Review: Griffin’s iTrip Bluetooth adds wireless iPhone music streaming to your car’s stereo

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Twelve years have passed since Griffin released its first iTrip, a breakthrough FM transmitter that enabled iPods to send music wirelessly to car and home stereos. The original model, a glossy white housing that sat atop early iPods like a tube of Chapstick, effectively defined iPod accessories for an entire generation of early adopters. And it was fun, too: using an radio antenna and brilliant software, iTrip could flood an empty FM radio channel with iPod music, acting like a pocket-sized pirate radio station.

Everything changed when the FCC cracked down on FM transmitters, forcing reductions in broadcasting power that made iTrips (and numerous competitors) sound staticky, reducing their appeal. Around the same time, Apple and car companies transitioned to better-sounding solutions — Bluetooth and aux-in audio ports, respectively — leaving FM transmitters with fewer customers. But Griffin is rejuvenating the iTrip family with iTrip Bluetooth, aka iTrip Aux Bluetooth, which provides a different type of dead-simple wireless solution for cars. Priced at $50 but available online for $38, it has one purpose: to receive Bluetooth audio sent by your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, conveying it through an included 3.5mm audio cable to your car’s aux-in port…

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Review: Pad & Quill’s Attaché is timeless, will stand the test of time (Discount+Giveaway)

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[Ed. Note: My wife liked this one so much she insisted she review it]

In many ways, my work is old school: unlike my other half, I work in an archive and write about the past. You might call my professional aesthetic “19th century schoolhouse.” Or at most “1920s Paris bookshop.” In other words, Pad&Quill. So when the Minnesota-based makers of the luxurious, leather notebook-style iPhone wallet case sent a new top-shelf work bag to our house, I claimed it. Over the past month I’ve been filling it with my MacBook, iPad, iPhone, papers, pens and books. Voilà the Attaché

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Review: Kanex’s Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock is a handy MacBook hub with middle-of-pack features, pricing

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As I’ve said before, Thunderbolt 2 docks are a really great idea for MacBook users. Before now, there were three major options: Belkin’s $300 Thunderbolt 2 Express HD DockElgato’s $220 Thunderbolt 2 Dock (review), and CalDigit’s $226 Thunderbolt Station 2 (review). All three are designed for the same purpose — to connect a bunch of peripherals (including hard drives, a monitor, and audio cables) to your Mac with one Thunderbolt 2 cable — and they all have the same core peripheral ports, with small differences to set them apart from one another.

This month, Kanex is entering the fray with the Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock ($250), which looks a lot like Belkin’s dock but is closer in price to Elgato’s and CalDigit’s. Aluminum on the top and bottom with a black plastic core, it has a front-mounted USB 3.0 port with two more on the back, and comes bundled with a power adapter and 3.3-foot Thunderbolt cable. While it doesn’t stand out in any major way from its earlier rivals, it’s competently executed and attractively designed, with some modest feature tweaks that prospective buyers should know about…

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Review: PowerSkin’s PoP’n 3 sticks a 4000mAh Lightning battery on your iPhone 6 / Plus as needed

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Yesterday, I reviewed PowerSkin’s Spare, a semi-protective battery case designed specifically for the iPhone 6. While Spare didn’t strike me as a great value for its asking price, PowerSkin also sells a more powerful alternative called PoP’n 3 that can work with multiple iPhones, including the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and earlier iPhone 5 models. And despite having nearly twice as much power as Spare — enough power to fully recharge any iPhone — it sells for only $50-$55, depending on the color you prefer.

