WEATHERPOP ADVANCE 1.5E
3.5 mice; Glucose Development,
Some people ignore the weather, and others invest in remote-sensor thermometers, humidity and pressure sensors, and similar tools. WeatherPop, a tiny program that puts weather information in your Mac OS X menu bar, is definitely for the latter group.
A suitable companion to OS X’s menu-bar clock, WeatherPop connects to the Internet to retrieve the latest weather data. Then it displays the current weather conditions at all times. When you click on WeatherPop, you can see an extended forecast for your city and other information. However, the data sources can be unreliable; WeatherPop recently stopped working for a week until its developers could release a new version. (Glucose says that it’s updating WeatherPop to be more resilient to changes in how the software collects weather data.) Still, for anyone in a climate-controlled office who wants to see how things are shaping up outside, WeatherPop is simply addictive. –Jason Snell
KENSINGTON STUDIOMOUSE AE
4.0 mice; Kensington, 650/572-2700,
With its silver, white, and clear Lucite design, the Kensington StudioMouse looks right at home next to a new Power Mac G4 tower. The mouse’s gracile but solid feel and well-designed MouseWorks software accommodate the fine control graphics pros crave.
The StudioMouse has three customizable buttons and, its new main attraction, a solid-state scroll sensor. Though the scroll sensor works smoothly (and it’s recessed so you don’t activate it inadvertently), it requires a bit more pressure than we’d expect. Pressing and holding the top or bottom of the scroll sensor lets you scroll continuously.
The StudioMouse’s low profile does wonders to keep your palm and wrist in better alignment than mice with tall or bulbous palmrests can. But its white sides and scroll sensor show the accumulated gunk of everyday use a little too well for our taste.
The StudioMouse’s simple, three-buttons-and-a-scroll-sensor configuration is suitable for anyone who wants to make a few productivity or ergonomic improvements to their routine but doesn’t want a finicky, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink input device.
(Beware, OS X users: You should read the StudioMouse’s compatibility caveats before you commit to it. The OS Xcompatible MouseWorks 2.0 software is still in its early adolescence, and many features available in version 5.7 for OS 8 and OS 9 are missing.) — Jennifer Berger
BRAVO EFFECTS AND ECHO TRANSITIONS AE
3.5 mice; Virtix, 603/893-1682,
www.virtix.com; $25 each or both for $40
Virtix’s Bravo Effects and Echo Transitions can add some sparkle (and smoke and lightning) to your iMovies. Of the two collections, Bravo’s 20 effects are potentially the more useful. The One Color effect, for example, can replicate handtinted black-and-white photography by letting you control the amounts of red, green, and blue in an image. Bravo is also ideal for hallucinogenic dream sequences, with effects such as Sparkle, Spins, and Tunnel providing appropriate reality-bending imagery. The two most hyped effects, Laser and Lightning, create beams of light on a flat plane that extend outside the frame; however, we would have liked to see options for controlling the duration of the beams and some way to fire the laser between two points within the same frame.
Echo’s 18 transitions range from a simple left-to-right Wipe to the subtle Fog and the Scooby Dooinspired Dream. We’re itching to find a good use for the Burn Through transition and the Stained Glass effect.
In terms of quality, all the effects end up rendering well, even in cases where the iMovie previews look cheesy, such as with the Rain effect. — Jeff Carlson
WHO’S THERE FIREWALL ADVISOR 1.2E
4.0 mice; Open Door Networks, 541/488-4127, http://www.opendoor.com; $49, upgrade free
2.5 mice; Pantone, 866/726-8663, http://www.pantone.com; $349
Pantone’s Color Cue, a cordless spectrocolorimeter the size of a flashlight, is designed to determine the closest Pantone equivalent to the color of a physical sample. Its built-in LCD tells you the closest Pantone match and provides a host of other color information.
When we used the Color Cue to take color measurements from a brand-new Pantone Coated/Uncoated Formula Guide swatch book (where the swatches are larger than 14mm in diameter), the device was accurate only 9 times out of 10, which isn’t a convincing ratio.
The Color Cue lets you search for a specific Pantone color, using its three-button menu system, and retrieve the color equivalents in many other formats, but this feature was irritating to use–the menu system is about as friendly as, and somewhat less logical than, the voice-mail options presented by major government agencies.
The measurement aperture is also on the large side–14mm in diameter–making it nearly impossible to get an accurate reading for small samples, which must also be perfectly flat.– Bruce Fraser
MACJOURNAL 2.1 E
2.5 mice; Dan Schimpf Software, http://homepage.mac.com/dschimpf; free
Dan Schimpf Software’s MacJournal 2.1, a program that lets you create and modify virtual journals, is a model of utility and excellent application design. You can have an unlimited number of journals, and journal entries are organized by date and time. You can format entries to suit your needs, with options for text size, color, and font, as well as embedded graphic images. There’s also a word-count tool, a spelling checker, and an incredibly useless but wickedly funny Taco feature that displays random quotes from The Simpsons. And though you can password-protect journals, you can’t add them to your Keychain.
MacJournal lets you print any journal you create. And you can export a journal as text, RTF, or HTML–a great feature for the Weblog crowd–or e-mail it from within the program. The printed or exported journals won’t include any added graphics–a minor, but irritating limitation. And the e-mailed entries don’t fare well at all; all attempts to send a paragraph-long entry yielded an error message stating that the entry was most likely too big. (The company is aware of this problem, but it hasn’t yet determined a viable solution.)– Jeffery Battersby