2015 is nearly upon us, but before you pop the bubbly, listen up for the tech, apps, movies and TV shows that delighted us in 2014. You’ll get it all in this very special, far too long, last-episode-of-the-2014 … CultCast.
Our thanks to lynda.com for sponsoring this episode! Learn virtually any application at your own pace from expert-taught video tutorials at lynda.com.
The Walnut Monitor Stand is the perfect way to prevent neck strain while sitting at your iMac. Photo: Grovemade
Most of my work day is spent at a 27-inch iMac, circa 2009. It’s admittedly getting a bit long in the tooth, but buffed up with as much RAM as it can take and a homemade Fusion Drive, it still gets the job done.
One complaint I have about the iMac, though, is that the screen is actually a little too low by default. Resting on my desk, the center of the iMac’s screen doesn’t exactly line up with my line of sight. Over an entire day, that can result in neck pain and bad posture.
And so, over the past few years, I’ve experimented with a lot of stands to lift the iMac up a couple inches to more naturally line up with my line-of-sight. Of all the ones I have ever tried, though, the Walnut Monitor Stand by Portland’s Grovemade is my favorite. After using it for the last few months, I can comfortably say it’s a perfect fusion of design and functionality.
These Astro 38s are easy to pair, last for hours, sound amazing. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
I typically try out a new product for review without reading any of the documentation or media relations stuff that the folks who send us such things want us to look at. I want to have as pristine an experience as possible. Sometimes that leads to little surprises.
I put these new Astro Gaming A38 Bluetooth headphones on my head last week, and paired them with my iPhone to play a little music. After a few songs of various genres, I stopped the tunes and took these off my noggin. I suddenly realized that my girlfriend had been blending up a protein shake in the nearby kitchen. It was surprising because I honestly could not hear it with the headphones on my head and playing music at a relatively low volume – and our blender is really loud.
While they’re great for music, these are also fantastic sounding headphones that help you immerse yourself into any game on your iPad or iPhone, cutting down on the auditory distractions from the outside world when they’re powered up.
Fantastic sounding drums at your feet. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
There’s always that moment when your drummer can’t show up for rehearsal. She’s got some other commitment. He’s got another gig. Her boyfriend needs her to take him to the hospital.
It happens. When it does, you can do what I’ve always done – pound your foot against the floor and try to muddle on through – or you can use a drum machine. The problem with standard drum machines is that they’re made to be used by hands or, in some cases, drum sticks. I’m not a drummer (no sticks) and I need my hands to play my guitar. What I really need is a drum machine I can play from the floor, guitar-pedal style.
That’s what caught my eye about the BeatBuddy – this is a guitar-pedal-style device that lets you use your foot to play back drum beats in a variety of styles, fills and different parts included. This is my new best friend when the drummer can’t make it to practice, and it may become my new stage pal if I take my act solo.
I don’t do a whole lot of up-close computer-based gaming, but when I do, I prefer to have a decent set of headphones to keep the sound to myself so that the rest of the household doesn’t need to hear the full complement of explosions and combat sounds that typically accompany gaming on my Mac. There are an array of headsets out there with gaming microphones built in, many of them in the $300 and up range.
Not everyone can afford this sort of luxury, so most brands have less-expensive versions of their headsets to appeal to a more budget-conscious gamer. The HyperX Cloud is just such a set of headphones aiming for the entry-level gamer who may not have much more than $100 to spend on their gaming audio gear.
The Lensbaby LM-10, shot through a fisheye lens and two mirrors. Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
I like the Lensbaby that I have for my regular camera, but I frikkin’ love the Lensbaby LM–10 for the iPhone. Like most things that make the trip from elsewhere to iOS, the little Lensbaby offers a subset of the original’s features, but they are – dare I say – a more focused set of features.
Let’s just say the iPhone Lensbaby is about the funnest iPhoneography accessory around.
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.
Logitech’s Hinge case really is at home when it’s at home. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
An iPad case should:
Not weigh a ton
The Logitech Hinge manages the first three of these, and were it not for the failure on point No. 4, it would be my new favorite case. As it is, the cool Logitech Hinge is my favorite case for using around the house.
The tiny Tile really is small and light enough to use anywhere. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
The Tile is a tiny plastic widget that never gets lost. In theory anyway. It talks to your iPhone via low-power Bluetooth and lets you track the Tile itself, and anything the Tile is attached to.
I’ve been using one for the last couple of weeks, and it works just fine. But so far it doesn’t seem to be much more useful than one of those keychain finders that beeps when you whistle. Why? Because to be truly useful, the Tile needs to reach a critical mass of users.
The Brompton’s not a new bike. It’s not even new to me. But it is the best folding bike around, and it will change how you travel long distances, too. I’ve had mine ever since I recovered enough from a broken leg (busted playing bike polo) to hobble up to the local bike shop and order one. That was a few years ago, and since then the bike has come with me to three different continents, traveling on planes, trains, trams, automobiles and buses.
You can even ride it to the airport and pack it up when you get there.