Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Come right this way! Welcome to our Carnival of Computing! Folks, for less than a sawbuck, you can behold these Macintosh marvels!
Why, haven’t you heard?! The Mac is back, and fun is where it’s at! We’ve traveled the world over from Cupertino to Kathmandu, gathering together the most captivating Mac gewgaws and doodads you’re likely to find in one place. That’s right, folks. This is the place where you’ll find the coolest gadgets and add-ons for your Macintosh computer. And we’ve got it allright here, I say, right herefrom the mind-bending translucent backup drives to the mysterious talking mouse pad to our very own World Wide Web of wonder.
Come along with me on our tour. Straight ahead is the Mac Merry-Go-Round, just one of the great rides at this summer’s carnival. But this ain’t no ordinary merry-go-round. No sir, this special attraction is pure family fun, guaranteed to please any self-respecting Macintosh user. Over this way you’ll see the Macworld Fun House, home to fun and games and frolicafter all, my friends, what else is summer for? And just beyond, the most fearsome and entertaining portion of our programthe Freak Show.
Fear not, my friends! For this Freak Show has no bearded lady or human pincushion. But you’re sure to be amazed by the quirky computer paraphernalia within the Freak Show’s walls.
Now that you’ve got an idea where everything is, let’s take a closer look. I guarantee it’ll be fun! Would I lie to you, my friends?
Up and Down on the Mac Merry-Go-Round
Look what we have hereour main attraction: the Mac Merry-Go-Round. Ah, it looks like we’re just in time, the ride’s about to start. Presented for your amusement is a cornucopia of useful and fun Macintosh miscellany, sure to please even the most cynical Macintosh maven. Don’t push! There’s a seat for everyone.
Skinny Speakers That Sing
The world of multimedia speakers has suddenly gone flat, as evidenced by the latest release from Sonigistix, the Monsoon MM-700 multimedia speaker system. Like its more expensive sibling, the $229 Monsoon MM-1000 system (see
Reviews, April 1999), the MM-700 system includes two skinny satellite speakers and a 5.25-inch subwoofer shaped like an ice cream cone. You control the volume of the speakerseven quickly muting themwith a small hockey puck-shaped control box.
Although the MM-700 system is slightly less powerful than the MM-1000, the MM-700 speakers deliver the same transparent, balanced sound as the more expensive Monsoon speakers. Gamers shouldn’t expect brain-crushing volume from these speakers. At a moderate level they sound glorious, but when cranked they start to sound distorted before even rattling your windows or loosening your plaster.
Computers are now so common that many people have a few scattered throughout the house. So link all these machines together and play network gamesoh, and maybe share files while you’re at it.
Presenting Farallon’s HomeLine Starter Kit, which lets you network two or more Macs, two PCs, or a Mac and a PC by simply adding a HomeLine PCI card to each computer, installing the proper drivers and software, and plugging each HomeLine card into the nearest phone jack. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but HomeLine actually sends data through your home phone’s internal wiring, with no need for Ethernet cables and hubs, and yes, you can continue to use that line for phone, data, and fax calls.
Any child who wants to take control of his or her Mac and create games, interactive stories, and simulations should take a gander at Stagecast Creator. Intended largely for use in schools, Stagecast Creator is a simple programming environment that allows kids to create their own characters and assign actions to them. For example, your child could design a simple board game, a pachinko simulation, an electronic book with illustrationseven a game of three-card monte.
Parents need not worry that Stagecast is a complete time waster. As the program’s Teacher’s Guide plainly reveals, hidden beneath the fun are some of the basic principles of programming. That’s right, your child is bound to learn a thing or two along the way. The on-screen tutorial gives a nice overview of Stagecast’s programming environment and is anything but dry. The CD-ROM includes several games and simulationssome captivating enough for grown-ups!
If you have an iMac or new Power Macintosh G3 and are interested in putting video on your computer, you’re in luck. Thanks to XLR8 and your computer’s USB port, you can now capture and edit video for just under $100. The means to this miracle is the InterView, a small doohickey that sports a USB connector on one end and an S-Video and composite-video connector on the other. The small, black box in between does most of the work. To capture audio, you’ll need to connect the audio output of your source to the audio-input port on your Mac.
