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Lust List: June 2014
From the fantastic to the mundane, life's essential experiences go better if you've got the proper gear. We test a lot of stuff here at Cult of Mac, but the items featured in our monthly Lust List roundups are the things that have made the grade over the long haul.
These are the things we can't live without.
Meridian Prime headphone amplifier
When the box from Meridian arrived, my officemate wanted to know what was inside. When I told him it was a $2,000 headphone amplifier, I got the face – you know, the one where your dad is about to tell you there is no Santa Claus, or Easter Bunny, or even a tooth fairy. Despite what my curmudgeonly colleague would have you believe, the Meridian Prime’s digital audio converter has changed my workplace listening experience exponentially.
I found myself re-experiencing everything from Pavement’s reissue of Wowee Zowee to Ry Cooder’s Paris. I listened to the usual benchmarks, but what really struck me was how the Meridian Prime and a pair of Bowers & Wilkins P7 headphones allowed me to forget about the how and enjoy the what. Setup was a no-brainer, the Analogue Spatial Processing technology is interesting and fun to mess around with, and the build quality is excellent.
And, as the audiophiles would say, I did not suffer from sound fatigue. I am sure there is something to ponder about the psychology of listening to music in a way where you are listening to see if there is a difference, but even with this factored in, I am sold on the idea of an awesome pair of headphones and a digital-to-analog conversion. – Jim Merithew
Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer by Zojirushi
I love eating rice. I hate making rice. You can see my dilemma. The solution to my lazy-guy problem is the Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer by Zojirushi (specifically model NS-LAC05, which cooks up to 3 cups of rice and retails for $182). Thanks to its fuzzy-logic technology, which adjusts cooking time and temperature based on input from built-in sensors, I can eat perfectly fluffy rice as often as I like without ever having to scrub scorched grains out of a filthy pan.
This stainless steel kitchen miracle couldn’t be easier to use: Just dump your rice and the appropriate amount of water into its nonstick tub, select the correct type of rice, and press the Cooking button. A charming little melody plays when cooking starts; a similar tune lets you know when the rice is finished. Then the Zojirushi will keep your dish warm for hours. Works with all kinds of rice (except sweet rice), steel-cut oats and even porridge (whatever the hell that is). – Lewis Wallace
Cadence Collection bicycle jersey
I’m not afraid to say it: I have a massive man crush on almost all things Cadence. I love their raw denim jeans, I desperately want one of their Ritchey Airflow stems and I dig their whole aesthetic. I picked up this Grid collection jersey on super sale. Made for the Cadence Collection by the good folks at Capo Cycling, the fit and finish are superb. I was a little worried about the pink grid motif and my giant, middle-aged paunch, but my wife assures me I look fit and fast. Which is why I love her and why I now love my new piece of Cadence kit. – Jim Merithew
Grain Audio IEHP
The curse of the audiophile is getting equipment that's good enough to make a difference. When I was a kid, I listened to The Clash on a crummy old transistor radio. It sounded awful, but it didn't matter. The energy and the excitement of the music shined through. Then I got a pretty good stereo, and the old radio went in the trash.
These days I'm plugged into a pair of Grain Audio IEHPs (In Ear Headphones). These earbuds made of wood are amazing, and I hate them. Now I can't listen to anything else, because it all sounds horrible. I was happy with Apple's earbuds and my old headphones, but not anymore.
Grain's $99 IEHPs are made from solid wood – not coincidentally, the same material used to make violins, pianos and guitars. They sound rich and sonorous, with a crazy-clear soundstage and robust bass. They are audio heaven.
The rubbery silicon wires have an inline mic and remote for taking calls and controlling playback. There are no extra bells and whistles, but there shouldn't be. They are simple and focused on their most important task – playing music. – Leander Kahney
Roomba 536 robotic vacuum
I've been in love with this little robot from Day 1, when a friend of mine brought the used iRobot Roomba 536 model over for me to try. While it's not going to deep-clean anything, it's my favorite daily environmental noise as the Roomba runs around on my carpeted and hardwood floors, briskly picking up dust and pet hair so I don't have to drag out the big guns as often. With up to six pets in the house at any given time (don't ask), this little robotic buddy is a must-have. – Rob LeFebvre
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
Click and Grow Smart Herb Garden
Cult of Mac staffers have notoriously brown thumbs: Our offices are a wasteland of perennially droopy plants. That’s why the Click and Grow Smart Herb Garden was perfect for us. You fill the tank with water to nourish the nano-tech soil for three herbs (the starter kit features basil, lemon balm and thyme) for up to six weeks. The LED lights up for an optimum time every day, too, so no fussing around with the blinds and shielding seedlings from the afternoon glare. (Or forgetting to do either, which happens very often around here.)
