Review: Otterbox Defender protective case for iPad Air

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I don’t generally like to hide away my iDevices inside cases, but there are some environments where this is at least strongly advisable – and the basket of a hot-air balloon is definitely one of those. In anything but still air, a landing tends to involve the basket being dragged across the ground – and much as you try to secure things, there’s always the risk of loose items taking a fall. Which can get expensive when one of those loose items is an iPad Air.

iPads are the perfect navigation device in a hot-air balloon as you need to simultaneously reference three different types of maps. An airspace map, showing the areas you can’t fly into without risking an A380 bearing down on you (followed shortly afterwards by the aviation licensing authority). A land map to show the ground detail you need for navigation and landing purposes. And finally, a map showing Sensitive Areas (SAs) where landowners request that you either don’t land or overfly above a specified altitude (generally 500 or 1000 feet) to avoid disturbing cattle, dogs and so on.

An iPad provides a moving map combining all three types of data in a single view. But with bumpy landings a fact of life, it would be a braver man than I to risk using a naked iPad. I thus decided to look around at the protective cases available, and having been impressed by the Otterbox Defender iPhone case, tried out the version for the iPad Air …

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Mini review: Elgato Thunderbolt Dock

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There are Mac accessories that are exciting or fun, and others that are boring but useful. The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock most definitely falls into the latter category.

As regular readers will know, I’m of the view that wires are evil. Anything that can be wireless should be wireless, and any wires that are unavoidable should be hidden from sight. This is particularly easy if you have an Apple Thunderbolt Display, of course, since all you need in the way of wires from a MacBook is power and Thunderbolt: everything else can be plugged into the back of the monitor.

But if you share my aversion to visible wires and don’t have a Thunderbolt display, or you are frequently connecting and disconnecting your MacBook from a bunch of devices on your desk, the Elgato Thunderbolt Dock may be the answer …

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Review: Satechi’s 4, 7, & 10 port USB hubs compared

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Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to try out a number of Satechi’s USB hubs in my effort to combat my growing need to wire in more stuff to my Mac’s 4 USB ports. While wireless is often more convenient and downright necessary on laptops to have a good experience, I still enjoy the speed and reliability of a wired connection on my desktop setup. To have a completely ergonomic experience and avoid plugging and unplugging things, a USB hub of some sort is definitely needed. The challenge to buying the right hub for your needs is deciphering how each hub differs; it’s not just limited to the number of ports available…

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Review: Fantastical for iPad completes the improved calendar suite… and it’s pretty sweet

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After first debuting on the Mac then joining iOS with the iPhone, Fantastical is finally ready to replace the calendar on your iPad, too. With Fantastical for iPad, Flexibits has brought the same, streamlined design and natural language parsing for quick event and reminder entry to the iPad. I’ve been using Fantastical for iPad for a few weeks now, so let’s take a look at how it compares to Apple’s calendar app… Read more

Review: Dragon Dictate 4.0 for Mac – The best speech recognition app gets even better

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Using our voice to control computers has never really taken off. For many of us, using voice recognition technology wasn’t even a consideration until features like dictation and Siri arrived on our iPhones and iPads. There’s good reason too: the voice recognition features built into our devices have always had the reputation of being half-baked. They simply aren’t accurate and consistent enough to replace our tried and trusted mouse and keyboard or touchscreen. While half decent dictation features come with every Mac (and are powered by Nuance’s technology), the voice recognition features you get with latest version of Nuance’s Dragon Dictate for Mac go well beyond simply dictating speech to text.  Read more

UpTo calendar app relaunches with a renewed, balanced focus on what matters

When UpTo originally launched, it focused on being what it described as “half-social, half-calendar.” Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well as the social side and the calendar side fought for dominance, resulting in an app that felt like it didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up.

Today the company behind UpTo is re-launching the app with a new design and a new focus: rather than trying to turn calendars into a social network, the app is now focused entirely on being the best calendar app it can be. That being said, the new version of the app is not entirely devoid of social features.

Keep reading to find out how the developers finally figured out how to balance these two sides to the software.

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Review: $90 Kanex SimpleDock is a beautiful USB 3/Gigabit Ethernet Mac dock, without expensive Thunderbolt

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We’ve reviewed a fair bit of Thunderbolt docks for Mac here and one thing remains constant: The starting prices range well over $200 (Belkin’s a deal at $150) and that’s before you buy an expensive $30 Thunderbolt cable. The question is: Do you really need Thunderbolt to have a quality/usable dock for your MacBook? Can you get almost all of what you need just from USB 3?

