BlueTooth Speakers by BlueAnt

Bluetooth speakers are a great way to put audio sound where you want it without running wires.

Couple of things to keep in mind when toying with the idea of getting a stereo bluetooth speaker system...

1) You must be running a device with Bluetooth A2DP capabilities (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile). Any Mac running either Leopard (10.5) or Snow Leopard (10.6) is fully compliant with A2DP and can take full advantage of the stereo aspect of Bluetooth. There have been bluetooth speakers around for some time but those haven't been stereo. Only with the release of Leopard (10.5.6 to be specific) has this capability be available for the Mac platform. The version 3.0 software release for the iPhone and iPod touch bring this feature along too.

2) Keep you expectations within reason. Remember, Bluetooth is a "NEAR-BY" technology meant to transmit within a 10 meter (approx 30 ft) range. This means that it will work fine for a normal room but not-so-well for broadcasting across the whole house.

image BlueAnt M1 Bluetooth Stereo Speakers
This stand alone system features a portable system capable of transmitting 28 watts of sound for up to ten hours on a single charge. It comes with a charger cable and an 3.5mm imput jack for using with none bluetooth mp3 players and devices.

Big sound from a small box.

BlueAnt M1 Bluetooth Stereo Speakers

Skype Phone - Hand Held Set

As I mentioned in my review of Skype VOIP Service, I think the service is worthwhile and one I use more and more. In the beginning one of the things I wasn't fond of however, was that I had to have my headset handy for whenever someone called me. If wasn't at my desk and a Skype call came in, I would have to rush to put on the headset and operate the software to answer the call. More than once I missed a call because I wasn't able to move fast enough.

image IPEVO FREE-2 USB Handset for SKYPE with LCD Screen White
That went away when i picked up this Handheld Set from Ipevo. It works just like a regular phone. When a call comes in, you pick this unit up and answer. Yes, the software needs to be running on your computer but the phone handles all the necessary functionality.

Some things I need to point out... 1) This is a USB device so you'll need to have a spare USB 2.0 port available, and 2) this handset looks big but it's not. It's around 6-1/2 inches long so that puts it in the cell phone arena. I like this cause it makes it easy to throw into a brief case and take with me. This is great for traveling business people. It takes up little room on my desk too so I like that as well.

A small package that packs a big punch. I like Skype for the money it saves me so spending a ton on accessories would negate those savings. This phone is very inexpensive and will pay for itself in less than one month of traditional phone service.

This is a great Skype accessory - for me it was a necessity.

IPEVO FREE.2 USB Handset for SKYPE with LCD Screen

Airport Express Cable Kit

This kit is for those folks that want to stay strictly Apple when extending their audio output from an Apple Airport Express. Yes, there are less expensive options out there but none of those keep with the sleek white Apple design motif.

image Apple Airport Express Stereo Connection Kit with Monster Cables M9573LL/A

This set includes three cables to compliment the Airport Express. There's an extension power cable, a Monster mini-to-RCA left and right audio cable, and a Monster mini-to-optical digital Toslink audio cable. Most folks won't use that last cable - however, sophisticated audiophiles will appreciate it.


Apple Airport Express Stereo Connection Kit w/Monster Cables

FireWire Adapter - 6-Pin to 4-Pin

Adapters are good things to have around. You never know when you might need to hook one device to another and need some sort of connection changer thingamajig.

image Cables To Go - 27028 - Firewire 6-Pin Female 4-Pin Male Adapter
This firewire adapter has a 6 pin female conection on one end and 4 pin male conector on the other end - thereby converting a 6 pin male ended cable to a 4 pin male end. In short, this converts from 6 pin to 4 pin.

So what are you giving up with the loss of 2 pins? Power. This adapter should not be used for any firewire device that gets its power from the firewire bus. Chances are that if the device you want to connect to has a 4 pin connector on it, it most likely doesn't get its power thru firewire anyway. I only mention it for those that want to know what's the difference between 4 pin and 6 pin firewire. ok?

Firewire 6-Pin Female 4-Pin Male Adapter

Card Reader - Flash Memory Format

Preserve and extend the life of your flash memory card device with one of these card readers.

image flash card reader from kingston
This hooks up to your Mac via a USB 2.0 connection. It'll save wear and tear on those delicate connectors. Instead of plugging and unplugging directly to the computer, use this accessory to act as the go between for your camera and other flash memory component.

