Bags, bags, bags. Literally – there are three hot bags in this week’s gadget roundup, and if you buy them all, you’ll be out by around a grand. Or you could buy the ultra-expensive Leica M-P, a new camera so minimal it doesn’t even have the trademark red dot on the front, yet still costs $8,000. Or you can go to the other end of the price range and pick up LensBaby’s new iPhone optic for just $70. And that’s just the beginning…
The Attaché leather bag
H.O.T. Those are the three letters that best describe Pad & Quill’s new Attaché bag, a beautiful leather satchel with unbreakable, high-copper-content hardware and parachute-grade stitching on the outside. Inside, you'll find padded MacBook and iPad pockets, plus orange suede pocket linings.
As a bonus, the marketing copy for the Attaché seems to have been written by Hannibal Lecter, containing this line: “Your taste buds and your liver deserve top shelf [and to be] savored in a glass.” (some words added for comedic effect). How much? $420
Dragon device holder
You can’t get much simpler than the Dragon device holder – it’s a pair of aluminum clips that snap onto the cylinder at the back of your Apple wireless keyboard and slide up and down, letting you space them to fit anything from an iPad to an iPod nano. The clips have a tail at the back to provide stability, and a little lip at the front to hook the bottom edge of your gadget. If you use a full-size keyboard with your iPad, this little gadget should be in your bag. $25
Brooks Hampstead holdall
This bag comes from Brooks, the English bike saddle maker. Weighing in at a hefty 1.6 kilos (well over 3 pounds), it has a roll-top enclosure and adjustable clips that can attach the bag to the rear rack of your bike. The body is “water resistant cotton” and the straps are leather. The price? Around $400.
In: 2GB RAM (double that of the Leica M). Sapphire glass cover for the camera's rear LCD.
There’s little to say about KERO’s micro-suction portable battery other than, “What a frikkin’ great idea.” It’s a regular, modest-capacity backup battery (1800mAh, which will get your iPhone back to 75 percent) with a USB port and status-indicator LEDs, but on one side it has a micro-suction layer so you can stick it to the back of your iPhone, over and over. This is so much smarter than having to use a special case to clip the battery on, or just using a case with a built-in battery pack. Or you could do what I do, which is use a regular backup battery and a rubber band. $19
Pyle Smart Bicycling Computer (with Google Maps)
The Pyle PSBCG90 Smart Bicycling Computer tracks your rides with GPS and displays them on Google Maps back at your computer. You can also hook up any ANT+ accessories wirelessly (heart rate and cadence sensors, power meters and so on), and even challenge yourself, Mario Kart-style, using the ghost-route feature. It looks like a decent alternative to something like the Garmin EDGE 500, and it costs only $130.
Lensbaby for iPhone
Lensbaby now makes a sweet-spot lens for the iPhone. It sticks on with magnets (you need to stick the included ring over the iPhone’s lens) and blurs everything in your photos except a sharp sweet spot in the center. It's just like the regular Lensbabys, only less adjustable and made for the iPhone. There’s another neat feature – the front has a metal ring on it, too, so you can attach any other iPhone lenses you have onto the Lensbaby for some really freaky FX. $70
TenOne Magnus Air
The Magnus Air updates the minimalistical Magnus that originally shipped for the iPad 2, way back in the mists of 2012. Typical of TenOne’s design, it is so simple it almost doesn’t exist, sticking to the Air with magnets and adding an almost invisible stand that holds your iPad at 22 degrees from the vertical, and at 22 degrees from the horizontal if you lay it down to type. And that’s it – an aluminum bracket that looks kinda like a taco shell, for $40.
Fact: Cobra Brief is the name I gave to my favorite pair of underwear. And now, it is also the name of a “business laptop” bag from Booq. It has all the compartments and pockets you’d expect, with a space for almost literally everything, plus an outer quick-access pocket for your iPhone and iPad. You can even hook it onto the top of your carry-on trolley, allowing you to be one of those morons who sneaks too many bags into the plane and takes up all the overhead bin space. $295
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:
It fits almost every gadget I have
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.
