(You're reading all posts by Charlie Sorrel) Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie on Twitter at @mistercharlie.
About Charlie Sorrel
I just switched from Kindle to Kobo. Why? Amazon. It’s currently extorting publishing house Hachette by delaying orders and refusing to allow pre-orders for certain titles. The exact machinations are secret, but many people agree that Amazon is demanding discounts on ebooks.
I don’t want to see authors forced to get a second job to survive, so I switched. No more Kindle ebooks. I switched to Kobo, which has a great e-ink reader, a deep book catalog, and – most importantly – breakable DRM.
The results are mixed, with ups and downs for both the service and the hardware.
I started German language school a few weeks back, and I was looking forward to testing out the Booqpad. The combination iPad case and paper notepad seemed ideal for using in class. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Not only is the case oddly tacky – especially weird given the build quality of Booq’s other gear – but it is awkward to use.
Apple finally fixed photography on iOS. Or rather, it’s fixed organizing your photos, wherever they might be. The iPhone is already a great camera. The problem was everything that happened after you tapped the shutter.
Now, in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, you’ll never have to worry about organizing your photos again — they’ll be everywhere, all the time. And best of all? It looks like you’re never going to need iPhoto again, on the Mac or on your iPad.
When I opened the (huge) shipping box that brought the new Boa Flow to Cult of Mac’s German HQ, I thought I’d hate it (the bag, not the box). But it turned out to be one of my favorite bags for lugging a lot of gear with me.
The Boa Flow is made for “creative professionals.” That is, it’s for anyone who needs to carry computers, cameras, headphones and other accessories, and to this end it had zillions of pockets and storage sections. The best part is that there are many options for every kind of item. You can put your MacBook in the separate slot by your back, for example, or you can slip it into a pocket in the main chamber.
Welcome to Part 2 of our series on note-taking for writers (or anyone who takes lots of notes). In three posts we’re looking at ways to take notes on paper, on your iPhone or Mac, and collected from the web, and combine them all (optionally) into Evernote for easy browsing and retrieval. In theory you can do all of this just by launching Evernote, but that app is pretty terrible at capturing notes.
Part 1 dealt with paper notes. This part is all about grabbing quick text notes on your iPhone and Mac, and then using Hazel to send them to Evernote. Have fun!
Take a smartphone stand that clamps onto your iPhone like a pair of jaws. Now add a tripod hole and a wrist strap. Now you've got the Shoulderpod, a device that has nothing to do with your shoulders. It can be used as a stand or as a grip, giving one-handed access to any app by placing your thumb over the on-screen shutter. It also works with a range of optional accessories. $35
This is a firestarter, a camping firestarter. It’s the self-igniting, cooking instigator. A tungsten-carbide striker, a campfire detonator. Rotating wear-avoiding, one-handed operating, works when saturated, makes matches antiquated. $19
Duo valve speaker
Using a valve amp and high-end speaker to amplify your iPhone’s Bluetooth stream might be a little like shaving canned mushrooms onto your homemade “truffle” ravioli, but who cares when “just” $640 can bring you a beautiful wooden box with two glowing valves at its core? The Class A amp can also be hooked up with cables, connected to an external subwoofer and even has an on-board 24-bit DAC. $649
Just Mobile AluCable Flat
The name really says it all. This ribbonlike Lightning cable rolls up into a tidy reel and lays flat when charging. It also has tough, color-coded plugs, and costs the same as Apple’s own white plastic cable. Available in gray, gold or … blue? $20
The new white Airframe from Kenu turns the slats of your car’s ventilation system into a smartphone holder. The expanding jaws clamp your iPhone (or Android phone) in place, and the little prongs on the other side jam between the louvres of any car vent and hold fast. It’s the perfect way to add yet another dangerous distraction to your dashboard. $25
Lezyne iPhone wallet
This neat package gathers your in-ride essentials together into one jersey-pocket-friendly place, and as it comes from Lezyne you know it can be relied on. The seam-welded zip-up wallet has a plastic window so you can use your iPhone while it’s inside, and slots for cash and cards (although no change pocket). Available in gray or black. Weighs 120 grams (4.2 ounces). $20
Lomo Instant Camera
At last, a Lomo that’s as convenient as digital – the Lomo Instant has a built-in printer so it can pop out photos on the spot. The plastic-bodied camera can make multiple exposures on one frame, has a bulb setting for long exposures, a flash and interchangeable lenses. I can’t tell you how much I want one of these. From $79
I love my two-man Hubba Hubba tent from MSR, but if I was in the market for a huge tent that could fit a) me and a bunch of other campers or b) me, in a real bed, as if I were camped in 1920 Egypt to investigate an Agatha Christie-style crime, I’d take the teepee-shaped Meriwether. At 16 feet wide and 9.5 feet high, who cares if it weighs in at 65 pounds (almost 30kg)? That's what servants are for.$1,250
Olloclip for iPad
It’s here! The iPad-friendly Olloclip adds four great lenses to your iPad Air or Mini retina (they’re both equally thin, you know). The new Olloclip slips onto the corner of your iPad to cover the lens with any of four accessory lenses, all on the same mount. You get a fisheye and a wide-angle lens, and if you unscrew them you have 10x and 15x macros. The epoch of looking dorky while you take iPad photos is finally over. $70
Film or digital? Campfire or BBQ? Car or bike? Cable or wireless?
No matter which way you swing, this week’s gadgets have you covered. iPhoneographers can enjoy the Shoulderpod hand grip or slip the new iPad Olloclip onto their Mini or Air, and film nuts can get instant satisfaction with the new Lomo Instant Camera.
