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Small Dog Gift Guide - Part 2

We’ve asked a few of our employees what their favorite gifts are this season – either to get or to give, of course – and we have highlighted a few of the best!

Don, President and Top Dog:

  • The Nest smart thermostat is a great holiday gift! I use them in my home and am saving money daily as the Nest learns my habits, turns the heat (or AC) down when I am away and back up when I get home. It learns that I like it cool when I sleep and warm in the morning. It reduces your carbon footprint by only providing heat or cooling when you need it. While it is super easy to install and operate, Small Dog Electronics can come to your home to help with the installation, too! The Nest thermostat is a thoughtful gift and keeps giving.

Hapy, President and CFO:

  • I would recommend the EZQuest battery backup charger for iPhone and iPad (and most other USB devices). This sleek battery can charge your iPhone and your iPad at the same time if needed, and can store multiple charges. Never be left without a charge on your phone ever again! This has saved my bacon numerous times. Be sure to purchase an extra lightning cable to go with it (the 6-inch Belkin cable is ideal).

  • Secondarily, I always recommend the Kensington Slimblade trackball to anyone who uses a desktop machine and has a messy desk like mine, or just can’t stand the mouse. The trackball allows pin point accuracy and lightning fast scrolling combined with customizable buttons to get work done without any wrist strain and takes up minimal space on your desktop. It does take a little while to get used to a trackball, but once you do, your productivity will skyrocket and you can say goodbye to your aching mouse wrist.

Rob, Business Solutions Manager:

  • This year we added the Sonos line to our offering and I picked up a few speakers for my house and they are awesome! If you’re not familiar, Sonos is wireless speaker system that you connect through your wireless network that allows you to stream music to any room in your house from an iPad, iPhone, computer, and more. You can have reggae in the kitchen, jazz in the den, and blues jamming in the garage. It allows you to access your music streaming services like iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and Rhapsody as well as giving you access to radio stations around the world. If you’re like me and have a large music collection stored on an external drive you can access all that music as well. The best thing about Sonos is not the speakers themselves, but the app and how simply it brings all your music into one simple control panel. If you like the idea of using this app and already have a nice speaker setup, you can add the Sonos connect which connects your existing stereo system to your Wi-Fi network. Available for purchase in our retail stores only.

Will, Product Manager:

  • My favorite product this Christmas to gift is the Goal Zero Torch 250, which is simply great for anyone who spends their winter in VT. It is a flashlight and floodlight, a backup battery, and includes a solar panel for recharging if the sun were ever to shine through. We’ve already had gnarly driving conditions and power outages…and it is only December. The best is yet to come! This is a great backup to have in the car, at home, or in your Y2KMayan cataclysm…zombie apocalypse shelter. 

  • Then it comes to what gift I would get for myself…never an easy question to answer. I think it would have to be the Olloclip for the iPhone 6. I bought my first iPhone for many reasons but the biggest being that I would always have an amazing camera with me. The Olloclip 4-in-1 lens kit for iPhone 6 includes wide angle, fisheye, and two macro lenses at 10x and 15x…a great addition for those that love to take photos! For me the fisheye plus the new 240fps slo-mo feature makes for a great video camera. I can only expect more likes on my Instagram account. 

Morgan Director of IT & Development:

  • I had a well-loved pair of Urbanears Medis that finally succumbed to years of wear and tear that I’d love to have replaced. Not only was the sound quality exceptional, and the design simple, but they were very comfortable. I’ve tried numerous in-ear headphones over the years and the ones that fit into your ear canal become uncomfortable after a short period of time and most that just “sit” in your ear tend to fall out of mine. The Medis are unique in that they have special “EarClick” technology (replaceable rubber pieces) that hold it at rest—sort of suspended—in your ear and it can’t fall out. Better yet, since most people’s ears aren’t all the same size or necessarily symmetrical, they come with a few differently sized sets of the rubber bits so you can customize them for comfort in your ears. An added bonus for comfort and audio quality is that the cords are wrapped in cloth. You’re probably thinking, “Audio quality?!”. Yes, there’s a fair amount of vibration transmitted along headphone cords that interferes with what you hear, but that is absorbed and muted by the cloth.

Jim, Phone and Web Sales

  • On my holiday wish list this year is the iON Air Pro 3 Waterproof Camera. With 1080p video and 12 megapixel still photography, the picture quality is unbelievable and the housing is waterproof for up to forty-nine feet deep. Great for the trips with the pups to the dog friendly beaches down south, or for hitting the slopes up north!


For more holiday gift ideas and specials, visit smalldog.com/macthehalls or come into one of our retail stores. Our South Burlington store is offering extended hours now through Christmas eve.

No matter what you’re getting or giving this holiday season, be sure to share it with family and friends!

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Small Dog Gift Guide - Part 1

We’ve asked a few of our employees what their favorite gifts are this season – either to get or to give, of course – and we have highlighted a few of the best!

