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Escape Amazon’s evil Kindle empire with the cheeky Kobo Aura

Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Kobo’s ebook reader trumps even the best Kindle on several fronts. Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.

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Belkin’s meeting room UFO offers some serious juice

The Belkin meeting room power center with 4 AC power outlets and 8 USB ports. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The Belkin meeting room power center has 4 AC power outlets and 8 USB ports. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Modern day meetings around the conference table may be a rare occurrence in our often-mobile and telecommuting world, but when they happen, the incoming mass of iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks need a lot of electricity.

Instead of making all your employees figure out where the outlets are (under the table? behind them on the wall?), why not provide a big fat power center in the middle of the action? The Belkin Meeting Room Power Center aims to do just that, with a huge, round UFO-looking power hub that sports four actual plugs and a generous eight USB ports.

That’s a lot of power.

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Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past provides fun mutant action for story purists

Days of Future Past

Maybe you’ve just seen the latest X-Men film. A lot of people have, so odds are pretty good. And if it left you wanting to know more about the original Days of Future Past storyline, but tracking down the trade paperback and then, like, reading it sounds like a lot of work, here’s a game you’ll want to check out.

Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past by GlitchSoft
Category: iOS Games
Works With: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Price: $2.99

Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past is out now for your favorite iOS device, and it aims to faithfully re-create the source material the way it originally appeared. This means that it’s the assassination of Senator Kelley that brings forth the robopocalypse (that character died in the first film, so he wasn’t available to die in the new one), and it’s Kitty Pryde, not Wolverine, who goes back in time to set things right.

Sure, you can play the whole game as Wolverine if you want, but if you’re a purist, you have a chance to do it “right.”

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Highly specialized Booqpad is either perfect or pointless

Highly specialized Booqpad is either perfect or pointless

Getting work done. Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.

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Boa Flow backpack is like having your own personal Sherpa

Boa Flow backpack is like having your own personal Sherpa

Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.

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Lust List: We guarantee these things will make your life better

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Moshi’s VersaKeyboard is a fantastic case (and a pretty good keyboard)

This Moshi keyboard is great even without the keyboard. Photos Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

This Moshi keyboard is great even without the keyboard. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.

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This power pack goes to 11 (thousand mAh) for serious juice

Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

There is a ton of competition in the external battery pack space. You can get a ruggedized brick for your Xtreme adventures, a cute little pocket-sized charger for a quick hit of juice in the car or on the go, and even an iPhone-wrapping battery pack that gives you even more storage space than you might need.

I live a portable, electronic-powered life, carrying iPhones, iPads, e-Readers, and portable gaming devices with me at all times. Most of these things are power-hungry, forcing me to keep my eye open for wall plugs, or to carry external power packs that can handle the energy load.

So what does a battery pack need to do to set itself apart from the crowd, claiming the scarce space in my backpack or messenger bag? It has to be quick to charge, easy to use, small, light and pretty to look at, for starters. And it really should have a lot of spare power to keep all my devices rolling.

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Practical, portable, single-minded, beautiful — Opinel is the Apple of knives

This might be the best knife you'll ever own.

These might be the best knives you’ll ever own. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.

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Klean Kanteen water bottle goes everywhere with me (and I mean everywhere)

Klean Kanteen water bottle goes everywhere with me (and I mean everywhere)

Klean Kanteen’s Reflect might be the world’s most perfect water bottle. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

If I leave the house for more than a quick trip to the corner store, I take my Klean Kanteen Reflect with me. It sits in my Velo backpack when I walk, it slips into the bottle cage on my bike when I ride, and it passes through airport security — empty and ready to be refilled in the departures lounge — when I fly. It is my single most-used gadget after my iPhone and iPad, but unlike those I don’t feel I have to replace it every year. It doesn’t need an annual upgrade, and every dent, scratch and scar makes it look even cooler.

The Reflect is a water bottle rolled from 18/8 stainless steel and capped with a “stainless unibody bamboo cap.” The cap is sealed with a silicon O-ring and has a carrying loop on top; the body comes in two finishes — brushed or polished.

Apple is also a big fan. On Earth Day last month, the company gave every employee an Apple-branded Klean Kanteen.

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