Camping? Take it easy in the giant Meriwether tent or go survivalist with the Blastmatch fire-starter. You can even choose how to arrive at the site, with accessories for your car or your bike. Happy traveling!
I’m writing this review on a regular, full-size USB keyboard plugged into the Mac. That should be a warning sign right there — after all, this is a review of an iPad keyboard case. But that’s not the whole story. For instance, the case part of the Moshi VersaKeyboard is fantastic — so good that I’ve been using it as my main iPad case since it turned up for testing.
They keyboard is good, too, with keys as responsive as those on Logitech’s Ultrathin keyboard covers. So what’s the problem? Why am I not typing this review on the Moshi? Size.
The Opinel No8 is hardly a new gadget, but when something is this good, why change it? I’ve been using the wood-handled French pocket knives for around 12 years since I was given a carbon steel No8 as a gift. That knife is still in daily use, and has since been joined by several others, including one made for children (more on that in a bit). I even have a tiny No3 that I use for sharpening pencils.
Why am I writing about a 120-year-old knife on the Cult of Mac? Because age doesn’t matter when something is this well-designed. Also, I figure if you’re a fan of Apple gear you will appreciate good design wherever you find it.
I started writing stories this year – short fiction and a couple of novellas so far – and I’ve found I need to make a lot of notes. The iPhone is pretty great for this, as you’d expect, but not always: Sometimes it’s just not appropriate to tap away on a cellphone, and sometimes you might want to make little drawings, or maybe you just find it easier and faster to pull out a paper notebook or index card.
The biggest advantage of iPhone notes is that they are sync-able and searchable. Paper is neither. But using a combo of apps, old-school paper hacks and an easy-to-maintain “workflow”, I came up with a simple note-taking system that keeps paper and pixels together, both equally searchable, sync-able and usable.
Get your weekend in gear
The week's best gadget announcements, rolled up into a nougaty gallery.
BioLite BaseCamp stove
The BaseCamp is the family-size version of BioLite’s iPhone-charging camping stove. Like its little brother, the BaseCamp burns any fuel you find (wood is good) and uses the heat to power a USB charger and drive a fan. The fan pumps air into the fire and makes it burn hotter and faster. The BaseCamp version adds a grill on top for those off-the-grid BBQs. $300
Picard’s German-made Latthammer (or carpenter’s roofing hammer) is 600 grams of hot, hot nail-starting action. Slot a nail into the groove up top, whereupon it will be held in place by a magnet. Whack it against your target chunk of wood and the nail is started without ever putting your fleshy fingers in harm’s way. It even comes with a beautiful leather grip. €70
Lifelogger POV camera
The dorkitudinal Lifelogger is an alway-on POV camera that looks like a Bluetooth headset, the large camera unit counterbalanced by a headband that wraps around from ear to ear. The eye-level mount means you always record what you’re looking at, but it also makes you look like you work in a call center. Available December. $249
TYLT Energi Travel Charger 2K
TYLT's Energi Travel Charger 2K is a regular USB wall charger, only it packs a built-in 2,200mAh battery and comes in at the same price as most regular (battery-free) chargers. The fold-out prongs let it sleep safely in your bag until needed, and the colored LED indicators tells you how much is left in the tank. I wonder why all chargers aren't this clever. $30
Range smart thermometer
Supermechanical’s Range thermometer looks as good as the beautiful (universal) app it works with. It’s a food-probe thermometer that comes in two models – one long and rounded, for sticking into cooking pots, and one short and sharp, for jabbing into meat. Both plug into your iPhone’s headphone socket, letting you set temperature alerts, check graphs and look up USDA temperature recommendations. $70
Satechi’s LightMate is what would happen if Jedis carried iPhones. The lightsaber-shaped emergency LED light can work as a lamp or, if you remove the “saber,” as a flashlight. It’s waterproof, is designed to smash car windows (for escape, not for burglary) and the (swappable) lithium-ion battery can be used to juice your iPhone via its USB port. $30
La Sardina Birds of Paradise DIY bundle
Imagine a sardine can made into a camera. Well done – you just imagined La Sardina, a plastic camera based on the classic sardine tin. Lomography's wide-angle shooter is so DIY it comes with a screwdriver to help customize it. The lo-fi Lomo film camera now comes in pretty versions with decorative skins, like this Bird of Paradise “dress.” Get ready for summer. $109
Photojojo’s Power Purse is a place to protect your phone and also provide portable power. It works like a regular clutch purse, only it has a secret 2,600mAh battery inside to recharge your iPhone on the go. We all have a friend who leaves the house with their iPhone at like 15 percent every frickin’ day. If that friend is into pink or polka dots, you should buy him/her this as a gift, if only for your own peace of mind. $49
This Tower of power extends outlets from the floor and puts them up by your desktop. It packs two 2.1A USB ports plus four regular power outlets with circuit breakers, and the base is weighted to stop it from tipping over. There’s even a little plastic mesh pocket to keep your iPad safe while it charges. $99
Cooking, charging, camera-ing and generally staying out-of-doors are the themes this week. But if you are stuck inside out of the sun, don’t worry – we have you covered too.
This week we get cooking with a gadget-charging camping stove and a slick, iPhone-friendly food thermometer. We also do DIY projects (without tenderizing our thumbs) with the German Latthammer, charge our flagging phones with a purse that packs a built-in battery, and record everything using the super-dorky Lifelogger camera. Is the sun shining? Yes it is!