Archive for the ‘Products: Good’ Category

IMAP is better email

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

IMAP lets you have the best parts of a corporate email server for your personal life. Jennifer Berger at MacWorld recently saw the light – you should take a look. As she says:

IMAP lets me keep all my e-mail on my company’s e-mail server, along with any custom folders, and my Sent items. I can now find my way though any e-mail thread, no matter which machine I’m using. The downside of this situation, of course, and one that might make a lot of people nervous, is that everything is stored on a server unless you move items to your computer.

Well, if you use a client like Thunderbird, you can cache all the email locally and back it up to CD, avoiding the problem of having email only on the server. Once you have it all set up, it really is simpler than trying to fake everything through POP3 access. I’ve even moved my mom over to IMAP through Fastmail.

Consolidate your computer and TV

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

This is a great way to save on clutter and expense. We live in an apartment, so the computer is right where an entertainment center would be anyway. Rather than buying a big, heavy, expensive TV plus a big, heavy, expensive monitor, put all the cash into a nice LCD monitor. You’ll need a TV tuner card – but they can be picked up pretty cheaply now, even for good quality modern cards. Apparently software like Beyond TV is pretty cool, but most cards come with basic software included. There are HDTV / Digital TV solutions as well, but that whole story is too complicated for this Minimalist – we’ll wait another year or two before looking into it again.

But what about your laptop? Digital Media Thoughts pointed us to the amazingly small and simple Compro USB TV Tuner Stick. It looks like a USB thumb drive, but you plug it in, and it is a full TV tuner. No need for external power or an antenna. Yow. If it actually tunes in well, that looks like a pretty nice solution.

Retractable cables rock, but I can’t find…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

I hate cables and adapters both at home and while traveling. Problem number one is the huge number of incompatible chargers. This WaPo article says it best:

“If you switch [cell phone] brands, it won’t work,” Kammerer said of his many chargers. “I wish they were standardized. My briefcase gets heavy.”

Manufacturers argue that providing their own chargers ensures the quality of the service, said Jeff Joseph, a spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association. Also, at $30 to $50 for a charger, “it’s an important revenue source.”

Yeah, whatever. I’d buy more electronics if I didn’t have to ditch all my accessories and adapters, and that would also be an important revenue source. -10 points for Jeff Joseph. I don’t know how to solve the charger problem yet. There are some products that try to be an all-in-one charging solution, but I’ve never found any that seem really good.

For other cable issues, retractable cables can at least help while you’re on the road. Zip-linq is the most famous, but now there are tons of knock-offs. This kit combines a whole bunch of retractable cables in one case, so you at least get a bulk discount, I guess. But it is still quite a bit of stuff to drag around. This kit is a much better solution. It has a single retractable cable, with adapters to turn it into a variety of different connectors. But it still is too many little parts to keep track of. I haven’t been able to find the best of all worlds. I like the Roadwired style of retractable cable. It is a solid hunk of rectangular plastic you can throw in your bag without worrying about anything snagging or breaking. I want one of these with slots to store a bunch of adapters to reconfigure the cable for phone, ethernet, USB, etc. That would be the best of all worlds. Anyone know of such a thing?

Artificial legs: high technology = simplicity

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

Most often, high tech is overly complicated. However, as the NYT points out this morning, high tech is making prostheses much simpler and better for those who have lost their legs. Of course, they have to be plugged in, but that seems reasonable for the benefit they provide:

He recalled attending a party where the lithium-ion batteries for his legs went dead.

“I usually get 30 hours out of them before I have to charge them again,” he said. “But I didn’t charge them up the day before.”

When his legs ran out of power, he said he spent most of his time sitting on a couch talking to people with his legs plugged into an electrical outlet nearby. “It was fine,” he said, adding that no one seemed to care.

I love the phrase “when his legs ran out of power.” Happened to me while jogging this morning, but I had to eat a hearty breakfast of huevos rancheros to fuel back up.

Stick with SD memory cards

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005

In the beginning, there was Compact Flash (CF). Then that was too big, and thus was created Secure Digital (SD). Then manufacturers created “standards” for a bajillion other random formats that annoy the heck out of anyone who shops for digital cameras, PDAs, cellphones, and laptops. Fortunately, there are some products that help with the mish-mash. Today, I’d recommend sticking with SD. It is about as inexpensive as CF, has large capacities, and there are a variety of SD to CF adapters (1 2 3 4) that will allow you to use it in any CF device as well. I’d recommend one that adapts the SD card to the thinner Type I version of CF, since it will work in more devices. Good deal. Don’t fall into the “I’ll just buy separate cards for each device” trap. Shop for devices that can all use the same cards to reduce your mental overhead.

Yes, there are adapters that adapt smaller card formats to SD, but we don’t know if you can then adapt those to CF without issues. Getting too complicated…brain hurting…

Cat litter is darn heavy and annoying

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

We don’t have a car, and lugging cat litter home is a major hassle. Plus, it generates lots of waste, and get tracked all over our apartment. I’d heard of this before, but Cool Hunting has a blurb about a device to train your cat to use the toilet. Sound like a potentially messy and annoying process, but if you start ’em young, this would be a boon for years and years. You’ll just have to explain to houseguests that putting the seat down is very important.