PoP’n 3 isn’t a typical USB battery pack, even though it looks like one. Made mostly from metallic plastic that matches the space gray, silver, or gold colors of recent iPhones, it has a Lightning cable built into the bottom for easy connection to bare or encased devices. Suction cups on one side let it attach or detach from your iPhone on an as-desired basis, and unlike iPhone-specific battery cases, enable it to function as a just-in-case power source for iPads, too…

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Review: PowerSkin’s Spare gives iPhone 6 users a modest 2200mAh of extra battery case juice

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Since late last year, the best iPhone 6 battery cases have generally included two things that iPhone 6 users now take for granted: enough spare power for at least one complete recharge, plus adequate coverage for the iPhone’s top, bottom, and back, if not its sides. PowerSkin has gone in a somewhat different direction with Spare for iPhone 6 ($80), a battery sled that caters to iPhone users who want less of everything. With a small 2200mAh cell inside, it’s the lowest-capacity battery case I’ve seen for the iPhone 6, and also offers the least body coverage, but sells for about the same price as more capacious and protective rivals.

Lightweight and marginally easier to pack in some bags than some rival battery cases, Spare is here for users who want a partial iPhone 6 recharge and anti-drop protection, but no anti-scratch safety. It’s offered in silver, gold, or space gray, currently ranging from $70-$72 based on your color preference. PowerSkin claims that it will deliver a 100% iPhone 6 recharge, but our testing found otherwise…
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Review: Swapping MagSafe for SnapFit, BatteryBox adds 60Wh of portable power to MacBook Airs, Pros

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Thanks to Apple’s patent on the MagSafe connectors used in MacBook Airs and Pros, the list of third-party external batteries for MacBooks previously began with Hyper’s HyperJuice/HyperJuice 2 and ended with Lenmar’s ChugPlug — not much of a variety. Apple’s legal department chased Hyper for attaching harvested MagSafe connectors to its batteries, and Lenmar chose a workaround, sending ChugPlug’s power indirectly though an Apple wall adapter. Neither solution was ideal. It took until now for a completely different third solution to appear: BatteryBox ($220) from Gbatteries Energy.

BatteryBox is the first MacBook power option I’ve tested that doesn’t require either MagSafe or an Apple wall adapter to function. Since the developers went out of their way to create something that won’t run afoul of Apple’s legal team, there’s absolutely nothing Mac-like about its brick-like rectangular design. And it’s not cheap, priced between the two HyperJuices and higher than ChugPlug, which can now be had for only $100. But it works, adding a 60-watt-hour additional battery to the 38-95-watt-hour cells already inside MacBook Airs and Pros. So if you’re on the road without access to a power outlet and need to add hours of additional runtime to your Apple laptop, this is a viable alternative….

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Review: Filters, a new photo editor for iPhone with over 800 image effects and a stunning design

Mike Rundle, an independent designer and developer, is today releasing Filters for iPhone ($0.99), a visual effects photo editor. Rundle’s integrated development workflow, both writing the code and designing the interface, shows through in his work. This is how Filters describes itself.

You don’t take photos with Filters. You transform them. Filters has over 800 ways to transform your photographs including fully adjustable authentic vintage film recreations, hand-painted textures, vibrant colored gel overlays, special multi-effect adjustments (Shine, Luna, Color Boost, Intimidate and Smart Fade) as well as standard image adjustment tools like brightness, contrast, color temperature, exposure and more. All features are included with nothing extra to purchase.
The app features over 800 different image effects presented with some of the best UI design I’ve seen. However there’s no getting away from the fact Filters enters a crowded market with stiff competition. It’s interesting to see how Rundle has tried to differentiate his app from the rest. Read on for our full review of the iPhone’s newest image app.

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Mini-review: Libre, the ultra-thin & spill-proof iPad keyboard (with a rather less thin case)

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As someone who uses his iPad for email and writing as much as for media consumption, I’m a big fan of physical keyboards. My current favorites are the ClamCase Pro and Brydge, each of which offers a near-Macbook quality moving keyboard.