The $100 electric herb patch comes in absolutely delicious packaging and the clean design makes the planter a treat to leave out and around. At this rate, we’re on track for a bumper crop of basil for Caprese salads by the summer solstice. – Nicole Martinelli
TYLT Energi 3K+ battery pack
In the Kahney household, the biggest tech headache is not an unreliable Internet connection or forgotten passwords, but simply finding a damn cable to charge my iPhone. Certain members of the family who will remain nameless (hint: wife and kids) keep disappearing them. It. drives. me. nuts.
Enter Tylt's Energi 3K+ battery pack, which has a simple feature that sets it apart from most other battery packs – a built-in Lightning Cable. The cable tucks away neatly into a groove at the side. It's simple and efficient.
The battery pack is small and slim and is easily tucked into my jeans pocket. It has enough juice to fully charge my iPhone 5s (it's rated at 3,000mAh, hence the name) and outputs at 2 Amps, which is good for an iPad. There's also a universal USB port, allowing you to plug in another cable and charge two devices at once. Thanks to the lack of cables around the house, I've gotten into the habit of recharging my iPhone from the Tylt battery pack, not a wall outlet. Now the problem is stopping my wife and kids from stealing it. – Leander Kahney
Lost and Found in Johannesburg by Mark Gevisser
As a kid, Mark Gevisser used to play a game he called “Dispatcher,” sitting in the parked family Mercedes plotting how to get around with the map of record, Holmden's Register of Johannesburg. He didn’t realize until he grew up that the map completely omitted the black townships, making the city he was born and raised in foreign to him.
His memoir, Lost and Found in Johannesburg ($27 hardcover) fills in those gaps. If you love maps, this is for you. If you love books where the art is not buried in one big indigestible chunk but interwoven with the text, so it’s like the author is talking to you, read this. If you’re interested in faraway places with strange-sounding names, read this. If you’re interested in Apartheid, race relations, sexuality, immigration or family, read this. OK, just read it already. – Nicole Martinelli
Sigma 50mm f1.4 lens
I love big glass and I cannot lie. I loved the manual-focus Nikkor 180 f2.8 of my youth. A Canon f1.2 II mounted to any box is a true delight. And I have lusted after a Leica Noctulux for as long as I can remember. Now Sigma is doing some amazing things with fast glass, including the new 50mm f1.4 DG HSM, which is big on heft but comparatively light on the wallet ($949 list). Being able to mount this extraordinary picture-making machine to your digital camera for less than a grand is a real treat.
The Sigma and my black lab Cody get along better than just about any dog/lens combination I have ever used. Cody is notoriously difficult to photograph, but the whippy-fast f1.4 lens I was able to capture the little bugger in the best and worst lighting situations I could put him in, with the autofocus working near silently and grabbing about as well as can be expected, considering the subject matter.
The 50mm lens is sometimes referred to as a portrait lens, but I find using a 50mm like a “normal” lens for street photography, product photography and as a general all-arounder is much more satisfying. The Sigma lens is a delight to stalk subjects in near darkness, which is what you really should be doing with this lens. It is most satisfying when you find yourself on the edge, wondering if anything is going to work out at all. Sure, the percentage of useable frames decreases, but the frames you land are worth the risk. Long live the big glass. – Jim Merithew
Backlit Thermapen by ThermoWorks
Temperature can be a tricky thing when you're manning the grill. The old finger test is fine if you're flaming steaks and don't mind erring on the side of bloody delicious, but how do you know when your goose is cooked? If you're dealing with poultry or a low-and-slow pork shoulder, you want a little more accuracy in the temperature department.
For that kind of data, I turn to the splash-proof, backlit Thermapen by ThermoWorks ($112 retail). Just flip the steel probe out of the surprisingly large plastic body, stab your slab where it counts and get an reading you can believe in less than three seconds. The Thermapen is a little pricey, but let's be honest: How many cheapo thermometers do you have rattling around your kitchen? Finally, you can throw those worthless things away. – Lewis Wallace
Coming up with a slogan can be tricky business. Although Apple has a history of thinking different about its catchphrases, when the Cupertino company unfurled the banners for WWDC 2014 this week, we were unimpressed.
This year’s slogan — “Write the Code. Change the world.” — sounds like it came straight from Mike Judge’s hit comedy show Silicon Valley. In the HBO series, every half-baked startup either wants to “revolutionize” or “make the world a better place” through things like “software-defined data centers” or “scalable, fault-tolerant, distributed data bases with ACID transactions.” Code Flappy Bird, save the world!
Here are some of Apple’s WWDC hits and misses from over the years.
