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MacRumors Gift Guide by Juli: Philips Hue, UE Roll Speaker, Canvas Smart Desk, and More

We’re going to be sharing a selection of gift guides on MacRumors over the next two weeks, featuring items hand-picked by our team of editors and writers along with a master gift list curated from the suggestions of our forum members.

Our first gift guide was written by me, Juli Clover, and features a list of items that I own and love, would love to receive, or would love to gift to someone. There is no theme here, but as I’ll explain along with each suggestion, all of these items are things that I own personally or have done a lot of research on.

Philips Hue HomeKit-Enabled Starter Kit ($194)

I’ve been using the Philips Hue line of lights since they first came out in 2012 and I have nothing but good things to say about these bulbs, which can be set to a whole range of different colors or various shades of white. The most recent Hue Starter Kit includes HomeKit integration and features brighter 800 lumen bulbs. HomeKit integration isn’t a must, but it is simpler than opening the app and you can ask Siri to do things like turn all your lights cerulean or hot pink.


If you know someone who already has a Hue setup, an extra light is a fun gift to give. I’d recommend the $90 Hue Go portable light or the $90 LightStrip Plus, good for ambient lighting anywhere. A $60 Hue Tap for activating four different scenes from a single switch is also a useful accessory.


Pressed Flower iPhone Case ($40)

With the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, I opted to get a rose gold iPhone. It’s a gorgeous color that I want to show off, so I’ve been looking into case options that let the color peek through. Searching through cases on the Internet, I found these lovely dried flower and leaf cases, a nice alternative to a traditional case. I’ve also see similar cases on Etsy that are priced more affordably, around $18.


Alternatively, Casetify is also a good site to visit for case designs that go well with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. There are dozens of community-created clear-style cases that showcase the iPhone’s design, priced at $40.


UE Roll Bluetooth Speaker ($99)

Lately I’ve been lusting over a waterproof Bluetooth speaker so I can listen to music and audiobooks in the shower, and I think this compact speaker from Ultimate Ears hits a sweet spot between price, design, and sound quality. It has a strap so it can hang up and it’s flat enough to comfortably fit into a bag so it can come along to the beach or the pool.


For louder sound, there’s also the UE Boom 2 ($199), which we actually reviewed earlier this year. We haven’t tested the UE Roll, but we were fans of the UE Boom.

Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack ($60 to $100)

I bought a Kanken laptop backpack from Fjallraven just before CES last year to a comfortable, not-too-large solution for toting my Retina MacBook Pro around, and it’s turned into one of my favorite bags. Different versions of the Kanken hold up to a 17-inch laptop, and my version for the 15-inch RMBP is impressively compact for all that it can hold.


It has a separate zip compartment for my laptop (excellent for airport security), along with a front pocket, two side water bottle pockets, and an inner pocket that holds my iPad Pro. The internal space is big enough to hold all the accessories I use, including hard drives, over-ear headphones, a purse, and more, and the straps are padded so it’s comfortable even when weighted down. Mine’s purple, but it comes in a bunch of colors, all made from water resistant fabric. I liked it so much that I bought another mini Kanken (~$60) for hiking and day trips. The mini is big enough for an iPhone or an iPad mini, but nothing larger.

Knomo Elektronista iPad Purse ($295)

The Knomo Elektronista is one of my favorite products I reviewed this year. It functions as either a purse or an electronics organizer with a ton of pockets and an included battery pack. It has dedicated inner pockets for an iPad, an iPhone, credit cards, cables, and other odds and ends, plus two outer pockets and a removable strap.


It unzips at the sides so everything inside can be accessed quickly, and my favorite part – it’s slim enough that it can fit inside a larger backpack or purse when you need more carrying space. I’d also like to point out the accessories from Intrepid Bag Co. to anyone looking for a laptop/ipad bag. We’ve partnered up with Intrepid on some giveaways and response has been super positive – they make some gorgeous (but expensive) bags. I can also recommend bags from Chrome Industries — they’re rugged, have tons of pockets, and are good for people who commute but need to carry a laptop or iPad.


Cable organizing solutions

I’ve been working on keeping my office more organized, and one step towards that has been implementing some useful cable management solutions. I bought the $27 CableBox from BlueLounge after it was suggested to me by a co-worker to hide my power strip and all attached cords, and I loved it so much I bought one for my mom right afterwards.


