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Macworld Expo SF 2009

I went to this year’s Macworld Expo in San Francisco with low expectations. None of the Apple hardware or software announcements were things I had been waiting for. Not to downplay them, of course. I’m simply not a large laptop user, for example. While I do use applications from iLife and iWork, I do not use them as heavily as other software.

However, I was pleasantly satisfied with several tools and goodies I managed to find.

I had written up a list of Things to Look For in Evernote, even tagged the note as an offline favorite — because one shouldn’t depend on any network access in an underground convention. Unfortunately, a hitch arose that prevented me from initially viewing offline data in Evernote; luckily, the free conference WiFi helped out with note access. Dear Evernote: Isn’t the point of offline favorites to allow access without network connectivity? A forum thread shows how others also experience this issue, which currently remains unsolved.

FireWire to USB adapter for car stereo. I bought the passPORT charging adapter from Scosche for $25. (That was a Macworld promotion price; the list price is $29.99, but you can prolly find it online for less.) Oddly enough, they seemed to be the only vendor who had that particular adapter, AFAICT. Neither Griffin nor Macally had a similar gizmo.

Trackballs? My annual visit to Kensington revealed that they have yet to update their Macintosh drivers: not since July 2007 for the SlimBlade (which failed to work for me), and not since May 2006 for MouseWorks (which hogs system resources and behaves erratically, at least with Tiger). The booth attendant didn’t know if or when there’d be any updates. Another exhibitor, Contour Designs showed me their RollerMouse, a peculiar wrist rest containing a long, rotating rod that behaved like a trackball. I’m not sure how well such a setup would work, compared with the mouse-like, to-the-side-of-the-keyboard peripherals I had used in the past.

Etymotic Research continue to be incredibly helpful and interesting. First, they still offer many types of eartips to fit many kinds of ears. For example, the new grey foam “mushrooms” are too short for my ears, but the narrower 3-flange translucent rubber tips (which come in grey and blue) might be more comfortable enough to oust my favored opaque white 3-flange tips. Second, I got a hands-on demonstration of the Bluetooth headset, and was impressed with how well it blocked out background noise. Third, if and when my trusty HR-6isolator earphones poop out on me, the newer hf5 model would be a fine replacement.

GelaSkins manufacture skin-thin device covers for mobiles, laptops and game consoles. These are not the terrifying plastic wrappers encasing your parents’ furniture. GelaSkins offer a huge selection of artwork, with quality production which doesn’t scream, “Hey! Look at all the dithering dots!” Moreover, they are removable, like window decals without any adhesive gunk. The promotional code for Macworld is MACWORLD09, for 10% off online orders, though I’m not sure how long that sale will last. However, they seem to have a buy-3-get-1-free offer for iPhones on a regular basis. Update, from the More Goodies Dept.: They also offer free wallpapers for various handhelds, including the iPhone and iPod Touch. Update #2: After receiving the iPhone 3G GelaSkins, I really cannot recommend them. I’ve been unable to smoothly attach the skin around the rounded corners without overstretching or wrinkling the skin. Sad, but true. At least the wallpapers look good!

Stylus for iPhone. The Pogo capacitive stylus was far too short and light for me. I’d prefer a bit more heft, and this thingie was lighter than a cheap ballpoint pen. If you check out the product page link, you’ll notice the tip is covered with what looks like a loose foamy material. Won’t that wear away after a few days of use? I think I’ll stick with my fingers, even if my iPhone doesn’t respond as well when my hands are too cold and dry. Maybe I’ll find gloves with those pokey dots — which come in my teensy size.

Gadget holder for the preoccupied. After searching for years, I happened upon In Your Face, who make a device holder that can attach to a bike handle. Finally! I’d use this on my stationary trainer, since one shouldn’t ride around with headphones, obviously. The Viewbase holder lists for $29.95, available only as an online purchase. But at Macworld they provided a coupon code of 5115 for $10 off, good until 31 December 2009.

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen. I wouldn’t have much use for this because I rarely write by hand. But for anyone taking a class? I definitely see the wow factor: the Smartpen looks virtually indispensable with how it links audio transcription with handwriting. Livescribe’s system doesn’t have true OCR (IIRC), their Macintosh support is behind Windows development, the charging contacts on the Smartpen lean against the skin, and you need special paper (which can be printed out, though) — but it sounds like a project with great potential.

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