Using the InterView you can capture full-frame video at 320 by 240 pixels and still frames at 640 by 480 pixels and save the results as a QuickTime movie. Unlike other inexpensive video-capture devices, the InterView comes with a decent software bundleStrata VideoShop 4.5and produces smooth results.
PowerBook owners no longer need be the only mobile Mac users. With the GrabPacand a muscular physiqueyou can now take your iMac and its accompanying peripherals on the road. This black, green, or gray item is sure to remind you of the backpacks parents use to lug their small children around. Slip the GrabPac cover over the top of the iMac; slide the keyboard into its harness; tuck the mouse, cables, and any extra items you care to take with you into one of the two side pockets; wrap the GrabPac’s padded handle around the iMac’s handle; and you’re ready to travel.
Although you may work up a sweat fitting your iMac into the carrying case, you won’t need to completely unpack it once you reach your destination. Just un- clip the front screen cover, fold out the two mouse pads that cover the keyboard, unleash the keyboard from its harness, plug in your cables, and fire up the iMac.
If you attended any rock concerts in the sixties and early seventies that featured swirling light shows, you probably don’t remember doing so. Bliss Paint 2.0, from Imaja, may help jog what’s left of your memory. Billed as an interactive color synthesizer, Bliss Paint allows you to create whirling, colorful animations that can evolve and morph over time. In addition to providing a bit of sixties nostalgia, these animations can resemble kaleidoscopes, animated Escher compositions, and even the strobing “Whoa, dude!” scene from
2001: A Space Odyssey
you know the one.
You create these animations with Scribblersshape generators and processing effectsand use Distributors to determine where the Scribblers paint. As with a musical synthesizer, you can “play” your animations and arrange them in sequences. These animations can be fired from your Mac keyboard, via MIDI, or through sound input.
Picture Playground, a commercial Web site put together by Eastman Kodak, is a bit like an online version of Adobe’s PhotoDeluxea place where you can add common filters to digital photographs that you’ve uploaded or found on the Web. For example, you can turn pictures into cartoons; create sepia-tone, “antiqued” versions of your photos; saturate colors; reduce color pictures to black and white; or add an oil-paint filter to your image.
Another area of the site allows you to create postcards that you can then e-mail to friends. As with many greeting-card sites, these postcards speak to common themes and Hallmark holidays such as birthdays and Mother’s Day. Unlike with other greeting-card sites, however, you can use images that you’ve uploaded, in addition to stock photography. In order to take advantage of many of Picture Playground’s services, you must become a member. Membership, however, is free.
Can you whistle? Do you know how to tune a guitar? Having trouble shucking an oyster? If these or other common skills escape you, you have a friendly know-it-all on the Internet at Learn2.com. This fairly comprehensive site provides instructions in tasks both vital and inconsequential. In addition to providing step-by-step instruction for whistlingboth the puckered-lip and two-finger methodsguitar tuning, and oyster shucking, Learn2 tells you how to use chopsticks, blow bubble-gum bubbles, juggle, fix a running toilet, perform a breast self-exam, and flush a car’s radiator.
The site is nicely designed and features a fast and thorough search engineyou can also browse by categories such as Arts & Crafts, Food & Drink, and Technology. Steps are clearly delineated, and illustrations are often provided. Learn2 includes a list of top ten “2torials” as well as a link that allows you to mail the lessons to friends.
When Apple yanked the SCSI port from the iMac and the blue-and-white G3s, it also removed one of the best ways to back up your Macintosh files. But have no fearAiwa has delivered a USB tape drive to safely salt your files away. The TD-UM8000 is a USB-based Travan tape drive capable of storing up to 8GB of compressed data (4GB uncompressed) on a single 8GB Travan cartridge. The preproduction unit we looked at backed up a 266MHz iMac at around 33.5MB per minutenot terribly speedy but perfectly serviceable for an overnight backup.
