Category Archives: Hardware

New Product – DRIFT Wi-Fi

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Product Announcement – Karma Mobility of Irving, Texas, providers of the technology that let’s you take Wifi everywhere at a better cost than conventional WiFi providers, has launched DRIFT, a best priced pay as you go service. At $3 per month and $10 per GB used. DRIFT bests the pay-as-you-go market by $17 per month. DRIFT customers also get a credit back for any unused portion of data at the end of each month.

Karma reports account set up is simple and easy and takes only a few minutes. Additionally, DRIFT customers who share their connection get free data while sharing and earn a $1 credit for every guest that connects. Customers can manage their account and data on their phone and via the web with the ability to change their plan at any time. Drift requires no contracts, has no hidden fees and customers can cancel at any time.

Drift can be used across the US in over 460 cities. It uses a 4G LTE connection and falls back to CDMA 3G in the most remote areas where 4G LTE coverage is not available. Users with a 4G LTE connection can download 6-8Mbps with peaks up to 25Mbps and upload 2-3Mbps. CDMA 3G speeds provide Download .6-1.4Mbps with peaks up to 3.1Mbps and Uploads of .35-5Mbps.

Laptops, tablets and phones can all connect within 100 feet of the Karma Go device which is small, sleek and portable weighing just 2.3 ounces and has a battery life up to 6 hours and 220 hours of standby time.

Mac ‘How To’ Channel on YouTube

Most of us that have used a Mac are familiar with Other World Computing (OWC), particularly if you have upgraded your Mac. I have ordered from them more than once and took advantage of their memory and SSDs when I upgraded my Mac Mini a couple of years ago.

I did not realize until recently that they have an entire YouTube channel of “How To” videos.  There are hundreds of videos available – some specific to OWC products and upgrades, but many others just general “How To” guides. Of particular value are their videos on how to upgrade to to an SSD and how to install memory for a variety of Macs.

If you are considering an upgrade, or just want to open up your Mac for whatever reasons, these guides will be a good place to start. They will show you how challenging, or how easy a ‘do it yourself’ upgrade will be.


See my other Mac and OS X articles


 

Mac New Hardware Upgrade – 1TB PCIe SSD

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Product Announcement – MCE Technologies (MCE) of San Dimas, California has announced the world’s fastest 1TB internal PCIe-based SSD upgrade solution for the Mac Pro (Late 2013). Based on 4 Lane (x4) PCIe architecture, the 1TB SSD Upgrade features read speeds of up to 1400MB/sec and write speeds of up to 1150MB/s. All necessary tools to perform the installation, an illustrated installation guide, and drive cloning software are included.

The MCE 1TB PCIe-based SSD Upgrade for the Mac Pro (Late 2013) takes full advantage of the PCIe (4 Lane) architecture present in those machines. It can reach speeds of up to 1400MB/sec reading and up to 1150MB/s writing. The 1TB PCIe-based flash drives are compatible with all versions of Mac OS X capable of running on the Mac Pro (Late 2013) as well as Mac OS X Boot Camp, feature native TRIM and S.M.A.R.T. support to ensure longevity and each drive carries a three year warranty.

The MCE 1TB PCIe-based SSD Upgrade Kits for Mac Pro (Late 2013) retail for $699.00 (USD) and are user-installable. Each kit includes the 1TB PCIe-based SSD for Mac Pro, installation toolkit, illustrated installation guide, and drive cloning software.

Mac New Accessory – AC AirPort Time Capsule Upgrade

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Product Announcement – QuickerTek of Wichita, Kansas has announced an Apple AC AirPort Time Capsule upgrade. The upgrade adds a 5TB (Terabyte) hard drive and, by request, six external antennas. Designed as a central backup solution for all of the Mac computers in your home or office, the addition of the 5TB hard drive adds a boost in storage capabilities for those in need of more than the 2TB or 3TB storage offered with the unit alone. To complete this upgrade, QuickerTek first opens the chasis and removes the existing hard drive. Once this is done, the 5TB hard drive is slid into the empty space and plugged into the internal board.

The antenna upgrade not only offers dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz Wi-Fi, it also triples the range of the Time Capsule. The improved wireless power allows users the ability to arrange and use their Apple wireless anywhere they choose by providing a wider range and blasting through common line of sight objects. The standard Apple AirPort Time Capsule does not have a built-in port to connect these antennas. So, QuickerTek engineered a means of modifying them with antenna connectors. Customers will quickly discover the wireless performance they have been missing. Buffering is eliminated and multi-user Wi-Fi connections are all smooth and fast.

QuickerTek is the only company in the world offering this innovative upgrade. Two different product versions are available: a 2TB Time Capsule upgraded with the 5TB hard drive alone for $499 (USD) or a 2TB Time Capsule upgraded with both the 5TB hard drive and high gain 5dBi antennas for $699 (USD).