Cooking, charging, carrying and, uh, cufflinking. Yes, this week’s Gadget Watch is all about the c-word. We even have a cubic camera, a keyboard with a nipple (which doesn’t start with "C" but it’s close -- and clicky).
OXO Goodgrips Silicone Collapsible Colander
Tiny kitchen? Hatred of unitaskers? Try the OXO Goodgrips Silicone Collapsible Colander, a fold-flat colander that can be used to wash and drain food, and also to cook it – heat-resistant to 600˚F, it can be dropped in boiling water to quickly boil veggies, then dish-washed, collapsed and filed back on your shelf. $30
LIFT standing desk
Who needs a standing desk when you can just drop the LIFT on top of the desk you already own? Sure, it might look a little like a crappy TV stand flipped upside-down, but it is in fact a smart desk with cable routing, a drink holder, a mousemat (!), tablet and phone docking slots, and even a dry-erase whiteboard. Plus the height can be configured to suit you. It’s also a lot cheaper than a standing desk, although not cheaper than my repurposed €40 workbench with sawn-off legs. From $248
Waterfield Vertigo bag
Waterfield is on a roll this summer, and the Vertigo is the latest bag I want to sling over my shoulder. It’s a vertical notebook bag that looks and works a lot like Waterfield’s Franklin Tote. Inside the main zip-open chamber are pockets set into a golden lining, with a magazine pocket on the outside for even more gear. Hand and shoulder straps are made from soft-an-strong seat belt webbing, and you can choose from black ballistic nylon or waxed canvas, in two colors and three sizes (from iPad Air to MacBook Pro). From $129.
Bike chain cufflinks
These bike-chain cufflinks are frikkin awesome. They’re also probably a little too heavy for anything other than the most stiffly starched of double-folding shirt cuffs, but who really cares? They’re also pretty easy to make if you have access to an old chain and a chain splitter – and if you’re even reading this it’s pretty certain that you do. Thankfully they’re not too pricey, although the shipping from Australia might be. $50
Endurapro buckling spring keyboard with nipple
It’s hard to express how much I love my clicky Filco Majestouch keyboard, but I’ll give it a go. “Nyyyyhhhhaaah!” That’s the sound of a man’s “exit push,” as it were. But I’m willing to forego my Cherry MX Blue key switches for a while in order to try out the awesome Endurapro, which uses buckling spring switches (like the old IBM Model M keyboard). Not only that, but it even has a red nipple and mouse buttons, so you don’t need to reach out like 5 feet to the right, over the cursor block and number pad, just to reach your mouse. £99
Vier Compact Collapsible Lock
I’m skeptical of buying a bike lock off Kickstarter, but I appreciate clever new design, and the Vier is certainly clever. It’s like two U-locks combined, with twin locking bars and dual side shafts. This lets it collapse down into a small package, but it also means you have to fasten two separate locks, one on each cylinder. $80
The Biolite KettleCharge was invented when somebody put a TV remote on top of a giant pub ashtray and something clicked in their brain. The result is a kettle that boils water and simultaneously charges your USB device (the 10-watt output will even fast-charge iPads). The kettle has a thermoelectric generator in its base, which uses the difference in temperature between the hot fire/stove beneath and the cold water above to create a current. But all you need to know is that you can make you morning coffee and charge your iPhone at the same time. $150
Polaroid Cube camera
This cute cubic camera is a lifelogger with a Polaroid label. The 1080p, 6MP camera shoots wide (124-degree) stills or video and has a built-in mounting magnet in the base. It can also connect to various mounts (tripod, bike) and even slide into an equally cute waterproof case. When I see a lifelogger camera I just quail at the responsibility of organizing all those hours of footage, but a stronger person might enjoy the fact that they can gather hours of boring video for just $100.