The drive comes with Dantz’s Retrospect and a USB cable. Cartridges cost just over $30 each. The TD-UM8000 sports an attractive Bondi-blue bezel and a
attractive pricejust $250. Such a deal!
Of course your Mac should be your primary source of entertainment, but just suppose that one stormy evening the power goes out and all you’re left with is a candle, two matches, three friends, and a deck of cards. What will you play with now? Well, if you’d taken the time to visit John McLeod’s Card Games site and memorized each page there, you’d know the rules to just about every card game on earth. The list of games is exhaustivewhy, the number of poker variations alone is remarkable.
Although solitaire games are well represented at Card Games, they aren’t the only games fully explained. The site also carries sections for multiplayer games, commercial games (such as Mille Bornes) that require a special deck of cards, and invented games (such as card games site visitors have invented). John also provides links to places where you can play cards against opponents on the Internet.
That’s it! The Merry-Go-Round ride is over. But fret notit’s time to move to the Fun House, home to wild and crazy Mac items. Interested in musical tools? Looking for something to spruce up that iMac? Step inside while I rustle us up a couple of corn dogs.
Gone are the days of Raggedy Ann dollsthe cyberplaymates of the future are one-of-a-kind custom-made iMac pillows. And unlike their translucent plastic counterparts, these 6-by-9-by-7-inch cotton clones cost only $12 and are made to order.
These fuzzy computer pals are available in all five flavorsplus Bondi blueand can be personalized with your name for an additional $3. Sorry, mouse and keyboard not included.
If you were to go by commercials alone, you might think that once you own an iMac you have everything you need. Nonsense. The fun really begins with the accessories.
Enter Belkin Components’ iMac Starter Kit. This kit contains a quartet of useful iMac-hued accessories: the black and “ice,” ultracomfy ErgoPad mouse pad; a likewise gel-filled, black and ice ErgoPad keyboard rest; a 10-CD-capacity, Bondi-blue jewel case; and a blue and ice SurgeMaster surge protector complete with protection for telephone lines. Granted, the surge protector and CD rack, while attractive, are something you could get elsewhere.
Mac gamers, take note: Kernel Productions’ JoyPort, a diminutive black box not much larger than an audiocassette, is packed with potential. This gizmo allows your ADB-equipped Macintosh to use many Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, Sony PlayStation, and PC game controllers. You just turn off the Mac; connect the JoyPort to a free ADB port (sorry, iMac owners); restart the Mac; install the JoyPort software; restart again; slip a compatible joystick, game pad, or other controller into one of the JoyPort’s ports; configure the controller for the game in the JoyPort control panel; and have big fun!
Although the JoyPort is nearly infinitely configurable, certain steering-wheel controllers don’t function properly with old Mac car-racing games. The device works admirably with most arcade games and game pads, however, and is a natural for those with Connectix’s Virtual Game Station and a PlayStation controller. Kernel has prom- ised a USB version soon.
There’s definitely something fishy about Aquazone Deluxe, the virtual aquarium from Mindscape Entertainment. Unlike the scaly screen savers of old that boasted indestructible schools of fish, Aquazone’s denizens are quite mortal. As with a real aquarium, if you don’t feed your fish, keep the tank clean and warm, maintain a proper chemical balance, and deal with your little gilled buddies’ ichthyological illnesses, the residents of your tank die. Keeping the fish healthy is vital, because four of the six species come in limited numbers. If you fail to breed more of these fish and the original five of each species die out, you must buy more.
In addition to the fish, Aquazone Deluxe ships with five aquatic plant varieties, many decorative accessories, and 12 preconditioned tanks. You can also create your own tanks.
Being a mobile DJ is tougher than you think. Sure, just about anyone can develop snappy stage patter or find an appropriately loud, sequined jacket, but the real difficulty is lugging around all the equipment and CDs necessary to get the job done. Fidelity Media just made that job a little easier with its MegaSeg. This music system allows you to download hundreds of CD tracks to your Mac, create and save playlists, edit custom segue and intro times for each track, and seamlessly crossfade between tracks. And just imagine the musical setup you’ll create with your MegaSeg software and your handy iMac GrabPac.