But if you’ve ever been deterred by the bulk or weight of a full moving keyboard, the Libre – a new iPad Air/2 keyboard case that launched yesterday on Kickstarter – may be worth a look. The keyboard itself is just 5mm thick and weighs only 200g, yet manages to squeeze in a backlight and the ability to switch between up to three devices. I’ve been using a prototype version for the past few days …  Read more

Review: Fantastical 2 for Mac graduates to a full calendar replacement w/ Yosemite widget+extension, much more

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Fantastical’s ability to parse natural language input and create detailed appointment entries on your calendar has always been the primary reason to use it instead of or in addition to Apple’s own Calendar app on the Mac. Apple Calendar has picked up some language parsing smarts in recent updates, too, but it still doesn’t match Fantastical’s control and real-time appointment preview.

Still, I say in addition to because Fantastical for Mac has lived in the menu bar next to your clock, WiFi status, and other utilities where you can quickly access it for reference or adding an appointment from anywhere in the OS. The menu bar app includes a compact month view calendar above a streamlined, scrollable list view of appointments and reminders, but sometimes it’s nice to stretch out and view your schedule in a different context.

So when Fantastical first debuted on iPad almost a year ago putting the efficient list view next to a larger full calendar, I wrote optimistically that “the iPad’s app design could spill over into a future version of the Mac app (maybe as a dock app rather than a menu bar app).”

What Fantastical 2 for Mac actually became is even better: the same menu bar calendar users know and love (but new and improved!), and a full-sized calendar app with an optional dock icon. Both have been designed with the aesthetics of OS X Yosemite in mind and loads of under-the-hood features and improvements including the ability to actually change which calendars you see based on your location. Read more

Review: ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ depicts a late-maturing iCEO with a growing heart and softened edges

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Several years after Steve Jobs’ untimely death, journalists — particularly ones who previously interviewed or covered Jobs — are still combing their archives for underreported facts or quotes that might justify new books on Apple’s enigmatic CEO. Naturally, the overlap with earlier works is significant, as new authors repeatedly acknowledge leaning on Michael Moritz’s (Return to) The Little Kingdom and Owen Linzmayer’s Apple Confidential 2.0, among many others. But there’s still an opportunity to bring new details to light, which is why Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s Becoming Steve Jobs ($12+/Amazon, $13/iBookstore) exists. Over 400 pages in length, it aims primarily to set the record straight about one key facet of Jobs’ life — he was a better man at age 56 than he was at 21 — but includes enough interesting anecdotes about Apple and Jobs’ other pursuits to be worth reading.

Although Becoming Steve Jobs follows a mostly familiar storytelling arc, Schlender and Tetzeli’s strengths come from two sources: direct access to Jobs from the mid-1980’s until 2011, and interviews with major players conducted after Jobs’ death. While their quotes tend to be short and in service of the larger narrative, the list of participating heavy hitters is non-trivial: Laurene Powell Jobs represents the Jobs family, alongside current Apple executives Tim Cook, Jony Ive and Eddy Cue, ex-Apple executives Jon Rubinstein, Tony Fadell, Katie Cotton, Fred Anderson and Avie Tevanian, Jobs’ top ad men Regis McKenna and Lee Clow, Pixar’s Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Disney CEO Bob Iger. Given that access, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the book paints a largely sympathetic portrait, but the authors also gave participants room to speak candidly about how Jobs’ “sharp elbows” affected them personally and professionally…

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Review: Vellum, the ebook generator for Mac with added prettiness

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One of the great things about technology is the way it has democratized the publishing world. Today, anyone can publish an ebook on iBooks and Amazon, whether as a freebie or a commercial book.

Creating an ebook isn’t difficult. If you’ve written your book in Pages, you can export to EPUB–the format needed for iBooks–direct from the app. There is also the excellent Calibre app (featured in our How-to guide), which will convert just about any file format to any type of ebook. There’s also iBooks Author, but that has the disadvantage that if you use it to create your book, you’re not allowed to sell the iBooks version through other channels.

But as I found out when I came to create my own ebook, generating an ebook that looks attractive on all of the different devices available is a rather tougher challenge. That’s the job the Mac app Vellum claims to do, so I put it to the test …  Read more