G-Technology’s G-Drive USB is a pro-grade Mac hard drive at consumer prices, in 2TB-6TB sizes.

gdriveusb-1

Professional video editors and filmmakers have raved about G-Technology’s hard drives for over a decade. These users — day-one adopters of Apple’s Mac Pro and MacBook Pro computers — need a lot of hard disk space, fast interfaces, and above all else, reliability. Losing part or all of a project can kill a movie, so nothing is left to chance on the storage side. I’m not a video professional, but as a father, my family photos and home videos are some of my most valuable possessions, and I don’t want to lose them to a hard drive failure. Numerous recommendations led me to Hitachi GST subsidiary G-Technology’s G-Drives years ago, and now there’s a new entry-level model that’s affordable enough for everyone: G-Drive USB ($160-$400, available here for $150 and up).

G-Drive USB offers all the capacity, speed and reliability G-Tech drives are known for, but in a smaller enclosure with fewer ports on the back. I’ve been testing one for the past month, and it’s as excellent as the five earlier G-Tech drives I’ve used since 2006. G-Drive USB isn’t the cheapest hard drive around, but when you care about long-term reliability, it’s worth paying a premium for peace of mind.

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I’ve loved the industrial designs of LaCie hard drives for a long time, but from my perspective, if the actual hard drive mechanism isn’t certain to be reliable after a couple of years — a known but somewhat undiscussed issue with many brands of hard drives — the casing doesn’t matter. G-Technology’s desktop hard disks offer the best of both worlds: a substantial-feeling, Mac-matching perforated aluminum enclosure, plus a 7200RPM hard drive inside, backed by a 3-year warranty.

Apart from four clear white rubber feet on the bottom and a glowing white G status light on front, G-Drive USB is completely made from metal, and if you love Apple’s Mac designs, beautiful in its own right. Measuring 5″ wide by 7.7″ deep by 1.26″ tall, it’s a half-inch shorter and 1.5″ shallower than the standard G-Drive, a substantial savings in size that makes the USB version easier to move around if needed. G-Technology has slimmed the unit as much as is practical to house a full-sized hard drive — the only mechanical disk size we’d trust with important files, photos, and videos. Smaller laptop hard drives tend to compromise reliability for size, which isn’t wise for backups or important files.

G-Drive USB currently comes in four different capacities: 2TB ($160, here for $150), 3TB ($180, here for $170), and 4TB ($200, here for $190) models with 165MB/second peak transfer rates, plus a 6TB model ($400, here for $350) with a 226MB/second peak transfer rate. Every model has the same USB 3.0 port on the back, and ships with a USB 3.0 cable that’s backward-compatible with USB 2.0 devices. You also get a slim power adapter that — unlike some G-Drives — only occupies one power outlet.

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The USB 3.0 interface is what enables G-Drive USB to sell at $40 to $150 discounts versus older, comparable-capacity G-Drives, which include Firewire 800, USB 3.0, and sometimes eSATA connectors and cables. Yet USB 3.0 can beat Firewire 800 in raw performance. I purchased a 4TB G-Drive USB with the 165MB/second peak transfer rate, and reliably achieved 140MB/second read and write speeds when using a MacBook Pro with USB 3.0 ports. That’s twice as fast as the 69MB/second write and 55MB/second read speeds I get from my older 2TB regular G-Drive using Firewire 800, and still almost twice as fast as my newer 3TB G-Drive (78MB/second read, 73MB/second write). G-Drive USB’s performance drops when connected to older USB 2.0 Macs — I saw 32MB/s read and 26MB/s write speeds — which is to say that modern Macs will get over four times better performance from the same device, though all of these speeds are totally fine for consumer-grade backups. G-Tech notably promises the same 165MB/second peak transfer rate for a Thunderbolt version of G-Drive, which sells for a lot more.

From my perspective, the 4TB version of G-Drive USB is the family’s sweet spot, which is the reason I purchased it over the 2TB, 3TB, and 6TB models. It’s faster and higher-capacity than the Firewire 800 G-Drives it replaced in my office, yet also smaller, less expensive, and quieter — not silent, but whisper-quiet, with half the sound of prior G-Drives. Most importantly, I’ve never had an issue with the reliability of any G-Drive I’ve owned; the units I purchased eight years ago still work after being used for everything from backups to file storage. As Mac accessories go, G-Drive USB is as highly recommended as they come — my personal Mac accessory of the year, and a great entry point into professional-grade backup and storage solutions.

[Note: If you’re thinking of ordering a G-Drive, this is a perfect time to give Amazon Prime a try to save on shipping costs. I’ve ordered G-Drives using Amazon for a long time, reducing the total cost considerably with free Prime shipping and nice discounts on the drives themselves.]