Fidelity Media claims that you can store more than 500 songs on a 6GB hard drive. This miracle is possible thanks to MegaSeg’s use of IMA 4:1 compressiona standard that, while reducing the size of each file, strips the tracks of some dynamics and adds noise. Audio purists, take note.
There’s a darned good reason why art historians have never run across a mouse among the tools in Winslow Homer’s paint box: it’s a lousy substitute for a brush or a pencil. If you’d like your children to have a more accurate and ergonomic artistic input device, consider the Pablo, from KBGear Interactive. This 8-by-6-inch graphics tablet ships with a wired pen large enough to be gripped by small hands, a clear plastic overlay that enhances tracing, and a CD-ROM complete with MetaCreations’ Art Dabbler and Power Goo SE. The pen sports a single yellow button that you can set to perform a single-click, double-click, click-lock, control-click, or any keystroke.
Currently the Pablo ships only in an ADB version, but a USB version is due in August. In the meantime, the maker of the Pablo suggests using Griffin Technology’s (615/255-0990,
) $49 iMate USB-to-ADB adapter for ADB-less iMacs.
Let’s face it, kids love just about anything that bears the Disney logomovies, theme parks, decorative lunch boxes. If you want to make your little ones happy, point your browser to the Disney Channel, the online, interactive arm of the Land That Walt Built. This site is packed with Shockwave games that feature the traditional Disney crew as well as some of the more recent additions, including
Please note that although this site is full of fun, it’s also crassly commercialit’s as jam-packed with Disney advertising as it is with entertainment.
While Apple’s current designs are certainly bold, some may wonder if our friends in Cupertino have sacrificed function for the sake of form. Take the Apple mouse, for example. Cute as a button it may be, but its shape is problematic for some usersif you don’t have the hands of a child, the mouse doesn’t leave a lot of room to rest your hand, and its roundness makes it difficult to determine which way is up.
You could buy a new mouse, of course,
you could simply add a new cover to the old onethe UniTrap from Contour Design, for example. This device fits over the round mouse and includes buttons in all five iMac flavors. To install, just remove your mouse’s colored side pieces, slip the mouse into the bottom shell of the UniTrap, and clip on the cover. The resulting mouse is a bit bulky but quite comfortable.
Ask any Mac musician about the quality of QuickTime Musical Instruments (QMI) and you’ll receive a response so colorful in its negativity that we couldn’t possibly print it. We
suggest an alternativeAlesis’s QS6.1 synthesizer. This 64-voice, 61-key keyboard includes 16MB of memory (expandable to 32MB via PC Cards), four control sliders, a responsive keyboard, a serial port in the back for direct connections to serial port-bearing Macs, and a CD-ROM that contains Emagic’s MicroLogic AV sequencer and a few other useful digital-audio and MIDI applications. The QS6.1 also contains a General MIDI bank of sounds that’s far superior to anything found in QuickTime.
If you’re interested in such a dedicated synthesizer but have a newer Mac that lacks serial ports, investigate those USB-to-serial converters that support MIDI
not all do
. Check with Macintosh MIDI newsgroups to learn about MIDI configurations that work best for these modern Macs.
If you’d rather not wait for your coworker, Bob the Joke Guy, to lob another poorly transcribed Letterman Top Ten list into your e-mail in-box, go to the sourceCBS’s Late Show Top Ten site. Here you’ll find Dave’s latest Top Ten and more.
Perhaps you think you’re good enough to compete with Dave’s well-paid but harried writing staff. Maybe so. You can test your comedy mettle by entering the Top Ten Contest. Just offer your suggestion on topics such as Bob Barker’s Top Ten Pet Peeves or Top Ten Least Popular Stores at the Mall; fill in your name, hometown, and e-mail address; and you could win a Late Night T-shirt.
