Macworld Gear Guide 2006

Gear Guide: Games, garments, and geeks

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Macworld Gear Guide 2006

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Gear for Geeks

Geeks like electronic gadgetry? Who would have guessed that? And they can satisfy their gewgaw jones at a range of prices:

  • Gear for less than $30: Walit
  • Gear for $31 to $60: License Plate Flash Frame
  • Gear for $61 to $150: Second Life
    Mac OS X Internals
    Hobo Pendant G Logger
  • Gear for more than $300: Scooba Floor Washing Robot
  • You light up my billfold

    Anyone who has ever fumbled through a wallet while trying to find the right bills in a dark bar or cab has probably thought, “Man, if only my wallet came equipped with a glowing beam of light, I could actually see what I was doing.” Enter Walit, made by Jomoke and available from several online retailers including This sleek leather billfold contains an electroluminescent strip that illuminates even the most stygian evening. And to preserve the replaceable watch batteries that power the Walit, the light goes off when you fasten the Walit’s snap. Your walking-around money has never looked brighter.—DAN MOREN


    Walit: £15; Jomoke

    A different kind of aqua interface

    Don’t think of Smith Micro Software’s Aquazone as just a screen saver—think of it as a fish saver. After all, real fish require care and feeding. Aquazone lets you enjoy the perks of aquatic companionship with none of the responsibilities, saving countless fishy lives. Both versions of Aquazone—the Bass Edition and a Seven Seas Deluxe offering that has sharks, sea turtles, and jellyfish swimming among tropical fish—work as either screen savers or stand-alone apps. There’s a staggering amount of customization available, from dozens of different varieties of fish to a score of different aquarium backdrops; you can even provide your own background image. A “fish-cam” lets you follow your finny friends as they swim around the simulated tank. And if you still want to fulfill some of the responsibilities of fish ownership, Aquazone has a feeding feature, too, for virtually nurturing your undersea charges.—DM


    Aquazone: Bass Edition, $20; Seven Seas Deluxe, $25; Smith Micro Software

    To serve (and clean up after) man

    Many household devices promise to make your life easier; few actually deliver. But iRobot’s Scooba Floor Washing Robot may actually fall into that select group. Fill the robot with a special cleaning solution (or white vinegar and water) and push a button, and about an hour later, your kitchen floor will be vacuumed, scrubbed clean, and dried. (And in the process, Scooba provides entertainment for cats and small children.) True, the machine can’t handle heavy vacuuming, and you do have to rinse it out when the work is done. But if the alternative is not cleaning your floors frequently, that’s a small price to pay for freedom from squalor. Scooba works on tile, vinyl, linoleum, marble, and sealed hardwood floors. While it has a $400 price tag, you can usually find it for $100 less online.—SCHOLLE SAWYER MCFARLAND

    Scooba Floor Washing Robot

    Scooba Floor Washing Robot: $400; iRobot

    Second Life
    Get a (virtual) life

    Need a gift for someone who has everything? How about a new life—as a natural redhead this time around, or perhaps as a raccoon-person hybrid? In the digital world Second Life, more than 750,000 users from around the globe come together, in avatar form, to attend parties and concerts (Suzanne Vega was one recent act), accumulate land, play first-person-shooter games, and engage in other virtual activities. Sure, your hard-to-buy-for friends could download the dedicated OS X application and use a free basic account, but you know they’d rather wander this vast 3-D landscape with some Linden dollars—thanks to a generous gift certificate—in their virtual pockets. Parents may be reassured to know that there’s also a Teen Second Life (with a PG-rated code of conduct) limited to kids 13 to 17.—SSM

    Second Life: annual premium membership, $72; Second Life

    Say it with a scroll

    Communicating with other people is hard enough under the best of circumstances—doing it while you’re traveling down a highway, at 55 mph and with only a few distinctive hand gestures at your disposal, is darn near impossible. Thankfully, modern technology has blessed us with the License Plate Flash Frame, from Smart Planet. Available through online resellers such as Perpetual Kid, this frame connects to your car’s electrical system, allowing you to express up to 120 characters of your very deep thoughts on a lighted, scrolling message display. An included remote lets you enter and save five separate messages. And although, for many users, the temptation will be to flash evaluations of their fellow motorists’ driving skills, I like to think that five pro-Mac messages and a well-placed Apple logo sticker will allow you to take your Mac advocacy to the open road.—PM

    Scrolling License Plate

    License Plate Flash Frame $50; Perpetual Kid

    Créme de la REM

    Tired of being tired? The problem may be that you regularly wake up right smack in the middle of a deep-sleep cycle. The wristwatch-like SleepTracker uses a motion sensor to observe and learn your sleep cycles while you sleep. You tell the SleepTracker the approximate time you want to wake up, and it will sound the alarm—within half an hour or so, when you’re least likely to be in the middle of a sleep cycle. Waking up will be easier, and you’ll feel more rested. But the SleepTracker isn’t just for sleeping at home; it’s also useful for getting a good night’s sleep when you’re traveling in a different time zone. And when you’re not sleeping, it works as a standard wristwatch.—DF

    SleepTracker: $149; Innovative Sleep Solutions

    Data that Will Move You

    You’re in motion all day. If you’ve ever wondered exactly how you move during the course of a day, Onset Computer’s Hobo Pendant G Logger will help you find out. It logs movement in all three axes. You can throw it in your backpack or pocket before you go for a bike ride or go windsailing—water isn’t a concern, since the Logger is waterproof. And when it’s time to upload the data to your computer, don’t worry about Mac compatibility—the accompanying software was built on the Mac. The data you’ve collected on your travels gets converted into easy-to-read graphs. It’s the ideal gadget for the scientifically minded—Onset says the device is industry-grade—or anyone who’s simply curious about the way he or she moves.—DERIK DELONG

    Hobo Pendant G

    Hobo Pendant G Logger: Logger, $69; kit with Logger, USB adapter, and software, $99; Onset Computer

    Mac OS X Internals
    Read all about it

    What to get the Mac user who’d rather learn about the ins and outs of OS X than read about the latest Mac news and rumors? Mac OS X Internals , by Amit Singh (Addison-Wesley, 2006). Whereas most Mac books give you an overview of OS X’s interface, along with tips and tricks for using your Mac, Singh exposes the guts of OS X, in all their glory—including how everything works together to produce the operating system Mac users know and love. This is a truly comprehensive book for learning about OS X, and there’s lots of information here you won’t find anywhere else—at least not in such a readable format.—DF

    Mac OS X Internals : $65; Mac OS X Internals: The Book

    [ Photography by Peter Belanger ]

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