Think we’re off the mark? Let us know in the comments!
"A household robot. One that could drive. Please," says Michelle Lightwood-J on Twitter. Will there be an iRobot in our future?
Smart Home Computer
There are all sorts of Apple-integrated smart homes these days, but reader Golden Cindy goes one step further. She wants the "house" computer embedded in a countertop. This is from Swedish designer Ballingslov.
I've been known to strip labels from soap, shampoo etc., because the design annoys me - so I can really understand reader Christian Alvarez's chiming in on Facebook to suggest the Apple treatment for food packaging. Here's a nice take on the on the ho-hum olive oil bottle by Comeback Studio.
This is the MathPen, which has a 360° degree solar module to power all your crazy calcs. Reader Warren Galloway says,"How about a Solar Pen/Pencil that stores energy and uses low heat to write? Aka never running out of 'ink'?"
Solar Powered Remote
Reader Warren Galloway says, "how about a Solar Powered TV remote? I love what Logitech did with the K760 (solar keyboard)... Maybe they should do it."
We showed you ours. Now it’s your turn. Here are the items big and small that Cult of Mac readers most want to see designed and produced by the mothership. We’ve got Apple solar pens, food packaging and yes, puppies — because even pets could use the Sir Jony treatment.
This post is brought to you by Darkness Productions, creator of iFile.
Introducing the all-new iFile application, which has recently been updated to version 2.0.
The first version of this app was reviewed on Cult of Mac in 2012.
iFile is a fully featured file manager and simply claims to be a “must have” app on your device.
What’s new in version 2.0? Renewed design. The design became more attractive and standardized for iOS 7. The animation and effects were also improved. See more here.
This post is brought to you by Aiseesoft, creator of Mac FoneLab.
Have you ever accidentally deleted your important contacts or call history on your iPhone/iPad that was not backed up? If you find yourself in a situation where you have deleted contacts from your iPhone, you can easily recover them with Mac iPhone Data Recovery from Aiseesoft. And Cult of Mac readers get a special discount.
Every week, we serve up the best of the Cult of Mac website as a magazine so you can download and read it at your leisure on your iPhone or iPad.
Lust List: May 2014
Life is a blur of cool gear here at the Cult of Mac offices. We put it all through rigorous trials, but it’s like living in a fast-spinning revolving door of flashy accessories, cool bags and high-end accoutrements. Some of it gets dropped like a lying girlfriend as soon as the next sexy thing comes along, but sometimes we develop long-term love affairs with certain bits of kit. The gear featured in our monthly Lust LIst roundups is the equipment that’s made the grade over the long haul: These are the items we couldn’t live without.
Ona’s The Chelsea
There’s something about all the smart compartments in camera bags that works even if you’re not actually toting around a camera. So Ona’s Chelsea ($370) is just the thing: This capacious bowler bag offers protected spaces for a DSLR, up to three lenses, your keys and stuff, plus an iPad or notebook. But I packed it with a 13-inch MacBook Pro, a pear (the lens dividers are perfect for keeping your snacks unbruised), The Economist and all the cords, headphones and chargers carried by a modern-day scribe. One thing: The size and saffiano leather (that’s the grainy type that Prada favors for long-wearing briefcases and the like) can be a little Insta-ma’am if you don’t dress it down. -- Nicole Martinelli
Apple Magic TrackpadThe name is ridiculous -- total Steve Jobs hyperbole. It’s actually embarrassing to say out loud. But the Magic Trackpad ($69) is actually kinda magical. Sitting on your desktop, it works better than any mouse. Tracking on it is intuitive and easy. But the magic is in the gestures. Once you get used to them (there’s a bit of a learning curve), you begin to wonder how you ever surfed the Web without two-finger swipes. -- Leander Kahney
Chrome Industries Excursion Rolltop 37This giant duffel bag of a backpack grew on me, both literally and figuratively. I have to admit at first I was like, “Meh.” The Chrome Industries Excursion Rolltop 37 ($160) has no bells or whistles: no media pocket, no hidden compartments, no velco closures. It has a laptop sleeve and super-nice loop carrying straps, but it’s about as basic as a bag gets. What the lightweight bag lacks in features, though, it more than makes up for in massive gear-swallowing goodness. I keep tossing more and more stuff into this bag and it just keeps grinning back, always ready for more. -- Jim Merithew
Rode PodcasterWhen you have a high-pitched voice like mine that sounds silly and squeaky on any recording, you need all the help you can get. The Rode Podcaster microphone ($369) makes anyone’s voice sound rich and sonorous. OK, I made that up, but the Rode’s audio quality is not to be beat. The entire CultCast team uses Rode Podcasters to produce the best Apple conversation you’ll hear all week long. Since we switched from lesser microphones, soundcheck is a lot less painful. The Rode is a serious piece of pro-level audio equipment at a podcaster’s price. -- Leander Kahney
