MAKE’s “Best of Macworld SF 2006”

MAKE’s “Best of Macworld SF 2006”

Why1We podcasted live, and we posted over 100 photos realtime via a WiFi camera + EVDO as we walked around. Now we’ve picked the top 5 products we liked the most at Macworld SF 2006. It’s safe to say our picks aren’t likely to be the same ones you’ll see in the usual “best of” lists. We gave top marks to products, services and software that we think fit the “Maker” mindset – technology on your time– and a bit of news from the future. Here they are…SketchUp (and Google Earth)…
Our pal Pablos from shmoo turned us on to this software and we finally had a chance to bang on it. If you’re looking to quickly take the thoughts in your head and turn them in to something 3D, this is it. The best way we can describe it is: it’s a 3D sketchbook for Maker types. It’s not going to replace AutoCAD, but it’ll get your stuff out in a jiffy when you’re in “fast faster to succeed sooner” mode…(it exports to DWG/DXF).

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From the site: “SketchUp is a deceptively simple, amazingly powerful tool for creating, viewing, and modifying 3D ideas quickly and easily. SketchUp was developed to combine the elegance and spontaneity of pencil sketching with the speed and flexibility of today’s digital media. Developed for the conceptual stages of design, this powerful yet easy-to-learn software allows for quick and easy 3D form creation, the result is an interface that supports a dynamic, creative exploration of 3D form, material and light. SketchUp combines a compact yet robust tool-set with an intelligent guidance system that streamlines the 3D drawing process.”



But, wait, there’s more … Today they were showing off a Google Earth plugin for SketchUp on the same day Google released Google Earth for Mac OS X. What does that mean? Well, you can design anything you want, then build on top of the real world.

From their press release today: “The folks at Google announced Google Earth for Mac OS X at MacWorld San Francisco today. Here in Boulder we’re working feverishly to keep pace and are proud to annouce the immediate availability of the SketchUp Google Earth Plugin for Mac OS X Beta. We’re pretty jazzed about the Mac OS X release because now all SketchUp users can model in Google Earth! What is it? With the SketchUp Google Earth plugin, you can use Google Earth to view 3D models in their real-world context. You’re no longer limited to just viewing the world through satellite imagery; now you can build on the tapestry provided by Google Earth.”


So sure, this sorta counts as two, but we’re going to call it one. We’re 50/50 on Mac and PC usage, but Google Earth for Macs is pushing us to the 60/40 line – Google Earth is really the best location-based RSS reader in the world.

Price: Free 8 hour demo, $495+ for the goods after that. Google Earth free (unless you go pro with it).
Visit Sketchup.
Visit Google Earth for Mac OS X.


Onset HOBO Sensors & Data Loggers
These little HOBO guys are data loggers; just toss them in pond, or somewhere you need to record temperature, humidity or all sorts of environmental data, then collect them later. Pop in the USB cradle and grab the data, and use their software to analyize or export the data for use in anything else. There are million projects we want to do with these HOBOs, and a million more we haven’t thought of yet.

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From the site “Onset’s new HOBO FlexSmart Logger is a modular, reconfigurable data logging system for energy and industrial monitoring applications. The 15-channel system enables energy and facility management professionals to quickly and easily solve a broad range of monitoring applications without having to purchase a toolbox full of loggers. Innovative, snap-in FlexSmart signal conditioning modules convert signals from nearly any type of sensor, and a suite of pre-defined plug-and-play smart sensors and powerful HOBOware software make set-up and deployment fast and easy.”

Flexsmart Detail

Price: Looks like $299 for a set up to really get cooking.
Visit Onset.
Rocsecure ROCBIT 3 – External USB 2.0/Firewire hard drives with real-time encryption
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you. We’ve tried to keep up with encrypting our data, PGPing stuff, but unless it’s all automatic, we all get lazy, and that means the data is pretty much for the taking if our gear is lost or stolen. Every time we hear about some government/university/credit card company/hospital laptop “missing with thousands of records,” we keep hoping they’ll eventually move to -something- like these drives.

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From the site “The Rocsecure Rocbit 3 external hard drives are industry’s most versatile, Real-Time Hardware Encrypted storage solution available. Rocbit 3A, USB2.0 and FireWire 400 Combo drives offer security-sensitive users a wide range of NIST certified DES (Data Encryption Standard) and TDES (Triple DES) encrypted algorithms. Rocbit 3.5” drives are designed with DES/TDES 40/64/128 or 192-bit Real-Time Hardware data encryption security performance which effectively intercept, interpret, translate and relay IDE data commands to and from disk drives in “Real-Time”. Rocbit 3 products are designed with patented Anti-Shock hard disk protection. Rocsecure drives offer the technologies you need to keep you data secure and safe.”

Rocbit350 010

Price: Usually under $200 – knowing your MAME ROM collection is secure, priceless.
Visit Rocsecure.

MYVU LCD Goggles for iPod video (and any portable device that has video out)
While there are millions of video iPods out there and tons of people watching more (and longer) content, we’re not going to hold our video iPods in our hands for a full length feature. We’ve used some type of LCD goggles for VR applications, movie watching and a lot of other projects – the only problem is they’re all way too geeky. We don’t mind – an LCD bolted to ourselves or “volunteer” is often the least of geek attire lately – but there’s hope!

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MYVU is a set of tiny, light LCD goggles that don’t seem that bizarre at all. The screen is respectable, and the built-in headphone sounds great. Sure, there’s a little bit of a Jordie LaForge factor, but the 50 or so people we watched try these on at the booth all pretty much said “these ain’t that bad, I could wear them.” Of course these are the guys who wear a Bluetooth headset 24/7, but don’t be surprised if we start seeing a lot of folks wearing something like this more and more.

Price: Under $300? but they’re not for sale yet, so that could change.
Visit MicroOptical.

Griffin Media Dock Mystery product thingie…?
This media dock from Griffin does it all: it can stream in iTunes, charge your iPod, put audio and video on your TV, and it has its own special media interface. We don’t have a ton of details about this, but that’s because it’s not out yet.

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From what we saw, it’s so good, we’re sure Apple is just going to clone what Griffin did for future iPod docks (er, iFM?). It’s like a hardware version of Front Row with an Airport express built in, for your iPod. We haven’t seen this posted/covered anywhere else, so maybe it didn’t exist.

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Price: ?
Visit Griffin.


Special note, we could have picked more, but we have an entire photo set of the rest of the things we really liked, so be sure to check them out.

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