hub) and is currently in stock and $19.99 at ThinkGeek. If you occasionally need an extra USB port and have a little space in your kit bag, I highly recommend grabbing one of these.

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Review: Beach Buoy

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Date: Friday, April 10th, 2009, 08:18
Category: Review

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By Robert Kaneko
It’s spring! At least, it’s spring in the northern hemisphere. If, like me, you live in the Pacific Northwest, you may have despaired of spring ever arriving. However, as I type this, it’s sunny and 65°, so there is hope. With spring in mind, it’s time to start thinking about outdoor activities. However, many of our beloved gadgets don’t really like our outdoor activities. Sand, dirt and water seem to be particular problems. That’s where the Beach Buoy comes in.
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The Beach Buoy is a product available from Proporta. It is essentially a very rugged, very nice looking ziplock bag with a cord so you can wear it around your neck. It is rated to keep your iPhone, iPod Touch, or other expensive electronic gadget safe from water at depths of up to 5 meters/16 feet. The top of the Beach Buoy contains two double ziplocks.
The idea is, you place your device inside the Beach Buoy, seal both ziplocks, and then fold the ziplocks over, securing the folds with a Velcro flap.
The result is a very watertight (and sand-proof) container.
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Click the jump for the full review…

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Review: TechRestore

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Date: Tuesday, March 24th, 2009, 09:10
Category: Review

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By Robert Kaneko
This review is going to be slightly different for me. Instead of reviewing a product, I am looking at a service. I think that’s important to note, since any time you are looking at a service, there is a very human element to the experience.
TechRestore is a company that specializes in repairs for mobile electronic devices. They do more than that, but my impression is that their primary focus is repairing items like iPods, iPhones, gaming devices and laptops. They are also an advertiser here on the PowerPage. In fact, that’s how I found them, and I’m glad I did.
My ten-year-old son is a gadget junkie. He loves cell phones, Nintendos, laptops and other electronic devices. When I bought an iPod Touch, he couldn’t get enough of the experience. He saved for almost a year, and when the iPod Touch 2nd generation was released, he bought one for himself. That was about three months ago and he’s spent almost every day since playing with it. Interestingly, he has yet to put any music on it. He uses it to surf the Internet, handle his email and watch YouTube videos. Last week, he downloaded Text Free and my SMS inbox has never been the same. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
About three weeks ago, my son’s iPod Touch went swimming. It was a devastating moment in our house. I tried the trick of putting the iPod in a bag of dry rice. I do think that helped to leech the water out of the unit, but it wouldn’t recover. After a fair amount of research, we decided to look into the possibility of repairing the existing unit instead of buying a new one.
Enter TechRestore.
Being a long-time reader of the Powerpage, I’ve seen the banner ads for TechRestore for years. As with most ads on most sites, I’ve pretty much ignored them. This time I didn’t. The PowerPage got a click-through from me and I got sent to Tech Restore’s web site.
Click the jump for the full review…

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Bodybugg Review – Weight Loss 2.0

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Date: Tuesday, March 17th, 2009, 02:47
Category: Review, Software

By David Klein
One can argue that dieting is extremely challenging for the average person. In my opinion the biggest problem is the lack of data. Manually counting calories consumed and burned is a meticulous process that is virtually impossible to do with a pencil and paper. Also, how can you be sure your numbers are accurate? Now, we have the hardware to help us lose weight: the Bodybugg (below). Using this technology truly is a new generation of dieting: weight loss 2.0.
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Review: Ted Baker Six Pack

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Date: Thursday, March 12th, 2009, 08:25
Category: Review

By Robert Kaneko
Today’s mobile community is in desperate need of portable power. As our iPods and iPhones gain functionality, they also eat through their built-in batteries. My 8GB first-generation iPod touch will last for a full day if I’m just using it to listen to music. However, if I start playing games, surfing the Internet, checking email, watching video and doing all the other things I bought the Touch for, my battery life plummets. It’s not a big stretch for me to use up the internal battery within two or three hours. Enter the Ted Baker Six Pack.
Contrary to what the name might imply, the Ted Baker Six Pack is not a strange new beverage. It is a portable external battery that will power and charge just about any small mobile device you can think of. In fact, if you are familiar with the Proporta Mobile Device Charger, the Ted Baker Six Pack is the same product in prettier packaging.
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Moshi iLynx Review

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Date: Tuesday, March 10th, 2009, 23:48
Category: Accessory, Firewire, Gadget, iMac, Mac Desktop, Peripheral, Review

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By David Klein
Moshi’s latest product, the iLynx, immediately caught my eye at January’s Macworld convention in San Francisco. When I saw Moshi’s booth I ran over to see what they had coming in the near future. My first question was: “What is that and when can I buy it?!” (Yes, I love cool looking products.) The Moshi employee told me it was a USB and Firewire hub. Somehow, they took a relatively dull concept and made it surprisingly sexy. Moshi demonstrated expertise in this style of design again.
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Review: Roxio Toast 10 Titanium and Toast 10 Titanium Pro

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Date: Tuesday, February 24th, 2009, 15:59
Category: Review

