This thing fits a lot of stuff. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
I’m all about minimalist bags; paring down my kit to the bare essentials so I’m not bogged down when traipsing from place to place is a daily goal of mine. I’ve gone minimal with my wallet, my MacBook and the various digital and analog ephemera I need to carry with me as I go about daily tasks for work and at home.
There is a time, however, when you need to have a larger subset of your general kit. You might need that extra battery pack (or two), your MacBook Pro, both your iPads, a couple of backup hard drives, an external keyboard, a gaming mouse, a PlayStation Vita, headphones and (of course) all the associated wires and plugins that these items require. Oh, and maybe a water bottle, a wallet, an iPhone and a set of keys.
That’s the exact stuff I’ve got packed into an STM Quantum Messenger bag — and it fits handily, with room to spare.
Up, up up! The Roost elevates your MacBook experience. Photos Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
I was supposed to get a Roost to review last year after the successful Kickstarter went into production. I didn’t, but we fixed that at the beginning of this summer, and think God we did – this stand will change the way you use your MacBook.
The Roost is a crazy collapsible scaffold that unfolds from nothing to become a sturdy stand the holds the MacBook at eye-level. Assuming you combine it with regular breaks, and set your keyboard at the right height, you will never have to experience neck, arm or back pain ever again.
You know you've found a great piece of gear when you can't wait to tell your friends about it. "Check this out," you gush, eager to share the latest thing you just can't live without. "You've gotta get one of these."
That's what Lust List is all about, and this month we're all abuzz about gear for music, grooming, eating, getting organized and maybe even saving your life.
Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag
I'm a photographer, not a bike messenger. This flashed through my mind when the Snoop Camera Messenger Bag by Timbuk2 arrived at my door. Yes, it is more stylish than the standard, drab canvas bag that usually slings my gear, but the only cool that matters to me is a state of being while trying to meet the demands of editors.
As if it sensed my skepticism, the bag immediately began to show off. I customized the camera compartment and stuffed the bag with a body, lenses, notebooks and my laptop. It felt balanced and comfortable and stayed up on my round right shoulder. Two hours later, I found myself in a downpour at a baseball game. I bagged one camera and continued shooting. But I was distracted because I was in awe of the rainwater beading on the Snoop's nylon exterior and rolling off.
The ump finally called the game and as I sat soaked in my car, I found everything in the bag dry. Always in search of a better bag, the hunt had ended. Comes in three sizes and two color combos: extra small ($129), small ($149) and medium ($169). — David Pierini
I'm through with those cheapo nail clippers you get for a buck at the drugstore: They're always rusting, getting dull or, worst of all, slipping out of alignment and chewing up the end of your fingernail. I've always dreaded clipping my nails for these reasons, but for some reason I never thought about upgrading the tool I use for this mundane weekly task.
When I finally got wise, I bought a pair of Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clippers ($18 list), a Japanese grooming implement that costs more than your typical throwaway clippers but cuts nails quickly, cleanly and reliably. Buy them for the utility; admire them for their quality craftsmanship, reassuring heft and sleek, Mac-like sheen. It's time to start clipping your nails like a samurai. — Lewis Wallace
This might be the best pairing since Batman and Robin: digital organizer Evernote plus classic Moleskin notebooks. Fighting your messy mind and your terrible tendency to carry a torch for paper, the notebooks make it easy to keep yourself together. You can sketch or take notes with the Moleskin, then harness the camera of your iPhone or iPad to log it digitally in Evernote. A cute set of smart stickers help you tag your scribblings so you don't end up with a digital slush pile (the standards are: home, action, travel, and work rejected and approved, but you can also customize them). Also, a three-month premium membership is included with the $29.95 price, putting extras like searchable text from images at your fingertips. Holy agility, Batman! — Nicole Martinelli
If you don't have a dedicated roadie or one of those robotic tuning guitars, there's no easier way to tune your ax than with a Snark. Just squeeze the thumb-size mount and slide your headstock between the rubberized grips. Then press the little button on the front of the Snark's colorful LCD readout, pluck a string and get your instrument ready to play.
Lightweight and accurate, the Snark SN-2 All Instrument Tuner works with acoustic or electric guitars and basses, mandolins, banjos, whatever. It's perfect for situations like in-studio radio shows, where you don't want to drag around a stompbox tuner or a large amp that might have one built-in tuner. It also boasts pitch calibration, which lets you tune to something besides A-440, and a metronome that I can't complain about because I've never used it. The Snark SN-2 is a great buy at $39 list (and a steal at Amazon's price of $12.99). — Lewis Wallace
I was on the hunt for a good AirPlay speaker for months before I came across the Loop by Libratone. The company makes some other great speakers at different prices, but I've been loving my Loop. Its sleek, minimalist design fits in with just about any kind of decor, and the included wall mount is super-useful and easy to install. Pairing is easy enough over AirPlay after the initial setup with the Loop's companion iPhone app. Once you set up, you really don't need to touch the speaker again.