Cable storage may be an unconventional gift, but if you know someone who has an uncontrollably messy desk (like our editor-in-chief Eric Slivka), it’ll definitely be appreciated. Paired with the CableBox, I like the CableDrops ($10), which keep cords on desks, and Cable Turtles ($25) for winding up excess cord. If you want to get fancy, there’s the Griffin Guide Magnetic Cable Management set I reviewed last month, but it’s on the pricy side at $40.


For travel, something like the Cordito ($38) or the Cord Taco ($32 for 5) is ideal because they keep all those pesky iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch cables from getting tangled. For organizing both cords and small accessories, I use a Grid-It from Cocoon ($15) in my backpack, and it’s also been a popular gift I’ve given in the past.


Anova Precision Cooker ($199)

I haven’t used an Anova Precision Cooker for sous vide before, but when we posted about Apple selling it recently, our forum members were quick to chime in about how awesome it is. A couple of my co-workers are also big fans, so this seems like an ideal gift for a cooking enthusiast. The newest version includes Wi-Fi so you can keep an eye on your food from the iPhone, but there are older, less expensive versions that are Bluetooth only.


iSkelter Canvas Smart Desk for iPad Pro ($68)

iSkelter makes traditional desks and lap desks for Apple accessories by hand, and the Canvas Smart Desk is its newest product, designed for the iPad Pro. I have one of these on hand to test ahead of an upcoming giveaway, and it’s one of my favorite iPad Pro accessories so far because it’s perfect for working away from my desk.


There’s a cutout for the iPad Pro itself, where the iPad Pro lays flat for drawing or playing games, but it also fits the Smart Keyboard when propped up, giving me a stable surface for typing. There’s a cutout for the Apple Pencil at the side, and another cutout for an iPhone or another iPad. A larger Canvas Pro edition is also available for $68 and includes extra space for holding something like a coffee cup. These are on Kickstarter, but will ship before Christmas.

Apple Pencil ($99)

If you can get your hands on one, an Apple Pencil also makes for an awesome gift for a new iPad Pro owner. Apple Pencils are out of stock, so the only way to get one ahead of Christmas is to check your local Apple Store repeatedly. Apple Pencils aren’t just good for artists – they’re fun for everyone. Paired with some simple doodle drawing books (some of my favorites are by Sachiko Umoto), an Apple Pencil is a good way to unwind and pick up a new hobby.


We’re going to be sharing additional gift guides over the next two weeks, so make sure to keep an eye out for them. If you have a favorite product, feel free to add it to our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide Master List, which is going to be turned into a gift guide culled from our forum members’ most loved items.

Discuss this article in our forums


Apple Adds New Flyover Locations in U.S., Mexico and Europe

Apple today added 11 new Flyover locations to Apple Maps on Mac and iOS, highlighting landmarks and features across several countries including France, Spain, Mexico, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United States.

For those unfamiliar with the Flyover feature in Apple Maps, it lets users see photo-realistic 3D videos of select locations, with tools for zooming, panning, and rotating to get a closer look at notable landmarks and points of interest. Some of the locations listed may have previously been available as Flyover destinations, but were just added to Apple’s list of Flyover locations.


The full list of new Flyover locations:

– Monument Valley, Arizona

– Detroit, Michigan

– Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

– Pensacola, Florida

– Mazatlán, Mexico

– Annecy, France

– Gorges de l’Ardèche, France

– Antwerp, Belgium

– Münster, Germany

– Pamplona, Spain

– Utrecht, Netherlands

Flyover was introduced alongside iOS in 2012, but over the last three years, Apple has steadily added new Flyover locations to the Maps app. Earlier this year, Apple updated some major Flyover locations with real-time animated landmarks, making the Flyover experience even more immersive. Many Flyover locations have an additional City Tour feature that walks users through different landmarks in each city.

Discuss this article in our forums


Bethesda Game Studios opens Montreal office to further mobile gaming efforts


Bethesda Game Studios, the subsidiary of ZeniMax Media that develops games belonging to the Fallout and The Elder Scrolls franchises, has opened a new office located in Montreal. The members of the studio’s new office will be working to extend its effort in video games for all platforms including mobile.

Todd Howard, Bethesda Game Studios’ Game Director and Executive Producer, said this about setting up an office in Montreal:

“We’ve worked with some very talented developers in Montreal for a long time, and decided it was time to open a studio there. It’s exciting to think about new games we’ll be building together.”


