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Soapbox: Refugees, Fear and Who We Are

If the sadness and shock of the terrorist attacks in Paris were not enough, I was in shock this week as Islamaphobia and fear overwhelmed politicians and citizens. Some politicians were tripping over themselves to stoke the flames of fear by turning on the Syrian refugees. I don’t know about you but if I lived in Syria and there was a war in my neighborhood with madmen from both sides going berserk, I’d be a refugee, too. Oh, by the way, did you know that Steve Jobs father was a Syrian refugee?

This was seemingly fueled by what turns out to be a very sketchy report that one of the terrorists posed as a refugee. That has since been discredited but the conclusion jumping was already in full swing. Some politicians tried even to separate their distain for refugees by religion but there is no religion that makes terrorism its creed and there have been terrorist from many religions. It is when hypocritical fanatics of any religion feel that they can impose their will upon others that conflicts arise.

Way back when the USA was young, our friends in France sent us a gift. The Statue of Liberty proudly stands by our shores with the inscription that defines who we are as a nation:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to be free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

When we succumb to the fear the terrorists win. When we change who we are, the terrorists have won. When we let prejudice trump common sense, the terrorists have won. We must lead by example and the example of shunning refugees is the wrong one. In the height of the worst terror since WWII, President Hollande of France recommitted to taking Syrian refugees saying “We have to reinforce our borders while remaining true to our values.”

We cannot change who we are – unless you are a native American, you are a descendant of refugees and immigrants. This anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, anti-refugee wave of fear is unAmerican and is born of ignorance and hate.

How do you feel about this trend towards exclusion of refugees and immigrants? Share your opinion at our blog –

End Soapbox


iPad Goes Pro!

Apple has released the iPad Pro and some of the first reviews are in. I haven’t had a chance to play with one yet but I think this new iPad pushes Apple into two markets for iPad that it has only brushed before. One is the enterprise market and the other is the creative market. My good friend Dave Sellers, is an architect and I often see him with yellow tracing paper sketching up new designs for whatever harebrained scheme he might be working on. I told him about the new iPad Pro and the Pencil and I know I will want to get that into his hands as soon as possible to see if that old guy can do some magic on this new technology. The business or enterprise market for iPad is blossoming with Apple’s partnership with IBM and Cisco and the iPad Pro is going to push that window even further.

When Apple announced the iPad Pro with its A9X chip, they stated that it would be faster than 80 percent of the PCs that shipped this year. It appears to be true and the $799 base model iPad Pro is faster and more powerful than the $899 Microsoft Surface Pro 4. But speed is not the whole picture. With 5.6 million pixels the 12.9 inch Retina display is the highest resolution of any iOS device. It is a fully laminated display with anti-reflective coating and technologies like Photo Alignment and Oxide TFT to deliver rich contrast, stunning color and deeper blacks.

One would expect the first generation of the iPad Pro to be a bit clunky in size but at just 6.9mm thick and about a pound and a half, it is a very thin and lightweight powerhouse. The iPad Pro features four speakers which will give you amazing sound and more than three times the sound output of any iPad. The speakers are orientation savvy so whether you are in landscape or portrait mode the low frequencies play on all four speakers and the higher frequencies play for the top.

iOS 9 was built for the iPad Pro and this new iPad takes advantage of the multitasking, split view, picture-in-a-picture, Siri and Spotlight search capabilities of iOS9. Touch ID makes your new iPad Pro more secure and easy to use and with iSight and FaceTime cameras those of you that like to take photos with a giant iPad can do so.