I've been using my Loop in the kitchen while preparing delicacies such as cereal, eggs and macaroni and cheese. The sound is really quite impressive, especially the bass. Pro tip: Place this speaker as close to a wall as possible, because it bounces sound off the surfaces behind it, creating insanely deep bass. It will blow you away the first time you crank up the volume. The only major downside to the Loop is that it's incredibly pricey at $500. It's not an impulse buy by any stretch of the imagination, but if you've been saving up for a nice AirPlay speaker, I definitely recommend the Loop. — Alex Heath
Even when Bay Area waters are calm sailing, there's one piece of tech you always need: a decent VHF radio. Your iPhone and iPad might be handy navigation tools, but nothing beats the ease-of-use and reliability of a waterproof, handheld radio like the Standard Horizon HX300. It repaid the $130 list price during a midnight cruise when the crew threatened mutiny for fear of running aground on the Berkeley Shoal. (Thanks to the radio, the boats ahead guided us to safety.)
The HX300 comes with a standard USB charger, cutting down on the kit you need to keep it running; compact and relatively lightweight, it also floats. And, if it goes overboard, a red strobe light will help you scoop it up. — Stefano Maffulli
Holy smoke! If you savor the magic that happens when meat cooks over an open flame, The Barbecue Bible should be one of your sacred texts. The book contains 500 recipes, countless tips on grilling techniques and loads of engrossing stories drawn from author Stephen Raichlen's globe-hopping jaunts to the world's barbecue meccas. Classic American fare like steaks and ribs gets plenty of ink, as do the fundamentals behind various types of live-fire cooking, but the real treasures here are the exotic international recipes that will take your next cookout from a polite "Good burgers, man" to "Oh my God, how did you make this?!?"
It's not just red meat, either: You'll find plenty of super-flavorful preparations for vegetables and seafood in this must-have manual, which simply brims with delicious side dishes that will augment the awesome main courses. Instead of potatoes slathered in boring mayo, try serving up a Korean "three hots" salad or spicy Japanese bean sprout salad the next time you fire up the grill. If you are interested in expanding your smoke-filled culinary horizons, this fun-to-read and easy-to-follow book ($22.95 list for paperback) will launch you on many worthwhile journeys. — Lewis Wallace
I've been a coffee guy ever since I tried my first mocha back in the heady days of my undergraduate degree (psychology, since you asked) at UCLA. These days I use a basic French press set up to get the best taste out of the coffee I have every morning. While I used to just boil water in an old kettle on the stove, when I found this sweet Cuisinart electric water kettle, I had to have it. I mean, just look at it: sleek lines, bright blue light-up panel and a clever little pedestal that plugs into the wall, letting the kettle itself ride free when you pour the heated water into your cup or coffee press.
The Cuisinart electric kettle I use has a fast-heating 1,500 watts of power with six different temperature options and a Keep Warm setting that will hold your water at a specific temp you set. This all seems ridiculous until you become a tea geek and realize that white tea works best at 185 degrees, oolong tea is best at 190 degrees and green tea tastes best warmed to 175 degrees. It's all very exciting to be able to press a button and get the best tea experience possible, especially when you hit the fancy tea store and buy your tea in little packets that recommend these exact temperatures.
I can't imagine my morning life without my coffee, and my afternoons without a cuppa to keep me rolling. This Cuisinart electric kettle is the best thing in my kitchen, next to the actual coffee and tea itself. — Rob LeFebvre
When I work at home, much of my day is spent sitting at my iMac, listening to music or public radio through iTunes. A couple years ago, I was looking for a small, powered speaker system with a neutral, natural sound for hours of listening. The Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 speakers are stylish and sonically satisfying — they fit the bill beautifully.
B&W has long specialized in high-end audiophile loudspeakers, but the company also offers a line of smaller systems for computers and portable devices. The MM-1s are compact, two-way enclosures, about 7 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide and deep. Black cloth wraps completely around the units, complemented by a brushed-aluminum top and band around the middle. The right speaker houses all the electronics. Thanks to the magic of amplification and advanced digital signal processing, the sound is surprisingly full and rich, despite the small enclosures and the lack of a separate subwoofer. These speakers won't fill an entire house with sound but have a depth of field and overall detail that's rarely heard from desktop computer monitors.
