The Next Do-It-Yourself Mac

SPRUCE UP YOUR HARDWARE

Got the hankering to enhance your hardware but need a little help? Here are three ways to make improvements without starting from scratch:

1. The $100 Sweet Multiport, from Gee Three (www.geethree.com), adds one USB and two FireWire ports, plus a 5-in-1 memory-card reader (for CompactFlash, Microdrive, Memory Stick, Secure Digital [SD], and MultiMediaCard [MMC]), to Power Mac G3 or G4 towers. The Sweet Multiport consists of a PCI card and a front-panel card that sits in your Mac's second drive bay.

2. Wiebetech's G5Jam (mmmh; July 2004; $900 to $2,200; www.wiebetech.com) doubles the internal storage potential of the Power Mac G5, allowing up to 1TB of storage with two extra Serial ATA drives. The G5Jam includes a new side door for mounting the drives, a Serial ATA PCI card, cables, and two or four Serial ATA hard drives.

3. For the ultimate in hands-off upgrades, ColorWare (www.colorwarepc.com) can add a bit of splash to your Apple hardware by painting your iPod ($49), or your iBook or PowerBook ($399), in one of 20 colors. Or you can send a color sample and get your iPod custom painted for an additional $99. -- jonathan seff

BLUR THE LINES BETWEEN MAC AND TV

Earlier this year Steve Jobs told Macworld, "We don't think that televisions and personal computers are going to merge." Yet despite Apple's best efforts to keep the two apart, the evidence suggests that television is indeed part of the digital hub. Here's a glimpse at how to get your TV and your Mac to play well together.

Watch TV Whether you're a college student in a cramped dorm room or someone who simply doesn't want to shell out money for a second (or even first) TV set, you can watch TV on your Mac and enjoy TiVo-like control over your TV shows. Miglia's $149 AlchemyTV DVR (www.miglia.com) is a PCI card that fits in your Power Mac G4 or G5. Elgato Systems (www.elgato.com) offers two external devices that connect to your Mac via USB and FireWire, respectively: the $199 EyeTV (   ; November 2002) and the $349 EyeTV 200 (   ; July 2004). The EyeTV records in MPEG-1 format; the EyeTV 200 records in the higher-quality MPEG-2 format, the encoding format used for DVDs and satellite TV. Formac's (www.formac.com) $299 Studio TVR (formerly called the Studio DV/TV;   ; April 2003) connects via FireWire and records in DV format.

But these devices work only with standard cable and over-the-air broadcasts. None of these products can control a digital-cable or satellite-TV box -- you'll need to change the channel manually on your box for your Mac to see what you want to watch or record.

Burn Your Shows Once you've recorded a program with any of these products, burning it to DVD or Video CD is relatively easy. You can edit the shows you record with your digital-video recorder's included software, QuickTime, or iMovie, and then archive them with Roxio's $100 Toast 6 Titanium (   ; December 2003) or Apple's iDVD.

From Mac to TV You can also use your TV to display content that lives on your Mac. TiVo (www.tivo.com) offers TiVo Desktop as part of its now-free Home Media Option for stand-alone TiVo Series2 boxes. TiVo Desktop lets you display digital photos and play back music from your Mac. Elgato's $249 EyeHome (   ; July 2004) does TiVo one better -- it's a stand-alone box that connects to your TV and plays back music, photos, and movies from your Mac. And Roku Labs' $299 HD1000 Digital Media Player (www.rokulabs.com) connects to high-definition TVs and lets you view pictures and play back music and video. -- jason snell

GAME IN TRUE 3-D

You've probably been playing 3-D games for years, but have you ever really played them in 3-D? Pangea Software's $35 Nanosaur 2: Hatchling (   ; June 2004; www.pangeasoft.net) lets you do exactly that. Its stereographic 3-D support brings action gaming to a whole different dimension -- quite literally. Pangea includes two pairs of red-and-cyan anaglyph glasses (like the cardboard things you get at 3-D movies). These glasses are all right, but if you're a real gaming freak with $1,000 to spare (and you have a CRT monitor), you can graduate to the CrystalEyes Workstation (www.stereographics.com). These LCD shutter glasses are made by StereoGraphics and are actually intended for engineers and scientists. No matter which pair of glasses your budget can afford, we'll help you get the most out of your investment.

To use either pair of glasses, fire up Nanosaur 2 and click on the B&W button, under the Anaglyph Settings option. This is very important when you use the red-and-cyan glasses, since the color offset that creates the 3-D effect combined with the game's own rich color palette can cause quite a headache. Your experience with the red-and-cyan glasses may improve if you go to the Displays preference pane and tweak brightness, contrast, and color settings to adjust the 3-D effect.

Setting up the LCD shutter glasses is a bit more elaborate. The included transmitter box must be in plain sight of your goggles, which are wireless and powered by a pair of batteries. The transmitter has a seven-foot in-line attachment that runs between your Mac and monitor, and another connector that plugs into a power supply. Because of the way this technology works, you have to use a CRT-based display with a high refresh rate (100Hz or higher is recommended).

Presuming your configuration makes the cut, you're in for a treat: full-color graphics and an absolutely astonishing 3-D effect. It's not quite a "jump off the screen" effect -- instead, it's more like a shadow-box effect, where the edge of your screen frames the moving, fully realized 3-D characters within.

If you can't justify the cost of the CrystalEyes, you can at least use the red-and-cyan glasses with Apple Cinema HD Displays and flat-panel iMacs. -- peter cohen

recommended for you

Focus on the iPod

Read more »

Subscribe to the MacWeek Newsletter

Comments