The Genius swarm was unexpected. Who knew that carrying my MacBook Pro into the Apple Store in a BookBook laptop case would inspire such a flurry of questions: “Is that really a lapbook case?” “Where did you get it?” “Who makes it?” “Do they make one for the iPad?” “Can I look inside?” “Wow, cool!” I felt like a rock star.
I didn’t buy the cleverly disguised laptop case that looks like an antique book to be the chicest geek at the Genius Bar. Rather, I’d bought it to reduce the risk of having my MacBook Pro stolen.
But based on the number of blue-shirted Genius admirers, it looks like innovative Mac accessory designer, Twelve South, has tapped into the collective desire for originality that’s core among true Mac fans.
Go ahead, trade in those goofy lighted slippers from Aunt Sally for the gizmo you really wanted, PlanOn’s new mobile Printstik. I won’t tell. Promise. After all, what self-respecting gadget geek wouldn’t want to add a Printstik to their portable arsenal? It’s Bluetooth enabled, lightweight, fits in your pocket and syncs with your PC laptop, PDA, and mobile phone, and prints “on the spot” wirelessly. From $199.00; www.planon.com
Don’t let its plain-Jane looks fool you. My quest for the perfect computer case ended when a fellow road warrior turned me onto this winner. The glazed look in my friends eyes as I rhapsodized about the distinguishing qualities of the bag pegged me as the hopeless gadget geek I am. I can’t help myself. I’m prone to extolling the bag’s virtues – superior padded protection, rugged ballistic nylon construction, convenient compartments for files and data media storage, front loading access to AC adaptor cables and cords, a multi-pocketed easy-access organizer panel for cell phone, iPod, GPS unit and other accessories, felt-lined quick-access pocket for sunglasses or tickets, and wheelie strap for attaching to wheeled luggage – with the zeal of a religious convert. Oh, and did I mention that it’s ‘carbon balanced’? All purchases on Brenthaven.com will be offset with carbon credits. Hey, quit rolling your eyes! $99.95; www.brenthaven.com
About Ellen Barone: Consumer travel expert Ellen Barone is the founder and publisher of EllenBarone.com and YourLifeIsATrip.com. Learn more here and connect on Twitter at,Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Your laptop is one of the more expensive items you travel with, your ipod one of your favorites, and, if you’re one of the millions who won’t leave home without your smart phone, then why not protect your investment in style?
Gelaskins are a great new way to personalize and protect your gadgets without bulk. From the classics to graffiti style street art, Monet to Munch, Van Gogh to Vonnegut, you’ll be oh-so-cyber-cool with a Gelaskin protecting your gear. And, they not only protect the outside of your gadget of choice, but every Gelaskin comes with a GelaScreen protector to keep scratches at bay.
Another cool thing about Gelaskins is that they welcome design submissions from anyone. Simply send them some of your ideas, and if they like them, they will add them to their collection and put them into production. If you happen to have 50 friends who would want a Gelaskin designed by you, they will run your custom artwork for you (minimum order is 50).
Pretty darn cool!
For more information, click here.
KeePass Password Safe - a secure password manager for your sensitive login information
Do you worry about cyber crime and identity theft when checking e-mail, credit card charges and online banking in Internet Cafes? I do. It’s the main reason I avoid accessing personal information on a public computer. KeePass, a free/open-source password safe which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way, might just be the answer to lugging along a laptop. With KeePass, you can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key-disk and remember one single master password to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known (AES and Twofish).
It allows you to organize your entries into categories and offers several ways to conveniently enter your username/password; you can use drag and drop, copy to the clipboard, or create auto-type sequences that can enter the login information with a single click.
For more information: www.keepass.info
Go Solar: Go Wherever
Gadget Girl or not, the vote is still out on whether or not one should bring technology on vacation. Nevertheless, once I retired my film cameras and entered the digital age, traveling with electronics became a professional reality.
Under most circumstances, plugging in to charge up isn’t an issue, but whether I have an electrical source to plug my electronics into or not is. Using solar energy to recharge or revitalize my electronic equipment is a great way to keep my gear running no matter where my travels take me.
For technology that travels, check out these cutting-edge solar chargers and power up your next adventure à la Mother Nature.
The PowerMonkey eXplorer kit comes with everything you need to charge most of your mobile devices, including cell phones, iPods, and digital cameras. Charge it up in the wall, or use the Solar Slave (included) to charge with solar rays. This is a VERY handy piece of equipment for backpacking, river trips, backcountry skiing, and travelling.
* Compatible with the majority of standard mobile phones.
*USB connectors power up iPods and accessories, MP3 players, PDAs, smart mobile phones, digital cameras, games, consoles, BlackBerry and Bluetooth headsets and many more digital devices.
* Includes main travel charger for use in 150 countries - 110V to240V
* Water-resistant, rubberized design - a power source for every adventure.
Powerful enough to charge all of your handheld electronic products at home or on the move, anywhere under the sun.
