Tom Bihn Zephyr

Tom Bihn’s Zephyr is billed specifically as a laptop “briefcase” for good reason: This sturdy, waterproof bag has a pre-formed shape that makes it best-suited for business-minded people who have a lot of material to haul. If you require crisp, clean, organized files when you arrive for a meeting, this bag is for you.

On the other hand, the Zephyr isn’t well-suited for users demanding versatility. As someone who is used to cavernous messenger bags, I found the pocket access points difficult to manage. The most-useful utility compartment is under a flap secured by a buckle; it required some effort to dig out my Chapstick.

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Transferring files securely

If you're traveling and you need a key document, such as the latest draft of your business plan or the presentation your colleagues just finished, there are many ways you can get it: e-mail, iDisks, and online file services such as SendThisFile or YouSendIt. But if the document you need is super-confidential, you may not want to trust any of those file-transferring tools, because they aren't secure; if someone really wanted to, he or she could probably intercept and open the file somewhere along the line. There are several alternatives, however, and most of them are quite simple.

Sending Securely

E-mail is the most straightforward way to transfer files or information in text form, but it has its limitations: most ISPs restrict the size of e-mail messages to 10MB or 20MB. If you have files of moderate size that you want to transfer, e-mail is the best solution, and it’s easy to do so securely. The key is to set up your mail program to encrypt the message you’re sending, and then make sure the person at the other end can decrypt it.

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‘Checkpoint friendly’ laptop bags explained

Back in early August, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced new rules covering “checkpoint friendly” laptop bags. The goal of these regulations is to increase the speed and efficiency of airport security checkpoints by allowing passengers to keep their laptop computers in their bags during X-ray screening. However, there’s quite a bit of confusion about what, exactly, constitutes a checkpoint-friendly bag and the specific rules for using one. Today’s Mobile Mac gives you the lowdown.

What is a “checkpoint friendly” bag?

According to the TSA, these are the criteria a laptop bag must meet to be considered checkpoint-friendly:

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Brenthaven Trek Sleeve

Back in June 2007, I covered Brenthaven’s $20 MacBook Sleeve, an impressively protective case at an impressively low price. As I explained at the time, the Sleeve was originally designed for some of Apple’s “one-student-one-laptop” initiatives:

The challenge, according to Brenthaven, was to come up with a protective bag that would hold up to the abuse of school-age kids but that was also inexpensive enough for school districts to buy in bulk. The company settled on a rigid sleeve design that could be put inside whatever bag or backpack each student preferred.

The company has since updated the MacBook Sleeve to give it a less-utilitarian appearance; the new version is called the Trek Sleeve and is priced at a still-reasonable $30. (Education customers continue to pay just $20.) I’ve been testing the Trek Sleeve for a few months, and it’s impressed me as much as the original, offering very good protection and some basic organizational features—as well as a lifetime warranty—at a price many vendors charge for a simple fabric or neoprene sleeve.

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Mac MagSaver protects your MagSafe connector

I’m a big fan of Apple’s MagSafe power connector, which uses a nifty magnetic design to connect the power adapter to the laptop. As we explained back when Apple announced the original MacBook Pro models, “The MagSafe power connector safely disconnects from the notebook when there is strain on the power cord, helping to prevent the notebook from falling off its work surface if the power cord is inadvertently yanked.”

That said, a number of Mac laptop users have been disappointed in this connector. Not because it doesn’t work as advertised, but because the connection between the MagSafe connector and the power cable has proven to be less than reliable for some. Specifically, the cable has cracked or frayed at this connection for some users. The problem isn’t widespread, relative to the number of MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops out there, but it’s common enough to have generated many posts on Apple’s Discussions forums, as well to reward you with a knowing look when you plop your damaged adapter down on the Genius Bar at an Apple Store.

Mac MagSaver

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ExpressCard/34 Buyers’ Guide

With the MacBook Pro, Apple discarded the old PC Card slot in favor of ExpressCard/34, a more compact expansion slot that offers greater transfer speeds and an increasing array of uses. The ExpressCard format has a couple of advantages over the old PC Card format.

First, it’s narrower: ExpressCard/34 cards are 34mm wide, compared with the 54mm PC Cards. (ExpressCard/54 cards do exist, but they don’t fit in the MacBook Pro.) ExpressCards also require less power—1.5 volts, compared with 3.3 volts for the PC Card. But their biggest advantage is speed. An ExpressCard passes data to the system at up to 2.5 Gbps; PC Cards supported speeds of only 1.06 Gbps.

Here is just a sampling of the ExpressCards available. It’s by no means encyclopedic, but it should give you an idea of how you can expand your laptop’s powers.

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Stay-at-home mobile accessories

Most laptop gear is designed to enhance your mobile life, but what about all those hours you spend using your portable at home? Today’s Mobile Mac takes a look at a couple laptop accessories for your humble abode.

Belkin Laptop Hideaway

Belkin Laptop Hideaway

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