Grovemade walnut keyboard tray
Grovemade’s beautiful tray not only holds your Apple aluminum wireless keyboard, it also converts the useless gap underneath into a handy storage space. Better still, that space is sculpted into compartments, with space for spare AA batteries (three of ‘em), paperclips (a piece of stationery that is now only used for ejecting SIM trays and resetting routers) and – LOL – business cards. Price? $59
Dream your way into space with the new IFTTT NASA channel, put notifications and widgets on your desktop with Übersicht and make the perfect cup of coffee with the latest AeroPress timer. This week we even have an app just for processing B&W photos.
Listary, my favorite iPhone list app, now syncs with Dropbox instead of Simplenote (which in turn means no easy nvALT syncing), adds smart lists, a URL scheme that lets you ad tasks from apps like Drafts, icon badges and sharing. It’s also free, with an in-app purchase to unlock advanced features. $Free
IFTTT Space Channel
Now you can get an iPhone notification eery time an astronaut enters space. This radness is thanks to the new NASA IFTTT channel, which offers seven triggers that can feed their info into other IFFFT actions. Want to flash the Wi-Fi-controlled lights in your house every time the International Space Station passes overhead? No problem! And best of all it’s free – you just need an IFTTT account. $Free
Now Vox, the Mac app that streams music from internet radio along with pretty much any music format stored on your Mac (it integrates with your iTunes library too), now works with SoundCloud, which is the place all the cool kids publish their music these days. It supports SoundCloud queues and Collections, and grabs the highest-quality stream available. It’s free, with an in-app purchase to unlock the good stuff. $Free/$3
MediaFire for iOS
MediaFire, the service that forces you to click and load way too many web pages just to get an image from your email, has relaunched its iOS app as a photo-sharing, media-streaming powerhouse. v2.0 now auto-syncs your iPhone and iPad photos to its servers, along with improved streaming of audio and video. The service also adds a new pricing plan, starting at $25 per year for a terabyte of storage. Take that, Dropbox! $Free
JoliCloud’s Drive is both a front-end for the privacy-focussed Norwegian cloud storage service (which I use and love), as well as a place to combine all your other cloud accounts. You can access Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, MediaFire and more, plus the amazing cloud torrent service Put.io. You can also use it to view and edit photos, watch movies, edit photos, listen to music and even read ebooks. Now the web app is even better thanks to a new large-icon grid view for your files. How much? Amazingly, it’s $Free.
Tonality takes your boring old color photos and turns then into amazing B&W images. It works with most images, RAW and JPG included, and does most of what Adobe’s Lightroom does, only it’s focussed on monochrome images and doesn’t do anything for color. You can tweak the color channels to really play with the B&W result, and there’s even gimmicky a one-touch-HDR feature. But the best part is layers, letting you save yourself to a bigger app like photoshop. I like it quite a lot, but I miss Lightroom’s built-in cataloging features. Regular or Pro for $20/$60
Learnist for iPad
You know how cool the TED talks are, where super-smart folks tell you about awesome things? Well Learnist is kind of like that, only instead of lectures it curates lessons, and now it comes on the iPad too. People like Gus Van Sant add lessons, along with qualified teachers concentrating on specific subjects. It’s also free to download and browse. $Free
If you don’t have an AeroPress then go out and buy one right now. Pick up a burr grinder while you’re at it, and some delicious, freshly-roasted beans. Got it? Good. Now you can enjoy the free AeroPress Timer app, new and improved and at version 2. The app provides a whole slew of recipes, with extra recipe packs for $2, available as in-app purchases. Choose a recipe, get your gear set, your water hot and your coffee ground, and hit Go. The timer will count you down to the perfect cup. $Free.
Yet more traveling gear this week with a super-stylish camera bag, fake backgrounds to make your photos look like they came from a better camera, an all-in-one iPhone case and bike toolkit, plus an all-new old-school Super 8 film (yes, film) camera. Delightful.
