The Next Do-It-Yourself Mac

Page 7 of 9


The original and complete version of this article is from O'Reilly's Mac DevCenter, and is available at

With the advent of broadband Internet, cameras such as Apple's iSight, and programs such as Apple's iChat AV, that Holy Grail of science fiction, the videoconference, has arrived on your desktop.

So you bought an iSight, set up your camera, downloaded iChat AV, and opened a chat. Then came the shock. Yikes! Do I really look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon?

Relax, and get some air into your gills, because chances are you don't look quite so frightening as that. You probably just need to do a little tweaking here and there. And there are several things you can do to make your virtual self look as good as possible.

Accessories Are a Geek's Best Friend A wide-angle lens is a useful accessory to an iSight. A wide-angle is handy for including another person, displaying more of your workspace or an entire meeting room, and surveilling a room. A bonus effect of such a lens is that it tends to make people look a little thinner. We often use a Nikon WC-E24 wide-angle lens ( so we can both fit into the field of view. Using a small plastic bottle A, a little tape B, and a rubber band C, we fashioned a handy lens holder.

If you've always dreamed of being a dreamboat, here's your chance to bask in a flattering romantic glow. Create a soft filter by stretching a piece of very fine gauze or panty hose over the lens. Or fit some clear plastic wrap tightly over the lens with a rubber band and then apply a little dab of Vaseline. Wipe it a bit and behold -- you'll find yourself in a soft and dreamy ethereal experience.

Remember, first and foremost you are a geek, and geeks were born to experiment! Convex and concave lenses, beer bottles, shot glasses, bubble wrap, candy wrappers -- all can be placed in front of your Web cam. You never know what cool effect you'll discover, or what warranty you can expire early. -- nitrozac and snaggy


Anyone who's watched the late-eighties and early-nineties TV show MacGyver will remember that there was nothing Richard Dean Anderson's character couldn't do with a roll of duct tape. Similarly, I've discovered that the plastic belt clip that comes with the iPod mini can be equally versatile, adding functionality to the colorful mini and making it compatible with some products that officially require the standard iPod's dock connector. The iPod and the iPod mini have the same connectors, but the iPod is deeper than the mini. So products designed specifically for the standard iPod are too deep to properly seat the iPod mini. But you can use the belt clip to make your iPod mini a jack-of-all-trades.

> When I bought my iPod mini, I already had a dock for the larger iPod. By attaching the mini's belt clip upside down -- positioned about a millimeter below the top of the mini -- it supports the mini nicely in the standard iPod dock.

> One of my favorite accessories for the standard iPod is Altec Lansing's inMotion portable speaker system (   ; April 2004). To get it to work with the mini, this time place the belt clip right side up and clip it onto the inMotion. (Shortly before we went to press, Altec Lansing announced a $3 rubber adapter that allows you to use the mini with the inMotion system. If you're interested, you can find out more at

> Because of the iPod mini's small size, accessory vendors are starting to sell "wearable" cases -- ones that let you connect a strap to the case and wear the iPod mini around your neck. But unless you want the added protection that such a case brings, you can get the same result for free simply by attaching a lanyard or other strap to the slot at the top of the belt clip itself. -- dan frakes

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