A Monster's work is never done

Delicious Monster (booth #710) is using Macworld Expo to show off Delicious Library 1.5 —well, 1.5.3 to be precise. But company co-founder Wil Shipley says that version 1.6 of the innovative cataloging software is “coming in weeks.”

Shipley is working on a way to get the iSight cameras built in to the iMac suitable for use with Delicious Library. (The software lets you use iSights of the non-built-in variety to scan in barcodes of books, movies, music, and video games for keeping track of your stuff.) Getting built-in iSight cameras to scan barcodes is a built of a challenge—the image comes out blurry—but Shipley is working on a way to use the vImage framework to de-convolute the barcode. He isn’t promising that feature will appear in Delicious Library 1.6, but progress is being made.

One thing Shipley is promising: version 1.6 will be a Universal application that runs on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs. Even more important, it will be a free upgrade for existing users.

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Keyboards for your iPod

Keyboards are for more than just typing these days. A few input-device makers are using Expo to show off keyboards that, in addition to taking all the typing your fingers can muster, will also connect your iPod with your Mac.

Mouse-maker Razer’s booth (#2629 for those of you roaming the Expo floor) features a prototype of the company’s Protouch keyboard. Besides the usual assortment of programmable hot keys (10 of ’em, all lighted), media center keys for controlling music playback and the like (also lit), and keys for zooming and putting your computer to sleep, this USB keyboard also sports a universal iPod dock up above the function keys. Razer’s vice president of marketing Mien Tan tells me that the dock will have adapters for fitting everything from an iPod shuffle up to a video-capable iPod. Look for it to ship sometime this spring priced at $100.

Matias’ USB 2.0 Keyboard isn’t new—the company unveiled it at last fall’s Apple Expo in Paris. But Expo is the first opportunity Matias has had to show off the keyboard stateside (which it’s doing in booth #2049). In addition to the $40 keyboard’s two-port USB 2.0 hub on its back, there’s also a single USB 2.0 dock port on the top—ideal for plugging in an iPod shuffle.

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Get smart

It’s doubtlessly commonplace by now for companies to adopt Apple’s “Smart” feature—using presets to create a playlist in iTunes or a folder of searches in Spotlight or mailboxes in Mail and have them update dynamically whenever anything meeting the conditions of those presets appears on your Mac. But it’s still fascinating to see the wide variety of developers that have worked this feature into their own applications, especially as you walk the Expo show floor.

Case in point: on Wednesday, I was watching a demo of Marketcircle’s Daylite 3, a beta version of the business and customer management tool which the company unveiled at the show. (You’ll find Marketcircle in booth #642 on the floor.) There are a lot of changes in Daylite 3— including an interface that’s been dramatically simplified from previous versions—but the one that’s relevant here is the new Smartlists feature. Just as you’d have iTunes gather up songs from a particular artist or genre, you can use Smartlists to have Daylite collect material like “Contacts I’ve Added in the Past Week” or “Tasks I’ve Delegated to Particular Employees”; the application stores the data that meets your criteria and automatically updates any time relevant data is added.

Just a few hours before my Daylite demo, I was at the Mariner Software booth (#2410), watching a demo of the company’s new Montage screenwriting application. Among Montage’s many features is a tool called Smart Views. You use it to find and retrieve specific sections of your screenplay—finding every scene that features a certain character, for example. But Montage also performs Smart View searches within Smart View searches—once you’ve found every scene with that character, you can then use Smart View to find every scene with that character in a particular setting.

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Slingbox slings TV to the Mac

I spent a half-hour in a Starbucks just around the corner from Moscone Center with three executives from Sling Media, makers of an interesting hardware product called Slingbox. I wouldn’t be surprised if most Mac users haven’t ever heard of it, mostly because up until now it’s been a Windows-only product.

Slingbox is a clever little $250 device that attaches to your TV set, cable box, satellite receiver, or TiVo, as well as your home broadband Internet connection. Once it’s installed, you are free to leave your home and go anywhere with a high-speed Internet connection — your office, a hotel room, a Wi-Fi-enabled cafe, wherever. When you get there, you open up your computer, launch the SlingPlayer application, and something crazy happens. Back at your house, SlingBox starts compressing the video coming out of your TV set-top box and streaming it to you. Yes, this means that you can now sit at work and have your local team’s baseball game playing in a window. Or that you can go on a business trip and still watch your favorite show, played back from your TiVo.

Slingbox even comes with a built-in infrared transmitter, so that you can change channels (or navigate through a TiVo’s menu system) remotely. Yes, if you’ve got a family member still at home, they might get a bit freaked out when the TiVo starts flipping channels under the control of someone 2500 miles away. But these sacrifices must be made in order for technology to continue marching on.

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Let's make a deal

It was easy to miss among the talk of iLife updates and MacBook Pro debuts, but today’s Expo keynote also featured the latest development in the Microsoft-Apple saga, a relationship with more twists and turns than your average romance novel.

The short version: Apple and Microsoft are still buddies. The slightly longer version: Microsoft and Apple inked a new agreement in November 2005 that lists the following three conditions:

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Sign of the times

Chronos is in for a busy Expo week. At its booth on the show floor (Booth 707, for those of you at Expo), the company is showing off two recently released products— StickyBrain 4, the note manager that just added support for Spotlight (among other changes), and SOHO Organizer, a personal business productivity suite. On top of that, Chronos is showing off a product it just announced Monday, SOHO Signs.

Aimed at small offices, home users, and schools, SOHO Signs lets you assemble large-sized posters, ground stakes, banners, and other types of signage you’d normally have to order from a print shop. You create the design using the included software, print out your project using an ordinary ink-jet or laser printer and 8.5-by-11-inch repositionable adhesive sheets. Just attach the sheets to the backing—pre-marked grid lines help you straighten things up—and you’ve got a sign on your hands.

This isn’t the sort of thing graphics professionals will turn to, but for small mom-and-pop operations, classroom projects, and parents who just want to make a banner celebrating their kid’s birthday, spending $17 to $34 on a sign kit sure beats a much more expensive trip down to the local print shop.

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Crowded house

Of the Monday of Macworld Expo week, the show floor is closed to the public. No one is permitted past the Moscone Center lobby and onto the exhibit floor itself unless you’re sporting a snazzy blue Exhibitor badge. And yet, on this particular Monday, there I was on the Macworld Expo show floor without a blue Exhibitor badge to my name.

How’d I do it? Um… let’s just say “elfin magic” and move on. It’s getting harder and harder for me to pull this off without revealing any tricks of the trade.

Besides, it’s not like I have any scoops to report. The Apple booth is encased in frozen carbonite —or at least, a very large, very impenetrable curtain that even the most industrious reporters would find well-nigh impossible to breach. So if Apple does have wondrous secrets to unveil Tuesday morning, the company did a bang-up job hiding them from my prying eyes.

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