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 3.85″ x 3.85″ x 16″
  • Weight: 2.38 lbs
  • Color: White

Includes:

  • User manual
  • Adapter cables
  • Mounting base
  • 5TB hard drive
  • Six 5dBi antennas

Pricing:

  • 5TB Upgrade Only $499 (USD)
  • 5TB Upgrade with High Gain Antennas $699 (USD)

Like most QuickerTek products, the new Time Capsule Extreme AC Hard Drive and 5TB Antenna Upgrade is backed with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

Impressive New Robot

We have seen wheeled robots. We have seen two legged and four legged robots. The new Boston Dynamics ‘Handle’ merges wheels and legs in an innovative design.

With a 24 kilometer (15 mile) range on a single battery charge, and the ability to pick up and carry loads up to 45 kilograms (99 pounds), this is an impressive robot. The ability to handle a variety of terrains and obstacles easily is also impressive.

Large Military Quadcopter in Development

A large “hoverbike” like quadcopter is being developed for the military, the JTARV(Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle) intended for autonomous delivery of supplies to troops. The current vehicle can carry up to 300 pounds over short distances. The goal is to increase the range to 125 miles and to increase the payload to 800 pounds.

The prototype was flown recently at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

If the development is successful, and the goals are met, then these could serve many uses in the front lines.

See:

DON’T Plug in Just Any USB Drive!

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We have been aware of the threat of USB devices with auto-run malware for some time. More recently a worse device has surfaced, a USB Killer. This sounds like some fictional device you would see in a movie, but it is real.

This looks like any other USB drive, but the hardware is such that seconds after inserting it into a USB port, a disabling charge will be delivered. The USB Killer device charges up an internal capacitor from the 5V power supplied by the USB port. Once the charge reaches a high level (more than 200 volts) the capacitor is discharged back into the port. This process is repeated for as long as the device receives power. The power surge is fatal for most systems. The USB Killer device can then be unplugged and used again and again.

Not only have these devices been designed and tested, you can order one on-line from a Hong Kong company for less than $60. The product is advertised to “test USB ports for vulnerability”. Now at $60 each someone isn’t going to be buying and spreading the devices around, but it is cheap enough that someone up to no-good could purchase and then fry several several devices. How often do you see a laptop left unattended for a few minutes in a cafe?

The manufacturer claims “Our tests reveal that more than 95% of all devices using USB ports will be damaged permanently or completely destroyed by a USB power surge attack.” They do go on to say that “To date [August 16, 2016], the only hardware that resisted … tests was the latest model Macbooks ­which optically isolate the data lines on the USB ports.

If the evil doer is more creative, they can build their own device. I found one YouTube video where a $3 USB device was purchased on-line then modified to deliver a killing charge. Explicit “how to” instructions were given on how to weaponize the device.

What makes this scary and dangerous is that a recent study conducted by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the University of Michigan and Google indicated that ‘found’ USB drives are often plugged into a computer. In this particular test 297 devices were spread around the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus. The result was that they found “that users pick up and connect an estimated 45%–98% of the drives we dropped.

Keep in mind that these USB Killer devices can affect any system with a USB port – computers, TVs, entertainment systems, autos, etc.

How do you protect yourself? If you find a USB drive do not plug it in!


See my other cyber security articles


 

MacBook Pro 15-inch Staad Attache

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Product Announcement – WaterField Designs of San Francisco, California has released  the Staad Attache, a beautifully-designed, unique laptop bag now in a custom-size for Apple’s new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. With its novel military buckle, densely padded laptop compartment and clean, modern lines, the handsome Staad laptop bag blends high functionality with elegant style, bridging the gap between casual messenger bag and formal briefcase. WaterField Designs has been designing and manufacturing custom laptop sleeves, bags, and cases for digital gear in its San Francisco studio since 1998.

The Staad’s thoughtful design anticipates users’ every need. A customized internal pocket protects the 15-inch MacBook Pro with dense foam on all sides and is covered by a scratch-free liner. Two interior pockets keep accessories within easy reach. The Staad’s slim main compartment features a gold liner enabling users to quickly spot individual contents. A large front pocket opens on two sides with sleek waterproof zippers and includes a scratch-free interior pocket for the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus.

A black ballistic or waxed canvas base sports a full-grain, distressed leather flap. A unique clip developed by the military – once used to instantly access ammunition – opens the bag with a “quick flick.” To reduce shoulder and back fatigue, a comfortable and adjustable suspension shoulder strap can be worn messenger style or over one shoulder; alternatively, a leather-lined handle provides a more formal carrying option. The premium, full-grain leather improves with age for a stunning overall look.

