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MacEdition Pro News : January 14, 2003: The wayward trip home

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When the boss said I ought to take a Las Vegas detour on my way back to the home office in Reno, I figured this could be a grand opportunity to kick back in the sun and recoup some of our San Francisco expenses via a little “speculative investing.” (Hey, it beats the pants off – pun fully intended – sinking your 401(k) money in Enron, WorldCom, NorTel, etc.)

But when he muttered something about CES I knew the idea of a pure pleasure break after a couple of days hard sloggin’ at Macworld would be nothing more than a passing fantasy. After our Boogie in the Burrow bash, the words of Oscar Wilde reverberated through my decidedly numbed skull: “Work is the curse of the drinking class.”

So, here I am deep in Sin City, amidst a sea of Windows products, being bombarded by over-hyped technologies, meeting the ham-fisted high-tech shills who hype them and finally getting a feel for what must have been running through Hunter S. Thompson’s mind when he penned that great American classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

A fish out of water am I in this neon-trimmed glittering jewel of the desert. Looking for whatever nuggets of techno goodies a Mac guy can find in this orgy of the grubby gadget grabbers.

Hello again

While not specifically aimed at users of our favored platform, I couldn’t help but notice the futuristic overtones of a device cobbled together by low-cost networking giant D-Link.

They were showing i2eye, a broadband videophone device that connects to a television set to bring you the next best thing to being there.

The i2eye VideoPhone provides the ability to “videospeak” locally or long distance over any broadband connection, delivering sound and images directly to the television screen. Designed to sit on top of the television, i2eye features an adjustable tilt/focus camera lens and integrated microphone to capture full-screen video and wide-coverage sound. The smooth and clear i2eye picture is streamed at up to 30 frames per second so video images can be viewed with minimal frame loss.

The videophone box connects to your television through standard RCA plugs and is compatible with any computer-based software utilizing the H.323 video conferencing standard. D-Link intends to bring i2eye to market at the end of this month, and the device will carry a US $300 price tag.

While my guitar gently weeps

Having bent a few strings in ancient days, my now-geekier heart was drawn to Gibson Guitar’s booth at CES where the venerable Les Paul body type picked up a little MaGIC that would make a Stratocaster-slingin’ picker such as myself twinge with a little “Geez, I wish I had that in my axe” envy.

Gibson’s appearance at CES centered around a digital technology that converts the analog output into a digital format and carries the sound via a CAT-5 Ethernet cable. The benefit to musicians is that they can send 32-bit audio to the mixing console (or computer) at 192KHz in real time and have as many as eight channels filling the pipe. The technology also works over wireless, meaning that an Airport Extreme-enabled laptop will pick up a whole new lust factor as this technology rolls out, if those software developers on our side of the digital divide embrace this technology.

Gibson intends to roll MaGIC (Media-accelerated Global Information Carrier) into every guitar it makes within the next 18 months. It has also made the technology royalty-free in the hopes of getting it to be an industry standard.

I’m a highway child

While the iPod may be the coolest personal MP3 player on the planet, Alpine Electronics figures it has punched the ticket on the best way to incorporate MP3 audio into your favorite set of wheels.

The company is showing a MP3 in-dash audio deck built around a 16GB hard drive that can pack about 3,000 tunes. The HDA-5460 deck is removable so it can be hooked up to your computer for easy downloading of your audio collection.

The HDA-5460’s removable hard disk drive features a USB port for easy connection to PCs for fast transfer of music files. The system comes complete with Alpine’s Mobile Multimedia Driver software, providing powerful desktop tools for managing large libraries of MP3, WMA or .WAV files. The software allows people to easily create customized playlists for playback on the HDA-5460. An “auto-synch” function allows people to quickly update their hard disk drive with the latest music they’ve downloaded to their desktop.

Alpine expects to have the MP3 deck rolling out in heavy numbers sometime this summer. Pricing information was not available at press time. (It’s not like I was reluctant to frantically wave my Visa Gold Card at the people manning the booth!)

Speakin’ of the Pod

As per this late note from our barrage of releases from our MacWorld coverage, Griffin Technology has released a device that is the ultimate add-on accessory for anybody who owns an iPod and vehicle with an FM radio.

The company pushed its iTrip FM transmitter to market after a week of tryouts on the show floor in the Moscone Center.

The iTrip introduces several unique design innovations and industry firsts. Super compact in size, the iTrip rests atop the iPod and attaches securely to the headphone jack. The iTrip requires no batteries. It draws its minimum power requirements directly from the iPod. Unlike other FM transmitters, the iTrip is not limited to a few fixed frequencies. Users are able to select stations from the entire FM band for complete flexibility. The iTrip willretail for $35 and be shipping in Spring ’03.

