Barkings! | The Small Dog Apple Blog

A blog about our business, our industry, and our lives. You'll find posts from everyone at Small Dog and if the dogs could blog, they'd be here, too!

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macOS Sierra

I used to live in the foothills of the Sierras in a little town called Challenge. We rented what was an old stage coach stop right in the hills that were part of the gold rush of the nineteenth century. Did you know that the nickname for Californians – the 49ers – came from the huge influx of gold miners in 1849?

Apple hopes that macOS Sierra will bring in a rush to the Mac, too. First off, we should note that the name has changed (to protect the innocent?) from OS X 10.12 to macOS Sierra. I like the name change but it certainly pales next to the improvements in the operating system for Mac.

If you have a Mac that is older than 2009 you might want to turn out, or better yet come in for an upgrade because macOS Sierra will only run on late 2009 Macs or newer. It will be free when it comes out this fall and there will be a public beta program in July that you can sign up for at beta.apple.com.

Hello Siri!

What’s new? Let’s start with Siri. Siri finally comes to the Mac! Ask Siri to send messages, search the web, find files, adjust settings, and more. You can also drag and drop, copy, or pin Siri results. Siri will even turn down your Mac’s fan when activated to minimize microphone interference. I have just started to play with Siri on the Mac but it is a little weird talking to my Mac in the middle of our open office. I feel a little bit like Scotty in Star Trek talking to the mouse of a Mac Plus.

Universal Clipboard

Have you ever found an interesting article or picture on your iPad and wanted to include it in something you are working on your Mac? Well, that just got a lot easier with Universal Clipboard. Copy and paste now works across your devices when they’re near each other. There are no special instructions, just copy images, video, or text from an app on one device. Then paste into another app on a different device.

Optimized Storage

Are you reaching the limits of your storage? With all the rich media, apps, pictures and music this is a pretty common issue. We recommend that you leave 10-20% of your storage space clear but finding what to delete is always a challenge. Apple has now addressed that with Optimized Storage. Optimized Storage helps you make more room on your Mac. When space is low, it automatically stores old files, photos, movies, and email attachments in the cloud and makes them available on demand. Files you recently created and optimized photos stay on your Mac so they’re there when you need them. You can also easily find and remove files or apps. I am running the beta of macOS Sierra and my free space went up from about 25GB to over 150GB once my storage was optimized

Auto Unlock

How many times have you found yourself logging into your Mac and accidentally had the caps lock on and had to re-enter your password? Well, if you have an Apple Watch you will never have THAT problem again. When you walk up to your Mac while wearing your Apple Watch, you’ll be automatically logged in to your desktop. Because you authenticate your Apple Watch when you put it on, there’s no need to type in a password if you’re nearby.

Shop with Apple Pay

Apple Pay gives you an easier and more secure way to pay when shopping online in Safari. When you see the Apple Pay button on participating websites, simply click it at checkout on your Mac, then securely complete your purchase using your iPhone or Apple Watch.

Keep Tabs

I know that not everyone uses tabs in Safari or Chrome but most of you do. It is a great way to have multiple web sites open at once without cluttering your desktop. macOS Sierra brings tabs to other apps now. It works in Pages and a few other apps now but should be pretty universal by the time macOS Sierra comes out in the fall. I was a bit baffled at how to access it but then I noticed a new command under the “Window” menu item – Merge All Windows.

Picture-in-Picture

This time of the year I like to watch the Cubs day games while I am working. That’s the thing about watching baseball, you don’t have to pay too close attention. At any rate, with macOS Sierra I can now have a floating PIP window with the game while I work on spreadsheets or in our K9 database. You can float a video window from Safari or iTunes over your desktop or a full-screen app. Play the video in any corner of your desktop, and resize the window to see more or less of what’s behind it. It currently only works with some video sources (and unfortunately not with MLB Team Pass) but more will certainly be added.

iCloud Drive

Ever been in a meeting and needed that document from your Mac but you just have your iPad with you? With the new enhancements to iCloud Drive in macOS Sierra it will be no problem. Now you can store your Documents folder and Desktop in iCloud Drive and access all your files from your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC and on iCloud.com. So you can save files where you normally do and they’re automatically uploaded, with no need to drag them into iCloud Drive first.

