Easy-to-mold custom earbuds; 2TB portable storage for Mac users

The scoop: Sculpted eers, by Sonomax Technologies, about $170

What are they? Eers are custom earbuds that feature the company's Sonofit Fitting System, which molds the earbuds to the shape of the user's ear -- the outside part and just inside the ear canal. This creates a unique custom fit and shape -- once you create the earbuds, nobody else can use or borrow them for such a fit.

Why it's cool: A few years ago, I had a pair of Ultimate Ears, which required that I visit an ear doctor in order to get a custom mold created of the shape of the inside of my ear for the perfect fit. The end-result earbuds worked great, but the plastic form eventually got uncomfortable when wearing them during long stretches (like on an airplane). Not only is the process easier with the eers, but the materials used feel a lot more comfortable inside my ears than hard molded plastic.

The process involves squirting some solution on the unformed earbuds, then sticking them in your ears for five minutes (the unit comes with an old-school headphone-like device that helps you keep the earbuds in your ears during the molding process). After that, the earbuds are ready to use, and the shape formed through this process makes them unique to you. The earbuds also have a handy ear loop that you can put behind your ears, for a more secure fit and to help you when you're putting them on your ears.

Once complete, the earbuds sound great, making them wonderful for taking along with you on a long flight, or if you want earbuds that aren't going to fall out when you are working out.

One caveat: At first the molding/sculpting process can feel a bit daunting, so having someone help you with the fitting is a suggestion, especially when pouring the solution on the earbuds. Also, when finished, the earbuds didn't completely seal inside my ears like I expected them too, so I thought I may have messed up the process. But in the end, I think it's a good thing, as this made them feel more comfortable than if I had jammed them inside my ears during the molding process.

Grade: 4 stars (out of five)

The scoop: My Passport Studio portable hard drive, by Western Digital, about $300 (for 2TB; other capacities include 1TB for $200, 750GB for $180 and 500GB for $160)

What is it? A portable high-speed storage drive designed for the Mac, the My Passport Studio provides two FireWire 800 ports and one USB 2.0 port and a solid metal enclosure that gives Mac users additional storage capacity. The drive can act as a Time Machine backup for the Mac, as well as just providing file storage space. The unit also comes with WD Drive Utilities and WD Security apps, which provide diagnostics, a sleep timer, erase functionality and encryption.

Why it's cool: I like the addition of a second FireWire 800 port. This lets you daisy chain an additional external storage drive, or you can attach a different peripheral -- this is handy if you have multiple devices that need the FW800 port on your system. Another plus is that the drive comes with a FW800 and USB 2.0 cable, instead of having them sold separately.

During my speed tests, I achieved between 62 and 65MB/sec of write speeds, and between 15 and 35MB/sec of read speeds (depending on the test and platform performed). This was slower than some tests I've done via USB 3.0 drives, so don't expect super-speed data transfers with this drive (if you are, head to Thunderbolt-connected units).

Bottom line: If you're a Mac user and you're looking for a solid drive with a ton of capacity (you'd be amazed about how fast your hard drive fills up when editing/creating videos), this is worth a look.

Grade: 4 stars

Shaw can be reached at kshaw@nww.com.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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