* Provides an emergency power source when away from power outlets.
* Adapter tips allow you to power multiple gadgets with a single charger ( tips for most products included in pack.)
* Works with multiple gadgets, including mobile phones, iPhone™, Bluetooth® headsets, smartphones/PDAs, MP3 players, portable gaming devices, digital cameras, GPS and much more.
* Reusable - use it again and again.
* Compact lightweight design - convenient for travel or emergency use.
The next generation in foldable solar technology, Brunton’s CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide) is the most efficient thin film solar technology available. Maximizing performance while optimizing portability, a Brunton Solaris panel is one of the most compact high output model available, with a design that instinctively converts incident sunlight into an electrical current, even in low-light conditions.
The unit’s multi-section design folds up into a compact footprint that’s just a bit larger than a DVD case, while still delivering an impressive 26 watts of power, more than enough to charge a laptop or digital video camera or power a satellite or cell phone.
Tell Em’ Where You’ve Been, and Where You Want to Go at WhereIveBeen.com
Create an online wanderlist with the free interactive ‘Where I’ve Been ‘application now available as a world map on your Facebook or MySpace profile page.
You can highlight the countries you have been to, lived in, or want to go to by clicking on them and changing the color. Your personalized map can then be quickly and easily shared with friends.
Track your travels at www.WhereIveBeen.com.
On vacation, chances are good that your jazzy new digital camera, or camcorder, will run out of memory long before you run out of photo ops. Carrying several high-capacity memory cards, as I do, is one way to solve the problem.
But, when I’m on the road, especially on assignment, I can easily fill three or four CompactFlash cards a day. Plus, just in case of an electronic hiccup, each evening I backup my images to at least two other media - usually my Macintosh G4 Powerbook and a portable storage device. (currently the Epson P-3000 and Smartdisc FlashTrax XT)
Adding a high capacity portable hard drive to your gear, such as the 40 GB Epson P-3000 or 80 GB P-5000, lets you easily download and transfer your ‘trip of a lifetime’ digital pics where they can be stored, viewed and shared whereever your adventures take you.
Listed below are just a few of the portable storage devices on the market today:
Price: 40 GB P-3000 $499.99; 80GB P-5000 $699.99
Size: 3.5” × 5.9” × 1.3” Weight: Approximately 1 pound.
Display 4-inch color LCD
Media: Supports CompactFlash Type I/Type II and IBM® Microdrive® (3.3 V) Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard™ Memory Stick, ® xD Picture Card, ™ and SmartMedia™ supported with optional, third-party CF™ adapter, sold separately
GIGA Vu Pro by Jobo
Price: 40 GB $469.95: Also available in
Size: 5.7 × 4.2 × 1.5” Weight: 14.8 oz.
Display: 3.7-inch color LCD
Media: CompactFlash (CF) cards (Type I & II)Microdrive. Other media supported through optional card adapters
iPod by Apple.
Price 30 GB $249; 80 GB $349
Size: 4.1” × 2.4” × 0.43” (30GB) or 0.55” (80GB) Weight: 4.8 oz (30GB) or 5.5 (80GB)
Display: 2.5-inch color LCD
Stores data via USB cable.
FlashTrax by Smartdisc.
Price: 40GB $199.99
Size: 5.75 × 3.625 × 1.25 in. Weight: 12.5 oz.
Display: 3.6-inch color LCD flip screen
Media Accepted: CompactFlash (supports several other cards with the appropriate media adapter)
Here's the truth: I'm on the road at least six months of the year. That means for half of each year my 'office' is a 15" Apple G4 Powerbook. Why Apple? It's secure. It's lightweight. It's durable. It finds wireless networks before I can even ask the question. It's a DVD player on long flights. My music and photo libraries are just a click away in user-friendly programs that come with the machine. Its keyboard is backlit and easy to use in low light. Its a built in tape recorder for interviews. It's plug & play. A no brainer. You get the idea. Is the ease and covenience of its operating system worth paying the extra money. You bet.
A year ago, my sister (also a freelance writer) decided it was time to upgrade her computer system. Perhaps it was my visits over the years when I'd arrive with my Apple laptop and effortlessly pick up her home wireless network, share my iTunes favorites with my niece's iPod and whip up professional-quality slideshows in an instant, that led her to the local Apple store. Who knows.
What I do know however, is that after 20 years as a frustrated PC user, she went home with a brand new 23-inch flat screen display and two 15" Apple powerbook G4s - one for my 15-year-old niece and one for her. Here's her e-mail to me the next day: "I love my MAC. It truly is intuitive. Why didn't I switch sooner? Not because you didn't tell me. (And all the other Mac lovers out there)." Never even used a MAC before, and she's off an running like, well, it was easy. Imagine that.
The only drawback? Apples last too long. No need to upgrade for at least 5 years. For a gadget geek, that's killing me. But my budget is loving it.