The Kingston 19-in-1 USB 2.0 Flash Memory Card Reader supports 19 card types including SD, MMC and CF formats. With the self-contained USB cable and an additional 3-foot cable for stationary use you'll add years to your camera or other flash storage device.

Kingston 19-in-1 USB 2.0 Flash Memory Card Reader

FireWire Hub - 6 Port

Hubs are a great accessory. It's an easy way to add more connections to your system, AND save wear and tear on those ports within your computer.

For those peripherals that you plug in once during system setup, using the ports on the computer is just fine. However, for those devices that you repeatedly connect, such as webcams, card readers, video cameras, iPods, iPhones, headphones, and portable hard drives, using a hub is a much better option.

image Belkin FireWire 6-Port Hub F5U526-APL
Repeatedly plugging and unplugging puts stress and strain on those connections. Over time there's a very good chance that a port's soldier connection will eventually fail. With a hub, you can just switch to a different port or if necessary, replace the hub.

Changing out a hub is a lot easier and more economical than having to repair your computer. A hub also puts those ports within easy reach - you won't find yourself standing on your head to make a connection on the back side of your computer.

This Hub, by Belkin, is a FireWire version and comes with 6 ports. It's a powered hub meaning it can act as a repeater, so you can place devices up to an additional 15 feet (4.5 meters) from other connected FireWire peripherals. Connecting devices to the Hub using 6-pin to 6-pin FireWire cables enables them to draw power from the hub and not the computer. This port can transmit data up 400Mbps - depending on the capacity of your devices.

Belkin FireWire 6-Port Powered Hub


One final note: External Hard drives should NOT be connected to a Firewire hub - they should be connected directly to your computer. While some hard drives work fine on a hub, a good share of them do not. If your documentation for the hard drive indicates that they will work on a hub then it's ok to do so. Unless you know for sure, my advice is to play it safe and plug those into the back of the computer.

FireWire Active Extension Cable

Firewire is a great high-speed interface protocol. The communications bandwidth is excellent prompting Apple to become one of the first computer manufacturers to incorporate this serial bus interface into their entire product line.

Firewire is great for close connections but if you need to extend the distance between devices, you could run into problems with signal degradation.

I prefer to live within the suggested limits of around 10 feet but sometimes it's necessary to push that limit. To do that, you need to get one of these Active Extension Cables. An active extension cable amplifies and repeats the signal to go that extra distance.

image ieee1394 active extension firewire cable
With this active extension cable, you can now extend your current cable another 16 feet! This is ideal for any situation where your device needs to be placed some distance from your computer. One example might be a video surveillance camera.

Incidentally, you can daisy chain up to 5 of these cables together to achieve a distance of over 80 feet. However, be aware that each time you extend the cable, a potential for interference is introduced.

FireWire 6 Pin Active Extension Cable 5 meter (16.4 ft) long

Airport External Booster Antenna

In most cases the Airport Base Station works pretty darn well. There are times though where it could use a boost. This antenna is a great way to give your Airport Extreme a hand. This is especially true if you need to elevate the signal but can't easily move the Base Station.

Here in the southwest, many homes are built with thick solid walls and there are a lot of stucco walls too. That wire mesh under the stucco raises cane with a wireless signal. This product may just help you solve a weak signal problem.

You can plug this antenna into the back of the AE and then place the antenna where you want. It also makes it easy to experiment where to put the antenna. You can easily move this booster around without having to deal with all the cords and cables coming out of the Airport - something you would have to do if you didn't have this antenna but had to move the box instead.

I find it curious that Apple no longer offers an extension antenna but continues to place a connector on the Airport. Thank goodness for this 3rd party source.

UPDATE: Early models of the AE came with an external antenna connection port. The most recent models however, no longer have this port. It's still possible to add an external to an airport that doesn't have this antenna port but it involves opening up the airport extreme case and reconnecting antenna leads. I don't recommend doing this as it voids the warranty. If on the other hand you are comfortable around electronic devices and your unit is out of warranty, visit this link for instructions on how to attach an external antenna to an Airport Base Station and click on the drop-down menu at the bottom of the page titled 'Installation Instructions. The antenna booster shown here is connected in this manner

image Tri-Band Antenna for AirPort Extreme Base Station 802.11 n

Tri-Band Antenna for AirPort Extreme Base Station (802.11 n)

SECONDARY NOTE: The above booster antenna is not always available. If not available, you may want to consider other ways of boosting your wireless signals by reading my post entitled Apple Airport Antenna Booster Solutions