Kanex sent me their $90 USB 3 SimpleDock a few months ago and I’ve put it through its paces ever since.  The first thing you’ll notice out of the box is that it is made extremely well, looks very ‘Apple’ and is substantial in weight. It doesn’t move when you plug in devices because of that weight and a rubberized bottom. On top, all you’ll see is a space that coincidentally fits an iPhone perfectly with a charger cable hole through the bottom. Around back, you’ll find 3 USB 3 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port as well as a 10W high powered ‘Charge-only’ port.

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So you are getting 3 products in one here: An iOS device quick charger, a USB3->Gigabit Ethernet adapter and 3 port USB 3 hub. The question is: Is the SimpleDock worth the $90?

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Review: ProWidgets is the ultimate widget platform for jailbroken iOS devices

ProWidgets is a brand new tweak for jailbroken iPhones and iPads that builds on the foundation of a previous tweak called Tap to Widgets (both by developer Alan Yip) to provide the most solid and complete widget platform on iOS. With nine built-in, fully-featured widgets and an architecture that allows third-party developers to add their own, ProWidgets is one of the best tweaks you can get right now.

Keep reading for a full breakdown of everything this tweak can do for you.

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Synology gets even better w/ version 5.0: Why every Mac & iOS user should have a DiskStation

I’ll admit, I’ve never felt the need to purchase network-attached-storage (NAS) hardware for storing and accessing my media or backing up my files. These days most of my content, from photos and movies to back ups of important files for work, are already stored in the cloud. My photos are (supposed to) auto backup to Photostream in iCloud, iTunes has all of my music downloadable from all my devices from the cloud, and any important files and everything else go directly to Dropbox or Google Drive. Around 90% of my content is already stored and accessible from anywhere in the cloud.

That being said, for the last year or so I’ve been hearing more and more about Synology DiskStation products. Coworkers can’t stop talking about them, and the products have received a lot of praise from many other reviewers as well.

I’ve been putting the Synology DiskStation hardware and brand new DiskStation Manager 5.0 software to the test in recent months to see if I could really benefit from a NAS solution despite all my content already being on the cloud and backed up. With today marking the release of 5.0, the company’s biggest software update yet, I thought now would be as good a time as any to share my experience.  Read more

Review: Mophie’s new ‘Space Pack’ battery case is like Dropbox without the cloud and twice the power

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been testing out Mophie’s new ‘Space Pack’ battery case with included storage that it showed off earlier this year at CES. While I’ve never used a case on my iPhone for longer than a few days, I do run out of battery more often than I’d like, and Mophie’s promise of extra storage built into the hardware sparked my interest. (Oh, and I do think the name is cool and clever…) I really wanted to try out the Space Pack just to prove what I expected: You can’t possibly add more storage to an iPhone in a way that isn’t gimmicky and a poor experience. Admittedly, my expectations were far from what Mophie has been able to accomplish; considering the limitations designed into iOS software and iPhone hardware, the Mophie Space Pack is a very interesting and useful accessory… Read more

Review: Font Studio provides affordable custom fonts for all of your creative needs

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Font Studio from Paolo Quadrani is a Mac app that allows you to modify and customize fonts. It provides you with the ability to create a range of font styles. It also includes in impressive collection of fonts that can be customized, saved and organized. In this article we will discuss scenarios in which this app can be useful, how the app works, and what you should expect if you purchase it.

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Review: Corning’s 33-foot Optical Thunderbolt cable allows you to move your Thunderbolt devices (or Mac) far away from your desk

Corning-thunderbolt-optical-cable-reviewThe promise of the Thunderbolt standard is that it can deliver a lot of data over long distances very quickly for many types of devices. Unfortunately, that promise has been pretty slow to materialize, and the long distance piece of the equation has been particularly painful.

Corning is hoping to turn that around this year with the consumer launch of its Thunderbolt Optical Cables in 10 meter (33 foot), 30 meter (99 foot), and 60 meter (198 foot) sizes. With these lengths, you can put your Thunderbolt hard disk and arrays far away from your desk. If you have a Thunderbolt Display or a Thunderbolt dock, you can even move your Mac to the utility closet or basement and really clean up your desk space.

I’ve been using the 33-foot version for a few weeks and here’s my take: Read more