SmartDeck

Griffin Technology has introduced SmartDeck, an iPod-to-cassette adapter which senses the tape deck’s movements and sends the appropriate remote control signals to your iPod. While it currently only works with iPods that sport a serial remote control, the device can tell the speed and direction of the small wheels inside your cassette player which are normally used to move the magnetic tape from one tiny reel to the other. Cassette adapters have no tape, so the wheels usually spin free while your play music through your car stereo via your iPod. With the SmartDeck, you can keep your iPod stashed in the glovebox and simply use the tape deck’s buttons to remotely control the iPod. What an awesome idea.

SmartDeck

Cricket Robot

Here’s a great project I happened to run across while sorting through bookmarks. Henry Arnold’s Cricket is a six-legged walking robot, controlled by a BASIC Stamp II microcontroller. Full wiring diagrams, frame layouts, and source code are all available for you to make your own ‘bot.

While the site doesn’t look like it’s changed in the last five or so years, the project is none the less fun to build and learn from. I put one together one many years ago as my first robot built from scratch, not using pre-made kits or packages of any sort. All the materials had to be bought from various suppliers, cut, assembled, etc. It took a number of weeks to get it going, but it was a great learning experience. During the process, I emailed back and forth with the designer himself, and he was most helpful. The Cricket robot was my first introduction to programming microcontrollers, and that has since spurred on many other hardware projects.

Definitely give it a look if you want to get into electronics or embedded hardware.

Cricket Robot

Comcast Setup

Here’s a scary article detailing the unsafe security practices of Comcast’s cable modem setup software. Definitely worth a read if you have or plan to set up cable internet through Comcast. I’m glad I’ve always insisted on just calling them up after receiving the cable modem and simply reading off the serial number and MAC address off the bottom of the modem.

Setting up an internet connection really shouldn’t require anything complicated, much less software that poses a significant security threat to your computer. If Macs do eventually end up with viruses and trojans and all that mess, it will be because of serious oversights like this on the part of other companies, not bugs within OS itself. That said, I’ve been quite happy with the speed of Comcast’s service, that’s for sure.

Comcast Setup

PodWorks and Cocoalicious

I may have mentioned them in comments before, but I felt that following their recent upgrades, I should point out these two Mac gems: PodWorks and Cocoalicious. Both applications come from Sci-Fi Hi-Fi, Buzz Anderson’s one-man software company.

PodWorks is a utility for recovering (or just copying) songs from your iPod. It does so by reading the iPod’s semi-hidden music database and allowing you to choose songs to import back to your computer. I can imagine if Apple had their say, this feature would be in iTunes, however the music industry likely pressured them to disable the ability to copy songs from iPods to prevent the average user from stealing tons of music en masse. An issue arises, though, when you happen to irreversibly delete songs from your computer, your hard drive croaks, or some other catastrophe befalls your Mac — your songs then only exist on your iPod, and there’s no Apple-provided solution for restoring your ripped or purchased music. Both represent a valuable investment, be it time, money, or both. PodWorks will quickly scan attached iPods and present you with an iTunes-style list, from which you can copy any song, group, or playlist back to your computer, even straight to iTunes if you so choose. There are a number of utilities in the Mac world that do such a thing, but none do it with the speed and ease that PodWorks offers. For this reason, PodWorks is my favorite iPod tool out there.

The second utility from Sci-Fi Hi-Fi that I use and love is Cocoalicious. A Cocoa interface for the popular social bookmarking site del.icio.us, Cocoalicious provides a fantastic way to add, edit, and search through saved items. Among it’s notable features, the one I enjoy the most is full-text searching. Cocoalicios can search through bookmark titles, web addresses, tags, and *actual content* from the bookmarked site. If tagging makes finding items simple, then Cocoalicious makes it idiot-proof.

Small, quick, and to-the-point programs like those above are what the Mac is really about.

PodWorks and Cocoalicious

.Mac Upgrade

Apple recently upgraded their .Mac service to include 1 GB of storage for email and iDisk, possibly trying to compete with Gmail’s now 2.5 GB of free storage. They also posted a new version of their Backup application, which backs up any files or settings you choose to your iDisk or other media. The new version also offers incremental backups, which only store the changes since the previous one, as opposed to copying volumes of data all over again and eating up more space than necessary.

Apple must do some analysis as to when the majority of .Mac accounts are up for renewal and time thier marketing push right before that, as my subscription expires in early October. I was, reluctantly, one of the free iTools to paid .Mac switchers, and I’m guessing many others were, too. I think they’re right on with the new additions, though — it looks like I’ll be renewing .Mac again this year.

.Mac Upgrade