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How-to Avoid Bruised Apples, Missed TV Shows and Sore Necks
Speck's See-Thru Hard Shell Case, Slingbox's TV solution and the iLevel Stand

By Jerry Weiss

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Speck's See-Thru hard case adds a stylish look to your MacBook and MacBook Pro while providing protection against those unavoidable bumps that come with toting around a laptop. The longtime iPod accessory maker incorporates uses an easy snap-on design for this two-piece case that gives you easy access to all ports and the optical drive. The See-Thru is available in clear or translucent red made from polycarbonate plastic (there's also a canvas sport edition which comes in pink or black).

Although you might think that the casing would trap heat and cause those nasty problems that sometimes hampered earlier Mac portables, it actually does the opposite. The design of the See-Thru lifts the bottom of the MacBook enough to allow heat to easily dissipate.

Available for 15" MacBook and MacBook Pro's, Speck's design team did an amazing job of enhancing the computer's already stylish design by accenting some of the nice details in the Mac's shell.

Sling Media Slingbox

Do you hate missing your favorite TV show because you're on the road and nowhere near a TV? Slingbox has come up with an elegant, subscription-free solution for watching and controlling your own TV on your Internet-connected laptop.

The uniquely designed Chunky chocolate styled box weighs a mere 1.5 pounds, and incorporates S-Video, composite RCA video and audio I/O connectors on the back along with a few indicator lights. I hooked the Slingbox to my TV, connected it to my home network and inserted the installation CD in my Intel core duo Mac Book Pro (1GB RAM, ATI Radeon X1600 128MB, OS X 10.4.4, set at 1024 x 768 resolution); 60MB of installation later and I was ready to rock.

I launched the application, pushed the "watch" button and started surfing live Direct TV channels with very decent looking quality video. Most of us with previous experience on earlier tuner cards have become accustomed to less than stellar video quality. Although the Slingbox doesn't completely break that trend the tuner streams TV beautifully in a 1/4 size window. When you blow up the video beyond that, you will notice some issues including pixilated images and choppy action shots which detract somewhat from the overall experience.

Despite these shortcomings, it's great to be able to watch your living room TV programming from wherever you are. By simply heading to the nearest Starbucks with a WiFi connection, I can now watch Monday Night Football on my laptop via my home entertainment system while sipping Venti latte - now that's living large.

Rain Design iLevel

Having recently downgraded size from a PowerMac G5 computer for a 15" Mac Book Pro, I knew there would be some adjusting involved - I just didn't expect it would be physical. If you use your laptop computer as a desktop replacement, you know that it just isn't as ergonomically comfortable as a regular desktop computer. The keys on portables' keyboards don't have the same comfortable feel as their full-sized counterparts and the downward viewing angle when using a laptop is enough to give you a neck cramp or back pains.

The Rain Design iLevel laptop stand raises your notebook to eye level in an effort to preserve your posture (your first-grade teacher would approve) to prevent back strain over the long term. Its height can be adjusted to your "iLevel", which also makes your notebook happy by increasing its air circulation.

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