Unlike the folks at Alpine, Griffin Technologies will gladly accept your money, credit card or any other worthwhile chattel at its store.

So, that’s what they’ve been doing

Any Mac developer worth their salt knows of Metrowerks, and it was there at CES to promote its new Nintendo development suite due to start shipping next month. The development software is combined with a hardware platform for trying outsoftware in development before bringing it to market.

By combining the new TDEV hardware with its CodeWarrior development tools, Metrowerks is able to provide Gamecube developers with a network capable development kit that is significantly less expensive compared to existing development hardware for Nintendo Gamecube, which currently lacks network capability.

TDEV is essentially a consumer Gamecube unit with network capability, which allows developers to share a TDEV unit with multiple hosts. TDEV also plays burned optical discs, enabling developers to view their games on the TDEV and get more accurate performance than they would by emulating game characteristics on a PC hard drive.

Before I could scream about parent company’s Motorola’s apparent desertion of the platform that made it famous, Metrowerks was quick to note that it has released an OS X-native version of CodeWarrior Studio v8.0. and that it has dropped the price of adoption for the Mac OS X development Objective-C-oriented suite to a riot-inducing US$99.

Something in the way it moves

Those looking for a simple way to display pictures taken by a digital camera might want to look at the MemoryFrame from Pacific Digital. The California-based company believes it has come out with a way to cut out the computer from the digital photo process.

For the first time, digital photographers have an easy way to display a slideshow of 50+ photos, immediately after taking them – without a PC, printer or camera memory card. Because MemoryFrame is plug-and-play, and requires no other equipment, paper or ink, it is very cost-effective to use.

The MemoryFrame downloads directly from digital cameras via a USB port into an 8MB cache and the frame then rotates through the JPEG images in a slideshow on the 5"x7" active matrix (TFT) screen. The screen will also accept images from a USB card reader and sells for about US$350.

Meanwhile back at the ranch

DEVONtechnologies is making sure all us Mac folks stay hooked up in this new well-connected computing universe. The German company released BlueService, a Mac OS X enhancement that loads as a service in the operating system.

BlueService makes it easy to send selected plain or rich text to BlueTooth compliant devices such as PDAs or mobile phones directly from all Services-aware Cocoa or Carbon applications. It’s useful to copy notes or short messages (SMS) to BlueTooth-enabled handheld computers or mobile phones with just one single click, when, for example, the device is not yet supported by the Mac OS X Address Book and its SMS capabilities. Technically, Blue Service uses OBEX Object Push or OBEX File Transfer to support as many different BlueTooth devices as possible.

DEVONtechnologies also updated its other freeware offerings (WordService, AntiWordService and CalcService) to run faster, offer better language localizations and address a few minor bugs. The Services packages can be picked up from DEVON’s download page.

Also quick and handy

ProFusion Software is inviting people to connect with its server to try out a new OS X utility dubbed QuickClick which allows the user to create pop-up menus and other organizational tricks we enjoyed so much in OS 9.

Featuring an intuitive preference pane, QuickClick is both highly customizable and easy to use. Allowing users to customize their menu by including submenus, dividers, headers, and relative folders, QuickClick also features more advanced features such as multilaunches that allow multiple items to be launched at once and plug-in support.

QuickClick is currently in public beta until Feb. 7. After that, the software will carry a US$15 registration fee. The beta can be obtained from the QuickClick product page.

Update City

Proteron LLC has moved LiteSwitch, an OS X application switching utility, to Version 1.5.2 to improve the program’s compatibility with OS 10.2 and give it the ability to work with non-Roman script languages.

Snowmint Creative Solutions has issued an update to Budget, its unique financial planning software. The 3.3 update gives the program the ability to import Quicken data, adds a long-term financial planner, a currency converter, localization for UK English and a redesigned preferences window. The update also addressed a number of minor bugs the program had.

Glucose updated WeatherPop Advance to Version 1.6.5 to accommodate changes made by one of the program’s US data sources. Glucose also improved language localization for the program’s Feels Like feature which calculates the impact of things like wind-chill in various weather conditions.

Trygve Inda tweaked its Time Pallete world time and mapping software to make it faster, easier to use in OS X and updated a URL for the NOAA weather station site. The new version can be acquired from the Time Palette site.

24U Software updated its 24U Email OS X scripting addition to incorporate the ability to send emails without the need to launch a secondary application. The improvement also supports sending to multiple recipients. The download can be had at 24U’s download page.

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