Smart iPad stylus could help Apple crack the enterprise world.

Did you know this is the first product Jony Ive ever designed for Apple? Photo: Portfolio Penguin

Apple hasn’t built a device requiring a stylus since the heyday of the Newton in the 1990s, largely because Steve Jobs hated them. But a new patent published today suggests that Apple could be changing its mind — or is making a conscious effort to lead rivals and copycats astray.

Described as a “communicating stylus,” the patent describes a stylus featuring built-in accelerometers, wireless transmission, and storage — with the aim of sending hand-written notes and drawings from one device to another.

Of course, just because Apple publishes a patent doesn’t meant that this is a concept that will one day arrive on shelves as a physical product. With that being said, however, there are a few clues in this patent, which suggest why now may be the perfect time to strike for a smart Apple stylus.

It's not a design patent, but this drawing from Apple shows how the stylus could work.

With falling iPad sales, Apple has recently been pushing to get iPads embraced by both the business and education worlds. Earlier this year, Apple announced a partnership with IBM, designed to “transform enterprise mobility through a new class of business apps.” There was also a $1.3 billion attempt to provide iPads to every student, teacher and campus administrator in the Los Angeles school district — although the scheme wound up collapsing amidst controversy.

Today’s patent paperwork notes that:

“The stylus can enter … data from a distance, such as from across the room, to the computing device. This allows a user in one embodiment to keep the computing device stored, for example with a cellular phone, in his pocket and still be able to use the stylus to enter text or drawings into the device. This makes it easy, for example, in a classroom setting for a user to take handwritten notes and simultaneously create a digital version of those notes. Additionally, in another embodiment, the stylus allows for the user to write on a whiteboard mounted on a wall and simultaneously display what he has written on a computing device.”

Particularly with rumors of a 12.2-inch iPad Pro to be announced this year, iPad functionality will expand beyond where it is now: opening up new possibilities for the iPad as a serious productivity tool.

This isn’t the first time a stylus would be available for the iPad, of course. There are plenty of third-party styli available, ranging from the good to the just-plain-wacky, while previous Apple patents show the company has at least considered this an area worth investigating before.

Although I’m in no rush to replace my existing iPad, I’ve always found the stylus-equipped Microsoft Surface to be a useful complementary device to the iPad, and recent sales figures seem to back that up. If Apple is serious about embracing the enterprise market, a stylus-equipped iPad could be the way to go.

Security researcher rewrites Mac firmware over Thunderbolt, says most Intel Thunderbolt Macs vulnerable.

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A security researcher speaking at the Chaos Computer Congress in Hamburg demonstrated a hack that rewrites an Intel Mac’s firmware using a Thunderbolt device with attack code in an option ROM. Known as Thunderstrike, the proof of concept presented by Trammel Hudson infects the Apple Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) in a way he claims cannot be detected, nor removed by reinstalling OS X.

Since the boot ROM is independent of the operating system, reinstallation of OS X will not remove it. Nor does it depend on anything stored on the disk, so replacing the harddrive has no effect. A hardware in-system-programming device is the only way to restore the stock firmware.

Apple has already implemented an intended fix in the latest Mac mini and iMac with Retina display, which Hudson says will soon be available for other Macs, but appears at this stage to provide only partial protection…

Once installed, the firmware cannot be removed since it replaces Apple’s public RSA key, which means that further firmware updates will be denied unless signed by the attacker’s private key. The hacked firmware can also replicate by copying itself to option ROMs in other Thunderbolt devices connected to the compromised Mac during a restart. Those devices remain functional, making it impossible to know that they have been modified.

The good news is that the attack method requires physical access to your Mac, and Hudson is not aware of any Mac firmware bootkits in the wild. He notes that there is no way to be sure, however.

It was previously suggested that the NSA used similar attack methods, physically intercepting shipments to install bootkits before computers reach their buyers. Once out in the wild, the hacked firmware could be easily spread by something as seemingly innocuous as a Thunderbolt monitor in a hotel business center.

The slides from Hudson’s presentation are available on Flickr, and a video is now available. Hudson says that he has been in contact with Apple regarding EFI vulnerabilities, and that his slides provide sufficient ‘pseudo-code’ to allow others to verify the hack without making it too easy for others to exploit.

The presentation follows an earlier one in which the hacker who last year used lifted fingerprints to fool Touch ID suggested that it may be possible to repeat the attack using only a photograph of a finger.

How the wizards at ILM created Captain America’s insane action scenes.

