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Get Out and Vote (for products you want me to review)

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- Episode 39 - May 27th, 2005

I love my job. What's not to love about getting paid to play with the coolest new Mac and iPod products and then write about them? As a kid I used to daydream about being the chief toy tester for Mattel; being Dr. Mac is even better than that. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks to doing what I do (i.e. writing about Mac stuff) for almost 20 years is that I sometimes have an embarrassment of riches. In other words, I often have more products sitting in The Pile™ than I can possibly review in all of my columns and books.

I try to test the items in The Pile™ in approximately the same order they arrived. Then, I write about the ones I think are most interesting, or the ones I think will be most interesting to you.

Unfortunately, over the past few months The Pile™ has grown to gargantuan proportions. In fact, there's so much cool stuff here that I've been forced to create The Other Pile™.

So I'm turning to you, gentle reader, for help. Rather than try to guess which products to review, I'm going to leave it up to you. In just a few paragraphs I'll describe a couple of dozen promising products from both piles. I'd like for you to vote for the one(s) you'd most like to see reviewed here and will cover the winners in full and loving detail over the coming months.

To cast your vote, simply put the name of whatever product you'd like me to review in the subject line of an email message to:

You don't have to write anything more than that unless you want to -- the product name in the subject line is all I need. But if you have something to say or a request to make -- say a review of a product not mentioned below or a comparison of two similar products, or whatever is on your mind -- put it in the body of the message, not in the subject line. I'll start reviewing the most-requested products in my next Rants & Raves column.

IMPORTANT: Though I promise to read every word of every message you send, your vote won't count unless the product name is the Subject of the message.

One last thing: I'll also give an autographed copy of the book that Apple banned from their stores, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger For Dummies (US$14.95 - Amazon), to a lucky voter selected at random from the entries I've received by midnight on Thursday, June 9, 2005.

So, as they say in Chicago, vote early and vote often.


Let's start out with a bunch of devices for listening to music, including desktop speaker systems, portable speaker systems, headphones, earphones, personal monitors, and so on. Since I'm a nut for quality sound at my desk and on the go (with one of my iPods, of course), and all the vendors know it, it should come as no surprise that The Pile™ is chock full of products you use with iTunes, iPods, or GarageBand.

  • Shure E3 Sound Isolating Earphones
  • FutureSonics Ears EM3 Earphones

Both are in-ear phones; both sound great and isolate noise without the overhead of noise cancellation circuitry. Both cost under $150. Which do you want to know more about? Or would you like me to compare the two (they're pretty similar in most respects).

  • Bose SoundDock
  • Harman Multimedia/JBL On Stage
  • Harman Multimedia/JBL On Tour
  • Digital Lifestyle Outfitters iBoom

All of the above are speaker systems for your iPod. Each has certain desirable features; which one (or ones) appeal to you the most?

  • Klipsch ProMedia 2.1

I reviewed two speaker systems I liked a lot -- RSL Digital Fidelity One and Tapco (by Mackie) S5 Reference Monitors -- in Rants & Raves #31 last November. Earlier this year I began presenting a GarageBand demo at my local Apple store once a month. They set up the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speakers for it and they rocked. Priced at around $150 (at the Apple Store but you can find ‘em for a lot less if you shop around on the ‘Net). I thought they totally rocked so I requested them for review in my other column.

Note: If you vote for the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 systems, I'll compare them to the RSL and Tapco systems, both of which are still in use here at Casa Del Doctor Mac.


Moving right along, since I'm a total gadget whore and vendors know it, I probably receive more cool gadgets and accessories in a month than you will buy in a lifetime. Here's just a few of the most-interesting ones (at least in my humble opinion…).

  • PalmOne LifeDrive

The first hard disk based Palm with a huge display; wireless capabilities up the yin-yang; and (allegedly) excellent Mac support.

I say "allegedly" not because I know something you don't, but because the LifeDrive just arrived today and it's still charging as I type this. I'll be playing with it as soon as it's fully charged, so let me know if this interests you and I'll review it here soon.

  • Victorinox CyberTool Lite multi-tool
  • Victorinox Swiss Memory multi-tool

The PR people asked me not to call them "Swiss Army KNIVES," but rather, to call them by their proper name, which is "multi-tool." The Swiss Memory model is small and offers USB flash drives in various capacities; the CyberTool is the ultimate geek gadget with a plethora of tools including not one but two Torx screwdrivers. Yippee!

