Mac tracking, Magic Mouse charging, and iThing accessories

Gibbs looks at a few products for the Apple users.

This week, stuff related to the Appleverse ... Could these be Appleish? Appleoid? Whatever ...

First we have an OS X product with a great story attached to it. The product, Hidden, is a utility for OS X 10.5 and above that installs as a control panel app. The app does nothing until you activate it from an account you set up on the Hidden website.

Once activated, the Hidden app will send the current IP address of the machine it is on, take photos using the built-in camera, attempt to geolocate the computer using the Skyhook wireless location system, and look for other useful data.

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As you might hope, with Hidden installed, should your Apple machine go wandering, as did the MacBook of one Joshua Kaufman, you might just be able to get it back.

Kaufman's MacBook was stolen from his apartment in Oakland in January this year and, as Hidden was installed, he immediately enabled it. Over the next little while, Hidden took multiple pictures of the thief and provided a variety of evidence which Joshua took to the Oakland police.

The police, according to Joshua's account, weren't terribly interested at this point. At least, they weren't until Joshua documented the evidence and posted the pictures of the perp on his Tumblr blog and tweeted about the theft.

The tweet kicked off a viral online response which, in turn, attracted mainstream media attention and not surprisingly, once the police got a call from the "Good Morning America" TV show, they were much more motivated to pay attention. After a little detective work and just over two months after the MacBook was stolen, Joshua got his property back.

Hidden costs $15 per year which is a very reasonable price and I'll give Hidden a rating of 5 out of 5.

Next up, a neat enhancement for the Apple Magic Mouse. But before I discuss this product I have to mention the Magic Mouse itself.

I know the Magic Mouse has been out for some time but many of my Windows-oriented friends pretty much ignore Apple stuff and I think they're missing out on something that, while I hesitate to call it revolutionary and knowing full well Steve Jobs doesn't need any support in the hyperbole department, is, in fact, truly revolutionary!

The Magic Mouse is the first product I’ve come across that really redefines how you interact with a computer. It makes how you interact with applications faster, easier and more intuitive. Move the mouse, the pointer moves as usual. Drag one finger up or down the top of the mouse and, depending on the application, window contents scroll or zoom. Drag two fingers in, for example, a Web browser, and you’ll go forward or backward in the sequence of pages loaded. If you use a Magic Mouse for any length of time and then go back to a conventional mouse you’ll find that your hand will try to use the same gestures to no effect. 

Look, I’m no Apple fan-boy, but I have to recognize that the company has made some really good products. Seriously, if you haven’t tried a Magic Mouse you should run down to your local Apple reseller and test one out. They are that good. Really. Oh, and you can use a Magic Mouse with Windows!

Anyway, the Magic Mouse tends to chew up batteries fairly quickly so a company called Mobee came up with a cool answer: the Magic Charger.

Mobee Magic Charger (with a Magic Mouse on top of it)

The Magic Charger is a kit that consists of a replacement battery pack which, when installed and you place the Magic Mouse on the included pad (which gets power from a USB connection), charges the battery pack inductively.

When you finish working on your Mac, you simply place your mouse on the pad and when you return, it's topped up. A tiny LED on the front of the pad indicates the battery's charge level (or failure if the battery pack goes bad). That's it; simple, clean, elegant and functional.

What's even nicer is that if you dig the whole Apple aesthetic, the Mobee Magic Charger looks great with a white and silver finish that makes it look like it belongs next to your spendy Apple hardware. Priced at around $50, the Mobee Magic Charger gets a rating of 5 out of 5.

To wrap up this week, I have a couple of Apple-related products that I need to mention as they've been hanging around the Gibbs Secret Underground Bunker lab for way too long.

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First up is something that road warriors with iPods, iPhones and other similarly sized smartphones will like. If you've ever sat on a plane (or other form of transport from hell) and had the foresight to load a better movie than they show in-flight, you'll know that holding your device high enough so you don't get a sore neck is a challenge.

The PodFlexPro holder for iThings

The PodFlexPro is pad with a pocket on one end that holds your iThing or smartphone. You can bend the pad and it retains the shape you make so it can be wedged into your upright tray table, hooked over the back of the seat in front, or stood up on a desk. The pocket has holes so you can plug in your headphones and a clear window that protects your spendy device.

I must point out that, contrary to what I've seen written in some reviews, there is no way on earth you're going to get, say, a Samsung Galaxy S or an HTC Incredible into this thing without some serious ripping of seams. This is really only for devices roughly the size and shape of Apple iPods.

My problem with this accessory is it doesn't make it easy to get at the power switch on, say, an iPod Touch, and the clear panel will, in time, get scratched. I wish they'd just made a clip that I could snap my iThing onto rather than a pocket I have to put it into.

So, let's not labor a simple gadget like this: It costs $24.95, it's nicely made, and it gets a rating of 2.5 out of 5.

As an aside, let me warn you the company that makes the PodFlexPro does something that, if I could justify doing so, I'd knock at least a point off their rating for: They start a video playing when you load their home page. Really? Guys, you're selling a gadget! You're not delivering an emergency broadcast! If you have to do something so crude, at least take the volume way down; I usually have music playing and sites like yours just harsh my mellow.

My second Appleoid gadget is for iPads and Galaxy Tabs. If you want to affix your pad to the wall for display purposes or mount it in the car in a vain attempt to reduce the cries of "Are we there yet?" this may well make you happy.

Vogel's RingO pad mounting system

The gadget, or rather gadgets, made by a company called Vogel's, are called RingO and consist of a holder for the tablet (there are three versions: one for the iPad, another for the iPad 2 and a third for the Galaxy Tab -- the tablet just snaps in and out of the holder), and fixtures for non-swiveling wall mounting with either an adhesive pad or a screw, or with a screw and a swing arm, or for attaching to front seat headrest. There's also a clip-on table stand.

Dead simple, nicely made, and somewhat pricey, though if you're looking to fix, say, iPads, to walls in your office as information devices, you won't care. Pricing starts at $69 for the holder and the table stand, and RingO gets a 3.5 out of 5.

What I really want is a mounting that let's me attach my iPad to my car dash so I can have a decent sized map for navigation ... so far, I've seen nothing like that. Let me know if you've found something.

Gibbs is an equal opportunity computer user in Ventura, Calif. Your preferences to gearhead@gibbs.com.

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