A fascinating look behind the scenes at a CGI-heavy movie. Photo: Marvel/Disney

Nearly 900 insanely complex shots full of live-action and computer-generated imagery were created for Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier by the geniuses at Industrial Light and Magic, the effects house created by George Lucas back in the original Star Wars days.

The movie is an action-fest full of fighting, exploding, and comic-book reality all rolled into an engaging tale of patriotism, loyalty, and the possible corruption of big government. To create the magical movie illusions that help you suspend your disbelief in superheroes, the crew of more than 300 at ILM did a ton of painstaking work.

Here’s a short reel representing only a small sample of the full work done by the effects house – it’s amazing how complicated and layered everything is in a movie like this. Check it out.

“The bulk of ILM’s work appears in the film’s third act,” says the ILM YouTube descritpion, “and consists of the helicarrier’s massive underwater hanger, their ensuing battle, and the helicarriers themselves inside and out, sprawling digital Washington D.C. and Rosslyn environments including the Triskelion building complex on Roosevelt Island, highly detailed digital doubles for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie).”

Whew, that’s a ton of work.

The 2014 film was directed by directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, and produced under the Disney-owned Marvel Films banner. The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely was loosely based on the comic of the same name by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (Brubaker even gets a cameo in the film).

Spotify4Me Controls Spotify from Yosemites Notification Center.

Spotify4Me Controls Spotify from Yosemite's Notification Center

Mac: One of the best parts of OS X Yosemite is the widgets in Notification Center. If you’re a Spotify user, Spotify4Me stuffs a tiny little widget in Notification Center for controlling the app.

Spotify4Me gives you control over skipping, pausing, and the volume. That’s all it does, but having those control easily accessible in the Notification Center is pretty handy. If nothing else, it also gives you a nice album artwork view to quickly pull up a look at what’s currently playing.

Spotify4Me (Free)

Best Cases and Covers of the Week.

We continue new series. Best cases and Covers of the week for iPad. Is a series that works to bring you best and coolest cases for iPad and  give you only the Best deal.

You can add a flourish of personal style to Apple’s minimalist design, choose functional elements to enhance your daily use, and make sure it’s safe when you sling it in your bag; all it takes is the right case. Here are some of our favorites and best deal from  past week.

1. Uuber Flip Turn Case ($130) $44.00 FREE Shipping

Uuber Flip Turn CaseThis versatile case is ideal for business people on the go, or students. It includes a wireless keyboard with backlit keys and a stylus. The hard shell is polycarbonate, so it’s extremely tough, and there’s a soft-touch coating on the outside for easy grip and comfort. You can flip it open and use it like a laptop, or you can twist the iPad Air around and find the right angle to watch a movie. You can even customize it with a logo if you choose.

2. Buk Case Originals iPad Air Case (from $76)

BUKcase Originals case

Hand-crafted by master bookbinders using traditional techniques in Manchester, England, this Buk Case Originals case for the iPad Air is gorgeous. The interior frame is birch ply wood, and there’s a color lining and a leather exterior. It smells enticing when you remove it from the package and it’s very easy to slide your iPad into the frame. There’s an elastic closure to keep the cover closed and it looks like a classic sketch book. The sleep/wake function is supported, there’s a camera cut-out, and you can use it as a landscape stand and prop the tablet at your chosen angle. Obviously, it’s designed to look like a book, and it even allows you to store your iPad Air on the book shelf.

3. Kensington Comercio Me Folio Case ($41.12)

Kensington Comercio Me Folio Case

This is a slim case from Kensington that enables you to customize your iPad Air. The hard shell has a clear, scratch-resistant window in the back, and you can put photos or a Skinit decal in there. There’s a folding cover with a microfiber lining that brings the iPad Air to life automatically when you open it and sends it off to sleep when closed. There are also channels in the case designed to redirect the sound from the speakers towards you.

4. Incipio Capture Case ($90) $47.48 FREE Shipping.

Incipio Capture Case

If you’re going to expose your iPad Air to the elements then it could be a good idea to snag a rugged case like this. It offers multiple layers of protection with a soft inner core, a hard shell, a bumper, and a removable 360 degree rotating neoprene hand strap to ensure you don’t drop it. This case can handle bumps and falls, it is splash and dust resistant, and you get a screen protector included as well. It will be overkill for most people, but anyone requiring real protection should take a look.

5. Booqpad Case ($60)

Booqpad Case

Versatility is the major draw for this folio case. You’ve got a standard polycarbonate shell that attaches to a folio cover using magnets, so it can be attached and detached quickly and easily. The folio cover acts as a multi-position stand and it even comes with a pad of paper. The exterior is polyurethane with a textured finish and the inner lining is nubuck. In addition to the notebook, there are slots for cards. This case also comes with a screen protector.