Computer Hardware

The Ethernet Disk Mini can hold all your digital files and make them accessible to any computer on your network.  It’s been said that when there’s a need, the universe provides. And sure enough, just when multigigabyte digital media libraries began to proliferate on the hard drives of consumers everywhere, along come greatly expanded personal storage devices and external hard drives to keep those libraries housed and backed up.

Optimus Mini Three 2.0

Light-up, animated keys are cool, but we want to do more.  We like the idea of tiny OLED displays embedded in keyboard keys, but until we tried one of these futuristic keyboards, it seemed like nothing more than a way to show off. After all, don’t your fingers usually cover those buttons? But after trying the Art Lebedev Optimus Mini Three 2.0, a three-key version that’s not intended to replace a full-size keyboard, we’re highly supportive of the concept. Customizable, animated keys can show instant feedback.

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Axiotron Modbook

The Modbook can do a lot of things a regular MacBook can’t. We still don’t recommend that you take it for a float in the pool!  Take away a MacBook’s keyboard, and add a touchscreen display, and behold the Modbook. Literally a retrofitted MacBook, this Apple-sanctioned tablet Mac shares the same features and performance. But the Modbook does more—and less—than Apple’s portable. The Modbook’s touch-sensitive screen responds well to the included stylus, making it a great digital sketch pad for artists. With the right software, the Modbook makes a useful in-the-field device for doctors, insurance representatives, and other specialized mobile users. A built-in GPS module even tracks the Modbook’s location. But efficient work, even in graphic and other media applications, often requires buttons—or the keyboard that this tablet lacks. A narrow segment of users will find the Modbook ideal; it’s the only tablet computer that runs OS X, after all. But we wish it had just a few more features.

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Healing Rhythms

You can practice meditation techniques with biofeedback from these sensors.  To us, biofeedback has always seemed like the natural direction for input devices, where sensors can hook up to your body and read subtle changes in brain activity that would control what’s displayed on the computer—or, in our most advanced sci-fi fantasies—what the computer does. Companies such as NeuroSky (www.neurosky.com) are developing EEG brainwave-reading systems to control machines. These applications could eventually lead to a retail product that lets you move the cursor with your mind. Healing Rhythms introduces us to a few other biofeedback sensors designed to teach users about meditation and quieting the mind and body. The hardware and software don’t control the Mac otherwise, but instead monitor your responses as you move through various exercises. We got a kick out of watching the software change with biofeedback, and we even learned a few useful basic meditation techniques in the process.

X-Rite i1Display

The same colorimeter comes with both options—only the software is different.  Color experts are aware that the average Joe isn’t cuckoo for color theory, but we’d all like to depend on the consistency of a calibrated, profiled display. The X-Rite i1Display does an impressive job of attending to the needs of both enthusiasts and pros, depending on the software package selected. Color Me Accurate

Synology DS107+

This powerful system comes without a drive, but installing your own is a piece of cake.  Of all the NAS devices we tested, the Synology DS107+ promised the most extensive feature list, and the device consistently impressed us with its Swiss-Army-like capabilities on our network. The enclosure ships without a hard drive, so your first task is to install one. The instructions for doing so are simple and easy to follow, and we were plugging the device into our wireless router within minutes. (Disclosure: Synology was kind enough to install a drive in our test model, so we removed it and installed a second drive to duplicate the standard user experience.)

Belkin Mini Surge Protector

The Mini Surge is incredibly handy for recharging your USB devices while traveling.  Back when FireWire was first introduced, one of its coolest features was that it delivered power and was a fast data conduit. At the time, USB’s trickle of electrons wasn’t enough to power much of anything. As devices became more frugal with their electricity, USB slowly turned into a recharging standard for many small gadgets. But there’s one major difference in how Macs handle these ports while asleep: FireWire ports continue to receive power, whereas USB ports don’t. So you can recharge a FireWire device while your laptop is asleep, but not a USB device. You have to leave the whole system running just to charge your iPod.

 Whether you’re packing for a business trip thousands of miles away, or you just want to get out of the house for a few hours, sometimes you need to take your Mac on the road. While it’s debatable whether “getting there is half the fun,” keeping your MacBook (and your workflow) running smoothly, both in transit and when you arrive, is an absolute must. And we hate to break it to you, but with a more-mobile Mac comes increased responsibility—like making sure your precious ’Book doesn’t get stolen, broken, or disconnected from the world. We’ve got the latest tricks for keeping your precious cargo safe, secure, and connected—and some advice for coping with accidents you can’t avoid.  

Vuzix iWear AV920

The iWear AV920 is almost there. Almost, but not quite.  Undoing, oh, about a million gajillion years of human evolution (we could be off by a few gajillion) is not going to be easy no matter who you are, but Vuzix, the makers of the iWear AV920 glasses, are trying. Vuzix has given us twin high-res LCDs mounted in a 2.9-ounce visor that serve up the equivalent of a 62-inch display on a 0.31-inch eyeglass screen about, oh, 2.5 inches from your retinas. The product’s development could have been driven by the modern desire to miniaturize everything or the unending need to extend the functionality of small-format video viewers à la the iPod, but it’s really anyone’s guess.

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 Adam Benton blew us away with his 3D renderings of our Apple product fauxtotypes. Now he describes the ultimate Mac-based 3D workstation, and shares must-know info for 3D artists-in-training. He’s done work for Saatchi & Saatchi, that most prestigious and tony of advertising firms. He’s done work for Activision, a video game company that seems to make one out of every three titles that gamers play. And he’s done work for T3, the world’s preeminent gadget magazine, which is published in 22 international editions.