Prior to the release of the award-winning Fallout 4, Bethesda Game Studios brought the Fallout franchise to mobile devices. Fallout Shelter was brought Google Play and Apple’s App Store over the summer, generating millions of dollars in in-app purchases. The installs figure on the Play Store alone sits between 10 million and 50 million. Seeing commercial and critical success with Fallout Shelter could be what was the ‘green light’ for Bethesda Game Studios to want more people working on mobile gaming projects.

Source: Bethesda

Come comment on this article: Bethesda Game Studios opens Montreal office to further mobile gaming efforts


[TA Deals] Pay what you want for the White Hat Hacker Bundle

white hat hacker bundleIf you’re interested in getting your feet wet with white hat hacking, which involves testing our vulnerabilities and the security of computer systems, we’ve got a fantastic pay-what-you-want bundle that includes a ton of information on getting started.

The bundle includes material for even the most novice users, and works its way up through testing WiFi routers and networks, password security, and Windows and web app attacking. It’s a very thorough set of information with hours of content and lectures covering just about everything you’d need to know to get started.

Normally, this bundle is valued at over $700, but you can pay whatever you’d like to pick up the courses, with 10% of that purchase price going to charity.

[Talk Android Deals]

Come comment on this article: [TA Deals] Pay what you want for the White Hat Hacker Bundle


Google simplifies Drive search to be snappy


Google Drive is turning four years old in April, and if you’ve been with the cloud storage solution since its inception, a huge amount of files are stored right now. But, of course, you could’ve joined Google Drive last week and filled your space in the cloud with hundreds of pictures or something else. Regardless of how long you’ve been using Google Drive, Google wants search to be as easy as possible. Files need to be stored and identified quickly for users to feel most productive.


These are the new ways to search in Google Drive:

  • Narrow your search to a file type from the search box on Android, iOS, and the web.
  • Open advanced search instantly from the search box.
  • Access recent files or search Drive from the home screen using 3D Touch on iOS.
  • Search Drive using the iOS search bar without opening the Drive app.

Google will be rolling out the new features across all platforms in the coming weeks.

Play Store Download Link

Source: Google

Come comment on this article: Google simplifies Drive search to be snappy


Want Tesla’s home battery soon? Go to Vermont

Tesla’s upcoming Powerwall battery might be sold out through mid-2016, but you might get one as soon as January… if you live in the right state, that is. Vermont’s Green Mountain Power will offer the home energy pack to residents who want to save the environment (and lighten the load on the electrical grid) by generating and storing their own electricity. If you share the battery with GMP, you can either get a $31.76 credit on your bill (if you buy the Powerwall for $6,500 outright) or pay $37.50 per month with no money down. You can also buy the Powerwall without sharing it, if you’d rather keep all that juice to yourself.

You’ll have to move quickly if you want one, and the odds of a January delivery are extremely low. Just 10 Vermonters are getting a unit that month, and the company only expects 500 over the course of the next few months. Still, this could be an important step toward widespread clean energy. GMP is the first electric utility to embrace the Powerwall, and by extension the first to support home batteries as a whole. If its project pans out, you could see plenty of other power companies lining up.

[Image credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]

Via: Geek

Source: Green Mountain Power


NBC’s comedy streaming service launches January 7th

SeeSo, NBC’s comedy streaming service, began serving up buckets of laughs for those with an invite to is free limited beta last week. The network announced today that it would keep its word and make the service available to all the first week of January. Starting January 7th, access to the collection of movies and TV shows will no longer require a special invitation, but it will demand a monthly fee. If you’ll recall, SeeSo serves up episodes of series like Saturday Night Live, Parks & Recreation and more alongside new original series that are exclusive to the $4 monthly subscription. What’s more, classics like Monty Python are also available to streaming.

You can also expect to catch up on the latest from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers the day after those episodes air. Despite the initial web-only, the service will be available on both Android and iOS when it properly launches next month. And yes, you can expect another free trial period at that time as well. If you were hoping to stream content on your favorite living room device, don’t worry: NBC says it plans to add more platforms “in the coming months.”