  • Griffin iTalk

iTalk is an inexpensive microphone that sits on top of your iPod and turns it into a digital recorder. Looks cool but I haven't played with it much so far. Vote for it and I will (play with it much).

  • Griffin iBeam

Believe it or not, this $20 product includes a tiny laser pointer and flashlight that pop onto the top of any dock-connector iPod or iPod mini. If you wanna know more, just cast a vote for iBeam!

  • Miglia AlchemyTV DVR

I like to watch TV at my desk sometimes, but my office is so cluttered there is no room for a real television set. I've been using El Gato's EyeTV 200 FireWire device for some time now but Miglia's offering is a PCI card, thus freeing up one of my powered FireWire ports. It allegedly has better throughput and image quality than the EyeTV external box, but that remains to be tested (but only if you vote for it).

  • Griffin RadioSHARK

Along those same lines, I like to listen to broadcast radio every so often but don't have space for a stereo system or boom box, either. RadioSHARK is a nifty solution -- a USB device that lets you listen to and record any AM or FM radio station as well as "pause" live radio. Way cool.

  • Griffin AirClick and AirClick USB

These are remote control devices you use with your iPod or iPod mini (AirClick) or with Mac applications such as PowerPoint or Keynote (AirClick USB). They look pretty sweet if you ask me, but nobody asked me. So I'm asking you -- are you interested in hearing more about them? If so, you know what to do…

  • DVForge GarageKey

GarageKey is a compact MIDI keyboard with 37 velocity-sensitive keys. It may not have all the bells and whistles you'd find in other MIDI keyboards but its slick, space-saving design could very well make up for that. Want to know if it does? Vote for it now!


Of course I also have plenty of applications, and utilities in The Pile™, so here are a handful of the most promising. Feel free to write in your own candidates if these don't work for you.

  • iLife ‘05

As I'm sure you know, iLife is Apple's inexpensive ($79) suite of cool consumer apps including GarageBand, iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, and iTunes.

  • iWork '05

Apple's other inexpensive ($79) suite of productivity applications. OK, with only two apps -- Keynote and Pages -- it's not really a "suite," it's more like a "room" or "closet." But at that low price, it is a sweet deal.

  • iListen

iListen is a Mac-only continuous speech recognition system. It lets you dictate text into any application as well as control your Mac by voice. I just got it and haven't even finished training it yet; if enough of you vote for it I'll start using it every day.

  • Logic Express 7

Logic and Logic Express are Apple's all-in-one recording-studio-in-a-box applications. Packed with features and digital instruments, they're all you need to create the next Grammy award winning performance. I'm a GarageBand user but plan to learn to use Logic Express soon; vote for it and I'll learn it sooner rather than later.

Last, but definitely not least, I have a Pile™ for products that don't come in a box -- shareware, freeware, and commercial software including:

  • Indy

Indy is a free program our fearless leader Bryan Chaffin turned me on to. It plays free music on your Mac (or Windows or Linux PC) and uses collaborative filtering to let you discover new music. Way cool and both the software and the songs you hear are yours at absolutely no charge.

Almost every Dashboard Widget that's been released (vote for your favorite or favorites by name)

Widgets are all the rage. Is there one or more you'd like to see reviewed? Let me know.

  • Amnesty

Amnesty is a way-cool utility that allows you to use most Dashboard widgets without invoking Dashboard. In other words, it makes Dashboard widgets work the way Konfabulator widgets (and Apple Desk Accessories before them) work.

  • Imaginator

Imaginator is a nifty new graphics program from Stone Design that uses Tiger's new Core Image and Image Units to create amazing effects and movies. It may very well be the most fun you can have with Tiger for under $50…

  • Yasu (Yet Another System Utility)
  • Tiger Cache Cleaner

Both are utilities that profess to make your Mac run better… But do they really? I don't know yet but I'll find out if you want me to.

  • Desktop Manager
  • You Control Desktops

The thought of having several "virtual desktops" set up just the way I like them really appeals to me… Both of these products do just that. Desktop Manager is a freebie; You Control Desktops offers more features but costs $30. Which is better? Which is a better value? Vote for them and I'll test them both extensively and file my report here.


That ought to hold us for a few months. If this experiment succeeds, we'll do it again later in the year.

Once again, if you don't like the stuff in the preceding paragraphs, feel free to submit a write-in candidate. If any of the write-in products garner enough backing from y'all, I'll review them, too.

And that's all he wrote...

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit www.boblevitus.com.

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