By Robert Kaneko
Roxio has once again updated their flagship authoring software package. The latest update, Toast 10 Titanium, continues the natural evolution of a mature product. It gives the user some hints about where Roxio might go with the product as we begin to approach the end of the general use optical storage era. It also presents users with a choice. Roxio has, for the first time, split the product into two versions. There is Toast 10 Titanium, which is the standard version of Toast that users have come to know and love. There is also Toast 10 Titanium Pro, a new variant that basically includes four extra third party authoring solutions in with the basic Toast package.
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Let me admit up front that I am a long time fan of Toast. It sits on my short list of “must have” applications. As I noted in my Toast 9 Titanium review last year, I find it an invaluable resource for authoring and archiving beyond the basics provided by Apple’s iDVD, iTunes and Finder disc burning features. In addition, Roxio seems to anticipate that one new feature that I didn’t even know I needed that makes me want to open my wallet one more time.
Toast 10 Titanium has joined the growing list of applications that now requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later. The funny thing is, I didn’t know that when I started this review. Sitting comfortably in my world of ignorance, I installed Toast on my trusty PowerBook G4 running OS X 10.4.11. It worked beautifully! I used most of the new features, including the ability to download and convert flash video from sites like YouTube, and they worked perfectly. I might have run into problems with AVCHD support or Blu-ray, but since I don’t have hardware that supports those features I remained blissfully unaware. Toast and SonicFire Pro 5 (part of the Toast 10 Titanium Pro package) both worked flawlessly. It wasn’t until I tried using the new Mac2TiVo feature that I realized there was a problem. That’s when I actually read the system requirements and moved the installation to a Leopard machine.
If you are familiar with any of the recent versions of Toast, especially Toast 9, Toast 10 is nearly identical. Roxio has once again polished the interface, dropping the styling of Toast 9 in favor of a more Leopard-friendly look, but the general structure of the program remains largely unchanged.
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Click the jump for the full review…

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Review: Pure Digital Flip Mino HD

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Date: Monday, February 23rd, 2009, 20:32
Category: Review

By David Klein

For many of us, purchasing a digital video camera is similar to purchasing a digital camera: a stressful experience. Am I buying the best one in my price range? What about the competitor’s? Is that enough megapixels? Is that enough storage? Endless questions and confusion. Most settle for average quality in the US$100 to US$200 range, and they are surprised by the above-average results. They get something compact and light with an LCD screen, a decent lens, and clear pictures.

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Fortunately, we now have a comparable experience with digital video: the Flip Mino HD. It’s compact, stylish, sleek, and light. It has a 1.5″ screen, and it records in 1280 x 720 (720p) resolution. Yes, that’s high definition and it’s shocking for such a small package. However, the other surprising part is the audio. Even with lots of ambient noise and jarring interruptions, the Mino HD manages to pick up close-range audio. For example, it clearly records the holder of the camera who may or may not be narrating (something I enjoy doing with my Flip).

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Charging the Flip and downloading videos is easy using the built-in USB connection that pops out of the top after flipping a switch. You have two options for accessing your videos. You can either copy them from the Flip, which mounts as an external hard drive on your desktop, or you can use the free software which is ready to install when you connect. My recommendation is to avoid this software. Although it allows you to organize, edit, and upload your videos, the interface is questionable. I prefer to use iMovie on my Mac when editing is actually necessary.

Click the jump for the full review…

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REVIEW: Futura Laptop Desk

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Date: Friday, July 20th, 2007, 10:42
Category: Review

Anyone who uses a PowerBook or MacBook for any extended period of time know the amount of heat that they generate. If you plan on using a MacBook on your lap (which is forbayed by Apple) you need to use some sort of a stand to protect your, ahem, nether region from all the heat and EMFs that it generates.

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A cool new stand that I’ve been using is the Futura Laptop Desk from LapWorks. Similar to its Laptop Desk 2.0 and UltraLite siblings, the Futura has a dual-purpose design: a) to provides an ergonomically-sound workspace across the lap, and b) to fold into a wedge-shaped stand for use at a desk. Pictured above is the Futura in the opened configuration which leaves enough room on the side for a mouse pad and a mouse.
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Although it looks more like a futuristic mountain biking helmet, make no mistake, this is an excellent notebook stand. I don’t really use mine much in the opened configuration but instead prefer to use it in the folded “stand” position.
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Futura features several open ventilation slots which allow air to enter from underneath and rubber pads create an extra 1/8-inch air space to let air circulate under the notebook. Visible in this third picture is the adjustable “kick stand” leg which allows you to adjust the amount of angle in the stand to suit your needs.
My favorite feature in the Futura stand, hands down, is the weight and slim profile. It weighs just 16.25 ounces and folds in half to 11 x 10.75 inches and half of an inch thick so you can easily stow it in your bag with your MacBook and you’ll barely notice that it’s there.

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Top Three Notebook Drives Duke It Out

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Date: Friday, July 20th, 2007, 10:51
Category: Hardware

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The guys over at Bare Feats have ran a full comparison between the Western Digital Scorpio 250 gigabyte 5,400 rpm drive, the Seagate Momentus 7200 160 gigabyte 7,200 rpm drive and the Hitachi Travelstar 7K200 200 gigabyte 7,200 rpm drive.
The full rundown is available here and if you’re interested in upgrading your MacBook or MacBook Pro’s SATA hard drive, take a look.
If you’ve come across a killer hard drive or have thoughts or opinions on this, let us know in the forums.

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