This might sound like a skateboard trick done in Johnny Rad’s place, but it is in fact a clever little widget that adds a permanent kickstand to your MacBook. The Kickflip sticks to the bottom of the Mac with an adhesive strip and stays out of the way until you need it. Then it flips (folds) open to lift the rear end up a few centimeters. This promotes air flow and raises the screen. Available in two sizes for 13 and 15-inch MacBooks. €18
Logmar Super 8 camera
Ever use a Super 8? It’s simultaneously amazing (great retro-style footage!) and terrifying (only a few minutes per reel!). And it’s also back, in the form of the Logmar, a modern-day take on old-school home video. The film itself is stabilized in the camera, and can be shot at anywhere from 18-54fps. It also has a flip-out LCD viewfinder screen, and records sync sound onto an SD card. How much? $5,000, once the initial run of 20 has been delivered.
Cycling Ride Pouch
This pouch carries everything you need on a ride. It’s a toolkit holder that fits in your jersey pocket, and has its own pockets for cash, cards and your iPhone. The phone is coddled in an ultrasuede-lined slot, and there’s a window on the outside so you can see and view the iPhone without taking it out first. In short, this is the perfect pouch for traveling light. $69
Lastolite Out of Focus Backgrounds
I love this low-tech solution to a high-tech problem. Instead of using a proper camera with a fast lens to achieve out of focus backgrounds, you can just buy a background that’s already out of focus. These folding, portable screens from Lastolite unfurl to give the out-of-focus highlights and blur you’d get if you used a wide aperture over a largish sensor – two things the iPhone doesn’t have.
The price? Well, you might think about buying that camera after all, because they’re $205.59 each.
Kelly Moore Kate Shoulder Bag
Kelly Moore’s Kate shoulder bag is a leather and canvas camera bag designed for men or women. The padded satchel has plenty of pockets, and also features a removable padded insert so you can safely stow lenses and cameras, or just use the thing as a big one-chamber sack when you’re not shooting. Yes, this is a camera bag so stylish that you will want to use it all the time. The price isn’t bad either, as these things go – $200
It’s no Opti-Grab, but then OptiKlip does look pretty useful. It clips to the collar of any shirt, or to the button strip if you like, and gives you somewhere to hang your specs. In the summer I’m forever swapping between my regular glasses and my prescription shades, so I’m totally behind this little widget. If it ever makes it to market that is – currently the OptiKlip is not even a Kickstarter
Catalyst waterproof case
Catalyst has ditched Griffin and is going it alone with its v2.0 iPhone case. Waterproof down to 5 meters (16.4 feet), dustproof, drop resistant and with a hard plastic lens cover to let the light get through to the camera without too much interference, it sounds like they improved on everything I didn’t like in our review of the original. $65
All the power of a Drobo, in a little portable package. The new Drobo mini takes 4 2.5-inch drives (SSDs recommended), and connects to your Mac using Thunderbolt. This makes it blistering fast, and also lets you daisy-chain it to other Thunderbolt devices with the second port. Now you can take your redundant backup with your on the road – it even has a carrying case.$650
Tall Boy Pint Cup
Do you love craft beers and home-made cordials, but hate to drink out of anything that isn’t a soft-drinks can? Then you need to Tall Boy Pint Cup, an 18/8 stainless steel vessel in the shape of a can of Coke. It holds a U.S. pint, which is 16 ounces and not the 20 ounces in Great British pint (which is the reason and Englishman can out-drink any U.S person), and costs just $12
Travel can be a chance to practice minimalism, or an opportunity to drive yourself nuts. What am I talking about? Luggage. You can pare down your essentials to fit in a carry-on – even if you’re away for a month – or you can throw in every item of clothing and every charger you have. The second approach will result in a broken back, and you’ll still find that you left something essential at home.