Both USB and mini-phone-jack analog inputs are provided; the USB inputs allow digital sound directly from the computer to speaker, and works with the Mac's own Sound Preference Pane and system volume controls. A small, egg-shaped remote control is included. The black-and-silver styling complements modern Apple aluminum desktops and laptops quite elegantly, with a minimum of desk space required. The MM-1s aren't cheap ($499 on Amazon), but the company's high-end heritage doesn't disappoint. These puppies are well worth the price. — Adam Rosen
Big sound, small package. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
If you make music of any kind, or are just looking to upgrade your sound system from the decent-yet-not-audiophile Bluetooth speakers you currently use, you know you want a set of speakers that can handle the highest of highs, the deepest of lows and everything in between without sounding muddy or overly tinny, middy or bassy. You want a speaker set that can handle the deep boom of drum ‘n’ bass and the sweet, high melodies of a Mozart concerto along with any type of loop you can throw at it from your own collection.
Studio monitors are a big deal when making music, as they offer up sound that is as true to the source as possible. You want to hear everything going on in your mix so you can make sure to create the sound that best captures your musical vision, whether during the recording, mixing or mastering phase.
The Reveal 402 studio monitors from Tannoy promise to deliver unparalleled sound and fury without a huge footprint, letting you create music properly on today’s ultra-portable MacBooks. They also let you just plug in any sound source, from XLR to mini-audio jack, with ease, making these ideal for both music creation and plain old rocking out while you’re working.
Loop’s Straitjacket case will keep your iPhone crazy-safe. Photos: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac
Loop Attachment is famous for making some of the best silicone cases you can buy for iOS devices, but the company’s latest effort for the iPhone 5/5s is a little different. It looks a lot like Loop’s Mummy lineup and carries over some of those cases’ greatest strengths, but it’s made from a mixture of rigid polycarbonate and soft polyurethane.
It’s called the Straitjacket, and it aims to provide your iPhone with excellent impact protection without completely covering its aluminum chassis and iconic Apple logo. It doubles as a credit card holder; provides full access to all buttons, ports and switches; and comes in a number of pretty colors.
What’s more, it’s the best Loop case yet for the iPhone.
Tote-ally awesome: The Franklin Tote can go anywhere. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
This is Waterfield’s Franklin Tote and I l-l-love it. It’s an open-topped leather bag with hand/shoulder straps and a bunch of pockets inside and out, and it’s just about the most practical daily carry-around I’ve ever used. Does is replace a backpack? Of course not.
Does it do the job of a messenger bag when on the bike? No frikkin’ way. But can I reach into my backpack as I walk to grab sunglasses, or drop in that sweet cantaloupe I just bought from the fruit store on the high street? I think you know the answer to that one.
A whole roster of special power-ups keeps Dragon Raiders fresh and exciting.
I’m soaring through the air, dodging fallen trees and rocky overhangs, and evading plumes of sooty black smoke while trying to collect as many runes as I possibly can — and I’m loving it. Who would have thought being a dragon would be so cool?
In Dragon Raiders, an intriguing new iOS runner game, you’ll duck, dive and dodge your way through endless levels of entertaining fun to save the land of Landslandia from the meddling Megawobblins.
Booty as in treasure, you perv. Photo: Rob LeFebvre, Cult of Mac
Full disclosure: the publisher of the naughtily-named Age of Booty: Tactics sent Cult of Mac a really nice wooden treasure chest with some fun promotional stuff in it. This usually means that we’d give it a skip, as generally, the better the swag, the crappier the game. We were pleasantly surprised, then, when we found Age of Booty‘s first outing on iOS to be a pretty darn great free-to-play game, with only a few caveats for the novice player.
The original Age of Booty was a 2008 downloadable real-time strategy game for Xbox and PlayStation, developed by Certain Affinity and published by Capcom. This time around, Certain Affinity took the concept to iOS with Age of Booty: Tactics, which switches things up, adding some new mechanics to the strategy formula and putting it into an asynchronous multiplayer format.
The graphics are charming enough, the soundtrack is appropriately pirate-themed, and the sea and boat sounds are nicely atmospheric. It’s in the strategic gameplay, though, that Age of Booty: Tactics surely shines.
Death is inevitable as you battle your way through a labyrinth of dungeons in Hellraid: The Escape.
I’ve been trying to slip past demonic guards to escape magical chambers for the past few hours as I fight my way through the horrific world of Hellraid: The Escape. At its best, the game is gruesome, bloody and full of suspense, but it can also be painful and highly frustrating.
Because in this iOS game, death is no stranger: Die you will, over and over — that’s bloody guaranteed.
Though our iPads can be great for relaxation, sometimes it’s crucial to use these mobile workhorses for business. Luckily, when there is a lot being asked of you and deadlines are to be met, there are applications that can help save the day.
In today’s video, we reveal our top three must-have applications that will help you get your work done more efficiently. Take care of your documents, get your to-do lists organized and more with these functional apps.