You’ve slogged home after a long day at work, and following a quick, microwaved homage to mac and cheese, you’re ready for a little video-based mind numbing. You flip to the newspaper’s television listings and are confronted with numerous filmic possibilities on TCM, AMC, TNT, and TBS. Which to watch? Sure, you could simply channel surf, but why bother when you can Web surf to the Internet Movie Database? This site, hosted by Amazon.com, provides information on more than 180,000 movie titles. You can search by movie title as well as by actora great resource for those times when you can’t quite recall all 238 films of Eugene Pallette’s career.
My friends, finish your corn dogs and prepare to be amazed by the products that reside inside our tabernacle of terror, the Freak Show. You may find the denizens of the Freak Show a little strange, but I guarantee they’ll add a little spunk to your Mac if you just give ’em a chance. Ready for the quirky stuff, the weird outer-space, glow-in-the-dark, fortune-telling, freaky Mac stuff? Step inside!
We Are Not Alone
What’s the likelihood that somewhere, among the billions and billions of stars in our universe, there exists another sentient civilization eager to converse with us Earthbound schmoes? That’s a question some folks at SETI (The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) would like to find an answer to. And you can help them obtain that answer. Here’s how.
Download a copy of SETI@home. This application/screen saver downloads a chunk of data picked up by an audio observatory, analyzes that data to determine if otherworlders are attempting to send a response to the radio signals we broadcast into space, and sends the results of that analysis back to the SETI@home people. What better way to employ your Mac during its otherwise unoccupied moments?
3Com’s ubiquitous Palm is a handy enough device that users have been willing to put up with Graffiti, the Palm’s write-it-our-way-or-else handwriting interface. But let’s face it, using Graffiti is hardly the most convenient way to enter information into your pocket pal. If only the Palmlike the Newton MessagePad 2000 before itcame with a keyboard.
Now it does, thanks to LandWare’s GoType, a diminutive plug-and-play QWERTY keyboard designed for all the Palms except the Palm V and Palm VII (LandWare will release a Palm V-compatible keyboard shortly). Just drop your Palm into the GoType’s integrated cradle and start typing. While not tiny enough to fit in your back pocket, the GoType measures only 10 by 4 inches and is just 3/4 inch deep. Without an attached Palm, the GoType weighs just 11 ounces.
You’re deeply entrenched in an online Quake III fragfest, it’s 3:10 A.M., and youa considerate individualare wearing headphones. In a dash to the bathroom between bouts, you forget to remove the headphones, and when your forward progress exceeds the length of the headphones’ cable, you dislocate your neck and nearly rip off your ears. Do yourself and your ears a favor and give a listen to Laral Group’s Un-Wired Model 6000IR wireless headphones.
As the name implies, these ultracomfortable headphones carry no attached cable. Instead, they receive audio signals from an infrared transmitter that you place in a convenient location within 25 feet of your intended area of use. Connect the included audio cable from your Mac’s audio-output port to the transmitter’s input ports, pop a couple of AAA batteries into the headphones, switch on the transmitter and headphones, and you’re ready to rock remotely at a frequency response of 35Hz to 18,000Hz.
Presenting the humble compact discuseful for holding catchy tunes, the standard when it comes to installing software, and nearly indestructible. But occasionally one of these shiny, silver wonders becomes so scratched or abraded that areas of the disc cannot be read. Digital Innovations comes to the rescue with its GameDoctor, a device that looks like a cross between a can opener and a grocery-store label gun and that removes shallow scratches and abrasions from CDs.
To use the GameDoctor, simply fold down the device’s lower jaw, strap a CD onto the wheel, spray the disc with the included Resurfacing Solution (filtered water), flip the jaw into place, and start cranking the Doctor’s handle. As you crank, the wheel slowly rotates, polishing the disc. After polishing you simply dry and buff the disc with the included towel and felt square; with any luck, the disc will then function perfectly.