Over the years, I’ve perfected my packing technique so that I only take the bare minimum. And when I say “perfected,” I mean “struggled with.” But it works for me, and the principles can be applied even if you’re the kind of person who hires a boy to carry your trunks for you when you take a cruise on the Titanic.
So here’s the Cult of Mac Guide to Traveling Light, a roundup of strategies, product recommendations and other tips to make your next trip a breeze.
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.
Party on your bike with an iPhone speaker and a bottle cage for a hip flask, or protect your camera from water and dirt with dust-repellent filters and a great roll-top backpack. Or just forget everything and take your frustrations to the beach, with the SBOD tote bag.
Evo antistatic filters
Like to protect your camera’s lens? Hate dust? Of course you hate dust. So you might like Hoya’s new antistatic UV, polarizer and plain old nothing-but-protection filters, the Evo range. The glass of all these filters has an antistatic, dust-repelling coating that “acts like a force field around the filter,” which sounds pretty neat. They’re also scratch resistant and easy to clean. From $28
Allo bike speaker
Allo allo! This little iPhone case mounts up on your handlebars and adds a convenient speaker to your bike’s “cockpit.” The quick-release case coddles the iPhone 5/s inside and hooks up via a good old-fashioned 3.5mm jack. No pairing or Lightning certification required. Slot in a pair of AA batteries, cue up The Archers and you’re off. $45, for pre-order.
Macro Beachball Totebag
GothScreenShots will sell you this amazing Macro Beachball Totebag, featuring everybody’s favorite Finder frustration, the Spinning Beach Ball of Death. Less common in recent years, the SBBOD likes to spin up whenever your Mac chokes on the task at hand. I still see it regularly when using iTunes, but if you were to say, “That’s your own damn fault for using iTunes,” I would have to agree. $60
Desktop Chair v2
Nope, it's not a chair for sitting on your desk, but yet another desk stand. This one, though, is clever and versatile. Thanks to the shape of the bent plywood stand, with a lip at either end of the curve, it can be set two ways. This means your iPad can be set at a high or a low angle, and if you use the more-stable low angle, the Desktop Chair v2 will also prop up a MacBook Air. It’s also dead-handsome and fairly cheap at $60.
Emergency Go Bag
The Emergency Go Bag contains everything you need to survive not only an apocalypse, but also a far more likely “several days without power or food” scenario, like if your corner bodega shuts down for vacation. And when I say “everything,” I mean everything, from tools to food to medical supplies to a stove to a survival manual, printed on paper. The idea is that you don’t have to worry about getting it all together yourself, which would cost a lot more anyway. The other neat part of this Kickstarter is that you’ll get email reminders whenever anything in the pack is about to expire – food and batteries and that kind of thing. You can even choose to have replacements sent to you automatically. $225
Lathr shaving set
Even the name of Flyn O’Brien’s Lathr shaving set is minimal. The wooden kit comes in two pieces, a brush and a bowl, and the brush fits into a slot in the bowl when you’re not whipping up a soapy lather to slather on your skin. These days I use a variety of electronic and manual devices to maintain my frankly over-elaborate facial hear (think Tom of Finland meets Mad Max and you”ll be in the ballpark), but I long for the skin-scraping days of a safety razor and a bowl of sudsy soap. Not for sale
ApeCase Maxess DSLR Backpack
Every bag should be a roll-top bag. Not only are they waterproof, the roll-top design lets the bag expand, and lets you use it while open without spilling the contents everywhere. ApeCase’s new lineup includes this roll-top backpack with a lower section for camera gear and an upper, expandable, roll-top section for everything else. It even has places to hang a flashlight and a water bottle. $180
Oliver Flask Cage
Back when I liked drinking a little too much, I’d just fill a mini-size SIG water bottle with Vat 69 and toss it in my bag. It would even fit a standard bottle cage pretty well, which was handy for playing bike polo on those cold winter nights. Seeing as the whole point of a booze-filled hip flask is discretion, I don’t really see the point of the Oliver Flask Cage (which holds a Stanley flask), but as now I don’t see the point of drinking, either, maybe I can’t be trusted to judge. $22
Wharfedale DS-1 speakers
I’m sick of small speakers. I realized it when I visited a friend who has a pair of wooden floor-standers hooked up to a proper amp, and even a record player. I have some great AirPlay speakers, but nothing beats the bang of a big bookshelf boom-box. Enter the Wharfedale DS-1, a Bluetooth speaker pair with a built-in 14-watt amp and a nice big wooden cabinet to let the sound rebound around. Just £150.