Mission Workshop’s The OrionIt was pouring buckets, but I didn’t care: I was pedaling with a huge smile on my face, because any time on the bike is way more fun than time spent on the bus or BART. Plus, I was protected. I was wearing Mission Workshop’s The Orion ($415): The hooded waterproof coat is seam-sealed, pit-zipped and cut perfect in the sleeves. No water was getting in and the bone-chilling wind was being held at bay. I don’t really think about getting my upper body wet anymore -- the jacket is just there, doing its job, while I go about grinning like a school boy. Ride on. -- Jim Merithew
Lacie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt SeriesSimple. Elegant. Rugged. What more needs to be said? The Lacie Rugged series is the standard by which all other portable storage drives are judged, and now they’ve got Thunderbolt support ($229 for 1 TB model). If you are on the run and need to back up everything, this is a no-brainer. -- Jim Merithew
Teva Pivot MTB ShoeTeva doesn’t make the Pivot MTB shoe ($150) anymore. They actually killed their entire bike line late last year. Find a pair. Buy them. Seriously. -- Jim Merithew
Ferrero Pocket CoffeeSmart people usually don’t stash espressos in their coat pockets, what with the stains and the blisters and all. But with the Ferrero Pocket Coffee, caffeine fiends are no longer tethered to the espresso bar. These thumb-size miracles wrap a satisfying liquid dose of inky Italian coffee inside a dark chocolate shell. Pop one and you’ll perk right up. Soon you’ll be buying them by the case ($38 for 60 pieces). -- Lewis Wallace
Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit ChainIf the San Francisco bike thieves steal my whip, at least I’ll know they really wanted it. This will be a small consolation for me: I’ll cry a little less knowing I did everything I could to make those scumbags’ crime a difficult task. How to thwart the thievery? After visiting countless bike shops and online forums I settled on the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit ($175). It’s as close as I could get to a safe, for it is a well-known fact that if the bitches want to steal your steed there is nothing you can actually do to stop them. I am happy I can leave the beefy lock at the office, since I’m not sure I am man enough to haul this behemoth back and forth to work everyday. I still double-lock my bike with a u-lock and take my front wheel with me. Here’s to being safe and trying my best to get them to steal someone else’s chariot. -- Jim Merithew
BookBook for iPhone 5There are only two things I carry with me every single day -- my phone and my wallet. Best of all, my wallet is also my phone case. The BookBook from Twelve South ($60) looks like an old, leather-bound pocket book. Slots inside hold several credit cards and my ID. My BookBook is totally beaten up -- I keep it in my back jeans pocket -- but it’s lasted really well. It protects my phone better than any case I’ve had and it gets tons of comments. Everyone says they wish they could ditch their wallet too, but they have too much stuff in it. I thought that too, until I jettisoned everything but a couple of cards. I haven’t looked back. -- Leander Kahney
Over the years, cherubic Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has demonstrated a love of all things two-wheeled, four-wheeled and winged.
After spotting his latest hot wheels — a super-spiffy Tesla X — we were inspired to take inventory of what he’s been docking in his garage (that other one) all these years. He’s something of a speed demon, really. Though you’ll be the judge whether he or Jony Ive has the winning wheels.
SAN FRANCISCO — Cult of Mac is on the ground for Macworld/iWorld 2014 at the Moscone Center. We’ll be roaming the show floor and sitting in on workshops all day to bring you the coolest Apple-related stuff we can find.
You can follow us throughout Macworld on the liveblog below. No need to refresh the page; new posts will appear automatically!
MacWorld/iWorld 2014 is less than a week away which means the Cult of Mac team is gearing up to descend on Moscone North for three days of non-stop Apple-related gizmos, speakers, workshops and other nonsense.
We’re bringing the best 30 minute Apple conversation you’re going to hear aaaaaaaall week long to the event live on Thursday, March 27th at 8pm. Come join us for our live CultCast recording party at The Box SF for a night of prizes, Apple conversation, drinks galore and hopefully a couple surprises.
Erfon, Leander, Buster and Alex will be hanging out all night bringing out the laughs and immature humor along with the rest of our SF staff. Hopefully we’ll get around to talking about Apple too thanks to our hosts DigiDNA and MacUpdate.
Entry is free and we’ll be grooving all night thanks to music from producer Egadz and his funky arcade electro button box - a must hear for electronic music fans and geeks.
And beer will flow like wine. (Shhh… yes you know: open bar!)