Joe, Key West Retail Store Manager

My favorite product is the Chill Pill Chillbox. It has great sound from its aluminum case and is so portable and lightweight. The battery seems to never die and the price is hard to beat. Every member of my family has one and I feel this gift would be great for anyone. And right now as part of our Mac The Halls holiday sale you get a free Chillbox with the purchase of any MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or iMac with AppleCare.

Lonnie, Inventory Controller

I play a ton of games on my iPhone and my iPad, and every once in awhile I think to myself, “It’d be pretty awesome to play this game with a controller.” Only problem is that most controllers need to be physically connected to your iOS device, and I’m not a huge fan of attaching a bulky case to my phone just to have a controller with buttons on it. So that’s why I would like the Steelseries Stratus controller. It’s small, light, and connects to your iOS devices via Bluetooth, so if you have a case you’re attached to you don’t need to remove it. The battery lasts 10 hours between charges and can be recharged through USB. It’s compatible with a number of games, from Bastion, to Badlands, to Metal Slug 3, and the list continues to grow. So if you’re really into iOS gaming, what are you waiting for? The perfect controller is here!

Tony, Business Solutions

Last spring I purchased a new iPhone 5S and prior to making the purchase I looked at all of the available protective case options on the market. I’m an avid outdoor enthusiast and am often found hiking in the rain, backcountry skiing in wet snow and riding my fat tire mountain bike in sub-freezing conditions during the winter months. I settled on the LifeProof fre iPhone Case which has received thorough testing in all types of weather conditions that would have destroyed an unprotected iPhone. My phone, on the other hand, still looks and operates as if brand new. This case is thin, lightweight and I highly recommend it.

Scott, Developer

I think the Belkin NetCam HD WiFi Camera with Night Vision is pretty awesome. I’d like one to monitor the home while away. They are easy to set up, provide quality pictures, and I really like that it can be used with WeMo switches. You can get an instant e-mail when motion is sensed. I would feel safe leaving my home this holiday season, and this camera is on sale now, for $30 off the original price.

Jamie, Rutland Retail Store Sales Associate

I would like a pair of the Urbanear Plattan Headphones because they produce great sound and come in many different colors. They also are very portable and fit nicely on your head. Thanks to the remote control built into the cable you are able to pick up calls and fast forward or rewind your music. These headphones really have it all, and through the month of December are $15 off!

For more holiday gift ideas and specials, visit smaldog.com/macthehalls.

No matter what you’re getting or giving this holiday season, be sure to share it with family and friends!

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MAC TREAT #248: Guided Access

I have a two year old at home and, as those of you out there who are also parents know, sometimes a little screen time can turn a bad mood around or at least buy me a few minutes to make some coffee to fortify me for the rest of the day. I don’t want my son to use my computer but thanks to my sturdy Hammerhead Jacket Case and AppleCare+ protection plan I am willing to let him use my iPhone. However, there are only certain apps that I want him to use and he has already figured out how to use the Home button and then open different apps. What to do?

Fortunately, I have discovered a great tool to restrict his use to a single app and disable buttons within that app: Guided Access. This is one of the assistive features built into iOS. To turn this on, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access and enable this service. There is also an option to set a passcode and/or use Touch ID to prevent Guided Access from being turned off.

Once enabled, Guided Access can be started while in any app by triple-clicking the Home button. You will then have the option to circle areas of the screen to disable (such as buttons that control features of the app that you want to shut off), as well as an Options menu where you can disable the Sleep/Wake button, the Volume buttons, Motion, the keyboard, turn off touch control completely, as well as set a time limit. Once you have it set the way you want, press Start and the Guided Access begins.

To turn it back off, triple-click the Home button again and enter your Guided Access passcode. Make sure to get it right, as the first time you get it wrong you have to wait 10 seconds to try again, the second time you have to wait a minute, and I don’t want to find out how long it locks you out if you get it wrong thrice!

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Diagnosing & Treating Bash "Shellshock"

OS X is a descendant of a long lineage of UNIX operating systems, from which it inherits its incredible stability and enhanced security. However, the past two weeks have uncovered numerous bugs in a core piece of software relied on by many UNIX operating systems, OS X included: bash (Bourne-again shell). It turns out that these bugs have been very long standing and can be exploited in numerous ways to provide unchecked access to a computer (in some cases remotely) with an afflicted version of bash installed. Due to the surprise and scope of this vulnerability, many have dubbed it “Shellshock”, in reference to the combat fatigue experienced by soldiers, but it’s really not a fair comparison to the effects of war.