Described as a perfect place for some serious entertainment, Queendom.com offers the kind of tests and surveys often found in magazines that cater primarily to women. Care to test your IQ, check your personality, determine whether you suffer from depression, discover your degree of assertiveness, or compare your sex life to those of your fellow beings? Queendom.com offers tests that cover all these areas, as well as advice columns and articles pertaining to women’s health issues.
In general, the results of the tests are clear and nonjudgmental; regardless of how you answer, you won’t have to read that you’re an overbearing ogre who would be doing the world an enormous favor by taking up permanent residence in a remote mountain cave.
If you’re tired of pushing your mouse around on the back cover of a vintage, 1984 issue of InCider, ComputerGear has more than plenty of decorative mouse pads for you. Presenting the Winning Shot and Wolf
mouse padsthat’s right, not only do these rubber-and-nylon pads sport the pictures of a putting green and a wolf baying at the moon, respectively, but when you press a particular spot on the pads, they erupt with sound (a cheering crowd for the Winning Shot pad and, as you might expect, a howling wolf for the other).
The novelty of these pads wears off after the first playing or two, so if you’d like something kicky but quieter, consider ComputerGear’s
mouse pads, which feature a big-boned Eric Theodore Cartman and the ever enthusiastic Kyle Broslofski.
There’s a lot of news in the worldfar more than your local radio station, television channel, or newspaper could ever hope to cover. Oh sure, you’ll learn about the latest hurricane or scandal, but where are you going to read such gripping items as “Cops Seek Thief Who Digs Elders’ Undies” or “Prep Student Attacked for Listening to Queen”? Log on to Jim Romenesko’s Obscure Store and Reading Room.
Mr. Romenesko handpicks the more offbeat stories of our world and provides links to their source on this Web site. That source may be as lightweight as the
or as earnest as the AP Newswire or CNN. You’ll also find links to transcripts of newsmaker broadcasts such as
Larry King Live
Meet the Press
Are you a frustrated filmmaker whose cinematic ideas can be realized in a single exchange of dialogue between two characters? Then the Digital Film Festival is for you. At dfilm.com you can create, view, and distribute your very own ShockWave movies. Here’s how.
Simply click on the MovieMaker Game link, determine if you want your film to star one or two characters, select the characters you wish to use, choose a sky and background pattern, write the first (and last, as it happens) line of dialogue for each character, select a soundtrack, enter the title of your movie and your name, and click on the Preview Movie link to see your film in the flesh. From the Preview screen, you can e-mail a link to your creation to anyone. And while you’re at the site, you can watch clips of more-extensive films created specifically for the Internet.
When the iMac was first put on display, Apple used a cunning optical illusion to enhance the iMac’s already cool appearancethe iMac mouse was placed on a lighted table, thus helping illuminate the mouse’s innards. This illusion was so convincing that many people be- lieved the round mouse actually contained a light source. It doesn’t, but with a little help from iGlow, it can.
The concept is very simple. Send iGlow your round mouse, and for $17.95 plus $3.00 shipping, the company will implant a blue or red LED (light-emitting diode) into your translucent pointing device. If you have $24.95 (and $4.00 shipping) to spare, you can also have the company place up to three blue or red LEDs in a translucent trackball of your choosing. In addition, iGlow will sell you an already modified mousea MacAlly iMouse or Kensington USB Mouse in a Boxfor $49.95 plus $3.00 shipping.
PowerBooks are mighty convenient, but the very features that make them so convenienttheir small size and easy portabilityalso leave them susceptible to theft. Other than chaining your PowerBook bag to your body, there is a measure you can take to make your PowerBook more secure: the Targus Defcon 1, a small alarm that attaches to your PowerBook or PowerBook bag.
The Defcon 1, an alarm about the size of a cellular telephone, offers two types of protection. You can attach it to the security slot on your PowerBook, run Defcon 1’s cable through the hole in the adapter, and lock the cable. If someone attempts to cut the cable, a screeching alarm sounds. The device also carries a motion alarm. If the Defcon 1 detects more than a few seconds of motion, it yells its head off. Note: The device is not sturdy enough to protect against prying thieves with sledgehammers.