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The best after-holiday guide to practical hardware and Mac tchotchkes

Now that the holiday sugar n' booze overdose is starting to wear off, perhaps it's time to consider putting some of the gift cards you received to practical use. Here are some suggested products that likely went unnoticed while shopping in the bygone month, small must-haves for any Mac professional.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor on
Now that the holiday sugar n' booze overdose is starting to wear off, perhaps it's time to consider putting some of the gift cards you received to practical use. Here are some suggested products that likely went unnoticed while shopping in the bygone month, small must-haves for any Mac professional. (Please note: When I mention an item that I own, I purchased it myself without any consideration from the company that I am a ZDNet blogger.) Keyring flashlight. Of course, Apple's enclosures have always been easy to access. Still, it's always convenient to have a small flashlight around when you need to put more light into a corner or shadow to find that screw that somehow slipped out of your fingers, or to find the part that dropped on the floor (never happens, right?), or when you need to check out the back panel of a CPU enclosure underneath a desk. I have a flashlight on my keychain so it's always handy.
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For years, I've carried the Arc-AAA LED Flashlight ($29.95) by MTD/Cupp's Industrial Supply. It is a bit longer than a AAA battery and has a "gun metal" black anodized aluminum case that is both macho and functional. With its scored metal sides, it won't easily slip out of your fingers. According to the company, the Arc-AAA is waterproof to 100 feet; I've never tested it, but I've found that it just keeps working. The company makes a model that offers twice the brightness for about $15 more.

At the same time, I've gifted members of the family with a more fashionable (and lower-cost) mini-flashlight, the Fenix E01. It uses a 10-Lumens bulb like the brighter, premium Arc-AAA but only costs about $15. The model has a smooth, aluminum finish and comes in 5 fashion colors. Keyboard cover. Whether you picked the matte "antiglare" finish or the glossy finish for the screen of your MacBook Pro (the former is better option even though it costs an extra $50 at purchase time), you will find that finger oils will be transferred from the keyboard to the screen. The way to avoid this is with a cloth keyboard cover. Many vendors stock them in a wide range of materials. I use the $9.95 iKlear Keyboard Cover by Meridrew Enterprises, which is made of a microfiber optical chamois. It's washable and protects the screen from oils or rubbing from the keypads. I am also a fan of the company's Klear Screen cleaning prodcts. The company offers a $22.95 bundle that includes a big bottle of the cleaning liquid and a set of washable, reusable microfiber cloths. I use them for my Mac screens, my eyeglasses and my HDTV screen. Spudgers. I have a drawer-full of screw drivers and other devices for opening Macs, however, most installs now require the use of a "spudger," a pry tool usually made from plastic. The concept is that they shouldn't mar the finish. Newer Technology now offers a a pair of these tools made out of nylon for 99 cents. Since they wear out quickly and never seem to be around when you need them, I suggest buying a good number per order.
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Big USB Flash Drives. Smaller may not be better when it comes to moving data around sneaker-net-style on flash drives. There's a PC-market mindset that USB flash drives should be made as small as possible or camouflaged as some other common desk instrument. I find this a very bad idea. While the drives can be the size of a pinky-fingernail, they can be easily lost or covered up at the bottom of a drawer. And I don't like the kind that look like pens — I mean, it's a pen, you can stick it with the other analog writing devices and forget it's a storage device. Mac users prefer big, decorative USB flash drives. My current favorites are from the design house of Mimoco, which makes them look like little toys. They have a Star Wars character series that is appealing but also fun characters that they've created themselves.  They come in capacities from 2GB to 16GB. A 2GB Darth Maul drive is $24.95. Hard disk sleeves. If your office is like mine then there are always a few bare drives hanging around on shelves or in desk drawers. I know it's not the best situation. I recently ordered some SIIG Hard Disk Protector Sleeves for a couple of drives. They come in 3.5- and 2.5-inch flavors.
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iPhone Pogo Stylus and Sketch. As I've mentioned in a post last year, I like Ten One Design's Pogo Stylus, which is a small aluminum stick with a foam end that can improve the accuracy of your iPhone input, especially in standard Web pages in Safari. The company now offers a longer, pen stylus for $14.95 called the Sketch. If you're using the iPhone in the office, then this pen-sized version is more stylish than the portable, bare-bones Stylus (stick).
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