This week's Gadget Watch has a special summer something for everyone. Fixing up the house? Laying around the house? Getting drunk and stumbling about the house? Then these toolboxes, breathalyzers and hands-free, in-bed iPad stands will serve you well.
The Flare pan looks like an oversized aluminum cupcake cup. It has heat-catching fins on the outside, like the opposite of a heat sink, and a regular-shaped inside. The idea is that the heat (not the flame – keep that turned down like you would for a regular pan) from your gas hob will stream up the sides and pump its energy into the pan through the increased surface area of those fins. The best part of all? It was designed by a real rocket scientist. $150
Excell+1 lens adapter
This magical adapter performs the seemingly impossible. Not only does it put Nikon (or Canon) lenses on your Micro Four Thirds camera body, but it also boosts the speed of the lens by one stop. That’s right – it doubles the maximum amount of light your lens can gather. It also reduces the crop factor of your lens by 0.72x. That won’t keep your wide-angle lenses wide, but it will stop them from turning telephoto. I’m in. $160
When I saw the Tablift, my first thought was “LOL.” And that was my second thought, too, if I’m honest. But as a person who uses his iPad in bed far more than is healthy, I began to see how the stable stand could help me. What’s better than hands-free viewing in the sack? Angle-adjustable hands-free viewing in the sack, that’s what. Yup, you can even tilt it down to watch while lying in bed. You might scare yourself when you wake up, but you’ll never fall asleep and drop your iPad onto your nose ever again. $60
I’m writing about this gadget mostly because of its name – Forked Lightning. It lets you charge two devices off a single USB port, which is certainly handy for those travel situations where you only have access to one power outlet (I’m looking at you, cheapskate hotels). You probably don’t want to plug two iPads 4 into one iPhone charger, but other combinations should fare better. $50
RØDE iXY mic
I don’t even care that RØDE makes great microphones, I just want the new Lightning-compatible iXY to play with. Look at those stereo mics: Don’t you just want to twiddle them? Or try to jam your finger between the barrels? No? Perhaps you’d rather record sound through the two half-inch condenser capsules and onboard analog-to-digital converter. You can totally do that. $200
These Japanese toolboxes, painted in bright blue enamel, are tough enough to use every day, but pretty enough to live in the house without anybody complaining. They go from a stackable small trunk-style box up to the big cantilever model with a double-hinged top level and movable dividers. From $20
Vio Smartphone Breathalyzer
Do you know how many drinks you should have if you’re driving? None. That’s how many. What if you had a couple and then you need to drive, for an emergency or whatever? Nope. Get a cab, or you’ll be killing a cyclist or a pedestrian to do whatever thing is so important that you’re happy to risk another person’s life doing it.
If you insist on drinking and driving, breathe into the BACtrack Vio Smartphone Breathalyzer first – if you’re not too far gone to use the keychain device. The Vio will measure your blood-alcohol content, send the result to your iPhone via Bluetooth, and even estimate how long it’ll take you to return to zero. $70
Solio Sun-Powered Charger
Let’s face it – the people you go to the beach with are boring. They either spend the whole time with their nose in a paperback, or they insist on annoying the rest of the folks on the beach by kicking a volleyball around the place, or whatever it is you do with a volleyball. So, you should either pack some weed and just get stoned, or bring along a Solio Sun-Powered Charger to keep your iPhone going in the bright sunlight, so you never have to interact with your “friends.” $70