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Pare down your travel kit with this shoulder-saving MacBook Pro sleeve

Holds just enough to stay productive. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Waterfield’s MacBook Outback Solo holds just enough to keep you productive. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

I’ll admit it — I’ve got a thing for these waxed canvas and leather bags from Waterfield. I’ve ended up using the impeccably designed Staad backpack and the classy Nintendo 3DS case long after my reviews of them were published. These bags and cases from the San Francisco design collective are warm, inviting and just get better with age and use.

Let’s face it, though: Sometimes you only want to carry your laptop and a couple of accessories, and that’s it. Waterfield’s latest design, the MacBook Outback Solo, is a minimalist sleeve made of the same strong canvas material and rich, thick, buttery-smooth leather as the other bags in the line. It can be paired with a carrying strap that turns the sleeve into a messenger bag. While our very own Charlie Sorrel called the iPad version of this bag a man-purse, I’m thinking of this more as a shoulder-saving device — the fewer things I end up having to carry, the better.

This little sleeve is perfect for exactly that.

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Evernote Business Notebook will thrill rich kindergartners

It's worth buying this book just for the pattern embossed on the cover. Photos Charlie Sorrel -- Cult of Mac

It’s worth buying this book just for the pattern embossed on the cover. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

What’s the difference between a businessperson and a regular person? According to Evernote, a businessperson has secrets, whereas a regular person is happy to share everything. This somewhat cynical take is a pretty good model of the world, and it is embodied in the Evernote Business Notebook, a “collabo” with Moleskine that lets you snap/scan a photo of your pages into Evernote, and selectively share the result.

Let’s take a look.

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Nightmare Cooperative’s roguelike gameplay will keep you up all night

Screenshot: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Screenshot: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Roguelike games are a retro treat, hailing back to the earliest computers. They used various ASCII characters to denote dungeon walls and dangerous creatures in an attempt to recreate the experience of playing Dungeons & Dragons.

There are many good roguelikes out there these days on both Mac and iOS with varying amounts of verisimilitude regarding the original game. This type of game typically features a randomly-generated set of dungeon levels so that you never play the same level twice, the idea of perma-death, meaning that once your character dies, the game is over, and lots of treasure, loot, and monsters to contend with on a turn-by-turn basis.

Nightmare Cooperative, from Bad Hotel and Gentlemen! developer Lucky Frame, is a finely-polished rendition of the familiar formula with a few fun twists.

Check out the teaser video below to get a sense of how it looks and sounds.

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Clickety keyboard without the clack is perfect for stealth missions

Beautiful and functional. And no frikkin wires. Photo Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The Matias Secure Pro is beautiful and functional. And no frikkin’ wires. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

If you like mechanical keyboards, but those inconsiderate jerks in your office or home can’t stand the clackety racket they make, then you might consider something that uses “tactile” keys instead, which look and work like clicky keys — only without the click.

And if you’re into wireless keyboards, but you don’t like the NSA van parked outside snooping the connection and recording your keystrokes, you might like something with an encrypted wireless connection.

Well, guess what? We have just the thing. The Matias Secure Pro, a tactile keyboard with 128-bit AES Encryption.

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Stylish metallic iPhone case minimizes signal loss, but stays on for good

Stylish and electric blue. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

The AL13 iPhone case comes in an eye-catching electric blue and six other colors. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

I’m torn these days between wanting a functional wallet-style case for my iPhone and something a bit more minimalist. I tend to switch cases as I need them because I haven’t found a one-case-fits-all solution that works for me.

The minimalist new AL13 metallic bumper case for iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s is quite a classy little addition to your important iOS device, combining good protection with looks that invite stares. It’s got all the great stuff of its ultrathin predecessor, but it’s also easier to put on and doesn’t have any issues with dropped calls due to signal loss.

It’s a bear to get off, though, so if you like to change your iPhone case as often as you change your mood, you’ll probably be a bit frustrated.

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These are the best messaging apps on iOS

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

It’s an iOS messaging shootout! Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

I recently watched The Lady try to convince a friend of ours to download WhatsApp. The friend is moving to the United Kingdom, and we want to stay in touch. Our friend tried to say that email would do the job, but we all know that will never work.

Our friend doesn’t want WhatsApp (maybe because it’s owned by Facebook), and she doesn’t own an iPhone, so iMessage is out. Thankfully, there are plenty of free and good alternatives. Some are more secure, some have more features, and none of them is owned by Facebook.

Let’s take a look at what’s available and how these very different messaging apps compare on a number of key features.

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Xync’s cable-concealing carabiner could double as a paperweight

xync-2

The Xync is handy, but a bit too bulky. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Moshi’s Xync packs a Lightning-to-USB charging cable into a handy, dangly carabiner-clip package, and adds a secret compartment on the side. But is it better than just carrying a regular Lightning cable in your pocket/bag? The short answer? Hmm…

The long version? Read on.

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Capture epic feats of gaming in all their high-def glory

Tiny box, hugely useful. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

The Elgato Game Capture 60HD is a tiny box, but it’s hugely useful. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

When you’re gaming on a new-generation console like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you’ll be astounded by the crystal-clear graphics and the silky-smooth 60 frames per second animations.

If you want to share this video at its native resolution, you’ll need something heavy duty to do the capture and editing. Something massively capable that can handle input via an HDMI interface. Something that doesn’t take up too much space — you need that for your gaming consoles. What you need is something like the Elgato Game Capture 60HD.

Because life’s too short for a crummy converter box with a huge footprint.

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This cheap plastic bag will waterproof any gadget

Waterproof. Do try this at home. Photos Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Do try this at home — if you’ve got a LokSak. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Today I’m going to review a plastic bag. A new low, even for me? Maybe, but this is no ordinary plastic bag. It’s a bag that has beaten out pretty much every waterproof gadget case i’ve ever tested, because:

  1. It fits almost every gadget I have
  2. It weighs almost nothing. I can keep one in every bag I carry.

The bag is the LokSak, and it’s designed to keep your gadgets safe.

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Vintage-style lens makes impression with its dreamy bokeh

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Lomography’s Petzval lens clone will give your pictures a certain special something. Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

A photo editor friend of mine will often say, “It’s getting harder and harder to make a bad picture.”

It sounds absurd but he is partially referring to technology and how it can remove some of the thinking from photography. Cameras can be set to figure out aperture, shutter speed and, with the touch of a button, do the focusing. You can massage a bad exposure with software or, if you snap photos with your phone, choose apps and filters to effect a variety of looks and feels.

So it’s not uncommon for serious photographers to occasionally reach back for a piece of analog gear to challenge their thinking and reinvigorate creativity.

This summer I reached back to 1840. Well, sort of.

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