The Smart Keyboard is probably the feature that might make this iPad replace a Mac for some. It is a full size keyboard that is water and stain resistant and very thin. It does not require Bluetooth and connects via the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector. This provides a connection for both power and data. It is not just some third-party keyboard paired to the iPad Pro; this Apple-designed keyboard is fully integrated into the iPad Pro and iOS9. Steve Jobs once said that he saw no need for a stylus because we all have ten pointing devices, called fingers. I don’t think he rolled over in his grave when Apple introduced the Pencil because it is not designed to be a pointing device but rather as a drawing device. It is weighted but won’t roll off the desk and the Pencil is sensitive to both tilt and pressure allowing your creative impulses to flow from the thinnest line to deep shading. I am no artist but I can’t wait to see some of the digital art produced with the combination of the iPad Pro and the new Pencil.

I hope to give you some first-hand feedback soon on this new member of the iPad family!

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Fody Personal Weather Station: A Review

When I saw that we had started to carry the Fody Tempus Pro Bluetooth weather station, I was immediately interested. At my apartment, I had a really old, pretty cheap, wireless thermometer I was using to help me figure out how to dress myself for the conditions outside. You know, t-shirt, sweater, jacket, full Antarctica-grade parka…it is Vermont after all. The problem I always had with it was that the remote sensor couldn’t get wet, and there just weren’t many places I could put it. Last year I got a slightly better thermometer base station that used a wired thermocouple that could easily be passed out a closed window. The thermocouple is sealed and can get as wet as you want. That worked a lot better, but the base station features weren’t as good. I didn’t like the way it recorded min/max temperature.

So when I saw the Tempus Pro, I thought it might be able to solve all of my problems. In addition to indoor/outdoor temperature and indoor humidity, it also records outdoor humidity, rainfall, barometric pressure, windspeed and wind direction. Instead of all that data going to a limited base station, it goes to my iPad, where I can quickly see trends, share it with friends on Twitter or Facebook or just email myself the raw data.

I had a few concerns such as whether or not the radiation shield on the outdoor temperature sensor would work. You have to install the Tempus Pro in an open location so that wind and rain can be recorded, but this most likely means it’ll be in the sun too, which would completely mess up the temperature reading. The radiation shield actually does an amazing job at preventing that. I haven’t seen any excessively high temperatures recorded even when the station was baking in the sun.

Setup was very easy for a device that’s actually doing a lot of complicated things. The outdoor station transmits its data to the indoor base station that is plugged into the wall for power. This transmission is probably very basic radio since the range is quite a bit more than is possible with Bluetooth and the outdoor station only uses three included AA batteries. The indoor station uses low-energy Bluetooth to relay indoor and outdoor sensor data with your iOS or Android device.

Once everything is paired and running (which is easy to do if you follow the order indicated by the instructions), you will see real-time data being displayed on your iOS or Android device via the Fody app. It also builds graphs of historical data so you can watch trends. One of the things I liked most about the app was the alerts feature. I can set high/low alert thresholds for any of the sensors. I set up an alert for when the outdoor temperature falls below freezing. A few times this past week, I was sitting on my couch and heard my iPad chime. It was an alert letting me know it had fallen below freezing outside. Very cool! You could also set other useful alerts for things like excessive rain, or high winds.

Overall I think the Tempus Pro is a pretty neat device and the simple use and setup belies the actual complexity of having your own personal weather station. If you’ve ever been curious about setting up a personal weather station at home, or just want something a bit more than temperature readings like I did, you won’t be disappointed with the Fody Tempus Pro.

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Go Wireless!

I am a huge fan of wireless technology. I have been slowly updating my home office to be as wireless as I can with speakers from Sonos and all of my computer accessories from my keyboard to printer are wireless as well. One area that I had not ventured into yet has been wireless headphones. I am often working at home, and because my office space is part of my main living space, I often have to have headphones while working. It was only recently that I started to use wireless headphones and frankly I can’t believe I hadn’t started to use this technology sooner! Urbanears has a bluetooth option in their popular Plattan line up, the Plattan ADV. I was able to easily link the headphones to my computer and no longer felt tethered to my desk when working. With the bluetooth headphones I could easily leave my desk for a glass of water or to let dogs out without missing a beat. The battery easily lasts all day and unlike some other bluetooth headphones, you can easily plug them into your computer or device directly with a cable should you forget to charge them. I also linked up these headphones to one of my iPads. These headphones allow you to have them linked with up to 8 devices, so you can easily use them from one device to the next without having to pair and unpair constantly.