And MORE!

Photos has been upgraded with new organization and search capabilities, iTunes has been upgraded including lyrics in the mini player, new Emojis and fun stuff in Messages and much more that we will talk about in Kibbles as we discover more of the features.

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Keyboard Layout

Most people have never given much thought to how the keys on their keyboard are arranged. However, in the tech community there has been much debate about what arrangement is the most optimal to use. The standard keyboard layout is called QWERTY, after the first six letters to appear on the top left. The layout was designed in the 1870s for use in typewriters, and remains in use on an overwhelming majority of keyboards today.

Some people have argued that QWERTY is an inefficient layout. Since QWERTY was originally created for typewriters, the keys are optimized for them. However, typewriters work differently from computers. Typewriters have physical mechanisms to print each letter onto the paper. If certain keys are typed too quickly after each other, the mechanisms can collide and cause a jam. The QWERTY layout was designed to prevent this as much as possible, by placing keys that are commonly typed together far away from each other. This helps to prevent jams in typewriters, but can be inefficient for typing on a computer, where key jams are not a possibility.

The leading rival to QWERTY is the Dvorak layout, patented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak. The Dvorak layout was designed to eliminate the inefficiencies that plagued QWERTY. Dvorak was scientifically designed to enable faster typing, reduce errors, and reduce strain-related injuries. There have been studies confirming these claims, but many of these studies were administered by Dvorak and his associates. There were also some flaws discovered in the methodologies of the studies. Some non-biased studies have been inconclusive for various reasons, but most seem to at least agree that Dvorak is significantly easier to learn to type with than QWERTY.

At this point, the main obstacle to adoption of a non-standard keyboard layout is the fact virtually all typists are already used to the QWERTY layout. Once again, tradition prevails over innovation.

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Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology is an area that I hold in high regard as the parent of a child who is on the autism spectrum. I have used some of the tools available to help him with his struggles and have seen hands-on how technology can assist in making tasks easier and more productive for people with disabilities.

In 2013 Small Dog became the only company authorized to sell iPads in Vermont with Medicaid accepted as payment. These orders come in the form of authorizations from Medicaid as prescribed by speech and language pathologists (SLP) across the state. For right now the iPad is only approved by Medicaid as a speaking device, however; there are programs in place looking to expand the uses to other people with disabilities, these include blind and vision impaired, hearing impaired, autism spectrum and more.

In addition to Medicaid we also work closely with Vermont Assistive Technology (VAT), which is a state government agency tasked with cataloging all the items that fall in this very broad category. They provide consulting, information, demonstration and a 30-day trial period to the public. As of today they have catalogued over 21,000 items.

VAT recently reached out to me and asked if Small Dog would take on a role to offer more products and support services in this area as they do not have the resources or budget to do so. Naturally, we said YES! This is a great opportunity for Small Dog Electronics to expand into this field and offer some unique products that truly can change the end-users lives considerably. Having worked with Medicaid for the last several years we have found that procuring the items needed is very difficult. There is no central distribution for these products as many are manufactured by small businesses that specialize in very specific areas. Working with VAT we will strive to offer as many of these products and services that are attainable and make sense.

Some examples of products we have recently sold are the RJ Cooper Magic Arm. This is a wheelchair or desk-mounted iPad solution that allows a nonverbal person to communicate their needs through the iPad. The App we used for this solution is
Proloquo2go.

The Tecla Shield gives those with limited upper body mobility (due to disability or disease) access to their touchscreen devices. Tecla makes it possible to use iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, as well as computers. All are accessible via assistive buttons, switches or wheelchair driving controls. You can see a video of this here

With VAT listing over 21,000 products there is a vast array of products offered to assist people with all sorts of disabilities. Examples of some of the devices available are large print keyboards for the visually impaired, antimicrobial cases for hospitals and caregivers, computer, tablet and display mounts, rugged cases with built in speakers, keyguards for iPads, smart pens for dictation, head pointers, cameras that replace the need for a mouse and more. Another area of focus will be Apple’s Home Kit. The hardware and software taking advantage of this solution are a perfect fit for those with limited mobility and control. We will be able to design a home setting that reacts to the end users needs without having to move around more then needed.