WaterField offers a full lineup of bags and cases customized to carry and protect Apple’s new MacBook Pro series. The Maxwell Sleeve, SleeveCase, Dash Sleeve and Suede Jacket sleeve all offer various levels of protection in custom-fit sizes. Bags with built-in, cushioned MacBook Pro 15-inch compartments include the Field Muzetto and Muzzeto Leather bags, the Staad and Bolt Backpacks, the Bolt Briefcase, the HardCase and WaterField’s signature Cargo bag.

Staad Attache Dimensions:

  • 13-inch – 14 x 10.5 x 1~3 inches; 1.8 lbs.
  • 15-inch – 16 x 11.25 x 1~3.5inches; 2.15 lbs.

Staad Attache Price – 13-inch: $229. 15-inch: $239 (USD). Colors: Lightweight brown waxed canvas or black ballistic nylon body. Full-grain leather flap and accents in black, chocolate or grizzly.

Review of the Go Travel Worldwide Adapter

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Product Review – As I mentioned in my “checklist”  article, on my most recent trip, I forgot to take along a power adapter. After finding that our hotel was only wired for European power, my wife and I set out to find one for the remainder of our trip.

We were lucky to come across the Go Travel Worldwide Adapter, costing about $25 US. I have some other power adapters somewhere at home, but this is the first I have seen that is multiple adapters in one device.

We bought this and used it throughout our trip. It easily worked with my electric razor as well as our multi-port USB charger. Between using this adapter and the charger, we were able to keep our iPhones, Apple Watches and iPads charged throughout the trip.

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Compact
  • Works with power in over 150 countries

 

Cons

  • Selected plug gives way sometimes when trying to plug the adapter in
  • Only one 120VAC outlet
  • No USB charging ports

 

I would strongly suggest buying your power adapter before you leave on your trip instead of searching for it after you arrive at your destination like we did. This adapter can be ordered through the Go Travel Products website.

macOS – Gumdrop MacBook Pro Case

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Product Announcement – it’s more important than ever to protect it with the right case. The best case for the new MacBook Pro is the DropTech from Gumdrop Cases.

The new DropTech MacBook Pro case not only protects from scratches and splashes, but also from disastrous, damaging drops. It’s Gumdrop’s most rugged case design yet! The DropTech’s unique design strategically employs a combination of rugged and high impact materials that have no problem protecting the edges and corners of the MacBook from normal use and repeated abuse.

The bumpers in each corner are made from 10mm of silicone to maximize protection without being overly bulky. Beneath the protective bumpers is a clear Polycarbonate inner top shell. The shell is tough, and lightweight, allowing for lasting protection from general wear-and-tear. Plus, it’s easy to clean and can show off the iconic Apple logo, asset tags, school logos, or anything else you need to add to your MacBook!

Installation is a snap! No tools, no sweat. Just slip it into the case, and give it a simple snap and click! It will stay on when you open and close your MacBook, allow access to all ports, and provide proper ventilation so your MacBook doesn’t overheat!

Why are cases so important?
Case protection is incredibly important for keeping a MacBook within warranty, and saves customers from spending a considerable amount of money on repair (or even full replacement cost!).

You can settle for a hard shell case, or a sleeve of some kind, but those may only help protect from scratches and splashes. Zippered sleeves can get left behind. Clip-on shells pop-off off at the first hint of trouble and don’t always offer adequate protection. Any decent drop can crack the screen or casing, or damage the insides (including the battery) – even with your MacBook covered in a hard shell or sleeve!

FYI: Apple’s warranty DOES NOT cover damage caused by accidents! If they see any damage on the outside, it will most likely void your warranty and you will have to pay for repair or replacement.

In fact, just a single 1-foot drop can dent the casing, as shown in a drop test video Gumdrop Cases took a year ago with two 11″ MacBook Airs; one protected by our SoftShell case and one completely unprotected.

Never dropped, or banged up a laptop? You don’t have to be a klutz or walking disaster to worry about your computer hitting the ground or getting scratched up from regular use. You could simply be:

  • Someone who uses their MacBook in the field and need something to protect it
  • A student who carries their MacBook between home and class
  • A commuter who knocks out some work with a MacBook on their lap
  • An employee carrying their MacBook around the office and into meetings
  • A teacher who stores MacBooks in a cart
  • Someone who slips their MacBook into a briefcase or bag often

Whatever the situation, if you’re a mobile, on-the-go Mac user you should protect your new MacBook Pro with a DropTech case! And, if you are a bit of a klutz, then you shouldn’t need any further convincing to protect a computer that cost you over $1499.

The DropTech case for the new MacBook Pro will be available in a White/Blue color combination for only $69.95. Gumdrop Cases also offers a DropTech case to protect the 13-inch MacBook Air for $69.95 (fits models from 2013-present).