Over the ear headphones are great for around the home and office, but not the most practical when you’re exercising. As mentioned a few weeks ago I have begun trying to get out and move more in recent weeks, and carrying my iPhone in my hand or pocket when out for a run was becoming a bit of an annoyance. The Ourdoor Tech Orcas are the perfect solution. With the bluetooth on my Apple Watch I easily paired these headphones with my watch, synced a playlist to my watch and left my phone behind! The headphones are lightweight and comfortable. I am not a fan of in ear headphones and I was skeptical that these headphones would work well for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well they stayed in my ears and with the quality of the sound. Many in ear headphones begin to wiggle out of your ears or provide sub par sound quality, but these headphones have truly made me change the way I think of in-ear headphones. As an added bonus they also feature a built in microphone. This feature isn’t something that I can say I have taken advantage of, but it’s certainly nice to know I could take a call if I needed to.

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New Magic

Along with the new iMacs Apple also introduced the Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard and the Magic Trackpad 2. The Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Keyboard 2 come standard with the iMac.

The first thing you might notice about these new input devices is that they no longer require disposable batteries, but rather have built-in lithium-ion batteries and a lightning port to charge your device. It will require a little change in habits because you don’t want to be right in the middle of important work and find that your battery is dead. Fortunately, they charge up fast and will give you plenty of warning with the battery is low. As an example, a two-hour charge on the Magic Keyboard will last about a month.

The other important thing to note about these new input devices is that they REQUIRE OS X 10.11 El Capitan.

Magic Keyboard

With the same technology used in the MacBook’s keyboard the new Magic Keyboard features a lower profile design that delivers full sized keyboard function while taking up 13% less space. The back of the keyboard features a Lightning port, and on/off switch and the Bluetooth antenna window. The Magic Keyboard and all of these new input devices feature “automatic pairing”. Basically this means that you plug in the included lightning cable to the USB port on your Mac and you are paired. No more typing codes or putting the device in discoverable mode.

You can charge the Magic Keyboard by plugging it into your Mac and continue to use the keyboard as a wired keyboard until it is charged, too. Unplug it and it automatically switches over to Bluetooth.

The Magic Keyboard is $99.

Magic Mouse 2

The major improvement to the Magic Mouse is the built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. There is now a lightning port on the bottom of the mouse to charge the Magic Mouse 2. Fortunately, the Magic Mouse 2 fully charges in about 2 hours but if you are in a bind you can plug it in for just 2 minutes or so and get a full day’s use from the Magic Mouse 2.

There are numerous internal improvements with fewer moving parts. The newly shaped feet should give the Magic Mouse 2 superior gliding and tracking.

The Magic Mouse 2 sells for $79

Magic Trackpad 2

The Magic Trackpad 2 has had the most changes of these input devices. It also features a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that fully charges in about 2 hours and will provide about a month of typical use. It features a 29% larger surface area than the original Magic Trackpad.

Most importantly, Force Touch is now available! Force sensors detect how hard you press and then tell your Mac what to do based upon these subtle differences in pressure. The Magic Trackpad 2 incorporates the Taptic Engine that provides you with tactile feedback when you activate Force Touch. Force Touch also lets you click anywhere on the trackpad with equal sensitivity.

Force Touch is being supported by more and more Apps and you can use it to find word definitions, Force click on a date in email or messages and Calendar will pop up so you can create a new event. Force click on an address in that same email and up pops Maps to show you how to get there.

The back of the Magic Trackpad 2 has an on/off switch, Lightning port and Bluetooth antenna window.

I am really looking forward to giving this new Magic Trackpad a work out and will report back to Kibbles & Bytes readers.

The Magic Trackpad 2 sells for $129

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