Small Dog Electronics has identified assistive technology as an important area for our company to refine and specialize our offerings. Don has asked me to head up this initiative for the company and I am thrilled to be able to find tools that will make life easier for so many people. This is really a situation where new technology can make a real difference in these lives. If you want more information or have suggestions, I urge you to write me directly, Rob@smalldog.com.

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GoPro is Here!

Here at Small Dog we are thrilled to announce that we are now carry GoPro in our stores! My favorite camera in our lineup is the Hero4 Session,, the smallest, lightest and most rugged GoPro camera to date.

The Session fills out GoPro’s current product portfolio to six models as the company attempts to continue to lead the market for point-of-view cameras, also known as action cams. These cameras are increasingly used to capture video from the likes of surfers, skydivers, snowboarders, drivers, cyclists and even drones in the the most extreme situations. Here in the Florida Keys GoPro is popular with the local community and tourists alike.

The Session has a new cube-shape form factor that distinguishes it from its earlier, more rectangular GoPro siblings such as the Hero4, Silver and Black. It’s also much lighter than those models and that square shape, included mounting frames and quick-release buckles, let you rotate the camera so it’s right-side up and lower profile, something that’s not easily done with other GoPro cameras. Another Session difference is that it’s waterproof down to 10 meters (33 feet) without the need for an enclosure. By contrast, the Hero4 Silver and Black are almost twice as bulky when snapped into the wraparound housings that are required to keep them dry. You might think having to use a housing isn’t the end of the world and it’s not, but there have been several times when I’ve needed my GoPro to be waterproof and didn’t have the case. I’ve wanted better audio, but only had the completely sealed waterproof back. The Session’s waterproof build solves this. Also, the housings for other Hero models only have one mounting point on the bottom. The included frames are included for mounting the Session take advantage of the camera’s cube design. This means that no matter how you attach the frame’s mounts, to the top, bottom, left or right, you just position the camera in the frame so it’s right-side up. If you have to mount it upside down, the camera will automatically flip the video 180 degrees when you start recording.

Come into our stores and check out all of our GoPro camera’s in stock and our huge selection of accessories!

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Macbooks and Macbook Air Upgraded

Apple announced some changes to the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Air this week. Let’s talk about the MacBook Air first. Apple discontinued the 13-inch MacBook Air models that had 4GB of RAM and made them sport 8GB. There were no other changes to this model but the additional RAM comes at no additional cost as Apple doubled the RAM but kept the price the same at $999 for the 128GB SSD unit and $1299 for the 256GB SSD.

With just this minor update to the MacBook Air we can speculate that perhaps this unit is on its way out within the next year. The MacBook Air does not have the Retina display nor does it support the latest in Intel mobile processors. On the other hand, it is Apple’s best selling laptop.

The changes to the MacBook were more significant. They added a Rose Gold (er…pink) color which might actually be a nice option for some. More importantly, Apple went to the new sixth-generation dual-core Intel Core M processors which run at clock speeds up to 1.3 gigahertz, with Turbo Boost up to 3.1 gigahertz. The revamped notebooks also feature faster 1866 megahertz memory.

This new processor yields increases in performance from 15-20% in initial testing. With the Intel HD Graphics 515, the new MacBook has about 25 percent faster graphics performance. Speed has also been enhance with new, faster PCIe-based flash storage.

The lower power requirements and a slightly larger battery has also improved battery life, with the Apple claiming the new MacBook offers up to 10 hours of wireless surfing and up to 11 hours of movie watching.

While some were expecting additional ports or an improved FaceTime camera, these features did not make the cut.

We should have all the models in stock next week as well as some great deals on the newly discontinued models.

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