A “shell” is a program that interprets and acts on textual commands either entered directly by a user at a terminal (or using a virtual terminal like the Terminal app found in /Applications/Utilities on OS X) or from a file containing one or more commands to be run automatically (sort of like a player piano, if that’s even a useful analogy anymore.) Bash is a very common shell program and is the default on many UNIX operating systems, including OS X (as of Mac OS X 10.3 Panther). If you’ve ever opened up the Terminal app and run a command in the last decade, you’ve used bash.

I personally write a fair number of scripts in the bash language to automate various processes on my computers and servers, primarily because it so ubiquitous. It may be partly because I’m a bit of a masochist, but—as a server admin—I also find it helps me perform tasks more efficiently when working in Terminal since it is the default. Needless to say I immediately started investigating the bugs, the attacks, and testing OS X workstations and servers.

Fortunately, without very specific custom configuration, OS X is not vulnerable to remote attacks through the afflicted version of bash, as echoed in the following statement from Apple (given to Jim Dalrymple of The Loop):

The vast majority of OS X users are not at risk to recently reported bash vulnerabilities. […] With OS X, systems are safe by default and not exposed to remote exploits of bash unless users configure advanced UNIX services.

None of the OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard through OS X 10.9 Mavericks systems I tested were vulnerable to remote attacks, however, all versions were susceptible to local attacks. The bugs are such that malicious commands can be inserted into “environment variables” (just what they sound like, data that exists in the environment in which individual shell scripts are run and therefore can be accessed by many scripts) and will be automatically executed upon any bash command or script being run. Not good. Since there are multiple bugs, there are different ways to test for each, but I find running the ‘bashcheck’ script to be very convenient way to test for all of them at once.

The bash developers and community have worked feverishly to investigate and fix these bugs. Apple has released “OS X bash Update 1.0” which includes fixes for the initial pair of bugs, but it unfortunately does not address subsequent bugs. As a further inconvenience, Apple does not provide this update via Software Update or the App Store, so you must download & install the appropriate update for your version of OS X:

OS X bash Update 1.0 – OS X Lion (10.7)
OS X bash Update 1.0 – OS X Mountain Lion (10.8)
OS X bash Update 1.0 – OS X Mavericks (10.9)

For those of you running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger through 10.6 Snow Leopard on much older Macs, the developers of TenFourFox (an open-source version of the Firefox web browser specifically for older PPC & Intel Macs), provide a download along with detailed instructions to install a version of bash that fixes all the known vulnerabilities at this time. It does require command line experience, so is not for the faint of heart. The updated version provided by the TenFourFox team can also be used on OS X 10.7 Lion through 10.9 Mavericks and actually installs the very latest 4.3.x version of bash as opposed to the older 3.2.x version that Apple includes by default (and provided the partial fix for). This newer version of bash also has some benefits that programmers might enjoy, but it comes at the risk of possibly being downgraded by a future OS X update from Apple.

If you never use the Terminal app, I’d suggest you at least apply the appropriate version of “OS X bash Update 1.0” and any future updates that Apple might release to fix the additional vulnerabilities. For those of you who use Terminal with any frequency, you’ll want to proceed with caution and weigh the pros & cons of relying on Apple’s partial update or manually updating to the latest version of bash for your particular use.

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SOAPBOX: The Failure of War

Start Soapbox

Each night after dinner, my wife and I watch the national news. It has been so depressing lately that, even though I want to be informed, I can hardly stand watching. The constant news of war and people killing each other in the name of religion, territory or riches is simply senseless.

You know that I have often predicted in my annual prognostications that this would be the year of confirmed alien contact. But let me tell you, if I was an intelligent alien, I would stay way, way away from this planet. War is barbaric, uncivilized and the case can be made that wars do not solve any problems.

I certainly see that in recent wars. We sent our sons and daughters to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and I would challenge anyone to give me a list of problems that they have solved. In both cases, the situation is worse, not better, and thousands and thousands have died and suffered.

The Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting my entire life, and while I unequivocally support the right of Israel to exist in safe and secure borders without rockets raining down on them, I cannot justify the indiscriminate violence against Palestinian civilians which is causing such dramatic suffering. Of course, I do not have a solution to the stand-off, but it saddens me and alarms me that each side so easily slides into war as the answer.

Syria, Ukraine, Somalia, Nigeria, Central America, Central African Republic and literally dozens of other smaller wars are causing such widespread suffering, displacement and death that I just start thinking about Albert Einstein’s famous quotation, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Until we eliminate war as a means of “solving” problems, the most important challenges facing humanity — poverty, hunger, climate change, health care, education — cannot and will not be addressed, and we will slip deeper into the haves and have-nots. The strong, the weak and ultimately, innocent people will continue to be the victims.

War is simply a failure. A failure of humanity to think clearly. Before our country went to war in Iraq, we put out a big sign in front of our headquarters that had the simple message “NO WAR.” I think it is time for us to put up another that says “END WAR.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, a notable military man, President, and General, has perhaps summed it up best:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”

End Soapbox

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