[Image credit: Greg Gayne/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images]

Via: Deadline


Flickr’s Gear VR app takes you inside 360-degree photos

We’ve known Flickr was planning to jump in the VR game since September, and now its first project has arrived. The photo repository’s app for Samsung’s Gear VR lets you browse its collection of “VR Photos” with the help of the headset and the requisite Samsung handset. By “VR Photos,” Flickr means its library of 360-degree equirectangular images and the photo site boasts over 14,000 total. This view of the Aurora Borealis from Finland will give you an idea of the types of images you can expect to encounter.

In addition to VR games and video on the Gear VR, browsing photos isn’t the only other option. Samsung recently outed a web browser for the headset, allowing you to surf the web should the need arise. To get the Flickr app, though, simply select the Store tab from the Gear VR’s home screen and you’ll be taking in the sights in no time.

Source: Flickr (1), (2)


Samsung plans to get into the self-driving car industry

Samsung Logo Close Up AA

Samsung might soon be getting into the self-driving car business, but maybe not the way you’d think. The South Korean technology giant has just released its plans to create a team that will develop car parts for other companies. This new automotive division will be separate from Samsung’s other three business units, and will focus on producing components to be used in self-driving cars. The press release states that the division will begin focusing on in-car infotainment systems, satellite navigation, and the manufacturing of autonomous vehicle components.

This is the company’s first public acknowledgment of its interest in the self-driving car market. Of course, mobile technology will play a huge roll in the way we live in the future, and Samsung wants to be at the forefront of that movement. Samsung has been producing smartphone components for other OEMs throughout the years. Displays, processors, batteries and more are all businesses Samsung is a part of, so it should come as no surprise that the company wants to try its hand at the smart car business. As Engadget notes, Samsung moving into the self-driving car business in this way allows for a more cautious move into the new field, rather than diving head-first into making its own car from scratch.

Google self driving carsSee also: ‘Google Auto’ is the official name for Google’s self-driving car company3

According to The Wall Street Journal, this big announcement comes at a time where Samsung’s smartphone business is struggling. Just last week Samsung Electronics announced it will be replacing its mobile chief, J.K. Shin, with D.J. Koh, an executive who has a strong background in mobile research and development.


Study: Texting with periods can make you seem insincere


best texting apps for Android

It’s an effect we’ve all experienced but may have chalked up to over-analysis. Now, however, researchers at Binghamton University have concluded a study confirming that your neurotic fixation with the period at the end of that girl’s text message is justified.

The study was a simple and performed on an admittedly small sample size of 126 undergraduates. Students were given a series of exchanges that occurred in either text message or hand-written form. These exchanges were largely invitations such as “Dave gave me his extra tickets. Wanna come?” followed by a single word response in the affirmative like, “Ok” or “Yeah.” Through sixteen rounds of the experiment, students were asked to gauge the sincerity of the response. Researchers found that students consistently rated responses ending in a period (.) as less sincere than those ending without one.

smartphone disinterestSee also: Smartphones make communication easier, not necessarily better3

Celia Klin, associate professor of psychology, associate dean, and lead researcher on the project, presented the study in a public release yesterday. She explained the results as follows:

Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on. People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting. Thus, it makes sense that texters rely on what they have available to them — emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and, according to our data, punctuation.

Taken by Beatrice Murch (blmurch)

Taken by Beatrice Murch (blmurch)

It seems that, given a very small amount of information like a single word response, our instinct is to read deeply into whatever surrounding indicators we can find. It might not matter whether you end your sentence with a period or not for a longer response, but if you want to convey that there’s something more going on in your head than what you’re expressing (i.e. be passive aggressive), the best way to do it might be to follow standard punctuation guidelines.

Communication is a process of accommodation. That’s why many of us find ourselves borrowing inflections, tones, and figures of speech from the person we’re talking to. Maybe the reason we interpret single word answers ending in a period as less sincere has something to do with the lack of accommodation this represents. Varying from grammatical norms seems to put more ‘play’ into textual communication, and a failure to do so can be interpreted as a lack of engagement in the conversation – the text message equivalent of looking around the restaurant while someone is talking to you.


Klin indicated that a follow-up study found that responses ending in exclamation marks were read as being even more sincere than unpunctuated responses. This may have to do with the responder coming across as more enthusiastic and engaged in the conversation.

‘Texting insincerely: the role of the period in text messaging,’ was published Nov. 22, 2015 in Computers in Human Behavior.

Have you experienced punctuated passive aggression in your text message history? Let us know in the comments!

Next: 10 best texting apps for Android

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